A Deadly Déjà Vu: Operation Pillar of Cloud

By Clive Hambidge

“Now we can sense the sweet scent and the soulful breeze of the spring, a spring that has just begun and doesn’t belong to a specific race, ethnicity, nation or region, a spring that will soon reach all territories in Asia, Europe, Africa and the US.”  This cloud of words came from the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when addressing the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the 26th September 2012. The truth of these words once again, penetrated my waking consciousness in stark contrast, and simultaneously, of another cloud, an Israeli thunder cloud, that rains down death and destruction upon the innocent, seldom a militant, in the open air prison that is Gaza today.

Whose tyranny belongs to whom?  Israel plans for death, and, “terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror” (Robert Fisk); so what you choose to do is what you choose to be. On that basis must Israel be judged?  Therefore the future of Israel is “one of penitence” (Benjamin Crème). Why? Because of what Israel has perpetrated for unholy reasons through unholy decades in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a matter of government policy.

It is both ironic and welcome is it not that words of peace would flow from a perceived Iranian tyrant openly reviled by Israel and the US, as rockets, winged by Israel’s hatred pound the Gaza Strip and compound the world’s condemnation for attacking its neighbor. They condemn Israel’s willful derogation of enshrined international norms, as Israel continues to commit barbaric acts with impunity. The haughty claim by Israel to be the only true democracy in the Middle East as her weapons of mass destruction rip and burn through the fabric of Gaza’s long suffering, innocent and persecuted people is laughable, if, it were not the case that another human tragedy is unfolding in Gaza, systematically planned for, long, long before, the first Hamas “firework” was launched into Israel.

Collective Punishment

It is recognized by the UN that there is a continuum of planned, subjugation and violence. The Israeli leadership’s “unnatural acts” does not mean just the extrajudicial assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. The targeting of innocent civilians in Gaza through “unnatural acts” is once more underway. Israel resumes terrorizing, maiming and killing men, women and children, as policy, through collective punishment.  It matters not that a cease fire is holding or not because Israel has achieved once more a ruthless objective of targeting and murdering civilians.

In that shroud of light and past history, now once again alive, we review the essential findings of the Report of the United Nations General Assembly Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict which evidences that “The Gaza military operations were, according to the Israeli Government, thoroughly, and extensively planned. While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of self-defense, the mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a [consolidated] different target: the people as a whole. In this respect, the operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience.”   (UNGA Human Rights Council Twelfth Session Agenda Item 7 of 24th September 2009, UNAG/HRC/12/48 Advanced 2)

Moreover, “The mission is of the view that Israel’s military operation in Gaza between 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009 and its impact cannot be understood or assessed in isolation from developments prior and subsequent to it. The operation fits into a continuum of policies aimed at pursuing Israel’s political objectives with regard to Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian territory as a whole. Many such policies are based on or result in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The truth is that if Israel could obliterate the people of Gaza she would with a venom only known to her.   This continuum of planned violence aimed at a civilian population that should, under international law, be protected not brutalized by the entity that attacks them, namely Israel.

In addition, states the Report “The continuum is evident most immediately with the blockade that precedes the operations and that in the missions view amount to collective punishment … prior to the military operation, the Gaza economy had been depleted, the health sector beleaguered, the population had been dependent on humanitarian assistance for survival and the conduct of daily life. Men, women and children were psychologically suffering from long standing poverty, insecurity and violence, and enforced confinement in a heavily overcrowded territory. The dignity of the people of Gaza had been severely eroded. This was the situation in the Gaza Strip when the Israeli forces launched their offensive in December 2008. The military operations and the manner in which they were conducted considerably exacerbated the aforementioned effects of the blockade. The result, in a very short time, was unprecedented long-term damage both to the people and to their development and recovery prospects.”   (UNAG/HRC/12/48 Advanced 2)

Media Bias

All this is covered by embedded journalists who, force-fed by Israeli propaganda, reheat and repeat the bloody narrative of Operation Cast Lead. The narrative?  Israel’s right to defend herself as once again we witness a disproportionate targeted assault against a civilian population. This latest assault on the Gaza Strip allies with supine and complacent western governments which are only too pleased to do nothing as they provide dollars and weaponry to Israel, whilst spewing the rhetoric of complacency, sedulously thereby sanctioning Israel to perpetrate war crimes. In 2008/2009, 1,300 people were killed, mostly defenceless civilians. What will the death toll be in the next hours, days and weeks? Also what repercussions for Israel and what solace can we expect for the Palestinians who are caught in the crosshairs of Israel’s pointed fury?

Surgical Strikes

Israel is proud of her “surgical strikes”; so much so that with a precision sharper than a surgeon’s knife, and defining new depths of immorality, Israel kills the men, women and children of Gaza’s civilian population with impunity.   The same children now 4 years older who had asked their mothers in 2008 “when are we going to die”, traumatised then by Operation Cast Lead, must face again Operation Pillar of Cloud planned by Israel’s leaders with a burning mental phosphorous consuming their minds as the next round of atrocities and egregious war crimes are committed. These crimes will be reported by the next Special Rapporteur to the UN. And his or her findings will produce much hand wringing by both Western and Arab governments; but little else.  The crimes of 2008 and 2009 have still to be addressed.  God only knows what we will find in way of crimes after this latest abhorrence comes to an ungodly end.

Going Wild

In 2009 Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni  said   “Israel is not going to show restraint … The military Offensive” has “restored Israel’s deterrence …  Hamas now understands that when you fire on its [Israel’s] citizens it responds by going wild and this is good thing”.  Our Foreign Secretary, William Hague has declared, wrongly, that Hamas were “principally responsible” for the latest round of aggression. Nonsense. It was Israel that started the war in 2008, and it was Israel that provoked Palestine’s suffering souls to breaking point as Israel remains the “wild” unrestrained aggressor at all times. The language is the same, the deadly actions are the same, and, when this Israeli instigated “conflict” draws to a bloody end we will see, once again, that the civilian population was targeted and therefore murdered by the Israeli armed forces sanctioned by a corrupt and dangerous Knesset and supported by the United States.

Have we learnt nothing about the lengths murderous Israel will go to from 2008? Yes we the people have, which is why we demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian cause. What of governments? I think not.  We are aware of the deceit of Israel’s narrative and so is Amira Hass writing in Haaretz, on the 19th  of November 2012, “By supporting Israel’s offensive on Gaza, Western leaders have given the Israelis carte blanche to do what they’re best at: Wallow in their sense of victim hood and ignore Palestinian suffering.”

This outrageous attack on innocent civilians has already claimed too many lives and the death toll is increasing.

Robert Fisk writing for the Independent on Monday, 19th November 2012 was scathing, as he painted a truer picture of the conflict and the ramifications for Israel if she continues down the line of state sanctioned terror. Fisk: “The problem, oddly, is that Israel’s actions in the West Bank and its siege of Gaza are bringing closer the very event which Israel trumpets it fears everyday: Israel’s destruction.” This would be a tragedy, for it is still my belief, my hope, that the people of Israel and Palestine are destined to be compassionate neighbors. This will only happen when America stops sending weapons and taxpayers dollars to Israel. We the people condemn Israel’s nefarious actions. This is the time for America to reign in Israel. If not, Israel, will precipitate, “terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror”, from endless and darkening clouds.

– Clive Hambidge is Human Development Director at Facilitate Global. Contact him at: clive.hambidge@facilitateglobal.org. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.

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