22 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 27

Why not invade Israel?

If rogue nations are to be brought into line by the US, shouldn't Israel be punished for ignoring UN resolutions? Gerald Kaufman is just asking. . .

The unprecedented security measures for President Bush's visit to Britain this week prove that the war against terrorism,

launched by the United States two years ago, has certainly not been won. If further proof were needed, the atrocious terrorist acts against two synagogues in Istanbul at the weekend provide bloodspattered confirmation.

But if the invasion of Iraq last spring was not about Saddam Hussein's alleged links to international terrorism, what was its rationale and what was its justification? Tony Blair has proclaimed, with total sincerity I have no doubt, that one consideration was the danger of weapons of mass destruction.

From the outset, Bush was perfectly ready to rest his case on the need for regime change in Iraq. Both Bush and Blair have argued that Iraq is a better country for the removal of Saddam and his odious regime, and, even taking into account the continuing death toll in Iraq (nowhere near the number of deaths in the Vietnam war, to which certain cynics unjustifiably compare it), only someone either extremely naive or deliberately purblind could deny that the disappearance of that dictator is an indisputable benefit.

So, let it be accepted that, despite the death and destruction deplorably concomitant with the process, the removal of Saddam was an indubitably good thing. But, if the removal by armed force of one disagreeable regime under one objectionable head of government is a good thing, why stop there? The world is full of horrible governments. Would it not be a good idea to make a clean sweep of them?

Where. then, do we start? There is a multiplicity of horrible or incompetent governments in central and west Africa, for example, in countries where the toll of dead and tortured far exceeds even the total gassed, executed and mangled by Saddam. Their removal, and replacement by genuine democratic governments seeking to reconcile rather than repress, would be an indisputable benefit to humankind.

Even a relatively innocuous African government, that of Morocco, has been responsible for driving into squalid refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria the Sahrawi desert people, whose homeland of Western Sahara it has illegally occupied, and, through rigging the electorate by shipping in large numbers of Moroccans, has prevented a genuine referendum taking place to decide the country's future — a referendum, moreover, to which the United Nations is fruitlessly committed.

And, if we are discussing rigged electorates, what about that in the illegal republic of Northern Cyprus, whose impoverished Turkish Cypriot inhabitants are being prevented from expressing their true will in a forthcoming general election because of the importation by the Ankara government of huge numbers of Anatolian Turks from the mainland, whose wishes and preferences are far removed from those of the Cypriot Turks themselves? While we are at it, we should take a penetrating look at Turkey itself. For nearly 30 years its regime has illegally occupied 37 per cent of the territory of Cyprus, an occupation which has resulted in looting, illegal seizure and sale of precious art objects such as Greek Orthodox icons, and the creation of refugees who despair of ever getting their homes back. The Turkish treatment — or mistreatment — of the Kurdish people, whom at the end of the first world war they prevented from getting their own homeland, set an example which Saddam was happy to follow. Inside Turkey, there has been persistent violation of human rights. For evidence, get hold of a DVD of Alan Parker's film Midnight Express.

South of Turkey, there is Israel. It is true that the United Nations Security Council resolutions of which Iraq was in violation for a dozen years were mandatory and carried penalties, while those criticising Israel were not. That does not excuse successive Israeli governments during the past 36 years for failing to conform to Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. They would have violated even more if the United States, otherwise so assiduous in stressing the importance of international order, had not vetoed them.

Since the present regime in Israel came to office, there has been unprecedented repression of the Palestinians who the Israelis govern. The world is rightly horrified at the cruel and bloody deaths of Israeli civilians, including babies and small children, inflicted by terrorist suicide bombers, Grievous though every one of these deaths most certainly is, it cannot be denied that during the three years of the Second Intifada the Israelis have killed three times as many Palestinians, some of them terrorists (in illegal targeted assassinations) but most of them innocent civilians, including babies and pregnant women.

Now the Israelis are building an illegal security wall, reaching far into Palestinian territory, which is equally illegally annexing that territory, separating farmers from their homes, students from universities, children from schools, and which will violate the sanctity of Bethlehem. Roads into villages are being bulldozed, and the trenches which render them impassable are being filled with sewage. Some Palestinians need written permission to live in their own homes. There are 482 Israeli military checkpoints dividing Palestinian land into 300 small clusters.

It is not even as if these nasty measures are effective. Last month 20 people, including a whole family from grandmother to baby grandchild, were among those murdered by a suicide bomber at a café in Haifa. Last month, after visiting the Palestinian town of Oalqilya, which is being enclosed within a noose-like wall by the Israelis, I was driven back to Jerusalem via the Palestinian town of Tulkarm. Next day a bomber attacked an Israeli administrative post outside Tulkarm.

No wonder that only three weeks ago the Israeli chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon, expressed concern about the building of the wall, said the Israeli government's policies were 'operating contrary to our strategic interests.' argued that the restrictions were increasing hatred of Israel and encouraging terrorism, and lamented: 'There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho' (whose agricultural and horticultural economy is being ruined). No wonder that a member of the Israeli government, the infrastructure minister, Yosef Paritzky, has said recently: 'The failure to differentiate between civilians and terrorists turns all the Palestinians into potential suicide bombers.'

Hey, wait a minute! Surely Israel does not qualify as a suitable case for invasion. Surely Israel is a democracy. Surely Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was democratically elected, and even re-elected. Such undeniable facts do not detract from the record.

Sharon was the prime mover in the only war that Israel has ever lost, the invasion of Lebanon. The Kahan commission inquiring into the Sabra-Chatilla massacre of Palestinians outside Beirut recommended that, for his connection with those events, Sharon should leave the Israeli Cabinet. It was Sharon who triggered the Second Intifada in 2000 by his provocative visit to the Temple Mount. And is it not members of the Sharon family, including the Prime Minister himself, who have been the object of investigations by the Israeli legal authorities?

And would it not be poetic justice to invade the invaders? After all, the Israelis, who illegally invaded Lebanon until they found the going too tough and got out; the Turks, who illegally invaded Cyprus and even aspire to be a member of the European Union when in illegal possession of part of a country which is due to become a member of the European Union less than six months from now; the Moroccans, who continue to thwart the will of the United Nations with every moment their troops and immigrants remain in the Western Sahara — surely they could not have the effrontery to object to invasion, which they have practised without qualm, simply because they would be at the receiving end.

If the United States is keen to invade countries that disrupt international standards of order, should not Israel, for example, be considered as a candidate? But, quite apart from the hard fact that even the rich and powerful US does not possess enough dollars and manpower to invade and occupy the countries I have mentioned (plus other rogue states, too many to list), is the US suited to maintaining international law?

After all, has not the United States, on the basis of dubious legality, invaded nearby countries on the American continent, such as Panama and Grenada? Has it not got a questionable human rights record, with the level of capital punishment, including the execution of mentally retarded prisoners, one of the worst in the democratic world? Is it not keeping a collection of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whose detention appears to have no legal basis whatever? And does it not have a president who was never elected, but appointed by the Supreme Court after electoral finagling in the electorally clinching state which just happens to be governed by that president's brother? Who, then, should invade the United States? The despised United Nations?

Maybe this invading business is not such a good idea. Maybe, even though Saddam was abominable and his regime nauseating, the invasion of Iraq may turn out not to have been such a good precedent after all.