As Israel carries out yet another military operation in Gaza, civilians are made to pay the price for right wing political aspirations
“So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”
Obama’s speech at the Cairo University, Egypt (4 June 2009)
With these words echoing throughout the Middle East, the world was made a promise four years ago – a promise of ‘change’ and ‘freedom’. As we got sucked into the euphoria of the inauguration and momentarily turned our gaze, Israel took the opportunity to disable Gaza, bringing its people once more to their knees. By December 2008, Operation Cast Lead was in full effect. The three-week Operation strategically bombed schools, hospitals and urban areas resulting in the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, compared to three Israeli civilians. The people of Gaza looked to the newly elected President, only to find that his earlier sentiments had withered away with power.
As of 14 November 2012, Israel – yet again – launched a systematic attack on the largely defenceless population of Gaza. Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ has reportedly killed 45 Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and 12 children, and has caused over 400 casualties. The American response followed its usual course, as it has largely done for decades – of unwavering support: “the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defence in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians”. The hypocrisy of Obama’s words in Egypt are further highlighted as the people of Gaza once more face continuous bombardment, with no electricity and declining food and medicine. Gaza’s right to exist is again denied.
Writing this, I am left asking myself the same questions as I did four years ago. How long will Israel maintain the facade of self-defence to justify the mass slaughter of a besieged population, and what are the real reasons behind Israel’s aggression?
Israel’s disproportionate attacks have sent their PR team into overdrive, working tirelessly to convince the world of its righteous motives – to protect and defend their right to exist. This is perhaps the greatest propaganda machine to exist since World War Two, yet as it continues to reiterate an increasing array of implausible explanations, the more transparent the lies become. Lincoln’s famous words seem to ring true: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
The reporting of major news outlets has been decidedly appalling. Many began their reports with details of a seemingly spontaneous volley of rocket fire by Hamas, followed by Israeli retaliation. Indeed, many stories have focused on key watchwords such as ‘Jihad’, ‘terrorist’, and ‘extremist’, as part of a wider agenda that paints Hamas as nothing but an inhumane terrorist organisation.
This is, however, not the full story. In a recent interview, Norman Finkelstein explained that Hamas’ rocket fire was not so spontaneous and irrational. In fact on 8 November, Israel was responsible for killing a 12-year-old Palestinian child. This led to Palestinian retaliation that injured an Israeli soldier, in response to Israel’s violation of the ceasefire agreement. Israel’s astonishing rate of airstrikes, which have killed women and children, are ironically in response to its own provocations.
In recent months, Israel has had a lot to prove. Internally, the popularity of the government has been at an all time low and Israel is beginning to lose creditability even among its allies. Netanyahu made very little effort to hide his preference for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, and the re-election of Obama was not received with the greatest joy.
This, coupled with the deteriorating relationship with Egypt and Turkey, has increased pressure on Israel. The political backdrop to Israel’s recent military escalation has very little to do with narratives of ‘terrorists’ and ‘self-defence’. Instead, the extrajudicial assassination of Hamas’ military chief, Ahmad Jabari, is part of a well-rehearsed political trope; exploiting the public fear of a perceived enemy serves to simultaneously manipulate voting behaviour.
The reality of this so-called ‘war’ in Gaza is one that involves the world’s fourth largest army against a small group of individuals with homemade rockets. The projectiles fired from Gaza cause little damage and, very occasionally, cause causalities. To put this in context, Yousef Munayyer in his recent article highlighted that more Palestinians lost their lives on 14 November 2012 than Israelis have died in the past three years. Netanyahu, in his speech, claimed that Israeli civilians should not live under threat – presumably such entitlements are not to be extended to the Palestinians.
As Noam Chomsky recently stated: “The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace. The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenceless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestinians.”
Israel’s greatest insecurity and problem has been one issue: the existence of Palestine. In order to solve this problem, Israel has occupied, stolen, and carried out the ethnic cleansing and mass displacement of the Palestinian people. The collective punishment of Palestinians, through a range of military operations, is entirely in line with an aggressor seeking to sustain the unsustainable. If Israel wants to make peace, military action is not, and never has been, the way forward. The Israeli government and international community can no longer ignore Hamas and the Palestinians in any practical peace process. Maybe it’s about time the world gave Palestine a voice – surely it has something to say.
Photo Credits: AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams A Palestinian boy pushes his bicycle through the rubble in an area targeted by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City in the early hours of November 15, 2012.
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