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Vijay Prashad says that without international pressure, Israel will not be held accountable for the crimes it commits against the Palestinians

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

The number of Palestinians now dead in Operation Protective Edge has exceeded 500, and the deaths included 28 members of a single family who died in a bombing of their house in an IDF attack on the Gaza neighborhood of Shuja’iyya on Sunday, where as many as 72 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers died in the fighting. At least 100 children have died, with the deaths in the Gaza Strip now occurring effectively at the same rate during Operation Cast Lead. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East says that as many as 100,000 internally displaced Gazans seeking shelter could soon total 100,000, and at least 1.2 million residents in Gaza are already classified as refugees by the UN. Rumors have also been circulating that Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, though this has been denied by the Israeli ambassador to the UN. Eighteen IDF soldiers, two of them American citizens, and two Israeli citizens are now also counted among the dead. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also meeting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Qatar as diplomatic efforts continue to reach a ceasefire. Meanwhile, protests against the invasion have been taking place in cities across the world, including London, Madrid, Paris, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Now joining us to discuss the situation is Vijay Prashad. He’s the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut. His most recent book is The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

Thanks for joining us, Vijay.


WORONCZUK: So, Vijay, let’s talk about the extent to which this operation against Gaza has occurred. I mean, one might think that after the international condemnation of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 and the relatively smaller operation against Gaza in Operation Pillar of Cloud, one might think that the Israelis would avoid such a wide-scale operation against Gaza and causes so many civilian deaths.

PRASHAD: Well, I’m not sure there was actually international condemnation. After Operation Cast Lead, the United Nations impaneled a very important commission headed by Sir Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist. The report that was produced by this commission basically suggested that there needs to be a little more investigation, but in all likelihood, Israel had committed war crimes against the people of Gaza. There was intense diplomatic pressure by the Israelis and by the United States. You Know, thanks to the WikiLeaks cache, we know that the United States envoys around the world lobbied countries–I looked at the India section very closely–they lobbied countries to make sword the Goldstone Report was basically put on a shelf in the UN library. Mr. Goldstone felt so much pressure himself that he recanted from what he had put his name to. So if in a situation where Israel has had evidence, and evidence trail showing possibilities of crimes against humanity, if they could get away with that, why would Israel feel any sense of accountability or obligation to the truth? It can continue to prosecute a war with impunity.

So after 2009, they hammered Gaza in 2012, utilizing mysterious ammunition. You know, at that time–every time there’s any kind of war, we learn, we become military experts. I learned for the first time about white phosphorus. We Learned about DIME, this dense, inert material that’s utilized in the munitions, which goes into the skin, etc. So, in other words, there is no international pressure, there is no international commitment to holding Israel accountable for actions which the United Nations has repeatedly called very, very troubling, atrocious, and, in the context of the Goldstone Report, war crimes.

WORONCZUK: So let’s then talk about some of the diplomatic efforts that seem to be going on right now as we speak. You know, we have–Jordan made a proposal for the UN Security Council to meet, and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is meeting with Ban Ki-moon right now in Qatar. Do you think that a ceasefire is going to come out of any of these diplomatic efforts?

PRASHAD: Well, it will not. I mean, the first thing to say is the so-called ceasefire proposal from Egypt was not really a ceasefire, because there was no process by which it was produced. It was a unilateral declaration by the Egyptians. Ceasefires are very complicated. They require a great deal of discussion. They require parameters to be created. They require the parties that are in conflict to agree to a process. So that was actually not a ceasefire process. It was not a genuine ceasefire. And it has thrown a lot of smoke into the air, because the Israelis have said, well, we accepted that ceasefire; Hamas did not; therefore we are in favor of peace; so, in order for us to be in favor of peace, we shall bomb more. Just to set that aside, that was not a real ceasefire.

There are actually three opportunities that are ongoing, and neither of these, none of these looks at all like it’s going to bear any fruit in the short term. Yes, of course, you are right: the Jordanians have been banging a resolution around the UN building in New York City. They are not being taken seriously. There was an emergency meeting held on Sunday. No movement came on that resolution.

And just to point a finger around that question, it has surprised me greatly that the Russians and the Chinese haven’t taken that resolution, perhaps drafted a sort of resolution, something that simply says, pursuant to responsibility to protect, we hold all member nations should go out there and create a no-fly zone in Gaza. You know, if the Russians and Chinese drawing from the Jordanian resolution had produced something like this, it would have forced the hand of the United States, which is giving, in a sense, a blank check to Israel to operate as it will.

And this brings us to the second effort. This is being led by Secretary of State Kerry. Now, Secretary of State on Fox News on Sunday demonstrated the double ethics of the United States government. On the one side, in an unguarded moment, he criticized Israel and said, we’ve got to go there, we’ve got to stop this. It wasn’t clear exactly what he meant by go there. I had thought what he was trying to say is go to Tel Aviv, because the Americans need to go to Tel Aviv, principally for the reason that it is Israel that’s the belligerent power here. And that is why a Russian or Chinese resolution would have embarrassed the Americans to put pressure on Israel to back off from this murderous campaign. Of course that’s not going to happen. Mr. Kerry instead is going to say that pressure needs to be put on Hamas, which brings us to the third, you know, initiative that’s ongoing, which is that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has decided to go to Qatar–he’s in Qatar now. He went, bizarrely, on a plane provided by the United Arab Emirates–not something that often happens. But he arrives in Qatar. He meets with the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. But in that very meeting, the optics suggest or the–kind of the point that is emphasized is that Mr. Ban went to the Middle East to pressure the Palestinians to do something to end the war. And this is the Israeli story, which is that the Palestinians are the authors of this war. I think this is very bad form. None of this puts pressure on Israel. Everybody is trying to put pressure on the Palestinians. But the Palestinians are not the author of this war. Therefore, with no pressure on Israel, there will be no end in sight of this very murderous campaign that the Israelis are conducting over this last two weeks.

WORONCZUK: Okay. And what do you think can be done in order to bring an end to the Israeli operation against Gaza?

PRASHAD: Well, frankly, I think that right now pressure needs to be put on the Russians and the Chinese. As serious P5 powers, they need to utilize the United Nations Security Council to put pressure on the Americans. You know, thrice on the question of Syria, the Americans put forward resolutions that they knew the Russians would veto or that the Chinese would veto. And they did that because they wanted to embarrass the Russians and the Chinese vetoing a resolution while people were dying in large numbers in Syria. I think it’s about time that the Russians and Chinese develop some confidence, put a proposal out there for Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, force her to veto that resolution. If indeed people like M.r Kerry are feeling the heat, they understand that there is an unethical way in which they are operating in the world, on the one side privately saying that they really think this bombing campaign is murderous, on the other side, in public, saying, we support Israel 100 percent, there needs to be pressure on this, ethical dilemma, so-called, that the Americans are sitting on. And that can only come from the Chinese and the Russians. There has to be pressure on them. Of course there has to be enormous pressure on the world’s capitals.

You know, people are fed up with the blank check that Israel gets from the United States to operate as it will against the Palestinians. So these major demonstrations around the planet are very important, because they are an indicator that the people who think they govern the planet are out of sync with the people over whom they feel like they have legitimacy.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Vijay Prashad, thank you so much for joining us.

PRASHAD: Thank you.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.