At a press conference, the president painted a picture that Israelis are the victims.
By Ira Chernus
I’m no Obama-basher. But when I see him bashing and trashing the truth so blatantly, I have to speak out. I have to express my pain, because I know that his misleading words will increase the risks to my loved ones and fellow Jews in Israel and the much greater risks to the victims of Israeli aggression in Gaza.
Of course to hear Obama tell it, it’s the Israelis who are the victims. “The precipitating event here that’s causing the current crisis … was an ever-escalating number of missiles” fired from Gaza into Israel, he said. “And there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
This is the same old tale Americans have been getting from their presidents, politicians, and press for decades: Those nasty Arabs, attacking Jews out of the blue for no good reason that we can see.
Not a word about Israel’s economic blockade, which has inflicted so much misery on the people of Gaza for so many years. Israel has turned Gaza into what Noam Chomsky (who just returned from the Strip) calls “the world's largest open-air prison,” where the only relief from suffering comes from materials brought (or smuggled) across the border from Egypt.
From the Israeli side, there is only a systematic plan “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger," as one cynical Israeli official put it.
And that’s literally what the Israelis have done. Israel controls all the transport bringing food into Gaza, “an average of only 67 trucks--much less than half of the minimum requirement [for basic nutrition],” according to Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Israel, who notes that more than 400 trucks a day were coming in before the blockade began. The result is chronic malnutrition. According to Middle East scholar Juan Cole, over half of schoolchildren and two-thirds of infants suffer from anemia.
Medicines and medical equipment are in terribly short supply too. People die for lack of treatment. They are not allowed to make the short trip to Israel, with its high-quality medical facilities. Hospitals cannot be built (or rebuilt, after the massive 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza) because building materials are systematically kept from entering Gaza, too.
So the Palestinian victims of a stream of Israeli air attacks--targeted assassination efforts that too often strike innocent bystanders--cannot get the treatment they need either.
In 1967 Israel justified its preemptive attack on Egypt by claiming that Egypt’s blockade of one Israeli port was an act of war. How much more, then, is Israel’s ongoing blockade of the whole Gaza Strip an act of war. If Gazans shoot rockets in return it’s a result, not a cause, of the conflict.
4 Most Common Myths About Israel and Gaza--Debunked
What you need to know about the Israeli offensive.
By Pam Bailey
Here are a few of the most common misunderstandings:
Myth: Hamas started the round of fighting that led to Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Defense.”
Fact: This myth represents a common error in mainstream–and even much progressive–media coverage. The “truth” all depends on when you start the timeline. What is clear is that while both Israel and resistance groups in Gaza bear responsibility for keeping the warfare going, Israel is more often the precipitator.
In an analysis that has received very little attention by Western audiences, Nancy Kanwisher (the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) asks, “As Israel and Palestine suffer a hideous new spasm of terror, misery and mayhem, it is important to ask how this situation came about…How did the (last) ceasefire unravel?”
President Barack Obama and the mainstream media in the United States and Israel place the blame squarely on Hamas. It is true that a barrage of Palestinian rockets have been fired into Israel, and that ending this rocket fire is the stated goal of the current Israeli invasion of Gaza. However, this simplistic summary leaves out crucial facts. Consider this chain of events, which followed a “lull” of sorts over the previous couple of weeks: (The details of what took place during these days vary somewhat from one media outlet to another. However, the broad strokes are the same.)
· Nov. 4: Israel killed a mentally ill Palestinian walking near the Israeli-imposed “no-go zone” inside the Gaza Strip–an event that triggered a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel, which did not cause any deaths or injuries.
· Nov. 8: Four Israeli military tanks and a bulldozer entered Gaza, fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy who had been playing soccer by his family’s house.
· Nov. 10: In retaliation, two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, and an anti-tank missile injured four soldiers, when it hit an Israeli army jeep that had crossed over into the territory. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported the killing of five more Palestinians, four of whom were civilians–including two soccer players age 16 and 17 and two young men (18 and 19) who ran to the scene. Forty-nine others were wounded, including 10 children.
· Nov. 11: Amid talks of a truce, six more Palestinians (all but one were civilians) were wounded and another was killed by both air strikes and troops on the ground.
· Nov. 12: With Israeli air strikes continuing, two rockets from Gaza hit Israel.
· Nov. 13: After two mid-afternoon air strikes, news services announced a truce had been agreed-upon.
· Nov. 14: Israel ignored the nascent truce and assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari. (It is questionable whether Israeli officials ever really wanted a truce. As Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies wrote in The Nation: “Earlier this year, on the third anniversary of the Gaza assault of 2008/9, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Army Radio that Israel will need to attack Gaza again soon, to restore what he called its power of ‘deterrence.’ He said the assault must be ‘swift and painful,’ concluding, ‘we will act when the conditions are right.’ Perhaps this was his chosen moment.”)
A fact not known by most Americans, who see Jabari as merely a leader of “terrorists,” is that Israeli activist Gershon Baskin confirmed that Jabari was engaged in peace settlement negotiations with Israel. In fact, he was due to send Hamas’ version of a draft agreement to Baskin on the Wednesday evening before he was killed. It’s worth asking: Did Israel intend to torpedo those efforts?
The rest of the story is tragic history. Jabari’s killing triggered Operation Pillar of Defense, and it continues to unfold.
It's Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves
The US and Britain stand behind Israel's onslaught on Gaza. Justice requires a change in the balance of forces on the ground
By Seumas Milne
True, the bloodshed hasn't so far been on the scale of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead in three weeks. But the issue isn't just who started and escalated it, or even the grinding "disproportionality" of yet another Israeli military battering (even before last month's flareups, 314 Palestinians had been killed since 2009, as against 20 Israelis).
It's that to portray Israel as some kind of victim with every right to "defend itself" from attack from "outside its borders" is a grotesque inversion of reality. Israel has after all been in illegal occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza, where most of the population are the families of refugees who were driven out of what is now Israel in 1948, for the past 45 years.
Despite Israel's withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, both effectively and legally–and is recognised as such by the UN. Israel is in control of Gaza's land and sea borders, territorial waters and natural resources, airspace, power supply and telecommunications. It has blockaded the strip since Hamas took over in 2006-7, preventing the movement of people, materials, and food supplies in and out of the territory–even calculating the 2,279 calories per person that would keep Gazans on an exemplary "diet". And it continues to invade the strip at will.
So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw–not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.