Those Who Seek Justice Do So In Vain

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The Independent/UK

Those Who Seek Justice Do So In Vain

So that's that then, is it? Gaza is done and dusted? Very satisfying, I'm sure, for the Israeli leadership and their devoted allies at the BBC. But not so fast. For the one and a half million traumatised and wounded souls in that small strip, unendurable agony goes on. The very earth they stand on burns and cracks. And I am not here indulging a writer's tendency to hyperbole or neat metaphor.

Up to 60 per cent of the best farmland in Gaza has been systematically destroyed, livestock too. Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, a director at the World Food Programme, says this deliberately blighted land "may not be exploitable again". The lemon trees and noisy chickens must have been hiding Hamas rockets. Israel is also keeping some of the remaining arable land beyond the reach of the Palestinians who own it by making it into a buffer zone. Almost all the infrastructure has been flattened too. The resulting perpetual humiliation and dependency, one assumes, is part of Israel's strategic plan.

President Obama has sent forth George Mitchell, a skilled and respected negotiator, to start dialogues that could eventually lead to a durable settlement. We must hope he can achieve the impossible. But even if he does, that alone cannot ensure the kind of peace that all the people in that region sorely need and surely deserve.

There is too much unfinished business, too much reckoning left over. Peace without equality and credible scrutiny is itself a violation of human rights, an affirmation that some nations are beyond the reach of the law. Mitchell would not have been able to achieve peace in Northern Ireland if Britain had, with impunity, bombed the Catholic areas and slaughtered civilians. Israel is today a ruthless nuclear state, with arsenals of artillery, missiles, chemical and biological weaponry. It respects no international laws and conventions (originally set up to stop Jewish persecution) and does what it pleases.

But why pick only on Israel? Western nations, including Britain, supply some of the killing machines used on children in Gaza. The US and UK have never been hauled through any independent judiciary to explain their lies spun to justify the war on Iraq, or the cluster bombs dropped on civilians, the massacres in Fallujah, the million dead and many more who are born deformed.

We may at long last learn about what happened in the run-up to the war in Blair's cabinet meetings. Many of the ministers who colluded - Hoon, Straw - or acquiesced have gone on to further great success. As have several "ethnic minority" MPs and Peers always happy to oblige. Blair has enriched himself faster than any recent British PM I know of - an indication of how low is his sense of public morality and of those who pay him for his services. All is forgiven and forgotten. He is even our most trusted Man in the Middle East - who must have known about Israel's plans in Gaza and did F all.

Henry Kissinger is in the same happy position. Instead of being tried for actively supporting Pinochet, bombing Cambodia etc etc, he became a sought after statesman, rich and famous enough to stroke the fair arms of Princess Diana. How shocked he was when, a few years ago, Jeremy Paxman interrogated him on Start the Week on his unethical foreign policies. (Paxo's finest hour in my view) and Kissinger walked out of the studio. Such men do not expect to answer such questions. They are above all that. Watch this space and George Bush Jnr will be raking in loot and obsequies. That is what power gets you - immunity and pleasures untold.

We are still basking in Obama's radiance and are heartened that he so soon announced the closure of Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. But again that cannot be the final word on the crimes committed there. The men evoked by the new American president would understand why. Thomas Jefferson's words at his own inauguration speak up clearly from the grave: "Equal and exact justice to all men ...freedom of the person under the protection of the habeas corpus and trail by juries impartially selected - these principles form the bright constellation that has gone before us".

Martin Luther King also warned: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice around the world." The west too often fails these truly noble ideals. What happens to those who established the camp and its methods? To the torturers and prison guards? Binyam Mohammed, a British resident is said to be close to death and may well leave in a coffin. But apparently nobody is responsible.

Only Third World and ex-Communist bastards ever get to face international condemnation and trials. If the Sri Lankan government carries on shelling Tamil civilians, it will be ( rightly) censured and held responsible by the UN and other bodies. Not so-called "leading nations" when they ignore binding conventions. Sure, a few unfortunate soldiers or policemen are forced through weak, domestic investigations to prove that rule of law is respected. They are merely sacrificial goats. People of real of power or influence in the west or Israel, or Russia, now China and India, know they will never be dragged off to The Hague.

Corrupt individuals with the kind of money that makes western politicians salivate are always safe and clean. Accountability will not come knocking at their doors. The freemasons making torture equipment and arms thrive, protected in perpetuity by official secrecy. Individuals in those hidden crypts will never stand in the dock. Peace without fairness and due process is worthless. Even in South Africa, where Mandela virtuously put reconciliation before justice, furious urban blacks still feel that the settlement on that basis was profoundly unjust because whites who cruelly administered Apartheid policies got away with it.

Millions around the world, the young in particular, will not accept that double international standards are as immutable as laws of nature. They are now connected up, sharing rage and frustration. The beneficiaries are Mugabe (a hero for many), Bin Laden, Hamas, suicide terrorist cells, violent nihilists and real anti-Semites. And so there will be no peace. The great anti-slavery judge William Mansfield said in 1768: "Fiat justitia, ruat coelum" - Let justice be done, though the skies may fall. If the powerful don't understand that, they deserve the contempt increasingly heaped on them.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown won the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2002 and the Emma Award for Journalism in 2004. She is also a radio and television broadcaster and author of several books including the acclaimed No Place Like Home and Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New Britain.

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