Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum

By William A. Cook

C-Span provided Americans a chance to view a World Economic Forum debate on Peace in the Mid-East on the 29th from Davos, Switzerland. Americans rarely have an opportunity to view a civilized debate on the crisis in Palestine, but to witness the anger of Israel’s representative at the Forum, President Shimon Peres, was unique indeed.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a carefully detailed analysis of the lead up to and the consequences of the Israeli invasion of Gaza followed by a second logically stated argument against the Israeli government’s action by Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Both men presented their arguments in a calm and deliberate manner that gave strength and credibility to their presentations. However, President Peres squirmed uncomfortably in his chair as he listened to these arguments and to the audience’s positive reaction to them.

In his response, Peres launched into a passionate defense of the Israeli state’s invasion pointing to three primary points that justified the attack:

a. Israel does not break cease fire agreements ever, and its response was in retaliation for Hamas’ breaking of the agreement;

b. the attacks came primarily in response to the withering assault on Israeli civilians by Hamas’ rockets which made life intolerable and necessitated a reaction; and

c. Israel has suffered tremendous loss of life caused by Palestinians who do not want peace.

Peres’ loud and passionate defense of Israel lacked only truth. If one searched for a title for his offensive defense, one need only go to an article by Barak Ravid of Haaretz, December 31, 2008: “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about.”

Is it true that Israel does not break cease fire agreements, in particular the agreement made between Israel and Hamas that began in June of 2008 and lasted until December 19, 2008 and the unilateral ceasefire it authorized on the 18th? Here are the facts:

1. On November 4, 2008, the IDF moved into Gaza and killed 6 Palestinians. AT 8:30pm on the 4th, the IDF took control of a Palestinian residence owned by Mofeed Suleiman al Ramali in Wadial Salqa village. The house was destroyed by missile fire from aircraft. (See PCHR Report, Nove 5, 2008).

2. Following the Israeli unilateral ceasefire of January 18, after three weeks of unrestrained carnage, “ …  Israel had already violated the cease-fire at least 7 times, the Israeli military killing 2 Palestinian civilians and injuring at least 5, at least one of them a child:

• Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer in Khuza’a east of Khan Yunis on Jan 18
• Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer east of Jabalia on Jan 19
• Israeli naval gunboats shelled the Gaza coast line, causing damage to civilian structures on Jan 21
• Israeli troops shot and injured a child east of Gaza City on Jan 22
• Israeli gunboat fire injured 4-7 Palestinian fishermen on Jan 22
• Israeli shelling set a Palestinian house on fire on Jan 22
• Israeli tanks fired on the border town of Al Faraheen, causing damage to homes and farms on Jan 24” (ifamericaknew.com, January 27, 2009)

Peres lied. While he bellowed over and over again that Israel is innocent of charges that it breaks ceasefires and attacks first and without cause, the facts tell a different story.
 
Second, is it true that Israel attacked Gaza because of the barrage of rockets fired at Sderot and Ashkelon?

Answer: In an article published in Haaretz on December 31, 2008 by Barak Ravid, the invasion the world witnessed on December 27 had been planned more than six months in advance while Israel pretended to be in negotiations with Hamas for a ceasefire. “Long term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and misleading of the public – all these stood behind the Israeli Defense Forces’ Cast Lead operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.” The secrecy of these plans “seemed to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.” In other words, despite Peres’ rants to the contrary, Israel not only intended to invade Gaza in the near future, it planned an operation that would result in greater casualties. Peres lies when he says Israel does not hate anyone or desire to kill the people of Gaza.

But let us turn to Peres’ insistence that the rockets forced the government to attack because they caused such severe death and destruction to Israeli citizens. Since 2000 and the beginning of the second Intifada, Peres and others claim that approximately 6000 rockets rained down on Israel. He did not mention that the vast majority of these rockets are home made devices that have little more capability than fire works’ rockets and even less accuracy. If we determine that those 6000 were “raining down” on Israel at 2.8 a day, it would be a light rain indeed. But do the math and that is what would fly into Israel each day. Now during those 8 years 23 people were killed by the rockets even though Sderot has both sirens and fall out shelters, conveniences not available to the millions living in Gaza. Following Israel’s breaking of the ceasefire, the Gazan resistance fighters sent more rockets into Israel. The point is clear, I think, that Peres’ passionate defense of Israel for its disproportionate attacks based on the devastation of the Gaza rockets is absurd, especially if we understand the power of Israel’s fourth largest military in the world. Peres lies. 

Finally, a cursory review of the death toll over these same 8 years would show that Israel has killed approximately 6200 Palestinians while they have suffered slightly more than a thousand. The vast majority of these are civilians, 1550 Palestinian children (the final number yet to be calculated) and 123 Israeli. These figures are available from B’tselem and ifamericaknew.org. Yet Peres decries those that claim Israel kills and is not the victim. Israel does not kill he insists, believing, perhaps, that someone might believe him. He lies.

Following Peres’ stormy rebuttal to the presentations made by the Turkish Prime Minister and the head of the Arab League, Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempted to respond to these obvious lies, a necessary response since such deception has been the modus operandi of Israel’s Public Relations blitz since the invasion began. He was, however, prevented from doing so by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, the debate’s moderator, because the people in the audience had to get to dinner. Better roasted chicken than roasted Peres.

– William A. Cook, Professor of English, University of La Verne, California author of Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, and The Chronicles of Nefaria. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: cookb@ulv.edu.

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