It has to be stated bluntly: Israel’s land and air attacks on Gaza, which began July 8 ostensibly in “self-defense” against Hamas rocket launches into Israel, have clearly gone too far. Israel’s lopsided advantage in military firepower used against the tiny, densely-populated, overwhelmingly civilian Palestinian enclave of Gaza, accompanied with an also lopsided number of Palestinian civilian casualties compared to the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rocket fire, make a mockery of any Israeli pretense of acting solely in self-defense, operating solely because it was provoked by Hamas. Numbers do not lie, and the numbers tell quite another story. According to the New York Times Daily Tally of attacks and death attributable to both sides, as of July 25, 2014, Israel had attacked 3,209 targets in Gaza and killed 856 Palestinians, most of them civilians; by contrast, Hamas had fired 2,233 rockets into Israel, many of them crude, inaccurate and easily intercepted by Israel’s Iron Shield missile intercept system. As a result, only 40 Israeli civilians had been killed by such rockets, and the total number launched as of the 25th were nearly 1,000 fewer than the number of Gaza targets attacked by Israeli forces. Such is not “self-defense” by any reasonable definition of the term.
Nor is the Israeli claim that Hamas is holding the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza essentially hostage and using them as “human shields” any more credible than that of “self-defense.” In the one election held to determine the Palestinian government of Gaza, Hamas won, although it was not allowed to govern. Hamas holds Gaza “hostage” because members of Hamas themselves are Gazans, they also live there, same as the non-Hamas population. Essentially they are akin to a guerilla force—and moreover, a guerilla force whose predecessors were financed and encouraged by Israel itself as a religious foil against the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization, PLO, and Israel’s then arch-terrorist of the day, Yasser Arafat. Now the PLO’s successor, the Palestinian Authority, or PA, are the “good guys” to the Israelis, while Hamas has become the arch-terrorist of the current day. As Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery mentioned recently in CounterPunch, “If Hamas did not exist, Israel would have to invent it.”
An update on Palestinian casualties a little before 5:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time July 26 from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation put the number dead as at least 1,030, mostly civilians. A hundred bodies alone had been pulled from rubble. By contrast, the number of Israeli military deaths was only 42.
Such disparities in number of dead, such disparities in number of actual civilians killed on both sides, is not “self-defense;” it is deliberate overkill, the deliberate targeting of Gaza’s civilian population in a callous attempt to deliberately destroy the haystack in which the Hamas needles are buried.
It was exactly this that caused an exasperated Secretary of State John Kerry to make the unguarded comment caught on microphone June 20, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” And that was when Palestinian civilian casualties were far fewer. We may recall Israel’s “pinpoint” accuracy from two days before Kerry’s remarks, when three Palestinian boys playing ball on the beach were “unintentionally” killed by Israeli gunships, which were supposedly mounted with weaponry so precisely accurate that such was not supposed to be even possible, let alone happen! No wonder so much of the world is outraged at Israel’s latest military assault on Palestinians. No wonder there is so much world outcry this time—the sense being that this time Israel crossed the line. As well as outcry even within Israel itself, where peace demonstrators in Tel Aviv were beset upon by thugs. A very sizeable minority of the U.S. population, 34%, disapproves of this Israeli military action, and even though the U.S. Senate voted unanimously in support of a resolution written at the behest of AIPAC supporting the “self-defense” rationale, garnering support even from leading progressive senators such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Sherrod Brown, in view of public opinion, these Senators are likely to find their vote was cast on the wrong side of history, and their progressive credentials tarnished in the eyes of grassroots activists.
For reaction worldwide was massive protest demonstrations across the globe against Israel’s incursion. And though the Israeli government would like to paint such displays of solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians as pro-Hamas, and even though there was some scattered anti-Semitic violence arising out of some of the demonstrations, notably in Paris, the simple fact is, this worldwide outpouring of solidarity has little or nothing to do with support for Hamas. For the vast majority of protestors, Hamas is as much anathema to them as the Israeli government, and many of those drawn to the streets in protest are quite aware of Hamas’ Holocaust denial and how Hamas’ charter lifts directly from the hoary anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. No, it was not anti-Semitism that draws opprobrium on Israel for the Gaza attack; it is simple humanity, a desire for a truly equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one that allows both peoples to live in peace—but where Israel has made it clear it is the intransigent party, not the Palestinians or any of the Palestinian groups claiming to speak on behalf of the population. But this time Israel is not getting the automatic green light it used to get; and that is an important change.
At this moment, Israel has said it would honor an additional 24 hours’ cease-fire, and would limit its military actions only to seeking out Hamas tunnels to Israel. Hamas has stated it would not honor the cease-fire, but may anyway, as it is on the eve of the holy day that ends the month of Ramadan. We can only hope that a more permanent cease-fire can be achieved, and that the carnage against the peoples of Gaza will stop.