The Dilemma of the Israeli Government in Gaza
Mon 4th Aug 2014
The 72 hour cease-fire did not last more than a few hours. During the last four weeks, we repeatedly heard from the Israeli government that the killing of the civilians in Gaza was inevitable because they are being used as human shields. This analysis aims to shed some light on this subject with reference to current happenings, and related issues.
When in reaction to the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel (16), Gilad Shaer (16) and Eyal Yifrah (19), the sixteen year old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair was died after being set on fire, the family of one of the Israeli victims, the Fraenkels, and the family of Abu Khudeir spoke on the phone and comforted one another. [i] Naftali’s mother, Rachel Fraenkel, also said in an interview “ The shedding of innocent blood is against morality, it’s against the Torah and Judaism, it’s against the basis of our life in this country … No mother or father should go through what we are going (through) now, and we share the pain of the parents of Mohammad Abu Khudeir” [ii]
The families are following their grandparents and great grandparents who had lived a life, regardless of their religious differences, that did not have the slightest in common with what has been experienced since 1948. However, this is not the path the Israeli government is pursuing. Let us read Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to the very same event: “May God avenge their blood. [ … ] Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences. We will neither rest nor slacken until we reach the last of them. And it does not matter where they will try to hide.” [iii] With these words, he not only demonstrated that he does not have the least in common with Naftali’s family, and thousands similar to them, but he also showed that he has a deaf ear for the Pope’ s invitation to peacefully reconcile differences with Palestinians in a meeting just last month [iv] .
Netanyahu’ s vindictive message was clear and in his mind, there seems to be no disproportion between avenging the murder of three Israeli teenagers, and attacking a whole civilian population, killing hundreds, wounding and maiming thousands.
The people of Gaza are left alone – once more, and with international legitimacy, especially after the USA gave a green light to the operation. This is not the first time: attacks have been one after another, the continuation of the massacre the germs of which could be traced back to 1948 when the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was executed to leave way to the State of Israel [v] – 2006, 2009, 2012 being recent cases in the last few years. And now, once more, “Israel rolls into Gaza”, you read in the media. Thousands of tons of rockets, bombs, and thousands of air strikes were not enough. The fourth strongest army in the world had to move into the land of one of the weakest areas on the earth. But no! It is not simply the fourth largest army of the world. This is the US army that moved into Gaza, Israel being the country benefiting from the most generous US military assistance. [vi]
And again, the screams of the agony of the mothers were hardly heard as the bias of the major media was intensified, among other issues, because of the hurrahs of the World Cup, and an airplane crash in Ukraine.
War or Massacre
Netanyahu also says emphatically that Hamas would pay for this war and that he has to consider expanding the ground invasion. But is this a war? Regardless of the asymmetric power of the two sides one may ask: what kind of war this is that over 80% of the victims are civilians? When one side has helicopter gunships, tanks and combat ships, and the other barely has guns and homemade rockets? When one side gets suffers 1400 deaths versus 64 (as of July 30, 2014), it is difficult to talk about a war [vii] . No! This is a massacre not a war; the massacre of civilians who are captives in the largest open air prison, Gaza, which has been under siege since 2006. Presently, civilians are being killed by an army which has precision weapons!
By saying that Hamas would pay, Netanyahu means that a majority of innocent civilians, including about a hundred children who have lost their lives since the beginning of the attack, would suffer. Hence, he is treating the Gazan people similar to the members of an army. In response to the murder of three innocent Israelis, the 1.8 million people of Gaza, and their relatives all over the world, are paying for Netanyahu’s decision. Does the Israeli government find this number of people blameworthy simply because they share the occupied land with the suspected killers of those innocent Israeli teens?
The killing of four cousins of the Bakr family, the bombardment of the Alwafa – the only rehabilitation hospital in Gaza and West Bank – and the bombardment of schools run by UN as shelters of civilians are just samples of the round-the-clock 9/11 being implemented against the people of Gaza by the Israeli government and the governments backing it.
This massacre, however, has to be put in the context of larger projects implemented by the Israeli government. One of them is Ghettoising Gaza. Even Obama agrees that the area has suffered from “Suffocating poverty for far too long.” [viii]
In the same line, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Program in a 2009 report stated that “The evidence shows that the population is being sustained at the most basic or minimum humanitarian standard.” [ix] According to an internal report dating from 2008, the IDF made a scholarly calculation to make sure that every Gazan receives the bare minimum number of calories daily and that no non-essential “ luxuries ” (like coriander and instant coffee) are allowed. [x] Although the food blockade was lifted in 2010, the control over the Strip remains the same.
The total destruction of infrastructure and the psychological impact of this massacre on every surviving Gazan is utterly horrendous.
The reconstruction of that single hospital mentioned above is estimated to cost three million dollars. [xi] 95 per cent of the water of Gaza before this latest attack was “unfit for human consumption” [xii] , and in less than two weeks – since July 7 – 16 medical facilities have been damaged, including two hospitals, 12 clinics and two nursing care centres [xiii] . Most recently the school run by the UN as a shelter for refugees was also hit. The aim then is not just to destroy the present but also the future of Gaza.
What is also noteworthy, and easily forgotten, is that the bombing of Gaza started slightly over a month after the Palestinian unity government, after an historical attempt at reconciling Fatah and Hamas, was sworn in [xiv] . This move could lead the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank who tragically divided in 2007. Now that the maxim Divide et Impera, divide and rule, is no longer effective, and there is the fear of a stronger relationship between Gaza and West Bank, another option is being tried.
The Israeli attack also fell nearly two months after the collapse of the so-called “peace talks” with even John Kerry warning that without a peace agreement, Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” [xv] This predictable collapse and Kerry ’ s warning expose a bit too clearly the real agenda of Netanyahu: he does not and will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state, existing side by side with Israel [xvi] . The more the Palestinians ’ repression can look like a “war against terrorism”, where Israel is portrayed as the victim, the better it is for the Israeli hasbara. If those three Israeli teens had not been killed, perhaps another pretext for war would have been found.
The dilemma of Israel
The real dilemma the Israeli government is facing is not that Hamas ’ guns are hidden among civilians; neither is it that Hamas is using civilians as human shields.
The dilemma is whether or not Hamas is so powerful that it has a presence in every single house in Gaza. Both a positive and a negative response to this question signals a defeat for the Israeli government and the countries directly or indirectly backing its army: if Hamas is in every house, then the confrontation is between the Israeli government and every single resident of Gaza; if it is not, then the Israeli government is mis-targeting Hamas, bombing it where it is not. So, what is its claim about this massacre? Put differently, either the majority of the civilian population of Gaza are members of Hamas or they are not. If the answer is positive, the Israeli government has to kill all of this population in order to be able to kill the members of Hamas. If not, why has it killed such a large proportion of civilians?
Katharina Blum ’ s lessons
Heinrich Böll’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, with the subtitle How violence develops and where it can lead, is the story of a young innocent housekeeper – Katharina – whose life is ruined by an invasive police investigation and interrogation because her beloved is thought to be linked to a bank robbery – which ultimately turns out not to be the case. The story begins with the shooting of a person by Katharina. The whole story depicts how she turned was able to kill another person.
When Heinrich Böll was asked in an interview what he thought about the idea that “violence helps when violence rules” , he answered that one should search for the reason why people turn to violence. His figure, Katharina, a totally pacific, politically unengaged, and simple civilian kills a person, a reporter, whom she could reach to avenge the whole system that ruined her life. She did not have anything but honour and when this was violated, she did not have anything else to lose. Katharina adopted the slogan: “ violence helps when violence rules ” , and unfortunately so did those who killed the three Israeli teenagers. Israeli authorities keep repeating that they have to extend the period of the land invasion of Gaza. Even though the Israeli government will not succeed in killing all of the 1.8 million people in Gaza, to the ones who remain alive – including the family members of those killed – it will show the way to live a life similar to that of Katharina Blum. This is how violence develops.
Kaveh Boveiri is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Montreal. His thesis is on Marx's Methodology. In addition to translations, he has published articles on social and international issues, among others in The Alternatives, and at InternationalMarxistsHumanist.org
Michaël Séguin is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Montreal. His thesis research focuses on social identity and colonialism in Israel-Palestine. He is a member of the national committee of the United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel ( http://www.unjppi.org/ ).
[i] Anne Guin, « En Israël et en Palestine, des familles dépassent la haine » http://www.lavie.fr/actualite/monde/en-israel-et-en-palestine-des-familles-depassent-la-haine-08-07-2014-54729_5.php (Accessed 20 July 2014)
[ii] “Mother of slain Israeli teen condemns the revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir”
[iii] Philip Weiss, “After repeated calls for vengeance, Netanyahu urges Israelis to be ‘cool-headed’ and seek ‘justice’” http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/repeated-vengeance-netanyahu.html (Accessed 20 July 2014)
[iv] “Pope Francis peace plea at Israel-Palestinian prayer meeting” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27754663 (Accessed 22 July 2014)
[v] Ilan Pappe (2006), The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oxford, Oneworld.
[vi] John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt (2007), The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
[vii] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/israel-pummels-gaza-amid-new-truce-bid-201472201142657970.html (Accessed 22 July 2014 )
[viii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoAjO5_wFXc (Accessed 15 July 2014)
[ix] State of Palestine - Socio-Economic & Food Security Survey 2012: West Bank and Gaza Strip, August 2013
http://www.wfp.org/content/state-palestine-socio-economic-food-security-survey-2012-august-2013 (Accessed 10 July 2014)
[x] Israel used 'calorie count' to limit Gaza food during blockade, critics claim
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/17/israeli-military-calorie-limit-gaza ( Accessed 21 July 2014)
[xi] Israel Bombs Gaza’s Only Rehab Hospital: Staff Forced to Evacuate Paralyzed Patients After Shelling http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/18/israel_bombs_gazas_only_rehab_hospital?autostart=true (Accessed 20 July 2014)
[xii] Norman G. Finkelstein, HRW Whitewashes Israel, The Law Supports Hamas: Some Reflections on Israel’s Latest Massacre http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18618/hrw-whitewashes-israel-the-law-supports-hamas_some (Accessed 20 July 2014)
[xiii] Gaza’s infrastructure on verge of collapse http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-infrastructure-verge-collapse-20147206198849376.html (Accessed 21 July 2014)
[xiv] Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas sworn in
[xv] Peter Beaumont, Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail, says John Kerry
[xvi] David Horovitz, Netanyahu finally speaks his mind http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-finally-speaks-his-mind/ (Accessed 21 July 2014)