Cross-posted from Consortium News
The Egypt-Israeli cease-fire offer on Gaza was more a PR stunt than a genuine effort to end Israel's imbalanced slaughter of Palestinians, author and professor Vijay Prashad says, adding that Israel's periodic bombing campaigns have come to appear more and more as ethnic cleansing.
Prashad is chair of South Asian history and professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He has just returned to the United States after a year in Beirut, Lebanon, where he taught at American University. He is co-editor of Dispatches from the Arab Spring and author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. He is also a columnist for Frontline Newspaper in India.
He was interviewed by Dennis J Bernstein on Pacifica's "Flashpoints" show, discussing the war's level of the brutality, the use of new weapons and the real motives behind Israel's extraordinary use of violence against a civilian population.
DB: You said the cease-fire offered by Egypt and Israel, essentially in the press, came through in a most idiosyncratic fashion. You want to elaborate on that please?
VP: Sure. The interesting thing with a conflict of this nature is there are two parties. There is the Israeli military, which has asymmetric force over the Palestinians, and then there are these various Palestinians factions. Now, it appears that the Egyptians unilaterally created a cease-fire document which they announced via the media and suggested that Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. a cease-fire should begin. This is a very curious way of conducting any kind of negotiations.
A real cease-fire takes place when the protagonists, let's say the Israeli government and some representatives from the Palestinian factions have a very quiet discussion behind the scenes. They agree on this is what's going to happen; if there is a violation, this is how we check out whether the violation is real or not. And this is the penalty that will be paid for the violation. In other words, they actually negotiate and create a contract for a cease-fire.
In this case, there was no negotiation, no conversation. In fact, the Hamas leadership said that they only heard about the cease-fire via the media. This is not a real cease-fire or a truce. This was Egypt's attempt to enter the process where there really is no process.
DB: Egypt, given the current situation there and the disappearing of the Arab Spring there, is not a partner that would be although the corporate media of the West would think: "Well, here's Egypt, they must be friends with the Palestinians. So this is a fair deal." Egypt is not in love with the Palestinians, is it, the current government?
VP: This is a very fraught relationship. And the fraughtness of it goes back, in a way, to the length of modern Egyptian history. You know, people do not remember that in 1952 when Gamal Abdel Nasser conducted the coup d'etat against the royal family and overthrew the monarchy. The reason he moved against the monarchy was that in 1948 the Egyptians were defeated by the young Israeli army because they had been badly equipped and very poorly trained. In other words, underfunded by the monarchy.
The idea of the Egyptian military being, in a sense, subordinate to Israel is a longstanding and very quarrellous question inside Egyptian politics. When Egypt was defeated in 1967, Nasser came out publicly and threatened to resign. In fact, he did resign. And there were thousands of people, if not about a million people, some people say in Tahrir Square in '69 calling for Nasser not to resign.
It's interesting that since the 1979 Camp David Accord, the Egyptian military has essentially stepped away from the Palestinian/Israeli conflict which has meant that with the largest Arab army no longer a threat -- and indeed the largest Arab army, if I can put it like this, bribed by the United States with millions of dollars each year -- it was the largest Arab army no longer in the fray, Israel has complete supremacy over Gaza, over the skies of Gaza, over the coastline of Gaza, and indeed over Gaza itself, its land as well. Because it's not threatened by the Egyptians. In fact, the Egyptians have gone one step further. They have frequently closed off the tunnels that have linked Gaza into Egypt. And that's been, for a long time, the only way that the Gazan economy has been able to breathe.
So the Egyptians are not heroic, in the eyes of the Palestinians. In fact, they have been an impediment to the movement of a political process for the Palestinians. And many people suggest that Mr. [Abdel Fatah al-]Sisi, now head of state, and head of government in Egypt, tried to push the cease-fire deal through because he feels threatened by the increasing instability in Palestine and would not like to see the soul of Gaza explode in his face.
DB: Talk a little bit about this notion of war. The corporate media refers to this, once again, what's happening with Israel conducting sort of a slaughter war in Gaza of a trapped population. Would you use the word war? How would you describe what is happening between the Palestinians, in the context of Hamas, and the Israeli military?
VP: You have used a nice expression. You used the expression slaughter war. This might be a good way to characterize what's happening. Whatever term you use, when you start to describe the situation the word war, by itself, makes no sense.
In other words, as I said earlier the Israelis have complete supremacy over the air, over the coastline, and over the border regions of Gaza. This means, of course, that Israel is without threat when it sends planes over Gaza to bomb any point. The Palestinians have developed a rocket capability to retaliate when they are threatened, but as you can see from the figures that are out there, there are about 200 Palestinian casualties, meaning 200 Palestinians dead. And I believe you have the first Israeli casualty.
What this means, of course, is that the Palestinian military capability is nullified. It is virtually zero. The only regional power, the only regional militia power, that has the capability of inflicting considerable damage on Israel is Hezbollah which has developed quite a considerable rocket capability. There have been some firing of rockets from Lebanon. But that is not by Hezbollah, that is by sporadic groups near the city of Tyre, in south Lebanon.