New Internationalist

Israel’s bombing of Gaza is not about Hamas

Web exclusive

Israel has punished Palestinians for the past 66 years. But resist or surrender, this oppressed population always loses. Ella David writes.

Gigi Ibrahim
Hospitals are struggling to cope, like in 2012's Operation Pillar of Defense. Gigi Ibrahim

As the World Cup drew to a close on Sunday night, more Palestinians had been killed during the preceding week than goals scored throughout the tournament.

‘I’ve lost my words. Bombs rein down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.’ Mohammed Suliman wrote early 13 July from Gaza City.

‘They [Israeli Air Force] make every effort to avoid hitting civilians, and innocents are hit because Hamas maliciously hides behind Palestinian civilians.’ Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister on 10 July.

In seven days, Israeli militants backed by a rogue government have killed 180 men, women and children and injured 1,230: by the time you read this article, the number will have risen, again.

On 8 July Israel’s military incursion into the West Bank, Operation Brother’s Keeper, initiated under the pretext of finding three missing Israeli teenagers – made way for an attack on Gaza called Operation Protective Edge. The reason for both operations freely admitted by Israeli officials, has been to cripple Hamas and in so doing, destroy any chance for a unity government between the West Bank’s Fatah-run Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

‘No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself’

As soon as the latest murderous rampage began, the usual suspects immediately leapt to Israel’s defence: White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: ‘No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.’ British prime minister David Cameron reiterated the nation’s ‘staunch support’ for Israel and even journalist Owen Jones wrote in The Independent that: ‘There is no defence for Hamas firing rockets into civilian areas’.

Who is supporting Gaza’s right to defend itself? Firing rockets into Israel might not be an effective strategy and it has been condemned by the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. But it would be folly to look at the militant response in isolation without understanding the context of 66 years of Israeli aggression.

Shooting fish in a barrel

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The Strip is 25 miles long and four miles wide; there are no sirens to warn people of bombs, no air raid shelters or safe rooms, previous Israeli airstrikes mean many buildings are already unstable, the Strip is undergoing ‘de-development’ and even before the latest attack, hospital supplies were at zero, according to the UN. This time the situation has been exacerbated by Egypt’s refusal to keep the Rafah border crossing open and transfer casualties out of the Strip. Only 10 patients have been allowed to cross the border so far. On 10 July a water pipeline serving 70,000 people was destroyed along with a well that had supplied water to 15,000 people. A sewage plant was badly damaged causing 25 million litres of raw sewage to spill into the sea.

Bombs, shells and naval missiles have fallen on 1.7 million Gazans on average, every five and a half minutes for the past seven days. Some 512 residential homes in Gaza have been either totally or partially destroyed by Israeli warplanes since 7 July. Thirty-nine schools and six hospitals have been damaged along with 21 mosques.

‘We stay together or we leave this world together’

These were the words uttered by Doctor Basman Alashi speaking to +972 magazine on 12 July. Alashi is the executive director of El Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza city. Fourteen patients remain at the hospital, too ill to survive an evacuation elsewhere. Strikes have shattered windows and blown holes in the ceiling but Alashi vows to stay with his patients, along with several members of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the hope that their presence will discourage the Israeli Air Force from bombing the building. Netanyahu is correct in part, that there are human shields in Gaza, but not as he would have the world believe.

Early on 13 July, the IAF dropped leaflets over northern Gazan neighbourhoods telling them to evacuate the area of 100,000 residents. Around 17,000 residents have now fled to UNRWA shelters, but with vulnerable people already having been targeted, there is no guarantee that Israeli forces won’t bomb these buildings either.

Rockets are irrelevant

The occupying power’s bombardment of a trapped population constitutes a war crime. Israel has the Iron Dome system to protect its population from rockets – almost perfect after years of being trialled during flare-ups such as this. It boasts one of the world’s most powerful armies and receives millions of US dollars in aid which is spent largely on weaponry.

Norman Finkelstein puts it succinctly: ‘Gaza has no army, air force or navy. Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world. Resistance to occupation is allowed under international law. Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.’

Resistance in all forms is any oppressed people’s right to shout to the world, ‘we’re still here’ and to demand justice and change

As the Israeli offensive continues, the truth that has been there since the bloody creation of the state in 1948 shines under a temporary spotlight – Palestinians are punished into submission. In the West Bank, the Israeli government’s approach is devious: it controls Palestinian land with relative ease, thanks to the Oslo Accords and the lack of international condemnation. Resistance is silenced with jail terms, house demolitions and land grabs. Israel has little interest in densely populated Gaza and seeks to contain the Palestinians living there with the harshest measures it can get away with. Frustration among Gazans simmers constantly, occasionally reaching boiling point. It boiled over as Israel’s Operation Brother’s Keeper culminated in a West Bank wide crackdown. The rockets fired in symbolic protest by militant wings of parties such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad provide the perfect pretext for this latest round of collective punishment on a genocidal scale, with the blessing of most of the world’s politicians and media.

Israel’s oppression of Palestinians doesn’t start and finish with large-scale military operations: ‘normality’ for Gazans is ghetto life, for those in the West Bank, ethnic cleansing and colonization. Rockets or no rockets do not change this. The air, sea and land blockade of Gaza – now supported by Egypt – has gone on for seven long years. And when a ceasefire is implemented, Israel and its supporters will expect a return to the status quo. This is why resistance should not be denounced by those outside liberation movements: resistance in all forms is any oppressed people’s right to shout to the world, ‘we’re still here’ and to demand justice and change.

Until the world realizes that military operations in Gaza are about subduing the population into compliance with Israel’s quest to carry on as it pleases, the occupying state will continue killing and oppressing, unabated for decades to come.

Add your name to the petition calling on Ban Ki-moon to end the occupation of Palestine, for the wellbeing of the Palestinians and Israelis.

Update: According to Gaza’s Ministry Of Health: 746 Palestinians, including 165 children have now been killed as of 24 July – the 17th day of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

Read our mini-series on Palestine.

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  1. #1 joelsk44039 15 Jul 14

    You've got it completely backwards. Hamas is a neo-fascist, terrorist organization whose charter calls for the elimination of Israel (and Jews). They are modern day Nazis.

    Israel is merely defending itself against these lunatic barbarians. Your entire anti-Israel argument is specious.

  2. #2 zoe 15 Jul 14

    Look at the numbers. 13 out of every 14 deaths this last week there have been Palestinian not Israeli. Its a disgrace and is clearly attack not defence.

  3. #3 Phil Denner 15 Jul 14

    I am the same age as Israel and for many years saw them as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East: I was litening only to the propaganda of the media i the West. Once I had the time to dig deeper into the history of this conflict it becae clear to me that it is in its essentials, a colonial conflict. Palestine has been brutally colonised by Europeans, mostly Jews. Britain and the US with France and Germany in support have aided and abetted that colonisation and provide the arms and intelligence to make Israel almost unassailable militarily. The great flaw in this though is that there is no support for colonial states in the West or the rest of the World. South Africa, Rhodesia etc were eventually decolonised with considerable support from the peoples of Europe if not the politicians (kith and kin) of the UK.

    It is not for me to advise the Palestinians but if I were deciding their approach I would throw Israel the keys of Gaza and the West Bank and say ’you want all the have it but we now want our rights as citizens, political economic, everything.’ This is the Zionist great fear but how could any western government argue that an idigenous people should not be granted full citizenship? They would be without a policy to support Israel as a racist state.

  4. #4 Roger 21 Jul 14

    Voltaire once said: ’God is always on the side of the big battalions’ and the biggest battalions are Israel's. Stalin's ’F**k the Pope. How many divisions does he have, anyway?’ also pretty much sums it up. The reality is that not one middle eastern country will help the Palestinians. Millions of dollars are being diverted by Saudi Arabia and others to the ISIS cause, but to kowtowing the US and Israel is part of the geopolitical game.

  5. #5 Lorena 24 Jul 14

    It is important you mention Hamas had this planned all along. He purposely placed his rockets in heavily populated areas he knew Israel would target. What was Israel supposed to do? Hamas fired rockets at them, if it wasn't for Israel's high-tech defence system as many Israeli's would've been killed as the Palestinian's right now. No country in war is right or wrong.

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