There is a horrible sense of Groundhog Day aboutIsrael’s latest cynical act of punitive violence inGaza. Like Operation Cast Lead, this is a war that Israel clearly wanted and deliberately provoked – in this case by assassinating Hamas’ military leader when he was in the midst of brokering a ceasefire.
Like its predecessor, these provocations have been buried under the usual layers of lies and propaganda , which present Israel as an exasperated and innocent victim of ‘terrorism’ forced to take action out concern for the security of its citizens. Both wars were instigated on the eve of elections, by politicians without a shred of moral integrity, who seem to believe that war with someone – anyone – will make them popular and somehow cow Israel’s enemies into submission.
Because Netanyahu and his cronies have clearly been itching for a war ever since he got into office, and now he has got one, and once again Israel is engaging in its timeworn tactic of using overwhelming force as a tool of psychological intimidation, not just of ‘terrorists’ and ‘militants’ but of the civilian population.
As was the case in Operation Cast Lead, there is the usual talk of targeted strikes on ‘terrorist infrastructure’, of fighters who hide behind civilians, of surgical strikes and precision weapons and how Israel is doing everything it can to minimize civilian casualties, etc, etc.
All the other elements of this dismal recurring nightmare are present. There are the rockets fired by Palestinian groups at civilian targets, which act as grist to the Israeli mill and provide further justification for massive retaliation.
Then there is the British and American media, dutifully replaying the official Israeli narrative while ignoring evidence that contradicts it, flagging up the deaths of Israeli civilians in banner headlines while treating Palestinian casualties as routine or minor events.
The other day I watched a BBC reporter in Gaza explaining to his viewers how difficult it was for Israel to avoid hitting civilian targets, given the location of buildings associated with Hamas in built-up areas. As always viewers are invited to understand the difficulties of the occupying power – which Israel still is, despite its ‘disengagement’ from Gaza – rather than from through the eyes of the population living under bombs.
As always the American and British governments have backed Israel to the hilt and placed responsibility for the violence on Hamas, ignoring the actual sequence of events and the vindictive blockade to which Gaza has been subjected for the last six years, with the support and collusion of the ‘international community.
Once again there are the usual hypocritical calls for ‘de-escalation’ in a pathetic and fraudulent attempt to display even-handedness, and the usual faux-concern for ‘civilians’ on both sides that ignores the familiar disparity in the numbers killed and wounded between Israelis and Palestinians.
But hey, don’t you go thinking that our leaders lack backbone. The other day William Hague was calling on Israel to ‘do its utmost to reduce tension.’ And today Hague was even more outspoken, declaring
‘ Israel does have to bear in mind that it is when ground invasions have taken place in previous conflicts that they have lost international support and a great deal of sympathy around the world.’
Tough talk Mr Foreign Secretary, which will surely make Netanyahu and Co. think again. And last but not least, there is Blair the ‘peace envoy’, taking a little time out from his financial endeavours to blame Hamas while shaking his humanitarian head at the impact of the latest ‘skirmish’ on civilians. The man really does care so much, you see.
So all in all Operation Cast Lead redux is a pretty revolting business. And even if the latest crisis is eventually ‘de-escalated’, episodes like this will continue to recur again and again, as long as the ‘international community’ continues to give Israel a carte blanche to do whatever it likes, and as long as it continues to collude in the dark and brutal game that is being played out in Gaza, which has reduced its inhabitants to a besieged and captive population, and which inverts reality so that the aggressor becomes the victim, and the victims aggressors.
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