President Obama and the American
political and news establishments all agree with the Israeli government: the
ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza should be seen as regrettable but
unavoidable collateral damage. Who, they ask, can deny that Israel has the
right to defend its own people by attacking the source of a continuing barrage
of rockets launched by Hamas "terrorists" from inside the densely populated
Palestinians answer that Israel is
the aggressor, and their rocket barrage is a desperate act of self-defense
against the deadly stranglehold of Israel's blockade of Gaza. As Palestinian
human rights worker Mohammed Suliman explains: "The besieged Jews of the Warsaw
ghetto had a motto 'to live and die in dignity.' As I sit in my own besieged
ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in
dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation" (Huffington Post
7/29/14). A blockade is an act of war. Israel has been at war with Gaza for 7
A bit of history can help us appreciate
what's at stake here. In 2006 Fatah (headed by Mahmoud Abbas) lost to
Hamas in a national election for seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Abbas continued as president of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas joined with
Fatah in a unity government.
Fatah lost the election because it
had become corrupt during its years in power. It was also discredited for
failing to achieve an independent state despite decades of negotiations with
Israel (during which Israel continually expanded Jewish settlements in the West
election outcome was a shock to the U.S. and Israel. They greatly favored Fatah
because it had recognized Israel's existence and renounced violence. They
continue to label Hamas a terrorist organization because it has until now
refused to recognize Israel or renounce violence.
In 2007 the
unity government collapsed. Palestine split politically: Hamas ousted Fatah
from Gaza, leaving parts of the West Bank (those not taken by Israeli
"settlers") under the control of Abbas and Fatah.
(under the military dictatorship of Mubarak) and Israel immediately imposed an
air, sea and land blockade on Gaza which continues to this day. (Hamas is an
offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an adversary of Egypt's military.) Gaza
became what British PM David Cameron in
2010 called "the world's largest open-air prison."
A fortified wire fence straddles
the entire border between Israel and Gaza, densely loaded with electronic
sensors, video and night vision cameras, and watchtowers mounted with remote-control
journalist Mohammed Omer describes
what life inside is like: "We cannot leave or enter without Israel's permission.
Israel tells us what we are allowed to eat, raids at will and often, decides
which products we're allowed to have, down to toilet paper, sugar and
cinderblock. It arrests our children, fathers and mothers, and can hold them as
long as it wants. Its snipers amuse themselves at the expense of our children."
military prospects are hopeless. The website Global Firepower ranks Israeli
military power 11th in the world (even without its estimated 80 nuclear
warheads). Israel has an army, navy and air force comprising 176,500
active military personnel and about 465,000 trained reservists. Hamas has only
a paramilitary ground force of about 20,000
lightly armed soldiers and police.
Hamas's rockets are unguided. Of
the 100-200 launched each day, a third don't even reach Israel, and many
rockets with the most threatening trajectories are destroyed by Israel's Iron
Dome missile defense system. As of August 2, only three Israelis have been
killed by these rockets, and 63 Israeli soldiers have died in the attack on
Gaza. Israel's combined air, naval and ground assault has killed over 1600 Palestinians, three quarters of them civilians (incl. many children).
So why doesn't Hamas stop its doomed battle
and join President Abbas in negotiations with Israel for the creation of an
independent Palestinian state that would include the West Bank? Just this
spring, President Obama wrote
to President Abbas that "the United States remains deeply committed to a
negotiated outcome between Palestinians and Israelis that result in an
independent, viable, and a contiguous Palestinian state ."
is that Obama, Abbas, Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu all know that
this official two-state policy is a sham. For anyone who thinks otherwise
Netanyahu has a message:
"There cannot be a situation, under
any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of
the River Jordan," he said July 11 at a press conference. But if Israel
doesn't relinquish security control, Palestinians cannot establish a state. The
alternative, then, would be a single state in which Palestinians are residents
but not full citizens. (Huffington Post, 7/18/14)
Israel has colonized the West Bank with 500,000 Jewish "settlers." Does anyone think this can be undone? Should the U.S. be supporting Israel's bid to create a single apartheid state over all of Palestine?