Israel will pay a price for sabotaging its own reputation

Israel will pay a price for sabotaging its own reputation

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The latest hearings at the International Court of Justice are nails being hammered into the coffin of Israel’s international standing. More than 50 countries are submitting evidence questioning the legality of Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territories. This runs parallel to hearings at the same court considering whether Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide.

South Africa’s representative denounced Israel’s “fundamentally illegal” policies as an “extreme form of apartheid.” Saudi Arabia criticized Israel’s “dehumanization” of Palestinians as “disposable objects.” Egypt said: “Israel cannot invoke self-defense to maintain a situation created by its own illegal conduct.” Belize condemned Israel’s “racist apartheid” and “excessive use of force, arbitrary killing and mass incarceration.” Israel unsurprisingly refused to participate, but apparently cajoled Fiji to speak on its behalf — a move angrily denounced by Fijian citizens. Brazil’s president accused Israel of genocide and compared its Gaza offensive to the Nazi Holocaust.

We are witnessing the situation of Israel and its dwindling number of supporters aligning themselves against almost the entire civilized world. Israel’s leaders arrogantly brought this global backlash upon themselves with a brazenly disproportionate military campaign in Gaza in which two thirds of the official 30,000 death toll are women and children, along with hundreds of thousands of others maimed, orphaned, or suffering other life-destroying losses. An entire displaced population teeters on the brink of starvation.

This utter collapse in Israel’s international reputation has correspondingly left its biggest international champions seriously exposed — in particular the US. Among other young, cosmopolitan anti-war demographics, America’s Arab communities wield influence as never before: notably in Michigan, where anti-war anger risks swinging the presidential election against Joe Biden.

This has given rise to a panicked and incoherent hodgepodge of policies. Although the Biden administration last week affirmed that settlement building was illegal, it utterly undermined that welcome U-turn by simultaneously urging the court against a legal mandate for ending the occupation, arguing that control of the West Bank was justified by Israel’s “very real security needs.” Britain resorted to the tortuous logic of acknowledging that the occupation was “illegal,” while claiming that this was a bilateral dispute and therefore outside the court’s jurisdiction.

Such rhetorical gymnastics will hardly appease global publics horrified that Israel’s genocidal campaign continues to be fueled by US arms, US funding and US diplomatic cover. One Palestinian American activist accused Biden of bankrolling genocide, and said his policies were “like showing up to a five-alarm fire with a cup of water while giving fuel to the arsonist.” China’s usually tight-lipped UN Security Council envoy categorized the US’s ceasefire veto as “giving a green light to the continued slaughter.”

With European nations besieged by similar pressures, a growing nexus of states have sought to steer the EU in a markedly less pro-Israel direction. Spain and Belgium’s prime ministers jointly denounced “indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians.” Ireland has sought to build consensus toward recognizing a Palestinian state. Even reflexively pro-Israel governments in Germany and Britain have been compelled to rethink their language and actions, so as not to completely lose touch with millions of citizens outraged by the carnage. Conservative pro-Israeli bastions of the Western media haven’t held back from transmitting heart-rending Gaza developments to their audiences.

UN experts say they have seen “credible allegations” that Palestinian women and girls have been subjected to sexual assault and rape in Israeli detention.

Baria Alamuddin

The Wall Street Journal highlighted US intelligence findings that “Israeli bias serves to mischaracterize much of their assessments on UNRWA, which has resulted in distortions.” This raises questions about those states that rushed to slash life-saving aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, despite Israel’s failure to produce evidence in support of its allegations against a tiny number of staff members.

Nothing signals Israel’s growing international isolation more strongly than counter-productive attacks on UN institutions and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who himself warned that Israel’s “clear and repeated rejection of the two-state solution” was unacceptable and would prolong the Gaza conflict.

Since day one of this conflict, Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime has seized every opportunity to cut off all humanitarian support. The UN’s humanitarian office last week described Gaza as “a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster” due to the collapse of its health system. With Nasser hospital in Khan Younis out of action, all of Gaza’s major hospitals are now out of service, with many having been subject to bombing and invasion.

It is right to investigate rape allegations arising from the Oct. 7 atrocities by Hamas. But UN experts say they have seen “credible allegations” that Palestinian women and girls have been subjected to sexual assault and rape in Israeli detention. The UN’s special rapporteur found that “violence and dehumanization of Palestinian women and children and civilians has been normalized.” A UN human rights panel highlighted the “extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing … holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed.”

The conflict has inspired a flood of fake news from both sides. As Israel sees the tide of global opinion turn relentlessly against it, it has increasingly resorted to transmitting debunked claims. This ranges from incessant allegations that injured and dead Palestinians are “crisis actors,” to Israel’s president falsely telling a German newspaper that a German dual national had been beheaded on Oct. 7. Both sides exploited old Syria conflict footage to disingenuously support their narratives.

Throughout the democratic world, Israel should rightly fear what will happen to its disintegrating international position as political parties around the world struggle to realign themselves with public sentiment to avoid punishment at the ballot box. Equally, Hamas — already widely labeled a terrorist organization — should consider the impact of its own atrocities against civilians on the reputation of the entire Palestinian cause, and consider tangible measures such as freeing hostages.

A vengeful Israel has yet to digest the implications of its actions for global legitimacy and its own regional security. Israel is not the exception it believes itself to be: peaceful coexistence with its neighbors comes only through playing by the rules, treating all its citizens as equals, and conscientiously pursuing a just settlement for Palestinian statehood.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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