November 17, 2011 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
As to be expected, Isabel Kershner’s recent article “Israeli Army May Need to Hit Gaza, General Says” was the typical propaganda one comes to expect from the New York Times (NYT). It is highly biased in favor of Israel and paints the picture that the country is reluctantly about to “carry out another large-scale military operation in Hamas-controlled Gaza”—in self-defense of course.
Kershner quotes Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Chief of General staff for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), as telling a closed meeting of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, “We cannot continue with one round after another.”
We are told that “the comments raised the prospect of another armed conflict in Gaza, where a fierce three-week Israeli military campaign in the winter of 2008-2009 drew international opprobrium,” which was “prompted by years of persistent rocket fire on its southern communities” and “left as many as 1,400 Palestinians dead and many homes and parts of Gaza’s civil infrastructure in ruins,” while also reminding us of the high price Israel paid: “Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the war.”
While it is true that 1,400 Palestinians were killed, it should be pointed out that more than two-thirds of them were civilians. It should also be pointed out, because Kershner doesn’t bother to, that the Israeli bombing of “parts of Gaza’s civil infrastructure” that left it ”in ruins” was a war crime. And while it is true that “Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the war,” only nine of them were killed by Palestinians, and of those only three were civilians (who happened to be living in illegal settlements built closely around Israeli military posts)—the remaining four were killed by the IDF. This may be the first war where the attacking army nearly killed as many of its soldiers than their opponent. It should also be stressed that Palestinians managed to keep civilian casualties considerably lower than Israel, who had high-tech weaponry as opposed to the shoddy rockets of Palestinians.
But what is not true is that the war was “prompted by years of persistent rocket fire on its southern communities.”
Before we get to that, some historical context (that the New York Times doesn’t bother with) is in order.
Following the end of World War One, British Prime Minister Lloyd George was overheard talking out loud to himself:
Mesopotamia . . . yes . . . oil . . . irrigation . . . we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine . . . yes . . . the Holy Land . . . Zionism . . . we must have Palestine; Syria . . . h’m . . . what’s there in Syria? Let the French have that.
For nearly a century now Palestine has suffered the injustices imposed on them by dominant global powers. They have seen their land taken from them and given to foreigners. The U.N. tried mediating in the 1940s but Arabs stood their ground and rejected the offer. Israel responded in 1948 by taking even more land, then again in 1967, and so it has followed to today where Israel’s borders continue to grow, and Palestine’s continue to shrink. And throughout this time the U.S. has propped up Israel with considerable political, economic and military aid despite that even by the mid-1950s Israeli officials were admitting that
the long chain of false incidents and hostilities we have invented, and on the many clashes we have provoked which cost us so much blood, and on the violations of the law by our men-all of which brought grave disasters and determined the whole course of events and contributed to the security crisis. (Moshe Sharett, the second Prime Minister of Israel)
During this same period, Moshe Dayan (the Chief of Staff) acknowledged that Israel must not enter into peace with the Arab countries because that would “tie Israel’s hands.” Instead, what was needed was to “maintain a high tension among our population and in the army.” To do so it was necessary to routinely “cry out that [Israel] is in danger.” Nothing has changed.
In 2006 Palestine was finally allowed to have an election but the results went the wrong way as what the U.S. and its Israeli partner wanted. Hamas won and ever since then they have been under an illegal blockade (that human rights activists have been unable to break—see here for how the NYT treats such noble efforts). There was even a failed coup attempt by the Palestinian Authority, and organized by the U.S. and Israel. This is why the NYT and Kershner write “Hamas-controlled Gaza” with scorn. The coup failed.
From the time of their election to the summer of 2008 when Egypt brokered a cease fire—which Hamas honored, thus the lie that the war was “prompted by years of persistent rocket fire on its southern communities”—Hamas official routinely offered Israel peace or a long-term cease offer (i.e. “hudna”), if Israel would retreat to the pre-1967 borders as a sign of good faith to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
In July of 2006, only months after the election of Hamas and the Israeli attacks that soon followed, a Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, wrote an eloquent opinion piece for the Washington Post that went unnoticed. He wrote:
As Americans commemorated their annual celebration of independence from colonial occupation, rejoicing in their democratic institutions, we Palestinians were yet again besieged by our occupiers, who destroy our roads and buildings, our power stations and water plants, and who attack our very means of civil administration. Our homes and government offices are shelled, our parliamentarians taken prisoner and threatened with prosecution.
The current Gaza invasion is only the latest effort to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year. It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to “reconsider” her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment. The “kidnapped” Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.
He went on to say that, “As I inspect the ruins of our infrastructure — the largess of donor nations and international efforts all turned to rubble once more by F-16s and American-made missiles — my thoughts again turn to the minds of Americans. What do they think of this?” A very good question. But Haniyeh continues with some comments that deserve to be read in its entirety:
Israel’s unilateral movements of the past year will not lead to peace. These acts — the temporary withdrawal of forces from Gaza, the walling off of the West Bank — are not strides toward resolution but empty, symbolic acts that fail to address the underlying conflict. Israel’s nearly complete control over the lives of Palestinians is never in doubt, as confirmed by the humanitarian and economic suffering of the Palestinians since the January elections. Israel’s ongoing policies of expansion, military control and assassination mock any notion of sovereignty or bilateralism. Its “separation barrier,” running across our land, is hardly a good-faith gesture toward future coexistence.
But there is a remedy, and while it is not easy it is consistent with our long-held beliefs. Palestinian priorities include recognition of the core dispute over the land of historical Palestine and the rights of all its people; resolution of the refugee issue from 1948; reclaiming all lands occupied in 1967; and stopping Israeli attacks, assassinations and military expansion. Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media, the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank; it is a wider national conflict that can be resolved only by addressing the full dimensions of Palestinian national rights in an integrated manner. This means statehood for the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Arab East Jerusalem, and resolving the 1948 Palestinian refugee issue fairly, on the basis of international legitimacy and established law. Meaningful negotiations with a non-expansionist, law-abiding Israel can proceed only after this tremendous labor has begun.
Surely the American people grow weary of this folly, after 50 years and $160 billion in taxpayer support for Israel’s war-making capacity — its “defense.” Some Americans, I believe, must be asking themselves if all this blood and treasure could not have bought more tangible results for Palestine if only U.S. policies had been predicated from the start on historical truth, equity and justice.
However, we do not want to live on international welfare and American handouts. We want what Americans enjoy — democratic rights, economic sovereignty and justice. We thought our pride in conducting the fairest elections in the Arab world might resonate with the United States and its citizens. Instead, our new government was met from the very beginning by acts of explicit, declared sabotage by the White House. Now this aggression continues against 3.9 million civilians living in the world’s largest prison camps. America’s complacency in the face of these war crimes is, as usual, embedded in the coded rhetorical green light: “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Was Israel defending itself when it killed eight family members on a Gaza beach last month or three members of the Hajjaj family on Saturday, among them 6-year-old Rawan? I refuse to believe that such inhumanity sits well with the American public.
We present this clear message: If Israel will not allow Palestinians to live in peace, dignity and national integrity, Israelis themselves will not be able to enjoy those same rights. Meanwhile, our right to defend ourselves from occupying soldiers and aggression is a matter of law, as settled in the Fourth Geneva Convention. If Israel is prepared to negotiate seriously and fairly, and resolve the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967, a fair and permanent peace is possible. Based on a hudna (comprehensive cessation of hostilities for an agreed time), the Holy Land still has an opportunity to be a peaceful and stable economic powerhouse for all the Semitic people of the region. If Americans only knew the truth, possibility might become reality.
Readers will be hard-pressed to find a similar statement from the Israelis. The offer was rejected by Israel (much like the other peace offers given to Israel over the many decades), and the 2008 cease fire was broken by Israel in early November, clearly aimed at provoking Hamas into retaliation which was then used to launch the lopsided war in late 2008 and early 2009, that much like the 2006 war was “scheduled months” before. In fact, it was being prepared as the cease fire was reached.
Now, with Israel maintaining the illegal blockade, continuing illegal settlement growth, “occasional Israeli airstrikes,” and threatening to punish Palestine for daring to seek statehood at the U.N., we are warned that “Palestinian frustration could still lead to an outburst of violence in the West Bank,” which are now being used by Israel as a pretext for “another large-scale military operation” that will undoubtedly be disproportionate (i.e. a war crime) and disastrous for Gaza, who is already suffering a humanitarian catastrophe (read collective punishment and crime against humanity).
The New York Times strips all of this important context away and leaves the impression that Israel is acting in self-defense. Decades of occupation, various violations of international law, and human rights abuses are irrelevant. All that matters is that Palestinians accept their plight and don’t raise their heads, otherwise Israel will have to “defend” itself from such tragedies. War may be “drawing closer” for Gaza but it’s, in part, due to the New York Times role in facilitating it.