Palestinian wounded following Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Early in 1989, Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered Israeli soldiers to break the Palestinians’ bones in order to quell the Palestinian popular uprising against the Israeli occupation, telling them they should smash the Intifada with “force, power and blows.”
When Israel commenced its July 2006 war against Lebanon, during which approximately 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed and over one million displaced, Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz announced that “if the [Israeli] soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back twenty years.”
And when killing over 320 Palestinians and injuring close to 1000 this past Saturday by dropping 100 tons of bombs on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Southern Command GOC announced that the Israeli army will “send Gaza decades into the past” in terms of weapons capabilities while achieving “the maximum number of enemy casualties.”
Despite these echoes from failed uses of force in the past, the current Jewish-Israeli consensus nevertheless favors Israeli military attacks on Gaza. “The goal of our military actions is to force peace on them,” stated Member of Knesset Yakov Margi (Shas) this morning in a parliamentary discussion of Gaza. This attitude demonstrates that neither historical examples nor Israel’s own failure to achieve “peace” through destruction, have a visible impact on Israeli public opinion or government policies.
One of the primary reasons that Israelis favor military attacks on the Gaza Strip is their mistaken belief they can contain, control, and limit the violence to the Gaza Strip. However, spontaneous protests throughout the West Bank, Israel and Jerusalem prove the short-sidedness of this ill-guided and self-serving belief. And if Israel’s colonial attitude does not allow for the independent agency for the Palestinian people, then it is no surprise that potential regional ramifications of Israeli attacks on Gaza are also not publicly debated within Israel.
It is popular public resistance that can and should be employed to force governments to hold Israel accountable for the war crimes it is committing against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. Popular protests occurring throughout the Middle East express the public’s deeply felt anger with the Arab world’s perceived impotence in the face of Israel’s ongoing crimes. Egypt is being singled out for particularly harsh criticism as it is believed to have given Israel the green light for its attacks on Gaza. Sheikh Nasrallah of the Hizbullah, who called for street demonstrations against Israeli actions this afternoon in Lebanon, stated last night that Egypt must now make an historic decision to aid the Palestinian situation. Nasrallah has deployed troops in southern Lebanon, given Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace this week and the possibility that Israel may exploit the situation in Gaza as a pretext for actions against Lebanese resistance forces.
Unfortunately, Israel has largely succeeded in its campaign to convince key international players that Hamas broke the ceasefire and that Palestinian residents of Gaza whom it has somehow defined as “Hamas members” may be legitimately (and extra-judicially) murdered by the Israeli military. Israel has also succeeded in equating the launch of homemade rockets by individual or small Palestinian resistance groups with dropping of 100 (and counting) tons of missiles by one of the most technologically advanced air forces in the world. The US-led 6+ year international crusade against “terrorism” has prepared much of western public opinion to easily accept such equations.
In its waning days, the Bush administration is employing its power to assist Israel in attacking the Gaza Strip, vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on 28 December which called for an end to the ongoing Israeli attacks. Instead, the Security Council was able to issue only a non-binding statement calling “for an immediate halt to all violence” and “to stop immediately all military activities.” Although the members of the Security Council expressed “serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza,” they only requested the opening of border crossings into Gaza to ensure that humanitarian needs of the residents are met. No mention was made of the political situation underlying the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, i.e. the ongoing Israeli occupation and siege of the Gaza Strip.
Similarly, Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, issued a non-descript statement calling for “an immediate cessation of military violence on both sides.”
Social movements throughout the world must mobilize against the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. It is only by holding governments to their obligations under international law (particularly the Geneva Conventions) that Israel will be pressured to end this deadly campaign against the Palestinians of Gaza.