Day 6: 95 Palestinians killed, 720 wounded.
The title of this post is harsh. But the one I first considered was even more so: “Barack Obama, go to Hell.” I am so glad I didn’t vote for this man for president. At the time I cast my vote I did it thinking I was doing the right thing. But in my heart regretting it. If I had voted for him, now I my heart would be turning bitter as gall.
Here is what this sorry excuse for a leader had to say today in Thailand:
“[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes…
Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated.”
I also discovered this statement which appears to have been made separately and covers related, but different ground:
“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” President Barack Obama said at a news conference in Bangkok at the start of a three-nation visit to Asia.
“If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that’s preferable,” Obama said. “It’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.”
Let’s address this lame excuse for a political argument. First, it could’ve been (and possibly was) drafted by an Aipac staffer. It’s directly taken from pro-Israel talking points. You’ve heard the same bullshit from Michael Oren a hundred times. What this argument omits is that Israel has Gaza in a stranglehold. It has turned the enclave into a virtual prison having no economy, no exports, no ability to travel in or out. Gaza is occupied in effect by Israel. This occupation is illegal. Any nation has a right to resist such an occupation.
I do not support firing missiles from Gaza into Israel. But I do not support Israel’s occupation of Gaza either. I do not expect Gazans to roll over and play dead for Israel’s benefit or for the benefit of a U.S. president who has his head up his ass.
The real issue isn’t whether Israel has a right to attack Gaza. The issue is how to get at the root causes of this conflict and resolve it. F-16s, drones, targeted assassinations and helicopter gunships only kick the football farther down the road, as Mitt Romney so aptly put it (who’d have ever thought that Obama would actually follow a Mideast policy outlined by Romney).
Obama says he’s opposed to an Israeli invasion not because many Gazans will be killed (he clearly doesn’t care about that) but because Israelis will die. Have you ever heard anything so callous? Yes, I suppose in all the history of this conflict there have been far more callous statements. But by a U.S. president? Not so many.
Barack Obama: go to Hell. You don’t give a damn. You don’t have a moral bone in your body. Give back that Nobel Peace Prize. You don’t deserve it. In fact, you’ve pissed on it and turned it from gold to (cast) lead.
Former Israeli national security advisor Gen. Giora Eiland, on the other hand, made an amazingly forthright statement about what should be the outline for a fair resolution of the current impasse in Gaza. For that reason, of course, it will be ignored by those in power. But it still deserves a fair hearing:
“Israel’s bottom line interest toward Gaza is a security issue – that they won’t fire at us,” said Eiland, who also served as the head of Israel’s National Security Council. “Consequently, if we can reach an arrangement, it’s preferable to give ground on certain political issues in exchange for a better security arrangement.”
This sort of agreement would include “a mutual cease-fire and an Egyptian guarantee of not just quiet, but also that no weapons will enter Gaza,” Eiland said, adding that “this arrangement would be guaranteed by additional parties, for example, Qatar and Turkey.”
Among the political compromises that could be made in exchange for such a security arrangement, Eiland listed lifting the naval blockade of Gaza “so that the European Union member countries could send under supervision dinghies into Gaza’s port.”
Eiland also suggested that Israel recognize Gaza as a state under Hamas’ rule. “This is a country a ruled by an elected government and I expect that this government will act in a responsible manner, like a state would,” Eiland said.
“It’s not enough to say ‘Hamas will surrender,’” Eiland continued. “We need to give something, if not to Hamas, then to others. It’s impossible to reach a point where one side will surrender. Sometimes we become captive to slogans like ‘We won’t talk with Hamas.’ I say the opposite. It’s a fact that Hamas rules Gaza and that Gaza is a state. We need to recognize this and utilize the advantages this situation presents.”
The thinking is that if Israel recognizes Hamas as ruler of Gaza, it will place the onus on the Islamist group to run Gaza and fully control what happens there. In effect, Eiland is saying to make Hamas put their money where their mouth is: you want to rule this place–do it. And if you don’t, we and the world community who are enforcing this agreement will hold you accountable.
There is also a strategic element to his thinking that is unspoken. If Israel breaks Palestine into two entities, then Palestinian strength and aspirations for statehood will be even more fragmented than they are now. Hamas will have less interest in creating a coalition government with Fatah because it will control its own fiefdom in Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza may be permanently severed. That part of Eiland’s strategy is pernicious in the long-term. But it doesn’t mean that much of what he’s saying wouldn’t make things better than they are now in Gaza itself.
I can’t tell you how refreshing this breeze is. It’s a bit of truth. And coming from a general bristling with medals and lots of dead Israeli enemies under his belt. This is not some peacenik or “Arab lover.” This is the very same dude who whitewashed the Mavi Marmara massacre on behalf of the IDF, for whom he investigated it.
I do have to say though that there’s a strange dynamic at work in Israeli politics: when you’re an official and within the system, you lie and say things that make you and your country sound like an idiot. When you leave the system, all of a sudden you become a seer and things you didn’t appear to know or couldn’t say come tripping off your tongue. The same phenomenon occurred with Ehud Olmert after he resigned his prime ministership. While he was in office he tried to sell Mahmoud Abbas a bill of goods in the guise of a legitimate peace agreement. After he left, he called the settlements a cancer eating at Israel’s insides.
So some of this may be at work in Eiland’s change of heart, if you can call it that. But who cares? Truth is truth whether it comes from a sane person or a mad man.
Something further that is interesting here is that Eiland is making these statements–ones that cut to the heart of the weakness of Israel’s “mowing the grass” approach to Gaza–only five days after the start of hostilities and even before the expected invasion. In other words, the general is already saying the emperor has no clothes. The way this usually works is that the critics wait until a few weeks in after the soldiers and civilians have started dying in significant numbers. That’s the time when the body politic becomes more receptive to such contrarian thinking. So Eiland is bucking this trend and deserves credit for doing so.
When you read the following you will understand my outrage directed against Barack Obama. Today should be the Kfar Kana or the al-Samouni moment in this war. The former was the tragedy during the 2006 war when Israel attacked a Lebanese village near a UN base killing scores of civilians. After that atrocity, the war was essentially over though Israel didn’t realize it at the time. My fear is that the murder of 12 Gaza civilians in a bombing that flattened a 3-story apartment building filled with civilians will not be enough of a tragedy to end this growing madness. More of the innocent may have to die before the world tells Israel: Dayenu!
The al-Dalou family was sheltering in its home from the bombardment. Earlier, two male family members had left to procure supplies because they feared an imminent invasion. They survived. Five women, four children (all between two and five years-old) and two men died. One of the women was 81 years old:
Khalil al-Dallu screams. “They said Mohammed was alive!” he shouts as emergency workers pull the body of a young man from a Gaza City home levelled by an Israeli strike on Sunday. His face quickly crumples into tears as the emergency staff tell him that his cousin is in fact dead — one of six members of the Dallu family killed when an Israeli missile struck the Nasser neighbourhood, flattening the three-story building where they lived.
“The whole family is martyred!” he cries, as the body of 35-year-old Mohammed al-Dallu is placed in an ambulance.
“What was the sin of the children and the infants, Israel?” he screams, raising his hands to the sky.
The emergency workers carry on with their grim task. By the time their work is done they have pulled 11 bodies from the pancaked building and others around it. The body of Mohammed’s wife is also retrieved, as well as those of five of their children. The body of another woman, also a family member, is also pulled out although she is not immediately identified.
The strike has also killed two of their neighbours from the Muzzana family.
Mohammed’s father, Jamal, and his 17-year-old son Abdullah, are among the survivors. When the Israeli strike happened, they were out buying food to boost the family’s stocks because they feared an Israeli ground invasion.
Jamal leans on a bloody electricity pole for support, overwhelmed at the horror and loss in front of him, his relatives crowding around as pieces of his grandchildren are plucked from their former home. Near hysterical with anger and sorrow, Ibrahim shouts: “Don’t tell his brother Abdullah, the trauma will kill him!” The brother, 26-year-old Abdullah, is currently studying in Turkey to become a doctor.
… Ahmed Hato, 13, is still dazed by the sudden death visited on the family.”I was playing with the sons of the neighbours at the entrance to the street. There was a huge explosion, the earth shook and dust and rocks went everywhere. I don’t know how, but I ended up on the ground and without injuries,” he says.
Ahmed’s father can’t watch the rescue efforts, and doesn’t answer his phone. Instead he cries openly for Mohammed, whom he saw just an hour before the strike. Mohammed, a Hamas police officer, “was a good man, moral and kind to everyone,” he says. “Everyone loved him. His death is a huge loss for the family.”
It turns out, as it often does in these sorts of IDF incursions, that the IAF was trying to assassinate the head of Hamas’ rocket warfare unit, Yechiya Rabiah (must be the guy who took over from Dirar Abusisi after his “forced retirement” at the hands of the Mossad and Ukrainian intelligence), who lives nearby. Ooops, they got the wrong house. Another intelligence failure. Only killed 12 innocent civilians as a result. Terribly regrettable. But if Rabiah would only do the IDF the favor of living in an open field so it could kill him cleanly, these sorts of things wouldn’t have to happen. You know how that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.
What created even more bitter irony is that just as when it dropped a bunker buster bomb during the 2006 war on Hassan Nasrallah’s Beirut hiding place, the IDF crowed that it’d taken out yet another terrorist bad guy. Turns out that Nasrallah and Rabiah are very much alive. What do you say in the midst of such insanity: woops?
Even an IDF journalist-stenographer like Avi Issacharoff writing in Haaretz concedes the Gaza operation is “starting to get into trouble” because too many civilians are dying. All I can say is boker tov buddy, civilians were dying from the first moment of the fighting. It’s just that now they’re starting to pile up like cordwood. But if Issacharoff wants to wake up only today on day six, it’s better than sleep walking through an entire war before realizing 1,400 Gazans have been slaughtered as happened during Cast Lead.
At what point does Barack Obama become moved enough, or boxed in enough by this suffering that he’s finally got to get off his ass and do something?
By the way, Israeli polls find that while 90% of Israelis support the Gaza war (only 16% support a ceasefire), only 46% support an invasion while 32% are opposed. That’s a sizable minority viewpoint.
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.