Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hell in Gaza

It wasn't enough that the Israeli government had blocked humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territories again - just the latest in a long string of collective punishments that the phrase "crimes against humanity" can barely be uttered about out loud lest they are met with accusations of anti-Semitism from those who continue to support this ruthless behaviour despite years of mounting evidence proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the US-enabled Israeli hawks have absolutely no interest in anything resembling "peace".

No. That wasn't enough.

And, because there are Israeli elections coming up in February, what better way for a hawk to strut his or her stuff than by supporting a massacre of Palestinians (200+ dead and 700 reportedly injured at the time of this writing)?

Any reasonable person would condemn both sides - Israel and Hamas - for continuing the cycle of violence however we learned quite clearly when the Israeli government attacked Lebanon in 2006 that it is prone to massively disproportionate responses to threats and that it has the willingness and ability to create human suffering on a grand scale in one fell swoop. And these players - Olmert, Barak, Livni et al, the architects of that failed war - appear to believe that they can get away with it all again. And why not? It's not like the Winograd Commission report had any impact on the type of arrogant thinking that decimated Lebanon and that now destroys Gaza and the lives of an already tremendously oppressed people who were systematically weakened by a lack of food and other life essentials.

Those who followed the Israel/Lebanon war will recall that that attack had been planned months in advance, contrary to claims by the Israeli government that it was just a spur of the moment response to the kidnapping of some of its soldiers. So, it should be no surprise that, as Ha'aretz reports today, the attacks on Gaza are not about retaliating against Hamas for its recent shelling of Israeli territory.

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.

The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.

And, once again, we are seeing just exactly how a warmongering Israeli administration views those it has already cast aside as less than as it continues to violate international laws while it pushes the ME to the brink of untold disaster.


In Damascus, Syria, Hamas' top leader, Khaled Mashaal, called on Palestinians to rekindle their fight against Israel. "This is the time for a third Intifada," he said.


IN PICTURES / The Gaza Strip under attack
Obama 'monitoring' Gaza strikes: spokesman
UN Ambassador Shalev defends IDF Gaza op in letter to Ban, UNSC head

To be in Gaza is to be trapped

What Israel hopes to achieve with the present military offensive – beyond influencing the coming Israeli elections – is not clear. For if a long-anticipated ground operation, leading to a partial reoccupation on the ground, is to follow these air strikes – as it did in the war in Lebanon in 2006 – it will have to achieve what neither Hamas nor its rival Fatah can: unifying Palestinian society once more against a common enemy, as Gaza was once united against Israeli settlements inside its boundaries.

If that is not the intention, it is hard to see what Israel's actions are meant to achieve in a community that cherishes its martyrs; where violent death is intended to reinforce social cohesion and unity.

For in the end what has happened in the past few hours is simply an expression of what has been going on for days and months and years: the death and fear that Gaza's gunmen and rocket teams and bombers have inflicted upon Israel have been returned 10, 20, 30 times over once again. And nothing will change in the arithmetic of it.

Not in Gaza. But perhaps in a wider Arab world, becoming more uncomfortable by the day about what is happening inside Gaza, something is changing. And Israel has supplied a rallying point. Something tangible and brutal that gives the critics of its actions in Gaza – who say it has a policy of collective punishment backed by disproportionate and excessive force – something to focus on.

Something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel's foes can say looks like an atrocity.

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