Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heck of a Job, Ehud

Juan Cole summarizes the results of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza.
According to UNICEF, their preliminary estimate of the damage done by the Israeli military to Gaza infrastructure is $1.9 billion. Note that this is Gaza infrastructure, not Hamas infrastructure.

So at least the war weakened Hamas's political control of Gaza, right? Not so much.

So then, the Israeli military boasted that it destroyed 60% of the tunnels whereby Gazans smuggle food, medicine and other goods into Gaza (the Israelis say they bring in explosives for rocket-making as well; but since rockets can be made from simple materials and petroleum products, and since the rockets are so primitive, they can't be bringing in very good explosives). So at least, the Israeli war on the people of Gaza permanently reduced the capacity of those tunnels, right? Naw, the Gazans are working Caterpillar backhoes to rebuild the tunnels, already!

If the goal was to stop the rockets, so the ceasefire last June stopped the rockets from Hamas for 4 months until Israel broke the truce. Negotiation had been proven to work. Henry Siegman has decided that the Israeli narrative of the lead-up to the Gaza War was just lies, which American media largely bought, hook, line and sinker. He outlines what really happened.

How unpopular Israel made itself in Europe with this war was still visible nearly a week after it ended, when 20,000 protesters marched in Paris on Saturday, still protesting the war.
This is from the Siegman link in Juan's text.

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population....

It's a truism that bears repeating - the US needs an overhaul of its policy towards Israel and Palestine. Perhaps especially now that Israel is headed into elections that look likely to re-elect Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

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