Palestine: Gaza ceasefire setback for Zionists

On 21 November, following eight days of Zionist bombardment of Gaza and the deaths of around 170 Palestinians, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire. Bob Shepherd reports.

The Israeli blitzkrieg began on 14 November with the assassination of Ahmad Al Jaabari, head of Hamas’s military wing, in a missile attack on his car. During the eight days’ onslaught, Israel claimed it had attacked 1,500 sites across Gaza. 300 Palestinian homes had been destroyed or damaged. Eleven members of the Al Dalou family, including four children, were massacred when a bomb flattened their house in Gaza City on 18 November. Two bridges linking north and central Gaza were destroyed, government buildings including the Prime Minister’s office were hit, and health, education and media facilities were also targeted. Two mosques were also blown up. All this took place under the grotesque banner of ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’.

The ceasefire was jointly announced in Cairo by the Egyptian Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Although the US had given Israel a green light to launch the blitzkrieg, it regarded the Zionists’ threatened land invasion as too much of a risk given the degree of political instability in the Middle East. The terms of the ceasefire include the opening of border crossings into Gaza, an end to targeted killings by Israel and the ending of the Israeli-imposed buffer zone inside Gaza along the border fence. How and when this agreement will be implemented has still to be sorted out, so there is plenty of room for Israel to renege on it. Thus on Friday 23 November Israeli forces shot and killed Anwar Qudaih and wounded another 19 people, as Palestinians demonstrated near the border fence in the south of Gaza and Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared of the agreement ‘there’s no signature on it’. However, it clearly represents a setback for the Zionists, with up to 70% of Israelis opposing the ceasefire.

The blockade

Israel has continued its inhuman blockade of Gaza since Operation Cast Lead, the last full-scale Israeli onslaught in 2008/09, which killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians. It has murdered 271 Palestinians during this period, and Israeli incursions occur on an almost daily basis. Gaza is one of the most densely-populated areas in the world with unemployment rates of over 33% and with around 80% of the population depending in one way or another on food aid. The responsibility for these barbaric conditions lies with the continued Israeli blockade, fully supported by the imperialist powers of Britain, the US and the EU.

The Zionist justification for its onslaught was to stop what it called a continuous rain of rockets from Gaza falling on their towns near the border and terrorising their citizens. However, as we know, everything the Israeli government says is either a lie or a deception. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which documents Israeli attacks and incursions into Gaza, showed that Israeli forces had killed at least nine Palestinians in the first two weeks of November, four of them children, and had injured 52 including 12 children. The increased rocket fire from Gaza was legitimate self-defence.

A first attempt at a ceasefire on 13 November foundered when the Zionists launched their attack the following day. With a general election pending in January 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government wanted to score political points. On 12 November, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had hosted a high-powered Israeli delegation led by Yaakov Amidror, Chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, and National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Following the talks, the US reiterated its ‘unshakeable commitment’ to Israeli security, evidently giving its approval to the onslaught. As international opposition to Zionist terror mounted and Palestinian rockets continued to be fired into Israel, the US blocked a statement from the UN Security Council on 20 November calling for an end to the escalating conflict, claiming that it did not address the root cause of the problem, Hamas rocket fire.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague nauseatingly repeated the Israeli justification for its murderous actions. ‘Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis. I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups.’ No condemnation ever passed his lips of the Israeli killing of 13-year-old Ahmed Abu Daqqa while playing football on 8 November near Khan Younis, or of the death of four young men, two under 18, by Israeli shellfire on 10 November. Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander also condemned ‘the recent rocket attacks into southern Israel that have led to this latest response’.

The Israeli military machine used F-16 fighter bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, unmanned drones, tanks and gunboats to pound targets in Gaza. The majority of the mounting numbers of wounded and injured were taken to the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City which was already suffering from a lack of drugs and basic medical equipment due to the continued Israeli blockade. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said it had run out of 192 essential drugs, including 40% of the essential medicines list, and held zero stocks of 586 medical disposables – items such as dressings and syringes. These accounted for 65% of the essential list.

To make matters worse, 11 of the 21 World Health Organisation (WHO) medical clinics in Gaza were closed because they were in areas targeted by Israeli air strikes. In response to the worsening shortages of medicines and equipment the WHO launched an appeal for $10m to fund care for the next three months:

‘Our biggest concern is the shortage of supplies...The shortages are affecting ordinary patients, too. There are lots with heart problems and cancer. We need ranitidine for ulcers and bicarbonate solution for kidney dialysis. These patients face a double disadvantage of having to move out to make room for the casualties and being unable to get their drugs.’

As Israel geared up for a possible ground invasion it targeted buildings hosting media outlets: Sky News, Al Arabiya, Russia Today, Al Quds TV and Al Aqsa TV were all in buildings hit by missile fire. On 20 November, two cameramen for Al Aqsa TV were killed by a missile in Gaza City, and the Director of Al Quds educational radio was killed when his car was destroyed. The Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices were hit in an airstrike in the early morning of 21 November. Mada, a Palestinian journalists’ rights group, declared that Israel is ‘trying to silence the press in Gaza’.

In Britain, the media have once more confirmed their overwhelming pro-Zionist bias, echoing every condemnation of Hamas. The BBC has been particularly craven. It never mentioned any of the Zionist violence that preceded the onslaught. It did not mention Hamas’s agreement to a truce on 12 November. It could not even bring itself to report the murder of the sister and the 11-month-old child of its own picture editor, Jihad Mishawari, in a Zionist missile attack on 14 November. Instead it focused on Hamas rocket attacks and rated the deaths of three Israelis as far more newsworthy than the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. It proved again it is the mouthpiece of British imperialism.

The Zionists were clearly rattled by the ability of Hamas and the other resistance groups to maintain their barrage of rocket fire. Despite the installation of the US-funded Iron Dome anti-missile system, rockets from Gaza reached Tel Aviv and settlements near Jerusalem. Israeli media reported that Iron Dome was only 54% effective. Hamas also claimed to have shot down an Israeli drone. The scale of resistance in the face of the Israeli onslaught gave many Palestinians confidence and added strength. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared on 19 November that ‘the people of Gaza are not asking for an end to the war, they are asking for their rights, they are asking that Israel end its assassinations and its raids and lift the blockade of Gaza’.

Within Israel, rabid racism became the order of the day. Interior Minister Eli Yishai was quoted as saying:

‘The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages... only then will Israel be calm for forty years...we must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.’

Gilad Sharon, son of war criminal Ariel Sharon, wrote in the Jerusalem Post that:

‘We need to flatten entire areas in Gaza, flatten all of Gaza ... the Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima, the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough so they hit Nagasaki too.’

Militant demonstrations broke out across the West Bank to protest at the onslaught. On 17 November a protester was killed by Israeli forces near Ramallah and another was shot and killed two days later in Hebron. Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces acted to protect the Israeli occupation as they confronted Palestinian demonstrators. Shawan Jabarin the director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, said that ‘the Palestinian police have become a guard for Israel’s interests’ and that they prevented demonstrators from reaching Israeli checkpoints in places like Jenin.

Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas and the PA were impotent in the face of the imperialist-backed Israeli onslaught. They are tied into a strategy of security cooperation with Israel as part of the Oslo Accords. Their present political strategy is centered on an attempt to get the status of Palestine upgraded to that of ‘non member state’ of the UN at the end of November. Abbas faces opposition from Israel, the US and Britain, but he has no real alternative if he is to maintain any credibility with any section of the Palestinian people. The extent of his capitulation was apparent during an interview with Israeli TV in early November. Asked if the PA considered towns in Galilee to be part of Palestine, Abbas replied:

‘I want to see Safad [the town he was born in], it’s my right to see it but not to live there...I am a refugee but I am living in Ramallah, I believe that the West Bank and Gaza are Palestine and the other parts are Israel.’

He thereby all but abandoned one of the central demands of the Palestinian resistance, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their family homes inside what is now Israel. Just to make sure the Zionists knew where he stood he added:

‘As far as I am here in this office, there will be no third armed intifada, never. We don’t want to use terror. We don’t want to use force. We don’t want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That’s it.’

Abbas, the PA and their security forces are indeed ‘a guard for Israel’s interests’. They will have to be confronted and defeated in the fight against the Israeli occupation and its imperialist backers.

Victory to the Palestinian people!

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013


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