Behind Israel’s Attack on Gaza
By Joseph Fitsanakis | intelNews | 12.29.2008
IN CONTRAST TO THE VAGUE international protestations by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about Israel’s “right to self-defense”, the domestic Israeli press has been extremely candid about the reasons behind Israel’s ongoing attack on the Gazan population. On Sunday, the country’s most respected newspaper, Ha’aretz, published a detailed account of what it described as the Israeli government’s “[l]ong-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public” which lie behind the latest onslaught against the imprisoned Palestinian population.
The paper correctly dismisses the official Israeli propaganda that puts the blame on militant Palestinian group Hamas for the end of the June 2008 truce. Instead, it points to the well-known illegal incursion into Gaza by a sizeable Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) team, which unilaterally broke the truce on November 4, reportedly to take out a “strip tunnel intended for terror attack”. No proof was ever offered for this allegation, either domestically or internationally. The Israeli press has long recognized that it was after this unilateral breaking of the ceasefire by the IDF that “[t]he fragile five-month truce began to unravel”. On November 13, Ha’aretz noted that it was in response to this action that Hamas forces resumed their rocket fire against Israeli settlements.
A RELUCTANT TRUCE
Back in June of 2008, Israel agreed to sign the truce with Hamas, mediated by Egypt, but only after pressure by the United States and with what was described at the time as “extreme reluctance”. Reporting from Jerusalem, an Agence France Presse correspondent cautioned on June 12 that while Israel had finally accepted “Egyptian efforts to broker a truce with Hamas in and around Gaza [...] at the same time [it] ordered its armed forces to prepare for a possible offensive against the Palestinian territory”. He went on to describe how, even as Israel was signing the truce, its military was killing Palestinian civilians, one of whom was “a 10-year-old girl, Hadeel al-Smeiri[, who] died when a tank shell hit a house east of the south Gaza city of Khan Yunis. Two of her relatives were wounded”. Little more than a month later, Israel decided to unilaterally begin constructing new homes in an illegal West Bank settlement “despite a pledge to the US to stop building on the site”, as the world’s press noted at the time. Writing for The Guardian, British correspondent Mark Tran warned that the construction approval was “bound to anger the Palestinians and irritate the US, which has called on Israel to halt construction in the settlements as part of the American ‘road map’ for peace in the Middle East”. Even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, usually among Israel’s most fervent international advocates, stated in June that illegal “Jewish settlement building was having a ‘negative effect’ on efforts to reach a peace deal”.
Adding insult to injury, in early December, the Israeli government turned a blind eye to the mass victimization of an entire Palestinian community by fanatical Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The BBC reported that, after being evicted by Israeli troops from an illegal building, the settlers “shot and wounded three Palestinians and set fire to property”. Commenting on the scenes of carnage, captured on video by an Israeli human rights group, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert aptly stated: “As a Jew, I was ashamed at the scenes of Jews opening fire at innocent Arabs in Hebron. There is no other definition than the term ‘pogrom’ to describe what I have seen”.
In addition to tacitly permitted pogroms by “enraged citizens” against innocent Arabs, the “Middle East’s only functional democracy” (pdf) has implemented another democratic measure against Arabs –namely it forbids, as a matter of policy, all journalists from entering Gaza. The few brave reporters who are caught trying to report on the miserable living conditions of the enslaved Palestinian population are arrested by the IDF and summarily expelled. In early December, Israel even detained and expelled the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Richard Falk. Falk, who is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and the author of over fifty books on international law and human rights, was summarily arrested by the Israeli security services, placed in a detention facility in which he was “barely able to stand” and underwent what he described as “a very coercive” and “unpleasant” experience. The reason for his arrest was his earlier description of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip as a “flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law” and a “crime against humanity”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, described the treatment of Dr. Falk as “unprecedented and deeply regrettable”, but her protestations have failed to stir the “Middle East’s only functional democracy”.
A PREMEDITATED ATTACK
The recent Ha’aretz revelations point to the true cause of Israel’s constant and deliberate provocations, outlined above. The paper cites “sources in [Israel's] defense establishment” in disclosing that the IDF was instructed by Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, to prepare for an attack on Gaza “six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas”. The rockets launched by the Palestinian group, in response to the November 4 unilateral breaking of the truce by the IDF, gave the Israelis the opportunity they required to put Operation Cast Lead into action. By accelerating the provocations, as well as employing what Ha’aretz describes as “operational deception and the misleading of the public”, the Israeli government was able to turn a once promising truce into another barrage of tit-for-tat violence.
On day three of the Israeli attacks, the UN is already estimating the civilian toll in Gaza to 64 dead and hundreds seriously injured, while the International Red Cross “describ[es] the situation in Gaza’s hospitals as chaotic, with medical teams stretched to the limit”. Meanwhile, Israeli military forces continue to prevent journalists and medical supplies from entering Gaza, which the IDF now calls a “closed military zone”.
THE PROBLEM WITH DEMOCRACY
Late on December 29, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, disclosed for the first time that the operational goal of Operation Cast Lead is “regime change” in Gaza. “We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas. We are favorable to any other government to take the place of Hamas”, he said. The fact that Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian population in a territory-wide poll which the head of the European Parliament’s electoral monitoring delegation described as “extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence”, is dismissed without discussion.
This is apparently what happens when the crusade to spread democracy to the uncivilized stumbles upon the ultimate barrier –namely the democratic election by the uncivilized of a leadership that the democracy-crusaders dislike.