The untold reasons of the Israeli
massacre of Palestinians in Gaza
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The year 2009 began for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza with an all out air, land and sea assault from the Israeli armed forces. With an overt support of Bush administration, meaningful silence of President-elect Barak Obama and complicity of the US client Arab regimes, Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza continues for the 10th day today (January 5, 2009) with air strikes, naval bombardment and ground forces assault on unarmed men, women and children.
After week-long massive air strikes against the unarmed Palestinians, the Israeli launched a ground assault on Saturday. The Israeli onslaught, in which depleted uranium is reportedly being used, has so far killed more than 500 Palestinians and injured about 2,500.
Rev. Rich Broderick of Cambridge called the first day Israeli air strike at the civilian population in Gaza as the modern day Guernica. On April 26, 1937, German planes attacked the Spanish town of Guernica killing hundreds of people. For over three hours, dozens of Germany's bombers, dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the village, slowly and systematically pounding it to rubble. The planes flew low above the centre of the town to machinegun those who had taken refuge in the fields.
In a replay of Guernica, Israelis began carnage in Gaza on December 27 with US-supplied F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropping over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in Gaza killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. The bombings were timed to cause the maximum number of casualties. They occurred at approximately 11:20am on a bustling Saturday morning, just as schools were changing shifts and many children were either leaving for home or coming to afternoon classes; when offices were filled with their employees, and streets busy with the late morning crowds out getting lunch or on quick errands of one sort or another.
It may be pointed out that the Israeli-occupied Gaza is an area with a population of 1.5 million people, who work, attend school and get on with their lives like any other people in the world. Zionist propaganda, of course aims to justify Israeli’s murderous policy of presenting Gaza as being populated solely by armed men.
Israel has the Palestinians jammed into tightly controlled ghettos known as Gaza and the West Bank. With Egypt’s help, Israel controls the inflows of food, medicines, water, and energy into Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel or Egypt.
Under Israeli siege for 18 months, the people of Gaza had been denied food, electricity and suffered depleted medical care. To borrow John L Esposito, professor of religion & international affairs at Georgetown University, the siege created a humanitarian catastrophe for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity and other necessities of life. The US and Europe were complicit in the blockade of a democratically elected Hamas government which seized control of Gaza after clashes with Fatah group.
Since then, Israel has imposed economic sanctions and an embargo on Gaza. In turn, Hamas fired mortars and homemade rockets toward Israel’s southern settlements.
A truce that was brokered by Egypt went into effect on June 19 2008 for six months, effectively stopping the Gaza-sourced rockets aimed at Israel, but unfortunately it failed to end the Israeli embargo. The truce was disturbed for the first time on Nov. 4, when Israeli forces entered Gaza for the first time since June to blow up a tunnel that, according to Israel, Hamas was planning to use to capture soldiers along the border. Six Hamas militants were killed on the night of the tunnel raid. Since then rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza to Israel. Hamas has offered another six-month break to violence in the Gaza Strip if Israel were to lift the embargo on the coastal territory and reopen Gaza border crossings.
Hamas is blamed for the breakdown of the truce by its supposed unwillingness to renew it, and by the alleged increased incidence of rocket attacks. But the reality is more clouded as detail is tricking out from various sources. "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," wrote the Israeli daily Haaretz on Dec. 28, which also revealed that the plan had been in the works for six months.
Untold reasons for the Israeli carnage
From the media reports, official statements and circumstantial evidence, one can easily find out three reasons for the Israel’s one sided war and massacre of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children:
1. Israeli elections
The timing of the attacks seem prompted by a series of considerations: most of all, the interest of political contenders Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in demonstrating their toughness prior to Israeli elections scheduled for February.
War rages as a result, and according to Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem founder Michael Warschawski: "all Israeli leaders are competing over who is the toughest and who is ready to kill more." Mass slaughter makes good campaign politics, and whoever looks the meanest may become Israel's next prime minister. As Tariq Ali puts it: "dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder" and may help Kadima retain power.
According to public opinion polls conducted before the Gaza assault, Kadima was trailing its rival Likud, which is led by Benjamin Netanyahu. After the assault, the situation changed: “The Labor Party and its leader, Ehud Barak, at the same time the minister of defense, has emerged the biggest political winner of the war against Hamas so far,” reported Yossi Verter in the Haaretz daily.
“Barak’s personal fortunes improved sharply, with 53 percent of poll respondents expressing satisfaction with his performance [compared to just 34 percent about six months ago]. A larger number, 38 percent, are dissatisfied with him but that is nevertheless a significant improvement over the 52 percent disapproval rating of six months ago,” he writes. “At this stage, the war bodes well for the three leading parties. Most of the public reportedly believes that in time of war, it’s best to vote for parties whose candidates are experienced, such as former chiefs of staff, prime ministers and defense and foreign ministers.”
2. Avenging Israeli military debacle in Lebanon war with Hezbullah in 2006
According to Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University and the UN's special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, reinforcing these electoral motivations was the little-concealed pressure from Israeli military commanders to seize the opportunity in Gaza to erase the memories of their failure to destroy Hezbullah in the devastating Lebanese war of 2006, which both tarnished Israel's reputation as a military power and led to widespread international condemnation of Israel for the heavy bombardment of undefended Lebanese villages, disproportionate force, and extensive use of cluster bombs against heavily populated areas.
Neve Gordon, the chairmain of the Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, also expressed similar views when he said: Israel, after its notable humiliation in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, the Israeli military has been looking for opportunities to reestablish its global standing. Last Spring it used Syria as its laboratory and now it has decided to focus on Gaza. “Emphasizing the mere three minutes and forty seconds it took to bomb fifty sites is just one the ways the Israeli military aims to restore its international reputation.”
3. Change the situation on the ground before US President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
Through Gaza war, Israel is also trying to set up the conditions for the future policy of the Obama administration. Vice President Dick Cheney went on television Sunday implying that Washington had effectively given Israel a green light to take down Hamas before the Obama Administration could make any changes to US policy in the Middle East. Cheney told CBS’s Face the Nation that he was briefed on Israeli plans during a recent visit.
Not surprisingly, as the Jerusalem Post reported, the Bush administration supplied the Israeli Air Force with "a new bunker-buster missile" called GBU-39 - a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision, minimal collateral damage strikes. Congress authorized 1000 of them in September, and the first shipment arrived in early December for use in penetrating underground Gaza Kassam launcher sites and bombing Egyptian border tunnels in Rafah through which emergency supplies were funneled.
Tellingly, as the Israelis launched a land assault, the UN Security Council failed Saturday to agree on a statement calling for a ceasefire after the United States argued that a return to the situation that existed before Israel's ground offensive in Gaza was unacceptable.
President-elect Barack Obama has maintained his silence on the worsening situation in Gaza with mounting civilian casualties and massive destruction. Obama aides insist that he does not wish to address foreign-policy issues in any way that could send "confusing signals" about U.S. policy as long as President George W. Bush is in office.
Arab commentators maintain, however, that Obama did comment on foreign affairs when he issued a statement condemning the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and that he has given several news conferences outlining his economic proposals. They suggest that his refusal to speak out on Gaza—where at least 500 Palestinians have died, compared with four Israeli deaths from the rockets—implies indifference to the plight of Palestinians or even complicity with Israel.
John L Esposito believes that for Obama to remain silent now will be seen as simply condoning Israel's devastation of Gaza and undermine his promise of a new international vision and a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “He will be brush-stroked by the failed policies of the Bush administration in the Middle East and lose his credibility before he even comes to office with an Arab and Muslim world that sees his election as one of hope and promise.“
Complicity of Arab regimes
In the final analysis, the Israeli massacre of Palestinians continues not only with the connivance, acquiescence and approval of the United Nations, Europe the United States but also US client Arab governments. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were informed in advance of the attack, as the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported in its edition of Sunday December 28th. Tellingly, for days prior to the Israeli assault on Gaza, Israeli newspapers had been reporting the "green light" given by the Arab regimes for the elimination of the main leaders of Hamas.
Egypt’s insistence on maintaining the closure of its border with Gaza during the Israeli military assault is akin to collaborating with Israel. Strengthening that perception is the fact that President Hosni Mubarak met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo shortly before Israel began launching air strikes against Hamas targets on December 27.
Although there have been some protests in Egypt to demand that the border be opened and that diplomatic ties with Israel be severed, President Mubarak, whose regime is the second biggest recipient of the US economic and military aid after Israel, has flatly rejected such popular demands. Mubarak in a televised speech said he would not open the border crossing until (pro-sraeli) Mahmud Abbas, head of the Palestine Authority, once again controls the Palestinian side of the border.
Not surprisingly, the Arab leaders even failed to hold emergency summit to discuss the crisis. One Arab meeting brought together foreign ministers Wednesday in Cairo, which ended with a decision to urge the U.N. Security Council to “issue a resolution that binds Israel to immediately stop the aggression.”
The Dubai-based "Gulf News" editorial - under the title "Arabs play the fiddle while Gaza burns" – is perhaps the best reflection of the popular Arab mood: "While Gaza is burning, Arab officials are busy working the phones in an attempt to arrange an Arab emergency meeting. The earliest date possible, we are being told, is Friday. By then though, there will be fewer Gazans in Gaza. And also by then Israel will be winding down its bloody campaign. This obviously suits Arab officials well. There will be less pressure - from Arab public opinion - on them to take tough decisions. They can then blame Hamas for the carnage. Some of them have done it with the first wave of Israeli bombing which killed dozens of children who were leaving their school in central Gaza.”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Editor -in-Chief of the Journal of America.