Sunday, January 04, 2009
16:49 Mecca time, 13:49 GMT
Israel's fait accompli in Gaza
By Eric S. Margolis
Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated places [GALLO/GETTY]
There are two completely different versions of what is currently happening in
In the Israeli and North American press version, Hamas - 'Islamic terrorists'
backed by Iran - have in an unprovoked attack fired deadly rockets on innocent
Israel with the intent of destroying the Jewish state.
North American politicians and the media say Israel "has the right to defend
True enough. No Israeli government can tolerate rockets hitting its towns, even
though the casualty totals have been less than the car crash fatalities
registered during a single holiday weekend on Israel's roads.
The firing of the feeble, home-made al-Qassam rockets by Palestinians is both
useless and counter-productive.
It damages their image as an oppressed people and gives right-wing Israeli
extremists a perfect reason to launch more attacks on the Arabs and refuse to
Israel's supporters insist it has the absolute right to drop hundreds of tonnes
of bombs on 'Hamas targets' inside the 360sq km Gaza Strip to 'take out the
Civilians suffer, says Israel, because the cowardly Hamas hide among them.
Actually, it is more like shooting fish in a barrel.
As usual, this cartoon-like version of events omits a great deal of nuance and
Seventy per cent of Palestinian children suffer from psychological trauma
While firing rockets at civilians is a crime so, too, is the Israeli blockade
of Gaza, which is an egregious violation of international law and the Geneva
According to the UN, most of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian refugees subsist
near the edge of hunger. Seventy per cent of Palestinian children in Gaza
suffer from severe malnutrition and psychological trauma.
Medical facilities are critically short of doctors, personnel, equipment, and
drugs. Gaza has quite literally become a human garbage dump for all the Arabs
that Israel does not want.
Gaza is one of the world's most-densely populated places, a vast outdoor prison
camp filled with desperate people. In the past, they threw stones at their
Israeli occupiers; now they launch home-made rockets.
Call it a prison riot, writ large.
Eyeing the elections
When the so-called truce between Tel Aviv and Hamas expired on December 19,
Israeli politicians were in the throes of preparing for the February 10
Israeli politics are playing a key role in this crisis.
Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party, and Tzipi
Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party, are trying to prove
themselves tougher than Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line Likud party - and one
Israel's elections are only six weeks away, and Likud was leading until the air
raids on Gaza began. Kadima and Labour are now up in the polls.
The heavy attacks on Gaza are also designed to intimidate Israel's Arab
neighbours, and make up for Israel's humiliating 2006 defeat in Lebanon, which
still haunts the country's politicians and generals.
A fait accompli
When the air raids on Gaza began, Barak said: "We have totally changed the
rules of the game."
He was right. By blitzing Hamas-run Gaza, Barak presented the incoming US
administration with a fait accompli, and neatly checkmated the newest player in
the Middle East Great Game - Barack Obama, the US president-elect - before he
could even take a seat at the table.
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The Israeli offensive into Gaza now looks likely to short-circuit any plans
Obama might have had to press Israel into withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders
and sharing Jerusalem.
This has pleased Israel's supporters in North America who have been cheering
the war in Gaza and have been backing away from their earlier tentative support
for a land-for-peace deal.
Israel's successes in having Western media portray the Gaza offensive as an
'anti-terrorist operation' will also diminish hopes of peace talks any time
Obama inherits this mess in a few weeks. During the elections, Obama bowed to
the Israel lobby, offering a new US carte blanche to Israel and even accepting
Israel's permanent monopoly of all of Jerusalem.
As he concludes forming his cabinet, his Middle East team looks like it may be
top-heavy with friends of Israel's Labour party.
Obama keeps saying he must remain silent on policy issues until George Bush,
the outgoing US president, leaves office, but his staff appear happy to avoid
having to make statements about Gaza that would antagonise Israel's American
Obama will take office facing a Middle East up in arms over Gaza and the entire
Muslim world blaming the US for the carnage in Gaza.
Unless he moves swiftly to distance himself from the policies of the Bush
administration, he will soon find himself facing the same problems and anger as
the Bush White House.
Arab deal killed
Israel's Gaza offensive is also likely to torpedo the current Saudi-sponsored
peace plan, which had been backed by all members of the Arab League.
The plan, now likely defunct, had called for Israel to withdraw to its 1967
borders and share Jerusalem in exchange for full recognition and normalised
relations with the Muslim world.
Arab governments will now be unable to sell the deal as they face a storm of
criticism from their own people over their powerlessness to help the
Palestinians of Gaza.
Egypt, in particular, is being widely accused of collaborating with Israel in
further sealing off and isolating Gaza. It seems highly unlikely they will be
able to advance a peace plan with Israel for now.
This is a bonus for right-wing Israelis, who have always been dead set against
any withdrawal and strongly supported the attack on Gaza.
Other Israeli factions who were always lukewarm about the Saudi peace plan are
now unlikely to reconsider it.
Israel's security establishment is committed to preventing the creation of a
viable Palestinian state, and refuses to negotiate with Hamas. Unable to kill
all of Hamas' men, Israel is slowly destroying Gaza's infrastructure around
them, as it did to Yasser Arafat's PLO.
Israel's hardliners point to Gaza and claim that any Palestinian state on the
West Bank would threaten their nation's security by firing rockets into
Mighty information machine
Israel is confident that its mighty information machine will allow it to
weather the storm of worldwide outrage over its Biblical punishment of Gaza.
Who remembers Israel's flattening of parts of the Palestinian city of Jenin, or
the US destruction in Falluja, Iraq, or the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in
The US media has focused on the rockets being fired on Israel from Gaza
Though the torment of Gaza is seen across the horrified Muslim world as a
modern version of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Jews against the Nazis during
World War Two, Western governments still appear bent on taking no action.
Though Israel's use of American weapons against Gaza violates the US Arms
Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, the docile US Congress will remain
Israel's assault on Gaza was clearly timed for America's interregnum between
administrations and the year-end holidays, a well-used Israeli tactic.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel as long as Israel refuses to recognise Hamas
and the rights of millions of homeless Palestinian refugees.
It calls for a non-religious state to be created in Palestine, meaning an end
to Zionism. Ironically, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and late leader of
Hamas, had spoken of a compromise with Tel Aviv shortly before he was
assassinated by Israel in 2004.
An inherited mess
Israel's hopes that it can bomb Gazans into rejecting Hamas are as
ill-conceived as its failed attempt in 2006 to blast Lebanon into rejecting
The Fatah regime on the West Bank installed by the US and Israel after Yasser
Arafat's suspicious death will be further discredited, leaving the militants of
Hamas as the sole authentic voice of Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas, the militant but still democratically elected government of Gaza, is
even less likely to compromise.
The Muslim world is in a rage. But so what? Stalin liked to say "the dogs bark,
and the caravan moves on," and as long as the US gives Israel carte blanche, it
can do just about anything it wants.
The tragedy of Palestine will thus continue to poison US relations with the
Those Americans who still do not understand why their nation was attacked on
9/11 need only look to Gaza, for which the US is now being blamed as much as
Unless Israel can make 5 to 7 million Palestinians disappear, it must find some
way to co-exist with them. Israeli leaders on the centre and right continue to
avoid facing this fact.
The brutal collective punishment inflicted on Gaza will likely strengthen Hamas
and reverse any hopes of a Middle East peace in the coming years.
Eric S. Margolis is an author, syndicated foreign affairs columnist,
broadcaster, and veteran war correspondent. His latest book is American Raj:
America and the Muslim world.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.
Source: Al Jazeera
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