20 November 2012. A World to Win News Service;
The heavily-armed state of Israel once again rained missiles and artillery on the Palestinian population of Gaza and threatened to send in its Israeli army. By day seven there were 130 dead, and despite rumours of a ceasefire, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets on Gaza City cynically warning residents to evacuate their homes. No place in Gaza is safe, and Israel will not let them leave it. Palestinian families bury their loved ones, including many women and children, amidst repeated bombardments.
The pro-Israel international media machine tries to constrain the debate to how Israel was provoked by Hamas rockets fired into its territory and therefore has the right to self-defence. While rockets were launched from Gaza earlier in November, as has happened periodically over the last years, there were no casualties before Israel assassinated Ahmad Jabari, Hamas' top military commander. It is generally agreed that Hamas was not directly involved in firing the rockets, and Jabari, according to some commentators, was in charge of stopping rival Islamic groups from doing so. Killing him seems to have been a deliberate provocation meant to force Hamas to respond, and then use that as an excuse for launching an operation.
If the argument is who cast the first stone, you would have to go back to the forceful eviction of the Palestinians from their land with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the ever-expanding theft of their land ever since, and the continual attempts to crush Palestinian resistance and even their spirit, within the borders of what is now Israel, on the West Bank, and in Gaza.
Israel is quick to point to the rockets coming from Gaza but silent about what they fire into
Gaza and their ever-present methods of controlling the daily life of Palestinians and the gruesome effects it has on people physically and psychologically. The article ''Bodies for Ballots'' (The Daily Beast, 15 November 2012, by Yousef Munayyer) reports that in 2011 the Israeli military killed 108 Palestinians and injured 468 in Gaza, about half by missiles and half by rifle, tank and mortar fire. Through September 2012, there were 55 deaths and 257 injuries, most of these casualties caused by missiles fired from Israel. After four years of an Israeli blockade that prevented building supplies and necessities of life from reaching the people in Gaza, Israel's Operation Cast Lead in late 2008-09 killed about 1,400 Palestinians.
Seeking to limit the news of death and destruction from spilling out into the world, one of Israel's first targets was a media centre in Gaza, hit a second time a few days later. But the bigger problem is media self-censorship, with the falsehood that criticizing the Zionist regime is anti-Semitic. In 2006 an independent inquiry by a senior figure in the British Home Office criticised the BBC for its pro-Israeli bias, and the same remains true of most Western news outlets. Nobody is supposed to report the simple fact that the situation is one of David throwing stones up against a Goliath who is not only armed with nuclear weapons but backed by a superpower.
According to another article in the same issue of The Daily Beast by Gershon Baskin, an Israeli academic and founder of the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI) who brokered the deal between Hamas and the Israeli government for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel had been on the negotiating table but was rejected by Israel's military leaders, who instead killed Jabari.
The Israeli military says they are only doing targeted killings to avoid hitting the civilian population. This is an absurd claim in the strip of land that is Gaza, overcrowded with 1.7 million people. Most of its population are refugees or the descendants of refugees driven from what is now the state of Israel and denied the right to return because they are not Jewish. This is while Jews from all over the world are invited to move to the Zionist homeland.
Who cast the first stone? The history of the establishment and 64 years of the Zionist state of Israel is replete with horror stories, starting with driving out vast numbers of the people then living in Palestine. The book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Israeli historian and activist Ilan Pappe details Israel's beginnings – the brutal campaign planned under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, even before the state of Israel was founded, to terrorize and uproot the Palestinian inhabitants. Although originally created by the British for its own imperial interests, Israel became an instrument for U.S. domination of the Middle East. No matter what differences there may be between the Zionist leaders of this armed outpost and the more global concerns of American imperialism, the rulers of the U.S. know that they cannot do without Israel – they can rely on Israel because the existence of the Zionist state is utterly reliant on the U.S.
The situation and region are extremely complex and volatile. Many questions are posed about why Israel chose this time to attack, and its real objectives. Why war on Gaza when the last months Israeli sabre-rattling has focused on Iran? Is this some kind of dress rehearsal? Some commentators, especially in Israel, argue that the attack on Gaza represents Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bid to save his political career in anticipation of upcoming elections. If this were true, that would make the resulting loss of life even more monstrous.
Many Palestinians believe that Israel is very concerned with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's plan to upgrade the status of Palestine at the UN to that of a non-member observer state. Israeli leaders threatened to "punish" the population of the West Bank with severe economic measures, more land-grabs and worse if he goes through with this initiative. They want the European governments that give the Palestinian Authority financial aid to pressure him to drop the idea. If it is not withdrawn, the Palestinian request is likely to pass by around 150 of the 193 UN member states.
If that happens, various Israeli officials declare that extreme steps will be taken, including the possibility of ''toppling'' the Abbas government. What does "toppling" mean? Abbas's aides took this as a threat to his life, and after killing Jabari that threat becomes all the more real.
Unlike in the UN Security Council, the U.S. has no veto power in the General Assembly. Of course the General Assembly has little power, but if Palestine attains this status then theoretically it would have the right to bring war crimes charges against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Netanyahu and others in the Israeli government claim that would be ''a declaration of war'' and would require Israel to respond even more brutally.
The UN is supposed to represent the rule of law. If Palestinians demonstrate and throw stones they get beaten and are called terrorists. If they demand the right to their land they are called terrorists. And now Israel is defining going to the international courts as a declaration of war! The U.S. State Department recently reaffirmed its backing for the Israeli position against Abbas's threat to go to the UN.
What is so frightening about the Abbas initiative? It may very well be, as some Palestinian activists argue, that this is just a political gimmick to regain credibility among Palestinians after having given up major demands of the Palestinian people, such as the right to return to their former homes and land. But even so, the Israeli leadership is worried about losing the moral authority they claim by using one crime against humanity – the killing of six million Jews by Nazi Germany – to justify their own crimes against the Palestinian people. Further, the U.S. does not want people reminded that in propping up Israel it is supporting actions and a whole situation that violate international law and the principles of justice it pretends to uphold.
Behind the front page events of the Gaza bombings, Israel continues its plan to keep Palestinians in an archipelago of isolated towns and villages and grab more of their land. Netanyahu's government has quietly doubled the portion of Israel's national budget allocated to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The number of Jewish settlers grew by 15,000 in the last year, according to the Guardian newspaper (26 July 2012), for a total of more than 350,000. With 300,000 additional settlers in East Jerusalem, one Israeli politician predicted the number of settlers would reach a million in another four years.
Israel concentrates the hypocrisy and real brutality of Western imperialist democracy. This system talks about freedom, justice and human rights, but when it comes to the Palestinians, they have no freedom or rights that Israel must respect, and any demand for justice, peaceful or not, is treated as "terrorism". The Zionists don't care that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza won elections; whether or not such groups and their leaders are assassinated or "toppled" depends on nothing but how Israel and the U.S. see their interests. While they claim that they have a right to kill Hamas leaders because Hamas does not recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, they also bully and threaten Abbas, who does. They use so-called self-defence to justify their vicious attack on Gaza, and they also killed two unarmed Palestinian youth in the West Bank demonstrating against this attack. Scores more were wounded or badly beaten in Hebron and Ramallah on 18 and 19 November.
There is no Palestinian resistance that Israel, or the U.S., will tolerate, yet 64 years of trying to crush it has not succeeded. The critical question is what form and goals that resistance will adopt.