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America is beginning to tune in more closely to the catastrophe unfolding in and around Gaza. And not a moment too soon. If we cannot stop this in 48 hours, the list of victims since it started on Nov. 14 - currently (Monday morningafternoon Israel-Palestine time) at 8097 Palestinians and 3 Israelis - will become much, much longer.

The Israeli government has announced the call-up of 75,000 reservists to expand this operation, dubbed in Hebrew "Cloud Pillar" but in English "Defensive Pillar". For reference, during the 2008-9 Cast Lead operation on Gaza, only 10,000 were called up. During the 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 35 days and included massive armor vs. anti-tank and infantry battles, 60,000 were called up. So what are they planning?

Here at Adalah - a group of Arab, Jewish and other progressives who aspire towards a just resolution respecting the rights and dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis - we have posted at least one diary a day on the conflict. We hope to serve fellow Kossacks with reality-based, anti-violence and anti-war information and analysis. If you feel you need to catch up on what's going on there, please see our recent diaries list.

This diary has one main purpose. I will try not to communicate it angrily (working on my anger management). But I want to make sure we discuss this as a reality-based community.

Remember just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when MoveOn had to pay a fortune for newspaper ads - just to communicate to the public the simple fact that Saddam's Iraq and Al-Qaeda are not linked, not allies? That in fact, they are rivals? It didn't help. The majority of the public swallowed the lies and insinuations that they are linked, and this helped grease the wheels in the run-up to the war.

Now, I feel in a similar situation. I have been fielding comments in diaries, and reading elsewhere (including in the way Secretary Clinton describes it), about how this Israel-Hamas conflagration is a "tit-for-tat", or an Israeli "response" to something that happened a week or two ago, or even that this current bout of bloodshed is "a Hamas trap laid for Israel".


Before I continue, let me re-iterate that I see both Hamas and the Israeli government as negative, criminal actors in this story. If Hamas insists on firing rockets, it could have chosen to target the rather extensive military bases around southwest Israel, rather than towns. And Israel's government.... well, first let's understand what really happened.

In early November, there was an IDF-Hamas escalation. An airstrike killed a youth in Gaza; an anti-tank ambush hit an IDF patrol jeep injuring 3 soldiers; etc. Then, there were Egypt-mediated negotiations and an agreement to restore the calm. This type of ebb and flow of violence has been going on at the Gaza front, both before and after Cast Lead. In short, "tit-for-tat", "uptick, downtick", or "response" and "counter-response" are appropriate terms to describe what happened until last Wednesday.

Then, on Wednesday November 14, in a surprise air strike, the IDF assassinated Hamas' military chief, Ahmed Jabari.

This was something far, far bigger than anything since Cast Lead. Orders of magnitude bigger. The Israelis treated it as bigger, high-fiving their latest and greatest Shock and Awe all across the government and media circles, and immediately launching 24/7 media coverage. The Hamas treated it as bigger, immediately launching missiles at a pace unseen since Cast Lead. Over 4.5 days, Palestinians have fired more rockets into Israel than in the previous full year. The IDF, on its part, fully anticipated this response and started bombing the daylights out of Gaza as soon as Jabari was assassinated.

Now, this type of operation - and even Israel has called it an operation, right from its first moment - cannot be carried out as a short-term "response" to something that happened a week or two ago. This has been planned for months and years. The call-up of reserves, too, was clearly planned in advance.

So, to sum it up: what we are witnessing now in and around Gaza is neither an "escalation" that got out of hand, nor a "tit-for-tat". It is a large-scale, pre-planned Israeli operation.

One can wonder whether the intention is to take over and redesign Gaza (Israeli minister Avi Dichter actually said on the Israeli media, that Gaza "needs a reformatting") - or the somewhat more modest goal of reformatting the Israeli election campaign, which are scheduled for January and had just entered high gear when the operation started.

Prime minister Bibi, although favored to win, found himself contending on the inconvenient terrain of economic policy and social justice (his neoliberal "Bibinomics" are hated by most Israelis). His doppleganger, security minister Ehud Barak, is one of the most unpopular figures in Israeli politics, and his joke of a party was predicted to fail making the electoral cut, leaving him out of the parliament. The operation has already seen Barak's approval ratings soar.

Thanks to the operation, "Bibarak" have also made a caricature out of the leading opposition figure, Labor's Shelly Yechimovitch, who so far comes across as a lame and incoherent cheerleader for the operation (seriously, Miss Teen South Carolina lame). Moreover, Bibi's party hacks openly talk about postponing the elections.  

The suspicion of an election-motivated war arises naturally, once one realizes that there was really nothing in the events of the last couple of weeks, that would have prevented the government and military, had they so wanted, from waiting until after the elections before trying to assassinate Hamas' military chief and opening the floodgates of Hell on Gazans and their neighbors. Cast Lead, too, was carried out during an election campaign, and helped Barak (then still leader of Labor) improve his party's performance in the 2009 elections, compared with pre-war polls.

Finally, I want to return to the Iraq invasion build-up, and I have a confession. We arrived in Seattle from Israel in Fall 2002. Thanks to my involvement in anti-Occupation activism in Israel-Palestine before arriving, I made contacts with the local Seattle Israel-Palestine justice community. From October onwards, Iraq totally eclipsed Palestine on the local activists' minds, but I couldn't see why. It was clear to me, that all of Bush's posturing and threatening of Saddam, was a ploy to humiliate and embarrass Democrats and win the 2002 midterm elections. Just like Bibarak are doing right now to Israel's Labor party.

I was totally convinced, that once the 2002 midterms are over, the Administration will gradually find an excuse to climb off the tree and not invade Iraq. Not because I knew Bush or Cheney. Simply, because no one could be so dumb and reckless as to actually carry out the invasion.

The rest is a hundreds-of-thousands-dead, trillions-of-dollars lost, entire-nation-destroyed history.

Similarly, it might be that Bibarak announced the 75,000 reservist call-up as a bluff. Maybe they want Obama to step in and stop them before they invade Gaza (Obama has added the teeniest of nuances to his mostly one-sided statements on the matter, hinting he's indeed trying to stop a ground attack). Maybe.

But never underestimate a power-drunk politician's stupidity and recklessness. Especially the group running Israel right now, all of whom already have a solid track record of stupidity, recklessness and personal corruption.

So, as the diary title says: you are free to have your own opinion about this Israeli operation. You can pick "winners" and "losers", "good guys" and "bad guys", whatever. In case you're interested, I expressed my general opinion here. But it is still a pre-conceived, large-scale Israeli operation. Neither a "response" and nor a "tit-for-tat".

Thank you. And please help stop it.

8:55 AM PT: There seems to be some dispute and confusion related to the interpretation of "response" vs. "planned". Here's a copy-paste from my response to a comment below.

The operation is a "response" to a broader situation that Israel finds unacceptable.

Namely, that Hamas is still around and dominant in Gaza, and has increased its missile-launching capabilities.

Given that, Israel enjoys a rather expansive latitude and leverage space to choose whether to launch what might turn out to be Israel's largest war since 1982 (given the number of reservist call-ups) - and also when to launch it.

There is debate in Israel whether the timing is due to the election.

But no one seriously thinks this is a response to events of recent weeks. Those were puny in comparison to what's going on, and what's being talked about, right now.

Also, some readers are confounding a disagreement/confusion about what happened, which my diary tries to resolve,

with a "who started" blame-game. I am not going there in this diary. I am only pointing out that last Wednesday, Israel decided to roll out yet another of IDF's famous "shelf plans". It wasn't some localized escalation that got out of hand.

That's all. Feel free to continue bashing each other's heads - civilly, of course - in the thread below. I'm going off to work.

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