Ravaging Gaza: The War Netanyahu Cannot Possibly Win

When the bodies of three Israeli settlers – Aftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – were found on June 30 near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a wave of sympathy flowed in from around the world. The three had disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.

The entire episode, particularly after its grim ending, seemed to traumatize Israelis into ignoring harsh truths about the settlers and the militarization of their society. Amid a portrayal of the three as hapless youths, although one was a 19-year-old soldier, commentators have failed to provide badly needed context to the events. Few, if any, assigned the blame where it was most deserved – on expansionist policies which have sown hatred and bloodshed.

Before the discovery of the bodies, the real face of Netanyahu’s notoriously right-wing government was well-known. Few held Illusions about how "peaceful" an occupation could be if run by figures such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon. But because "children" – the term used by Netanyahu himself – were involved, even critics didn’t expect an exercise in political point-scoring.

There was sympathy elicited for the missing settlers case, but it quickly vanished in the face of an Israeli response (in the West Bank, Jerusalem and later in a full-scale war on Gaza) largely seen in the crucible of world opinion as disproportionate and cruel. Rather than being related to the tragic death of three youths, this response obviously reflected Netanyahu’s grand political calculations.

As mobs of Israeli Jews went out on an ethnic lynching spree in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank that some likened to a "pogrom," occupation soldiers conducted a massive arrest campaign of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Hamas members and supporters.

The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said it had no role in the death of the settlers, and this appears plausible since they rarely hesitate to take credit for something carried out by their military wing. Israeli military strategists were well aware of that.

This war on Hamas, however, has little to do with the killed settlers, and everything to do with the political circumstances that preceded their disappearance.

On May 15, two Palestinian youths, Nadim Siam Abu Nuwara, 17, and Mohammed Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, 16, were killed by Israeli soldiers while taking part in a protest commemorating the anniversary of the Nakba, or "Great Catastrophe." Video footage shows that Nadim was innocently standing with a group of friends before collapsing as he was hit by an Israeli army bullet.

The Nakba took place 66 years ago when the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict emerged. An estimated one million Palestinians were forced out of their homes as they fled a Zionist invasion. Israel was established on the ruins of that Palestine.

Nadim and Mohammed, like the youths of several generations since, were killed in cold blood as they walked to remember that exodus. In Israel, there was no outrage. However, Palestinian anger, which seems to be in constant accumulation – being under military occupation and enduring harsh economic conditions – was reaching a tipping point.

In some way, the deaths of these Palestinian youths were a distraction from the political disunity that has afflicted Palestinian leadership and society for years. Their deaths were a reminder that Palestine, as an idea and a collective plight and struggle, goes beyond the confines of politics or even ideology.

Their deaths reminded us that there is much more to Palestine than the whims of the aging Palestinian Authority "President" Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based henchmen, or even Hamas’s regional calculations following the rise and fall of the "Arab Spring."

The Israeli reaction to the settlers’ death has been different. After the discovery of the bodies, fellow settlers and right-wing Israelis began exacting revenge from Palestinian communities. The mob was united by the slogan "death to the Arabs," reviving a long-disused notion of a single Palestinian identity that precedes the emergence of Fatah and Hamas.

Perhaps paradoxically, the grief and anger provoked by the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 17, who was burnt alive by Israeli settlers as part of this lashing out, has furthered this reawakening of a long-fragmented Palestinian national identity.

This identity that had suffered due to Israeli walls, military tactics and the Palestinians’ own disunity, has been glued back together in a process that resembles the events which preceded the first and second uprisings of 1987 and 2000 respectively.

However, unlike in the previous Intifadas, the hurdles towards a unified voice this time seem insurmountable. Abbas is a weak leader who has done so much to meet Israel’s security expectations and so very little to defend the rights of his people. He is a relic from a bygone era who merely exists because he is the best option Israel and the US have at the moment.

In the aftermath of the Israeli violent response to the killing of the settlers, Abbas labored to coordinate with the massive Israeli search. At times, he stayed away as Israeli troops brutalized Palestinians in the West Bank.

It is clear that there can be no third Intifada that leaves Abbas and his wretched political apparatus in place. This is precisely why Palestinian Authority goons prevented many attempts by Palestinians in the West Bank to protest the Israeli violence unleashed in the occupied territories, which finally culminated into a massive war against Gaza that has killed and wounded hundreds.

Whatever credit Abbas supposedly gained by closing ranks with Hamas to form a unity government last June has been just as quickly lost. It has been overshadowed by his own failures to live up to commitment under the unity deal, and the relevance of his "authority" was quickly eclipsed by Israeli violence, highlighting his and his government’s utter irrelevance to Israel’s political calculations.

When Israel launched its massive arrest campaign that mainly targeted Hamas in the West Bank, Hamas’s political wing was already considering "alternatives" to the unity government in Ramallah.

Hamas’s objectives were not being met. The unity deal was meant to achieve several goals: end Hamas’s political isolation in Gaza, resulting from the intensifying of the siege by Egypt’s Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, solving the economic crisis in the Strip, and also allowing Hamas to revert to its old brand, as a resistance movement first and foremost.

Even if Hamas succeeded in establishing a new brand based on the resistance/political model, Israel was determined to deactivate any potential for Palestinian unity. Destroying that unity became almost an obsession for Netanyahu.

The disappearance of the settlers gave Netanyahu’s quest a new impetus. He immediately began a campaign pressuring Abbas to break away from Hamas.

But there is still more to Israel’s war on Gaza than this. Fearing an intifada that would unite Palestinians, threaten the PA, and slow down the construction of illegal settlements, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza means to distract from the slowly building collective sentiment among Palestinians throughout Palestine, and among Palestinian citizens in Israel.

This unity is much more alarming for Netanyahu than a political arrangement by Fatah and Hamas necessitated by regional circumstances. The targeting of Hamas is an Israeli attempt at challenging the emerging new narrative that is no longer about Gaza and its siege anymore, but the entirety of Palestine and its collectives regardless of which side of the Israeli "separation wall" they live on.

A true Palestinian unity culminating in a massive popular Intifada is the kind of war Netanyahu cannot possibly win.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

20 thoughts on “Ravaging Gaza: The War Netanyahu Cannot Possibly Win”

  1. "But Israel has every right to defend itself …"

    No wait. Sorry, I was on Kerry Radio!

  2. Actually, the bottom line to all this? Hamas and the Palestinians look weaker than ever. I can remember when Netanyahu could make them sound threatening to Israel. Now his dire fear mongering falls on deaf ears and only Fox news and his most ardent Israelis-firsters even attempt to make the pathetic rockets going into Israel breaking news.

  3. Israel should face the fury of an overwhelming Intifada. Palestinians receive disproportional collective punishment and will NEVER find justice from the international community. Burn Israel to the ground and Abbas with it. Palestinians certainly have nothing left to lose.

    1. Thanks to Don Nash for saying what needs to be said. Israel has treated the Palestinians with a cruelty that has revolted much of the world. Passing themselves off as the only democracy in the mideast, they have killed and wounded thousands of Palestinians, stolen their land and water resources, destroyed thousands of Palestinian houses, polluted their wells, burned and up-rooted literally thousands of olive trees, and daily mistreat and humiliate people who have no way of fighting back.
      Having said that, I want to say that Israel is not the worst offender here. For me, the U.S. is the real culprit because we back and support any thing they do, including crimes against humanity, and we (the U.S.) pay the Israelis to commit their barbarity. Congress is so utterly base, so cowardly, that they will cut any U.S. social program, including Social Security, medicare, medicaid, school lunches, VA hospitals, pay raises for our troops who fought and died, believing they were fighting for their country. They were not.
      This is one American who will not forget.

      1. Uncle Sam is not the ultimate culprit.

        Capital is Sauron.

        Uncle Sam is merely the Lord of the Nazgul, while Israel is one of the other Nazgul.

      2. SS and MM are almost HALF the budget $1.7 TRILLION! usdebtclock.org). So I don't think so. Also more people than ever are on food stamps. So again, I don't think so. Having said that though, there is no excuse for spending over $600 billion a year for a world empire or supporting imperialist mini-nations.

        And for those who ignorantly view capital as some form of crime, maybe such fools they should keep in mind that without capital you couldn't have any "social services" of any kind whatsoever. Not to mention any of the wonderful things such as running water, electricity, air conditioning, medicine and so forth. Government doesn't create anything it can only steal from the private sector.

        Lastly, for the life of me I can't figure out why people aren't more upset over the indiscriminate killing of the Palestinians by the IDF. They find three bodies and just decide, "Ok, let's go kill some Palestinians just because". Nuts.

  4. Well the resources that backed Hitler continues to back up Netanyahu and his likes… The victims of the Holocaust still living in Israel is quite surprised and horrified that the aggressive politic look and behave like the one they fled. So why should not the Israel aggression be payed and supported by forces who in the name of god and terror killed almost every native American to steal their land.. Then one can wonder how a land with the dark history o slavery, apartheid, could continue to back up and pay the same kind of war against humanity.. Israel warmongers Post Dramatic Dress to excuse the same methods as their former oppressors and killers is a hell of a fashion… Well it is selling a new and growing country and casting a deadly spell on everybody who dares to criticize…”you’re either with us, or against us”. Well, the devils interpretation has many ways and quick fixes… Open your hand and try to share and look who’s gonna crush your head, smash your guts and break your bones and call you a terrorist.. A thousand years has gone by and not a a single letter has changed as it was just one day… They still have to hunt the truth, smear and kill it.

  5. War is great- as long as we don't have to see it up close and personal. We watch the killing from the safety of our homes and our kids ask what game is that? The graphics are terrible, not nearly as good as their XBox. The only Americans who have recently seen war in their face are the ones we've sent out to fight, and it appears that many of them aren't too keen on being thrown into a meat grinder for no good reason.

    If one US state- or even just one US city- had to undergo what Gaza is enduring now at the hands of the Israelis, the public would see what a slaughterhouse Gaza is devolving into and they wouldn't have the stomach for supporting it one bit. But we don't have to- it's on the other side of the street, away from our homes and family. A thirty-second spot on the evening news, with the obligatory scenes of appropriately triumphant 'friendly' troops and appropriately 'evil' opposition forces- and maybe a few well-placed air strikes or artillery impacts in the background for those who haven't had their war porn fix for the day. Too bad we can't hand out minicams to Gazan civilians to document, from their perspective, what's going on in the streets and homes.

    Yes, I know- a lot of thoughts all crammed into this and not very well organized. I'm just angry.

  6. I hope more Americans will read this article and ponder on its contents. So many above comments are so true. Since our biased media gives us so little real news or paint it as Palestenian fault that no body pays any attention.
    Our congress both Republicans and Democrates cater and support Isreal's ever action and dont speak the truth. They are all in pockets of Lobby AIPAC . It is simply unbeleaviale. Its gut wrencing to read about the killings that have happend and word communiity is standing still. Shame on us.

  7. Israel is a cancer, a virulent cancer. The world needs to eradicate this cancer before it does even more damage to the human race than it already has.

      1. So, you're good with video editing software, little hasabra troll. Do you think you'll get any traction on this site :) And why would we ascribe ANY credibility whatsoever to the propaganda arm of the most virulent terrorist organization on the planet posing as human? The IDF? Are you serious? ROFLMAO!

        We see the real picture, although our controlled media tries to relegate it to the back page, there are simply too many cell phone cameras out there to hide your crimes.

        For which you will eventually pay and pay dearly. Scum.

  8. It is also difficult for Jews who are against what the Zionists are doing. I can't imagine the flak they get for taking a stand against the brutal elements residing in Israel. I am ashamed of my American government, and fellow Americans who parrot all of the memes they have heard in church, and other places. "Israel First" "Israel Has a right to defend itself" " Muslims want us all dead" "THOSE godless people are just asking for it." " Muslims worship the moon god" etc. I am astounded by the rampant ignorance I hear every day on TV, and on line.

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