UPDATE: The ceasefire seems to be collapsing. Heavy Israeli artillery fire is reported by Yediot in Rafah with eight Palestinians dead. Looks like Bibi put a nail in the coffin of Kerry’s ceasefire.
Today, brings a small respite from mass murder. Both Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour truce brokered by the UN and U.S. and announced simultaneously by them. Apparaently, the daily massacres of children at UN schools over the past few days have taken a toll. As did the uncontrollable weeping of UNWRA Gaza director, Chris Gunness as he tried to speak up, during a TV interview, for the children under his care who’d been murdered by the IDF.
I was heartened by the chastened statement John Kerry released:
“This is not a time for congratulations and joy, or anything except a serious determination, a focus, by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead,” Kerry said shortly after the deal was struck. “This is a respite. It’s a moment of opportunity, not an end; it’s not a solution. It’s the opportunity to find the solution.”
Though it didn’t hint at any concrete future results, it clearly alluded to the fact that Gazans (and Israelis) need and expect far more than a mere cessation of hostilities. Gaza has a legitimate right to demand the end of the Israeli-Egyptian siege. While Israelis and Gazans have a right to expect that the border between them be demilitarized (not just disarmed on one side as Israel has demanded).
The statement also seems to put Israel on notice that Kerry will not accept the media defenestration to which he was subjected by the Bibi-press when he had the temerity to suggest that Gaza had legitimate concerns and interests that must be met.
There is no guarantee that Kerry’s and Obama’s resolve will remain strong in the face of Israel’s dogged determination to return to the status quo after the dust and bodies clear. But the sounds we’re hearing now seem to be the right ones.
There is one bit of fakery in the ceasefire:
Under the terms of the truce, both sides agreed to end all offensive operations and conduct only defensive operations. For Israel, this means that troops on the ground in Gaza can continue to destroy tunnels used by Palestinian militants in operations against the Jewish state.
Destroying Gaza tunnels is not a “defensive operation” as all the media have portrayed it. These tunnels are a means of defense of Gaza from foreign invaders. Israel’s pursuit of the tunnels is an offensive operation. I’d be willing to accept Israel’s search for tunnel exits to and on, its own territory alone. But not pursuit of tunnels inside Gaza. Israel’s insistence on this point only illustrates its bad faith in this matter and virtually every other matter related to Gaza.
Though 85% of Israeli Jews approved of the Gaza war. 50% are prepared to see it end now. This is a sure sign giving Bibi protective cover to seek a “graceful” exit from his military imbroglio. Yet, what has Israel gained? It’s lost 61 soldiers to Hamas’ 300. It has discovered a massive tunnel network under Gaza which it hadn’t known existed (to the extent it did). It dismantled some of them, but by no means all. It has not defeated Hamas, not has it defeated the Gazans. It has not even chastened Hamas.
In this blog, I’ve consistently reported that with every major Israeli military incursion into Lebanon or Gaza, that the enemy becomes shrewder, tougher, even more resilient. The victories won by Hamas on the battlefield (as opposed to its retreat into the shadows during Cast Lead) have emboldened it. It will not back down nor be subdued. Next time (and there will be one, for sure), Hamas will perform even better. It will undoubtedly have new surprises up its sleeve. That’s because when you are a guerilla movement you have the element of surprise on your side. While you may not know precisely what or how the enemy is planning to strike you, because that enemy is a conventional, hierarchical force, you have the advantage of flexibility and innovation. You change, but the enemy remains inert.
Make no mistake, I am not championing Hamas, which I do not support. But I support Israeli military adventurism even less. And an expansionist Israel seeking to impose its will militarily on the region is an increasingly bankrupt proposition. That is the lesson I wish to convey.
Today, the leaders of several Latin American countries announced they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Israel. Evo Morales even called Israel a “terrorist state” yesterday. While that might be expected, El Salvador isn’t known for its support of such a viewpoint yet it joined the other countries in pulling its ambassador.
In one of the more bizarre developments in this war, the U.S. Senate derailed $225-million in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. When Israel can’t get money from Congress for weapons you know something’s wrong. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated: the Democrats knew Republicans wanted to defeat Obama’s $3-billion border control appropriation, so they loaded it with Mom and Apple Pie goodies like relief aid for fire victims and Iron Dome funding, daring the Republicans to defeat it. They did. This may be the only time I ever agree with a Congressional vote by Republicans. And they did it for all the wrong reasons!
The guest host of Christiane Amanpour’s CNN interview program queried whether Israel could face war crimes charges. While these sorts of statements are de rigeur from the political left, it’s rare to hear them on mainstream media in this fashion:
Could Israel face war crimes charges?
“It certainly could,” Geoffrey Nice, one of the world’s most renowned war crimes prosecutors, told CNN’s Jim Clancy, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Thursday. Nice was the lead prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian leader.
“It’s always been open for Palestine to bring them, if it was prepared to sign up as a states party of the International Criminal Court. If it does that, two things follow: It will be able to refer this matter to the prosecutor of the Court for her to consider; but it will expose itself to an investigation as well.”
Another tell-tale sign of the shifting of political winds among American Jews is that David Remnick’s The New Yorker, a bastion of liberal Zionism in its approach to Israel, published a piece by Rashid Khalidi on Gaza as an act of collective punishment. Khalidi has to be one of the last people Remnick would want to publish under normal circumstances.
— Melissa Chapman (@MelissaSChapman) July 27, 2014
The level of brainwashing of Israeli youth into the culture of ultra-nationalism is astonishing. It begins at a very early age. During the Lebanon War there were pictures of little girls writing messages of hate on Israeli artillery shells wishing them success in killing Hassan Nasrallah.
Today, there is an Israeli tank festooned with colorful drawings and messages from Israeli school children wishing the boys well and Godspeed in their hunt for the enemy. Hearts and sunshine abound in these drawings which wish the tankers well in rooting out Israel’s enemies.
David Sheen has, if possible, compiled an even more disturbing account of Israeli girls who tweet their genocidal hatred of Palestinians alongside revealing sexualized personal profile photos. It makes you wonder whether there might be two victims: the Palestinians on whom they wish death and the girls themselves who have embraced a misogynist culture that promises power and success only through sexualization.
I’ve consistently reported here that the kidnapping of three Israeli youth in the West Bank, which began the death spiral leading to the current tragedy, was not planned, authorized or carried out by Hamas. “Hamas did it” is the uber-narrative exploited by Netanyahu when he sent 10,000 IDF troops into the West Bank purportedly to search for the victims and the perpetrators (whom Israel still has not found). Israelis conducted a massive pogrom with seven Palestinians shot dead, 500 arrested (most of whom had nothing to do with the kidnapping) and the wholesale ransacking of thousands of homes.
It was this massive act of collective punishment which spurred Hamas to begin firing rockets at Israel. This in turn offered Netanyahu his opportunity for turning Gaza into a punching bag, as he does every year or so, pursuing an updated version of the dictum of Michael Ledeen:
Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business…
But Israeli and foreign journalists almost immediately began poking holes in the “Hamas did it” claim. I’ve reported and linked to many of them. More recently, Israeli police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld himself denied Hamas had any role in the crime.
But now Yisrael Ha-Yom, Bibiton, Bibi’s personal political shmatteh, inadvertently confirms that its patron lied (Hebrew). If you peel away the hasbara and posturing in the first sentence, it leaves you with the unavoidable conclusion, “Bibi lied:”
Hamas had planned a summer campaign that it expected would extract it from the strategic-political-economic predicament in which it had become trapped. In unplanned fashion, it ultimately happened in the form of the kidnapping of young boys, about which it had no prior knowledge.
When the Wall Street Journal tells you Obama lied, it’s one thing. But when the NY Times tells you, that’s another entirely. This passage is like the latter statement.
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.