Gaza: Don’t be fooled by Israel’s shocking crime
By condoning this assault, Western governments are once again colluding with Israeli atrocities and inviting further atrocities in the future
Even by its own dismal standards, Israel's blitz of the Gaza Strip represents a new threshold of savage and reckless militarism. The fourth strongest military power in the world has subjected an essentially defenceless and impoverished population of 1.5m Palestinians to a brutal aerial bombardment, claiming at least 350 victims and more than a thousand injured.
As always, Israeli propaganda has presented the assault as a reluctant response to "terror" specifically Hamas's mortar and Qassam rocket attacks on southern Israel.
There is no doubt that Hamas's military wing should not be firing rockets anywhere near civilian populations, but Qassam rockets are a negligible military weapon compared to the vast firepower that Israel has unleashed on Gaza since its unilateral withdrawal from the strip in 2005. According to the UN, 11 Israeli civilians died from Qassam rocket attacks between 2004 and 2007. In Gaza, by contrast, more than 300 Palestinians died in 2006 alone, a year in which the IDF fired 14,000 artillery shells into the strip.
These attacks have formed part of a tit-for-tat process in which both Israel and Hamas have broken ceasefires and used such violations whether real or invented - as a justification for acts of violence. But the emphasis on the Qassam rockets ignores the political context. For the most part they were a desperate and largely ineffectual response to Israel's attempt to subvert Hamas's overwhelming electoral victory in January 2006.
Hamas has carried out some savage atrocities against Israeli civilians, but it has not carried out a suicide attack since 2005 and it has given numerous indications that it is prepared to engage in a political process indications that are mostly ignored by Israel and the western media in general.
Instead of engaging Hamas politically and allowing it to fulfill its democratic mandate, Israel declared it would not negotiate with "terrorists" and set out to undermine Hamas financially and make it impossible for it to govern. When these efforts failed, Israel and the US armed the one-time "terrorists" of Fatah and tried to promote a coup in Gaza. These machinations were thwarted in July 2007, an event that the western media now misleadingly refers to as the point when Hamas "seized power" in Gaza.
Since then Israel has effectively been reducing Gaza to the status of a failed state the better to control and punish its population. The EU, the US and the Palestinian Authority have all been complicit in this process, so it is not surprising to find that all of these actors have been muted, if not openly supportive, in their response to the blitz of Gaza.
The assault on Gaza will resonate across the Muslim world for decades to come
Western governments have generally limited themselves to hypocritical calls for "restraint" and sanctimonious cant about "unacceptable" civilian casualties, while leader writers and media pundits wring their hands at Israel's vulnerability or engage in "blaming the victim" sophistry. As always, Israeli spokesmen insist on the restraint and humanity of its armed forces and express regret at the loss of "innocent" lives.
The rest of us should not be fooled. What is taking place in Gaza is a shocking crime. By condoning this assault, Western governments are once again colluding with Israeli atrocities and inviting further atrocities in the future. Israelis may well take a visceral satisfaction as their air force blasts Gaza and their politicians hang tough. For too many Israelis and too many of their supporters Palestinians and Arabs can never be fully "innocent". Even less so when they have had the temerity to elect a "terrorist" government.
Such satisfaction will not last long. Hamas will undoubtedly take its revenge, and Israel will carry out further acts of futile "counter-terrorism". Even as it exposes the fraudulent "peace process" of the last few years, the assault on Gaza will resonate across the Muslim world for decades to come, providing carte blanche to those who believe that if Israel and its supporters can kill with impunity, then so can they. ·
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