Separating the Truth from the Hype
The Gaza Bloodbath

Mike Whitney

(Abridged from an article in Counterpunch, January 6, 2009. Ed/-)  

In a rare moment of honesty, the New York Times divulged the real motive behind the bombardment and invasion of Gaza. In Ethan Bronner's article, Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, "We need to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That is the most important thing. If the war ends in a draw, as expected, and Israel refrains from reoccupying Gaza, Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition...No matter what you call it, Hamas will obtain legitimacy."
According to the Times: "In addition, any truce would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas's central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair." 
If Israel wants to prevent Hamas from "obtaining legitimacy," than the real objective of the invasion is to either severely undermine or topple the regime. All the talk about the qassam rockets and the so-called "Hamas infrastructure", (the new phrase that is supposed to indicate a threat to Israeli security) is merely a diversion. What really worries Israel is the prospect that Obama will "sit down with his enemies"--as he promised during the presidential campaign--and conduct talks with Hamas. That would put the ball in Israel's court and force them to make concessions. But Israel does not want to make concessions. They would rather start a war and change the facts on the ground so they can head-off any attempt by Obama to restart peace process.

Voices of Dissent in Israel  

Thousands have participated in several peace rallies organised to demand an immediate end to the ongoing assault in Gaza. Demonstrations were held in the heart of Tel Aviv, in front of the central command of the Israeli Defence Forces and the Ministry of defence. 
The Israeli Communist forum said in a statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict in the region and also that a section of the Israeli leadership was using the war as a tool towards improving their standing in the coming elections. The statement critiqued the media for participating in the consensus building in the favour of war, but also that in spite of the political climate, opposition to the war was now obvious. With this, they also demanded the immediate cessation of bombings in Gaza and withdrawal of forces, renewal of the ceasefire with renewal of agreements on exchange of prisoners, as well as the drawing of a policy that would recognise the national rights of the Arab Palestinian people, including the creation of its independent state in the borders of June 1967.

Various Jewish groups also called upon Israeli soldiers to stop war crimes and raise the Black Flag of Illegality over the operations against the people of Gaza.

Just days ago, Obama advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said in a televised interview, that the last eight years proves that resolving the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is critical to US interests in the region. He added that the recent fighting shows that the two parties cannot achieve peace without US involvement. Brzezinski's comments suggest that, at the very least, the Obama camp is considering low-level (secret?) talks with Hamas representatives. Every day that Hamas abstains from violence; its legitimacy as a political party grows and the prospect of direct negotiations becomes more likely. This is Israel's worst nightmare, not because Hamas constitutes a real threat to Israeli security, but because Israel wants to install its own puppet regime and unilaterally impose its own terms for a final settlement. Neither Ehud Olmert or any of the candidates for prime minister have any intention of getting bogged down in another 8 years of fruitless banter like Oslo where plans for settlement expansion had to be concealed behind an elaborate public relations smokescreen. No way. The Israeli leadership would rather skip the pretense altogether and pursue their territorial aims openly as they have under Bush. And the goal is the same as always; to integrate the occupied territories into Greater Israel and leave the Palestinians trapped in bantustans. Negotiations just make that harder.

Worldwide Condemnation

This time around, Israel’s propaganda machine failed miserably. Protests all over the world continue unabated – and, even apart from courageous Governments like that of Venezuela which expelled the Israeli ambassador, other Governments too put their disapproval on record. 
Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador has condemned the offensive as a ‘crime against humanity’, and also asserted that his government condemns ‘all kind of colonialist, neo-colonialist, and imperialist practices’. Bolivia has severed diplomatic ties with Israel and is in the process of moving to have Israeli leaders tried at the International Criminal Court.
Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad at the emergency Arab summit in Doha demanded that Israel's political and military leaders “stand trial for the acts of genocide they have committed against Palestinians" and urged Arab countries to sever political and economic ties with Israel. He was echoed by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Mauritania and Qatar suspended political and economic ties with Israel. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey said "How is such a country, which does not implement resolutions of the UN Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN [headquarters]?" 
A resolution in the European Parliament said, "The embargo on the Gaza Strip represents collective punishment in contravention of international humanitarian law." 

There were massive protest demonstrations in cities worldwide, including Paris, (a protest which saw thousands spill onto the streets), Montreal (where the Israeli embassy was served an eviction notice!), Toronto, (where a group of Jewish Canadian women occupied the consulate).

Ariel Sharon's senior advisor, Dov Weisglass, clarified Israel's position three years ago when he admitted, "The disengagement [from Gaza] … actually …supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians." The point of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was to silence critics and to make it appear as though the Palestinians had achieved some type of statehood. It was a complete sham. Sharon believed that disengagement would stop foreign leaders from badgering him to sit down with the Palestinians and work out a mutually-acceptable agreement. He never expected that elections would throw a wrench in his plans and raise the credibility of Hamas to the extent that it has today. In the last two years, Hamas hasn' t launched one suicide mission in Israel, which shows that it has abandoned the armed struggle and can be trusted to negotiate on its people's behalf. That scares Israel, which is why they initiated hostilities. Now, they need to seal the deal by either removing Hamas before Obama is sworn in or face pressure from the new administration for dialogue. Meanwhile, Israeli troop movements indicate that a plan may be in place to divide Gaza into three parts, thus making it impossible for Hamas to rule.
The UK Guardian confirms that the invasion was really about regime change not rockets or Hamas infrastructure. According to the Guardian: "A couple of days into the assault on Gaza, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said it would continue for 'as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely'. 
Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN until a few months ago, was brought in by the Foreign Ministry to help lead the diplomatic and PR campaign. He said that the diplomatic and political groundwork has been under way for months. "This was something that was planned long ahead," he said. The invasion was mapped out months ago, right down to the bullet points that were passed out to friends in the media. 
But recent polls show that the public has remained skeptical. Anti-Israel protests have sprung up in capitals across the world, and support for Israel is at its nadir. So far, the war has been a public relations catastrophe. Over 500 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded in a debacle of Biblical proportions. The civilian toll continues to balloon with no end in sight.
The "invasion"--which is a word none of the Israeli-centric media dares to use--(Israel "entered" Gaza) is the equivalent of rampaging through a concentration camp (similar to the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla). Still, newspapers, like the New York Times, provide cover for the attack by referring to Hamas "bases" within Gaza. In truth, there are no bases nor military installations of any kind. They have no army, no navy, and no air force. The only threat that Gaza poses to Israel is its people's unshakable commitment to end the occupation.

What observers are seeing on the internet is the broken bodies of children pulled from the rubble of their homes and the terrifying explosions in a city that languishes in complete darkness. Israel has bombed mosques, ambulances, bridges, tunnels, even a terrorist girls dormitory. Since when is a girl's dormitory part of "Hamas infrastructure"?
War is a blunt instrument for achieving one's political objectives, and the costs can be enormous for winner and loser alike. If Israel manages to incite Hamas to the point where they deploy suicide bombers to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem then, perhaps, attitudes will shift in Israel's favor. It is impossible to predict. But, clearly, retaliation with suicide missions would be the worst possible strategy for Hamas at this point. Israel has lost the moral high-ground, but one suicide bomber can change all that in a flash. 

Excerpt from the Palestinian Government’s Open Letter to Chavez
“We, the people of Palestine, commend your courage to speak and act upon your conscience regardless of your detractors' criticism or cowardice.
Mr. President, we have watched death rain upon our families and children in Gaza for weeks; and yet we stand proud and ready for any outcome. We are a resilient people who wish for peace but will fight rather than bow to injustice. 
Throughout history, in a just conflict, there always emerges a champion, a single hero who, by his actions, embodies all the virtues the masses aspire to. You have demonstrated that you are such a man.
We have observed your commitment to the destitute and disenfranchised since you first took office. The Americas are fortunate that your presidency has not only survived but emerged as a paradigm to be emulated. You have boldly said what the world's masses feel – from speaking out against the sulphur of imperialism at the United Nations in 2006 through to the recent expulsion of the devil's minion.
The Israelis slowly and deliberately began reducing the presence of journalists and denying humanitarian groups access to Gaza over the past 6 months. And since they began their bombing campaign, food and fuel are scarce. 
We do not know who among us will remain alive once this barbaric onslaught is ended. But we remain, as a people and a government, undeterred in our belief that justice will reign.
We can ask no more of you than you have already done – for you have proven that a nation cannot be cowed simply because it drives its own destiny, nor will a leader lose his throne for challenging imperialism. We salute the citizens of Venezuela for choosing President Chavez; and we commend you for being among the few leaders of this age who put people before politics.
I may not live to honor our commitment to meet you; but our people will not rest until they have sent a delegation to meet the man who put politics aside, spoke with honor and acted with courage.
Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Former Political Advisor to the Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya"

The media has made a big issue of the fact that Hamas ended its ceasefire with Israel just days before the bombardment of Gaza. But as Johann Hari points out in his article "The True Story Behind this War Is Not The One Israel Is Telling" Hamas offered to maintain the ceasefire if Israel agreed to lift the blockade. According to Hari: "The core of the situation has been starkly laid out by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad. He says that while Hamas militants – like much of the Israeli right-wing – dream of driving their opponents away, "they have recognized this ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future." Instead, "they are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967." They are aware that this means they "will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals" – and towards a long-term peace based on compromise.....Halevy explains: "Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas."
Hari's article further confirms our basic thesis that the aggression in Gaza has nothing to do with terrorism, security, or Hamas infrastructure. In fact, Hamas appears to be ready to settle for much less than they originally hoped for.  In this particular case, all they wanted was a promise from Israel to end the blockade, but Israel refused.

On Friday, Israeli spokeswoman, Major Avital Leibovich, announced that "Hamas leaders were also marked men. We have defined legitimate targets as any Hamas-affiliated target." That means that Palestine’s democratically elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is now on Israel's hit list.
In a February 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Haniyeh dispelled many of the lies circulating in the western media about Hamas. He said that he wanted to see an end the "vicious cycle of violence" and vehemently denied the claim that "Hamas is committed to destroying Israel". He said, "We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody....We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators. We are not lovers of blood. We are oppressed people with rights."
Haniyeh's answers (to questions in the interview – Ed/-) are straightforward and rational. He asked for nothing that isn't already required under existing United Nations resolutions; a return to the 1967 borders, basic human rights, and settlement of the final status issues. An agreement could be facilitated tomorrow if Israel was willing to conform to international law. Instead, Israel has chosen to invade Gaza. For 60 years it has employed the same failed strategy.
Haniyeh again: "Israel's unilateral movements of the past year will not lead to peace. These acts -- the temporary withdrawal of forces from Gaza, the walling off of the West Bank -- are not strides toward resolution but empty, symbolic acts that fail to address the underlying conflict. Israel's nearly complete control over the lives of Palestinians is never in doubt, as confirmed by the humanitarian and economic suffering of the Palestinians since the January elections."
"We want what Americans enjoy -- democratic rights, economic sovereignty and justice. We thought our pride in conducting the fairest elections in the Arab world might resonate with the United States and its citizens. Instead, our new government was met from the very beginning by acts of explicit, declared sabotage by the White House. Now this aggression continues against 3.9 million civilians living in the world's largest prison camps. America's complacency in the face of these war crimes is, as usual, embedded in the coded rhetorical green light: "Israel has a right to defend itself."
Haniyeh's efforts for reconciliation are doomed. Israel will not bargain or compromise. The Israeli state is driven by an ideology which requires continuous expansion and subjugation. There's nothing Haniyeh can do to change that. The answer to the present crisis lies within Zionism itself, the philosophical underpinning of Jewish nationalism.  

India’s Role in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
India has traditionally claimed to support the Palestinian struggle for independence. Gandhi was particularly unambiguous and emphatic in his support:
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home. The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.” (quoted from the Collected Works of M K Gandhi, Vol. 74: 9 September, 1938 - 29 January, 1939, pages 239-242)

It is matter of shame that over the past several years, there has been a clear shift in India's policy in its attempts to align itself with the US foreign policy. The result of which, India is building "strategic" alliances, and even defence ties, with Israel. In addition, India is Israel’s largest arms importer. Vis-à-vis the latest massacres by Israel, when India should have severed all ties with Israel and demanded strong international sanctions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refused to even openly indict Israel as the aggressor. While the need of the hour is to stiffly resist imperialism in all its forms anywhere in the world, the Indian government’s response is indeed shameful and tragic.

In his recent article, "Israel's Righteous Fury and its Victims in Gaza", Ilan Pappe, the chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter, explains Zionism in terms of its effect on Israeli policy vis a vis the invasion of Gaza:
"There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its "surgical" operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way of course, on the other.
This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defense reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings.
The self-righteousness is a powerful act of self-denial and justification. It explains why the Israeli Jewish society would not be moved by words of wisdom, logical persuasion or diplomatic dialogue. And if one does not want to endorse violence as the means of opposing it, there is only one way forward: challenging head-on this righteousness as an evil ideology meant to cover human atrocities. Another name for this ideology is Zionism and an international rebuke for Zionism, not just for particular Israeli policies, is the only way of countering this self-righteousness." ("Israel's Righteous Fury and its Victims in Gaza", Ilan Pappe)It wouldn't make a bit of difference if Hamas surrendered tomorrow and handed-over all its weapons to Israel, because the problem isn't Hamas; it's Zionism, the deeply-flawed ideology which leads to bombing children in their homes while clinging to victim-hood. Ideas have consequences. Gaza proves it.