Is Israel Back In Gaza?
By Ramzy Baroud
18 July, 2006
disparity between Israel’s public narrative and its actual intents
cannot possibly be any more palpable than in the current Gaza onslaught
following the capture by Palestinians of an Israeli solider near Gaza
in a daring June 25 raid on a military post.
"Anybody who calls this
operation disproportionate has no clue about the facts on the ground.
We have been attacked and bombarded for months and weeks,” Yitzhak
Herzog, the Israeli cabinet secretary, said, responding to what some
media described as “an increasing international concern”
over the Israeli reinvasion of parts of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent
high death toll. Shortly after Herzog made his comments, the death toll
among Palestinians as a result of the Israeli action rose to 52, mostly
civilians. However, numbers can hardly communicate the humanitarian
crisis underway as a result of the Israeli siege and bombardment.
The Israeli official was
reiterating a new mantra adopted by the Israeli government, aimed at
silencing any serious criticism of the Israeli military and its deadly
practices in Gaza. Such rebuttal however, seemed overly exaggerated,
considering that no serious, or at least meaningful international criticism
of the Israeli raids in Gaza, dubbed by the ever poetic Israeli army
as “Summer Rain.” The Israeli one-sided war was exasperated
by the fact that Palestinians have been under a long economic siege
which was tightened even further with the election of Hamas to power
The Gaza Strip, a stretch
of land that hardly exceeds a few kilometers in length and is much smaller
in width has always been the home of the poorest of Palestinians, with
living conditions that speak of utter misery, and can only be compared
to the poorest countries in the world, despite Gaza’s highly educated
Israel insists that its operation
is not intended to harm the civilian population, but to root out and
for good the so-called terrorist elements that use the civilian infrastructure
to attack adjacent Israeli towns with rockets. It also says that it
will not cease its ‘military activities’ in the area until
its captured soldier is returned home safely and without conditions.
Israel’s demands, without
proper context - sound reasonable, to say the least. Israeli and US
media commentators agree; their overall assessment is: Israel doesn’t
want to set precedent by giving terrorists an incentive to carry on
with their acts of terror, and Israel’s favorite mantra, any democratic
country would do precisely what Israel has done to secure its citizens.
Again, the historic role
of the media, that of completely acknowledging and sympathizing with
Israeli concerns, while regularly disregarding Palestinian concerns
as unworthy, continues to perpetuate with equal force and tenacity.
Thus the only relevant context, as far as the Western media is concern,
is that context instructed by Israel, who, in turn, wishes to convince
everyone that the above demands are indeed the real reasons behind its
bloody Gaza onslaught.
If the military’s intentions
are indeed to “root out terrorists” as Israel tirelessly
asserts, then why insist on pursuing the same detrimental policies –
those of siege, isolation and overt militarism – that deprive
Palestinians of any sense of hope that Gaza could finally become an
economically viable, truly independent polity? Why push desperate Palestinians
– through endless assassinations and targeting of civilians in
broad daylight to embrace vengeful notions and counter- violence?
I say, “notions”
because the so-called Palestinians rockets, as ominous as they may appear
on television, are yet to claim one Israeli casualty for over a year,
while the Israeli military has killed over 150 Palestinians in the last
two months alone.
But how about the captured
soldier? Is that not a legitimate grievance? It would be if it was not
Israel who insisted on creating utterly perilous circumstances under
which it places not just its soldiers, but also its civilians. For example,
Gilad Shalit - no matter how harmless the photos Israel deliberately
provides of him to the media - was taking part in a murderous mission
aimed at exactly that, murdering Palestinians. In the seven weeks prior
to Shalit’s capture, the number of Palestinians killed at the
hands of the Israeli military – i.e. Shalit’s equally innocent
looking colleagues - approached the 100 mark.
Shalit however, was a soldier,
trained to physically and mentally endure difficult moments. But how
can one explain the transfer of nearly half a million Israeli civilians
to the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – in violation of
the Fourth Geneva Convention? How could any responsible ‘democracy’
endanger its own population by placing them in a war zone, while providing
Palestinians with every reason to seek revenge and retaliation for their
heavy losses at the hands of the Israeli military?
It’s rather odd that
the Israeli government is painting this rosy media image for Israel,
as a nation that would go to great lengths to save the life of one man,
while it puts the life of hundreds of thousands of its people in great
danger, notwithstanding the total disregard for the life of all Palestinians.
If Israel’s actions send any message, it’s one filled with
hypocrisy and racism.
But what does Israel exactly
want? Is its bloody show in Gaza aimed exclusively at the toppling of
the Hamas-led government? Or is it directed to at the international
community to further demonstrate that Palestinians are no peace partner?
Or perhaps it’s a message to Israelis themselves, to those who
were doubtful that a civilian government with little military history
– particularly the records of the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
his Defense Minister Amir Peretz – can prove equally ruthless?
It’s not clear where
this Israeli experiment is heading. But what is hardly unmistakable
is that by maintaining low intensity warfare in Gaza, Israel is creating
the perfect cover up to its army bulldozers to partition the rest of
the West Bank and Jerusalem in accordance with the second phase of Olmert’s
Disengagement Plan: which intends to slice up the West Bank into various
enclaves with no physical continuity, and place its population under
an effective, long term, collective incarceration in Bantustan-like
areas, to be allowed or denied movement at the behest of an Israeli
solider. The plan is being actualized in record time, yet few seem to
notice, a reality that Israel will strive to maintain.
Despite the tragic events
unfolding in Gaza, the truth is Gaza never was and will unlikely to
strategically relevant to Israel’s expansionist objectives. Gaza
at best - as has been the case for generations – is simply grounds
for Israeli military experimentations, and at worst, a mindless killing
field, where Palestinians are forced to ‘learn’ the same
lesson, time and again. Indeed, the current Israeli military ‘operation’
in Gaza is keeping true to expectations.
is a US author and journalist, currently based in London. His recent
book, “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s
Struggle” (Pluto Press, London), is now available at Amazon.com.
He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle.