Two or three rocket launch places have been uncovered by the Israelis. If Hezbollah entered this conflict, they have a vast ensemble of rockets. So what is happening from Gaza, what rockets Hamas is firing is nothing compared to what Hezbollah can fire, and neither of them have any military capability of the kind that Israel has. So it's entirely a one-way battle if you look at it from that point.
And this is the reason why it's easy for mainstream Israeli politicians like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and others to talk about eradicating Hamas. Ariel Sharon's son, Gilad Sharon, two years ago talked about flattening Gaza. This language is only possible because of the overwhelming military superiority that the Israelis enjoy over the Palestinians.
DB: In the context of this, there has been extreme repression leading up to this rocket fire and long before the kidnapping of the three Israeli settlers or teenagers or soldiers. ... It really is referred to now by more and more folks as an overt form of ethnic cleansing. Some of the folks who have been interviewed about firing the rockets say, "we're firing the rockets, really, at the places where we used to live, or our families lived for seven generations." Where are the rockets landing, and what's your response to that side of this?
VP: Firstly, of course, it's true that there were three young Israeli settlers who were killed. And that's not a good thing. And it's not a good thing because young people like that should not be put in the middle of this conflict, as a pawn. Let me put it this way. The Israeli military and government has been saying that Hamas is using civilians in Gaza as human shields. This is the great claim. And therefore if there are civilian casualties, this is the fault of Hamas.
I would like to put it to the leadership in Israel, that they are using settlers as a kind of human shield for the expansion of Israel beyond its 1967 borders. In other words, it is putting young people, like these three teenagers, into very tense political spaces, and then innocently saying "Isn't it terrible, they have been killed?!"
In other words, the Israeli government as a policy has been doing exactly what it is now accusing Hamas of doing, which is using civilians as human shields. And that's exactly what those three teenagers were ... they were human shields for Israel's land grab in the West Bank. Whether it's in East Jerusalem, or indeed, in the area promised to the Palestinian state, in other words, the 22 percent of historic Palestine.
And the point about where the rockets are landing, one has to bear in mind that we're talking about extremely primitive technology. And this, I think, is, of course, worrying. When we have come to an age when the language of precision is so important to military strategy. People talk about precision bombing, etc. Of course the Israelis have the capacity to do precision bombing, which is what makes the death of civilians so scandalous. Because the capability of precision is in their hands. The point is they are bombing an area as dense as Gaza, 1.8 million people living in 325 square kilometers, [a] highly dense population. Their precision, in fact, is not able to help them only hit military targets.
DB: Maybe you could comment on the notion of bombing a population of refugees, people who have been refugees two and three and four times already. But bombing a population that cannot run, that is locked in, is a potential, unique kind of war crime.
VP: In 1996, when Israel had begun to bomb southern Lebanon, a large number of Lebanese, mainly agriculturists, took refuge in the U.N. compound in Qana. And Israel bombed that compound and killed hundreds of people. I don't know if this is remembered anymore. But that was supposed to be a refuge for people.
Through the last several cycles, whether it's Hot Winter, Autumn Wind ... I forget the names now, Pillar of Defense, Cast Lead. Each of the attacks over the last decade, from at least 2006 to the present in Gaza, each of these massive bombardments has come exactly as you say, in a pressure-cooker situation because the borders are closed, there is nowhere to run. Which is why thousands of Palestinians rush to U.N. encampments. There are currently over 17,000 Palestinian civilians taking refuge in U.N. compounds.
The U.N. is well aware that with the history of Qana, these compounds are not safe. There are also thousands of people at the Rafah crossing into Egypt. That crossing is largely closed, part of the duplicity of the Egyptian government, that I was talking about earlier. There is nowhere for the Palestinian people to go.
And this technique of so-called knock-on bombing, where a small device, essentially, is dropped on a house. It sends a knocking sound and then within two, three, four minutes the house is bombed. These knock-on bombs are coming at two in the morning, at three in the morning, four in the morning.
Imagine you are in your house in Berkeley, or wherever, and a little device falls on your roof at two in the morning, then you have to run out of that house. You run a hundred meters or so, within five minutes, otherwise you will be destroyed. Your entire family will be killed. This kind of use of weaponry, this kind of pressure-cooker environment in which the bombing is happening and this kind of use of warning in the middle of the night, this itself is a unique category of a war crime.
DB: I should remind people that Israel has got its own weapons industry, but a lot of these weapons are coming from the U.S., if they are not funded by the U.S., but people have referred, after the second or third most recent bombings that bombing campaigns that Israel has conducted over Gaza, people are talking about it as being a test ground for the latest U.S. and Israeli weaponry. These knock-on bombs, I don't remember them in Vietnam or the first, or second, or third Iraq war, whatever.
VP: Every time there is a war, we have to become experts on weaponry, because new things are developed. During Cast Lead and during Pillar of Defense, I learned for the first time about how white phosphorous had morphed from being used like napalm, now to be used in a very contained space. Every time there is a war, they are trying out new weapons. It's grotesque.
The first issue is what are they bombing Gaza for? Have we considered what is the war in? Are the weapons being used commensurate with the war in? Is the war in to find out who abducted and killed those three teenagers? It is already clear that the people who abducted and killed those three teenagers are a rogue group from Hebron. So why is Gaza being bombed? Second war in, is this happening to close down Gaza's so-called rocket launching capability? What is bombing the European hospital got to do with closing down the rocket launching capability?
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