Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Why hasn’t the US called for an investigation into mass graves in Gaza?


Why hasn’t the US called for an investigation into mass graves in Gaza?

Arwa Mahdawi

Nothing screams ‘covering up war crimes’ like insisting that there should absolutely not be an independent investigation

‘The Biden administration, meanwhile, has said it trusts Israel to look into its own affairs.’

Did you know that the Palestinians are the very first people in the world to ethnically cleanse and mass murder themselves? I know it sounds weird, but – as American and Israeli politicians keep reminding us – these are “savages” that we are talking about here. Normal rules don’t apply, you’ve got to follow the Palestine Rules.

The Palestine Rules dictate you do the following: ignore every international agency if that agency says anything remotely critical about Israel. Certainly don’t listen to international aid agencies like Oxfam when they argue that the government of Israel is “deliberately blocking and/or undermining the international humanitarian response in the Gaza Strip”. Nope, the fact that babies in Gaza are dying of malnutrition is all their fault. The fact that children in Gaza are starving at the fastest rate the world has ever known is nothing to do with Israel, it’s the fault of those pesky Palestinians.

The fact that there are an unprecedented number of child amputees in Gaza is the Palestinians’ fault. Let’s be very clear here: if every single Palestinian had fled the land they were born in back in 1948, when Israel was founded, if they’d just completely renounced their Palestinian identity, none of the horrors currently unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank would be happening. Can’t argue with that logic, can you?

You know what’s also the Palestinians’ fault? Those mass graves that have recently been discovered at the ruins of hospitals in Gaza. “Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others were found tied with their hands … tied and stripped of their clothes,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights, last week.

It shouldn’t be remotely controversial to say that when you discover evidence suggesting gross violations of international law have occurred, then there should be an immediate independent investigation. And yet, the Palestine Rules have kicked in once again: Israel has said they didn’t do anything wrong – arguing that it’s all “fake news” and saying the Palestinians dug their own graves. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has said it trusts Israel to look into its own affairs.

While US officials have called for Israel to “thoroughly and transparently” investigate reports of mass graves they have refused to call for an independent investigation. Why, one has to wonder, the reluctance to investigate? If it’s really all “fake news” then Israel and the US should welcome a proper investigation. Nothing screams “covering up war crimes” like insisting that there should absolutely not be an independent investigation.

I was supposed to write this column a couple of days ago but every time I sat down at my desk and tried to write about the horrors in Gaza, I felt physically sick and had to stop. How can anyone be OK with our tax dollars funding this, I keep asking myself? How can anyone be OK with the fact that innocent children are suffering unimaginable horrors and Americans are helping to pay for it? How can anyone be OK with the fact that Gaza has basically been rendered uninhabitable? How can any journalist be OK with the fact that nearly 75% of journalists killed in 2023 died in Israel’s war on Gaza?

The answer to those questions is and always has been: Palestinians simply don’t count. They certainly didn’t seem to count to the attendees of the glitzy White House correspondents’ dinner on Saturday. The annual event has long been criticized for making the press look too chummy with the politicians they are supposed to be holding to account and Saturday’s event certainly seemed to reinforce that idea. In the middle of what many people argue is a US-funded genocide in Gaza – one in which Joe Biden has repeatedly expressed zero empathy for Palestinians – comedian Colin Jost stood up and told the room what a decent guy the president is.

“[My grandfather] voted for you,” Jost told Biden. “And the reason that he voted for you is because you’re a decent man. My grandpa voted for decency, and decency is why we’re all here tonight. Decency is how we’re able to be here tonight. Decency is how we’re able to make jokes about each other, and one of us doesn’t go to prison after – we go to the Newsmax after-party.”

A child is killed on average every 10 minutes in Gaza. By the time that Jost had finished his speech, finished waxing lyrical about decency, there were a couple more dead kids killed by Biden administration bombs. By the time they’d finished their little after-party, another dozen kids would be dead. This, people like Jost want us to think, is what decency looks like. And he’s not the only one: American elites are obsessed with toxic notions of decency and civility. All of which tends to be code for: keep quiet and accept the status quo. We must reject this idea. There is nothing more indecent than staying silent in the face of injustice.

  • Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian US columnist

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