What Are They Fighting For
Clearing House" -- -- Whatever may
be the fate of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli
army’s war in Gaza is not about him. As senior security analyst
Alex Fishman widely reported, the army was preparing for an
attack months earlier and was constantly pushing for it, with
the goal of destroying the Hamas infrastructure and its
government. The army initiated an escalation on 8 June when it
assassinated Abu Samhadana, a senior appointee of the Hamas
government, and intensified its shelling of civilians in the
Gaza Strip. Governmental authorization for action on a larger
scale was already given by 12 June, but it was postponed in the
wake of the global reverberation caused by the killing of
civilians in the air force bombing the next day. The abduction
of the soldier released the safety-catch, and the operation
began on 28 June with the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza
and the mass detention of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank,
which was also planned weeks in advance. (1)
By Prof. Tanya Reinhart
In Israeli discourse, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza when
it evacuated its settlers from the Strip, and the Palestinians’
behavior therefore constitutes ingratitude. But there is nothing
further from reality than this description. In fact, as was
already stipulated in the Disengagement Plan, Gaza remained
under complete Israeli military control, operating from outside.
Israel prevented any possibility of economic independence for
the Strip and from the very beginning, Israel did not implement
a single one of the clauses of the agreement on border-crossings
of November 2005. Israel simply substituted the expensive
occupation of Gaza with a cheap occupation, one which in
Israel’s view exempts it from the occupier’s responsibility to
maintain the Strip, and from concern for the welfare and the
lives of its million and a half residents, as determined in the
fourth Geneva convention.
Israel does not need this piece of land, one of the most densely
populated in the world, and lacking any natural resources. The
problem is that one cannot let Gaza free, if one wants to keep
the West Bank. A third of the occupied Palestinians live in the
Gaza strip. If they are given freedom, they would become the
center of Palestinian struggle for liberation, with free access
to the Western and Arab world. To control the West Bank, Israel
needs full control Gaza. The new form of control Israel has
developed is turning the whole of the Strip into a prison camp
completely sealed from the world.
Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no
alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways
to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found
a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the
Strip, by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza
wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive
rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely
caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and
psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted
Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the
Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them.
As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, “Why should
we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the
Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together,
or live in fear together.” (2)
The mightiest army in the Middle East has no military answer to
these home-made rockets. One answer that presents itself is what
Hamas has been proposing all along, and Haniyeh repeated this
week - a comprehensive cease-fire. Hamas has proven already that
it can keep its word. In the 17 months since it announced its
decision to abandon armed struggle in favor of political
struggle, and declared a unilateral cease-fire (“tahdiya” -
calm), it did not participate in the launching of Qassams,
except under severe Israeli provocation, as happened in the June
escalation. However, Hamas remains committed to political
struggle against the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In
Israel's view, the Palestinians elections results is a disaster,
because for the first time they have a leadership that insists
on representing Palestinian interests rather than just
collaborating with Israel's demands.
Since ending the occupation is the one thing Israel is not
willing to consider, the option promoted by the army is breaking
the Palestinians by devastating brutal force. They should be
starved, bombarded, terrorized with sonic booms for months,
until they understand that rebelling is futile, and accepting
prison life is their only hope for staying alive. Their elected
political system, institutions and police should be destroyed.
In Israel's vision, Gaza should be ruled by gangs collaborating
with the prison wards.
The Israeli army is hungry for war. It would not let concerns
for captive soldiers stand in its way. Since 2002 the army has
argued that an “operation” along the lines of “Defensive Shield”
in Jenin was also necessary in Gaza. Exactly a year ago, on 15
July (before the Disengagement), the army concentrated forces on
the border of the Strip for an offensive of this scale on Gaza.
But then the USA imposed a veto. Rice arrived for an emergency
visit that was described as acrimonious and stormy, and the army
was forced to back down (3). Now, the time has finally came.
With the Islamophobia of the American Administration at a high
point, it appears that the USA is prepared to authorize such an
operation, on condition that it not provoke a global outcry with
excessively-reported attacks on civilians.(4)
With the green light for the offensive given, the army's only
concern is public image. Fishman reported this Tuesday that the
army is worried that "what threatens to burry this huge military
and diplomatic effort" is reports of the humanitarian crisis in
Gaza. Hence, the army would take care to let some food into
Gaza. (5) From this perspective, it is necessary to feed the
Palestinians in Gaza so that it would be possible to continue to
kill them undisturbed.
A shorter version of this
article was scheduled to appear Thursday, July 13 in Yediot
Aharonot, but postponed to next week because of the developments
in Southern Lebanon. (*)
*Parts of this article were translated from
Hebrew by Mark Marshall.
(1) Alex Fishman, Who is for the elimination of Hamas, Yediot
Aharonot Saturday Supplement, June 30, 2006. See also Alex
Fishman, The safety-catch released, Yediot Aharonot June
21, 2006 (Hebrew), Aluf Benn, An operation with two goals,
Ha'aretz, June 29 2006.
(2) Greg Myre, Rockets Create a 'Balance of Fear' With Israel,
Gaza Residents Say. The New York Times, July 9, 2006.
(3) Steven Erlanger, “U.S. Presses Israel to Smooth the Path
to a Palestinian Gaza”, New York Times, August 7 2005.
The planned July 2005 offensive is
documented in detail in my The Road Map to Nowhere - Israel
Palestine since 2003, Verso, September 2006.
(4) For a detailed survey of the U.S. administration's present
stands, see Ori Nir, U.S. Seen Backing Israeli Moves To Topple
Hamas, The Forward, July 7, 2006.
(5) Alex Fishman, Their food is
finished, Yediot Aharonot, July 11, 2006.
Copyright Tanya Reinhart
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