By Mazin Qumsiyeh Professor, Bethlehem & Birzeit Universities, Occupied Palestine
HISTORY REPEATS itself. The Israeli attack on Gaza this past week happened in the time between the US presidential elections and the Israeli (early) elections. Four years ago also, the attack on Gaza happened after the US, and before the Israeli elections. Some Israeli citizens put out an advertisement in an Israeli newspaper titled “No to the election war!”
Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to do what Ehud Olmert tried to do then — pound Gaza into submission while gaining rightwing votes. This attack could also be a test of preparedness for a coming war on Iran. Early results show that the Israeli hasbara spin machine has failed in making the latest attack look like an act of “self-defence”, just like in 2006 and ’08.
During the 2008 attack, Israeli forces killed 1,400 Palestinians, including nearly 400 children. That conflict started when Israel resumed assassinating Palestinian leaders. This one also started when Israeli forces assassinated Palestinian leader, Ahmed Jabari, even as a ceasefire was being worked out. Jabari had managed to keep rockets from being fired in retaliation to Israeli attacks. Israel clearly does not like ceasefires.
In any case, it was, and remains, difficult to hide the scale of atrocities against natives, especially when all human rights groups describe such actions as crimes against humanity. In Gaza, in the first week of the attack, Israeli forces killed 130 Palestinians, including 30 children, and injured over 750 civilians. Netanyahu hoped that the Zionist media network and his bombing campaign would succeed in 2012 at what they failed to achieve in ’08: the occupier/coloniser getting away with murder, while labelling any resistance from the occupied native Palestinians as “terrorism”. In the age of instant communication, that is a tad difficult to achieve. After repeated aggression wars (1948, ’56, ’67, ’82, 2000, ’06, ’08, and now, ’12), the world is finally waking up to the truth. People of the Arab world who engaged in real democratic revolutions now demand real change. It is symbolically significant that high-level officials from Egypt and Tunisia travelled to Gaza during the current attack.
People know that Israeli lobbies like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the US keep pushing for wars, including an illegal war on Iran, in the same way they pushed for the illegal war on Lebanon and Iraq. The latter war was foisted on the western public using lies (connections to 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction). The war cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and $3 trillion in direct cost to US taxpayers. As the UN has itself reported, Gaza is still under occupation as per international law. Even Israeli spokespersons and an Israeli document released after a court order showed that Israel engaged in collective punishment of the people living in Gaza, a crime against humanity as per international law. The UN warned of a catastrophe if the Israeli siege of Gaza continues. But Israel continues to target any humanitarian ship trying to break the siege.
In a hope to bolster their political careers, Israeli politicians find it convenient every few years to launch a war to keep the “home-front” scared and united. “Rooting out terrorism” and keeping “Israeli citizens safe” are now seen as propaganda even by Israeli citizens. Israeli intelligence reports showed that Hezbollah became even stronger after the 2006 attacks and that Hamas came out stronger after the attack of 2008. Impoverished Gaza has all kinds of lessons for everyone.
Olmert and Opposition leader Tzipi Livni have realised that war crimes do not necessarily translate into votes. A more important lesson that may take longer to sink in is that safety does not come from oppression and ethnic cleansing, but from justice. Israel is an apartheid and militarised State that caused the largest refugee population on earth (seven of the 12 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced). Peace can come by acknowledging wrongs and engaging in restorative justice.
After the return of the Palestinian refugees (including the one million in Gaza) to their homes and lands occupied in 1948, we can all live here regardless of religious or other backgrounds, in one secular democratic State. I suspect the immoral and cruel attacks on Gaza will hasten this inevitable outcome.
Views expressed here are the author’s own