Denounce the Israeli Rogue State! Support the Palestinian People!
Two pictures in the Philippine Daily Inquirer a couple of days ago said it all. One showed three dead Palestinian children, killed in Gaza by an Israeli bomb. Another, in the inside pages, showed three Israeli children playing inside a bomb shelter hiding from Hamas rocket attacks. After over a week of Israeli attacks, more than 660 Palestinians dead, most of them non-combatants, including 215 children and 98 women. At a clearly marked United Nations refugee center, an Israeli attack killed 40 people and wounded 100. Another 2950 people have been wounded in the whole of Gaza.
Two pictures in the Philippine Daily Inquirer a couple of days ago said it all. One showed three dead Palestinian children, killed in Gaza by an Israeli bomb. Another, in the inside pages, showed three Israeli children playing inside a bomb shelter hiding from Hamas rocket attacks. After over a week of Israeli attacks, more than 660 Palestinians dead, most of them non-combatants, including 215 children and 98 women. At a clearly marked United Nations refugee center, an Israeli attack killed 40 people and wounded 100. Another 2950 people have been wounded in the whole of Gaza. Seven Israeli soldiers dead, four from “friendly fire”, three civilians and one soldier killed in rocket attacks within Israel. It is understandable that the initial response of well meaning people the world over is: Stop. Stop the killing. Ceasefire. It also seems logical that we would call on Hamas to stop firing rockets after we ask the Israelis to stop their jets, and war vessels, and tanks, and cannons. But these numbers, these proportions tell only part of the story. They do not say who is the aggressor, who is the victim. Israeli propaganda says the assault of Gaza is a justifiable response to Hamas rocket attacks. Generally pro-Israeli, media reports do not say that way before this invasion the Israelis had been attacking Hamas in Gaza, bombing homes and offices, rocketing cars. They do not say that in the three years after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they killed 1,290 Palestinians, including 222 children. Eleven Israelis were killed in rocket attacks. They also do not say that after it withdrew, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, making shipments of daily necessities extremely difficult and has killed uncounted others because of disease and poverty. Media reports do not say that after the beginning of the ceasefire in June 2008, other Palestinian groups, not the Hamas, in fact over the protests of Hamas, have been the ones lobbing rockets into Israel. These reports do not say that the ceasefire was broken not by Hamas but by an Israeli attack on November 4, 2008 that killed six Hamas militants. Hamas called for an extension of the ceasefire deadline past December 26 with one condition, that Israel stop the blockade of Gaza which has strangled economic life. Israel refused and began massive bombing on December 27. The escalation of Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza has little to do with concern over Israeli civilians. It has much more to do with national politics in Israel and in Israel’s main international sponsor, the United States. Israel will have national elections on February 10. Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni of the ruling Kadima Party is being challenged for Prime Minister by the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis also have to finish military operations before January 20 when Barrack Obama takes over from super-hawk Bush. State Terrorism What is happening in Gaza today is not new. It follows a pattern of Israeli state terrorism that has been repeated many times not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank and in Lebanon. Israel’s crime against the Palestinian people is an abomination. It is an open wound that shames both Israel and the country that makes it possible, the United States. It is an insult to Muslims everywhere that feeds the rage that piloted the planes on September 11, 2001. It is the source of the double crime of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a terrorist act that began 60 years ago and continues to this day. This crime began in 1948 when 68 percent of Palestinians were expelled from their lands to make way for the Zionist state of Israel. Since that time, 60 years ago, some 4.5 million people became, and till today, remain refugees, most of them living in squalid camps. Not satisfied with the 1948 theft of Palestinian land, Israel occupies lands it seized in the 1967 war. Some 1.5 million people live in the Gaza strip surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, another two million in the West Bank whose entrances and exits are controlled by the Israeli military. There are 140 Jewish settlements within these lands, islands of heavily subsidized affluence in a sea of poverty. Connected by a road system barred to Palestinians, these settlements are at once security outposts for an occupying power and visible symbols of Israeli intentions to permanently occupy the West Bank. To control the surrounding Palestinian population, the Israeli military regularly bombs homes and offices of militants. Every few years Israel launches massive attacks similar to that in Gaza today. The target is the Palestinian population in a form of “collective punishment’ banned by international law. These attacks also target the facilities of the nascent Palestinian state, destroying police stations, government offices, schools, libraries, hospitals. Israel also intervenes in Palestinian politics, since the rise of Hamas, favoring the Fatah of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In the process, no strong Palestinian political party or state apparatus can develop. Ceasefire In the next few days a ceasefire is likely to be worked out. Mounting civilian casualties and the humanitarian catastrophe confronting the whole of the Gazan population also means mounting international outrage. The Israeli government has to keep to the deadline of the January 20 Obama inauguration, and they do have to prepare for the February 10 elections. A ceasefire soon will also give the Israeli military an excuse for keeping out of the inner cities where Hamas fighters are waiting for them. If this scandalous attack ends this way, what will the Israelis have achieved? If a ceasefire includes the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Hamas will agree to end rocket attacks, but Israel will lose an instrument of control. If there is no end to the blockade, rocket attacks will continue. More and more medium-range Grad rockets which can reach close to Tel Aviv will be used. For Palestinians, technological disparity means the facilities for manufacturing rockets can be easily rebuilt within Gaza while the Israelis continue to be dependent on the US for its sophisticated weaponry. The impact on Hamas has so far been minimal. The Israeli army claims to have killed 160 Hamas militants, a minuscule number given the estimated 20,000 Hamas fighters. Hamas facilities including the tunnels through which basic necessities and presumably military equipment are smuggled in from Egypt have been damaged, but they can be reconstructed. Politically, Hamas will come out stronger, Abbas and Fatah weaker because of its tacit collusion with Israel. Israeli propaganda plays on images of Jewish victimization. A powerful Jewish state is necessary to prevent another holocaust. Poor Israeli children have to play in shelters; never mind that dead Palestinian children will never play again. As the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said put it, “If the Zionist enterprise was supposed to fulfill Jewish aspirations, why did it require so many new victims from another people who had nothing to do with Jewish exile and persecution in the first place?”
Joel Rocamora is a Fellow of The Transnational Institute