Saturday, November 17, 2012

Netanyahu needed his war

 BINYAMIN NETANYAHU and the Israeli military command have got their war. Having failed in their gamble on the US presidential election - but with little sign that Obama is going to withdraw his backing for Israel in any way - Netanyahu and his newly united right-wing party are wagering that an another onslaught on Gaza will deliver them a renewed mandate for "strong" government in Israel's forthcoming elections.

Not only Palestininian but Israeli civilian lives too are expendable in this game. While people are running to air raid shelters they won't be able to even think about tent protests on social issues, the war psychology goes.

The asymmetry between Palestinian efforts, however improved their rockets, and Israeli military might is obvious. But Israeli government spokesmen and supposedly "balanced" Western media are also keen to talk about an ongoing "threat" from Gaza, attacks going back over the years, the arrival of Iranian drones (previously denied) and not about how this current round was unnecessarily escalated.

On November 8, after a two week lull in violence, there was an Israeli military incursion into Gaza and during an exchange of fire a 12-year boy playing football in his backyard was killed by an Israeli bullet. Two days later Palestinian fighters fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli military vehicle wounding four soldiers. Israeli artillery replied, and a shell killed two children. Later a tank fired a shell which hit a tent where mourners were gathered for a funeral.

Shahd Abusalama: Had a difficult evening at Shifa hospital in Gaza which I arrived at soon after Israel attacked a funeral in Shij'iyya, western Gaza leaving 4 dead and 30 injured. I saw the injured people, many of whom were kids and women. I saw a traumatized 10-year-old boy whose leg got injured by a shrapnel. His leg was bleeding and got broken. His eyes were open wide, traumatized crying out, "Dad, I don't want to die." I met another young man who had an injury in his leg. He witnessed the Israeli tanks when they shelled the funeral. He said that he was playing football nearby with his childhood friends when they targeted the place. He survived but he lost his two childhood friends. They died right in front of him. He was uttering these words to me with indescribable strength. I think he was so traumatized to believe that what he went through was actually real. Because the first word he said to me was "It's like a nightmare". Everyone looked very shocked. It was crazy at the hospital. Injured people were arriving at the hospital one after another. There wasn't enough space for them. The operation rooms were all occupied. 5 people died as a result to the latest attacks on Gaza so far and at least 35 people were injured. Gaza will not sleep tonight as Israel warplanes are still flying heavily over Gaza. Keep an eye on Gaza!

On Sunday, November 11, civilians were injured on both sides. Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz called for cutting off all supplies to Gaza and for "taking out" the Hamas leadership.

On Monday, November 12 Palestinian factions agreed to a ceasefire if Israel stopped attacks.

On Wednesday, November 13, Israel broke the informal ceasefire by assassinating Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari in an air strike.

What we now know is that Jabari was about to sign an agreement making the ceasefire official and permanent. If anyone among the Hamas leaders had both the authority and forces to order a stop to rocket firing it was Ahmad Jabari. And according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate talks between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,  Jabari was assassinated just hours after he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire.

Baskin says Jabari was no man of peace, but aware of Palestinian losses, would have seen the truce as a chance to rebuild their strength in Gaza. However the truce would also have offered the chance to end the blockade and begin talks that might lead towards peace. And evidently the Israeli government and armed forces acted to prevent that happening.

They deliberately pushed Hamas into a corner where it was bound to retaliate.

There was another development, within Israel, that may have motivated the decision and the timing. Israel's cities have seen continued protests over housing, food prices, and other social issues in the last couple of years. This movement was shaking up the usual "security"-dominated politics, and in some places uniting Jewish and Arab citizens.

But most significantly, the military-led consensus has been challenged in the very area presented as under threat  from Gaza, the town of Sderot and nearby settlemts. This is what a group of Israeli residents of Sderot wrote to their Prime Minister just a week ago:

"We, members of 'The Other Voice' from the communities near the Gaza Strip, urge the Government of Israel to stop playing with our lives, and immediately open diplomatic contacts with the Hamas government! We are tired of being sitting ducks in a shooting range serving politi
cal interests. Missiles from there and bombing from here do not protect us. This country has tried long enough, over years, the games of war and of brute force. Both sides have paid, and are still paying, a high price of suffering and loss. It's time to talk and strive for long-term understandings which will enable citizens on both sides of the border to live a normal life".

'The Other Voice' is a group of residents of Sderot and Gaza Vicinity communities, who maintain an ongoing contact with residents of the Gaza Strip, and promote neighbourly relations and dialogue, in the south and throughout the country."

 How better to put a stop to this kind of peace talk than start a war going, and drive people literally underground to their bunkers?. 

Nevertheless there have been demonstrations against this war, or as some frankly called it, massacre of Gaza civilians, starting with people protesting outside Defence Minister Ehud Barak's house, and followed by bigger demonstrations in both Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Demonstration in Tel Aviv

Hopefully this opposition will grow as more people realise the truth, that this war was unnecessary, except for Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman's political purposes.

Here is Gershon Baskin interviewd on the US Democracy Now programme:

"Well, Jabari, as the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, was the person who was called on by the Egyptians and by his own leaders to enforce previous ceasefire understandings that were reached between Israel and Hamas after each round of rocket fire emerged over the past years. With the increasing intensity of the rocket fire and the shortening of the periods of ceasefires between myself and my counterpart in Hamas—we worked together on the Shalit prisoner exchange deal—Razi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister, proposed to the parties that they enter into a long-term ceasefire understanding with mechanisms that define what are breaches and what are not breaches and how to deal with emerging situations that are defined by Israel as impending terrorist attacks. I had written a draft about eight months ago. The draft was circulated around to Israeli officials, Hamas officials, the Egyptian intelligence and the United Nations. It was rejected, or it was decided by Hamas and Israel at that time not to decide, not to make a decision on it.

"About about a month ago, when the intensity of the fighting continued again, Razi Hamed and I decided to give it another chance, and we talked together and tried to make the proposal that I had initially written a little bit less complex, easier to understand or perhaps easier to implement, and it was also designed as a trial period of between six—three to six months. I met Razi Hamed last week in Cairo. We talked about it. He went to begin showing it to the Hamas officials. He showed it to some Hamas officials sitting in Cairo. They told him to go back to Gaza and to show it to the military and political officials back in Gaza, and he did that on Wednesday morning. He was showing it around to Ahmed Jabari and other people. I was supposed to receive from him that evening a copy of the draft that he had written in Arabic for me to deliver to the Israeli side and to the Egyptian intelligence, which I was not able to do in the end.
AMY GOODMAN: Because he was assassinated.
GERSHON BASKIN: That’s right.

Gershon Baskin and Mohammed Omar on Democracy Now 

We have to depend on independent media and social networks for news when sources like the BBC are so craven:

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