The last time major war loomed on the near horizon, Secretary of State John Kerry played fast and loose with the facts. On Aug. 30, 2013 he solemnly claimed, no fewer than 35 times, “We know” the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for chemical attacks outside Damascus on August 21.
Just a few days later, it became abundantly clear that Kerry did not know. On Aug. 30, no one knew for sure. And, to their credit, my former colleagues in CIA and in the Defense Intelligence Agency stood their ground in refusing to say “we know” when U.S. intelligence did not know. We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) tried to alert President Barack Obama to this in a Memorandum for the President on September 6. [for details, see Consortium News.com's Obama Warned on Syrian Intel.]
Determined to avoid a repeat of the fraudulent intelligence performance on WMD before the March 2003 attack on Iraq, this time our former colleagues refused to “fix the intelligence around the policy,” as the British Downing Street Minutes document put it. The opposition was so strong that not even the malleable CIA Director, John Brennan, was able to provide Kerry with the usual “Intelligence Assessment” he wanted. So the best he could do was to issue a “Government Assessment” bereft of verifiable evidence.
Israel’s current attack on a basically defenseless population in Gaza is a repeat of its massacres of Palestinians in November 2012, December 2008-January 2009 and June-July 2006. This time Israeli forces have already slaughtered over 500 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, while about 20 Israelis, almost all soldiers, have been killed. The imbalance of these death tolls is staggering but not surprising. I say not surprising because Israel has one of the strongest militaries in the world, supplied with the latest US weapons and technology, whereas Palestinians have no real army nor any defense against Israeli plane or missile attacks.
In each of these massacres, the scenario was similar. Palestinians react to some Israeli provocation and Israel uses the Palestinian reaction as an excuse to launch its attack. The use of provocations is a long standing Israeli tactic. For example, Moshe Dayan discussed the use of this tactic against the Syrians, claiming that at least 80% of the incidents with Syria under the armistice agreements were caused by Israeli provocations.
Israel claims that the goal of its attack is to stop rockets from being launched into Israel. If Israel were really serious about this goal, it would have honored the terms of the 2012 ceasefire about easing the illegal siege on Gaza. A key condition was “Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas.”
Despite Israel’s history of duplicity, the US government and the US corporate media serve as megaphones for its propaganda, spinning the story as Israel simply defending itself. This version ignores the fact that Israel occupies Palestinian lands, steals Palestinian resources and brutally oppresses Palestinians.
Under the headline “Israel’s War in Gaza,” the most powerful newspaper in the United States editorialized that such carnage is necessary. The lead editorial in the July 19 edition flashed a bright green light – reassuring the U.S. and Israeli governments that the horrors being inflicted in Gaza were not too horrible.
From its first words, the editorial methodically set out to justify what Israel was doing.
“After 10 days of aerial bombardment,” the editorial began, “Israel sent tanks and ground troops into Gaza to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.”
The choice of when to date the start of the crisis was part of the methodical detour around inconvenient facts.
For instance, no mention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s June 30 announcement that the “human animals” of Hamas would “pay” after three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank were found dead. No mention of the absence of evidence that Hamas leadership was involved in those murders.
Likewise, absent from the editorializing sequence was Israel’s June “crackdown” in the West Bank, with home raids, area closures, imprisonment of hundreds of Hamas party activists including legislators.
Most of all, the vile core of the Times editorial was its devaluation of Palestinian lives in sharp contrast to Israeli lives.
Last night I spoke on the phone with my 10-year-old son, who is currently visiting my parents in Beer-Sheva. Suddenly the warning alarm was heard and we were disconnected. "There is no reception in the shelter" my son said a few minutes later when he called back.
And then we start talking about the situation in Gaza. Although only 10 year old, very involved in politics since very young age, my son started lecturing me why Israel should continue fighting in Gaza as far as the Hamas continues to send missiles towards Israel. I tried to explain that although the unfortunate history of the last 50 years brought us to these days of violence and horror, it is our responsibility to stop it; for us and for our brothers and sisters who can not freely express themselves these days.
My son then asked me "so how do you explain that the Hamas is so successful in Gaza, and why the keep shooting rocket at us?" Although I do not have a simple answer to this question I tried using this allegory "think that if since you are 5-year-old an older stronger kid is bullying you, not hurting you physically maybe, but just go with you everywhere and harassing you verbally. When you get older and stronger, would you feel that you like to talk back to him (and maybe give him a kick in his belly)?" My son’s answer was "yes", but when I tried to explain that the situation in Gaza is similar, he did not get it. Our conversation went around and around and I was unable to change my son’s view of the situation. I hope that when he is back home, I will be able to talk with him more about it, and maybe show him the other side of this conflict. As what we see from here he may not see from there….
80% of 1.8 million people living in the 141 square mile Gaza Strip are refugees and their descendents, expelled from their homes in 1948, during the ethnic cleansing that created the state of Israel. Expansion and expulsion have continued ever since. Homes in the West Bank are continually destroyed to make way for more Israeli settlements. Always taking the best land and leaving the Palestinians with whatever Israel has no use for. Gaza is under siege.
Since 1967, both the West Bank and Gaza have been under Israeli Occupation. In 2005, the occupiers withdrew from Gaza, and replaced a brutal occupation with a brutal siege, creating the world’s largest open air prison. The blockade of Gaza is designed to make life absolutely miserable, and, as an Israeli diplomat stated, “keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse.” Israel completely controls what gets allowed in. Repeated bombings have reduced much of Gaza to rubble, and they can’t rebuild because construction materials are barred. A calorie calculation was even made so Israel could allow Gazans just enough to survive. As a top Israeli advisor said, "the Palestinians will get a lot thinner but won’t die." Over 10% of Gaza children are chronically malnourished; 13% have stunted growth.
Civilians are regularly shot by Israeli forces near Gaza’s northern and eastern borders. Two boys were shot by Israeli snipers in the West Bank on May 15th. Arbitrary imprisonment is also routine. Water and sewage systems were destroyed in Israel’s ’08 invasion, leaving over half the population with a struggle just to get clean water. These systems have again been targeted in the current bombings. The whole strip is facing a water crisis.
All fighting within cities and all bombardments of urban spaces, even the most "precise and surgical", is a potential death trap for civilians. Consequently, the permeation of war into cities inevitably transforms their inhabitants into potential human shields.
For Palestinians living in Gaza today, simply spending time in their own homes, frequenting a mosque, going to a hospital or to school has become a dangerous enterprise since any one of these architectural edifices can become at any moment a target. One can no longer safely assume that the existence of masses of human bodies – even the bodies of children – in civilian spaces can serve as defense of the weak against the lethal capacity of the hi-tech states.
But since hi-tech states can and do kill hundreds or thousands of civilians, they have to provide moral justification for their action in order to preserve their standing in the international arena; they have to demonstrate that they are protecting the principles of liberal democracy. It is precisely within this context that we should understand the series of posters recently disseminated by the Israeli military through its Twitter account, Facebook and blogs.