George Galloway MP addresses a Zionist caller and asks him “what right did Britain have to grant you somebody elses country?
The civilian population in Gaza is “a partner of terror” that “gets what they choose,” the top commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade told the Israeli press recently, after orchestrating some of the deadliest episodes of butchery visited upon the Gaza Strip this summer.
Colonel Ofer Winter also admitted to ordering the mass-bombardment of an area where an Israeli soldier was know to be in order to prevent his capture alive by Palestinian resistance fighters — an army policy known as the Hannibal Directive.
These are just two of the many incriminating comments made by Winter in a lengthy and candid interview published in a paper-only edition of the Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on 15 August.
The interview took place near the end of Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign which killed more than 2,100 people in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians — including more than 500 children. Israel expert Dena Shunra translated the interview for The Electronic Intifada.
In addition to justifying the mass killing of civilians in Gaza, Winter applauded the carpet bombing he ordered in Rafah as a necessary punishment and repeatedly invoked religious supremacy as a leading factor in what he views as a Jewish victory in Gaza.
Just as a temporary three-day humanitarian ceasefire negotiated by Egypt and the United States went into effect on the morning of Friday 1 August, a unit of soldiers from the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade conducted a tunnel incursion in Rafah, provoking fire from Palestinian resistance fighters.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight and another, Hadar Goldin, went missing. It was later determined that Goldin died in the battle, but in the immediate aftermath the Israeli army operated under the assumption that he had been captured.
Ofer Winter was napping when he woke up to news of Goldin’s possible capture. He told Yediot Ahronot’sYossi Yehoshua:
At 9 am, half an hour after I put my head down, the Deputy Brigade Commander woke me up: “come quickly, it’s best you be here.” We asked for a snapshot, we wanted information. We didn’t think there was an abduction yet. While inquiring if everyone was there, I commanded Sagiv, the Armored Forces Commander operating under my orders, to start moving from Hirbat Hiza’a, which was where he was, toward Rafah. Just then I got the message “it’s not green in our eyes” – in other words, not everyone had been found. We were missing a soldier. At 9:36, after inquiries with the battalion commander on site, I announced on the communication system the word that no one wants to say – “Hannibal.” In other words, there had been an abduction. I instructed all the forces to move forward, to occupy space, so the abductors would not be able to move.
The Hannibal Directive is an unwritten Israeli military protocol for executing captured Israeli soldiers to avoid politically painful prisoner swaps. Although its existence has been reported in the Israeli press since the 1980s, this interview with Winter appears to be the most frank acknowledgement of its use.
The idea is to prevent the captors from taking the soldier alive, effectively denying Palestinian or other Arab resistance groups a bargaining chip down the line and relieving Israeli leaders of the political fallout from having to make concessions (such as prisoner swaps) to secure the soldier’s release.
Executing their own
According to blogger Richard Silverstein, the Israeli army has implemented the Hannibal Directive on at least three occasions during this latest war on Gaza, deploying massive firepower with the intention of executing three of their own.
For the following several hours, residents of Rafah, many having just returned to their homes for what they were told would be a three-day ceasefire, were subjected to a carpet bombing campaign that left the town in ruins and 190 people dead.
An Israeli army officer told the Associated Press that soldiers pounded Rafah with 500 artillery shells in just eight hours and launched an estimated 100 airstrikes within two days.
Acting on Winter’s “Hannibal” order, the Israeli army sealed off Rafah to prevent the alleged captors from escaping with Goldin alive. Homes were flattened on top of families sheltering inside. Civilians who attempted to flee the inferno were torn to shreds by artillery. Vehicles trying desperately to evacuate the wounded were fired upon.
By 2 August, the Israeli army had killed 190 Palestinians in Rafah, including 55 children. With the morgues full to capacity, medical workers were forced to store corpses in vegetable refrigerators to accommodate the high volume of dead bodies.
As Israel laid waste to Rafah, the Obama administration called the alleged capture of Goldin, an invading Israeli soldier engaged in armed hostilities against Gaza, a “barbaric” and “outrageous” act.
“They messed with the wrong brigade”
“A lot of criticism was heard about the force you employed in Rafah, directly after the abduction,” said interviewer Yossi Yehoshua to Winter.
“Everything we did was from the understanding that we could return Hadar Goldin alive,” responded Winter. “Stop the abduction event. Come from above to the places he could come out of. That’s what we employed all the force for,” he insisted.
These claims are totally inconsistent with the reality on the ground, where the only possible intended outcome of bombing everything was to kill Goldin and his captors while collectively punishing the surrounding population in the process.
Winter continued with an even more contradictory remark, hinting that the response in Rafah was partly an act of retribution. “Anyone who abducts should know that he will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade,” he said.
Then, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, Winter (who relies on airstrikes and indiscriminate artillery fire to avoid face to face confrontations with the supposed enemy and who had to be woken up from a nap to be informed that his soldiers were killed in Rafah) tried to portray Palestinian resistance fighters as cowards.
“We fought against two Hamas brigades. Where were their brigade commanders?” he asked indignantly. “I hoped they would come face to face with us, but they chickened out. They sent their men forward, causing more evil and killing. That’s not combat. There were very few places where there were fighting retreats. They left everything and escaped.”
As an orthodox Jew firmly in Israel’s religious nationalist camp, Winter is making a career of mixing his brand of messianic Zionism with military aggression.
As a graduate of Bnei David, a religious pre-military academy located in Eli, an illegal Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank, Winter epitomizes the mainstreaming of religiously motivated brutalityin the Israeli army. Bnei David’s goal is to replace Israel’s largely secular military elite with religious Zionists, like Winter.
On the eve of Israel’s ground invasion, Winter declared in a letter to his troops that they were fighting a Jewish holy war to punish the blasphemous Palestinians of Gaza.
Responding to criticism of the letter, Winter doubled down, telling Yediot Ahronot, “if I had to do so, I would write the same letter again, without batting an eyelid.”
The impact of Winter’s fanaticism on Palestinians in Gaza was nothing short of catastrophic.
Soldiers from the Givati Brigade under Winter’s command made up the majority of ground troops that thundered into Khuzaa, a farming community near the Israeli boundary line. With massive artillery shelling accompanied by airstrikes, the Israeli army reduced all of Khuzaa to rubble to secure a path for columns of invading tanks, jeeps and soldiers.
Cut off from the outside world for days, the residents of Khuzaa were at the mercy of Winter’s religiously-guided soldiers who carried out summary executions of both fighters and civilians and mowed down anyone trying to flee, including a wheelchair-using 16-year-old girl with epilepsy and a wounded elderly women crawling on the ground desperate for help.
Speaking about his brigade’s reign of terror in Khuzaa, Winter is cited by Yediot Ahronot as telling the ultra-Orthodox weekly newspaper Mishpacha that as the sun rose during the ground invasion, the movement of his troops remained hidden by “clouds of divine honor.”
“It was only when the homes that were supposed to be exploded were exploded and there was no longer any danger to our lives, the fog suddenly dispersed,” said Winter, insisting that the clouds were a direct intervention from God to protect the Jewish people.
Winter offered further religious explanations for his “victory” in Gaza to Yediot Ahronot.
Noting that the ground invasion coincided with “The Between the Straits Days” — a three-week mourning period observed by orthodox Jews to commemorate the ancient siege on Jerusalem and the loss of Jewish statehood — Winter opined that the overlap “was not just a coincidence.”
The Between the Straits Days end on the 9th of Av, also known as Tisha B’Av [observed on 5 August of this year], the very day that the fighting ended. It was especially on this day, a day of national mourning, that the decision was made: the IDF [Israeli military], the Nation of Israel – they won. We proved that we are a unified, determined nation and that we will not be beaten. Unitedness won. No ill words were spoken. Even the ultra-orthodox public – which cannot be taken for granted – fought with all its might from the place where it stands [meaning they prayed very hard]. I received lots of messages during the war. This is a tikun – repair – for what our ancestors have hurt. It enhanced the victory.
“The terrorists are the children” of Gaza
Despite the Palestinian blood on his hands, or more likely because of it, Winter has emerged as a hero in Israel, completely revered within the military and adored by the public.
Asked about his earlier complaints that the political and military establishment was holding him back from finishing the job in Gaza, Winter told Yediot Ahronot that he is ultimately satisfied with the outcome of the onslaught and then proceeded to brag about the carnage.
“There are hundreds of terrorists who were killed,” he boasted. “That is the message – no matter what we do, we’ll go in wherever we want to go. It is important that the enemy know this.”
“We shredded them. We can do it much worse, and it’s best for them that we not do it,” added Winter. “We gave them a much stronger beating than in Cast Lead.”
“When the Palestinians return to their home they will understand the scope of the damage Hamas has inflicted on them. Hamas used them,” he said.
Winter clarified that the enemy is not just Hamas but all of Gaza.
“This population is a hostage, but I think it is also a partner. I don’t exonerate them of responsibility so quickly,” said Winter of the 1.8 million Palestinians who inhabit the besieged coastal enclave, half of whom are children.
“True, there are some pitiable people there, but in many cases the terrorists are the children or relatives of the people who live there. In almost every home there is a son or other relative that is a partner in terror. How do you raise children in a home with explosives? In the end, everyone gets what they choose.”
“Forces of darkness”
He went on to call the Israeli assault “A just war against a cruel enemy. We, who sanctify life, fought against an enemy who sanctifies death. The forces of light against the forces of darkness.”
“This is an important statement due to the absolutism of it,” explains Israel expert Dena Shunra, who translated the article for The Electronic Intifada. “If Hamas (or Gaza as a whole) are the forces of darkness, any action is absolved. It is a Manichean sentiment similar to what we hear from the US military, and does not leave any room for ending hostilities – a war to the death.”
Winter’s warped vision of a civilian population in Gaza complicit in the “forces of darkness” essentially justifies killing them en masse, which is exactly what he did in Rafah and Khuzaa.
As a result, “[Winter] cannot walk around today without being halted, hugged, asked for a photo opportunity,” according to Yediot.
In a final address to his troops following the Gaza slaughter, Winter alluded to the next round of massacres.
“I am proud of you for everything that you have done. It is all thanks to you,” he told the soldiers. “I cannot promise you, like the song does, that this will be the last war, but I promise that this war, which is so just, will push the next war a good few years away.” More
The video clip showing apparent firing from an annex to the hospital was actually shot during Israel's 2008-09 “Operation Cast Lead,” and the audio clip accompanying it was from an incident unrelated to Al Wafa. (Screengrab: The Times of Israel)
A video distributed by the Israeli military in July suggesting that Palestinian fighters had fired from the Al Wafa Rehabilitation and Geriatric Hospital in Gaza City was not shot during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza, and both audio and video clips were manipulated to cover up the fact that they were from entirely different incidents, a Truthout investigation has revealed.
The video, released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on July 23, the same day Israeli airstrikes destroyed Al Wafa, was widely reported by pro-Israeli publications and websites as proving that the hospital was destroyed because Hamas had turned the hospital into a military facility. But the video clip showing apparent firing from an annex to the hospital was actually shot during Israel's 2008-09 “Operation Cast Lead,” and the audio clip accompanying it was from an incident unrelated to Al Wafa.
The misleading video was only the last in a series of IDF dissimulations about Al Wafa hospital that included false claims that Hamas rockets had been launched from the hospital grounds, or very near it, and that the hospital had been damaged by an attack on the launching site.
The IDF began to prepare the ground for the destruction of Al Wafa hospital well before Israeli ground troops entered Gaza on July 17. On July 11, the IDF fired four warning rockets on the fourth floor of Al Wafa, making a large hole in the ceiling – the standard IDF signal that a building was going to be destroyed by an airstrike.
On July 17, the hospital was hit by a total of 15 rockets, according to Dr. Basman Alashi, Al Wafa's director. After the first few rockets, a phone call from the IDF “asked how much time do you need to evacuate?” he told Truthout. After the second and third floors were largely destroyed, the patients' rooms were filled with smoke and the hospital lost electricity, he gave the order to evacuate the hospital.
An IDF spokesman told Allison Deger of Mondoweiss that Hamas rocket launches had come “from exactly near the hospital, 100 meters near.” A slide show released by the IDF August 19 includes an aerial view of Al Wafa Hospital with two alleged rocket launching sites marked that are clearly much farther from the hospital than the 100 meters.
Even if that IDF claim of 100 meters were accurate, however, it was more than sufficient to allow the IDF to hit the launch site with precision-guided munitions without damaging the hospital. Israeli air to ground missiles, especially those fired from drones, are known to be able to hit small targets without causing collateral damage to nearby buildings. An IDF video posted on August 9, for example, shows a missile destroying what is said to be a hidden rocket launch site without harming a mosque only a few meters away from the explosion.
IDF spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman nevertheless blandly suggested that it was collateral damage from striking the launch site. He said the IDF was “left with no choice” but to “target the launcher with the most precise munitions capable of ensuring its destruction.”
On July 21, the IDF Spokesman's Office pushed its propaganda line linking Al Wafa and rocket launching sites even further, claiming in a tweet and on its blog, “Hamas fires rockets from Wafa hospital in the Gaza neighborhood of Shujaiya.” Under that headline was an aerial photo enhanced to highlight what was said to be Al Wafa Hospital, along with a red dot representing an M-75 rocket launch site that was not on the hospital grounds, but appeared to be a few meters away.
But the building shown in the aerial photo was not Al Wafa hospital, as Dr. Alashi quickly pointed out. A Google map of Al Wafa hospital shows none of the buildings resemble the one the IDF identified as Al Wafa. The building in the IDF image belongs to the Right to Life Society.
After that prevarication had been revealed, the IDF added a new claim that “the hospital grounds” had been used by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as “a post enabling terrorists to open fire at soldiers.”
The IDF said that Hamas had “fired at Israel and at IDF forces from the hospital” despite warnings from the IDF, and the IDF had been forced to attack targets on the hospital site.
The statement was accompanied by a video purporting to document the firing at Israeli troops. Based on the camera angle and altitude, the video was taken by an Israeli drone, according to a former US intelligence officer, with experience in interpreting military-related images, who analyzed the video for Truthout.
The first segment of the video is a grainy, black-and-white aerial shot of a building that starts with the legend, “Terrorists Threaten IDF from inside Wafa Hospital.” The building shown is not Al Wafa hospital, however, but an annex to the hospital that had been empty, both Dr. Alashi and Charlie Andeasson, a Swedish activist who was in the hospital when it was attacked on July 16, told Truthout.
The eight-second video shows what could be two brief bursts of fire from one of the windows on the third floor and then a third flash in a fourth story window. The former US intelligence officer confirmed that the footage of the building was selected from two different times of day. After the first three seconds of the video, the camera angle and the amount of light both change perceptibly. Nevertheless an exchange between the two voices on the audiotape accompanying the video continues as though the scene were continuous during the entire eight seconds.
The first voice heard on the audio recording says, in Hebrew, “Do you see this firing? Have spotted fires from within the house.” The English subtitles accompanying the audio add “hospital” in parentheses after the word “house,” but Seattle-based blogger on Israeli affairs Richard Silverstein, who speaks Hebrew, confirmed to Truthout after listening to the audio clip that the speaker uses the word “bayit,” which can only mean “house.”
A second voice then says, according to the subtitles, “Positive, fire from within the house.” But the speaker actually uses the term “small house” (“bayit ha katan hazeh”), according to Silverstein.
Those references to firing from a small house indicate that the audio clip was taken from an entirely different incident at another location. That device was obviously used because there was no audio of an incident involving firing from the hospital.
Dr. Alashi said he believes the eight-second video clip portrays firing from the annex that occurred in the 2008-09 Israeli attack on Gaza. “People confirmed to me that there was firing from the building then,” he told Truthout. That building was, in fact, attacked on January 16, 2009, by Israeli tanks only 70 meters away from the hospital, damaging the third and fourth floors of the building – the very floors from which the flashes are shown in the video – as the UN Fact-Finding Mission noted in its September 2009 report.
The last segment of the video showing the bombing of the Al Wafa hospital, bears the legend “secondary explosion” – meaning explosions of weapons – as each building is shown being destroyed, in line with the Israeli argument throughout the operation that Hamas stored rockets and other weapons in hospitals, schools and mosques.
The video fist shows the hospital itself being blown up, followed by heavy billowing smoke covering the entire hospital and then another flash of fire. But the former intelligence official who viewed the video said that flash indicated another Israeli missile strike on the target rather than a secondary explosion.
The clip then cuts to the destruction of the annex, again with the “secondary explosion” legend. The billowing smoke from the initial bomb explosion covers the building, and then two or three small puffs of darker smoke appear. Those puffs of smoke would suggest a secondary explosion, according to the former US intelligence officer. But he also observed that a hospital would have flammable materials other than hidden weapons that could cause the darker smoke to appear.
Given the existence of Hamas' complex network of tunnels, which provided plenty of storage space for its rockets and other weaponry, it would have made no sense for Hamas to store rockets in a hospital that it knew had already been targeted by the IDF.
In its final seconds, the video focuses in to show a square which the legend describes as a “tunnel opening near Al Wafa.” But Dr. Alashi told Truthout that it is actually a water well.
The IDF real reason for the destruction of Al Wafa hospital appears to be related to the determination to raise the cost to the civilian population of Gaza for Palestinian resistance, in line with the approach represented by its “Dahiya doctrine,” named after the Beirut suburb dominated by Hezbollah, much of which the Israeli Air Force reduced to rubble in the 2006 war.
That strategy, recognized as a violation of the international laws of war, was pursued most obviously in the complete destruction of every house in several square blocks in three separate areas of the Shujaiya district of Gaza City July 19-20. But it was also evident in IDF attacks on Al Wafa and in the series of mortar and artillery attacks on six different UN shelters from July 21 though August 3. Those attacks killed a total of 47 civilians and wounded 341, according to a survey of the incidents by The Guardian.
In none of the six cases where UN shelters were hit by IDF mortar shells was the military able to offer a plausible explanation, and in three cases, it offered no explanation whatever. More
Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing about US national security policy, and the recipient of the Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2012. His investigation of the US entry into war in Vietnam, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published by University of California Press in 2005.
“I’ll back you and protect you, I’m your guy … it’s very upsetting … all the Arabs are the same,” US PresidentBill Clinton told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a 19 July 2000 meeting during the failed Camp David summit with Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat.
Only months earlier, in March 2000, Clinton displayed the same kind of obeisance to Barak — albeit without the racist slur this time — when he explained, “I’ll do my best … I’ve gone through the script … I’ll do a good job.” He said this while he attempted to reassure Barak during another failed summit, this time with then-president of Syria Hafez al-Assad.
That the US government has acted as Israel’s attorney rather than an honest mediator in peace negotiations has been known for some time, ever since the disclosure of a secret 1975 letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
But these quotes from Ahron Bregman’s Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories (2014), which includes the actual “script” agreed upon between Clinton and Barak, make graphically clear the extent of the collusion between the two governments.
Top secret disclosures
Bregman’s book breaks new ground with a number of leaked top secret disclosures from Israeli sources. It shows that the recent revelation that Israel eavesdropped on current US Secretary of State John Kerry is really nothing new.
Israel also secretly recorded conversations between Clinton and Assad back in 2000. The only question unanswered is why, given the extent of the collusion, the Israeli government believed it was necessary to eavesdrop on its counterpart.
Bregman is a British-Israeli political scientist who teaches in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. He served in the Israeli army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But during the first intifada, he openly announced his refusal to serve in the “occupied territories,” in an interview with Israeli newspaperHaaretz.
Facing prison for his refusal, he emigrated to the UK where he obtained a doctoral degree, and subsequently began a career as a lecturer and journalist, eventually authoring four other books on Israel.
Bregman believes that Cursed Victory is the first chronological history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria’s Golan Heights, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula following the 1967 war. His book differs from other studies which he says take a more thematic or analytical approach to the post-1967 occupation.
Bregman’s perspective is that of a liberal Zionist. He briefly describes the 1947-1948 Nakba — the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland — as a “civil war,” and suggests that Israel emerged as a colonialist country only after the 1967 war, hence the book’s title.
This perspective eventually weakens his concluding chapter and mars his analysis of the failure of Clinton’s Camp David summit. Nevertheless, many Palestinian voices are heard in the course of his chronology, and he rigorously details how Israel implemented the “three main pillars” of its post-1967 occupation through military force, laws and bureaucratic regulations and settlements — in the process, trampling on international law and Palestinians’ human rights.
Bregman’s top secret material appears mostly in the later chapters, which cover the period between 1995 and 2007 when his chronology ends. Many of the documents are not surprising, and their contents could be deduced from both US and Israeli public policy and behavior.
Still, the documentation reinforces what Palestinians have long maintained. We get to read, for example, the actual text of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s reaffirmation of the US pledge to consult first with Israel in peace talks.
In a secret 1998 letter to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Albright promised: “Recognizing the desirability of avoiding putting forward proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory, the US will conduct a thorough consultation process with Israel in advance with respect to any ideas the US may wish to offer the parties for their consideration.” As Bregman notes, this effectively gave “Israel carte blanche to veto any American peace proposals” it didn’t like.
Many Palestinians have long suspected that Israel assassinated Arafat by poisoning him. Bregman’s revelations point to this conclusion as well, although he concedes that the information leaked to him to date does not contain the “smoking gun” proof.
The clearest indication, he writes, is a 15 October 2000, document prepared by the Shabak (or Shin Bet), Israel’s secret service, which describes Arafat “as a serious threat to the security of the state. His disappearance outweighs the benefits of his continuing existence.”
After noting that in 2004, US President George W. Bush appeared to release Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from an earlier commitment not to harm Arafat, Bregman states that the US government had given Sharon “if not a green light to proceed with the killing, then at least an amber” light.
Ignoring Palestinian response
Bregman’s liberal Zionism is apparent in several instances in this work, including his suggestion that if Israel had used greater force it might have avoided the first intifada in 1987. But the most obvious example is his acceptance of the notion that the so-called Clinton Parameters, outlined after the failure of Camp David, represented the best deal the Palestinians could have hoped to get.
The deal Clinton offered, he says, was Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock), the principal Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, in exchange for giving up even a symbolic right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Whereas throughout most of the book Bregman is conscientious in representing Palestinian viewpoints, here he largely ignores the official response of the Palestinian negotiating team to the Clinton Parameters.
Nor does he suggest that Palestinian negotiators had little reason to trust Clinton after he had already broken two key promises: one, that Clinton would not blame Arafat if the summit failed (which Clinton did), and two, that Israel would continue to withdraw from the occupied West Bank if the summit failed (which Israel did not).
More to the point, Bregman effectively dismisses the Palestinian right of return as a fundamental human right central to their struggle and to a just peace.
The parameters guaranteed little more than limited autonomy for Palestinians in less than 22 percent of historic Palestine, not full state sovereignty, and the Palestinian Authority would have had to depend on Israeli goodwill to withdraw its military presence in the Jordan Valley twelve years from the agreement.
The result is a disappointing concluding chapter in which the author suggests that the post-1967 occupation will eventually end simply because history shows that occupations don’t last.
In his final paragraph, he distinguishes between “good” colonialists (the British) and “bad” colonialists (the Israelis), but his fixation on 1967 means he misses entirely that Israeli settler-colonialism began not in 1967, but in the years leading up to the founding of the state in 1948. More
Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He is active with Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland Chapter and the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.
August 23, 2014 “ICH” – “PIPR” – – People in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine feel disappointed at the lack of any significant international reaction to the carnage and destruction the Israeli assault has so far left behind it in the Strip.
The inability, or unwillingness, to act seems to be first and foremost an acceptance of the Israeli narrative and argumentation for the crisis in Gaza. Israel has developed a very clear narrative about the present carnage in Gaza.
It is a tragedy caused by an unprovoked Hamas missile attack on the Jewish State, to which Israel had to react in self-defence. While mainstream western media, academia and politicians may have reservations about the proportionality of the force used by Israel, they accept the gist of this argument. This Israeli narrative is totally rejected in the world of cyber activism and alternative media. There it seems the condemnation of the Israeli action as a war crime is widespread and consensual.
The main difference between the two analyses from above and from below is the willingness of activists to study deeper and in a more profound way the ideological and historical context of the present Israeli action in Gaza. This tendency should be enhanced even further and this piece is just a modest attempt to contribute towards this direction.
Ad Hoc Slaughter?
An historical evaluation and contextualization of the present Israeli assault on Gaza and that of the previous three ones since 2006 expose clearly the Israeli genocidal policy there. An incremental policy of massive killing that is less a product of a callous intention as it is the inevitable outcome of Israel’s overall strategy towards Palestine in general and the areas it occupied in 1967, in particular.
This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.
The Israeli strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians. The means for achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish State might be, it can only materialize without any significant number of Palestinians in it. And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live.
This vision ran into trouble once territorial greed led Israel to try and keep the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within its rule and control ever since June 1967. Israel searched for a way to keep the territories it occupied that year without incorporating their population into its rights-bearing citizenry. All the while it participated in a ‘peace process’ charade to cover up or buy time for its unilateral colonization policies on the ground.
With the decades, Israel differentiated between areas it wished to control directly and those it would manage indirectly, with the aim in the long run of downsizing the Palestinian population to a minimum with, among other means, ethnic cleansing and economic and geographic strangulation. Thus the West Bank was in effect divided into a ‘Jewish’ and a ‘Palestinian’ zones – a reality most Israelis can live with provided the Palestinian Bantustans are content with their incarceration within these mega prisons. The geopolitical location of the West Bank creates the impression in Israel, at least, that it is possible to achieve this without anticipating a third uprising or too much international condemnation.
The Gaza Strip, due to its unique geopolitical location, did not lend itself that easily to such a strategy. Ever since 1994, and even more so when Ariel Sharon came to power as prime minister in the early 2000s, the strategy there was to ghettoize Gaza and somehow hope that the people there — 1.8 million as of today — would be dropped into eternal oblivion.
But the Ghetto proved to be rebellious and unwilling to live under conditions of strangulation, isolation, starvation and economic collapse. There was no way it would be annexed to Egypt, neither in 1948 nor in 2014. In 1948, Israel pushed into the Gaza area (before it became a strip) hundreds of thousands of refugees it expelled from the northern Naqab and southern coast who, so they hoped, would move even farther away from Palestine.
For a while after 1967, it wanted to keep as a township which provided unskilled labour but without any human and civil rights. When the occupied people resisted the continued oppression in two intifadas, the West Bank was bisected into small Bantustans encircled by Jewish colonies, but it did not work in the too small and too dense Gaza Strip. The Israelis were unable to ‘West Bank’ the Strip, so to speak. So they cordoned it as a Ghetto and when it resisted the army was allowed to use its most formidable and lethal weapons to crash it. The inevitable result of an accumulative reaction of this kind was genocidal.
The killing of three Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, abducted in the occupied West Bank in June, which was mainly a reprisal for killings of Palestinian children in May, provided the pretext first and foremost for destroying the delicate unity Hamas and Fatah have formed in that month. A unity that followed a decision by the Palestinian Authority to forsake the ‘peace process’ and appeal to international organizations to judge Israel according to a human and civil rights’ yardstick. Both developments were viewed as alarming in Israel.
The pretext determined the timing – but the viciousness of the assault was the outcome of Israel’s inability to formulate a clear policy towards the Strip it created in 1948. The only clear feature of that policy is the deep conviction that wiping out the Hamas from the Gaza Strip would domicile the Ghetto there.
Since 1994, even before the rise of Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip, the very particular geopolitical location of the Strip made it clear that any collective punitive action, such as the one inflicted now, could only be an operation of massive killings and destruction. In other words: an incremental genocide.
This recognition never inhibited the generals who give the orders to bomb the people from the air, the sea and the ground. Downsizing the number of Palestinians all over historic Palestine is still the Zionist vision; an ideal that requires the dehumanisation of the Palestinians. In Gaza, this attitude and vision takes its most inhuman form.
The particular timing of this wave is determined, as in the past, by additional considerations. The domestic social unrest of 2011 is still simmering and for a while there was a public demand to cut military expenditures and move money from the inflated ‘defence’ budget to social services. The army branded this possibility as suicidal. There is nothing like a military operation to stifle any voices calling on the government to cut its military expenses.
Typical hallmarks of the previous stages in this incremental genocide reappear in this wave as well. As in the first operation against Gaza, ‘First Rains’ in 2006, and those which followed in 2009, ‘Cast Lead’, and 2012, ‘Pillar of Smoke’, one can witness again consensual Israeli Jewish support for the massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip, without one significant voice of dissent. The Academia, as always, becomes part of the machinery. Various universities offered the state its student bodies to help and battle for the Israeli narrative in the cyberspace and alternative media.
The Israeli media, as well, toed loyally the government’s line, showing no pictures of the human catastrophe Israel has wreaked and informing its public that this time, ‘the world understands us and is behind us’. That statement is valid to a point as the political elites in the West continue to provide the old immunity to the Jewish state. The recent appeal by Western governments to the prosecutor in the international court of Justice in The Hague not to look into Israel’s crimes in Gaza is a case in point. Wide sections of the Western media followed suit and justified by and large Israel’s actions.
This distorted coverage is also fed by a sense among Western journalist that what happens in Gaza pales in comparison to the atrocities in Iraq and Syria. Comparisons like this are usually provided without a wider historical perspective. A longer view on the history of the Palestinians would be a much more appropriate way to evaluate their suffering vis-à-vis the carnage elsewhere.
Conclusion: Confronting Double-Standards
But not only historical view is needed for a better understanding of the massacre in Gaza. A dialectical approach that identifies the connection between Israel’s immunity and the horrific developments elsewhere is required as well. The dehumanization in Iraq and Syria is widespread and terrifying, as it is in Gaza. But there is one crucial difference between these cases and the Israeli brutality: the former are condemned as barbarous and inhuman worldwide, while those committed by Israel are still publicly licensed and approved by the president of the United States, the leaders of the EU and Israel’s other friends in the world.
The only chance for a successful struggle against Zionism in Palestine is the one based on a human and civil rights agenda that does not differentiate between one violation and the other and yet identifies clearly the victim and the victimizers. Those who commit atrocities in the Arab world against oppressed minorities and helpless communities, as well as the Israelis who commit these crimes against the Palestinian people, should all be judged by the same moral and ethical standards. They are all war criminals, though in the case of Palestine they have been at work longer than anyone else. It does not really matter what the religious identity is of the people who commit the atrocities or in the name of which religion they purport to speak. Whether they call themselves jihadists, Judaists or Zionists, they should be treated in the same way. More