Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rebecca Vilkomerson, sits arrested with JVP colleagues for publicly reading the names of Palestinian victims killed in Gaza at the office of Friends of the IDF (FIDF) in New York City.
Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in all three military operations in Gaza, not including the Second Intifada. Most of them were civilians. I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it.
For the Palestinians, the choice is between occupation by proxy in the West Bank and a war in Gaza. Both offer no hope, and neither are forms of freedom. The Israeli promise — that an end to armed struggle will bring freedom — is not trustworthy, as the experiences of past years has shown. It simply never happens. The quiet years in the West Bank have not brought the Palestinians any closer to an independent state, while the truce in between wars in Gaza has not brought about a relief from the siege. One can debate the reasons for why this happened, but one cannot debate reality.
Hamas tells the Palestinians the simple truth: freedom comes at the cost of blood. The tragedy is that we usually provide the evidence. After all, the evacuation of settlements in Gaza came after the Second Intifada, not as a result of negotiations. The Oslo Accords came after the First Intifada; before that, Israel turned down even the convenient London Agreement between Shimon Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein.
Israelis are convinced they are fighting a terror organization driven by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Palestinians are convinced Israelis are looking to enslave them, and that as soon as the war is over the siege will be reinforced. Since this is exactly what Israel intends to do, as our government has repeatedly stated, they have no reason to stop fighting.
An interview between Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer, and Raji Sourani, founder of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights:
M: So, how was last night?
R: Well last night was difficult, the worst in the last two weeks. This is incredible evil. Ambulances weren’t able to reach the areas which were under heavy bombardment by tanks and F16s. And F22s were used too last night. And these kinds of bombs that we are not familiar making the houses last in an earthquake. You know, it just shakes for a few seconds.
M: There are no warnings before?
R: No no no. It just on the top of the people, on their heads. It is a war zone, not bombing. You see slain [people]. Six to eight bombed per minute. Not for 10 minutes, or one hour, all the east side of Gaza, Zeiton, Shujaiyeh, eastern Jabaliya, nothern area, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah…
M: Israeli friends reported that the IDF, the Israeli army made notifications that the civilians could go to some areas. Are there any areas that are safe to be?
R: No, there is not safe place in Gaza. You can be in the street, in my office or home and you will be bombed and away from my house, sixty meters a house was bombed by an F16. This can [be] anywhere, whether it [is] a drone, F16, and tonight they used F22. Gaza, Michael, I’m telling you, 350 square kilometers, two million people are living in it. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Anywhere you move. You can ask people from the northern or eastern areas to move but you are taking about 400,000. They ask eastern Khan Younis, where to go? So far there is 70,000-80,000 [civilians] that moved since mid-day yesterday (July 19), but where are the people can go? UNRWA? Each school hold 1,500-2,000 people. There is shortages in the UNRWA schools. It’s madness. I have never seen anything like this in my life.
M: Do you think it is worse than Cast Lead?
R: That was a joke. This is very, very serious. I think the army is losing their minds. They really want to inflict pain and terror on the civilians. I have no objection to do that with Fatah, with Hamas, with PFLP, they are competent, they are resistance. But I’m telling about hitting the flash, they are bombarding randomly. Bombing the civilians houses. Many, That is why many families fled. I challenge if in Gaza, one million people, if any of them slept.
It seems the Obama administration now has at least two diplomats who are frustrated with the Israeli government over the peace process. In May, an American diplomat walked out of a Palestinian-Israeli peace conference frustrated by the lack of progress, stating, “It seems we’re in need of another intifada to create the circumstances that will allow for progress.”
Nonetheless, it appears that the U.S. Senate is still reliably in Netanyahu’s pocket. Via TruthDig:
On Thursday, all 100 U.S. senators—including progressives Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Sherrod Brown—voted to pass an AIPAC-drafted resolution supporting the Netanyahu government’s military invasion of the Gaza Strip.
AIPAC stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It lobbies Congress and the White House in the interests of Israel and is a source of campaign funds for both Democrats and Republicans.
M.J. Rosen, a former senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network, wrote of the agreement in a mass email: “There is not one word of compassion for Palestinians killed or injured, not a word calling for peace, not a word indicating that the Senate would perhaps prefer to see the invasion end. On the other hand, it calls for dissolution of the Palestinian unity government which has been Netanyahu’s goal since it was established.”
More “human shields” from Gaza. Fifth from the top is the remains of an ambulance hit by Israeli bombs.
Photos curated by Ali Abunimah. Captions available at the link.
While rocket attacks have become the preferred method of resistance for militants in Palestine, it’s important to remember that these sorts of indiscriminate attacks can also kill Arab citizens as well:
A 32-year-old Bedouin man was killed Saturday after being hit by a rocket near the town of Dimona in Israel’s south. Four of his relatives were wounded, including an infant.
According to Ma’an News Agency, Israeli air strikes killed 34 Palestinians across the Gaza Strip on Saturday. The deaths follow the deadliest day in the conflict so far, after Israel killed at least 63 Palestinians and injured more than 400 on Friday.
Ma’analso reportsthat four members of a Palestinian family were killed in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon, as at least 10 Israeli shells hit the area around the Beit Hanoun Hospital. Medics told Ma’an that Mahmoud Zuwaid, his wife Daliah, and their children Nagham, 3, and Ruyah, 2, were killed in the attack. Another woman who was not yet identified was also killed in the same shelling.
The military wing of Hamas said earlier on Saturday morning that it had breached “enemy lines” in the northern Gaza Strip and had engaged Israeli forces.
Four Israeli soldiers were also wounded Saturday morning after Palestinian gunmen crossed into Israeli territory from the Strip. Two were moderately wounded, and the others were lightly hurt.
According to Haaretz, a unit of gunmen breached the Israeli border on Saturday morning near Kisufim, launching an anti-tank missile at an IDF unit. The IDF returned fire, killing one of the militants.
B’Tselem notes that at at least nine Palestinians have been killed by rocket fire since 2004. Ryan Broderick, a fierce critic of Israeli policy, has nonetheless stated that Palestinians deaths from rocket fire are an indicator of the "criminal stupidity of this tactic," while also noting that the Israeli military’s conduct in the Occupied Territories only tends to the problem worse.
There is nothing more difficult than waiting. This father carried his son to Al. Aqsa Hospital in Gaza after he was hit in the bombing of his house. He waits the fate of his son if he is still alive or not !!
LTMC: Does anyone really wonder why so many Palestinians resent the Israeli government after Israeli bombs cover them in the blood of their own children? This man could easily have been staunchly anti-Hamas before his son was wounded by an Israeli bomb. Now, it’s quite possible that he views rocket attacks as morally permissible in light of what he’s suffered. This kind of collateral damage is the most effective recruitment tool the militant wing of Hamas could have ever devised.
This war will only end when Hamas either stops shooting rockets into Israel, or runs out of rockets, whichever comes first. Also, if Hamas doesn’t want a hospital to be bombed, then stop shooting rockets from the hospital!
This is a very common response directed towards people who criticize Israel’s use of force in the Occupied Territories. I think it is unpersuasive, for the following reasons.
- The logic being employed here looks a lot like victim-blaming. The IDF, to its credit, in what seems to be an acknowledgment that not every single person living in Palestine is a terrorist, called the Director of the Hospital and told him to evacuate the building. But this probably means that militant Hamas members who may have been occupying the building would also have evacuated it as well. Will this deny them a base of operations? Perhaps. But only temporarily. Hamas is waging something akin to a guerrilla war against Israel. History suggests that the militant wing of Hamas will find other places to go, and the rockets will not in fact stop. So in the end, all that was likely achieved by the hospital strike was that a vital civilian resource—a hospital—was destroyed.
- Hamas may not care if a hospital gets bombed, but the patients who rely on that hospital probably do. Not every Palestinian living in Gaza supports Hamas, but the Israeli military often behaves as if this were true. Some claim that Hamas forces civilians to act as human shields. But if that’s true, then those civilians are unwilling participants in the violence. They are therefore still “innocent,” and however despicable this tactic may be on the part of Hamas, it is equally despicable to carry out military strikes in disregard for these peoples’ lives. This idea that the residents of Gaza are all expendable in the fight against Hamas is morally objectionable. To risk an analogy, few people would agree that it’s ok to shoot through a hostage to kill their captor. But that is precisely what the Israeli military does every time it bombs civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and then justifies civilian deaths by claiming that Hamas is forcing civilians to be “human shields.”
- As I’ve said many times on this blog, the reason why Hamas has the degree of political influence they have is because the Israeli government actively empowers them through its policies in the Occupied Territories. Gaza and the West Bank are open-air prisons. Freedom of movement, commerce, and expression is restricted in numerous ways by the Israeli Government in a manner which most reasonable people would view as intolerable. To take one example: A former U.S. diplomat once noted in a leaked cable that the policy of the Israeli Government is to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” and to keep the Palestinian economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis." Dov Weisglass, a former senior Israeli official, put it this way: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” It should come as no surprise that at least a portion of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories have become so frustrated and angry by the mistreatment they receive at the hands of the Israeli government that they take up arms to violently resist. Which brings me to my next point…
- What is it that keeps the rockets coming? Ostensibly, there are two primary reasons: the first is that some members of Hamas views Israel as an illegitimate state and will never accept its right to exist under any circumstances. There is little, if anything that Israel can do to change this. However, another reason why these rockets keep coming is that it remains one of the few accessible ways that residents of the Occupied Territories have to fight back against an occupying force—one they view as the source of their oppression. When that oppression ends, support for Hamas will dry up considerably. And—I humbly submit—the number of rockets being fired into Israel will also shrink considerably.
- Whether the Israeli government likes it or not, this is a guerrilla war. The Israeli government has blown up hospitals before. It has blown up schools before. It has blown up homes before. Yet the rockets always keep coming. They keep coming in part because the IDF can’t be everywhere all the time. But mostly they keep coming because residents of the Occupied Territories find a new reason to legitimate Hamas’s violence every time another Palestinian house, business, or family gets blown to pieces by an Israeli bomb.
With all this being said, the greatest impetus for rocket fire into Israel, in my opinion, is the Israeli government’s ongoing military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli government’s policies toward the residents of these areas generate resentment, anger, and hatred in those affected by them. As a result, a portion of the Palestinian population is invariably radicalized by the trauma of enduring the Israeli government’s policies, and they come to view violent resistance as reasonable. This violent resistance is in turn empowered by foreign sponsors who sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people (e.g. Iran, Hezbollah).
That’s why the rockets won’t stop coming until Israel ends the Occupation. Militants will always find ways to commit violence against Israel. The only true way to stop these attacks is to remove the impetus for them. That impetus is, for the most part, the Occupation. The Occupation is the lifeblood of Palestinian resentment towards Israel. It is the Occupation that radicalizes the Palestinian population. It is the Occupation that empowers militants through the sympathy of foreign sponsors. And it is the Occupation that continues to put the lives of Israelis in danger every day.
One final note: it bears mention that I’m not suggesting that ending the Occupation will mean Israel never suffers another terrorist attack. What I am suggesting is that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories are a large motivator for those attacks, and changing those policies would reduce the number of rocket attacks considerably. It would also deprive Hamas of political legitimacy, because ending the Occupation robs Hamas of most of their talking points. This would deprive Hamas of political power, which would reduce their ability to finance their militant wing. That means less rocket attacks, and a safer Israel.
A dialogue with the Executive Director of the Al Wafa hospital in Gaza, which was just bombed by Israeli military:
Nora Barrows-Friedman Hi, Basman, I’m so glad I got you and that you’re safe. I’ve been hearing reports that the hospital has come under heavy Israeli attack?
Basman Alashi: Yes, it is, and they have destroyed much of it, and we are in the process of moving patients out. Many of my nurses are unable to stand up on their feet because of the tragedy they are facing, even the young men have not experienced such horrific and terrorizing bombing by the Israelis. They left the patients helpless because they are unable even to help themselves. I had to send ambulances and outside help to the hospital, so they can help in moving these patients, the paralyzed patients, out from their beds to another hospital. And right now, I am in the office and the Israeli army called me through the Red Cross, asking how much time we need to evacuate the building so they can halt the bombing.
And I gave them the message of two hours, I returned the call to the Red Cross [saying] two hours, so I believe the Red Cross is cooperating with them to destroy … an internationally-prohibited act. They are helping them in this act, and I don’t understand.
NBF: Dr. Alashi, can you talk about when the bombing started, what happened inside the hospital?
BA: It started just before nine, they started it and it continued every other minute, firing at the hospital. They started on the fourth floor, continued to the third, then from the back of the hospital, then to the side, then to the front, then they cut the electricity, we have fuel everywhere, I don’t know the extent of the damage but it reached a point where my nurses were unable to function, unable to stand, unable to help the patients. So they left the hospital, and right now we are in the process of evacuating my patients to help with them and the handicapped.
NBF: Where can these patients go, I understand that the hospitals around Gaza are already full?
BA: It’s called Mujamma al-Sahaba al-Tibbi, it’s not a hospital, but it has private clinics, it’s a clinic and offices. I am there right now, and I need to go to check on my patients.
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