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Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza

What India and the International Community Should Do ?

by Kamal Mitra Chenoy, 16 January 2009

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(The below article was published earlier in The Pioneer, January 10, 2009)

Israel, Occupation and Hamas

Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza is not about the makeshift rocket attacks against it by Hamas but about the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and seizure of valuable Palestinian resources like water which is in short supply in the region. That why the Israelis are one state that has no permanent borders but constantly expanding ones. It should be remembered that under the UN Plan for the Partition of Palestine in 1948, that India and many Third World countries voted against, 55% of Palestine was awarded to Israel and only 45% to Palestine. Israel did not accept the UN Plan and captured more land in the 1948 war. In the June 1967 war it captured up to 78% of historic Palestine. Several UN Security Council resolutions followed including Resolution 242, which mandated Israel to return to its earlier borders, that backed by its mentor the US it refused to do so. Now the Palestinians have much less than the 22% land of the UN mandated it [less than half of the UN Plan]. Further Israeli occupation has taken place including through the Separation Wall, that the International Court of Justice has found illegal under international law. Typically the Israelis refused to accept that judgement. Now there is no contiguous unified Palestine, but enclaves surrounded by illegal and growing Israeli settlements, military outposts, checkpoints through which Palestinians must pass, reflecting the growing fragmentation of Palestine. No one talks of the ill fated and one sided Oslo Accord now, highlighting the desperate straits the Palestinians find themselves. Not to speak of the Israeli siege of the unquestioned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah about which the international community did very little.
After the first free elections in Palestine in 2006 which Hamas overwhelmingly won, the Israelis successfully isolated Hamas and Fatah took over the West Bank, while Hamas retained the Gaza Strip. Since then the Israelis have tried their utmost to weaken and discredit the Hamas regime. Despite being a democratically elected regime Hamas have been dubbed terrorists by Israel and the US. The use of the term terrorist is ironic. The Israeli armed groups including the Irgun and the Stern gang dubbed terrorists by the mainstream Israelis themselves committed atrocities against the Palestinians along with the underground Israeli army the Hagganah creating the atmosphere of the Nakba, the forcible expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their homeland. The Hagganah blew up the King David hotel killing the UN envoy Count Bernadotte. This apart from scores of British soldiers who were then in control of Palestine who were also killed. The Security Council resolution calling for the return of Palestinian refugees has been ignored by Israel and its backers.
As an illegitimate state, Israel wantonly practices state terrorism against the Palestinians. In targeted killings, mainly from the air, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, in recent years particularly in Gaza. Those killed in targeted assassinations have not been found guilty in any court. Their association with Hamas or Islamic Jihad is sufficient reason. Many more Palestinian activists and civilians have been killed in targeted assassinations than Israelis killed by Hamas’ makeshift rockets that have been fired in retaliation. Though all civilian killings are a tragedy, it is demonstrably false that the Hamas rocket attacks took place without provocation. Yet sections of the international community, whether dubbing Hamas as terrorist or not, ignore Israeli state terrorism as the prime reason , for the Hamas rocket attacks.

The Palestinians have no answer to the Israeli military behemoth. No advanced fighter planes, no tanks, no artillery, no commandos, and above all no superpower to arm them and to justify their military actions. What else will they fight with but makeshift rockets, small arms, and even most tragically suicide bombers that are against the rules of war? And every Israeli war is marked by new strategic objectives inimical to Palestinian interests. The present Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has stated that their goal is to liquidate Hamas. His foremost rival former Prime Minister Netanyahu who is widely tipped to win the February elections, has said he is for regime change in Gaza. Many argue that the timing of this offensive is to improve Kadima’s electoral prospects against a formidable rival. So the goal and timing had more to do with Israel’s domestic politics rather than the feeble threat offered by Hamas. The object is not a ceasefire in terms of mutual accommodation like an end to mutual hostilities.
The ferocity of the Israeli attack is extreme even by its own ruthless standards. 600 Palestinians have died including women, children and babies. Mosques, universities, colleagues and a UN school have been bombed. All this is against the rules of war. But few have condemned the Israelis for this cynical and murderous onslaught. For an army whose designation the Israeli Defense Force, is a misnomer, since there is little defensive about the Israeli Army. The Army has banned the press from Gaza, scarcely the sign of a democratic state. But the UN staff there have testified to the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure. After sustained intervention by the international community esp. the Egypt-France plan there is a daily three hour ceasefire. But the this period according to the UN staff is not sufficient to distribute essential goods or repair essential infrastructure like drinking water and sanitation.
The goal of the liquidation of Hamas is clear from the nature of the bombing. Israel has some of the most advanced aircraft and experienced pilots. Its precision bombing in targeting Palestinians it considers terrorists is testimony to its skills. When such an Air Force kills hundreds of civilians and attacks clearly civilian targets there is obviously a motive. Apart from causing terror and weakening the morale of Palestinians to fight, it is also trying to discredit Hamas among its own people. The Israeli message is: withdraw your democratic support to Hamas or face such consequences. Netanyahu has been outspoken in calling for regime change as a consequence of this brutal attack. The goal is not just to stop the makeshift rocket attacks which are a response to Israeli attacks, but to make clear to the Palestinians what sort of democratic politics is acceptable and what is not. Opposing the Oslo Accord which was sharply criticized by Jews like Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe and leading Palestinian intellectuals like Edward Said, is not acceptable, even though Oslo is virtually dead, as are other later frameworks like the US sponsored attempts like the Mitchell plan.

What should India, an old friend of the Palestinians whose recent support has been lukewarm, and the international community do to help move this one sided strife towards a democratic solution? In the first place they must insist on the systematic implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions relating to Palestine esp. Resolutions 242, 339, These are essential for creating a two state solution within boundaries accepted by the UN. Some would prefer a single bi-national state, but for that much more work including assuring the Israelis of their security and identity remains to be done. But for either solution, Israel cannot be permitted to continue as a lawless state. There must be a complete ceasefire in Gaza, and Israel must pay reparations for the severe damage it has done and for the great loss of life.

The Palestinian movement has long been a beacon of the national liberation struggle. It is an international commitment to strive to make the Palestinians free.