Gaza: Escalating Out of Control

The attack on Gaza has gotten so extreme that the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed pages – yes, the conservative-loving, reality-hating WSJ op-ed pages – carry an editorial from a Palestinian-American with the uncompromising title “Israel Is Committing War Crimes.”

George Bisharat makes a strong case:

Israel had not suffered an “armed attack” immediately prior to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Since firing the first Kassam rocket into Israel in 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have loosed thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, causing about two dozen Israeli deaths and widespread fear. As indiscriminate attacks on civilians, these were war crimes. During roughly the same period, Israeli forces killed about 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza by targeted killings, aerial bombings, in raids, etc., according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

But on June 19, 2008, Hamas and Israel commenced a six-month truce. Neither side complied perfectly. Israel refused to substantially ease the suffocating siege of Gaza imposed in June 2007. Hamas permitted sporadic rocket fire — typically after Israel killed or seized Hamas members in the West Bank, where the truce did not apply. Either one or no Israelis were killed (reports differ) by rockets in the half year leading up to the current attack.

Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire — yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel’s own violation.

An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.

Israel, however, has decided that it has not yet committed enough war crimes. The UN Resolution calling for a cease-fire – supported by all members of the Security Council save the United States – has been met with the same response Israel typically gives to such Resolutions. They’ve ignored it:

Hamas and Israel competed with one another to see who could refuse most quickly to abide by the Resolution, and now — as Haaretz reports this morning — this is Israel’s response:

The Israel Air Force has dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip warning residents that it plans to escalate its two-week-old offensive.

The army says it has dropped the fliers throughout Gaza. It says the notices are meant as a “general warning.”

The notice says Israel is about to begin a “new phase in the war on terror.” It says it will “escalate” an operation that already has killed more than 800 Palestinians.

It’s hard to imagine, short of full-on indiscriminate civilian bombing, how this attack can be “escalated.” Is there any limit at all to the number of civilian deaths that Israel is willing to cause? And, given that Palestinians are not allowed to leave Gaza and have no safe haven within the Gaza Strip, what is the point of dropping leaflets warning the civilian population of “escalation” other than, as Moyers put it, to sow further terror?

Hamas, of course, is not going to back down. How can they, when hundreds of civilians are being killed and thousands more wounded? Glenn Greenwald, in the same post linked above, gives us the numbers:

According to the Report issued on Thursday (.pdf) by the U.N.’s Humanitarian Affairs Office, more than 1/3 of overall Palestinian deaths are children (34% of the almost 800 total deaths), and a similar percentage of the more than 3,000 wounded are also children (34.8%). To put that in perspective, note that the Russian invasion of Georgia — which was vehemently and universally condemned in the U.S. as an excessive and brutal response to Georgia’s assault on South Ossetia — resulted, according to the Georgian government, in total deaths on the Georgia side of 405 (220 of whom were civilians) and total number of civilians wounded between 200-250 (see page 10 of this Amnesty International Report — .pdf).

But Georgia didn’t have a powerful neoconservative lobby and a long history of American largess. The United States has no intention of stepping in to try to halt the violence this time. Quite the contrary:

The U.S. military has sought to hire a merchant ship to deliver ammunition to Israel this month, tender documents show, but the Pentagon said the shipment was not linked to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

A Pentagon spokesman said the ammunition was for a U.S. stockpile in Israel. The U.S. military pre-positions stockpiles in some countries in case it needs supplies at short notice.

In the tender documents, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

[snip]

The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than Jan. 25 and the second at the end of the month.

The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December.

Do you believe the “it’s just for our own stockpile. Nothing to do with the Gaza war – please move along!” bullshit spewing from the Pentagon? If you do, I suggest you have a look at those dates one more time. Then review the history of the past eight years, in which every official denial has
turned out to be a lie. They lied us into Iraq, and now they want to lie us into provisioning Israel with enough ordnance to destroy as many Palestinian civilians as they like.

They excuse it by claiming that Hamas is nothing more than a terrorist organization, ignoring the fact that it also happens to be the duly-elected government of Gaza:

[Deputy White House Press Secretary] MR. STANZEL: Our policy has been clear, in terms of not dealing with Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization that took over the Gaza — Gaza in — about 18 months ago. So our position has been clear.

Isn’t that just breathtaking? Hamas “took over” Gaza by being elected in a landslide, in a democratic election the U.S. pushed for. But, of course, they’re terrorists and so winning an election means they took over by brute force rather than popular will.

I wonder what that says about Israel’s democratically-elected government?

But brute force can turn self-defense into state terrorism. It’s what the U.S. did in Vietnam, with B-52s and napalm, and again in Iraq, with shock and awe. By killing indiscriminately – the elderly, kids, entire families by destroying schools and hospitals — Israel did exactly what terrorists do and exactly what Hamas wanted. It spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution.

Hardly had Israeli tank fire killed and injured scores at a UN school in Gaza than a senior Hamas leader went on television to announce, “The Zionists have legitimized the killing of their children by killing our children.” Already attacks on Jews in Europe are escalating — a burning car crashes into a synagogue in Southern France, a fiery object is hurled through a window in Sweden, venomous anti-Semitic graffiti appears across the continent, and arsonists strike in London.

How many civilians will they have to kill before they, also, are a “terrorist organization” that “took over” Israel? How much more violent retaliation will their war of aggression have to inspire before the lesson sinks in that war of this nature begets more war, not security and certainly not peace?

The reports coming out of Gaza are horrific. One wonders just how much worse they would be if Israel wasn’t blocking reporters’ access and killing the ones already there:


The Israeli effort to control access to news from Gaza is escalating along with its military actions. While the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the government to allow eight reporters to cross into Gaza, that order has not been enforced. Now media workers who were already in Gaza have become targets of military attacks.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide is calling on the world’s media to protest the Israeli blockade on the media.

The IFJ call comes as another Palestinian journalist was reported killed – the fourth victim of recent Israeli military action in Gaza. Eyhab Al Wahidi, who worked as a cameraman for the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation in Gaza, was killed with his wife and mother-in-law yesterday when Israeli troops shelled their home in Gaza city. The family’s children were injured.

[snip]

The Committee to Protect Journalists recounts the attack on the building housing most of the broadcast media that remains in Gaza:

at least one journalist was injured in an Israeli air strike while filing a report from the roof of the al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building in Gaza City which houses more than 20 international news organizations, according to multiple news outlets…

“The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately.”

But they have to do things to protect their citizens, right? And Israelis are relieved and happy that their government is finally taking the war to the terrorists, I’m sure.

Let’s ask a woman from the Israeli town of Sderot, which has for the past seven years dealt with rocket attacks from Hamas:

Not in my name and not for me you went to war. The current bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name and not for my security. Destroyed homes, bombed schools, thousands of new refugees – are not in my name and not for my security. In Gaza there is no time for burial ceremonies now, the dead are put in refrigerators in twos, because there is no room. Here their bodies lay, policemen, children, and our nimble reporters play acrobatically with Hasbara strategies in view of “the images that speak for themselves”. Pray tell me, what is there to “explain”? [Hasbara literally means "explanation" - Assaf] What is there to explain?

I got myself neither security nor quiet from this war. After such an essential calm, that helped all of us heal emotionally and mentally and experience some sanity again [Nomika is referring here to the first 5 months of cease-fire, which were observed by both sides - Assaf] – our leaders have brought us back to the same wounded, anxiety-ridden place. To the same humiliating, terrified sprinting to shelter.

Don’t mistake me. Hamas is an evil, terrible terror organization. Not just for us. First and foremost to its own citizens. But beyond that wretched leadership there are human beings. With hard labor, ordinary people on both sides build small bridges of human gestures. This is what the Kol Aher, a group of people from Sderot and elsewhere on the Gaza border of which I am a member, has been doing. We have tried to lay down a human route to the hearts of our neighbors. While we have won a five-month calm, they continued to suffer under the siege. A young man told us he does not wish to marry and have kids, because in Gaza there is no future for children. A single airplane bomb drowns these human gestures in depths of blood and despair.

If not in her name, then, in whose is Israel killing? What justifies not merely an escalation but a continuation of this war?

Gaza: Writing Out a Will

Will this Palestinian child be one of those who writes out a will?

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation–with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center. . . .

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

Nothing seems simpler to me than the equation than violence = more violence. Where can terrorism gain a foothold? Where there’s no hope. When the worst of what you have been told to expect of your adversary turns out to be only a fraction of the reality you suddenly face. When you are given so many reasons to exact revenge that it becomes impossible to resist the call to do just that.

All of this would make far more sense if Israel’s goal was to create more terrorists.

It’s highly unlikely that Palestinians will be in any mood to forget the shelling of refugees in a UN school – something the Israeli Defense Force originally alleged was in response to militant activity “near to” the building (no-one said how near) and which had been met, confusingly by the IDF’s own statements, by either return mortar fire or bombs or artillery shells depending upon which statement the pro-Israel lobby were taking as gospel at any time. Now, however, the UN says that senior IDF officials have admitted a mistake.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing.

In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school,” Gunness said. “The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional.”

He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself. “There are no up-to-date photos,” Gunness said. “In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over.”

I wish I could say I was surprised Israel lied. But I’ve seen our own regime do it over and over and over again. Israel seems to have absorbed their lessons all too well. Why they didn’t pay attention to the aftermath is something I may never understand.

In the meantime, the atrocities come relentlessly:

At least 30 people were killed in the Zeitoun district of Gaza after Israeli troops repeatedly shelled a house to which more than 100 Palestinians had been evacuated by the Israeli military, the UN said today.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in a report it was “one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations” against Hamas militants in Gaza by the Israeli military on 27 December.

OCHA said the incident took place on 4 January, a day after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza. According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated about 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun, south-east Gaza. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house. About half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said. The report also complains that the Israeli Defence Force prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded.

Relentlessly:

Around 7:00 A.M., an Israeli tank fired at our house. We decided to leave, and went to our neighbor, Hussein al-‘Aydi. A little while later, we heard that the army told people to leave the houses in the area, and we decided to go to another place. We left together with the neighbor’s family. Together, we were twenty-five persons.

When we went outside, we held up white cloth, so the soldiers would know we were civilians. We were afraid they would shoot us, but we walked anyway, having no alternative. Women and small children were in our group. When we got to a point opposite the tanks, they opened fire at us. My mother was hit and fell down. Then my sister Majda was hit in the back. Both were killed. We ran back, toward Hussein al-‘Ayadi’s house. Mother and Majda remained lying on the ground.

Relentlessly.

What can explain soldiers firing on women and children waving a white sheet? What can explain them herding civilians into buildings for their “safety,” only to be bombed within a few hours? Possibly nothing. Possibly a military culture that has placed guns in the hands of young, inexperienced people without guidance from older, perhaps wiser and certainly more politically savvy officers. Possibly a military culture in which Arab lives are cheap (h/t):

In Beit Suhur outside Bethlehem, I have seen IDF troops shoot at Palestinian Christian women hanging out laundry in their gardens.
This was done with tank coaxial machine guns from within a bermed up dirt fort a couple of hundred yards away, and evidently just for the fun of it. In Bethlehem a lieutenant told me that he would have had his men shoot me in the street during a demonstration that I happened to get caught in, but that he had not because he thought I might not be a Palestinian and that if I were not the incident would have caused him some trouble. I have seen a lot of things like that. One might say that in war, s–t happens. That is true, but such behavior is indicative of an army that is not well disciplined and not a completely reliably instrument of state policy. In my travels in the west Bank in March of 2008, it was noticeable that the behavior towards Palestinian civilians of IDF troops at roadblocks was reminiscent of that of any group of post-adolescents given guns and allowed to bully the helpless in order to look tough for each other.

They’ve faced no consequences for such behavior. Certainly not from the United States, who provided them a large fraction of their weaponry, and allows them to do whatever they wish with it, no matter how inhumane or ultimately self-defeating.

But there are harmonic tremors warning that a tectonic shift in attitude may be coming:

The House just approved its version of the praise-filled pro-Israel resolution approved yesterday in the Senate. And though I’ve yet to see a co-sponsor tally that would show any senator courageous enough to resist the lure of AIPAC, the stiffened-spine caucus in the House reached 26 members today: 4 who voted no and 22 voting “present” in a gesture of stoic disapproval.

Compare today’s outcome to 2006, when the combined total of no and present votes was only 12, and we could be seeing a slow but welcome shift of the dialogue towards political leeway for lawmakers to criticize Israel.

We may finally be on the verge of providing the check that Israel needs. Criticism and demands that Israel start behaving better won’t mean the friendship between our countries is over. Real friends don’t blindly endorse every damn-fool, self-destructive thing you do. Real friends tell you when you’re driving yourself off a cliff. Real friends ensure you get what you need:

The parties to the conflict aren’t really in need of any brilliant new substantive ideas from the United States — the basic shape of what an agreement would look like is well understood. Nor are our services as mediators really needed — the Norwegians have proven capable of playing that role when asked, and no doubt others could do the same. What’s needed is something that changes the Israeli domestic calculation — a sense that the nature of the Israel-U.S. relationship will depend, in part, on the nature of Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Any administration willing to publicly chastise an Israeli government will inevitably wind up ruffling some feathers and taking political heat for it, but it will almost certainly be for the Israelis’ own good. Jimmy Carter’s tough-love approach didn’t win him any fans among Israel’s most strident supporters, but at the end of the day, the resulting Egypt-Israel peace treaty has been enormously beneficial to Israel.

Is there a path to peace? There could be. There is hope that, if the bombing is brought to an end and negotiations done right, there could be a better future for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. But some pride will have to be swallowed and attitudes changed:

What Israel should do now is work for a cease-fire on terms that allow both sides to save some face. It should then do something it has done far too little of in the past: improve Gazans’ living conditions significantly. The aim should be to construct a long-lived state of calm in which Hamas has more to lose by breaching the cease-fire than by sticking to it.

In the longer term Israel will have to accept that Hamas is no fringe movement that can be rooted out and destroyed, but a central part of Palestinian society. This will be the hard part, not least because of the opposition from Hamas’ secularist Palestinian rivals, Fatah.

But even though Hamas’s stated goal is Israel’s destruction, it has said many times that it would accept a truce extending decades. Some former Israeli security chiefs argue that such an accommodation – a peace treaty in all but name – would eventually oblige Hamas to accept Israel’s existence, or else lose its own base of support. It is a gamble, certainly. But the alternative is more innocent lives lost, more extremism and ultimately more trouble for Israel.

Listen to those security chiefs, Israel. Listen to those warnings. You’re gaining nothing by killing children and women and old men. Let go of this insane idea that if enough bombs fall, you will somehow win.

There is no winning when you are inspiring another young man to write out a will.

About That Window for Humanitarian Aid…

Israel has a strange idea of what it means to allow humanitarian workers in to provide relief for starving, traumatized civilians:

The U.N. suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers, killing two, as the threat of a wider conflict emerged with Lebanon.

[snip]

“The inability of the U.N. to provide assistance in this worsening humanitarian crisis is unacceptable,” said Michele Montas, a U.N. spokeswoman.

She said according to reports, the attack on the U.N. truck, which killed two Palestinian workers, took place during a three-hour humanitarian lull announced by the Israel Defense Force. Four U.N Relief and Works Agency local staff have been killed in the conflict.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it would restrict aid operations to Gaza City for at least one day after one of its convoys came under Israeli fire at the Netzarim crossing during the three-hour lull in fighting Thursday. One driver was lightly injured.

The World Health Organization said 21 Palestinian medical workers have been killed and 30 more injured since Israel began its offensive.

So, what Israel seems to be saying here is, “Sure, we’ll let humanitarian workers cross the border. We just didn’t say how far.”

Once over the border, if the aid organizations have managed to avoid being fired upon by Israeli forces, they face obfuscation amidst a hell on earth:

In the meantime, conditions in Gaza continue to get unbelievably worse. So bad in fact, that the Red Cross which “normally conducts confidential negotiations with warring parties” issued a very strong statement today protesting Israel’s:

“unacceptable” delays in letting rescue workers reach three Gaza City homes hit by shelling where they eventually found 15 dead and 18 wounded, including young children too weak to stand.

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the site in the Zeitoun neighborhood for four days. Ambulances could not get to the neighborhood because the Israeli army had erected large earthen barriers that blocked access…

Eventually, rescuers from the international Red Cross and Palestine Red Crescent received permission to go into the shelled houses on Wednesday, four days after the buildings were hit by Israeli shells…

The rescue team “found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up,” the statement said. “In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses” in one of the houses, it added.

The Geneva-based organization said the children and the wounded had to be transported by donkey cart to ambulances.

“The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded,” the international Red Cross said. “Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded.”…

So. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent are finding it nearly impossible to perform humanitarian duties, and UN relief organizations have been forced to withdraw. And yet our Congress seems to think Israel’s doing a heckuva job on the humanitarian front:

The Resolution demands that Hamas take multiple steps towards peaceful resolution but demands that Israel do absolutely nothing. It purports to call for a cease-fire in which the Palestinians make all the concessions and Israel makes none. Worst of all — in light of the Red Cross condemnation, yesterday’s slaughter at the U.N. school, and other similar incidents — the Resolution disgustingly praises Israel’s conduct of the war, claiming that “Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the current round of fighting began on December 27, 2008.”

Never mind that those ambulances are being bombed. Never mind that those trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are being fired upon by Israeli tanks. Never mind that once those trucks are there, distributing the aid on them is nearly impossible. Israel let a few hundred trucks cross, and that’s good enough for our Congress.

In the meantime, Israel continues to defy its own Supreme Court and deny reporters entry into Gaza, simply because they know the rumble of protest will turn into a roar once the full extent of the massacre is revealed. They’ll obey the court order once there’s a little something to take the public’s mind off the killing:

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC correspondent Richard Engel discussed Israel’s refusal to let reporters into Gaza. “I’ve called everyday and said ‘when are we going to be allowed in?’” he said, adding that one Israeli official “had an interesting explanation” for the situation. The official told Engel that Israel doesn’t want reporters in Gaza documenting the humanitarian situation or revealing military tactics. Israel is trying to “manage the image” of the war, Engel reported, adding this:

ENGEL: This official told me he expects this operation, while negotiations are taking place, will last several more days. And that after that, reporters would eventually be allowed in. But at that stage, Israel is assuming the United States will mostly be focused on all of the coverage around the inauguration, and that viewers simply won’t care at that point.

The moral bankruptcy is absolutely breathtaking. And yet, as bad as that is, what Juan Cole suspects is even worse:

It is hard not to suspect that the Israeli army doesn’t actually want the aid workers in Gaza (they have already excluded reporters) because of what the workers find when they look into the rubble of buildings the army has hit.

[snip]

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has admitted that pictures of civilian deaths coming out of Gaza generate pressure on Israel for a cease-fire, which the government is resisting for as long as possible.

Unfuckingbelievable. And it’s very, very hard not to believe that this time, Israel’s gone too far. Despite the Congressional lovefest, I don’t think the rest of the world is going to be at all sympathetic when the full extent of their depredations are revealed. The only thing they’ve learned from Bush’s example is how to take better aim at their own feet.

While the bombs continued to fall, the UN called for a cease fire today. America, in the guise of Condi Rice, at the behest of Bush, abstained. And “Israel’s immediate reaction to the ceasefire call was to intensify its bombardment of Gaza.”

If this is “managing the image” of the war, not even Obama’s inauguration is going to ensure “viewers simply won’t care” when the mask comes off.

Children 1/3 of the Dead in Gaza

The death toll in Gaza included over 220 children as of yesterday. That was one-third of the total dead. I want you all to take a moment to ponder that number.

“You did all this for the election? Is this the way you treat children?” a man asks as he points to sniper wounds on dead little boys. Those kids couldn’t have been more than five years old.

I loved Israel. I did. Some of the people I admire most in the world were Israelis. They would be horrified, were they alive, to see what Israel has done. It’s hard to imagine Golda Meir condoning this, Yitzhak Rabin allowing their country to murder children. When children are 1/3 of the war dead, the most you can say for Israel is that they’re showing depraved indifference to innocent life.

Mike was talking in comments about how my “reporting” is imbalanced, and how Hamas is doing awful things, too. You know, I’m not a fucking reporter, and I don’t give two tugs on a dead dog’s dick what Hamas is doing. Hamas is not a nuclear-armed democracy targeting children with snipers, cluster bombs, and white phosphorus.

Cons like Mike seem to think that two wrongs make a right. They haven’t evolved past the playground: “He started it!” “They’re doing it, too!” They do not understand that just because somebody else plays dirty doesn’t mean that you get to play dirtier. That works great in adventure novels written by chickenhawks and wanna-be Rambos. In real life, that attitude leads to dead kids, worldwide outrage, and ever-escalating violence.

Do you really think that killing babies is going to make Israel stronger, safer, and more admired? Let’s have a look at the evidence:

Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a new front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with a bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed nearly 700 people.

Two people were lightly injured, and the rockets that exploded in Israel’s north raised the specter of renewed hostilities with Hezbollah, just 2 1/2 years after Israel battled the guerrilla group to a 34-day stalemate. Hezbollah started the 2006 war as Israel was battling Palestinian militants in Gaza.

And Juan Cole reports:

The brutal Israeli war on the population of Gaza is the nail in the coffin of the neoconservative doctrine. Their policies have hardly strengthened ties between Turkey, Israel and the United States, as they had argued. Turkey had a special place in the thinking of figures such as Perle, who lauded it as a secular example for the Muslim world and a close ally of Israel. But in 2002 the Islamically tinged conservative Justice and Development Party (Turkish acronym AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to power and has ruled Turkey ever since. In 2003, the AKP dealt a cruel blow to the hopes of Perle and his colleague Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz when its members of parliament voted against allowing the U.S. military to invade Iraq through Turkish territory. Erdogan more recently has been a profound disappointment to the Israeli right because of his willingness to talk with Hamas leaders. Hundreds of thousands of Turks, many of them AKP supporters, have demonstrated in Istanbul against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Erdogan drew anguished Israeli protests when he told an election rally in Ankara that Israel was “perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.” Turkey has received Hamas leader Khalid Mashal and has worked for an early cease-fire in the current conflict, putting the blame for it on Israel. The right-wing Jerusalem Post observed ominously, “Turkey has just taken its seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council and Ankara pledges to be Hamas’s conduit to the United Nations,” and urged Israel to recall its ambassador from Ankara.

Massive demonstrations and protests in Jordan calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador over the Israeli military’s disregard for civilian life have caused Prime Minister Nader Dahabi to tell the parliament, “Jordan will look into all options, including reconsidering relations with Israel.” So much for Feith, Perle and Wurmser’s plan to solidify ties between Israel, Turkey and Jordan.

But at least the new Iraqi government will support Israel rather than Hamas now that Saddam Hussein is gone, right? Think again. The Islamic Da’wa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called last week for all Muslim countries to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel and to cease all public and behind-the scenes contacts with it. Large demonstrations have been staged against Israel in Mosul, Baghdad and the holy city of Karbala. The spiritual leader of many of the world’s Shiites condemned Israeli aggression in Gaza and said that “mere verbal expressions of condemnation and disapproval” were not enough, calling instead for “practical steps” to break the Israeli blockade and stop the attack. For a fatwa of the chief Shiite authority in Iraq to demand practical steps against Israel is a little noticed but ominous development for the Israelis that could help politicize Shiites even further on this issue.

[snip]

Iran’s influence with Hezbollah in south Lebanon has grown from strength to strength, and was enhanced after Israel’s disastrous 2006 war on that country when it sent extensive reconstruction aid. Hezbollah has been able to rearm, and has joined a national unity government that recognizes its militia as a sort of national guard for the south of Lebanon. It gained new allies in Iraq. It had been formed in part by the Islamic Da’wa Party of Iraq, which naturally supports it, as does the large and influential Sadr Movement in Iraqi Shiism. Hezbollah, more popular than ever, was able to get out massive crowds in Beirut to pro
test Israel’s assault on Gaza. And Gaza itself is now viewed by the Israeli establishment as an Iranian beachhead on the Mediterranean, the sort of development that the neoconservatives confidently predicted their policies would forestall.

It would seem to me that Israel is much, much worse off than before. A harsh reality that necons on both sides of the ocean do not seem to understand is that you will never be able to kill enough people to force your opponents to humbly submit. Oppressed populations have traditionally risen up against their oppressors. Ask England and France, two colonial powers who discovered that an incensed citizenry is more than a match for superior militaries. Ask the Russians about Afghanistan. Ask America, once Bush the Clueless has finally slunk back to Texas and an adult is able to survey the damage in Iraq and go, “Holy shit. We are so never going to win this one.”

Speaking of Iraq, has blind support for Israel done us any favors? It wouldn’t seem so:

In Iraq, Moqtada Al Sadr:

threatened on Wednesday to resume attacks on American targets inside Iraq over Washington’s support for the Israeli assault on Gaza. “I ask the Iraqi resistance to engage in revenge operations against the United States, the biggest partner of the Zionist enemy.”

It seems we have sown the wind and shall soon be reaping the shit storm.

About the only folks happy in this whole mess are the neocons who need a fresh stream of dead bodies to masturbate to, and al Qaeda:

Marc Lynch has a great post on the recent statement from Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al Zawahiri, noting that Zawahiri “sounds about as happy as I can remember hearing him of late. He probably can’t believe his luck.”

Israel’s assault on Gaza has really created an almost unbelievable no-lose situation for al-Qaeda. If Hamas “wins”, then al-Qaeda gets to share in the benefits of the political losses incurred by its Western and Arab enemies (Zawahiri mentions Mubarak and the Saudis in this tape, but not the Jordanians) and can try to take advantage of the political upheavals which could follow. If Hamas “loses”, al-Qaeda still wins. It will shed no tears at seeing one of its bitterest and most dangerous rivals take a beating at Israel’s hands or losing control of a government that they have consistently decried as illegitimate and misguided.

I wonder if the Democrats who are busily pushing through a resolution singing Israel’s praises realize that they’re making al Qaeda scream with joy? They’ve caught the neocon war fever. They apparently can’t see that the pleasant pink haze is arterial spray. Some of that blood’s going to be their own – their base isn’t quite as interested in pandering to neocon warmongering as they are.

But it’s the children I keep coming back to. So many dead kids. So many torn and shattered bodies. All so that the grownups can compete to see who has the biggest dicks. Don’t let talk of “security” and suchlike fool you. If all Israel wanted was to stop the rockets, there were better ways to do that. Treating Palestinians as if they were valuable human beings would have been a good start. No, this is just a bunch of macho men wanting to dominate and destroy because they think it’s weak to show your enemies any respect, to try to solve things with brains rather than bullets. These children are falling victim to a horrific fallacy, the idea that you’ll win more friends by killing people than treating them decently, the belief that they can make a lot of angry militants with guns and no fear of dying fearfully submit if they’re ruthless enough.

I’d like to ask them, and the Mikes of the world, one simple question:

If those were your babies you were burying, would you be crawling on your knees to throw yourself on the mercy of your babies’ killers, or would you be reaching for your gun because you had nothing else to lose?

Maybe now you can understand why all of this shock-and-awe bullshit is going to get us exactly nowhere. Democracies are supposed to be able to rise above this eye-for-an-eye idiocy. We’re supposed to be showing the world a better way.

So far, it doesn’t seem like we’re setting the kind of example we should want anyone to live up to.

And kids continue to die.

Before and After

A few days ago:

The United States thwarted an effort by Libya on Saturday to persuade the U.N. Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after Israel launched a ground invasion, diplomats said.

[snip]

But diplomats said the United States refused to back the Libyan-drafted text and killed the initiative, since council statements must be passed unanimously. Later the United States refused to back a watered-down call for a truce, the diplomats said.

The United States, one of five permanent Security Council members, insists that any statement or resolution state that the Palestinian militant group Hamas is a terrorist organization that seized power in Gaza from the legitimate Palestinian Authority.

Yesterday:


WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to New York on Tuesday to discuss with key powers how to get a ceasefire in Gaza that the United States says must be durable, sustainable and indefinite.

Rice was to meet foreign ministers gathering for a United Nations Security Council meetings on ending the Israeli offensive launched last month with the stated aim of stopping Palestinian rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel.

More than 600 Palestinians have been killed and at least 2,700 wounded since Israel began its campaign in Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas Islamist group. Nine Israelis, including three civilians hit by rocket fire, have died.

“We would like an immediate ceasefire, absolutely, an immediate ceasefire that is durable and sustainable and non-time-limited,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters at his daily briefing.

The reason:

The UN News Service reports:

More than 30 people have been killed in two separate Israeli strikes on clearly-marked United Nations schools where civilians were seeking refuge from the ongoing violence in Gaza, an official with the world body said today.

John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that 30 people died and 55 others were injured when three Israeli artillery shells landed at the perimeter of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

“Those who were in the school were all families seeking refuge,” Mr. Ging said of the school that was hit in Jabaliya, which usually serves as a girls’ preparatory school.

Another artillery shell struck an empty boys’ school in Jabaliya, he said.

In a separate attack last night, three Palestinians, who had sought refuge in a small co-educational UN school in Gaza City, died when an Israeli missile hit the building’s toilet facilities.

He underscored that all UN schools in Gaza are clearly marked, flying the UN flag, and that the Organization has provided the GPS coordinates of all of its installations in the area to Israel.

Raw footage from the BBC. Warning: It’s graphic.

You know it’s horrific when even the Bush regime can’t stomach what Israel’s doing.

Addendum: Israel calls a recess.

Israel ordered a pause in its Gaza offensive for three hours Wednesday to allow food and fuel to reach besieged Palestinians, and the country’s leaders debated whether to accept an international cease-fire plan or expand the assault against Hamas.

With criticism rising of the operation’s spiraling civilian death toll and Gazans increasingly suffering the effects of nonstop airstrikes and shelling, Israel’s military said opened “humanitarian corridors” to allow aid supplies to reach Palestinians.

[snip]

Outrage over an Israeli strike Tuesday near a U.N. school continued, with the U.N. agency responsible for the building demanding an “impartial investigation” into the attack. Gaza health officials put the death toll from the strike at 39, while the U.N. said 40 were killed.

Israel said its forces fired at militants who launched mortars from that location.

About 300 of the more than 670 Palestinians killed so far are civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. figures. Of those killed, at least 130 are children age 16 and under, says the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which tracks casualties.

[snip]

More than 500 aid trucks have been shipped into Gaza since operations began. But even when aid crosses into Gaza military operations have prevented officials from distributing it, leading to food shortages in some areas.

A World Bank statement Wednesday said there are growing signs of a severe public health crisis in Gaza because of a shortage of drinking water and an escalating failure of the sewage system.

I’m sure Mike will gleefully proclaim that militants firing a few mortars from the streets outside a school justifies killing forty people, including children. And Israel will now pat itself on the back and tell us all how wonderful and humanitarian they are for letting up on the white phosphorus and cluster bombs long enough to bring in a few more aid trucks, which have exactly three hours to try to feed starving and sick civilians before the bombing resumes. Hamas, of course, has no compunction about using civilians as cover, because that’s how insurrections are won.

Fuck them all.

Depends on What You Mean By “Normal”

We’ve been assured by Israel’s highest authorities that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s running out of body bags:

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor in Gaza, tells Sky News that the number of civilians injured and killed in Gaza proves that Israel is deliberately attacking the population.

The people of Gaza continue to be caught in the middle of the power play between Israel and Hamas:

JERUSALEM, Jan 5 (Reuters) – People in Gaza were in dire need of food and medical supplies, aid agencies said on Monday, but Israel’s ground assault and air raids were hampering relief efforts.

Freezing cold is compounding the misery of children caught in the conflict. And body bags for victims are in short supply.

[snip]

Hospitals were inundated with Palestinian wounded, the ICRC said. Fresh supplies were urgently needed, including painkillers and anaesthetics but also body bags and sheets to wrap corpses.

Siun at Firedoglake also has a few items that Peres and Olmert apparently missed while they were assessing the humanitarian situation:

The ICRC reports this morning that:

The situation in Gaza since the Israel Defense Forces launched their ground offensive on Saturday night has become both chaotic and extremely dangerous. It is difficult for the ICRC to move around and assess the urgent humanitarian needs created by the continued shelling and bombing, and by fighting on the ground. The ground attack has forced a number of people in the north of the Gaza Strip to flee their homes.

The fighting is causing damage to hospitals, water supply systems, government buildings and mosques. A number of water supply lines have been severed during bombardments, making it very difficult for families in certain areas of the Gaza Strip to get hold of safe drinking water.

And the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports:

According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities (CMWU), about 70% of the Gaza Strip population has no access to water…

Gaza City and northern Gaza are particularly affected due to electricity cuts and a lack of fuel for back-up generators….

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society estimates that thousands of homes have been damaged since the beginning of military operations, exposing their residents to cold weather…

There is an almost total blackout in the governorates of Gaza, North Gaza, Middle Area, and Khan Yunis. Most of the telephone network (both land lines and cell phones) is also not functioning, since it now depends on back-up generators with dwindling fuel stocks.

In today’s Ha’aretz, Amira Haas quotes a Palestinian friend, after recounting more stories from the Gaza Olmert does not want us to see:

It’s cold and the windows are open; there’s fire and smoke in open areas; at home there’s no water, no electricity, no heating gas. And you [the Israelis] say there’s no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Tell me, are you normal?”

Actually, that depends on how you define “normal.” If you mean a human being with a conscience, then no. If you mean “normal for a neocon,” then yes. I’d say, absolutely, they are normal.

When I first saw Glenn Greenwald’s piece yesterday on Michael Goldfarb’s latest missive, I thought there had to be some kind of mistake. Glenn made it sound like Goldfarb, the Weekly Standard writer and former John McCain aide, had endorsed deliberate military attacks against innocent civilians.

But it wasn’t a mistake; that’s exactly what Goldfarb argued. Under a headline that read, “Ruthless,” Goldfarb commented on an Israeli airstrike that killed a Hamas leader, his wives, and his 12 children.

The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.

Glenn adds:

That, of course, is the very same logic that leads Hamas to send suicide bombers to slaughter Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors and on buses and to shoot rockets into their homes. It’s the logic that leads Al Qaeda to fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled office buildings. And it’s the logic that leads infinitely weak and deranged people like Goldfarb and Peretz to find value in the killing of innocent Palestinians, including — one might say, at least in Goldfarb’s case: especially — children.

Pause a moment. Absorb that, before you continue reading.


Palestinians carry the body of Ismail Hamdan, 11, during his funeral in Beit Hanoun northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. Hamdan was killed Wednesday after he was injured Tuesday in an Israeli airstrike. His two sisters, Haya, 12, and Lama, 4, were killed Tuesday by the airstrike. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

By the way, it wasn’t hard for me to find photos of children killed or wounded in Gaza. There are some extremely graphic ones from the recent fighting here. Another here. One from last year on this page. And if you forget to put the date, you’ll come up with pages of dead and injured kids spanning the last few years. According to Michael Goldfarb, all of these dead kids “will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel.”

I do not think that is what’s happening.

Glenn continues:

Those who giddily support not just civilian deaths in Gaza but every actual and proposed attack on Arab/Muslim countries — from the war in Iraq to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to the proposed attacks on Iran and Syria and even continued escalation in Afghanistan — are able to do so because they don’t really see the Muslims they want to kill as being fully human. For obvious reasons, one typically finds this full-scale version of sociopathic indifference — this perception of brutal war as a blood-pumping and exciting instrument for feeling vicarious sensations of power and strength from a safe distance — in the society’s weakest, most frightened, and most insecure individuals.

Here’s right-wing blogger (and law professor) Glenn Reynolds revealing that wretched mindset for all to see:

“Cycles of violence” continue until one side wins decisively. Personally, I’d rather that were the Israelis, since they’re civilized people and not barbarians.

Or, as Goldfarb put it: “it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us.”

If you see Palestinians as something less than civilized human beings: as “barbarians” — just as if you see Americans as infidels warring with God or Jews as sub-human rats — then it naturally follows that civilian deaths are irrelevant, perhaps even something to cheer.

And that is why Olmert and Peres, two ostensibly normal people, can stand before the world as Gazans starve, freeze, thirst and die, and say, “There is no humanitarian crisis.”