The road to Gaza’s killing fields
GAZA LIES in ruins. After 22 days of ruthless Israeli aerial bombardment and ground assault, a survey1 of the carnage is as enraging as it is numbing: at least 1,285 Palestinians have been killed; 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, mostly killed on the first day of the bombing as they were graduating from a training course. Twenty-four hundred houses were completely destroyed, and 20,000 partially. Other infrastructure destroyed includes 28 public civilian facilities (ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors, and Palestinian Legislative Council buildings), 29 educational institutions (including Gaza’s Islamic University and American High School), 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial, and commercial workshops. There are reliable reports that Israel used the banned chemical weapon white phosphorus, which on contact with skin burns all the way to the bone.2
If one statistic reflects the cruelty of what happened in Gaza, it is this: at least 50 people were killed in various United Nations facilities, where they had gathered to find refuge from the shelling because their own refugee camp was already too unsafe.
The harrowing tales from beneath the rubble are almost too endless and heartbreaking to document—the Abed Rabbo family, who came out of the rubble of their home in Jabalya waving a white flag after the Israelis ordered them to leave, only to have three of their children cut down by an Israeli soldier;3 the doctor in Gaza who called in regularly to an Israeli television station to report on the invasion, whose home was hit by a tank shell and three of his children killed before his eyes while he was on the air4; and the extended Samouni family in Zeitoun, 100 of whom were herded from their houses into one building, after which the building was deliberately strafed and bombed, killing 30 family members.5 The Red Cross, who were not allowed by Israeli forces into the area for four days, found four emaciated children left to starve among their dead relatives.6
But two factors make these atrocities all the more disturbing. First, what happened in Gaza, including its destructive targeting of civilians and their infrastructure, was entirely premeditated, planned, and organized months in advance, and with explicit U.S approval. Second, the Gaza attack is only the beginning of an even bloodier escalation of the violent means Israel plans to employ against the Palestinian people and its national movement. If this new escalation is not steadfastly resisted, the level of destruction Israel will inflict will only grow, both locally and regionally, assuming genocidal proportions.
Now is the time for a patient assessment of how Israel’s campaign came about, before discussing what can be done to stop it from happening again.
Anatomy of a bloodbath
To avoid accusations of selectivity, allow us to begin where the Israeli government argues the campaign against Gaza originated: the unilateral Israeli redeployment from Gaza in August 2005, also known as “the disengagement.” It was then that Israel withdrew 7,000 Jewish settlers and 3,000 accompanying soldiers, ending a failed effort to colonize Gaza.
The Israeli narrative, as reported by its foreign ministry Web site, reads as follows:
Israel hoped that the Palestinians would use the incredible opportunity presented by the disengagement to embark on the path towards peace […] Instead of building the foundations of a peaceful society, the Palestinians allowed Gaza to slide into anarchy. Kassam rockets continued to be fired into Israel; weapons, ammunitions and monies were smuggled into the Gaza Strip in enormous amounts; terrorist activities of every variety were allowed to be carried out freely; and Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, was elected to lead the Palestinian government.7
Fittingly, “since Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas and since Hamas is using Gaza Strip in order to target us,” noted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, “we need to give an answer to this.”8
The problem with the Israeli narrative is that it is disproved by the Israeli architects of disengagement. The unilateral Israeli redeployment from Gaza was not “an incredible opportunity to embark on the path towards peace,” but was designed to do just the opposite. Dov Weisglass, the personal adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and an official liaison between Israel and the U.S. State Department disclosed this at the time. He described the disengagement as a kind of “formaldehyde”: “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”9
Note that Weisglass was talking about “the Palestinians” and not Hamas, which was not even in power at the time. The disengagement served to legitimate the unilateral ending of the peace process—the only framework, however flawed, which provided a political horizon for the Palestinian movement by maintaining that both sides had the right to discuss their claims. This approach was now over. Israel’s hands were freed to do as it pleased, particularly regarding settlement expansion.
What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns [people from Finland]. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.10
With Jewish settlers out of harms way in Gaza, Israel could now control the thin strip of land from key nodes on its borders, and from the skies above and seas around it. The disengagement created a far more efficient occupation regime for Israel, erecting what many call the world’s largest open-air prison. It also eliminated any Israeli military targets for the Palestinian resistance inside Gaza, despite the fact that Israel routinely attacked targets there.
The disengagement signaled the death-knell of Fatah, the historic secular nationalist party that had led the modern Palestinian movement for decades. Fatah had banked on the peace process as its strategy to achieve Palestinian national rights, seeing it as the culmination of more than 25 years of its military and diplomatic activity to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause. When Israel and the U.S. united to prevent the realization of Palestinian national claims through the negotiated process (Camp David II, June 2000), then stopped the process altogether (the Disengagement, August 2005) Fatah’s fortunes were bankrupted.
A mere four months after Israel redeployed from Gaza, Palestinian elections were held in January 2006. Hamas won the elections with a commanding parliamentary majority—57 percent of the seats—handily defeating the incumbent Fatah party which had increasingly been viewed by Palestinian society as corrupt, undemocratic, and cynical in its manipulation of Palestinian historical claims.
The elections had initially been supported by the U.S. as a means to legitimate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the leader of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA). But they ended up doing just the opposite. Abu Mazen, and the political trajectory he was supposed to oversee—the transformation of “Palestinians into Finns”—was now delegitimized through the very process which enlightened liberal humanism upheld as sacrosanct—democratic elections.
The elections were a major setback for U.S. foreign policy. This was acknowledged internally by one U.S. Department of Defense official noting, “Everyone blamed everyone else. We sat there in the Pentagon [after the election] and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this [Palestinians elections]?’”11
Israel was equally set back. According to one senior Israeli military commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz, writing a few days after the elections:
The Israelis warned the Americans that unsupervised Arab democracy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, not pro-Western liberals. But Washington refused to listen and insisted on holding the elections on schedule. The new reality requires both Washington and Jerusalem to reevaluate the situation before the Hamas effect hits Amman and Cairo [the capital of the pro-U.S. client regimes of Jordan and Egypt]. In any case it will be hard to turn back democratic change and resume the comfortable relations with the old dictatorships.12
Turning back the clock is exactly what the U.S attempted to do, however. It first needed to ensure that Hamas could not yield any results for its constituency and set about attempting to overturn the election results, first gradually and indirectly, and when this failed, more directly. U.S. policy after the elections was clear. According to one senior State Department official, “The administration spoke with one voice: ‘We have to squeeze these guys [Hamas].’”13 Democracy was to be sanctioned only if U.S. allies ended up in power.
Israel immediately launched a medieval siege against the Gaza Strip preventing any movement of material in or out, including vital fuels, spare parts, medicines, water and food. It arrested 64 Hamas officials (those it could find in the West Bank), including half of its elected legislators, crippling the parliament before it could even meet. To complement the Israeli maneuvers, the U.S. pressured the rest of the Quartet (in addition to the U.S., they are the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia) to stop any financial assistance to the Palestinian government and public sector—perhaps the only consistent wage earners in Palestinian society.
The measures aimed to put the screws on the Palestinian population that had voted for Hamas and to persuade it to change its orientation. The U.S and Israel were particularly concerned because voting for Hamas essentially meant that the Palestinians had not been successfully cudgeled into accepting the military supremacy of Israel, which had been consistently attacking the national movement since the Al Aqsa Intifada began in September 2000. It also meant that their political horizons had not been reduced to accepting the failed Fatah leadership and its strategy as the only path toward achieving its historic national rights.
To stimulate the process of persuasion, the U.S. resorted to more direct means of influence, reaching its hand into its old bag of Cold War tricks. The most corrupt elements of the displaced Fatah party began to lead a process with CIA training, funding, and arms to foment a coup against Hamas. The plan was later dubbed “Iran-Contra 2.0,” because its architects included Elliot Abrams, implicated in the original Iran Contra affair. David Wurmser, a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was among those who did not support the plan, and later accused the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.”14
But Hamas caught on quickly to U.S. scheming, forcefully taking control of the government institutions in Gaza that were the bases used by the Fatah coup-makers. The small but recalcitrant faction within Fatah that had openly collaborated with the U.S. plot was killed or forced to flee to the West Bank. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas,” noted Wurmser, “but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”15
The West Bank and Gaza were now run by two distinct currents of the national movement with different worldviews regarding tactics and strategy vis-à-vis Israel. While the division weakened the Palestinians strategically, it also brought with it a contradiction. The failure of the U.S. and Israel to engage in any political process—even with Abu Mazen—meant that support for Hamas and its resistance-oriented approach would grow. The “Gaza model” could be seen as more dignified, democratic, and potentially successful than the humiliating, tested, and empty Ramallah model.
This became all the more likely in the context of two other significant setbacks for U.S. and Israeli plans: the capturing of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and the results of the 2006 war against Lebanon. These events convinced the U.S. and Israel that only a direct military solution would dislodge Hamas and the political orientation it was trying to steer the national movement.
Hamas was elected on a slate known as the “Change and Reform” list. Its platform advocated an explicit and principled approach to the major Palestinian national demands: a full end to the 1967 occupation, Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, and implementation of the right of return. It also raised key demands for democratic internal reform within the movement. Finally, it explicitly kept open the option of resistance to Zionism within its political agenda. It is this political trajectory led by Hamas that Israel wished to push back in the Gaza campaign. A frontal defeat of Hamas by Israel would entail Israel having to take de facto responsibility for the Strip and replace it with another authority (their own, the Ramallah PA, or Egypt). But this countered Israel’s larger strategy vis-à-vis Gaza, which seeks to avoid any responsibility for it, particularly since the “disengagement.”16
The Lebanon campaign was particularly significant because not only was Israel forced to negotiate a deal with Hezbollah over the return of its two captured soldiers, but the movement emerged militarily and politically more powerful both in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.
The U.S. and Israel began closely coordinating how they would amend the mistakes of the Lebanon campaign blamed on over-reach, poor political and military preparation, and unclear operational plans, among other things. The decision to go after Gaza was made soon after the Lebanon campaign ended, as disclosed in a remarkable article written by Haaretz journalist Shmuel Rosner? published 10 months before Isr?el attacked Gaza. Entitled “Am?rica wants an operation in Gaza?” Rosner bluntly describes wha? was on the U.S.-Israeli agenda? I quote at length from it beca?se it discloses the extent of t?e close coordination between th? U.S and its strategic ally:
As the Second ?ebanon War raged, former U.S. S?cretary of State Henry Kissinge? paid a visit to [Israeli] Majo? General Dan Harel….
The I?raeli operation in Lebanon had ?eft Kissinger unimpressed, and ?e made this clear to Harel. Eve? worse: Kissinger told him that?Israel’s erratic progress wa? undermining U.S. interests.…?All those, including President ?eorge Bush, who were counting o? Israel to teach a definitive l?sson to the extremists in the M?ddle East, were disappointed.
The mysteriou? Israeli attack in Syria last S?ptember and the assassination o? Imad Mughniyah in Damascus las? week may improve Israel’s o?erational image, but will not c?mpletely restore the American c?nfidence in its ability to comp?ete a more ambitious campaign: ?ccupying the Gaza Strip, crushi?g the military power of Hamas a?d restoring the Strip to the tr?ined Palestinian forces loyal t? Mahmoud Abbas.
This is the ?nly realistic scenario that may?bode a better future for the Ga?a Strip, and which also aligns ?ith what is relevant to Washing?on: it is both realistic and me?ts U.S. aims, namely to avoid d?alogue with Hamas and not to we?ken Palestinian President Mahmo?d Abbas by rewarding the extrem?sts.17
Rosn?r’s admissions go further:
The Americans?know that change must occur in ?he Gaza Strip. “The status quo?there, I think, cannot hold,” ?ecretary of State Condoleezza R?ce told a congressional hearing?last week.
?ccording to the American scenar?o, what is first required is co?plete Israeli readiness for a m?litary operation, and also for ?olitical allowances….
However, the Americ?ns will require assurances, mor? so than in the past, that this?will not be an operation that w?ll commence with a promise [to ?estroy U.S. enemies] only to en? with an investigation [looking?into the failures of why Israel?didn’t achieve its goals, as?was the case in Lebanon]. Like ?issinger said, it undermines Am?rican interests….
A broad Israeli operati?n, with American encouragement,?will be able to begin only afte? the forces of Abbas are traine?. But by then, the Americans ma? have a new president.18
?P align=left>It should come as ?o surprise that when Israel fin?lly did attack Gaza it did so o? December 27, 2008, in the fina? weeks of George W. Bush’s a?ministration. Everything else b?comes a matter of the grisly de?ails as to how calculated and c?ld-blooded U.S. and Israeli man?uvers really were.
Israel was expected to u?e overwhelming force in Gaza, i?cluding against civilian target?, because the results of the Le?anon campaign—in which Israel?killed 1,200 Lebanese in 33 day?—were not considered shocking?enough for the Lebanese populat?on to make them want to stop su?porting Hezbollah during and af?er the war. United States milit?ry strategist Anthony Cordesman?explained in 2006 what Israel n?eded to do to be more successfu? in its future wars:
From Israel’s viewp?int, you have to use force even?more against civilian targets. ?ou have to attack deep. You hav? to step up the intensity of co?bat and you have to be less car?ful and less restrained.19?
The Israeli mili?ary began conducting smaller sc?le incursions into Gaza after L?banon, to train its troops for ?he “big operation.” One such ?peration (Autumn Clouds) in whi?h more than 90 Palestinians wer? killed and 450 homes destroyed? was described by Israeli journ?list Alex Fishman:
It is another step in th? direction of concentrating mil?tary forces in the Gaza Strip???. Operations at the edges of ur?an areas have now moved into po?ulated areas…. Such operations also have an “accustoming” effect. The operations are getting the area and the military forces used to the IDF presence in the Gaza Strip, each time for a longer period and with larger forces. Meanwhile, the IDF is exercising military tactics in residential areas, and commanders are being trained. … [T]here is no chance of a political settlement whatsoever with Hamas. Therefore, we are in the midst of a gradual process toward a large-scale military conflict in the Gaza Strip.20
Israel also began exploring internal legal advice on the possibility of “cutting all fuel supplies to Gaza, firing single artillery shells against sources of rocket fire, clearing areas in the Strip from which Qassam rockets are launched, evacuating civilians from these areas, and shelling or bombing areas after warning the civilians to leave.”21 It purchased bunker-busting munitions from the U.S. in September 2008—first assumed for Iran, but apparently equally as practical against Gaza’s tunnel and underground resistance infrastructure.22
The U.S. and Arab client states equally upheld their complicit role in what was to happen by maintaining the boycott on Hamas and training Abu Mazen’s troops in Jordanian facilities under the command of U.S. Army General Keith Dayton.23
Israeli papers have even gone so far as to expose exactly when Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave the Israeli army the order to prepare for the operation—more than six months before the war against Gaza began, and as Israel was negotiating a cease-fire with Palestinian factions.24 Like similar incidents in the past, a cease-fire was seen not as a step toward a peaceful settlement, but as a way to cultivate the prime conditions in which Israel could engineer its future attack.25
Israel in fact, never abided by the cease-fire to begin with, maintaining its strict closure (together with Egypt) of Gaza’s border crossings.26 As the pressure cooker of a besieged Gaza increased—with dozens dying of lack of medical care for cancer and dialysis treatment; as Gaza skies became thick with the pollution of cooking oil used to fuel cars, because of lack of petrol; and as 86 percent of its inhabitant became dependent on the UN for food rations27—Israel began to play with matches.
On November 4, it raided the Gaza Strip killing 6 Palestinians, claiming it was destroying a tunnel. Israel chose to deliberately undermine the cease-fire the very same day that the world was fixated on the election of a new American president. It would kill four more Palestinians in two other operations in Gaza, to further unsettle the fragile coalition of resistance factions that had abided by the cease-fire. Despite the provocations, Israeli commentators were forced to acknowledge that a mere three days before Israel attacked, Hamas was upholding its end of the cease-fire and appeared unwilling to break it.28 Hamas chair Mahmod Zahar even went so far as to give an interview to an Israeli television station on December 22—at a time when he was a prime target of assassination—to say his movement would accept renewing the cease-fire, as long as Israel opened up the crossings.29
But Israel wasn’t interested. It knew exactly what it was going to do. Israel was going to “send Gaza decades into the past” while achieving “the maximum number of enemy casualties,” according to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Southern Command Yoav Galant.30 The time had come to “educate”31 Gaza, the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, as to what would happen if a movement dared to challenge Israel’s supremacy, and the role the U.S. has ascribed for it.
Articles published in the Israeli press since the operation reveal the lurid details of how the killing spree was planned to deliberately incorporate the infliction of civilian casualties as a way to achieve its goals. It was disclosed for example that the idea to bomb the closing ceremony of a Gaza police-training course was planned months before the attack.32 Despite internal criticism, Israel went ahead with the bombing, massacring dozens of civilian police officers whose limp dismembered bodies were captured in chilling images broadcast the first day of the campaign.
It was also revealed that, “Israel used text messages, dropped flyers from the air and made a quarter of a million telephone calls to warn Gaza residents.”33 Given that 50 percent of Gaza’s residents are under the age of 16 and are unlikely to have independent telephone lines, a quarter of a million telephone calls covers a considerable portion of Gaza’s population. This is a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that almost everybody in Gaza was threatened in Israel’s campaign.
Israeli politicians also appear aware of the devastation they wrought in Gaza, and the war crimes charges they are likely to face. One minister recently told Israeli military correspondent Aluf Benn, “When the scale of the damage in Gaza becomes clear, I will no longer take a vacation in Amsterdam, only at the international court in The Hague.”34 According to Benn, “It was not clear whether he was trying to make a joke or not.”35
Understanding the carnage, resisting U.S.-Israeli plans
The scope of evidence incriminating the U.S. and Israel in a premeditated bloodbath in Gaza is indisputable. What now needs to be addressed is what the results of the war actually mean and what can be done to stop this murderous campaign from being repeated in the future.
It has already been widely acknowledged that Israel did not achieve its stated goals in the campaign.36 Palestinian factions still control hundreds of rockets, which they can fire at Israeli cities. There are plenty of functional tunnels on the southern border with Rafah, and damaged ones can be repaired. The civilian population did not rise up to blame Hamas, and if anything, there was widespread disdain for Abu Mazen’s impotence and inaction. Palestinian factions likewise do not appear to have been sufficiently deterred from their willingness to attack Israel, though they are likely to be more disciplined in their use of military means.
On the other side, Gaza was indeed “sent back decades.” It is not clear how Hamas will be able to handle the enormous challenge of providing for the Gaza population and its even heavier medical, housing, and economic needs. This at a time when the movement continues to be besieged from all sides, and with threats from Israel that this regime of control will be tightened further (and potentially internationalized) after the war.
Assessing the war in these terms, however, is ultimately insufficient. What happened in Gaza shouldn’t be judged as a question as to who was victorious, because it misses the bigger picture of what has been taking place over time.
Locally, Israel’s destruction of Gaza signifies an entrance into a new stage in its open-ended war to destroy the Palestinian national movement. It has been successful in incrementally raising the level of destruction it metes out to the national movement since the Al Aqsa Intifada began, reaching horrific proportions in recent weeks. Recall that less than 10 years ago, Israel believed it could have a willing Palestinian partner that would accept its historical and continuing act of colonialism—the extension of settlements and its de facto control over all of historic Palestine.
Now, the “partner for peace” approach has been reversed in favor of a policy of direct military confrontation with the national movement in hopes of liquidating it. The national movement had not been cowed sufficiently, whether under Hamas, Arafat, or even Abu Mazen. Instead, Israel has used the return of the national movement to Palestinian soil (the Palestine Liberation Organization’s [PLO] supposed accomplishment through the Oslo process) as an opportunity to crush it, now that it is in its very backyard. The first part of the Intifada (2000–05) was used to do away with Fatah as a serious or credible threat to Israel’s power. Israel has used the years since then to go after Hamas and the remnants of other resistance currents, primarily in Gaza. The West Bank was more or less “pacified” militarily in the first period.
Ultimately, Israel believes that power and violence have cumulative effects. And while it has been killing and imprisoning successive generations of Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza and the West Bank for more than 40 years, it has also gained more and more time to continue its settlement project on the ground. The cumulative effect of these processes strengthens Israel’s demographic and military positioning to isolate, weaken, and strangle Palestinian livelihoods, in the hopes that the Palestinian people either surrender or are expelled.
Regionally, Israel has also sent a clear message. It intends to reverse the winds of change that have been blowing through the Middle East since the second Intifada began, through Hamas’s rise to power and capped by Hezbollah’s declaration of victory in 2006—Israel’s Gaza campaign is a significant step in that direction, with the promise that there is likely to be more to come both locally and regionally if the message has yet to be “learned.”
Israel’s war cabinet (Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, and Ehud Olmert) has already warned of more “harsh and disproportionate action” against Gaza.37 Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador in Australia was caught on tape describing the Gaza campaign as a “preintroduction” to attacking Iran, which will supposedly take place in the coming year.38
These threats should be taken seriously considering Israel’s anxiousness to assert its relevance and supremacy in the face of different internal and regional “threats” to its agenda: the rise of a nuclear powered Iran; the rise of a strengthened Arab nationalist/Islamist stream opposed to Zionism and U.S-backed Arab dictators; and the demographic weakening of the ratio of Jews to Arabs (Christian and Muslim) in the territory of historical Palestine, undermining the “Jewish majority” within the “Jewish state”—the very basis of Zionism.
In any case, while the paper trail of Israel’s past and present crimes is long, it is only relevant in so far as it can be used to organize forces that can stop Israeli and American plans.
The international solidarity witnessed in response to Israel’s assault was a reassuring and positive reminder that people around the world do not support their governments’ explicit or often implicit support for Israel, and are willing to struggle to end it. Judging from the size and spread of these demonstrations, these forces appear to be growing, and in some places they are able to raise significant challenges to Israel and their own governments.
At the same time these efforts remain largely the uncoordinated product of self-activating politicized groups and individuals. No doubt a major impediment to a stronger movement remains the divisions within the Palestinian movement itself, primarily between Hamas and the Fatah-run PA in the West Bank. This division is likely to continue for the coming period as both remain entrenched in their positions after Gaza. Hamas head Khaled Mishal has made the daring step of calling for the formation of a new leadership body other than the PLO, because “The PLO, in its current form, has become incapable of serving the Palestinian people and has become a tool to deepen divisions.”39 Such serious and delicate matters are not likely to be resolved quickly by the movement, though the political reality demands it nonetheless.
In this respect it is important to acknowledge that the movement is in the midst of a transitional period as it seeks to align itself politically and operationally around a program and leadership. While the events in Gaza will deepen that process, its results are less significant than the responsibility thrust upon conscientious people of the world in the wake of Israel’s actions.
Now is the time to respond to the longstanding call raised by hundreds of Palestinian civil society groups—inside the 1967 Occupied Territories and Israel—to implement a boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel, akin to the one that was successfully used to end South African apartheid.40 It is this strategy, combined with a principled support for the struggle for resistance and self-determination of the Arab peoples against their U.S.-backed dictatorships, that offers a glimmer of hope in preventing Israel from completing its 100-plus years of ethnically cleansing Palestine.
During the height of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the Greek government was forced to cancel the transfer of a cargo of ammunition from the U.S. to Israel through Greek ports because it was concerned it might reignite the strong social and union protests that recently took place there. If similar resistance could be organized along the chain of supply which funds, nourishes, and empowers Israel—economically, militarily, and politically—it could act as an important lever in stopping the real supply chain behind terror in the region, Western governments’ support for Israel. The calls for BDS are expanding and now is the time to plant the educational seeds throughout Europe and the United States that can play a decisive role in stopping the criminal, premeditated slaughter the world just witnessed in Gaza from ever being repeated again.
Toufic Haddad is editor and co-author, with Tikva Honig-Parnass, of Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. “War on Terror” (Haymarket Books, 2007). He is currently freelance writing in the West Bank, and can be reached at [email protected].
1 See Palestinian Center For Human Rights Report, January 15–21, 2009, www.pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2008/22-01-2009.htm.
2 Ethan Bronner, “Outcry Erupts Over Reports That Israel Used Phosphorus Arms on Gazans,” New York Times, January 22, 2009: “In Gaza, Ms. Abu Halima said that when her family was hit, ‘fire came from the bodies of my husband and my children. The children were screaming, “Fire! Fire!” and there was smoke everywhere and a horrible, suffocating smell,’ she said. ‘My 14-year-old cried out, “I’m going to die. I want to pray.” I saw my daughter-in-law melt away.’”
3 Donald Macintyre, “Gaza: ‘I watched an Israeli soldier shoot dead my two little girls,’” AP, January 21, 2009.
4 Hanna Ingber Win, “Israeli TV airs Gaza doctor’s pleas after children killed,” Huffington Post, January 16, 2009.
5 Taghreed El-Khodary and Isabel Kershner, “For Arab clan, days of agony in a cross-fire,” New York Times, January 10, 2009.
6 Martin Fletcher, “Red Cross finds starving children with 12 corpses in Gaza ‘house of horrors,’” January 8, 2009, Times Online (London); http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5474016.ece.
7 “Israel, the conflict and peace: Answers to frequently asked questions,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 2007, www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2003/11/Israel-%20the%20Conflict%20and%20Peace-%20Answers%20to%20Frequen.
8 “Transcript: Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,” Meet the Press, December 28, 2008.
9 “The big freeze,” Ari Shavit interviews Dov Weisglass, Haaretz, October 8, 2004.
11 David Rose, “Gaza bombshell,” Vanity Fair, April 2008.
12 Aluf Benn, “Wave of democracy pits Israel against ‘Arab street,’” Haaretz, January 29, 2006.
13 Rose, “Gaza bombshell.”
16 For more on the Hamas platform, see: “The Hamas victory and the future of the Palestinian national movement,” Toufic Haddad, Between the Lines, Israel the Palestinians and the U.S. War on Terror (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2007), 317–34. Also see Khaled Hroub,”A ‘New Hamas’ through its new documents,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 35, no. 4, Summer 2006.
17 Shmuel Rosner, “America wants an operation in Gaza,” Haaretz, February 22, 2008.
19 Anthony H. Cordesman, “A visit to the Israel-Lebanon front: Lessons of the war and prospects for peace and future fighting,” Center For Strategic and International Studies, August 17, 2006.
20 Alex Fishman, “Prelude to war,” Yediot Ahronot, November 3, 2006.
21 Barak Ravid, “Barak seeks legal okay to move Gazan civilians from homes,” Haaretz, March 4, 2008; Barak Ravid, “Barak, legal team to mull artillery use on civilian areas of Gaza,” Haaretz, March 3, 2008.
22 Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, “U.S. to sell Israel Air Force new bunker-buster bombs,” Haaretz, September 14, 2008; Yaakov Katz, “IAF uses new U.S.-supplied smart bomb,” Jerusalem Post, December 29, 2008.
23 David Horovitz, “Dayton: New PA forces are most capable ever,” Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2008.
24 “Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June], even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.” Barak Ravid, “Operation ‘Cast Lead’: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning,” Haaretz, December 27, 2008.
25 Nancy Kanwisher, “Reigniting violence: How do ceasefires end?” Huffington Post, January 6, 2008.
26 It is worth noting that during the cease-fire, Israel killed 16 Palestinians in the West Bank, and did not stop the arrest of Palestinians there, even for one day.
27 For a full study on the affects of the closure on Gaza, see “The suffering of the Gaza Strip under the closure,” Al Zeitun Center for Studies and Consultation, January 30, 2008 (Arabic); There are also several individual reports that can be found at www.pchrgaza.org.
28 “As of press time, Hamas had refrained from firing even a single mortar shell on Israel this week. The rockets and mortar shells that did hit the Negev were launched by smaller Palestinian groups, primarily Islamic Jihad. […] so far Hamas is not taking an active role in escalating the violence; it is simply letting the other groups fire on Israel.” Amos Harel, “Hamas is playing the brinkmanship game in Gaza,” Haaretz, December 24, 2008.
29 “IDF troops kill three Gaza militants at border fence,” Haaretz, December 23, 2008.
30 Uri Blau, “GOC Southern Command: IDF will send Gaza back decades,” Haaretz, December 23, 2008.
31 Thomas Friedman, “Israel’s goals in Gaza?” International Herald Tribune, January 14, 2008.
32 According to Haaretz correspondent Barak Regev, “A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the IDF’s international law division and the military advocate general were undecided.” Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, “How IDF legal experts legitimized strikes involving Gaza civilians,” Haaretz, January 1, 2009.
33 Drew Weston, “U.S. signs peace treaty with Al Qaeda, agreeing to end occupation of Afghanistan and halt the policy of disproportionate force,” Huffington Post, January 19, 2009.
34 Aluf Benn, “Israel fears wave of war crimes lawsuits over Gaza offensive,” Haaretz, January 1, 2009.
36 Gideon Levy, “Gaza war ended in utter failure for Israel,” Haaretz, January 22, 2009.
37 Mark Lavie, “Israel threatens retaliation for Gaza rocket fire,” AP, February 1, 2009.
38 Angus Hohenboken, “Iran will soon pose N-threat, says Israel,” The Australian, January 31, 2009.
39 Nidal Al-Mughrabi, “Hamas wants new leadership for Palestinians,” Reuters, January 30, 2009.
40 “Palestinian civil society calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights,” Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, July 9, 2005; www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=66_0_1_10_M11.