Recruiting to Kill: It is Not Just an Israeli War on Gaza

To some, US secretary of state John Kerry may have appeared to be a genuine peacemaker as he floated around ideas during a Cairo visit on 25 July about a ceasefire between Israel and resisting Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But behind his measured diplomatic language, there is a truth not even America’s top diplomat can easily hide. His country is very much involved in fighting this dirty war on Gaza that has killed over 1,050, injured thousands more, and destroyed much of an already poor, dilapidated space that is barely inhabitable to begin with.

US economic and military aid to Israel is measured annually in the billions, and the US government continues to be Israel’s strongest and most ardent ally and political benefactor. In fact, the US-Israel “special relationship” is getting more “special” by the day even though Israel is sinking further into the abyss of a well-deserved isolation.

True, there are some, even in the justice for the Palestinians camp, who oddly speak of how exceptional and fair the Barack Obama Administration has been in comparison to its predecessors. However, they neglect the fact that aside from a few particularly strong-worded statements, Obama has been a dedicated stalwart on behalf of Israel and its security by going as far as defending Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ war – the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza.

But America’s support for Israel is crossing new red lines. There are reportedly over 1,000 US citizens fighting in the Israeli army according to reports that are now resurfacing due to the recent killing of two US-Israeli soldiers – Max Steinberg, 24, of California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of Texas. Like the rest of the IDF soldiers killed in recent fighting, they were killed while invading parts of the besieged Gaza Strip. But the number must be an understatement since some of Israel’s most ardent Jewish settlers are also American, and happen to be armed and dangerous. Although this is causing a bit of a media buzz, there is no political crisis. Instead, only condolences are offered to the families of the Americans fighting the genocidal war on Gaza.

The US is not alone in this. European governments display an incredible amount of hypocrisy as they continue to utilize doublespeak in their approach to Middle East conflicts in general, and the situation in Palestine in particular. The pressure mounting from European civil society makes it a bit more challenging for EU governments to endow Israel with the same unconditional love and support as that bestowed upon it by the US. EU hypocrisy is too palpable even for clever politicians to hide. The British government is shamelessly on the Israeli side, even while entire families in Gaza are being pulverized by western weapons and military technology. Meanwhile, the French government imposed a ban to prevent French society from showing its solidarity with the besieged and massacred Palestinians in Gaza.

But why ban mere demonstrations of solidarity while France, the US and other Western governments are allowing their Jewish citizens to be enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which is actively killing Palestinian civilians? Shouldn’t that be a much greater concern to the duplicitous French government than some protesters chanting some slogans during a solidarity rally that may or may not be deemed anti-Semitic?

Indeed, not only are western governments providing Israel with arms, funds and political cover to sustain its occupation and war, but they are also contributing thousands of military experts and boots on the ground in order to fight a war in Gaza where war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed on an hourly basis.

Consider this: While British citizens fighting against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad are being detained and persecuted, British citizens who are fighting for Israel are not. The British government is turning a blind eye to what should be considered a criminal act.

Western hypocrisy on this is as profound as the phenomenon of westerners killing Palestinians, which some are now calling ‘Israeli Jihadists’.

Belgium also stands accused of allowing such criminality. Although Belgian civil society is one of Palestine’s strongest supporters, their government is cloaked with unmistakable dishonesty. Many Belgian citizens are also taking part in Israel’s lethal wars in Gaza and military occupation of the occupied territory, with little or no protest from their government. The recruitment of Belgians is mostly done through the same organizations that recruited thousands of foreign fighters for the IDF. Think of them as terrorist headhunting organizations that operate in a perfectly legal environment.

Recently, Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, called on the Belgian government to cancel dual citizenship of ‘Syria jihadis’. His call was made during a recent visit to a synagogue in Brussels after four people were shot by an alleged French-born citizen suspected of having spent time fighting in Syria. The country’s Minister of Justice Annemie Turtelboom took the initiative further by calling on EU countries to block jihadists from going to Syria, suggesting the creation of a list of all known “Syria jihadists.”

But what about the known Belgians that are fighting, killing and committing war crimes on behalf of Israel? Why is the Belgian government keeping silent regarding those accused war criminals in the Israeli army, with no statement yet issued, even after the killing of Belgian citizen Eytan Barak?

The same questions apply to other western governments. The hyper-sensitive French government turned a blind eye when a French citizen was killed during the Gaza onslaught. While the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on the killing of staff Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun, most of the French media and government have looked the other way. The very government that continues to make life difficult for African immigrants in France, sees no problem of its own immigrants taking part in foreign wars that are in violation of its own citizenship laws.

Western involvement in the war on the Palestinian people is indeed going beyond the usual and known support of funds, military technology and economic aid, to actual participation in the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. This is not a matter than can be addressed within the larger argument of Western double standards in Israel and Palestine, but an urgent issue that demands immediate attention.

It is one thing to fail to stop war crimes from being committed, it is a whole other level of failure to defend, finance and take active part in carrying out these war crimes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader culpable of Gaza’s bloodbath; others in western capitals should also be held to account.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.