[lit-ideas] Back in Gaza

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 08:24:16 -0700 (PDT)

Why is Israel Back in Gaza?
by Ramzy Baroud  
 July 19, 2006 
The disparity between Israel's public narrative and
its actual intents cannot possibly be any more
palpable than in the current Gaza onslaught following
the capture by Palestinians of an Israeli solider near
Gaza in a daring June 25 raid on a military post. 

"Anybody who calls this operation disproportionate has
no clue about the facts on the ground. We have been
attacked and bombarded for months and weeks," Yitzhak
Herzog, the Israeli cabinet secretary, said,
responding to what some media described as "an
increasing international concern" over the Israeli
reinvasion of parts of the Gaza Strip and the
subsequent high death toll. Shortly after Herzog made
his comments, the death toll among Palestinians as a
result of the Israeli action rose to 52, mostly
civilians. However, numbers can hardly communicate the
humanitarian crisis underway as a result of the
Israeli siege and bombardment. 

The Israeli official was reiterating a new mantra
adopted by the Israeli government, aimed at silencing
any serious criticism of the Israeli military and its
deadly practices in Gaza. Such rebuttal however,
seemed overly exaggerated, considering that no
serious, or at least meaningful international
criticism of the Israeli raids in Gaza, dubbed by the
ever poetic Israeli army as "Summer Rain." The Israeli
one-sided war was exasperated by the fact that
Palestinians have been under a long economic siege
which was tightened even further with the election of
Hamas to power last January. 

The Gaza Strip, a stretch of land that hardly exceeds
a few kilometers in length and is much smaller in
width has always been the home of the poorest of
Palestinians, with living conditions that speak of
utter misery, and can only be compared to the poorest
countries in the world, despite Gaza's highly educated

Israel insists that its operation is not intended to
harm the civilian population, but to root out and for
good the so-called terrorist elements that use the
civilian infrastructure to attack adjacent Israeli
towns with rockets. It also says that it will not
cease its 'military activities' in the area until its
captured soldier is returned home safely and without

Israel's demands, without proper context - sound
reasonable, to say the least. Israeli and US media
commentators agree; their overall assessment is:
Israel doesn't want to set precedent by giving
terrorists an incentive to carry on with their acts of
terror, and Israel's favorite mantra, any democratic
country would do precisely what Israel has done to
secure its citizens. 

Again, the historic role of the media, that of
completely acknowledging and sympathizing with Israeli
concerns, while regularly disregarding Palestinian
concerns as unworthy, continues to perpetuate with
equal force and tenacity. Thus the only relevant
context, as far as the Western media is concern, is
that context instructed by Israel, who, in turn,
wishes to convince everyone that the above demands are
indeed the real reasons behind its bloody Gaza

If the military's intentions are indeed to "root out
terrorists" as Israel tirelessly asserts, then why
insist on pursuing the same detrimental policies -
those of siege, isolation and overt militarism - that
deprive Palestinians of any sense of hope that Gaza
could finally become an economically viable, truly
independent polity? Why push desperate Palestinians -
through endless assassinations and targeting of
civilians in broad daylight to embrace vengeful
notions and counter- violence? 

I say, "notions" because the so-called Palestinians
rockets, as ominous as they may appear on television,
are yet to claim one Israeli casualty for over a year,
while the Israeli military has killed over 150
Palestinians in the last two months alone. 

But how about the captured soldier? Is that not a
legitimate grievance? It would be if it was not Israel
who insisted on creating utterly perilous
circumstances under which it places not just its
soldiers, but also its civilians. For example, Gilad
Shalit - no matter how harmless the photos Israel
deliberately provides of him to the media - was taking
part in a murderous mission aimed at exactly that,
murdering Palestinians. In the seven weeks prior to
Shalit's capture, the number of Palestinians killed at
the hands of the Israeli military - i.e. Shalit's
equally innocent looking colleagues - approached the
100 mark. 

Shalit however, was a soldier, trained to physically
and mentally endure difficult moments. But how can one
explain the transfer of nearly half a million Israeli
civilians to the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
- in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention? How
could any responsible 'democracy' endanger its own
population by placing them in a war zone, while
providing Palestinians with every reason to seek
revenge and retaliation for their heavy losses at the
hands of the Israeli military? 

It's rather odd that the Israeli government is
painting this rosy media image for Israel, as a nation
that would go to great lengths to save the life of one
man, while it puts the life of hundreds of thousands
of its people in great danger, notwithstanding the
total disregard for the life of all Palestinians. If
Israel's actions send any message, it's one filled
with hypocrisy and racism. 

But what does Israel exactly want? Is its bloody show
in Gaza aimed exclusively at the toppling of the
Hamas-led government? Or is it directed to at the
international community to further demonstrate that
Palestinians are no peace partner? Or perhaps it's a
message to Israelis themselves, to those who were
doubtful that a civilian government with little
military history - particularly the records of the
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Defense Minister
Amir Peretz - can prove equally ruthless? 

It's not clear where this Israeli experiment is
heading. But what is hardly unmistakable is that by
maintaining low intensity warfare in Gaza, Israel is
creating the perfect cover up to its army bulldozers
to partition the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem
in accordance with the second phase of Olmert's
Disengagement Plan: which intends to slice up the West
Bank into various enclaves with no physical
continuity, and place its population under an
effective, long term, collective incarceration in
Bantustan-like areas, to be allowed or denied movement
at the behest of an Israeli solider. The plan is being
actualized in record time, yet few seem to notice, a
reality that Israel will strive to maintain. 

Despite the tragic events unfolding in Gaza, the truth
is Gaza never was and will unlikely to strategically
relevant to Israel's expansionist objectives. Gaza at
best - as has been the case for generations - is
simply grounds for Israeli military experimentations,
and at worst, a mindless killing field, where
Palestinians are forced to 'learn' the same lesson,
time and again. Indeed, the current Israeli military
'operation' in Gaza is keeping true to expectations. 

-Ramzy Baroud is a US author and journalist, currently
based in London. His recent book, "The Second
Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), is now available at
Amazon.com. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the
Palestine Chronicle.

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