IDF heavy weaponry, including tanks and armored personnel carriers are massing near the Gaza border, signalling Israel’s intent to launch a ground invasion of the enclave. 16,000 reservists have been summoned for military service, another sign of a planned assault. The AP has been speaking of tomorrow as the date for launching the new offensive. If these indications prove correct, then the killing machine will move into high gear and we should expect a rise in the casualty count (on both sides).
My Israeli source tells me that there is one dominant reason why Bibi must invade. He can’t allow himself to be outdone by his rival, Ehud Olmert, who had an invasion of his own in 2009. Ehud Barak too, needs an invasion because he was defense minister during the first Gaza war and couldn’t stand for accepting less than what he “achieved” then. You may argue that this is overly cynical. My response? First, this perspective comes not from me, but from someone who has played senior roles in past governments and knows the players in this game well. Second, this should tell you how much great Israeli decisions of state are motivated by naked ambition, self-pride, and political survival. It may be true that when other world leaders launch a war they do so with strategic objectives in mind and for well-thought-out reasons. Not so, Israel. There, an election or a petty political rivalry is enough to cause the deaths of thousands. It reminds me of Nero’s fiddling while Rome burned.
Till now, 15 Gazans have died (including several small babies) and three Israelis have died. Today, a rocket struck Rishon Lezion, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv and a missile landed in the sea near Tel Aviv. This is the first time these communities have seen such weapons since the 1991 Iraq War.
Israel has the Iron Dome anti-missile system. But as of yesterday, it only intercepted 20 of 80 projectiles fired into Israel. Even if we discount those which it detected would land harmlessly and which it didn’t target, clearly Iron Dome is quite fallible. It’s supposed to have an 80% success rate. I doubt it’s achieved that level of effectiveness.
In my ongoing effort to deconstruct the lies and myths of the Israeli propaganda machine, it’s been common to hear Ahmed Jabari, the assassinated leader of Hamas’ military wing, spoken of as Gaza’s Osama bin Laden. It’s a great sound byte, punchy, visceral, dramatic. But as usual with these things, if you spend a few seconds contemplating the parallel, it’s entirely inapt. Jabari and bin Laden have only one thing in common: both were Muslims. Aside from that, little or nothing. Jabari stood for Islamism in the context of Palestine. He was a Palestinian nationalist, unlike bin Laden who dreamed of a world caliphate. Jabari believed in the gun, but only as a tool, not as a permanent strategy. He was, in fact willing to negotiate with Israel when it suited his purposes, which is how the Gilad Shalit deal was reached.
A much more apt analogy is between Jabari and Israeli pre-state military heroes like Rabin, Sharon, Begin, Shamir or Avraham Stern. They too were radical in their demands. Truculent and willing to kill both the enemy (Arab and British) and their own fellow Jews if it advanced the cause of Jewish-Israeli nationalism. You hear few Israelis concede that if they look closely in the mirror they see Palestinians as reflections of themselves, their own national aspirations, and violent guerrilla past.
One of the most disturbing developments today, is this article published by Haaretz, which reveals for the first time that Gershon Baskin, who was the Israeli mediator with Jabari in the Shalit deal, had transmitted to the Hamas leader only a few hours before his murder, a draft for a permanent truce agreement. The Israeli government appointed a staff committee to work on the project. The deal would’ve provided for Israel and Hamas to put down their weapons over an extended period of time. The agreement, if implemented, might have radically transformed the southern front and created room for further peace initiatives.
For those of you with longer memories of the conflict, this will echo another historic assassination of a Hamas leader, Saleh Shehadeh in 2003. At that time, news reports spoke of his exploration of a long-term deal that would’ve called for a de-escalation of the conflict with Israel.
This tells you that Israel doesn’t want stability on the Palestinian side. It doesn’t want a responsible partner. If a potential partner is responsible, better that he be killed.
There is yet another historical parallel here to what happened among the Palestinians in the 1970s and 80s. Those who pursued a pragmatic approach that involved accommodation with Israel were pursued and assassinated by the radical elements of the Palestinian movement: Issam Sartawi was but one example. The rejectionists, whether Israeli or Palestinian, need chaos in order to achieve their ends. For Bibi, the end is permanent decimation of the Palestinians so they pose no threat to his expansionist national agenda.
Do not believe another Israeli government representative who tells you Israel wants peace, Israel wants a ceasefire (as Michael Oren mendaciously told NPR today), etc. Israel wants war until it pulverizes the Palestinians into permanent submission.
Speaking of Michael Oren, if you heard his interview, did you note both the interviewers relatively softball questions (BBC interviewers are MUCH tougher), and the fact that they interviewed no one critical of the Gaza assault to balance his hasbara? It reminds me of Oren’s last visit to Seattle during which Steve Scher of KUOW interviewed him for 20 minutes during which there was no guest to offer a counter-perspective, nor were listener call-ins permitted. Our U.S. media has caved shamefully to the hasbara steamroller. Instead of being journalists, they allow themselves to be exploited on behalf of Israel’s national interests.
I was also tickled by Oren’s practically beseeching Hamas to accept a ceasefire, one that the Islamist movement offered Israel a day or so before it murdered Ahmed Jabari. The Gentleman Liar wants the world to believe that Israel doesn’t want to kill Gazans, but that the victims simply give them no choice. Diabolical, as is so much of Israeli hasbara these days.
The hasbarafia of UK Jewry has rallied to Israel’s defense, touting the IDF’s “Jewish ethical ethos.” This is a moral abomination. Killing babies is neither Jewish nor ethical. Support this travesty if you wish. But not in the name of Judaism.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former leader of Reform Judaism, has also attempted to co-opt Jewish progressives by arguing that this war is just, and that continuing the intolerable status quo:
…Undermines the sovereignty of the Jewish state and strikes a fatal blow at the very raison d’etre of Zionism.
L’hefech, learned rav. Murdering babies does far more to undermine Israeli sovereignty and the Zionist Idea. I was raised to respect rabbis and the rabbinate. But such nonsense reminds me that even rabbis can be just as stupid as the rest of us.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.