Gaza on the eve of a new round of slaughter?

This article is a translation of "Gaza aan de vooravond van een nieuwe slachtpartij?"

During the last big Israeli military operation in the Gaza strip in December and January 2008-9, around 1,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died, whilst the infrastructure was largely destroyed. Israel at the time still profited from the fact that Egypt under the Mubarak regime did not do business with Hamas, so that the Israeli army enjoyed a free shooting match. The cartoonist of the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool, Joep Bertrams, depicted Israeli prime minister Olmert (meanwhile convicted for corruption) firing his revolved into a little birdcage, and this aptly summarised the massacre. Of course Western political leaders fell over each other to condemn Hamas’s barrage of primitive rockets—13 Israelis in total died, most of them military personnel. Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ of course adorned all public statements.  "

To justify the current attack a lot has been made of the cruel murder of two Israeli and one American teenager, pupils of an orthodox seminary in occupied Hebron. Although the Netanyahu government knew that the three had been assassinated it persisted for political reasons in claiming that they had been abducted, even reassuring the boys’ families that they were still alive. Thus the climate was created for acts of revenge (such as the burning alive of a Palestinian teenager) and widespread harassment, but also for a large-scale military operation. That a 15-year old Palestinian cousin of the killed boy was brutally beaten up by Israeli police was nothing special but because he happened to have an American passport the incident allowed the wider US public for the first time to catch a glimpse of the true nature of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.

Circumstances for a military operation in Gaza are again favourable, because the Muslim Brotherhood, which had won the elections in Egypt following the uprising against Mubarak, has been driven underground again by the coup d’état of general Sisi. Hundreds of death penalties, the continuing US subsidy of more than a billion a year, and the appointment of Tony Blair as an adviser to the Egyptian junta (on top of his post as mediator in the ‘peace process’ on behalf of the ‘Quartet’—the UN, the US, Russia and the EU) underscore that this has the blessing of the ‘international community’. 

Hamas, itself a branch of the Brotherhood, again is hermetically closed off from the Arab hinterland—we are back at the birdcage of Joep Bertrams. An open air prison camp in which one risks the death penalty for fishing at sea, or for coming too close to a barrier on the border with Israel. 

The West once again is ready to do nothing, because in spite of 26 resolutions of the United Nations in which the occupation of Palestinian land has been condemned, Israel is at most being admonished to restrain itself, in order not to endanger the fictitious ‘peace process’. The ‘right to defend itself’ is of course a contradiction in terms in this case. 

Hebron, where the three boys had been murdered, symbolises the occupation after the Six Days’ War of 1967. It was in this city that a group of orthodox rabbis in 1968 moved into a hotel to celebrate the Jewish Passover; led by rabbi Moshe Levinger they decided to stay and establish the first settlement in occupied territory. Since then colonisation has continued without interruption and the plan of the then minister of land management and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in 1977 (when the Likud party came to power for the first time) to settle one million people in the occupied territories, is slowly becoming a reality. In the process the settlers have become a growing influence in domestic politics too and it has for all practical purposes become impossible to ever give up the occupied territories again. 

If Sharon as prime minister still was able to evacuate the Gaza strip before the occupation would have become irreversible, that feat will not be repeated on the West Bank. But then this is no longer the aim of those currently in power in Israel. Premier Netanyahu represents the extreme right wing of the Zionist movement, the revisionists (his father was the secretary of Zeev Jabotinski, the leader of this political tendency, who in the 1920s attended the fascist world congress in Rome). The revisionists view the entire ‘Holy Land’, so including Jordan, as their rightful heritage.

After the collapse of another round of ‘peace negotiations’ the completely discredited Mahmoud Abbas has decided to compromise with Hamas and constitute a technocratic government supported by Fatah and Hamas. Israel, which in the past helped to reinforce Hamas as a counterweight against the ‘nationalist’ Fatah, has protested in every way but has now seen the chance to strike at Hamas in Gaza and destroy it, a plan that was waiting to be executed.  

Meanwhile all signs are pointing in the direction of a new massacre. Maybe now that the frenzy around the football world championship has died down (nine Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli air strike on a café in Gaza where they were watching Netherlands against Argentina), the question can once again be raised for how long the Israeli occupation policy will be allowed to continue to destabilise the Middle East.

Kees van der Pijl

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