Alan Woods-Gaza: What does it mean?
Gaza: What does it
Written by Alan WoodsTuesday, 20 November 2012
On the morning of November 15, Israel carried out the extrajudicial killing
of Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari. This act sparked off a new and
deadly conflict between Israel and Gaza. This whole affair has all the
hallmarks of a premeditated provocation.
*�When the leaders speak of peace the common people know that war is
coming.� (Berthold Brecht)*
[image: IDF chief of staff visits southern Israel-Israel Defense
chief of staff visits southern Israel Photo: Israel Defense ForcesIsraeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly wanted to provoke Hamas into an
armed conflict. He has succeeded. Hamas responded with rocket attacks on
Israeli towns that border the Gaza strip. The Israelis have used these
attacks as an excuse for pulverising Gaza.
Throughout the night of Nov. 16-17, the Israeli Air Force bombed targets
across the Gaza Strip including key Hamas ministries, police stations and
tunnels near the border crossing with Egypt. They also carried out strikes
in Rafah's al-Sulan and al-Zahour neighbourhoods, as well as east of the
al-Maghazi refugee camp. Later attacks included the bombing of a building
that was known to be occupied by international journalists.
The Israeli propaganda machine has gone into overdrive. They try to present
their military onslaught as a justified response to �terrorist attacks�.
Obediently falling into line, the mass media in the western world show
their �impartiality� by presenting the conflict as a war between equals:
�Israeli bombs against Hamas rockets�. But this conflict is absurdly
Gaza is an open-air prison in which 1.7 people live in just 140 square
miles. It is entirely at the mercy of its powerful neighbour, Israel. The
latter possesses the most formidable military machine in the entire region.
Its stockpile of arms, which includes nuclear weapons, is funded by
Washington to the tune of US$3 billion a year.
By contrast, Gaza is a tiny besieged enclave composed mainly of
impoverished refugees. The primitive, homemade rockets fired from Gaza are
no match for the sophisticated weaponry of the Israeli army and air force.
Israeli jet fighters and drones are bombarding Gaza by day and by night.
The Israelis claim that they are aimed to kill only �terrorists� and Hamas
officials. But the television cameras of the world give the lie to this
propaganda. Despite the claims of the Israelis that these attacks were
carefully targeted, most of the victims were, as usual, civilians,
including many women and children. The harrowing scenes of diminutive
corpses being carried by grieving relatives to the cemeteries have shocked
the public opinion of the world.
The population of Gaza is angry and desperate, but increasingly traumatised
by the unrelenting bombardment, against which they have no defences.
Despite talk of a ceasefire, Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza, and
Gaza continues its long-range rocket attacks on major Israeli population
centres. The sight of rockets flying in the direction of Israel may or may
not boost morale, but in fact their effectiveness as weapons of war is
As of last night (Monday) at least one hundred people have been killed in
Gaza, while the Israeli death toll has reached the grand total of � three.
This is not a case of �an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.� The
death toll of Palestinians exceeds that of Israelis by thirty three times.
The Israelis claim that their Iron Dome defence system has intercepted most
of the rockets. To judge by the very low Israeli casualty figures, this may
be partly true. However, the claims of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) that
its Iron Dome interceptors have successfully intercepted 90 percent of the
rockets are clearly exaggerated.
Israel appears to be positioning itself in preparation for a ground
operation. The Israeli Cabinet on Nov. 16 approved Defence Minister Ehud
Barak's request to call up 75,000 reservists, even more than in the
2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. The main roads leading to Gaza and running
parallel to Sinai have been declared closed military zones. Tanks, armoured
personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery and troops have been massing
on the border in recent days. Whether this is an act of intimidation or a
preparation for something more serious remains to be seen.
What was the purpose of all this?
What interest can Israel have in taking on Gaza this time?
The timing cannot have been an accident. It follows the same pattern we saw
exactly four years ago. On Nov. 4, 2008, while Americans were going to the
polls to elect a new president, the Israeli army entered the Gaza Strip
with infantry, tanks and bulldozers Its alleged aim was to dismantle the
extensive tunnel network used by Hamas to smuggle in weapons.
Hamas responded with a barrage of mortar and rocket fire. On Dec. 27, 2008,
Operation Cast Lead was launched. The military campaign began with a seven
day aerial bombardment was followed by a 15-day ground incursion. By the
end of the campaign, many people were killed and the infrastructure of Gaza
According to figures from the Israel Defence Forces figures, only ten
Israeli soldiers died (four from friendly fire). The hundreds of rockets
fired by Hamas killed three Israeli civilians. But 1,166 Palestinians were
killed, of which 709 were said to be combatants.
It is no secret that Netanyahu wants to bomb Iran, allegedly to sabotage
its nuclear programme. It is also no secret that Netanyahu was hoping for
the victory of Mitt Romney in the US elections. The Republicans are well
known to be active advocates of an attack on Iran.
Obama is a more cautious representative of US Big Business and is worried
about the effect of an Israeli air strike against Iran. By flexing his
muscles only a few days after the US elections, Netanyahu is ending a
message to Washington, which says more or less: �Obama can say whatever he
likes, but we are the ones who decide what happens in this part of the
It has been said that certain forces in Gaza may be manufacturing
long-range rockets locally. Even more significantly, it is said that the
rockets that have been fired into Israel have been imported from Iran. The
latter accusation would give a sinister twist to the present conflict,
providing it with a regional dimension that is highly convenient to
Netanyahu, who is looking for any excuse to launch an air attack on Iran.
Part of his calculations may have been an attempt to shoring up his rear
prior to such an attack.
At the same time, he may also be sending a message to the new Egyptian
government. The Moslim Brotherhood is supposed to be hostile to Israel. It
is also supposed to be friendly towards Hamas. But this attack has shown
the Morsi regime to be weak and pusillanimous. Cairo makes noises about the
�humanitarian disaster� in Gaza but does not lift a finger to go to its
Prospects for Negotiations
The present conflict has once more glaringly exposed the impotence of the
so-called United Nations. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has said he
will go to Gaza, but he will not be able to do anything.
All kinds of contradictory rumours regarding the outcome of cease-fire
negotiations between Hamas and Israel have been circulating in Cairo. A
Hamas spokesman told Al Jazeera that Israel and Hamas have �agreed to 90
percent of the terms of a new cease-fire�. But he did not say what the
remaining ten percent consisted of. And while Israeli officials have told
news outlets that the government is in talks with Cairo on a cease-fire,
Israeli officials are now denying reports that an Israeli envoy is in Cairo
On the face of it, there seems to be some basis for a deal. Hamas would
like to enjoy the prestige of a symbolic victory from its long-range rocket
attacks against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but does not want to pay the price
of seeing its leadership and infrastructure pulverised in an Israeli ground
For its part, Israel would like to remove or neutralize the threat posed by
Hamas' long-range rockets but does not want to go through the experience of
a ground invasion, drawing Israeli forces into urban warfare with the
threat of suicide bombings that could prove costly.
It would appear that Hamas is pressing for a temporary truce in return for
Egypt opening the border blockade on Gaza and Israel halting targeted
killings of its leaders and military commanders. Whether the Israelis will
accept this is open to doubt. Who will guarantee such a deal? Unless Egypt
agrees to assume responsibility for Hamas' rocket arsenal to satisfy
Israel's security concerns, it will be difficult for Israel to take these
talks seriously. But that would place Egypt itself right in the firing line
of future conflicts. It would also fatally undermine the Morsi government.
Both sides want a negotiated end - but on terms that would leave the other
side in a weaker position. Both sides are well aware of the other side�s
game. In order to reach a deal, Hamas would have to recognize Israel's
right to exist and Israel would have to accept something resembling a
Palestinian state led by Hamas in Gaza, which would gradually take over the
West Bank. Both these assumptions seem wildly improbable. It is hard to see
how this contradiction can be resolved peacefully.
Hamas does not want to give up its rockets. Israel cannot allow Hamas to
possess weapons that threatens its heartland. The long-range Fajr-5 rockets
can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The possession of these rockets improves
Hamas' strategic position and also serves to undermine the Palestinian
National Authority (In the West Bank) vis-a-vis Hamas. They will therefore
resist any deal that deprives them of the rockets. But Israel will not
accept the Fajr-5 in the hands of Hamas. Netanyahu announced to his Cabinet
Nov. 18 that targeted killings would not only continue, but would increase.
It is possible that all this merely means that both Israel and Hamas are
trying to strengthen their negotiating positions by continuing their
attacks before a cease-fire deal is struck. Be that as it may, while the
leaders talk of peace, the war is already under way. And although a direct
ground attack on Gaza by the Israelis has been temporarily stalled, the
Israelis have already mobilized their forces and are ready to attack
whenever they choose.
Although probably the Israelis would prefer not to attack because of the
consequences, both in terms of human casualties and in political
reverberations, they are poised to attack. And one must not assume that
this is just a bluff. Netanyahu has given notice that if a truce is not
agreed soon, a ground war may be launched even before the end of this
Gaza and the Arab Revolution
The Europeans are putting heavy pressure on Jerusalem to desist from an
actual invasion of Gaza. Western capitals fear that any serious conflict in
the region can spiral out of control. Though they always speak of
humanitarianism, their real motives are quite different.
Paris, London and Berlin fear the effects on the price of oil and the
anaemic economic recovery. Above all, they fear a new eruption of the �Arab
Street�, always highly sensitive to the Palestinian cause. It is this that
inspires their insistent calls for peace and restraint. But the Europeans
are far too concerned in trying to halt the disintegration of the European
Union to get involved with what is happening.
The same fears exist at the highest levels of the United States government.
That is why Hillary Clinton is on a plane heading for Cairo. But, having
burnt their fingers in Iraq, the gentlemen in Washington do not wish to be
dragged into another conflagration in the Middle East.
In theory the United States can pressure Egypt by threatening to withhold
financial and military aid. But in practice no US administration can oppose
what Israel does because, after the Egyptian Revolution, it is now its only
reliable ally in the whole region. Therefore, despite his weasel words,
Obama has effectively endorsed the Israeli position.
On the broader scale, however, Israel has never been so isolated. Back in
2008, Mubarak�s Egypt could be relied upon to adopt a position of
benevolent �neutrality�, which was, in practice, support for Israel. Now
Mubarak has gone, and the present Egyptian government can no longer be
In 2008 Turkey was a close ally of both the USA and Israel. But Israel�s
relations with Turkey have been strained to breaking point by the attack on
a Turkish ship bringing aid to Gaza in May 2010, during which several
Turkish citizens were killed by Israeli troops. The Turkish Prime Minister,
Erdogan, has recently denounced Israel as a �terrorist state�.
Under Assad Syria was an adversary, but at least it was a predictable one.
With the chaos in Syria spreading to the Lebanon, Israel can no longer rely
on Damascus to keep Hezbollah in check. Moreover, Iran has increased its
influence in the region, bringing it closer to Israel and intensifying the
tension over Iranian nuclear facilities.
Closer to home, the growing crisis in Gaza threatens to provoke renewed
instability in the West Bank and arouse the Palestinians in Jordan. Across
the Jordan River valley, to Israel's east, the Hashemite kingdom is hanging
by a thread.
But the country most directly affected is Egypt. The Egyptian government,
terrified of the repercussions of a new war on the streets of Cairo, has
been the most active in trying to secure a cease-fire: Cairo is hosting
talks on a ceasefire, involving senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad members. It
is said that Israeli officials are also present in Cairo.
The Egyptian government has a vested interest in preventing an Israeli
ground invasion of Gaza because of the explosive effects inside Egypt. The
Moslem Brotherhood is supposed to be aligned with Hamas. But in reality,
its support is confined to hypocritical speeches about the plight of the
people of Gaza. Morsi will have to promise the Israelis that he will do
everything in his power to prevent weapons smuggling via Gaza. He will
stand exposed before the masses.
The leaders of Hamas have the ambition of donning the mantle of
�resistance� that was earlier worn by Hezbollah. They hope that the present
crisis will enable them to win a symbolic �victory� over Israel. But that
is an idle dream, which can end up in the complete devastation of Gaza.
The people of Gaza are increasingly desperate. They have no control over
events that are destroying their lives. They hate the Israeli oppressors,
but also resent the dictatorial rule of the �men with beards,� which has
brought them nothing but death and suffering. Neither Hamas nor the
so-called Palestinian Authority can offer any solution. Only a genuine
revolutionary leadership can show the way out for the Palestinian people.
For its part, the Israeli ruling clique pretends that their aggressive
actions are intended to eliminate Hamas' arsenal of rockets and thus
guarantee the safety of Israel. But with every new war, Israel becomes a
less secure place. It is increasingly isolated both in the region and
These brutal attacks on Gaza have added yet another twist to the bloody
imbroglio of the Palestinian question. The spectacle of death and
destruction will have filled yet another generation of Palestinian youth
with feelings of rage and hatred, adding fresh fuel to the fire. In what
way this can be presented as making Israel safe for future generations is s
Every Palestinian child that dies in an air raid deepens the mood of
bitterness and feeds the thirst for revenge. Every �victory� merely sows
the seeds of new wars, new terrorist acts, new murders and atrocities. On
this path lies nothing but death and destruction for all the peoples of
this unhappy region.
In this struggle, the IMT stands firmly on the side of the oppressed and
against the oppressors. The question of who fires the first shot and all
the rest of the diplomatic sophistry is of no interest. We stand shoulder
to shoulder with the people of Gaza against the barbarous onslaught of the
Israeli aggressors. We will be to the forefront of every anti-war movement,
protest and demonstration. We will endeavour to bring out the class content
of the struggle, its anti-imperialist character. We will mercilessly expose
the hypocrisy of western governments and their false �humanitarian�
We must build links with the most revolutionary sections of the youth in
Gaza, who are fighting against imperialism and the Israeli state and also
against the reactionary leadership of Hamas and the bourgeois
collaborationist wing of the Palestinian leadership. Above all, we must
maintain a broader perspective. The present conflict is just part of a far
wider picture that encompasses the entre Middle East and cannot be
understood outside this context.
The Gaza crisis is only the prelude to a far greater crisis. It is
inseparably linked to Netanyahu�s plans for an air attack against Iran,
which will set the entire Middle East ablaze. It will have incalculable
consequences, economic, political and military. It will provoke a new wave
of upheavals in the Arab world and beyond. Regimes will fall. People will
take to the streets. The price of oil will go through the ceiling, and the
world economy will take a nose dive, as it did in 1973 for similar reasons.
The Gaza crisis can be the match that reignites all the combustible
material that has accumulated in the Middle East. It will mark a new stage
in the ongoing Arab Revolution.
The stage is set for dramatic events on a world scale.
20th November, 2012.
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