What are they fighting for?

Tanya Reinhart, een scherpe analytica, al vaker op dit weblog geplaatst, beantwoordt de vraag waarom het Israelische leger in Gaza zit. Niet om die ene soldaat te bevrijden, die hebben ze nog steeds niet, en die loopt door de invasie alleen maar meer gevaar. Niet om de Kassem-raketten tegen te houden, waarvan er ondanks de aanwezigheid van het leger weer flink wat zijn afgeschoten. Waarom wel? Lees. Het is een ijzingwekkend verhaal, maar ik vrees dat Reinhart gelijk heeft. (Sorry voor het Engels, ik heb nog niet de tijd om het te vertalen)

Tanya 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. (*)

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 burry 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.

(3) Steven Erlanger, “U.S. Presses Israel to Smooth the Path to a Palestinian Gaza”, New York Times, August 7 2005.
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.

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


8 gedachten over “What are they fighting for?

  1. Natuurlijk is Israel uit op ‘containment’van de Palestijnen. Als Israel ze demografisch niet kan overheersen dan is dat één van de keuzes. De moraal is één van de 1e slachtoffers in deze oorlog. Even natuurlijk is ‘containment’ niet acceptabel voor Palestina.
    Ik dacht eerst dat de Palestijnen hadden geblunderd met de ontvoering van de korporaal. Maar ze hebben niets te verliezen. De afgrendeling is voor geen volk leefbaar. De inhoud van wanhoop en hoop is soms onderling verwisselbaar. Er was in ieder geval een noodzaak tot handelen aan de zijde van de Palestijnen. Een status quo zou op termijn verstikking van de Palestijnen tot gevolg hebben. Er was/is niets te verliezen.

  2. Ik wil jullie lezers hier ook eens verwijzen naar de site van EAJG. Kijk op Ontredderd Palestina. Een verhaal van Simone Korkus, journaliste die in Israel woont. Ten hemel schreiend.

  3. Inderdaad: ijzingwekkend. Ongetwijfeld hebben de Israëlische havikken gewacht op een aanleiding die de kennelijk al lang voorbereide militaire acties zouden “rechtvaardigen”. De officieel opgegeven redenen (ontvoeringen/gijzelingen van Israëlische militairen) rechtvaardigen duidelijk geenszins de grootscheepse acties die vele burgerslachtoffers maken.
    Reinhard zegt: “…..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.”
    In dit laatste zouden Bush c.s. zich wel eens een grondig kunnen misrekenen.

  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 burry 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………..

    Het is “noodzakelijk” om voedsel aan de Palestijnen in Gaza te geven, zodat je ongestoord kunt doorgaan met ze te vermoorden?

    Hoe ziek kan je zijn? Dit komt toch alleen voort uit een zeer ziek brein? Ik heb er, alweer, geen woorden meer voor. Ik word er heel stil van.

  5. Wat schrijft diezelfde Fishman op 5 juli in Yediot Aharonot? Onder de kop “Declaration of war” en “Qassam attack on Ashkelon is part of overall Hamas battleplan. Israel must drop the gloves and respond in kind”?
    “The time has come to drop the gloves. The time has come to admit that Hamas has declared war on us. The State of Israel must begin to defend itself effectively.
    Until now our political echelon’s battle plan has consisted mainly of rambling. Every two hours-or-so some or another senior Israeli figure is threatening someone: Syria, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, half the world. But they are empty threats. They don’t scare anybody because the other side has already made its decision: We are at war.
    Hamas has been preparing for this war for many months, on all levels. All the developments of recent months – the rain of Qassams on the western Negev, the attack on Kerm Shalom and the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and now the Qassam fired at downtown Ashkelon – are not coincidental. They are part of the battle. The enemy has set out, but we still aren’t sure.”
    Fishman is kortom een oorlogshitser en als ik zijn artikelen lees (dat waar Tanya naar verwijst heb ik niet kunnen vinden) zegt hij dat het Israëlische leger zich weliswaar heeft voorbereid, maar dan toch met het argument dat Hamas zich op een oorlog voorbereidde… Kip of ei, maar laat niemand denken dat deze Fishman bezig zou zijn om de ogen van de Israëliërs te open. Die man wil er fors tegenaan en vindt de regering en het leger maar watjes die zich zorgen maken om een paar doden… Wellicht hadden anderen dat al veel langer door, maar ik maakte dat niet 1,2,3 op uit het artikel van Tanya.

  6. Vanmiddag geluisterd naar Standpuntnl waar Harry van Bommel te gast was. Als je dan het commentaar hoort, onbegrijpelijk dat er nog zoveel mensen zijn die achter deze daden van Israel staan. Er was zelfs een vrouw die zeker wist dat God tegen de duivel aan het vechten was. Hoe ziek moet je zijn om daarin te geloven. Ik vond dat Harry wel wat harder had mogen zijn over Israel. Hij had b.v. nog wel kunnen zeggen dat er ook minstens 9800 Palestijnen gevangen zitten in Israel. In “Drinken uit de zee van Gaza” van Amira Hass worden verhalen verteld van ex-gevangenen over martelingen. De rillingen lopen over je rug als je dat leest. Dan vinden ze het nog gek dat de Palestijnen de Israeliers de zee in wensen te drijven.

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