Gaza, last night, became a House of Slaughter. An Israeli targeted assassination destroyed a floor of an apartment building, killing three alleged Islamic Jihad commanders, their wives and children. 5 of the dead were children. 20 others were injured.
As it has in the past, Israel knew there were civilians who would be killed, but wanted the militants so badly it was willing to massacre the innocent. An Israeli security source told me the following:
“We have eyes and ears in every street corner in Gaza, so we obviously knew that civilians, including women and children, were in the three buildings. But their number was significantly less than last week – and that’s why the operation was delayed by a week, and finally carried out yesterday”
I suppose we’re supposed to feel heartened that Israel didn’t murder ten or twenty children, instead of the five it did. Not to mention the horrifying moral calculus that determined that the lives of women and children are worth nothing when the targeted victim is the only thing of ‘value’ to you. These people are ghouls. They are criminals. The world should not go near them. They should be treated as if they have the plague, a moral plague.
Israel’s national poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, wrote a searing poem about the 1903 Kishniev pogrom, the City of Slaughter. Tonight, Israel has made a House of Slaughter. I’ve featured here some of the photos of these beautiful children.
Israeli strikes kill 12 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip overnight, brags about targeting members of the Islamic Jehad – who were killed with their family members. These are Ali and Mayar IzzAlDeen, two of the children killed in the raids. pic.twitter.com/E7sOEV61wo
— Rania Zabaneh (@RZabaneh) May 9, 2023
— Aya Isleem 🇵🇸 #Gaza (@AyaIsleemEn) May 9, 2023
A few days ago, Israel permitted a Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan to die. He had been arrested six times under administrative detention. This allows Israel to hold a Palestinian indefinitely without trial or charges. Adnan objected to this and went on several hunger strikes. When he died, his comrades in Islamic Jihad sought revenge by launching missiles from Gaza into southern Israel. The massacre tonight was the culmination of the cycle of insanity.
The anti-government protests roiling Israel pride themselves on drawing support from IDF reservists, in particular IAF pilots. Protestors proudly boast that the army is on its side. Now, an Israeli pilot, perhaps one of these reservists has engaged in mass murder. That should give the protestors pause. Their soldiers may appear to be heroes. But they are, in reality, killers whose job it is to kill Palestinians. This is the terrible dichotomy that is a feature of the Israeli psyche.
This contradiction will never be mentioned by a speaker at any of these rallies. No one will mourn for the Gaza dead. No one will excoriate the IAF for this war crime. Instead, they will say: Palestine is not our issue. Our issue is preserving democracy. Democracy for whom? Jews. Not Israeli Palestinians, and certainly not Palestinians under Israeli siege in Gaza.
For this reason, the anti-government movement is shallow. At most, it will topple a fascist government and replace it with a slightly more palatable alternative, which will kill as many Palestinians or more. So what’s the real difference?
Melman’s modest proposal
Haaretz’s Yossi Melman, as often, has an eminently pragmatic and rational proposal: talk to Hamas. What an idea? Why hasn’t anyone thought of it? Of course, many have. But Melman’s ideas on the subject are worth reading:
…It’s still not too late to discuss the…option which no one dares utter aloud: to…hold negotiations with Hamas.
…Israel needs to muster the courage to renew negotiations with Hamas. Israel can call Hamas a terrorist organization another million times, but it won’t change the fact that it is also the political and military entity that runs the 400 square kilometers of the Gaza Strip. It is a government no matter how you look at it.
Admittedly, this will not be a popular proposal, because Israel will have to pay a price for such an accord. The Israeli right-wing will label it as feeble policy and surrendering to terrorism. The Palestinian Authority, which according to the 1994 Oslo Accords is supposed to be the sole interlocutor with Israel, will be very angry. But the PA is slowly dying, in no small part due to Israeli policy, and on this matter there is no real difference between Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
Melman notes that his proposal has great benefits for Israel, but also would come at a cost. All of them had been negotiated nearly a decade ago as part of the ceasefire that ended Operation Protective Edge:
During the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, indirect negotiations took place between Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Israeli government, with the mediation of Egyptian intelligence. Understandings were reached and four principles were set: a cease-fire and calm for five years; economic rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip that was supposed to include construction of a seaport under international supervision, construction of an electric power station, water desalination plants, and more; a deal to return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza in exchange for the release of a certain number of terrorists and the demilitarization of Gaza.
These contacts had another, more secret dimension. Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and Military Intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi secretly flew to Jeddah, where they met with Bandar bin Sultan, the head of Saudi intelligence. The aim of the talks that took place with the approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to obtain a broader political accord with the Palestinian Authority, which would also have ushered in full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries. Netanyahu, as usual, got cold feet at the last minute and halted the talks with the Saudis. A rare opportunity for a peace agreement was missed.
He says that to revive this deal:
We also need clarity about the government’s position on a prisoner swap deal. If the goal is to carry out the deal as part of a broader accord with Gaza whose main conditions are a long-term cease-fire in return for rehabilitation of Gaza, Israel will have to agree to release terrorists. Hamas can be expected to insist on the release of hundreds of terrorists before it would agree to such an accord. If Israel is not prepared to release terrorists, the prisoner swap will have to be excluded from the accord (even if this infuriates the families of the fallen soldiers and the abducted civilians).
This kind of accord certainly does not have an easy cost, but the perpetuation of the present situation also has a cost, which is repeatedly being paid by the residents of Israel’s south. Without an agreement, these Israelis will continue to feel like second-class citizens whom their government doesn’t care about and who are essentially hostages of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We will only see more cycles of Israel responding rather than taking the initiative, and especially of Israel showing that is unable to think outside th
Melman’s proposal will sink like a stone to the bottom of the ocean. As he noted regarding Netanyahu, there is no political upside in peace. That is why he has walked away from two serious peace negotiations. Despite the huge economic and security benefit a real peace would bring, it is far easier to carry on with the status quo. No Israeli politician was ever rewarded for courage or breaking the status quo. Those who came closest (Rabin and Sharon, both later in their careers) were either murdered or died.
One note: Melman doesn’t care about the suffering of the Palestinians. He’s only interested in the interests of Israel and its citizens. But at least his pragmatic approach is better than the alternative: war crimes, endless blood and suffering
Targeted assassinations: a bankrupt strategy
For years, I’ve written here about Israel’s targeted assassination strategy, which it has pursued since the founding of the state in 1948. Ronen Bergman estimates that the Mossad has murdered 3,000 “enemies” of Israel, many but not all, Palestinian. In most cases, it’s made no appreciable difference to the groups whose leaders were murdered. In some cases, the figure who succeeded the victim was a more ferocious and formidable enemy, such as Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, who replaced Abbas Musawi after he was assassinated. When Israel murdered Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassine, it strengthened the militant group by developing a new young core of leaders to replace him: Khaled Meshal, Ismail Haniye, Mahmoud Zahar, Mohammed Deif, Yehiya Sinwar. You may murder a man, but you cannot murder a movement.
Israel’s Mossad and its MeK allies pursued the same approach regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Along with attempting to sabotage nuclear facilities and destroy missile bases, it has assassinated many nuclear scientists, including the father of the program, Moshen Fahrizadeh. The best evaluation of the impact of this murder is featured in the 2023 US Intelligence Threat Assessment report:
Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that would be necessary to produce a testable nuclear device. Since the assassination in November 2020 of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran has accelerated the expansion of its nuclear program, stated that it is no longer constrained by any JCPOA limits, and undertaken research and development activities that would bring it closer to producing the fissile material for completing a nuclear device following a decision to do so. If Tehran does not receive sanctions relief, Iranian officials probably will consider further enriching uranium up to 90 percent.
Israel’s campaign to destroy the JCPOA nuclear deal and its lobbying of Donald Trump to withdraw from it, has had the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of cowering and begging for relief, Iran has doubled down: producing more uranium at a higher level of enrichment. It has continued its research and production of fissile material, and the warheads and missiles necessary to turn them into nuclear weapons.
Nor have the assassinations of the scientists done appreciable damage to the program. Redundancy is built into both nuclear infrastructure and the personnel leading the program. If one falls, there are others ready to replace them.
As long as the world continues to permit Israel to pursue its ongoing campaign of mass murder, nothing will change. But the blood that flows will not only be Iranian or Palestinian. Israeli blood will (and has) flown. Even if Islamic Jihad itself does not directly take revenge, there will be scores of lone-wolf Palestinians with no discernible history or affiliation with one of the militant groups. They will take it as an honor to avenge the blood of their martyrs and become Shahids themselves.
All of Israel’s leaders and generals should be brought to the Hague for war crimes like those committed last night. The current crop includes Netanyahu, defense minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of staff, Herzi Halevi. The ICC continues to deliberate on its war crimes inquiry. It must come forward and do its job despite massive pressure it faces to do otherwise.
If it only killed Palestinians, then one could call it a success, purely from the Israeli point of view. But thousands of Israeli Jews have died in these attacks. It is a masterstroke of psychological manipulation that Israel’s leaders have persuaded their citizens that the price they must pay for security is the blood sacrifice of some of their fellow Israeli Jews.
And Israeli apologists–don’t ever criticize the pride of Palestinians in their martyrs. Israeli streets and buildings are named for the fallen heroes of pre-Yishuv terror militias. To this day, Avraham Stern the Etzel leader assassinated by the British, is viewed by many Israelis as a national hero. Joseph Trumpeldor is another national symbol who made the ultimate sacrifice. Masada itself, where Judean resistance fighters held out until being overrun by a Roman legion, is the site of the solemn ritual of the induction of young IDF soldiers. Israel’s cult of martyrdom is no different than Palestine’s.