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.
In addition to the barbaric massacres and numerous less devastating attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, Israel and the US, supported by Egypt, have made life almost impossible for Palestinians. After the Hamas election in 2006, Dov Weissglas, senior adviser to former prime ministers Sharon and Olmert, allegedly commented on how to deal with Hamas. He was quoted as telling an official meeting: "It’s like a meeting with a dietitian. We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death." Weissglas has since denied he made that statement. Regardless, that is exactly what Israel proceeded to do.
Israel, supported by Egypt, placed Gaza under a tight siege during the summer of 2007 after Hamas prevented a coup by Fatah. This siege has kept Palestinians living on the edge of survival for seven years. In September 2007 the Israeli cabinet decided to tighten restrictions further and stated that “the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip will be restricted; the supply of gas and electricity will be reduced; and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of people from the Strip and to it.” In addition, exports from Gaza would be forbidden entirely. However, the resolution added, the restrictions should be tailored to avoid a “humanitarian crisis.”
In January 2008, Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, stated: "Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of the international community." On January 30,2008 Neve Gordon, who teaches politics at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, described the crisis as an experiment in famine.
The criminally brutal treatment of Palestinian civilians is further demonstrated by a WikiLeaks release: Israel told US officials in November 2008 it would keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to US diplomatic cables.
The current Israeli attack has exacerbated an ongoing water and sewage crisis in Gaza. “Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are now without water,” Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, said in statement released July 15th. “Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water,” he stated.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) stressed the long-term water crisis in a statement to press on July 14th, stating that “Gaza’s aquifer will have been entirely contaminated in the next three to four years making the strip essentially unlivable.” In a March 2014 report, the Palestinian Water Authority found that at least 95 percent of the water in Gaza in currently so contaminated that it poses a significant health risk to the Gazan population.
It is likely that the short-to-medium-term effects of the Israeli massacres in Gaza and the brutal and illegal siege will make Gaza unlivable. Will the result be an ethnically-cleansed Gaza, an ethnic cleansing done with the complicity of the US government and its lapdog media? Is ethnic cleansing the Israeli goal or, in their minds, simply a happy coincidence? If Gaza does become unlivable, what will happen to those now living in Gaza? It’s very unlikely that Israel would allow them to enter Israel or the West Bank. Egypt would likely be very reluctant to admit them.
One might think that the UN has imposed sanctions against Israel for its many and repeated violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. However, since the US protects Israel by its use of the veto or the threat of a veto in the UN Security Council, Israel continues to commit war crimes with impunity. For the record, the US has vetoed 42 measures calling for censure of Israel.
As long as there are many people in the US who believe the Zionist fictions, it is difficult to envision a change in US policies towards Israel. However, more and more people around the world and in the US are becoming aware of the reality of this situation and no longer accept the Israeli propaganda.
For example, Ellen Cantarow, a noted Jewish writer who reported on Israel and the West Bank for a number of US publications from 1979-1989, expressed the situation very well when she wrote in reaction to the carnage in Jenin in 2002: “I am filled with a mix of grief, helplessness, despair and anger as Israel, pretending to act in my name and using the Nazi holocaust against the Jews to exonerate its crimes, proceeds with a clear effort to obliterate the economy, the social, political and cultural institutions, and the entire infrastructure of the Palestinian people. Those who do not speak out against the abominations of these horrors are complicit by their silence. Those who exonerate or apologize for Israel as it commits them are guilty by association.“
There must be an immediate end to the killing as well as an immediate lifting of the illegal siege of Gaza. Without an ending of the siege, the is little-to-no-hope for the people of Gaza or for stopping the rocket fire into Israel. If the killing and the siege continue, more people will join the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Israeli crimes are the things that are destroying its legitimacy and continuing its crimes today will speed this destruction.
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics, having taught at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. Since his retirement in 1991, he has been an activist for peace and social justice. In my spare time, I ran for Congress and for Governor of Colorado for the Green Party.