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|Proletarian issue 28 (February 2009)
|Israel fails to crush Gaza
|Despite inflicting monumental human and physical destruction upon the Palestinian people, the zionist regime has completely failed in its efforts to overthrow Hamas and to annihilate the Palestinian resistance.
|The problem is not
Hamas – or any other
faction of the resistance.
The real problem, and the cause behind the conflict, is the occupation of
Palestine by zionist
|On Saturday 27 December 2008, Israel launched its latest genocidal war against the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip. During the first 24 hours alone, the Israeli bombardment claimed the lives of 225 Palestinians – the highest number of Palestinians massacred by the zionist occupation regime in a single day since Israel captured, and occupied, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War.
During the three weeks since Israel began its disproportionate, unjust and brutal air, sea and artillery bombardment in the densely populated urban areas of Gaza, more than 1,300 Palestinians, 60 percent of them women and children, almost all of them non-combatants, were murdered in cold blood by the zionist butchers, while another 6,000 were wounded, many of them critically.
In violation of the rules of war as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, and in total disregard of the distinction between combatants and civilians – between military and civilian targets – Israeli armed forces indulged in an orgy of indiscriminate killing and destruction.
In this all-out war, anything and anyone “affiliated with Hamas” has been “a legitimate target”, according to an Israeli spokesperson. That can only mean the total destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and a wholesale massacre of its population, for Hamas, which was elected in January 2006 to lead the Palestinian Authority (PA), is responsible for the territory’s civil service and police, in addition to the provision of social services to its inhabitants through a network of government and charitable organisations.
Based on this Hitlerite logic, Israeli ‘legitimate targets’ have included mosques, hospitals, ambulances, schools, children’s playgrounds, a jail, police stations, the graduation ceremony of the traffic police, the Islamic University of Gaza – with 20,000 students (more than half of them women) – and a cemetery.
The ministries of education, justice, the interior, foreign affairs, public works, labour, culture and finance have been pulverised. A number of residential areas have been flattened, with their inhabitants buried under the falling masonry.
The International Committee of the Red Cross stated on 8 January that aid workers had found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other bodies in a destroyed house in Gaza City. In uncharacteristically strong language, it accused Israel of obstructing ambulances from gaining access to the bombed area, although they were just 80 metres from the house.
Even UN-run establishments have not been spared by the Israeli Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht. On 6 January, Israeli tanks shelled two schools run by a UN agency, leaving 40 civilians dead. Two days earlier, the elite and private American International School was destroyed by Israeli bombs.
On 15 January, the same day as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was visiting Israel, the Israeli forces attacked with phosphorous bombs the UN’s main warehouse containing food, fuel and medicines, destroying supplies and UNWRA vehicles, and killing 70 of the 700 Palestinians sheltering in the building.
On the same day, the Israelis attacked the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, destroying two of its floors and setting it ablaze, as well as a skyscraper housing several international media groups, including Reuters. A second warehouse run by the Palestinian Red Crescent was also shelled on that day.
Israeli spokespersons utter foul lies in defence of their attacks on religious and educational establishments, asserting that the mosques destroyed by Israeli bombing were weapons storehouses and that the Islamic University, hit repeatedly by Israeli bombers, housed explosives factories.
Having run out of excuses for attacking civilian establishments, this is how Captain Benjamin Rutland, an Israeli military spokesman, defended the destruction of government buildings without even claiming that they were of a military nature: “The government buildings are a place where financial, logistical and human resources serve to support terror. Much of the government is involved in the active support and planning of terror.”
It is only a short step to saying that every Palestinian child is a budding member of the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and therefore a legitimate target of Israeli barbaric bombing. With such justifications for their brutality, the Israelis are inviting, and justifying, attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilian targets.
That this clearly is the Israeli thinking (with which the imperialist media and its spokespersons have only too willingly gone along), is shown by the way they count the number of Palestinian civilian casualties: their figures are based on the number of women and children casualties alone, with the assumption that every man in Gaza is a Hamas resistance fighter.
It is nothing short of abominable to treat the entire population of Gaza as combatants merely because it has the misfortune to live under brutal foreign colonial occupation.
Failure of the air war
Israel, just like its chief backer US imperialism, never learning from past experience, suffered from the illusion that air power alone could help it win the war at no cost to those flying the bombers; that they could direct drones from their ‘Play Stations’, with not the slightest risk to the attackers and the maximum ‘collateral’ damage to the victims of these exercises in barbarity.
Instead of putting their faith in the F-16 bombers, drones and Apache helicopters, the Israelis should have made a serious study of the history of air warfare. Had they done so, they would have realised that wars cannot be won by air power alone, and that war can only be won on the ground.
Indiscriminate bombing from the air, far from breaking the nerve, only serves to stiffen the resolve of the population subjected to it. It took a whole week’s round-the-clock bombing of Gaza for the realisation to dawn upon the Israeli military high command that there was no short-cut to ground invasion.
As if to furnish proof that eight days of relentless air attacks had failed to overwhelm the will to resist on the part of the Palestinians, Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza on 3 January 2009.
Sheltered in their tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and supported by a powerful air force and naval forces, the Israeli forces during their 22-day war made nearly 2,500 air raids on Gaza, in addition to pounding it from the land and the sea – wreaking death, destruction and devastation. They reduced vast swathes of Gaza to rubble and subjected the lives of the 1.5 million inhabitants of this tightly-packed territory of just 360 square kilometres (140 square miles) to utter misery and destitution.
And yet they have not succeeded in any of their war aims – beyond staging mass murder and vandalising Gaza. Quite rightly, the Palestinians treat them with utter contempt. “Until now, we have not faced any enemy worthy of our respect”, said Abu Jundal, a Hamas platoon commander, adding: “Any army that concentrates on killing civilians does not deserve our respect ... They will pay a high price for their crimes.” (Quoted in The Times, 7 January 2009)
The pre-existing siege
Israeli inhumanity was all too clear even before the start of this war, as Gaza has been subjected to a draconian blockade for years, especially since March 2007 and the assumption in June 2007 of control of the territory by Hamas.
This blockade was further reinforced following the declaration of a truce between Hamas and Israel in June 2008. Consequent upon this blockade, shops, which were already poorly stocked, emptied almost entirely, with the population suffering shortages of the daily necessities of life, ranging from food, vegetables and cooking oil to industrial fuel and medicines.
Adding to the problems of the Gazans has been the hostility of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority towards the Hamas government in Gaza.
For instance, Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which is not under the control of Hamas, is supposed to receive funds from the World Bank via the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in Ramallah to pay for fuel to operate the pumps of Gaza’s sewage system. The PWA has declined to pass on those funds, for it fears that a properly functioning sewage system would benefit Hamas. Israel, for its part, has refused CMWU permission to import 200 tons of chlorine. As a result, by mid-December, Gaza City and northern Gaza could have access to water for a mere six hours every three days.
The West Bank Ministry of Health has been guilty of equally despicable conduct in regard to the procurement of drugs and their delivery to Gaza.
UNWRA and the World Food Programme are the two main food providers in Gaza, with the former feeding 750,000 people. On 5 November 2008, Israel closed all access into and out of Gaza, preventing food, medicine, fuel, spare parts for water and sanitation systems, fertilisers, plastic sheeting, telephones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups getting through in adequate quantities.
On average, 4.6 trucks of food per day entered Gaza in November 2008, compared to an average of 123 in October and 564 in December 2005. Between 5 and 30 November, a mere 6 percent of the requisite food was allowed into Gaza. Not surprisingly, then, on 18 December, UNWRA was forced to suspend all food distribution because of the blockade.
The World Food Programme has had problems of a similar nature, being allowed to send only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had planned to send to cover the needs of Gaza’s population until the start of February this year.
On 13 November, Gaza’s only power station suspended production as it had run out of industrial diesel.
According to Save the Children, 50,000 children were already, as a result of the blockade, victims of malnutrition in Gaza before the latest Israeli genocidal war began. Following the commencement of this war, the situation has deterioration beyond imagination.
According to the UN, hospitals, when they are not directly under attack, are stretched to breaking point, and a million Gazans are now without electricity in the freezing cold, facing “serious hunger”, while the Red Cross reported that water supplies to half a million Gazans were under threat.
Of the Strip’s 47 bakeries, only nine continue in operation; customers have to brave hours-long queues while risking Israeli air strikes.
Then there is the trauma caused by the war to the population, especially to the children who make up half Gaza’s population. Large numbers of children are forced to stay indoors, clinging to their parents, suffering from loss of appetite, bed-wetting and recurring nightmares.
Pretext for war
Ever since the start of this latest war, the Israeli propaganda machine, fully backed by the imperialist print and electronic media, as well as by the governments of the US and the EU, has gone into overdrive, blaming Hamas for the holocaust to which the Gazans are being subjected.
The zionist/imperialist narrative runs like this: Israel is responding to the violation of a six-month truce by Hamas; Israel had been kind enough to vacate Gaza in 2005 and pull out 8,500 settlers; Israeli citizens in southern Israel had been living under the terror of rockets fired at them from Gaza; while the Israeli government had shown great tolerance, patience and restraint in the face of extreme provocation from Hamas and other resistance groups, its patience had in the end run out and it had had no choice, as a democratically-elected government, to defend its citizens.
In short, we are told, Israel was acting in ‘self-defence’ against aggression.
Furthermore, Israel and its imperialist backers have attempted to slot Israel’s predatory war against the victims of Israeli occupation and colonialism into the so-called global ‘war on terror’, just as they have been attempting to portray the predatory wars against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on terror.
However, this thesis of Israeli victimhood and restraint, let alone the Israeli assertion that there are no alternatives, does not stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. Even that impeccable organ of British finance capital, the Financial Times, in its editorial of 5 January 2009, felt compelled to contradict the zionist narrative thus:
“... the claim that the Islamists’ extremism is the main cause of Gaza’s misery, after Israel offered Palestinians freedom by pulling out of the Mediterranean enclave in 2005, is less than a half-truth.
“Gazans have been under blockade since Palestinians had the temerity to elect Hamas three years ago, while Israel has significantly expanded its occupation of the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem. This is a conflict that can end only if an independent Palestinian state is created on all that occupied land.” (‘A dangerous gamble in Gaza. Previous efforts to crush Hamas have failed. So will this’)
Occupation the problem
The problem is not Hamas – or any other faction of the resistance. The real problem, and the cause behind the conflict, is the occupation of Palestine by zionist colonialism.
Hamas is the main target of Israeli onslaught now, just as Fatah and the PLO were until recently, because presently Hamas stands for resistance to occupation and rejects all capitulation to zionism and its imperialist backers.
Long before the present war, Israel had been trying its best to exterminate Hamas through a campaign of murder, assassination and detention. Following the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – elections declared fair and free by international observers and in which Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats – the siege that Israel had been putting in place from the moment of its so-called withdrawal from Gaza was further tightened.
UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk is on record as saying that the siege was “a prelude to genocide” and “a holocaust in the making”.
Even before this war, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza had died a silent death through being deprived of basic medical supplies including insulin and cancer treatment drugs. The last international boat carrying desperately needed supplies, organised by the Free Gaza movement in December, was rammed by an Israeli gunship and was thus prevented from reaching Palestine.
The border crossings in and out of Gaza remain closed. Israel ended its occupation nominally in 2005, but it continues its vicelike grip on Gaza through total control of its land and sea borders, not to speak of its control of Gaza’s air space.
In fact, Gaza has been sealed and turned into a vast prison for its 1.5 million citizens. After the devastation caused by the present war, Gaza has taken on the look of the Warsaw Ghetto after the latter’s pummelling by the Nazis.
Hundreds of Hamas supporters, including 45 of its legislators, are incarcerated in zionist concentration camps, while the so-called international community, to wit, the spokespersons of imperialism, overtly or covertly lend their political, military and financial support to the zionist butchers and tormentors of the Palestinian people.
As to rocket fire, a total of 17 Israelis have been killed by the homemade rockets that have been fired from the Gaza Strip over the past seven years (and just one Israeli died from such rocket fire between July and 27 December last year), whereas more than 5,000 Palestinians have been murdered during the same period by Israel, with highly sophisticated killing machines supplied by the US. Six hundred Gazans died in Israeli attacks on the territory in 2008 alone. Although no rockets have been fired from the West Bank, Israel murdered 45 Palestinians there too in 2008.
As an occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist, while as occupiers the zionists have no right to defence for their illegal occupation. “Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against an occupation force”, correctly remarked General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993.
The firing of Qassam and other rockets by the Palestinians is an expression of their will to resist the occupation and to let the rest of the world know that the Palestinian people will never be reconciled to the humiliation of occupation and foreign rule.
In November 2006, in the wake of Israeli incursions that left 52 Palestinians dead in the course of one week in Beit Hanoun, Israeli peace campaigner and journalist Gideon Levy wrote:
“These futile operations will not stop the Qassams, which are aimed at giving us and the rest of the world a painful reminder of the imprisoned and boycotted Gaza residents’ distress, which no one would notice if it were not for the Qassams.” (Haaretz, 6 November 2006)
As to the alleged violation of the six-month truce between Hamas and Israel, even if one ignores the siege and blockade of Gaza, which is only a violation of the truce by other means, the Israeli army sunk that agreement by its 4 November raid on Gaza, in which six Hamas militants were killed. Hamas responded to the killings by firing a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.
On 19 December 2008, the ceasefire expired in any case, and Hamas refused to renew it unless Israel agreed to lift the blockade. That the present war had been in preparation for more than six months, the alleged violations by Hamas merely serving as a pretext for a war whose real aim was to exterminate Hamas and the resistance to Israeli occupation, is clear from the following report in an authoritative Israeli newspaper:
“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June], even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.” (‘Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning’ by Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 27 December 2008)
Progressive journalist Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian of 8 January, exposing the anti-Palestinian bias of the imperialist media and political representatives, puts the question of Palestinian resistance in its proper context in these words:
“Most of those Palestinians are in fact refugees or the families of refugees from the towns of southern Israel, including Ashkelon and Ashdod, which have been targeted by Hamas – and from which they were ethnically cleansed when Israel was established in 1948.
“But the bulk of the western media would have us believe that the cause of this war is Hamas’s firing of mostly home-made rockets into Israel – which no state could tolerate without retaliation. In this myopic fantasy land, there is no 61-year national dispossession, no refugee camps, no occupations, no siege, no multiple Israeli violations of UN security council resolutions and the Geneva conventions, no illegal wall, no routine assassinations, no prisoners and no West Bank.
“Nor would you have much sense that – as Akiva Eldar, the Israeli Ha’aretz columnist, wrote this week – ‘Gaza is still, practically and according to international law, occupied territory’, and part of one political entity with the occupied West Bank. Or that the US, Britain and the EU, while paying lip service to ceasefire calls, prepared the ground for this barbarity with money, arms and diplomatic support as hope of a viable two-state solution has disintegrated before our eyes.
“Pressure now has to be brought to bear not only on Israel, but on those governments that support it – including Britain’s. That’s why the call by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, for an arms embargo on Israel and the suspension of the EU’s new cooperation agreement with Israel – the first mainstream party leader to do so – is so significant. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, calls it naive. In reality, the naivety lies in imagining that the west can continue to underwrite the injustice and bloodshed inflicted with no respite on the Palestinian people, without paying a price for it.”
The newspeak in Israel and in the centres of imperialism is reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda machine, describing as it does the victims of Gaza as terrorists and Israel’s mass slaughter as an act of self-defence. Hordes of academics and journalists have been recruited into the campaign to demonise Hamas, just as they were recruited to demonise the late Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement not so long ago.
The ideology of zionism, by its very nature, stands for occupation, ethnic cleansing and serial mass murders. Out of this ideology, as Ilan Pappe correctly observed on 2 January this year, are born the hypocrisy and “righteous fury” which have throughout accompanied zionist dispossession of the Palestinians, whereby every act of ethnic cleansing, occupation, wholesale destruction and massacre is always presented as a morally justified act of self-defence committed by a reluctant Israel against the worst enemies of humanity.
So it has been since the birth of this monstrous imperialist project, Israel, and so it shall be till its destruction at the hands of the victims of its crimes.
After 22 days of day-and-night bombardment of Gaza from air, land and sea, and unable to pursue this genocidal war any further, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire at midnight on Saturday 17 January.
Twelve hours later, Hamas followed suit and announced its own unilateral ceasefire, on condition that the Israeli army withdraws from Gaza within one week. To refute Israeli claims of victory, the resistance fired at least 20 rockets on Israeli towns in the hours preceding the ceasefire announcement by Hamas.
So, after 22 days of horrendous bombardment of Gaza, what has Israel achieved? Nothing but a deadly demonstration of its destructive military might, which was never in doubt.
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, claimed that Israel had not only achieved but had exceeded its goals. However, no dispassionate observer of the situation can fail to realise that Israel has failed not only in its barely disguised goal of overthrowing the Hamas administration in Gaza, but has not even been able to prevent the firing into Israel of rockets by the resistance.
Throughout this war, right up to the moment of the declaration of ceasefire, Hamas rockets continued to land in Israel. While the Israeli assault caused huge devastation and loss of life, it has neither weakened Hamas nor the latter’s control over Gaza.
Israel’s other aim of stopping the smuggling of weapons into Gaza remains as elusive as ever.
Forces of resistance on the rise
In fact, Hamas, as the standard bearer of Palestinian resistance, is sure to emerge from this conflict much strengthened – at the expense of the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who shamefully blamed Hamas for Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza.
After the most punishing assault ever unleashed on Gaza, Hamas remains standing, with its head held high, its administration intact, and its rockets penetrating further into Israel than before. Far from eroding the support of Gaza’s population for Hamas, Israeli savagery has merely served to enhance and strengthen that support.
On Sunday 18 January, the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Turkey met Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and called for an opening of Gaza’s border crossings, offered help in the reconstruction of Gaza, and assistance to Egypt in stopping weapons smuggling into the Strip.
The Palestinian resistance could just about tolerate such a deal, as long as it does not challenge Hamas’s authority or involve stationing foreign forces inside Gaza. In fact, such a deal, which could have been struck without war, can hardly be seen in any other light than as a victory for Hamas.
By resisting for 22 days one of the most powerful military machines in the world, and emerging intact at the end of it, Hamas has shown the limits of Israeli might. Just as the Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbollah, did in the summer of 2006, so did Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009 reveal the key to the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East from imperialist and zionist domination and bullying, ie, through the waging of people’s war.
While no Arab army hitherto has successfully withstood Israeli military assaults for more than a couple of weeks, Hizbollah and Hamas have faced the Israeli army for 34 and 22 days respectively – and emerged stronger from the contest.
Attempts will doubtless continue to be made by Israel and its imperialist sponsors to isolate Hamas, to bypass it, and to pretend that it does not exist. But they won’t succeed. Even the Financial Times was obliged in its leader to expose the futility of such exercises thus:
“... there is obviously a disconnect between conducting a diplomatic process as if Hamas did not exist, and carrying out a military operation as though its continuing existence were an existential threat”. (‘Diplomacy must include Hamas’, 8 January 2009)
The Israeli war, with its accompanying savagery, has undermined the capitulationist regimes in the Middle East – Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, especially the last, which has been justly accused of acting as Israel’s prison warden for its refusal to open its border with Gaza.
The masses throughout the Middle East, including in Egypt, believe that the Egyptian regime colluded with, and was an accomplice of, Israel in the latter’s war against Hamas. It is no mere coincidence that, on the eve of the war, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, visited Cairo, where she most likely received the green light for the strike against Gaza.
In condemning Israel’s aggression, Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran said: “The horrible crime of the zionist regime in Gaza has once again revealed the bloodthirsty face of this regime”, adding that “worse than this catastrophe is the encouraging silence of some Arab countries” – in an apparent reference to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Consequent upon this war, as upon Israel’s war of aggression on Lebanon in 2006, while the stock of Iran and Syria has soared high, that of the capitulationist regimes has plumbed new depths. Equally, just as Hamas has risen higher in the estimation of the Palestinian people through its steadfast resistance against Israeli aggression, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has earned merely opprobrium for its capitulation and servility to the dictates of Israeli zionism and US imperialism.
One day after Israel’s war against Gaza began, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hizbollah, called for huge protests across the Arab world, unleashing his fury at Egypt, almost calling for the overthrow of its regime.
Israeli barbarity provokes protests
There have been huge demonstrations in the Middle East and across the world, at which people have expressed their anger and outrage, not only against Israel’s genocidal war, but against the capitulationist regimes in the Middle East, as well as against the US and other imperialist countries that back Israel to the hilt.
In the Syrian capital, Damascus, protesters marched to Yusuf al Azmeh Square, where they shouted anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans and burned those two countries’ flags. In Beirut, a large rally was held outside the UN building, with protesters holding aloft Palestinian flags and waving Hamas banners.
Protesters attacked the Egyptian Consulate in Aden, Yemen, on 30 December, with similar attacks on symbols of Egyptian authority elsewhere in the region. In Tehran, a group of students broke into the British Embassy’s residential compound, vandalising the buildings and replacing the British flag with a Palestinian flag.
People everywhere were incensed by the unqualified US support for Israeli actions and unequivocal condemnation of Hamas. The Bush administration, turning facts on their head, blamed Hamas for provoking Israeli strikes: White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, characterising Hamas as “thugs”, said: “Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists”. In Washington, then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement that said:
“The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The ceasefire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza.”
Then President-elect Barack Obama kept a diplomatic silence during much of the first two weeks of the conflict, on the excuse that “there is only one President at a time”. Only after the 6 January shelling by Israeli tanks of two schools run by a UN agency, leaving 40 civilians dead, did Mr Obama say that he was “deeply concerned”.
This hardly comes as a surprise, since, during his election campaign, Obama took a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration.
The British government blamed Hamas for the conflict, as did the governments of other major imperialist powers in the EU. This stance on the part of their governments enraged public opinion and provoked major demonstrations all across Europe – from London, Paris, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin and Salzburg to Madrid, Rome, Athens, Oslo and many other places.
In Amsterdam, demonstrators carried placards saying “Anne Frank is turning in her grave, oh Israel!”, in a reference to the young jewish girl murdered by the Nazis towards the end of the second world war. In Dusseldorf, protesters held up a placard of a doll representing a bleeding baby, with the caption “Made in Israel”.
In Paris, several tens of thousands of protesters marched, shouting “We are all Palestinians, Israel assassin”. In Athens, thousands of protesters waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans converged on the Israeli embassy and threw rocks at it.
The largest protests were held in Britain, whose ruling class has so much to answer for in relation to the crimes of zionism. Protests were held in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and other towns. The largest of these were in London, which witnessed protests on a daily basis throughout the war.
On Saturday 3 January, more than 100,000 people took part in the largest ever demonstration to be held in Britain on the Palestinian question. The demonstrations in London attracted, among others, a noticeable presence of jews. Outraged by Israeli barbarity and convinced by the justice of the Palestinian cause, they wanted to dissociate themselves from the ravages of zionism.
Incensed by Israel’s criminal and predatory war, the Venezuelan government, by way of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and as a protest at the Israeli attack, expelled the Israeli ambassador on 6 January. On 14 January, both Venezuela and Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel.
In view of the anger provoked by the Israeli assault and the angry mood of the masses in Europe, even the EU on 14 January decided to call a halt to its plans to upgrade diplomatic and economic ties with Israel. Syria had already, on 28 December, announced the suspension of indirect talks with Israel.
In a sign that the stock of Israel and its chief backer, the US, has sunk to the lowest depths, a summit of Arab and muslim leaders was held in Qatar on Friday 16 January. Those attending included Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria and Khaled Mishal, the Syrian-based leader of Hamas. The Doha (Qatar) conference went ahead despite strong opposition from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Remarkably, Qatar and Mauritania announced at this summit that they would suspend political and economic ties with Israel. Their decision is significant, considering that Qatar is the only Gulf state that has formal commercial ties with Israel and plays host to an Israeli representative office in Doha, whereas Mauritania is one of only three Arab League members that have full diplomatic ties with Israel.
The decisions of the Qatar summit are a clear demonstration of the extent to which Israeli interests have suffered an irreparable setback, as indeed have US interests.
Even Turkish-Israeli relations, which have been close hitherto, have become much strained. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said on 16 January that Israel should be excluded from the UN headquarters for ignoring the Security Council resolutions passed on 8 January calling for “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”.
Frightened at the spectacle of the Qatar summit, and as a counterweight to it, President Mubarak of Egypt hurriedly held the Sheikh al-Sharm meeting, to which flocked not only Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidential term ran out on 9 January, but also the leaders of the major EU countries – Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The Israeli failure to achieve its goals, combined with the rising star of the camp of resistance in the Middle East, gave added urgency to the meeting organised by the capitulationist camp with the support of imperialism, forcing it to come down in favour of a ceasefire, which, not coincidentally, Israel declared at midnight that same day.
During this war, Israel and its imperialist patrons mounted a veritable public relations offensive, which included barring journalists from entering Gaza, in an effort to avoid the kind of damaging images that did so much harm to Israel during its 2006 war against Lebanon – of children being pulled like broken dolls from underneath the ruins of their homes – getting out. This fraudulent attempt failed miserably, for, through Arab channels such as al-Jazeera, images of the dead, sometimes of entire families massacred in merciless and indiscriminate bombing, as well as of colossal devastation, were beamed across the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Since the declaration of the Israeli ceasefire, foreign journalists have been allowed in to report on the casualties and damage to property. This genocidal war, this exercise in blood lust and sheer vandalism, claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Palestinians, while injuring another 6,000.
As to the loss of property, it stands as follows:
Buildings destroyed Number
Houses (damaged) 17,000
Education and health buildings 25
Security headquarters 31
Ministry buildings 16
Factories, shops and other commercial facilities 1,500
Source: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
The damage to property alone will take several billion dollars to make good.
The UN says that 53 of its buildings, most of them schools, were either destroyed or damaged. In some instances, entire streets were flattened and many of the inhabitants were buried under the collapsing buildings. In one case, more than 100 members of an extended family were herded by zionist soldiers into a house that was subsequently shelled, killing 30 people and leaving the rest wounded and living with corpses for three days.
This atrocity was one of many for which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has demanded an independent inquiry, raising the possibility of Israeli leaders being prosecuted for war crimes.
Characteristically, the Israeli forces have made liberal use of white phosphorous (its slang name being ‘Willy Pete’), whose use against civilians is banned under the Geneva Conventions. Israel was guilty of its use also in Lebanon in 2006, as are the British and US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In view of the total support Israel gets from the US, it is most unlikely that any Israeli leader, military or civilian, will face a war crimes tribunal. However, the fact is that the Israeli leadership is nothing but a bunch of war criminals, and they are seen to be such by an overwhelming section of the world’s people. Israel is treated as a pariah among nations – and it richly deserves this status.
This war, allegedly aimed at making Israel and its citizens safe, has made them even more vulnerable, just as Israel’s war against Lebanon did in 2006. In the words of Mr Philip Stephens, writing in the Financial Times of 12 January:
“The proliferation of short-range missiles – in the hands of ... Hizbollah in the north as well as Hamas in the south – has transformed the strategic landscape. There is no technological defence against such weapons. The aforementioned [Israeli] generals grew up fighting on the territory of Israel’s neighbours. The rockets of Hizbollah and Hamas have brought these wars to Israel’s cities.”
From reports, it appears that the Israeli population has by and large enthusiastically supported Israel’s criminal war on Gaza. Let it remember, though, that the Palestinians are learning much from their teachers – the Israeli oppressors, occupiers and torturers of the Palestinian people. Let it give deep consideration to the following words from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, slightly adapted by Tariq Ali for an article that appeared in the Guardian of 30 December:
“I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that … the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
As Bobby Sands wrote from his British prison cell: “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.” The laughter of Palestinian children may be some time in coming, but there is no doubt that through its latest attempt to exterminate the Palestinian resistance, the only thing Israel has achieved is to bring closer the day of its own destruction.
Victory to Palestine!
> Statement - End the massacre in Gaza - 29 December 2008
> Leaflet - Hands off Gaza Victory to the resistance - 9 January 2009
> Gaza demos - police step up repression against protestors - February 2009
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