Israel has declared war on Palestine


5:07 pm - December 28th 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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Reuters reports:

Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state.

Saturday’s death toll was the highest for a single day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, when the Jewish state was established.

Piling pressure on Hamas? These people really are stupid aren’t they? I would love to see Hamas become completely de-militarised but killing 229 people (so far) and injuring over 700 people is essentially a declaration of war.

Even Sky News points out that: “Dozens of people were killled when Israeli jets fired about 30 missiles into densely populated areas.”

As much as I hate having discussions that ensue in threads such as this, its difficult to avoid mentioning the scale of the attack and the people dead in yet another “retaliation”.

And while I’m perfectly aware of Hamas’s racist nature and its constant sniping, and that Israel tries to hold back in retaliating, the net impact is still that it kills more civilians. Regardless of how it couches that impact – whether as ‘retaliation’, an ‘unfortunate accident’, or a fight for its own survival, the impact is still the same.

Even worse, there’s actually the delusion that such deadly incursions will deter Hamas, without realising its exactly the sort of polarised environment that helps them grow and become more powerful. I don’t see how lifting a blockade while simultaneously launching a huge attack is somehow being nice. It’s like giving a breather to someone you were repeatedly punching in the face… just before you set their clothes on fire.

As for those defending Hamas – I don’t see what else they were expecting given the recent upsurge of rocket attacks into Israeli areas. A fucking Blue Peter badge? This really is a crappy state of affairs.

There’s another brief point to be made (that I want to expand on later), about the legitimacy political violence. The idea that you should ‘take up the sword to defend yourself if all else fails‘ isn’t a unique philosophy – it’s prominent in Sikhism, Hinduism and all the Abrahamic religions.

It’s the excuse that both Palestinians and Israelis keep using to carry on fighting, regardless of how they dress up that fight (in racist ways, legal ways, theological ways or simply as a form of self-defence). Both sides accuse the others of being morally unjust, but frankly, sitting here on the fence, my attitude really is that both are to blame. One just has bigger weapons and more international support in carrying on.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East ,Realpolitik

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Reader comments


Both sides are to blame. Israel could have ended this conflict many times over by pumping aid into Gaza, providing a reasonable framework for a viable state and supporting the Palestinian people; undermining Hamas’s bareful influence that way, instead it chooses to perpuate the cycle by pumping Gaza full of rockets, launching blockades etc and making life generally crappy for the Palestinian’s thus consolidating the hold of Hamas…

The reality is that both sides depend upon the other and are thus two sides of the same coin…Hamas feeds off the Israeli response to it’s actions and the Israeli military feeds off the Hamas attacks….

There are some mostly white middle-class people in the UK who have never seen war who wanted Hamas to be emboldened, cheered their attacks on Israel and continue to call for the destruction of Israel. I think they are called “Stop the War Coalition”, or some other ironic name. Well, this is what an assymetrical guerrilla war with Israel looks like. What did anyone expect, particularly at a time when the Israeli establishment – particularly the ruling coaliton ahead of a general election – feels vulnerable?

But this is not a simple war of oppressed Palestinians against the “Zionist entity”. There is a regional superpower, Iran, financing and arming Hamas and calling for Israel to be destroyed. That’s how Israel sees the situation – not in terms of Gazans throwing stones and rockets, but in terms of the survival of the nation state. In this context, the assymetry is against Israel. Anyone wanting genuine freedom for Palestinians – and not goading them into being proxies in an “anti-imperial” war – would seek to provide firm reassurances that Israel’s right to exist is recognised by all Middle Eastern governments. Unless Iran is dealt with on its terrorist financing, Israel will continue to view the administration in Gaza as a challenge to its existence.

Darrell,
…and the common humanity stuck in the crossfire bleeds.

What did anyone expect, particularly at a time when the Israeli establishment – particularly the ruling coaliton ahead of a general election – feels vulnerable?

Is that meant to be a justification for killing hundreds of people? How very nice… I wonder what people would think of suicide bombers using the same excuse – “well, we just wanted to influence the upcoming election… what’s a few deaths here and there?”

There is a regional superpower, Iran, financing and arming Hamas and calling for Israel to be destroyed.

Israel is far stronger than Iran, and everyone knows it. I’m afraid the victim card doesn’t quite work.

I rarely agree with you Sunny but a very good and balanced article. Sadly I doubt that there is a peaceful solution:

http://dsftyj.blogspot.com/2008/12/not-something-i-say-every-epoch.html

Sunny,
just as a reminder, Israel and Iran are political states and are immune from victimhood status.

People die.

“Is that meant to be a justification for killing hundreds of people?”

No. You didn’t read what I said. Those who support Hamas in the West wanted this conflict to escalate: more Qassam rockets, more suicide bombings, etc. Following its complete withdrawal, Israel has no interests in Gaza apart from its security. With Gaza controlled by a terrorist group that advocates its destruction (justifying it in a combination of religious fundamentalism and old-fashioned European anti-semitism) and continues to attack it from bases in civilian areas, what do those Western advocates of Jihad (eg the SWP) expect the response to be? As for casualty numbers in Gaza, I remain open-minded, given that each side has made exagerrated claims in the past.

“Israel is far stronger than Iran, and everyone knows it. I’m afraid the victim card doesn’t quite work.”

It depends on how you define strength. In terms of hardware, maybe. But in terms of its desire to eliminate Israel completely (Israel has no desire to eliminate Iran) and its active support for racist terror groups that share this objective as well as the Arab world’s hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people, Israel is very much playing the David character.

Sunny, you say both sides are to blame. But what constitutes a ‘side’? Those people being slaughtered right now have done nothing to bring this reign of death and destruction down upon them. It is not just an academic question of ‘one side’ has more weapons and is able to kill more; one side has more weapons, has killed many times more, and no one is going to stop them. That is the reality. I’m also sure there are many Israelis who are against what their government is doing right now.

Sunny, I acknowledge your last two paragraphs. I also acknowledge that the state of Israel (not just a few wackos) felt threatened so much that they attacked Gaza knowing that innocent people would be killed.

Israeli intelligence is very good. Israeli diplomacy is very good. Recall fifteen months ago when Israel bombed a “Syrian nuclear missile site”; three months afterwards, both parties concurred that unsatisfactory discussions had been held previously. We should similarly assume that the attack on Gaza was the result of failed diplomacy.

As long as the American Christian Right wing believes Israel needs to be protected in order for Jesus Christ to have his second coming to earth, Israel will get a green light to do whatever they dam well please.

Maybe they should move the state of Israel to the middle of Arizona. Or Texas. There is plenty of room there.

Dan: Those who support Hamas in the West wanted this conflict to escalate

I’m sorry but apart from the SWP types who valiantly go on about the ‘martyrs’, how many mainstream people on the left support Hamas?

Once that straw-man is out of the way, there’s still no justification for the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of people, as Israel has done in the space of one day, and more to come. So just talking about how its something to do with the upcoming elections is a rather callous way of justifying so many deaths.

It depends on how you define strength. In terms of hardware, maybe

Oh I see… so it doesn’t matter than Israel is far more powerful and has the support of the biggest military superpower by far – what really matters is how much conviction those terrorists have when they throw stones. Interesting.

Charlieman, I’m not sure what your point is. Israeli intelligence is so good they willingly killed over a hundred civilians… and they shouldn’t face any recriminations just because they feel threatened?
Hey, Iran also feels threatened… would you justify them using weapons on Israelis?

Rayyan, when I said ‘side’, I meant the traditional stance taken by many who either blindly support Israel’s actions, or refuse to condemn Hamas’s actions.

Falco – thanks.

Sunny, as a pro-Palestinian Jew, I see your point, but I must agree with other posters that the ordinary people of Palestine and Israel (where much of my family live) are the victims: the Israeli government itself are anything but. There are fanatics on both sides, both of whom have behaved shamefully, especially American-armed and floated Israel. In the middle of it all are ordinary families trying to live their lives.

When I visited Israel, I saw no fucking promised land. I saw a land where, despite it being a relatively ‘safe’ year, people are afraid to leave their homes, and children grow up angry, stifled, defensive, pressed into military service. Their leaders have forgotten what it means to be Jewish; they have forgotten fairness, tolerance, tradition, and remembered only the bloody violence of the ancient orthodoxies.

13. Daniel Brett

“Once that straw-man is out of the way, there’s still no justification for the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of people, as Israel has done in the space of one day, and more to come.”

We still don’t know the actual figures and what proportion of these are combatants. Do you remember the Battle of Jenin? It was called a massacre, a crime against humanity at the time. When the dust settled, most of the 50 odd Palestinian casualities were combatants who were using the refugee camp as a base for launching attacks on Israeli civilians. Let’s wait and see whether this “massacre” is just more Hamas hype, shall we?

“so it doesn’t matter than Israel is far more powerful and has the support of the biggest military superpower by far – what really matters is how much conviction those terrorists have when they throw stones. Interesting.”

It matters that Israel has faced invasion from neighbouring states. It matters that Iran, a regional superpower that bullies neighbouring Arab states, has called for its destruction and is funding and training anti-Jewish jihadists (they go way beyond calling for the annihilation of Israel and towards the genocide of the Jewish people). It matters that the Iranian regime is the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism. These things matter because the Jewish state is having to fight for its existence just a few decades after some European powers tried to eradicate Jews from history. If you cannot see why Israelis would act with overwhelming and arguably disproportionate force, if you cannot empathise at all with the sentiments of the majority of Jewish people and the country they regard as their homeland, then you will continue to fail to grasp what this strike is all about from their viewpoint.

14. Daniel Brett

Try reading this – International Law and the Fighting in Gaza: http://www.jcpa.org/text/puzzle1.pdf

It matters that Iran, a regional superpower that bullies neighbouring Arab states, has called for its destruction

No it hasn’t. If you’re going to repeat that nonsensical, discredited piece of hackery, why the hell should you expect anyone to listen to anything else you say?

Oh, John, stop listening to Iranian propaganda. Of course, the Iranian president called for the destruction of Israel. He just used some florid language. I saw a careful analysis of the exact wording from a fairly reputable somewhere but I can’t find it right now… I’ll have a look around.

“I saw a careful analysis of the exact wording from a fairly reputable somewhere”

No, you saw some ropey propaganda from MEMRI, which is mysteriously classed as ‘reputable’ by some people who should know better despite being a disinfomation arm of the Israeli state.

Of course I don’t trust Iran either – but the suggestion that it has called for Israel’s destruction just simply Isn’t True. It didn’t happen and they never said it. They might *think* it, but the claim being made by you and by Daniel is simply false.

Note: not from MEMRI 🙂

You’re citing the Jerusalem Centre For Public Affairs, whose official stated function is to ‘present Israel’s case to the world’, as a ‘fairly reputable somewhere’? Comedian.

While obviously these guys are just as ideologically driven, they do successfully refute all the examples that Teitelbaum pretends support his cause.

Even if I believe Iran wants to see the end of Israel (which on balance, I think is likely), it doesn’t bear out into anything in reality.

Did the MA say he wanted to nuke it out of existence? He knows what the outcome of that will be. Does he want a peaceful dismantling? Who knows. Does he want a One State solution implemented instead of a Two State solution? It could be either of those things.

But the threat of Iran I’m afraid doesn’t justify Israel’s actions, because Iran is a puny power. It has no power to implement what it says… and it says a lot of things including ‘death to America’. That hardly justifies the US nuking it out of existence does it?

Pakistan has run loads of clandestine operations in India… but if the response from India was a full scale war and incursion into Pakistan, on the basis that its own survival was under threat, then that excuse wouldn’t stand either.

Ideologically driven, and I am not sure from their profiles, as ‘activist photographers, what qualifies them to be expert translators: http://www.tlaxcala.es/detail_auteurs.asp?lg=en&reference=958

We can see the original text lined up against the right-wing Zionazi English translation here: http://www.jcpa.org/text/ahmadinejad2-words.pdf

Is it right? Perhaps we need a different translator. I might bump into someone who speaks Farsi before too long and might try and pin this down for myself.

And remember, I said reputable, not necessarily unbiased: http://cddrl.stanford.edu/people/joshuateitelbaum/

Ah ok, just saw see they have acknowledged several expert translators of their own. Still not too keen on the source but I say that brings them up to at least even. I will investigate this offline when I have the chance.

Sunny: regarding the ‘side’ thing, it’s clear that many Israelis do not support their government on this

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050470.html

As for Gaza and Hamas, either this latest strike was designed to break Hamas’s organisational spine and morale, or simply to cause as many casualties as possible, escalating the violence and ‘justifying’ an even more brutal response from Israel.

Or it might have something to do with the upcoming elections:

http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed2/idUSN28272313 (scroll down to “WHAT WAS BEHIND THE TIMING OF THE ISRAELI ATTACKS?”)

In any case, we should be clear in condemning the Israeli government for this atrocity. No “pox on both your houses”, no “both sides are equally to blame”; nothing Hamas has done can justify Israel’s ‘retaliation’, not when it’s ordinary Gazans paying the price in blood.

Of course, what Hamas has done or what is in its charter does not help; but it’s not like the Israelis particularly restrained themselves for most of the time Fatah was in power. This has gone beyond any proportional response to the rocket attacks, and no longer is about Israel vs Hamas but Israel seeking to sow the maximum amount of chaos in the Gaza Strip. Why else would they wipe out police stations? Now they’ve destroyed a ministry and a university:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7802515.stm

If Iran is the ‘regional super power’ behind Hammas then I guess America is the regional superpower behind Israel then?
Just for the record, Hammas was democratically elected so irrespective of their aims as regards Israel, the rest of the world should have been engaging in diplomacy. That most never did, and then allowed Israel to smash the infrastructure further has only hindered any attempts at weakening them.
And now again, Israel feel the need to kill more Hammas and any one else who just happens to be in the way. Israels actions must be condemned. The lives of ordinary Gazzans is not a million miles away from the jews of the Polish ghettos of WWII – only there are no train tracks leading to certain death, just the slow death of society behind walls, checkpoints, food shortages, power shortages, and the annihaltion of its infrastructure.
One would hope that Obama will seek a new direction where support for Israel is not without conditions, but I really can’t see that happening.

No “pox on both your houses”, no “both sides are equally to blame”; nothing Hamas has done can justify Israel’s ‘retaliation’, not when it’s ordinary Gazans paying the price in blood.

This, I’m not so sure about. Hamas wanted this conflict too, and they were anticipating it. They just weren’t aware of what scale it would be at. There’s no doubt in my mind Hamas wanted this as much as Israel because both flourish during conflict.

Sunny is right; both sides wanted this….both sides flourish on the carnage and I tend to think that the larger the scale the happier hardliners on both sides are…

“both sides flourish on the carnage”

not exactly flourishing are they?

‘Feeding on the carnage’, perhaps, but they’ve dragged themselves into a nightmare from which they can’t escape and will see everyone drown in blood unless it stops. The politicians should be ashamed of leaving this legacy of violence to their children.

Isn’t there a Middle-East peace envoy (n. Tony Blair) lurking about somewhere? When will he visit Gaza for the first time? What is he scared of?

Thomas,

Let me clarify what I said;

The goal of hardliners in Hamas is to wipe Israel off the map. The more misery Israel causes the more chance they have of winning people to that perspective, the more chance they have of convincing Palestinians that the only way they will be free is with Israel gone…

Hardliners in the Israeli military (and no doubt large proportions of the body politic too) would like to re-occupy Gaza and the West Bank and probably push onto to pursue a wider conflict with Iran too. Expansionism even further would also be on the agenda The more Hamas rockets Israeli towns the more plausible it becomes to say to Israelis this is the only way…

It is a symbiotic relationship of quite horrific co-dependency, each on the excesses of the other…


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