Jul 23 2014

Deconstructing Israeli Claims

Published by at 6:26 am under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Before the information revolution, it was a given that a victor writes history. In today’s world, with credible irrefutable information at your fingertips, how come so many people get it wrong? Media spin has gone into overdrive in justifying the Israeli onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza. A careful study of the facts and the reality is in order to set the record straight. Israel and many of its allies in the world, including the US, say that the current military offensive on the 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza is a mere “defensive act” The Israelis repeatedly say that no country in the world would tolerate the barrage of rockets that are falling on its population. Before dealing with the defense issue, it is critically important to note that Israel is no ordinary country. It is an occupying power that has for 47 years held a captive Palestinian population under its military control. Israel, which received its initial legitimacy by the UN in 1947, has refused to honor UN Security Council Resolution 242 that considered its occupation of Arab lands in 1967 to be “inadmissible.”Since then, Israel has also violated international law by moving its people into occupied territories, it has illegally confiscated Palestinian land and for seven years collectively punished the people of Gaza with an immoral and illegal land and water siege that has never been authorized by a single country or world power. As to the defensive nature of the Israeli attack on Gaza, it is of extreme significance that Israel began the war on the Strip verbally and militarily when three Israelis disappeared in areas under Israeli military control in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Gaza-based Hamas leadership of being behind the kidnapping. In revenge against Hamas, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, including elected parliamentarians, destroyed the homes of two Palestinians it suspects (without proof) of being involved in the kidnapping/murder and acted against Gaza. The Israeli shelling of Gaza intensified after the discovery of the three killed Israelis. A number of Palestinians, including a child, was killed in the Israeli air bombardment. Before the current war on Gaza began on July 8, Israel had shelled the Strip for three days. It is true that Hamas, which had signed a 2012 tahdiya (truce), responded with unsophisticated rockets, but the fact remains that Israel began the current war and therefore can’t claim that it is a defensive war. Israelis in fact consider their actions part of a “deterrence policy” that is aimed, according to their own statement, to give as much pain as possible to their enemy in order to have the other side cease what they are doing. If Israel’s heavy shelling by land, air and sea, and the response with rockets was not enough, it began a totally indefensible land invasion on July 20. It is documented that the initial phase of Israeli attacks brought death and destruction to over 300 Palestinians most of whom were civilians, but no Israelis were killed as a direct result of the rockets from Gaza. What was so defensive then that required a land invasion. Israel said its tanks rolled in to destroy the tunnels. Yet, once Israeli troops were in, over 27 Israeli soldiers died in combat and almost no Israeli civilians were killed, compared to more than 500 Palestinian civilian fatalities. Israelis respond that deaths were avoided because of their Iron Dome air defense system and shelters and not because Hamas fighters were not trying. Israelis also propagate various other myths: that Palestinians, trapped from all corners, are using their people as human shields and launching these high-reach, little-damage rockets from hospitals and schools. The very idea of Palestinians using their women and children as human shields has a racist overtone to it. Gaza is a very crowded area and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s note on a hot microphone about the impossibility of “pinpoint” bombing is totally true. Amnesty International rapped Israel hard on the issue, citing laws of war that require armies to be extremely careful when bombing populated areas. Israel apologists counter that Hamas rockets are not precise. True, but the numbers don’t lie when you look at the 600 Palestinian civilians killed versus two Israeli civilians. War is ugly and truth is certainly the first casualty of war. But the fact is that this war on Gaza, which began with a lie, has continued with Israelis and their apologists hoodwinking the world that they had little choice but to go into this war to protect their own people. This onslaught on Gaza was perpetuated in large part because of a sense of helplessness by Palestinians who see no way out of the decades old conflict. The absence of a political horizon for Palestinians is the result of a conscious Israeli decision to scuttle the US’ peace efforts. Kerry used the term “poof” to describe what happened when Israel failed to deliver its promises to Palestinians in April and decided to build more illegal settlements. Instead of militarily blitzing the densely populated Gaza Strip in an unnecessary war, Israel must realize that the only way to have permanent peace is to end the occupation and illegal settlement campaign and adhere to the international will that supports the creation of an independent Palestinian state that can live in security with the state of Israel based largely on the 1967 borders. Peace talks, not ceasefire efforts or political spin, will end this terrible cycle of violence.

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