Monday, December 29, 2008
Echoes of Lebanon in Gaza
Echoes of Lebanon can be heard in Gaza as Israel carries out its massive military campaign against the civilian population in Gaza. As in Lebanon, the Israelis are using their overwhelming military might and causing large numbers of civilian casualties including Palestinian women and children. As in Lebanon, the United States is justifying the Israeli brutality as self-defense against crude rocket attacks by Hamas militants. The Israeli goal is to "send Gaza decades into the past" and cause the "maximum number of enemy casualties" in the words of Israeli General Yoav Galant. By "enemy" the General clearly means "Palestinian" as the evidence and news reports overwhelmingly suggest.
As in Lebanon, the Western media has chosen to echo the Israeli position. Marc J. Sirois, the managing editor of the Daily Star describes Western media coverage of Gaza in the following words: "Even before the attacks began on Saturday, most Western media outlets - those with the widest reach and therefore the greatest influence - were already parroting the rote Israeli line that whatever happened would be "in retaliation" for rocket fire from the enclave. They helpfully reminded us, too, that it was Hamas - the party that rules Gaza - which "ended" a six-month cease-fire."
Writing for the LRB (London Review of Books), Sara Roy summed up the events leading up to Israel's latest atrocities in Gaza as follows:
"Israel's siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel's siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population."
"On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Program (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programs because of the blockade."
What does Israel hope to achieve with its vicious campaign in Gaza? Here's what Jennifer Lowenstein believes as Israel's end-game:
"Major General Yoav Galant of the Israeli Southern Command declared Saturday that an attack on the Hamas regime must 'send Gaza decades into the past' militarily and must cause the "maximum number of enemy casualties" (Haaretz, 12/28/08; by Uri Blau, By "enemy" he means "Palestinian" as the evidence overwhelmingly shows; and if Galant is to be taken seriously according to his own perceptions of the "enemy" and of the time frame within which an operation of this sort is possible, we have reached a milestone in the history of the Palestinian National Movement and in the life of Gaza that bodes ill for the dream of Palestine while sharpening the regional fault lines that have crystallized beneath the Rafah sands."
My own assessment is that the Israelis are counting on the tacit support of PLO's Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in their efforts to decimate Hamas. But as the Israelis pursue this goal of destroying Hamas and to strengthen Abbas's hand as Israel's partner in Gaza or pave the way for Egyptian control of Gaza, the Israeli brutality will likely backfire, just as it did in Lebanon. As the death toll mounts in Gaza, Hamas's stature will rise as the staunch defender of Palestinian and Arab rights while Abbas, Mubarak and others opposed to Hamas will be marginalized and isolated by the Palestinians and the Arabs at large. The international repercussions of the Gaza catastrophe, like the Nakbah in 1948, will go far beyond the Middle East with major adverse impact on US and NATO efforts in other parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia, Somalia and Indonesia where there are ongoing conflicts. Those opposed to the United States will have an easier time recruiting committed fighters for their causes to wage war against the West and complicate Barack Obama's efforts aimed at improving America's battered image abroad. Obama's conspicuous silence on Gaza shows his reluctance to take on the growing power of the Israeli lobby in the United States. It is clear that the extraordinary power of lobbies such as the Israel lobby will severely limit Obama's policy options domestically and around the world.
Here's a video clip of Zbignew Brazinski on Gaza situation:
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