Israel promises to continue the slaughter

August 25, 2014

Eric Ruder documents the escalation of Israeli military terror after talks broke down.

ISRAEL IS once again raining terror from the skies over Gaza. Its war machine is leveling entire apartment blocks, even as it persists in its claim that its "precision" strikes are "proportionate."

The resumption of Israel's war on the people of Gaza follows the collapse of negotiations in Egypt between Israeli and Hamas officials, which were supposed to reach a lasting truce following Operation Protective Edge, as Israel has dubbed its third military offensive against Gaza in the last six years.

With its renewed war on Gaza, Israel has targeted the upper echelons of the political and military leadership structures of Hamas, killing one of its finance officials and three leaders of the Qassem Brigades, Hamas' military wing--all reported with approval by the U.S. mainstream media. But this latest stage of the onslaught against Gaza demonstrates--if there were any doubt left--that the real aim of Operation Protective Edge is the annihilation of Gaza's civilian infrastructure and the massacre of civilians with the aim to terrorize.

Palestinians in Gaza return to the rubble that was once their homes
Palestinians in Gaza return to the rubble that was once their homes

Israel's latest escalation introduced a new tactic: turning some of Gaza's largest apartment buildings into rubble. In the weeks since the latest war began in early July, Israel had already damaged beyond repair or destroyed more than 17,000 homes. But last Saturday, it targeted a 12-story residential tower in Gaza City, leveling a structure with 44 apartments that were home to about 240 people.

According to a CBS News report:

In the 12-story apartment tower, the target was a fourth-floor apartment where Hamas ran an operations center, according to Israeli media. In the past, Israel has carried out pinpoint strikes, targeting apartments in high-rises with missiles, while leaving the buildings standing. However, this time a decision was made to bring down the entire tower.

Not only did Israel refuse to provide any evidence of Hamas activity in the building, but international observers report the tower housed several high-ranking officials affiliated with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank and a collaborator with Israel.

THE TRUCE talks that began earlier this month fell apart with the two sides still far apart on nearly all of the key issues.

Hamas negotiators insist that there must be an end to the years-long siege that has plunged Gaza into a hellscape of malnutrition, unemployment and widespread shortages of essential goods, including medical supplies, construction materials and other necessities of daily life.

Israeli negotiators not only oppose lifting the siege, but they further demand the demilitarization of Gaza--which would leave Palestinians defenseless whenever Israel decides it wants to carry out another round of aggression.

Since the collapse of talks on August 19, Israel has killed more than 90 Palestinians and injured countless more. Since the new stage in Israel's war began on July 8, more than 2,100 Palestinians, including close to 500 children, have been killed. Meanwhile, Gaza's resistance fighters have killed 64 Israeli soldiers. Four Israeli civilians have also been killed.

It is hard to believe anyone could seriously maintain Israel's response is "proportionate."

The Israeli military claims that nearly 4,000 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel from Gaza, while Israel has carried out some 5,000 air strikes. The figures are clearly intended to suggest a rough parity in the fighting.

But as all sides acknowledge, the rocket attacks from Gaza are largely ineffectual--they cause minimal damage, with most landing in deserts and other open areas in southern and central Israel.

By contrast, Israeli air strikes have had a devastating impact in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on Earth. And air strikes are just the tip of the iceberg--according to its military, Israel has fired at least 39,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, and 4.8 million bullets in the latest assault on Gaza.

This amounts to between 18 and 20 kilotons of explosive ordnance dropped on Gaza since July 7, according to Hazem Abu Murad, a Palestinian military analyst who was killed on August 13 along with five other people. By way of comparison, the atomic bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima was the equivalent of 13 kilotons, and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was rated at 21 kilotons.

So while Israel insists it has clear military objectives in its offensive against Gaza, the evidence suggests its goal is something else--the continuation of a project of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Take, for example, the recent call by Israeli Major Gen. Giora Eiland to cut off all food and water supplies to Gaza in pursuit of a starve-or-surrender policy. "Since Gaza is in fact a state in a military confrontation with us, the proper way to put pressure on them is to bring to a full stop the supplies from Israel to Gaza, not only of electricity and fuel, but also of food and water," wrote Eiland in a recent op-ed article.

Eiland's proposal is a clear violation of international law governing the responsibilities of occupying powers like Israel. It also runs counter to the U.S. condemnation of similar grave crimes carried out by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against opposition-held areas as part of his regime's onslaught against the now three-and-a-half-year-old uprising.

IF THERE was any doubt about their intentions, Israeli military planners even have a telling name for their program of war crimes and atrocities: the Dahiya doctrine. Dahiya is the name of a residential neighborhood in Beirut that Israel deliberately destroyed during its 2006 war on Lebanon.

According to Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

In Israel's war planning, the Dahiya doctrine refers to Israel's intentional and massive killing of civilians and destruction of civilian villages, the intentional disproportionate use of force constituting collective punishment of a population...Israeli soldiers, Israeli leaders and Israeli generals could be tried for the crimes that the Germans were tried for in Nuremberg, for carrying out the intentional killing of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure.

The purpose, of course, of what Israel is doing is to try and end resistance to the occupation. You can see by the fact that they've had to go to war every few years against the people of Gaza and other occupied territories that the resistance will not stop. What they're doing makes the resistance even stronger. But perhaps the hopes of Israel are to make Gaza uninhabitable over the years to drive the Gazans out.

Beyond the human toll, the impact of Israel's punishing military assault will be felt economically for years to come. Thousands of acres of farmland and more than 360 factories have been damaged or destroyed by a combination of Israeli tank fire, artillery shelling and air strikes. According to Britain's Guardian newspaper:

Almost 10 percent of Gaza's factories have been put out of action...Most other industrial plants have halted production during the conflict, causing losses estimated at more than $70 million, said the union of Palestinian industries.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said about 42,000 acres of croplands had sustained substantial direct damage, and half of Gaza's poultry stock has been lost due to direct hits or lack of care as access to farmlands along the border with Israel became impossible. More than 9 percent of the annual fishing catch was lost between 9 July and 10 August, it added.

The economic losses are likely to be triple what they were as a result of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009. Gaza's unemployment rate already stood at 40 percent before Israel's offensive began, and it is sure to climb now. In 2012, Gaza's per capita income was $876, and in the West Bank, it was $1,924. By contrast, Israel's per capita income stood at $32,567 in 2012.

ISRAEL ENJOYS overwhelming military superiority; political, economic, military and diplomatic backing from the world's only superpower, the U.S.; and a decisive economic advantage compared to the Palestinians, as well as most other regional economies.

But Israel's atrocious disregard for civilian life and international law has led to a worldwide outcry. Some European governments, notably Spain and Britain, have announced they will either suspend, delay or review their exports of military hardware to Israel.

The U.S. also declared it would review its weapons transfers to Israel--but at the same time, U.S. officials assured Israel that the "review" would not actually have any consequences. The administration is "just taking extra care to look at these shipments" with "a few additional steps,'' said State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.

Indeed, the Obama administration specifically said it would not delay the shipment of additional Hellfire missiles like the one that Israel used in its late July attack on a UN school-turned-shelter that killed 19 civilians and led to sharp criticism from Washington. According to the Washington Post:

If the Obama administration slowed the Hellfire missile shipment, it would be the first time the United States delayed an arms transfer to Israel in wartime, Israeli officials said. The only previous American-imposed halts came in 1975, when Israel rejected a U.S. proposal for an Egyptian-Israeli peace accord, and in 1981, after an Israeli air strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Israeli officials have made it clear that they plan to continue escalating the bloodshed in Gaza until they either force the concessions they are seeking at the negotiating table or are compelled to stop for some other reason.

Even if the U.S. government might prefer that Israel curb the ferocity of its assault out of fear of the international backlash, the instability in the Middle East, centered now especially in Iraq and Syria, has the U.S. foreign policy establishment anxious to tightly embrace Israel, its most important strategic ally in the Middle East.

This in turn raises the critical importance of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Victories for BDS--such as the protests that turned away an Israeli-owned ship from the Port of Oakland--help to further raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians.

These and similar efforts need to continue until Israel's drive to ethnically cleanse Palestine is stopped.

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