It does not seem that Israel is making any effort at all to limit civilian casualties. That’s the inescapable conclusion I’ve reached after reading report after report speaking of bombs hitting the places where Gaza residents have fled in a vain attempt to avoid being killed.
In the small hours of this morning, the AP reports:
Witnesses and United Nations officials say Israeli shells have struck the U.N. headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
The compound has been serving as a shelter for hundreds of people fleeing Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza. U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness says at least three people were wounded.
The entire area is engulfed in smoke and it’s not clear whether anyone is still inside the compound.
The compound includes the headquarters of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, a school and other offices. Gunness says large amounts of aid supplies, as well as fuel trucks, could soon be destroyed.
Israeli tanks shelled downtown Gaza City on Thursday and ground troops thrust deep into a crowded neighborhood for the first time, sending terrified residents fleeing for cover and increasing pressure on Hamas rulers to accept a proposed cease-fire to end Israel’s devastating offensive.
Gideon Levy, a Haaretz correspondent in Israel, is not impressed by his country’s protestations that Hamas hides amongst the civilians, and thus bears responsibility for so many deaths. He places the blame squarely back in Israel’s hands (h/t):
The fighting in Gaza is “war deluxe.” Compared with previous wars, it is child’s play – pilots bombing unimpeded as if on practice runs, tank and artillery soldiers shelling houses and civilians from their armored vehicles, combat engineering troops destroying entire streets in their ominous protected vehicles without facing serious opposition. A large, broad army is fighting against a helpless population and a weak, ragged organization that has fled the conflict zones and is barely putting up a fight. All this must be said openly, before we begin exulting in our heroism and victory.
This war is also child’s play because of its victims. About a third of those killed in Gaza have been children – 311, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 270 according to the B’Tselem human rights group – out of the 1,000 total killed as of Wednesday. Around 1,550 of the 4,500 wounded have also been children according to figures from the UN, which says the number of children killed has tripled since the ground operation began.
One can say Hamas hides among the civilian population, as if the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population, as if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population. One can also claim that Hamas uses children as human shields, as if in the past our own organizations fighting to establish a country did not recruit children.
A significant majority of the children killed in Gaza did not die because they were used as human shields or because they worked for Hamas. They were killed because the IDF bombed, shelled or fired at them, their families or their apartment buildings. That is why the blood of Gaza’s children is on our hands, not on Hamas’ hands, and we will never be able to escape that responsibility.
It might be instructive, at this moment, to take a step back and see what led to this. When we look more closely, Hamas doesn’t emerge as the wholly-evil terrorists that Israel and the U.S. would have us believe them to be. In fact, the U.S. can’t escape responsibility for the atrocities visited upon the Palestinians any more than Israel can. Our hands are just as bloody (h/t):
Hamas never called for the elections that put them in power. That was the brainstorm of Secretary Rice and her staff, who had apparently decided they could steer Palestinians into supporting the more-compliant Mahmoud Abbas (the current president of the Palestinian authority) and his Fatah Party through a marketing campaign that was to counter Hamas’s growing popularity – all while ignoring continued Israeli settlement construction, land confiscation, and cantonization of the West Bank.
State Department staffers helped finance and supervise the Fatah campaign, down to the choice of backdrop color for the podium where Mr. Abbas was to proclaim victory. An adviser working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) explained to incredulous staffers at the Embassy in Tel Aviv how he would finance and direct elements of the campaign, leaving no US fingerprints. USAID teams, meanwhile, struggled to implement projects for which Abbas could claim credit. Once the covert political program cemented Fatah in place, the militia Washington was building for Fatah warlord-wannabee Mohammed Dahlan would destroy Hamas militarily.
Simultaneously, the US military team expanded its efforts to build the Mohammed Dahlan-led militia. President Bush considered Dahlan “our guy.” But Dahlan’s thugs moved too soon. They roamed Gaza, demanding protection money from businesses and individuals, erecting checkpoints to extort bribes, terrorizing Dahlan’s opponents within Fatah, and attacking Hamas members.
Finally, in mid-2007, faced with increasing chaos and the widely known implementation of a US-backed militia, Hamas – the lawfully elected government – struck first. They routed the Fatah gangs, securing control of the entire Gaza Strip, and established civil order.
Its efforts stymied, the US has for more than a year inflexibly backed Israel’s embargo of Gaza and its collective punishment of the Strip’s 1.5 million residents. The recent six-month cease-fire saw a near cessation of rocket fire into Israel and calm along the border, yet the economic siege was further tightened.
Gaza’s economy has collapsed, and the population, displaced for decades from their farms and villages, relies ever more on food aid from Hamas and the UN. The US expresses shock that Gazans resort to using smuggling tunnels for survival rather than passively accepting the suffering inflicted by the embargo. What would we expect Americans to do in the same circumstances? With no easing of the blockade, the missile launches have increased in range and frequency, yielding massive Israeli response.
Keep the above facts in mind the next time someone tries to defend the righteousness of this war by claiming Hamas to be terrorist usurpers who murdered their innocent political rivals and attacked Israel relentlessly. As is status quo for the Bush regime, those tales are, at best, wild exaggerations meant to drum up support for the war they wanted, in this case a proxy war started by Israel but cheered on by America.
Right now, in Egypt, Hamas is working for peace:
Egypt and Hamas are close to a deal for a 10-day cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in Gaza, where the death toll from the Israeli offensive exceeded 1,000, officials said Wednesday. Egyptian and Hamas officials expressed optimism that an agreement for a temporary halt in fighting could be sealed soon and presented to Israel. But even if all sides sign on, further talks will be needed to resolve contentious disputes over policing Gaza’s borders and ensure a longer-term truce.
“We’re working with Hamas and we’re working with the Israeli side. We hope to reach an outcome soon,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met late Wednesday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss the cease-fire efforts. In a sign of progress, Israel’s chief negotiator, Amos Gilad, planned to fly to Egypt on Thursday to present Israel’s stance, a senior defense official said. Gilad had put off the trip in recent days, saying the time was not yet ripe.
You notice that Israel has been anything but eager to come to the table. And Bush, who is still nominally President of the United States, has no interest in stopping the killing:
Today during the White House press briefing, a reporter asked press secretary Dana Perino if President Bush is “okay with” the conflict between Hamas and Israel continuing as he leaves office and if “there any kind of sense within the White House that he’d like to wrap things up or at least achieve a resolution” before next Tuesday.
Perino said that when it comes to protecting and caring for Palestinian civilians, “there is no time limit on that.” But a second reporter noted that Bush had previously said he would “sprint to the finish” and wondered if he was “working the phones” to get a deal done. Perino brushed off any notion of Bush working on the issue, claiming that its more “appropriate” for Rice to be doing the talking…
Last January, Bush did set a time limit on the Israel-Palestine situation, saying “there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office,” adding, “I am on a timetable — got 12 months.” So perhaps Bush has just checked out and is no longer interested in Middle East peace. After all, last week, he said he is “eager for a more carefree life in Dallas.”
I think Bush’s idea of “peace” was that Hamas would be crushed, Palestinians would beg to allow Israel to get whatever it wanted as long as the beatings stopped, and amenable puppets installed as Palestine’s “democratically elected” rulers. Since none of these things have happened, Bush could care less. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed by his long-desired war. We can’t expect him to show any concern for Palestinian casualties.
On a day when Osama bin Laden called for a jihad against Israel and horrified American Jews closed the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles for war crimes, Dennis Kucinich readies a resolution that puts America in the position it should have been in all along:
Representative Dennis Kucinich plans to introduce a resolution in the House soon calling for an immediate ceasefire. There are a number of whereases in the draft, recounting the human toll of the war and the blockade, but the punchline is very simple:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on the Government of Israel and representatives of Hamas to implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and to allow unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.
“A resolution has co-sponsors,” a Kucinich staffer once said. It’s great that Dennis is on the floor of the House telling the truth. But it’s terrible for the prospects of changing disastrous U.S. policies towards the Palestinians for Dennis to be standing alone. Who will co-sponsor the Kucinich ceasefire resolution?
So far the original cosponsors include John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Maurice Hinchey, Marcy Kaptur, Jim McDermott, Nick Rahall, Diane Watson, and Lynn Woolsey.
You can add your voice to that resolution here. America needs to stop blindly supporting Israel’s short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating military misadventures. America’s government needs to stop cheering on the deaths of innocent men, women and children and the suffering of over a million more.
Ultimately, it’s in Israel’s best interests to stop the killing. We can best show our support of Israel’s continued existence by providing a voice of reason. As one of the protestors at the Israeli consulate said,
Do most Jews support the idea of the state of Israel? Yes, most Jews do. But most Jews also want to see Israel living in peace with its neighbors, not going to war at every provocation, not taking over more or more land that does not belong to them, and not keeping another people under occupation and without rights or basic human needs.
It’s time for America to stop enabling Israel’s war fantasies. We have enough blood on our hands without reaching for more.