“The idea is to put Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
So spoke Dov Weisglass, adviser to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after Gazans had elected a Hamas government in 2006. The State of Israel has carried this out with all the precision that the Nazis used in their “scientific experiments” in the concentration camps. They calculated, for instance, exactly how many truckloads of food would be permitted to enter Gaza per day (67) to avoid outright starvation. They prevented the reconstruction of the sewage treatment plants which were destroyed in their 2008 attack (“Operation Cast Lead”). At the same time, they forced Gaza fishermen to fish only in near-shore waters - the same waters that were polluted due to the flow of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean. As a result, according to Mideast scholar Juan Cole, “about ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition… in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6% of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.”
Perhaps the greatest damage, though, is psychological, being forced to live in the giant, open air prison and the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that goes with that. On top of that is the awareness of the land grab that is ongoing every day in the West Bank as well as the history of brutality and murder carried out by Israeli settlers as well as the Israeli military.
Chain of Events
This general situation must be seen as the background to the present crisis in Gaza and the precise chain of events that led up to it. They make the exact details of that chain almost irrelevant. However, those details do help to clarify the goals of the two parties involved (the State of Israel and Hamas).
- On Oct. 28-29 there was an exchange of rocket fire and gun fire across the border. Following that, there was one single report of a rocket from Gaza hitting southern Israel (Nov. 5).
- On Nov. 4, Israeli forces shot dead an unarmed Gazan man walking near the border.
- On Nov. 8, Israeli military forces invaded Gaza and shot and killed a 13 year old boy while he was playing soccer.
- On Nov. 9, two rockets were fired from Gaza into Southern Israel.
- On Nov. 10, an Israeli army jeep near the Gaza border was attacked and four soldiers were wounded.
- In the ensuing 72 hours, the Israeli military attacked civilian neighborhoods in Gaza, killing 7 Palestinians, including three children.
- This was followed by days of mounting attacks and counter-attacks. Then, on Nov. 13, according to Reuters news service, the Hamas leadership indicated they were interested in a truce.
- The very next day, the State of Israel carried out the assassination of Ahmad al-Jabari, claiming he was a terrorist leader.
- Further back-and-forth attacks followed, with some 120 Gazans, including at least 27 babies and children, killed as of this writing.
On the one hand, the Israeli regime dismisses the murder of children and other “civilians” as unavoidable “collateral damage”. On the other hand, they brag about the laser-like accuracy of their missiles. Indeed, there is the case for example of Fateh Nasser, resident of a block of flats in Jabaliya. On Sunday, Nov. 18, he says he received an anonymous phone call telling he had five minutes to get out of his building. Within minutes, the building was destroyed by an Israeli missile.
As a neighbor commented: “If they know who to call, then they know who they are killing, they know every inch of Gaza. They have maps from the occupation. They have cameras in the drones. How can it be an accident that our children are killed?” As for Ahmed Jabari - he, was moving towards a more “pragmatic” view. He was the leader responsible for keeping alive the imprisoned Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and he was the one who eventually negotiated Shalit’s ultimate release. In fact, some within the Israeli media called him a “subcontractor” for Israel. If there was to be a negotiated truce, Jabari was going to be at the center of it. His assassination was meant to ensure that no such truce would be worked out.
It appears that the Israeli regime is experimenting with some new types of weapons. According to Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National initiative, who visited Gaza during the attacks, a number of children have appeared at the hospitals with serious internal wounds but no traces of injury on the body’s surface. “I am completely horrified by the scenes I witnessed in Gaza City’s Shafa Hospital,” he said. “This is not a war, this is a massacre. I have been a medical doctor for over 33 years. I have witnessed countless wars and atrocities but I have never before seen this level of brutality.”
For the US regime, in the person of Barack Obama, as well as for the corporate-controlled US media, the sole matter is the relatively few rockets launched from Gaza and Israel’s “right to defend itself”. The Gazans’ right to a decent life is irrelevant.
The Israeli regime has several motives involved. One is to put on the back burner any of the simmering social issues (increased poverty, etc.) inside Israel in the run-up to the upcoming elections there.
It is also clearly no coincidence that the previous Israeli attack on Gaza was carried out exactly four years ago, just prior to the inauguration of newly elected president Barack Obama. Now, as was the case then, the Israeli regime wanted to force the hand of Obama, to make sure he would come down on the side of Israel during his presidency.
There are also several other issues involved. First is the plan of Fatah leader Abbas to apply for nationhood status at the United Nations. This would not deter the Israeli regime from continuing to carry out its crimes against humanity, but it would be a diplomatic complication. Among other things, it might subject some of the main principles of the regime to being brought before the World Court if they traveled to certain other countries. (Not that that Court can be expected to seriously do anything - but it would be an embarrassment.)
In addition, there is the issue of the digging up of the remains of Yassir Arafat, who suddenly died of mysterious causes. There is now evidence that he may have been poisoned by the radioactive element polonium. If his remains show traces of polonium, then it is only the Israeli regime which can possibly be responsible. This, too, would be a huge embarrassment - so great that the regime previously denied having had a hand in Arafat’s death. (Normally, they simply refuse to comment when they have carried out this sort of murder.)
The ongoing air assault and the possibility of a ground invasion have to be seen in a regional and in fact a global context:
The “Arab Spring” has transformed several regimes, first and foremost the Egyptian. There a regime has come into power that is far more subject to the pressure of the masses of Egyptians. While Egyptian President Morsi tries to carry out the IMF economic policies, he also came into power at the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, which in some ways is the parent organization to Hamas. In any case, as a politician who rests on what could be considered Islamic nationalism, he cannot simply ignore the plight of the Gazans. This is different from former President Mubarak.
Then there is the regime of Recep Erdogan of Turkey. Until recently, along with Egypt this was the only ally Israel had in the region. More recently, however, the Turkish regime seems to be trying to play a more independent role in the region. Possibly this is the start of an orientation more towards Chinese and also Russian capitalism. In any case, it shows the weakening of the iron grip that US capitalism had in the Middle East. On Monday, Nov. 20, Erdogan branded Israel as a “terrorist state”.
Then there is Jordan. In recent weeks, many thousands of Jordanians have been out in the streets protesting the increased prices of consumer goods. A destabilization of that regime will also threaten the Israeli state.
Finally, there is the ongoing war in Syria. Just recently, representatives of the US cobbled together a new leadership of the “rebels” in Syria. At the head of this leadership is the Muslim Brotherhood. While they have their own battles to fight for the moment, clearly they cannot turn a blind eye to the attacks on Gaza and the Hamas regime there.
The strategy of Hamas must be considered also. Their senior partner — the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - has proven itself the willing agent of the IMF and US capitalism at least as far as economic policy is concerned. Hamas must do the same, but the difference lies in the internal situation within Gaza, where thousands of youth are boiling with rage. Hamas must present them with an outlet to this legitimate rage. As a party based on capitalism and a wing of the capitalist class, that outlet for Hamas cannot be the class struggle and socialist revolution. Instead, it maintains a militant appearance by putting forward a military strategy.
In fact, within Gaza there are signs of frustration with Hamas, especially among the youth as this article (http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/world/2011/jan/02/free-gaza-youth-manifesto-palestinian) indicates.
Military Solution Ruled Out
There can be many different outcomes to the crisis there, but one is not possible: A military solution. The military overthrow of the State of Israel is ruled out as a possibility. Even if there were a force in the region which could offer Israel a real military challenge (which there isn’t), this terrorist state would not hesitate to take everybody down with them by using nuclear weapons. And even if that were not so, what would be left? In its place would stand an Islamic state that would also repress the working class and carry out a war against women.
Thus, the shooting of a few - or even more than a few - rockets from Gaza into Israel can at best be only an annoyance. It only helps encourage the Israeli far right, who already is showing elements of fascism.
As this is being written, news of a negotiated cease fire are appearing. Amongst the agreements, it is rumored that Israel will consider “looking into” lessening the siege of Gaza. That is not worth the ink it takes to write it. Even if they agreed to end the siege, what would that mean? How many times have they agreed to curtail building settlements, only to continue on without let up?
Simultaneously, we see the rise of a vicious semi-fascist mentality in Israel. Participants at recent pro-war demonstrations expressed the view that all Arabs should be expelled, they also said the same about the Israeli lefts who opposed these present attacks. Expressed with a high degree of rabid hatred, it is clear that not much is restraining these types from carrying out physical attacks within Israel on a wide scale.
Netanyahu will be boasting about the great military victory he has won. However, he has shown once again the fear the Israeli military has of actually engaging in a ground war where some of their troops may be killed. For the longer term, Hamas will have been pushed closer to the Iranian regime while Israel’s supposed ability to shoot down rockets from Gaza has been shown to be largely hollow. Not only that, but Hamas is developing the ability to shoot rockets deeper into Israel.
As for Obama and US capitalism - they were forced to come out openly in favor of Israel. Having done so, their ability to affect other events throughout the region (such as in Syria) will be even more weakened. The renewed outbreak of the crisis in the Middle East will also force US capitalism to use even more political capital in the region, weakening its ability to influence events elsewhere, especially in the Pacific rim, where tensions with Chinese capitalism are increasing.
Given the impossibility of a military solution, it can seem that the situation is hopeless. However, we should not forget the widespread “occupation” protests that happened in Tel Aviv and elsewhere against the rapidly rising housing costs in Israel. Poverty in Israel has increased from 18% in 2001 to 23.6% this year (http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=is&v=69). In fact, it is widely thought that Netanyahu embarked on this slaughter in order to keep these issues off the table as January’s elections approach there.
Nor is the class struggle in the Arab world ignored in Israel. It was no accident, after all, that the occupation in Israel happened just shortly after the height of the Arab Spring. Thus, a deepening of the class struggle throughout the region would have a further effect inside Israel. There is a small but courageous Israeli movement against that country’s racism and expansionism. Unfortunately, until the present this movement appears to largely ignore the internal class issues. The more the workers movement in the Arab world develops, the more it will tend to point the way for the anti-racist/anti-war movement within Israel. The more the class struggle develops in the region, the more the issue of a genuine socialist revolution and working class internationalism are raised, the more difficult it will be for the Israeli regime to continue on its present course. Given how deeply entrenched racism is within Israeli society, the effect would probably not be immediate. But what other course is there?