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.
In April a Palestinian unity government was formed. This was bad news for the occupier; it needs divided subjects. A response to the crime of unity was in order.
On June 12 the pretext for action came. Three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the West Bank. Israel immediately, without any evidence, blamed this on Hamas, and used it as an excuse to conduct 1500 raids, arresting 500 people, destroying two homes, and leaving several people dead. The three teens’ bodies were found June 30th. Israel knew all along that they were dead, but suppressed this information in order to justify the raids. Along with the bombing of a tunnel that killed six on July 6th, this aggression provoked the expected response form Hamas: rockets launched into Israel. This rocket fire was then used as the pretext for a full out bombardment of Gaza.
On the 15th, a ceasefire agreement, with wording that legitimized the blockade, was, quite expectedly, rejected by Hamas. This rejection was a further pretext for continued bombing.
As with the assault of 2008 that killed 1,400, and the assault of 2012 that killed 169, Israel is bombing mostly civilian targets, with the expected consequence of killing mostly civilians. At this writing, Sunday the 20th, 350 are dead, over 80% civilian, including 73 children; over 3,000 are wounded, including over 500 children; 60,000 are displaced and seeking shelter, thousands more would flee but have nowhere to go; 1,300 homes have been destroyed.
This is all rationalized as self defense. It shouldn’t have to be said that bombing civilians is not self defense. It’s terrorism. It’s terrorism when Hamas sends rockets into Israel; it’s terrorism when Israel bombs civilians in Gaza. Though Israeli terror is primary and far more effective (two Israeli civilians have been killed), both are reprehensible; both are war crimes.
This violence can’t continue without the US’s decisive support. Military aid to Israel is $3.1 billion a year. Far more than given to any other country. (And giving military aid to countries that violate international law is itself illegal.) Diplomatic support includes 42 vetoes of UN Security Council peace resolutions. Calling Israel’s acts of terror self defense, and ignoring the brutality of the occupation gives ideological support.
And our mainstream media plays right along with all of this, leaving the American public without a clue as to what is really happening.
The foundation of all this horror is the occupation. This is recognized by the whole world outside of Israel and the US. But it doesn’t matter that the rest of the world understands. Israel has no reason to stop it’s relentless expansion and repression so long as it has the unfailing support of the world’s sole super power. That won‘t change unless the US public demands it.
Until then, this senseless violence will continue.
Stephen Warren lives in Waverly, Virginia and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.