By Shafiq Morton
The gloves need to come off on the truth of what has been happening in Gaza – not only since the launch of Operation Protective Edge last week, but also since Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008. What is the real purpose of these bare-fisted operations?
To call Israeli acts of aggression in Gaza – in which Palestinian civilians are by far the worst victims – a ‘war’ is to do a disservice to the meaning of the word. A war is when two armies face each other and fight on the basis of a military equivalence.
So if there is no war, what is there? Informed commentators such as the The Independent’s Robert Fisk have observed that the story we are deliberately not being told is that the Gaza offensive is about land. Politically, it is about final Zionist hegemony.
In this model if you neutralize the land, you neutralize any chance of Palestinian sovereignty and any chance of territorial sacrifice. The Apartheid Wall has already cut the West Bank into pieces that can be further shrunk by illegal settlements. And if you squeeze long enough, maybe the people on the land will leave too.
Israeli apartheid already determines when West Bankers can cross the 600-odd checkpoints, when they can receive water, when they can have electricity and when they can seek medical care and even what roads they can drive on.
Gaza is the last sliver of territory where a Palestinian administration has a few shreds of autonomy. But it has had to face three military incursions in six years designed at destroying its infrastructure. The dark purpose here has been to either foment insurrection against Hamas, or to encourage depopulation.
To justify its latest episode of brutality, the Israeli administration has had to play its usual game of equivalence and manufactured paranoia. Iran is poised to drop an atomic bomb. ISIS in Iraq might sweep into Jordan and over-run the whole region. Boko Haram is a cousin of ISIS and Hamas is the Big Brother.
But how do you justify your next crack at Gaza? All you do is create hype about an unrelated kidnapping incident on the West Bank. You blame it on Hamas, your favourite whipping boy; a Hamas that dared to defy the script of being a monster when it entered into a unity government with Fatah, and actually posed a prospect of peace.
The other point, also ignored, is that the constitution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party does not recognise a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s idea of peace with Palestinians, if he can’t find reasons not to talk to them, is to batter them into total submission à la Ariel Sharon.
In terms of Israel striking at Gaza, there needs to be perspective. The reality in Gaza and the West Bank is that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not have armies. There is no equivalence here whatsoever. The Palestinian Authority does not have tanks, F16 fighter jets, anti-aircraft artillery, helicopter gunships, drones, naval vessels or Iron Dome Defence Systems.
The Palestinians do not even have generals, and yet – if one believes the nonsense emitted from Tel Aviv – they are somehow capable of conducting a fully-blown ‘war’ against the world’s fourth largest army. Worse still, this is an army that has been fingered in the Goldstone Report for white-flag killings and the use of illegal phosphorous and cluster bombs on civilians.
Hamas’ rockets, which are glorified fire-crackers in steel drums, have never been a match for the technological might of the Israeli Defence Force. And if they were to ever penetrate the Iron Dome System, it would be an extremely severe indictment on the Israeli military. The Al-Qassem rockets are more useful to the Israelis for their intent than their failure.
And whilst targeting civilians is morally reprehensible, the more pertinent question should be: why are the Al-Qassem and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades firing the rockets into Israel in the first place?
These groups are informed by their circumstances – a brutal seven year siege of Gaza that violates international law. It is supremely ironic that the main brunt of the rocket attacks has been nearby Sderot, a former Palestinian town.
It has to be remembered that Gaza is a refugee camp into which many Palestinians fled after the conflicts of 1948 and 1967. Gaza has an institutional memory of suffering. And since the total Israeli blockade of 2007 it has been converted into the world’s largest outdoor jail.
It has to be remembered too, that Gaza is only 6-12 kms wide and 40 kms long. With nearly 2 million people crammed into this narrow coastal corridor, it is one of the most crowded places on earth.
Therefore, the nonsense spouted by Israeli spin doctors becomes even more preposterous when they claim that the ‘enemy’ hides amongst the civilian population. What is not spoken about is the fact that in a ‘normal scenario’, the civilian population – its non-combatants – would be able to flee.
But in overcrowded Gaza, bursting at the seams, there is nowhere to go. No Gazan can venture more than four kilometre out to sea. The borders are sealed. In other words, Gazans are stuck, fated to become refugees without refuge. This makes Israel’s attack a turkey shoot.
There have been claims that Israel phones people before the attacks. The woman, who died with a spoon in her mouth as she broke her Ramadan fast, did not get a call. Nor did the driver of a Red Crescent ambulance, and nor did the residents of a home for the disabled in Beit Lahiya.
But ultimately, as Dr Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas commentator, has observed in The Guardian. Operation Protective Edge will prove to be yet another Israeli miscalculation. And the longer it takes and the higher the body count, the more damaging it will be for Israel and its patrons as worldwide sympathy for Hamas is boosted.
– Shafiq Morton is a journalist and a presenter at Voice of the Cape radio station. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.