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Israel: What are they fighting for?

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | feature author Friday July 21, 2006 19:00author by Tanya Reinhart Report this post to the editors

It was Israel's offensive on Gaza that sparked off the new war in Lebanon. Since it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has carefully avoided any clashes with the Israeli army on Israeli territory (limiting themselves to the area of Shaba in Lebanon, which continues to be occupied by the Jewish State). The moment chosen by the shia-ite fighters for their first attack, and the rhetoric that followed, indicates that their intention was to reduce pressure on the Palestinians by opening up a new front. Their action can therefore be seen as the first military act of solidarity with the Palestinians from the Arab world. Whatever one might think of what Hezbollah has done, it is important to understand the nature of Israel's war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

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Israel: What are they fighting for?

by Tanya Reinhart

It was Israel's offensive on Gaza that sparked off the new war in Lebanon. Since it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has carefully avoided any clashes with the Israeli army on Israeli territory (limiting themselves to the area of Shaba in Lebanon, which continues to be occupied by the Jewish State). The moment chosen by the shia-ite fighters for their first attack, and the rhetoric that followed, indicates that their intention was to reduce pressure on the Palestinians by opening up a new front. Their action can therefore be seen as the first military act of solidarity with the Palestinians from the Arab world. Whatever one might think of what Hezbollah has done, it is important to understand the nature of Israel's war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Whatever may be the fate of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army's war in Gaza is not about him. As senior security analyst Alex Fishman widely reported, the army was preparing for an attack months earlier and was constantly pushing for it, with the goal of destroying the Hamas infrastructure and its government. The army initiated an escalation on 8 June when it assassinated Abu Samhadana, a senior appointee of the Hamas government, and intensified its shelling of civilians in the Gaza Strip. Governmental authorization for action on a larger scale was already given by 12 June, but it was postponed in the wake of the global reverberation caused by the killing of civilians in the air force bombing the next day. The abduction of the soldier released the safety-catch, and the operation began on 28 June with the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and the mass detention of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank, which was also planned weeks in advance. (1)

In Israeli discourse, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza when it evacuated its settlers from the Strip, and the Palestinians' behavior therefore constitutes ingratitude. But there is nothing further from reality than this description. In fact, as was already stipulated in the Disengagement Plan, Gaza remained under complete Israeli military control, operating from outside. Israel prevented any possibility of economic independence for the Strip and from the very beginning, Israel did not implement a single one of the clauses of the agreement on border-crossings of November 2005. Israel simply substituted the expensive occupation of Gaza with a cheap occupation, one which in Israel's view exempts it from the occupier's responsibility to maintain the Strip, and from concern for the welfare and the lives of its million and a half residents, as determined in the fourth Geneva convention.

Israel does not need this piece of land, one of the most densely populated in the world, and lacking any natural resources. The problem is that one cannot let Gaza free, if one wants to keep the West Bank. A third of the occupied Palestinians live in the Gaza strip. If they are given freedom, they would become the center of Palestinian struggle for liberation, with free access to the Western and Arab world. To control the West Bank, Israel needs full control Gaza. The new form of control Israel has developed is turning the whole of the Strip into a prison camp completely sealed from the world.

Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the Strip, by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them. As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, "Why should we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together, or live in fear together." (2)

The mightiest army in the Middle East has no military answer to these home-made rockets. One answer that presents itself is what Hamas has been proposing all along, and Haniyeh repeated this week - a comprehensive cease-fire. Hamas has proven already that it can keep its word. In the 17 months since it announced its decision to abandon armed struggle in favor of political struggle, and declared a unilateral cease-fire (tahdiya - calm), it did not participate in the launching of Qassams, except under severe Israeli provocation, as happened in the June escalation. However, Hamas remains committed to political struggle against the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In Israel's view, the Palestinians elections results is a disaster, because for the first time they have a leadership that insists on representing Palestinian interests rather than just collaborating with Israel's demands.

Since ending the occupation is the one thing Israel is not willing to consider, the option promoted by the army is breaking the Palestinians by devastating brutal force. They should be starved, bombarded, terrorized with sonic booms for months, until they understand that rebelling is futile, and accepting prison life is their only hope for staying alive. Their elected political system, institutions and police should be destroyed. In Israel's vision, Gaza should be ruled by gangs collaborating with the prison wards.

The Israeli army is hungry for war. It would not let concerns for captive soldiers stand in its way. Since 2002 the army has argued that an "operation" along the lines of "Defensive Shield" in Jenin was also necessary in Gaza. Exactly a year ago, on 15 July (before the Disengagement), the army concentrated forces on the border of the Strip for an offensive of this scale on Gaza. But then the USA imposed a veto. Rice arrived for an emergency visit that was described as acrimonious and stormy, and the army was forced to back down (3). Now, the time has finally came. With the Islamophobia of the American Administration at a high point, it appears that the USA is prepared to authorize such an operation, on condition that it not provoke a global outcry with excessively-reported attacks on civilians.(4)

With the green light for the offensive given, the army's only concern is public image. Fishman reported this Tuesday that the army is worried that "what threatens to bury this huge military and diplomatic effort" is reports of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hence, the army would take care to let some food into Gaza. (5) From this perspective, it is necessary to feed the Palestinians in Gaza so that it would be possible to continue to kill them undisturbed.


*Parts of this article were translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall.

(1) Alex Fishman, Who is for the elimination of Hamas, Yediot Aharonot Saturday Supplement, June 30, 2006. See also Alex Fishman, The safety-catch released, Yediot Aharonot June 21, 2006 (Hebrew), Aluf Benn, An operation with two goals, Ha'aretz, June 29 2006.

(2) Greg Myre, Rockets Create a 'Balance of Fear' With Israel, Gaza Residents Say. The New York Times, July 9, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/world/middleeast/09rockets.html?ex=1310097

(3) Steven Erlanger, "U.S. Presses Israel to Smooth the Path to a Palestinian Gaza", New York Times, August 7 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/07/international/middleeast/07israel.html?ex=1281067200&en=82f12ac7eed5 ee24&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss The planned July 2005 offensive is documented in detail in my The Road Map to Nowhere - Israel Palestine since 2003, Verso, September 2006.

(4) For a detailed survey of the U.S. administration's present stands, see Ori Nir, U.S. Seen Backing Israeli Moves To Topple Hamas, The Forward, July 7, 2006. http://www.forward.com/articles/8063

(5) Alex Fishman, Their food is finished, Yediot Aharonot, July 11, 2006.


http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart

A shorter version of this article was scheduled to appear Thursday, July 13 in Yediot Aharonot, but postponed to next week because of the developments in Southern Lebanon.

A slightly different version of this article was published (in Italian translation) by Il Manifesto, and this English version has been amended to include the differences.

The author is an anarchist professor and long-time activist.

Related Link: http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart
author by Lily Galili - Haaretz Correspondentpublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 19:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fighting in Lebanon produces its first conscientious objector

Lily Galili, Haaretz Correspondent


The Lebanon 2006 war has produced its first conscientious objector - Staff Sergeant Itzik Shabbat, a 28-year-old TV producer. He refused to comply with an emergency order (Tsav 8) to report Tuesday for reserve duty in the territories in order to free forces in the standing army for the war in Lebanon.

Shabbat, a resident of Sderot, had not yet decided Tuesday night whether he would go to his reserve unit Wednesday and announce there that he was refusing to do reserve duty or whether he would not report at all and be considered absent.

"I know people will attack me and ask how could I not take part in this war when Qassams are falling on my hometown and Katyushas on the towns in the north," he told Haaretz. "In my opinion, only this type of opposition that I've chosen will put an end to the madness that is going on now and will shatter the false feeling that the entire home front supports this unnecessary war that is based on deceptive considerations."

He added: "Someone has to be the first to break the silence and it will be me. It is a shame that my order was signed by another Sderot resident, Defense Minister Amir Peretz."

Shabbat says he has already informed his commander and other officers in the unit of his intentions and he is prepared to pay the price.

In the past Shabbat, considered an outstanding commander, also refused to serve in the territories and sat in prison for 28 days. He was one of the signatories to the petition of the refusal movement, Courage to Refuse. However he says that his present decision is not connected with the need to relieve a unit in the territories but rather with his opposition to the war in Lebanon. The larger Yesh Gvul movement started by opposing the 1982 Lebanon war and only later the territories, too.

[from Haaretz online]

Related Link: http://www.haaretz.com
author by alyhan - non-governmentalpublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 05:17author email alihanasyan at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone -Report this post to the editors

Some thing that we fight is usually the one that we do not know...
Perhaps, or maybe, let's say hopefully...
in the comin' years we won't have anything to fight for...

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 21:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"...But then the USA imposed a veto... (now) it appears that the USA is prepared to authorize such an operation..."

Obviously Israel is beholden to the USA. But Israel nevertheless appears to operate with a certain amount of autonomy.

I thought it noteworthy that in the aftermath of U.S. boots hitting the ground in the Middle East (Iraq), Sharon (of all people) authorized a somewhat unpopular removal of settlers from Gaza (a policy the U.S. had advocated for some time). This action may well have constituted the apex (or trough) of Israel's subservience to U.S. dictates.

I wonder: with Bush's domestic popularity in a nosedive, and draft phobia limiting his military options, might Israel's current actions reflect a reassertion of a measure of autonomy on their part, more so than a high point of the U.S. cabal's "Islamophobia"?

author by mitchpublication date Thu Jul 27, 2006 11:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For your info. This is being circulated by the former Liverpool Dockers to dockers and dock workers organizations globally.

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Terry Teague"Â
> Subject: Should we be working Israeli cargoes?
>
> Over the years dockworkers have been at the forefront of organising
> action to stop the oppression of innocent men, women and children the
> world over. The boycotts of cargoes heading to or from apartheid South
> Africa or Pinochets fascist regime in Chile helped bring freedom and
> humanity to the people of those countries and in the case of South
> Africa irrevocably changed the path of the countries life style for
> the better.
> Although we no longer work in the Port Industry the Sacked Liverpool
> Dockworkers are being asked on a daily basis by many concerned trade
> unionists and members of the public, “should dockworkers in the United
> Kingdom be loading or discharging cargoes heading to or from Israel
> when that country is causing death and destruction to the people and
> the country of Lebanon. Our answer is a straight forward œno they
> shouldnt be working Israeli cargoes whilst the current bombardment of
> Lebanon continues. Unfortunately there is very little that we can do
> about the situation in terms of direct action, but we can organise
> opposition and campaign against the carnage that is currently taking
> place in the Middle East which we intend to do and repectfully ask our
> international comrades to update us with any news of meetings or
> planned actions that they might be considering within their Ports.
> In Solidarity,
> The Sacked Liverpool Dockworkers

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 08:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I heard Bush and Blair on the radio this evening. It appears my hasty analysis was incorrect, and the anglo imperialists are fully supportive of (rather than trying to put the brakes on) Israel's massacre and invasion.

 
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