Israeli military now confirming it was Israeli tank shells that hit the UN school in Gaza today. Updates here: http://t.co/lRqLYHQWSI
— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) July 24, 2014
In one of the most heinous civilian atrocities of the Gaza War, at least four Israeli tank shells struck a UN school in Beit Hanoun in which Palestinian civilians had vainly sought shelter from combat raging around them. As food and water had become scarce there, the UN had asked the refugees to gather in the courtyard for evacuation by bus to a relatively safer alternate location. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled arrival of the buses, the shells made direct hits on the compound. Both civilian refugees and UN personnel were among the dead.
The IDF’s lame excuse offered before it finally admitted it was at fault was that it had told the UN to evacuate the school days earlier since it was too close to a combat zone. Of course, the UN already has 100,000 refugees crowding its facilities throughout the Strip. So moving them elsewhere wasn’t a matter of finding a safer facility with space available. It was a matter of crowding them into a place that was already overflowing with the needy and desperate.
During the 2006 Lebanon War, there was an Israeli airstrike on a UN facility called Qana that killed 44 civilians. This will likely shape up as this war’s Qana. Till now, the Obama administration has merely begged the sides for a ceasefire, while doing almost nothing to address Hamas’ legitimate demands that the illegal Israeli and Egyptian siege be ended. Now, it can continue with this charade or it can pull out all the stops and get the killing to stop, while rectifying the worst injustices of Gaza’s plight.
In a development that could change the calculus of the current war, thousands of West Bank Palestinians rallied in towns throughout Palestine to protest the massacre. The IDF killed at least three demonstrators and wounded 60 through the use of live ammunition in street combat that begins to echo the pogroms initiated by the army a few weeks ago. Then the army, under instructions from the political echelon, engaged in collective punishment after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish youth. 7 Palestinians were killed during those protests.
People like to throw around threats of a third Intifada. I’ve heard them too many times to credit this one as the one that will turn into a full-fledged people’s revolt. But it certainly has the basic elements necessary to provoke a mass uprising. Remember Tunisia? There it only took a street vendor lighting himself on fire to start the Arab Spring. What will happen next in this case?
If the Obama administration had any guts or vision, it would take advantage of this Israeli atrocity to exert maximum pressure for negotiating a larger resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could get concessions from the Palestinians while demanding concessions from the Israelis along with a threat of sanctions if Israel doesn’t comply. That could redeem Kerry’s failed peace talks. But I fear that while there may be vision there are no guts for such a diplomatic Hail Mary.
As I wrote yesterday, while there will be enormous pressure for a ceasefire now, the effort will be totally wasted unless it addresses Gaza’s needs in a real, verifiable way. End the siege. Open the borders. Allow Palestinians to have a unity government. Talk to Hamas. Short of this, everything else is a charade.
Here’s a perfect example of the charade in action (from Haaretz):
A senior Israeli official said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has drafted a new cease-fire proposal and presented it to both sides.
Both sides? What does that mean? It sure doesn’t mean the proposal was presented to Hamas because the U.S. won’t talk to Hamas. The U.S. will talk to Egypt’s junta and Mahmoud Abbas. But neither has the trust of Hamas. So which side exactly is Kerry talking to? It somehow satisfies the U.S. and Israel that they’re talking to someone who is proximate to the other side in this argument. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re reaching the party they need to be speaking to. And that’s the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it? We define who will speak to. We define the problem on our terms. Everything else is peripheral. It’s all us (whether “us” is Israel or the U.S.): our interests. The other side, if they have interests, doesn’t concern us.
COMMENT RULE NOTICE: I have instituted a temporary comment rule change due to my diminishing patience with hasbara efforts in the comment thread. If you are a new commenter or an existing one who posts propagandistic comments, arguments, etc. that have been published earlier by others; or which blame Gazans or Hamas for what’s happened, you will be immediately moderated. I will also moderate commenters whose statements demean Israel with claims of Nazism, etc. I will approve comments that respect the comment rules. But if your comments appear to be part of the hasbara apparatus, they may not be. I can only repeat arguments and produce evidence so many times before I lose all patience.