Groundhog Day in Gaza

Israel's massive bombardment of Gaza and Hamas firing rockets into Israel will never solve the political disaster that is the continued illegal occupation of Palestine. Indeed as the Palestinian death toll mounts, resistance to occupation will only become more entrenched and that means peace for neither side.  

Repeating an action or a behaviour over and over and expecting a different outcome is supposed to be the definition of madness.

Applied to the current disaster in the Middle East - the Palestinian/Israeli part of that troubled arena - madness is fast becoming the dominant theme.

Hamas (and other Palestinian militants’) rockets being fired indiscriminately into Israel is not going to achieve anything but international disgust and a ferocious military attack from Israel.

Israel’s Indiscriminate bombing of Gaza under the ruse of ‘targeting militants’ and clothed in the convenient impunity provided by ‘security measures’ is not going to achieve anything but international disgust at the mounting slaughter of innocent civilians, and it wont stop rocket fire from the militants.

The dogs are chasing their tails in a deadly (for Palestinians) game of ‘who started it’.

Well, for starters, there is a problem with the concept of ‘response’ in this seemingly never ending conflict.

Context is crucial therefore it is essential that Palestinian resistance to decades of Israeli oppression must be considered as much a ‘response’ as Israel’s bombing of Gaza is a ‘response’.

That said, this time - as opposed to the other more recent cases of fighting between the two in 2008-9 and 2012 - the escalation can be traced to a nasty set of circumstances, none of which are justification for what is now playing out.

These include Israel’s opposition to the formation of a Palestinian Unity Government; Israel’s response to target and assassinate Hamas leaders and demand that the Unity Government be disbanded; the abduction and murder of three Jewish settler youths; a violent Israeli Defence Force search operation for the murderers in which 1600 Palestinian homes were raided, 700 Palestinians arrested, between 6 and 11 Palestinians killed and the homes of ‘suspects’ in the abduction were demolished; the revenge abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager; quickly followed by the brutal beating of his visiting American cousin at the hands of Israeli soldiers - caught on film.

As of Saturday morning 105 Palestinian children, women and men are dead, hundreds are injured, hundreds of homes and buildings have been destroyed and a tightening of the already inhumane siege on Gaza means an acute lack of food, water and medical supplies to treat those who have survived.

On the Israeli side, citizens are terrified but, thankfully, so far none have been killed although five have been injured.

In Israel citizens are protected by one of the strongest military forces in the world supported by billions of dollars of American military aid, including an American financed ‘Iron Dome’ missile interception capability which destroys any Hamas rockets which might reach deeper into Israel. Israeli citizens also have warning sirens and easy access to bomb shelters.

In Gaza such escape from Israel’s technological death machines is non existent.

It is no wonder that those who watch the Palestinian-Israeli conflict closely understand the oft repeated narrative that Jewish life is considered sacrosanct while Palestinian life is cheap.

It is referred to as a hierarchy of death.

It is seen in regular commodification of Palestinian prisoners as bargaining chips which invoke a price index on their lives, diminishing their value when compared to the few they are to be exchanged for. 

It is heard in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unsubstantiated claims that Israelis celebrate life but Palestinians celebrate death. Perhaps when he has left the side of the grieving parents in Israel he should spend a few nights in Gaza with some of the parents who have had to bury their obviously militant babies.

This hierarchy of death lies at the heart of Netanyahu’s ‘divine right’ to declare Hamas guilty of murdering the Jewish teens and act as judge and jury by destroying the homes of the related ‘unpeople’ who live there.

International concern is growing - finally - but Netanyahu has declared that “no international pressure will prevent us from acting with all our force against a terrorist organisation...”

That force has already been likened to Mike Tyson beating up on a toddler who spat at him. 

Yes Israel has a right and a duty to defend its citizens but under the rules of military engagement it must be sure the targets it is bombing are military targets. If there is any doubt there is an obligation to wait until the balance of doubt is not going to lead to civilian casualties.

On the face of it both Israel and Hamas are in breach of this duty.

Israel also has an added duty under the international laws of occupation to protect the citizens of the land it occupies.

Some are quick to jump in there and claim Gaza is no longer occupied.

To put it politely, that is disingenuous. 

Jews may no longer live in Gaza, but in 2005 Israel unilaterally disengaged and locked the prison gates behind it.

Israel controls Gaza by land, sea and air and bombing this most densely populated land mass on the face of the earth is like shooting at 1.7million apples in a barrel.

Israel may at times phone ahead to warn Gazans their home is about to be destroyed but the occupants have nowhere to escape to.

Number of bomb shelters in Gaza = 0.

And there’s a question about that self-serving propagandist policy which needs to be answered.

If, as Netanyahu and his political colleagues have declared, they will not stop until they have destroyed Hamas, why would they phone to make sure their targets are safely out of their homes?

This appears to contradict claims from Israel that if Hamas stops firing its rockets Israel will stop.

Which one is it? Destruction of Hamas or a ceasefire?

Back to that definition of madness.

There will be more Palestinian deaths.

There will be more rockets from both sides.

Egypt’s President Sisi, who would also like to see the Muslim Brotherhood-friendly Hamas destroyed, is not the ceasefire broker his predecessors have been.

There may be a ground invasion by the 40,000 Israeli troops stationed on Gaza’s border.

This is unlikely to break the Palestinian commitment to a unity government, although it is certainly under pressure. 

It seems clear that yet again in the Middle East the folly of military solutions to political problems continues unabated.

It is the very definition of madness.