By Christina Jung – Seoul
Israel’s offensive against Gaza has been just as much about a war of words as it has been about a war of military assault.
With an aggressive public relations campaign, Israel has gone to considerable lengths no matter what the cost to create a falsified image of victimization by convincing the world of its right to protect its citizens from the daily terror of Hamas rockets.
As representatives of world public opinion, we must not complacently accept Israel’s claims at face value in order to turn a blind eye to the untold suffering of the Gazans and the complicity of major powers in this unbridled carnage. We have an obligation to engage in the truth and to urge our leaders to act in accordance with reality.
A truce was forged on Jan. 18, but without further action from world leaders, a reversion to another bloody conflict appears increasingly likely. Decisive action, however, requires a fundamental acknowledgement that Israeli rhetoric often has little bearing on reality.
One of the most common justifications for military action in Gaza concerns Israel’s right to defend its people. Implicit in this assertion is the notion that Israel is under grave threat from Hamas and that Israeli citizens must be protected from this threat.
Simple numbers tell us otherwise: According to B’Tselem, an Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, 388 Palestinians were killed by IDF in Gaza in the seven months before the July 2008 ceasefire, as opposed to 18 Israelis killed by Palestinians (over the course of several years). This disparity is magnified when the death toll includes fatalities from 2000 onwards, including the most recent conflict. While Israel may tout the dangers of Hamas, it is responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths arising from conflicts in Gaza, revealing its duplicity.
By this logic, we can only expect Hamas to assert its right to use violence to demand better conditions for its people who have been stripped of their land, their basic rights and their means of self-sustenance by Israel.
The point here is that, within the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Israel claiming its right to defense is meaningless and self-defeating, only paving the way for perpetual conflict. Appealing to a “right to defend” as justification for slaughter would bestow Hamas just as much right to exact retribution for more than 1,300 Palestinian deaths resulting from the 23-day war.
Another common claim made by the Israeli propaganda machine holds that Hamas is a terrorist organization that must be deterred. Loosely defined, terrorism refers to the targeting of civilians for political gain. Again, Israel applies a double standard in accusing Hamas of something of which it is itself guilty.
The reckless killing of civilians during Israel’s recent offensive and beyond is just one aspect of Israel’s hypocrisy. The blockade on Gaza a collective punishment on the Gazans for being so audacious as to exercise their democratic rights in voting for Hamas is evidence enough of Israel’s conviction that violence and repression is terror, only when it is directed against its own people.
Owing to the Bush administration’s war on terror, we live in a world where evoking terrorism offers a free pass that justifies what should be unjustifiable acts of brutality.
The most egregious aspect of Israel’s deception, however, is the assertion that the IDF does not target innocents or civilians.
With the Gaza-based Palestinian Center For Human Rights estimating civilian deaths at around 70 percent of total fatalities, and with growing calls for an investigation of Israel’s human rights abuses, it is difficult to give credence to Israel’s claim that the IDF exercises utmost caution when firing targets, especially in light of Israel’s highly advanced targeting capacity.
Whether deliberate or due to overt carelessness, the IDF’s killing of Gazan civilians increasingly seems like a sadistic attempt at cajoling the population into squeezing the Hamas leadership.
Israel advises civilians to flee, but where can they go? Trapped in an open-air prison, the Gazans, already refugees of national dispossession, have nowhere to escape to, either inside or outside of Gaza. The Israeli shelling of U.N. buildings filled with displaced civilians is but one reminder of the constant danger faced by Gazan civilians during war, no matter where they go.
As representatives of world public opinion, we must see beyond the veil of Israel’s publicity campaign and recognize its military action as a vain attempt to further tear down the spirit of Gazans from rightly demanding what is theirs.
– Christina Jung is an Editor, who is based in Seoul, Korea. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org.