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Babies and children being slaughtered in Gaza are nobody’s enemy

Neither were the babies and children who were massacred on Israel’s side of the border. The difference on the Gaza side is the scale, duration and the comparative lack of anguish elicited from world leaders

His name was Omar Shamallakh. His life on earth lasted two months. In his photograph he is wearing a little-boy-blue babygro. He looks cared for and alert. There is a smile on his face, though it may have been wind.

Omar died along with nine other members of his family when their home in Gaza was struck by an Israeli missile on October 8th. It was the day after droves of Hamas killers barbarically marauded on Israel’s side of the border, leaving 1,400 people slaughtered, including children and babies, and having abducted about 220 others.

Within the first 18 days of Israel’s counter-onslaught, 2,360 children perished in Gaza, according to Unicef. Iyad AbdelAziz Asker was one of them, according to Quds Network News. He was five years old. Al-Shaima Akram Saidam was another. She died when her family was all but obliterated by an air strike. Last July Saidam celebrated her accomplishment as Palestine’s top-graded high school student having achieved a 99.6 per cent average mark in her exams.

These babies and young people were nobody’s enemy. Neither were the babies and children who were massacred on Israel’s side of the border. The differences on the Gaza side are the scale and prolonged duration of the killings and the comparative lack of anguish they elicit in leaders of the world’s powerful countries.

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Some have not only watched the appalling daily body counts with passive acceptance, they have egged Israel on to continue its devastating bombardment of 2.2 million people locked inside Gaza. When will somebody shout “stop”?

The world is watching this on television as it is happening. In the future, when we look back, we will not be able to plead we did not know. We have seen the haunting images. The mother mixing her dead child’s blood with her own tears and rubbing the fluid into her face as if to absorb her child back inside herself. The doctor slumping onto a hospital floor, overwhelmed by the enormity of what he is witnessing. The wounded young boy crying with his mouth wide open but no sound emanating from it.

While these television pictures were being broadcast Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, was across the border in Israel offering Binyamin Netanyahu support for his killing campaign, albeit qualified. The US sent a brace of warships to assist Israel. Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has said his country has “only one place and that is alongside Israel”.

Britain’s Rishi Sunak has refused to call for a ceasefire. In Washington White House spokesman John Kirby said President Biden’s administration did not support a ceasefire because it would help Hamas while he acknowledged that civilian casualties were inevitable. “It is ugly and it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward.”

A truer word was never uttered by a blinder eye.

The Genocide Convention, which has been ratified by 149 countries, defines that crime as meaning “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. These acts can involve “killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm” or “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Which of these elements do world powers not recognise in Israel’s indiscriminate mass killings and torture by deprivation of food, water, medicines and fuel in Gaza?

The definition of crimes against humanity covers “widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian population” or, put more simply, crimes that “shock the conscience of mankind”. How many men, women and children must be killed in Gaza to shock consciences in Washington, Paris, Berlin, London and Brussels?

Israel told Gazans to flee to the south of the strip for their safety and then proceeded to aim their deadly fire on that area. More than 704 people died in Gaza in a 24-hour period this week, according to the region’s health authorities. These are flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on killing people for offences they did not commit.

Schools, homes, a West Bank mosque, a refugee camp, a market place and a church campus have all come under fire. Yet the supposedly civilised Western world cannot even agree to call at the UN for a “humanitarian pause”.

On October 19th, the UN listed the starvation of Gazans, the destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure and “unfeasible evacuation orders” as violations of international law. That was more than a week ago. Since then thousands more people have lost their lives. Is any powerful country going to tell Israel enough is enough?

Just two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the US and EU, rightly, announced trade sanctions against the aggressor. By then the UN had already appointed a commission to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, leading to the issuance of an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. That alacrity is in stark contrast with its allies’ open invitation for Israel to continue killing civilians trapped in Gaza.

When are the international police coming to investigate Israel’s wanton bloodletting? An inability to access the territory is no obstacle to collecting evidence. We have spent three weeks watching it already.

Since its establishment in 2002, the International Criminal Court has indicted 52 individuals under the Rome Statute, to which 123 states are parties. About 88.5 per cent of those indicted were from African countries, with the rest coming from Russia, the Middle East and Georgia. Despite the horrors of the Iraqi invasion, the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and the captivity of detainees without trial in Guantanamo Bay, no British or American (the USA has not joined the Rome Statute, but citizens may still be subject to its jurisdiction) individuals have been brought before the court. No Chinese leaders appear in the list either despite that country’s documented human rights abuses of Uighur people.

Threats by Israel to withhold visas from UN officials and calls for the resignation of António Guterres after the secretary general spoke the truth about the barbarity on both sides of the Gaza border have been met with a disturbing silence from Western world leaders. With friends like those sitting permanently on the Security Council, no wonder the UN is a crock.

As humankind watches with shocked consciences the atrocities being perpetrated in Gaza, we could be forgiven for concluding that the rules do not apply to rich, powerful and complicit countries.