By Ramzy Baroud
‘Sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting a significant operation [in Gaza],’ said Israeli army Chief of Staff Lieutenent General Benny Gantz on December 27, the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead.
Gantz’s chillingly casual remarks were cited as just another nonchalant declaration of war against a besieged, impoverished, overcrowded and routinely bombarded stretch of land. From the Israeli military and political point of view, Gaza merely exists as an opportunity for the Israeli army to test its latest weapon technology and send political messages to Israel’s foes in the region.
As if to validate Gantz’s logic, the ardently rightwing Israeli Jerusalem Post elaborated on December 28: "The Israel Air Force, working with the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], fired a missile at Gaza terrorists [fighters] involved in recent attacks on Israel, killing one and injuring two others." They were ‘terrorists’ because Israel has designated them so. There was no due process and none was expected. When it comes to reporting on Israel/Palestine, corporate media largely relies on Israeli lies and propaganda. And one moral crisis begets another. The Israeli propaganda is predicated mostly on racism, not just in its view of Palestinians in Gaza, but of all Arabs.
Let’s examine the curious logic of Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Propaganda and Diaspora Minister. In a recent talk in Or Yehuda, the man laid out his understanding of how peace can be achieved. "As long as the Arab nation continues to be a deplorable nation, which continues investing in infrastructure for terrorism, education to hate, and welfare for the families of shaheeds [martyrs], there will be no peace," he said, according to Yossi Gurvitz in +972 online magazine.
Gurvitz further wrote: "I phoned the minister’s office for comment, and asked his spokesman: ‘Are you aware of the fact there are some 80 million Arabs in the world, from Sudan to Syria?’ He replied: ‘Yes, there are — and the minister meant them all.’"
I must admit that cogent political analysis becomes difficult when a country’s foreign policy and military strategy are constructed on unabashed racism, ignorance and a reproduction of 19th century Orientalism. How is one to forecast the possibilities of a just peace in Palestine when a well-regarded Israeli minister places a condition on the ‘Arab nation’ to become less deplorable? How can Gaza avoid another ‘Operation Cast Lead’ if its fate has already been sealed, with the ambiguous timeframe of ‘sooner or later’?
It is particularly frustrating to hear Israeli politicians berating Palestinians for not being a deserving ‘peace partner’ when all that the Israeli government has to offer is one war of choice after another. Israel is increasingly ruled by the kind of fundamentalism and militancy that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world. It is telling that Gantz’s ‘sooner or later’ remarks were followed by another interesting statement: "Gantz said that in certain circumstances and during non-official military events, the Israeli army would be prepared to exempt religious soldiers from participation if they are uncomfortable hearing women sing" (Jerusalem Post).
Such tolerance of religious fanaticism in Israel is a reflection of the growing role of religious extremism in the country. For the Israeli government to win favour among its constituents, all it needs to do is to blitz Gaza, rob more West Bank land, carry out more ethnic cleansing in occupied east Jerusalem or push a few more racist legislations against Israel’s Arab minority. Somehow, this seems to bring about a sense of serenity in Israel. The military emerges as the defender of the troubled borders, and a temporary political unity prevails.
Of course, the obvious truth regarding Israel’s ill-intentions will always find its way through the cracks of mainstream media. This was the case in the unprecedented report issued by European Union ambassadors in Israel. It read in part: "While the international community is focused predominantly on restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, we should see Israel’s treatment of its minorities as a core issue, not second tier to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." The report added, "Israel’s Arab population is measurably worse off than its non-Arab majority in terms of income, education, housing and access to land..
In other words, no Palestinian anywhere is immune. Indeed, in every aspect of its relations with Palestinians — in Gaza, in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, and in Israel itself — Israel’s attitude towards all Palestinians is defined by violence, ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination. Even minister Edelstein, who repudiated Arabs for being "deplorable", himself reportedly lives in the illegal Jewish colony of Neve Daniel, constructed atop stolen Palestinian land (as reported by Stuart Littlewood, Redress).
It is odd that Israel demands security and peace from the very Palestinians who are deprived of every sense of peace, security, and freedom itself. And yet it is the ‘Arab nation’ that is ‘deplorable’ and deserving of endless war.
Three years after the Israeli war on Gaza, which killed over 1,400 and wounded over 5,500, there are few indications that Israel has in any way altered its attitude. To the contrary, it continues to exact further punishment, while the Israeli Knesset, media and public officials continue to dehumanise Palestinians and Arabs.
True, and sadly so, Gaza will "sooner or later" be the target of another ‘significant operation’ under the pretext of more excuses. But also true is the fact that Israeli crimes against Palestinians will continue to be exposed for the whole world to see. And ‘sooner or later’, this perpetual war against innocent people will have to stop.
– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story – Pluto Press, London. (This article was originally published in Gulf News)