On 27 December 2008, without warning, Israeli forces began a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip code-named ‘Operation Cast Lead.’ Its stated aim was to end rocket attacks into Israel by armed groups affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian factions. By 18 January 2009, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground.
—Amnesty International report entitled “Israel/Gaza: Operation Cast Lead: 22 days of death and destruction.”
The conventional rendition is that Israel invaded Gaza at the end of 2008 in order to stop a near-constant stream of rockets fired by Hamas. This history signals to readers that Israel was merely reacting to intolerable and persistent acts of violence. But that is wildly misleading. For much of the second half of that year, a truce between Hamas and Israel largely eliminated rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel; the remaining handful of rockets were launched by rival Palestinian groups. That cease-fire was essentially shattered on November 4, when an Israeli incursion killed several Hamas members (Guardian, 11/5/08). Efforts to renew the cease-fire failed, and the ensuing violence culminated in the full-scale Israeli invasion.
—Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Jan. 6, 2009. FAIR is a media watch group.
U.S. paved way for Israel’s attack
By Deirdre Griswold
Published Jan. 7, 2009
The response of the world’s imperialist governments to Israel’s ferocious assault on the 1.5 million Palestinians packed into Gaza shows once again who is really calling the shots in Tel Aviv. Israel has created a desperate humanitarian crisis in Gaza that will be felt for decades to come. Israel has violated many international laws regarding military violence against civilians. It has violated its own agreements with the Palestinians.
Yet nothing has been done by the “international community” to stop it. Significant opposition to this monumental crime comes from the streets, not the suites.
No other small country gets such kid-glove treatment. But Israel is not just a small country. It is a strategic partner of the world’s lone superpower, the United States.
Israel keeps Mideast “safe” for U.S. oil company exploitation
The U.S. ruling class reaps hundreds of billions of dollars in profit from the exploitation of Middle East oil. If any government there tries to defend its sovereignty and gain greater control over its own resources, Israel is usually the first to threaten military action, as it has done with Iran. And it gets the favors that Washington bestows on its mercenaries: an average $15 million a day in military and economic aid (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 2003) plus unlimited credit and access to priceless wheeling and dealing.
With Washington behind them, the Israeli rulers know there will be no U.N. Security Council resolutions to stop the carnage. No neighboring Arab countries will be able to come to the defense of their brothers and sisters without making themselves targets of the same U.S. planes, U.S. tanks and U.S. bombs now ripping apart the people of Gaza.
The Palestinians in Gaza had already been under a tight economic blockade for 18 months. Everything was in desperately short supply, including food, medicines, hospital equipment, fuel for heat, cooking, transportation and generators. Electric power was available only a few hours each day—the rest of the time there were no lights, no way to recharge cell phones or radio batteries, no working pumps for water. Sanitation barely functioned.
White phosphorous dropped on people with nowhere to hide
And then, on Dec. 27, 2008, Israel began its bombardment from the air. Using F-16s and “Apache” helicopters supplied by the U.S., it systematically targeted places where people might seek shelter.
One week later, on Jan. 3, 2009, its tanks and troops rolled across the border into Gaza’s cities and towns, preceded by the raining down of white phosphorus from the air.
Phosphorus is so fearsome that it was banned as a weapon of war in civilian areas in the Geneva Treaty of 1980. It burns at high temperatures and adheres to flesh so tightly that, if even a small blob lands on a person’s skin, it will burn right through to the bone. The U.S. used phosphorus and napalm against the Vietnamese people, prompting charges of war crimes. It is made in the USA.
Israel claims the phosphorus bombs were used only to create a “smokescreen” in advance of its ground troops. Its foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said at a press conference in Paris on Jan. 3, 2009, the day the ground invasion started, that Israel had been careful to protect civilians and there was no need for a humanitarian truce, since there was no humanitarian crisis.
U.N. school bombed
In the first week and a half of their offensive, the Israelis killed an estimated 560 people and wounded thousands more. The U.N. relief agency says at least a quarter were civilians. But that number soared to more than 600 dead on Jan. 6, 2009, when Israeli mortars fell in a crowd of 350 people who had gathered for safety around the United Nations school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing at least 40, according to medical officials on the spot. (Reuters, Jan. 6, 2009)
The Israelis claimed the refugees had fired on them, but a U.N. official confirmed that no one in the crowd had weapons. The Israelis have bombed and/or shelled residential buildings, marketplaces, mosques, hospitals and other schools, including the prestigious American International School.
‘The size of the operation and the size of the misery
Israel has put a noose around Gaza and drawn it tight. It refuses to allow news media into the strip. However, the Arab news service Al-Jazeera was able to interview residents of Gaza after the ground assault began.
Iyad Nasr of the Red Cross in Gaza City told Al-Jazeera, “The size of the operations and the size of the misery we are seeing here on the ground is just overwhelming.”
John Holmes, head of the U.N. Relief Agency, said in response to Israel’s claims: “This is, in our view, a humanitarian crisis. It’s very hard for me to see any other way you could describe it, given the conditions in which the population are living.”
Holmes added that “cluster munitions are being used” and that many of the civilians killed were women and children. (Al-Jazeera, Jan. 6, 2009)
The Sydney Morning Herald on Jan. 5, 2009, published an eyewitness report from Shifa hospital in Gaza City—one of the few such first-hand accounts to appear in a major newspaper outside the Arab world.
Taghreed El-Khodary wrote: “The casualties at Shifa on Sunday [Jan. 4, 2009]—18 dead, hospital officials said, among a reported 30 around Gaza—were women, children and men who had been with children. One surgeon said he had performed five amputations.”
Nurse at Shifa hospital: ‘There is so much amputation’
“‘I don’t know what kind of weapons Israel is using,’ said a nurse, Ziad Abd al Jawwad, 41, who had been working 24 hours without a break. ‘There is so much amputation.’ …
“For 10 days doctors have been battling to keep Shifa running. Cleaners constantly mop up blood while Hamas security officers stand guard. …
“Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen. The hospital lacked everything, he said—monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Windows had been blown out by a bombing nearby and like the rest of Gaza, limited fuel supplies were running low.”
Israel uses ‘bunker busters’ made in USA
And now another fearsome weapon has been added to Israel’s arsenal, thanks to Washington. The Jerusalem Post reported on Dec. 30, 2008, that Israeli pilots had dropped GBU-39 “bunker-buster” bombs on Gaza in the current offensive. In September 2008, the U.S. Congress approved the sale to Israel of 1,000 of these weapons, whose concentrated explosive power is eight times that of a conventional bomb.
Such transactions are called sales but in fact amount to grants, since Washington has allowed Israel to run up a huge external debt without calling in its chips. Today, Israel’s foreign debt is equal to 99 percent of its gross domestic product. Half of this is owed to the U.S. (CIA World Factbook)
The Israelis say these bombs have been used to blow up tunnels in Gaza in the current offensive. They say their goal is to stop the smuggling of weapons. But the tunnels have been used to bring in needed supplies, so blowing them up has the effect of reinforcing the blockade of Gaza.
Myth of Gaza rocket ‘threat’ and Israeli ‘defense’ exposed
The Israeli propaganda machine, aided enormously by the supposedly “objective” U.S. media, tries to present this blitzkrieg as defensive—a needed action against rockets fired from Gaza into Israel by militants of Hamas. The figures, however, speak for themselves.
While in the first 10 days more than 500 Palestinians were killed and thousands more wounded, just four Israelis were killed by rockets. The number of dead Israelis doubled after the ground invasion started—but only because four of its soldiers were wasted by fire from their own tanks as they searched residential buildings in northern Gaza. (New York Times, Jan. 6, 2009)
Washington blocks U.N. call for ceasefire
and carnage continues
The Bush administration is blatant in its support for this blitzkrieg. On Jan. 3, 2009, it prevented even the mildest call for a cease-fire from being voted on in the U.N. Security Council.
It is totally hostile to Hamas—the party leading the resistance, which was elected overwhelmingly by the Palestinian people in their last parliamentary vote. A recently revealed internal U.S. document shows that the U.S. secretly pledged $86 million to “strengthen and reform elements of the Palestinian security sector” in opposition to Hamas, thus trying to pit Palestinian forces against each other. (Reuters, Jan. 5, 2009)
Noting that this U.S. administration will be gone soon, some of his critics are calling Israel’s assault “Bush’s last war crime.”
They are hoping for a less bellicose foreign policy under Barack Obama, who has so far refrained from commenting on Israel’s air assault and invasion.
The position of both the Democratic and Republican parties, however, is all-out support for Israel as a racist settler state on Palestinian land. The rationale given is the assumption that Israel is the only place, since the Nazi Holocaust of World War II, where Jewish people can be safe.
Why Palestinians, a largely pastoral people who played no role in the crimes of German imperialism, should have to pay the price for them is never addressed.
Huge income disparity shows Israel no “homeland”
Also seldom mentioned is the dismal truth that many Jews in Israel, as well as the great majority of the Palestinians who live there, suffer deep poverty. In fact, of all the countries in the developed world, Israel comes in second-worst for income inequality. Which country is first? The United States. (BBC News, March 27, 2006)
Israel’s National Insurance Institute found in 2007 that one in every four Israelis lives below the poverty line. For children, it is even worse. Some 35 percent of Israeli children are in poverty—ranking it among the Western countries with the greatest percentage of poor children. At the same time, the number of Israeli millionaires per capita is twice the world average, according to the 2005 World Wealth Report. (The Jewish Journal, March 8, 2007)
Senior Holocaust survivors, Arabs, suffer worst poverty
The situation in Jerusalem is even worse, with “62 percent of Arab families living below [the] poverty line compared to 23 percent of the city’s Jewish families. Seventy-six percent of Arab children and 44 percent of Jewish children live in poverty in Jerusalem.” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 24, 2008)
Among those Israelis suffering poverty at the hands of its billionaire-controlled government are seniors, including many of the Holocaust survivors still alive.
In recent years, as Israel’s constant wars have gobbled up ever more state funds, its social services have been cut way back.
Israel is an artificial political creation, imposed on Palestine in 1948 by U.S. and British imperialism in a maneuver with the reactionary Zionist movement. For the good of all the peoples of the area, Washington must stop its financing and arming of this lawless and oppressive regime.
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