Gaza: Damages beyond Destruction

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Massive, brutal and deliberate attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip by the occupying power –Israel for complete 23 days (27 December 2008-18 January 2009) has caused a large scale destruction of their life, dignity, liberty, property, security, health and prosperity. They have been suffering from perpetual holocaust for main reason of being consistent in their legitimate demand for the end of their colonization by Israel and to create a viable independent Palestinian State in 22.5% of the total territory of pre-Israel Palestine agreed by both the parties in 1991 and 1993 which has also been endorsed by the UN Security Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Israel killed over 1300 people, over 400 children, over 150 women, old age, medics and journalists. There are over 5400 injured persons. What is more than painful is the use of the war weapons found at the upper shelf of Pentagon such as White Phosphorus, GBU 39, Apache helicopter, F-16s, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.

Gaza Municipal officials told the Associated Press in the afternoon of January 19, that 22,000 residential and government buildings were severely damaged and another 4000 destroyed, putting the cost at over $2 billion. It is also confirmed by the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Some 50 of the UN’s 220 schools, clinics and warehouses were bombed. Gaza’s gross domestic product was slashed by 85 percent during the 22 days of war, and it could take a year for the economy to recover. This savage attack was widely condemned by many major public demonstrations all over the world including the UN humanitarian and relief officials, Human Rights Watch, many other human rights organizations including the Haaretz Daily in Israel. Regrettably the so-called champions of liberation, war on terror and democracy remained silent onlookers against Israeli terror. It is not only the loss of life and property but also the loss of dignity of the Palestinians who have been waiting for their own sovereign state since Israel occupied their lands after 14 April 1948. Dignity constitutes the core of human rights. Even a realist Machiavelli advised the Prince not to play with the dignity of the subjects.

The biting intent

Despite declaring ceasefire on January 18, Israel bombed several civilian targets including the UN campus sheltering refugees killings at least two Palestinians. After some hours, Hamas also declared ceasefire with the demand for withdrawing illegal presence of Israeli armed forces from Gaza within a week. Israel’s policy of keeping its troops on the ground is more than the smoking-guns vis-à-vis durable truce in Gaza. Even if Israel dramatically withdraws its forces after Obama replaces Bush in the US, Palestinians in Gaza would not have sovereignty on the ground, border-crossings, air-space and in sea waters. This has been the situation since Israel vacated illegal Jewish settlements in 2005. Over 18 months Palestinians have been under severe economic blockade which caused the shortage of very basic commodities like medicines, electricity, water, food, freedom of movement, and trade. Hundreds of Palestinians referred patients have died due to the denial of their exit from Gaza for further treatment. As a result people below the poverty line sharply increased.

Israel has the longest record of violating largest number of over 150 UN resolutions and violation of human rights. American scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have already shown how the Zionists have been influencing the American foreign policy to the extent of achieving Israeli interests and causing resentments against the national interests of America. After the ‘Gaza disengagement’, Israel planned to eliminate Hamas as the rival to Israeli policy of occupation and suppression so that it could take post-Arafat leaders under pressure to dictate its terms for creating a ‘conformist state’ without real autonomy. After the suspicious death of the veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in November 2004, Hamas proved to be the only voice of the majority of the Palestinians which adhered to their minimalist demands offered by UNSC Resolution 338 (land for peace) which was finally endorsed by Arafat after 1991. India also officially is supportive of it. This UN formula (creating the Palestinian State in 22.5% of Palestine) with the Right to Return (UN Resolution 194) was the basis of the Arafat’s recognition of Israel in Madrid and Oslo accords.

After seeking recognition, Israel reverted back to the policy of colonization by increasing its illegal settlements in mainly in West Bank and East Jerusalem and raising 490-mile long Walls much higher than the Berlin Wall (1961) which is clearly intended to a moth-eaten, truncated and a sick-state without sovereignty and safe and clear borders. In other words, Israel’s activities is well designed to create a Palestinian State divided into militarized ‘security zones’ of Israel due to the existence of settlements and the Wall. The UN has declared Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory fully illegal and the International Court of Justice has done so in the case of Wall in 2004. The Wall would reduce the Palestinian state to 10 to 12% of Palestine.

2001 onwards, Israel has been eliminating potential Palestinian leaders under the policy of extra-judicial killings. The Bush Road-map or the Quatret peace plan also failed to improve the situation. The second Intifada (mass uprising) since September 2000 killed over 5000 Palestinians with the injury of over 30,000. All such criminal acts legitimize the argument and demand of Hamas which simply ask to end the occupation. After failing to get it thrashed by the Fatah and ‘internal containment policy’, Israel made two strategic moves. First, it was followed the doctrine of disabling Palestinians by economic sanctions, border closers and other restrictive measures to weaken their resistance capacity. After achieving this target, it finally took military actions to destroy their remaining capacity.

Whose achievement

Israeli military operation known as Operation Cast Lead caused massive damages to most of the civilian and governmental infrastructures with high level of human sufferings. While announcing the unilateral cease-fire on January 17, Israeli primier Ehud Olmert said to have ‘achieved its goals and more’. Similarly the Defence Minister Ehud Barak was jubilant over the success of the gain of the third phase of the operation and indicated the objectives ‘obtained in full’. On January 18, Hamas publicly announced its victory over Israel. But the physical loss of Palestinians is a biting reality. What they seem to have retained is the psychological power and resilience vis-à-vis the Israeli occupation. Many Muslims and others also say that Israel was defeated by Hizbollah in July 2006 in Lebanon. In reality, Israeli attack caused massive destruction in southern Lebanon in which Israel used many high-tech weapons mainly cluster bombs piercing 20 cm thick concrete. 134,000 explosive devices have been removed and Lebanon will never be bomb-free area in future.

The main purpose of this 23-days bombing was mainly to physically disable all the civilian and governmental infrastructures in Gaza where Hamas was voted to power in June 2007. Israel treats Hamas as a terrorist group which compel it not to consider Israel as a legitimate state. Hamas has a wide public network which was created in 1987 (first Intifada/uprising). Its popularity has rapidly increased after the untimely death of the most popular leader Yasser Arafat in November 2004 and the failure of the peace process which was supposed to give Palestinians their sovereign state by 1999. This was broadly underlined in Madrid and Oslo agreements. The worsening situation of the Palestinians due to the Israeli old-game of ‘talking peace and at the same time usurping Palestinian lands’ is bound to increase the popularity of Hamas for being straight forward in its demand for the end of the Israeli occupation. So by these bombings, Israel unlawfully punished and damaged the Palestinians in general and promoted the puppets and Hamas rivals in particular. This would have a highly negative impact on their bargaining capacity vis-à-vis Israel over the final status of independent Palestinian state.

The other significant achievement of Israel is enveloping Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Fatah under its strong influence to accuse Hamas of violence and to identify it as the enemy of peace. The post-invasion strategy of Israel is to continue to further marginalize Hamas both militarily and diplomatically as it did against the PLO in 1970s and 1980s. In his election campaign, Obama has already promised to maintain proximity with Israel. Now the destruction of Gaza would further strengthen his hands to corner the Palestinians on the pretext of Israeli security. As earlier there have been some attempts to force late Arafat to accept the Israeli plan. Similar developments may resurface with more damaging US proposals whose script writers would perhaps be the Zionists. But what seems to be a silver-lining that Israel-friendly Gulf monarchies, the Republic of Turkey and Western public have squarely rejected the war-game of Israel which has unmasked Israel as the enemy of peace, humanity and democracy.

Israel like the US is getting exposed to the whole world community about its real face. World-wide public condemnation of attack is basically the indictment of Israel of war crimes. Iran which does not recognize Israel, has openly shouted at Israel. Not only this, American journalists posed some unfriendly questions to Israel foreign minister Tzipi Livni on January 16 giving press conference at Washington D.C. When a journalist was asked to finish his question, he yelled out that Livni had been speaking for an hour and that the journalists were not being allowed to ask questions. He then asked since when the US has been hosting ‘terrorists’. Livni managed to keep her cool. Outside the press briefing building, anti-war group–”Code Pink, which repeatedly chanted that ‘there is a war criminal in this building’.

Who started first?

Israeli press Haaretz has recently published a report on how Ehud Barak started planning the current attack on Gaza with his Chief of Staff at six months ago, when Israel was negotiating ceasefire with Hamas. During the ceasefire, Israel took the map of all Hamas security infrastructures. Before attacking Gaza, Israel spread one-sided news all over the world that Palestinians had launched rockets against Israel. It is just reverse in reality. Six months ago, both Hamas and Israel agreed upon the ceasefire becoming effective on 19 June 2008 which ended on 17 December 2008. During this period, it is an open fact that Israel continued to violate the ceasefire agreement by extra-judicial killings, bombings, closing down all border crossings of Gaza and squeezing it very harsh economic sanctions depriving people of basic needs and bringing many of them below the poverty line. This converted Gaza into a large open prison where journalists and foreigners were not allowed to enter.

Steve Niva wrote in Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) on January 7, 2009 that Israeli military and political leadership took many aggressive steps during the ceasefire provoking Hamas to indulge in retaliation and to legitimize invasion of Gaza. Israeli military historian has called it the policy of ‘strategic escalation’. On 23 December 2008, Israel killed three Palestinians and in retaliation to it rockets were fired with no death on the Israeli side. Another important point of detecting Israeli deception is the question over the legitimacy of 23 days of bombing. Palestinian rockets were not the main reasons but were used at pretext in the beginning of the attack. Later they used the pretext of war against Hamas war machines and finally using the pretext of seeking security for Israel. Before the ceasefire which came into effect verbally at 2.00 am on January 18, Israel signed agreement with the US to combat arms smuggling to Gaza.

Tragic response

With the exception of very few countries, major powers remained onlookers to the killings of the Palestinians. The United States maintained its traditional stand of accusing the Palestinians of violence and simply urging Israel to show restraint. Similarly the EU, NATO and liberal democratic caucus showed their inability to intervene into this matter. Governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan weighed the American-Israeli interests more than the Palestinian interests. Their back-biting culture also failed the Qatar’s attempt to hold the emergency meeting of the Arab League at the required strength. On the other hand, Turkey which has been engaged in peace-diplomacy between Israel and Syria, has called Israeli offensive "savagery." Turkish President Abdullah Gul urged the international community on January 18 to make a "strong and determined" long-term effort to establish an independent Palestinian state after the current crisis was settled. On January 6, Venezuela asked the Israeli Ambassador leave Caracas. Qatar and Mauritania have severed economic ties with Israel."

About 12 to 13 Arab leaders opened an emergency summit in the afternoon of January 16, as scheduled in Doha did not reach the quorum of 15. A joint communiqué issued at the end of the summit meeting called on all Arab countries to stop all peace negotiations and cut ties with Israel in response to the latter’s ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip. "Israel must cease its assault on Gaza and leave unconditionally," it said, emphasizing that all the border crossings in Gaza should be opened to facilitate the flows of food, medical and humanitarian aids. Another Arab Summit on January 20 in Kuwait, with the attendance of only 17 heads of states, Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian leaders became the main factor of divisions in the League by failing to respond to Israel with united minds. President Assad of Syria said: "We should show our clear support for the Palestinian resistance. I suggest this summit officially call the Zionist entity a terrorist entity."

During the attack, US made at least four interventions in the UN to support Israel. On January 8, the UNSC passed a resolution 1860 to halt violence and bombings which Israel found ‘unworkable’. Later on January 16, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in support of Res. 1860 but remained ineffective. Lastly the UN chief Ban ki Moon had to travel the region to urge Israel. Israel is the most appropriate case for registering charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the newly established International Criminal Court. Or the United Nations could create a special tribunal for trying the war criminals responsible for the predicaments of the Palestinians. The other option is build a coalition of democracies to send take military action for liberating the occupied people and to free the free the territories of Syria and Lebanon. Moreover, Palestinians victims of Israeli war crimes need to be given compensation by Israel as Germany has been paying to Jews who were victims of Hitler policies.

The failure of the UN and the politics of the United States for not taking any proportionate actions against Israel is not the case of ineffectiveness as they have not been in many cases. It is clearly the reflection of structured prejudice and discrimination on the part of the West against the cases like Palestine. This reminds me what Aristotle said long ago when a man respects law and justice, he is the best of animal but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all. It is here India could have played a historic role because Mahatma Gandhi had rejected the UN partition plan of November 1947 because it turned the native Arab majority population into a political minority. India’s relations with Israel is not based on Scriptures. India must warn Israel strongly if it becomes murderous to the Palestinians.

In 1991, India accepted Israel embassy with the Israeli promise of doing justice to the Palestinians. Our silence would make us party against Palestinians. Our protests would preserve our democratic heritage of conscience keepers. Delays in our right response to Israel would transform this land into the land of Narender Modi. Without humanism any policy whether domestic or foreign is bound to transform a country into a selfish bowl of vulgar politicians.

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