With the establishment of a seemingly longterm ceasefire agreement last week between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership, a particularly bloody summer in Gaza has finally come to a close. The Israeli government’s latest efforts at “mowing the lawn,” a term used by Israeli commanders when referencing their military’s regular attacks on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, was a particularly successful one. Partially facilitated, as such truces in the region historically have been, by the mediation of the Egyptian dictatorship, the ceasefire agreement was predicated upon promises by the Israeli government to both ease its maritime blockade of Gaza and open certain boarder crossings between itself and the besieged strip of land. The Israeli government has yet to act on either of these treaty promises however, and instead seized 400 hectares of land in the West Bank, the other Palestinian region occupied by Israel, for Israeli settlement just this past Sunday. The American government, normally 100 percent supportive of Israeli policy, actually castigated Israel’s government for this action, calling it “counterproductive.” For Palestinians, the agreement made no mention of the statehood they so crave, nor an end to the occupation of their territory by the Israel. After over 2,000, mostly civilian, Palestinians deaths and with more than 10,000 injured (in comparison to 72 Israelis killed, 65 of which were solders) over the course of this summer, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge has done little more than preserve the status quo.
It’s important to understand how and why this most recent Israeli assault took place. The public, in the U.S. at least, was lead to believe that Protective Edge was initiated in response to the threat posed by Hamas, an Islamist political organization operating in the occupied territories that the Israel government seeks to undermine and destroy, and its rockets. The Israeli government had clamped down on Hamas prior to the conflict in response to the murder of three teenage Israeli settlers in the occupied territory by that same organization. Never mind the fact that two Palestinian boys were shot dead just the previous week in Ramallah in the West Bank, or that for 14 years the Israeli government has killed, on average, two Palestinian children a week. Violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories is simply viewed as routine and inherently warranted. In any case, the true impetus, apart from the possibility that many Israelis in government may have just considered the lawn overdue for a good mowing, was the unity agreement between Hamas (the dominant Palestinian political organization in occupied Gaza) and Fatah (the dominant Palestinian political organization in the occupied West Bank) last June establishing a new (Hamas free) government to preside over the two regions. This new government promised to act in accordance with, and to carrying out all demands of, the Quartet (a body composed of foreign representatives from the U.S., Russia, the E.U. and the U.N. that seeks to help mediate the Israeli-Palestinian crisis). While the U.S. government, and most others, publicly lauded this hopeful development on the part of Hamas and Fatah, the Israeli government was livid. Government policy in Tel Aviv has long sought to keep the West Bank and Gaza, already physically separated, politically separated and frozen so as to more easily squeeze their respective occupied populations and snatch up valuable Palestinian land in the West Bank for Israeli settlement. Additionally, the political cooperation of Hamas and Fatah flew in the face of the Israeli government’s claim that it has no viable Palestinian entity to negotiate with and is thus forced to act militarily. Ultimately, Israel’s violent reaction this summer to the potentially constructive development represented by the Palestinians’ recent move toward political unity and de-radicalization shows that a peaceful and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is the last thing that Tel Aviv, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government specifically, want. Instead, the Israeli government, like the South African one decades ago, would prefer for the world to kindly look away and allow it to continue to illegally expand Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory and maintain its brutal occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.
And make no mistake, the occupation of Palestine is nothing less than brutal. 90 percent of the water supply in Gaza is unsafe for human consumption and anemia, stunting, underweight and wasting runs rampant through the Palestinian population, especially among children. Furthermore, over half of the households in Gaza are food insecure, a figure directly linked to Israel’s continued naval blockade of Gaza, which renders fishing (vitally economically important to the area historically), impossible. These trends (along with the lack of electricity and garbage collection, relentless violence, political sabotage, widespread poverty and other outrages that occupied Palestinians regularly suffer) breeds a tangible sense of radical fatalism among the populations in Gaza and the West Bank and thus stokes further conflict.
All that said, this past summer has been particularly horrific for Palestinians owing to Israel’s renewed offensive, the most deadly one in recent memory. Taking a page from the U.S.’s book in Iraq, Vietnam, etc., Israel disregarded international wartime laws and intentionally targeted Gaza’s main power plant, ambulances and first responders, hospitals, schools and densely populated residential areas for bombing. Besides terrorizing the population, these tactics have reduced huge swaths of Gaza to rubble, thereby wiping out any fleeting economic development there (a vital goal when “mowing the lawn”), and turned most of those that weren’t killed into refugees. More than three thousand of these refugees, mostly women and children, were attacked again when the Israeli military, ignoring the pleas of United Nations aid workers on the ground, repeatedly bombed the U.N.’s Jabalia Elementary Girls School in Gaza, a well known and historic haven for refugees during Israeli attacks. The atrocity sparked condemnation from the U.N. and actually garnered coverage in the Western media, yielding the “concern” of the White House. Generally though, Western media, in the U.S. especially, remains decidedly pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian.
Instead of remaining willfully ignorant of the Israeli government’s criminal activities with regard to the Palestinian population, Americans must realize and address the U.S.’s role in these atrocities. Significantly, America’s, mostly military, aid to Israel since 1974 exceeds $100 billion. It’s U.S. made Hellfire missiles, payed for with American tax dollars, that vaporize Palestinian children in their beds and demolish hospitals filled with patients. The U.S. also provides Israel with vital diplomatic cover in the face of almost universal condemnation from the international community. The U.S. was the only country to vote against a U.N. initiative to investigate Israel’s human rights abuses in Gaza this year and it continues to serve as an apologist for Israel’s occupation policies. Having given the green light to the Israeli government’s covert nuclear program in the late 1960s, the U.S. government continues to turn a blind eye toward Israel’s publicly unacknowledged but vast stockpile of WMDs (this in stark contrast to the U.S. government’s policy towards Iran and their imaginary nuclear weapons program). It is likely that, like South Africa’s Apartheid regime in 1980s, Israel’s anti-Palestinian government would be unable to carryout its occupation, devastation and settlement of Palestine absent continuing U.S. support. With Protective Edge garnering unprecedentedly severe backlash internationally and among young people on the internet this summer, the time to effect change (through divestment campaigns and political activities) is now.
Sources: 1) Sharif Nashashibi, “No hope for lasting Gaza ceasefire” Middle East Eye (September 1, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/no-hope-lasting-gaza-ceasefire-41797115
2) “Israel seizes 400 hectares of West Bank land” Aljazeera (September 1, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/us-urges-israel-reverse-land-appropriation-20149111628544678.html
3) “72nd Gaza war casualty: Sgt. Shachar Shalev, 20, succumbs to wounds” The Jerusalem Post (August 31, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/72nd-Gaza-war-casualty-Sgt-Shachar-Shalev-20-succumbs-to-wounds-372987
4) Noam Chomsky, “Outrage” Z Magazine (September 2014)
5) Moti Bassok “U.S. military aid to Israel exceeds $100 billion” Haaretz accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.611001
6) Sarah Lazare “America Complicit in Israeli War Crimes: US Stands Alone in Vote Against United Nations Inquiry Into Gaza Assault” GlobalResearch (July 25, 2014) accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-stands-alone-in-vote-against-united-nations-inquiry-into-gaza-assault/5393287
7) Amir Oren “Newly declassified documents reveal how U.S. agreed to Israel’s nuclear program” Haaretz accessed: September 2, 2014 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.613221