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Thursday, 22 January 2009

rockets, elections, deterrence

First, to what this war on Gaza is not about: it's not about the rockets. During the truce last year, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was reduced by 97%, with the few projectiles that were fired coming from non-Hamas groups opposed to the agreement. Despite this success in vastly improving the security of Israelis in the south, Israel did everything it could to undermine the calm, and provoke Hamas into a conflict.

Israel broke the ceasefire on 4 November, with an attack in the Gaza Strip that killed six Hamas members, and the following day severely tightened its siege of the territory. Imports were reduced to 16 trucks a day, down from 123 daily just the previous month (and 475 in May 2007). Following the unsurprising surge in Palestinian attacks, Israeli officials claimed that an all-out war was unavoidable; without mentioning that an operation had been planned for some months already.


Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to - in the best colonial style - teach the natives a lesson.

Given the enormous scale of what Palestinians have described as a "war of extermination" - it appears that some 15% of all buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or collapsed and there is an estimated $1.4bn worth of destruction to vital civil infrastructure - it is impossible to list every atrocity. Israel has repeatedly hit ambulances, medics, clinics, and hospitals, while last week, aid volunteers who tried to douse a fire in a Red Crescent warehouse (attacked by Israel) were then shot at by Israeli forces.

UNRWA facilities have also been attacked, including several schools sheltering civilians - just this last weekend, a civilian refuge was repeatedly shelled. Last week, the UN headquarters was also shelled, hitting a vocational centre, a workshop, food warehouse, and fuel depot. Like the massacre of 6 January, Israeli officials quickly began to produce a confusing fog of denials, apologies, promised enquiries and contradictions.

Those are just some of the more shocking examples from a military operation that has targeted everything from schools, money-changers and a bird farm, to entire apartment blocks, harbours, and a market. Palestinians have been killed when Israeli tanks fired shells at residential neighbourhoods. Every day has brought fresh horrors; last Wednesday, for example, 70 unarmed civilians including 18 children were killed by the Israeli military. This week's Observer carried a story alleging Israel bulldozed homes with civilians inside (not for the first time) and shot those waving white flags. Little wonder that Israeli officials predicted with concern that "negative sentiment" towards the state would "only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges".

Much of this is widely known, and easily accessible; yet still the analytical emphasis has remained on Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence. I would like to suggest three alternative purposes for Israel's Operation Cast Lead that go beyond the usual perspectives, and presuming with Yale professor David Bromwich that "if Israel in 2009 reduces to rubble a large portion of the Gaza Strip and leaves tens of thousands homeless, there is a strong chance that this was what it intended to do".

Ben White. Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis, from the Guardian, January 21, 2009. This is just an extract, obviously. Go to the article for the three alternatives. First seen here. The article has links to news articles which support his claims.

Well, at least some Australians are putting their protestations into words and getting advertising space in the Sydney Morning Herald.


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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr