Israel Pounds Gaza

December 28, 2008

Israel has begun massive, spohisticated airstrikes against Gaza in retaliation for primitive rocket attacks:

“Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas installations across the Gaza Strip on Saturday and early Sunday in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. At least 225 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 wounded, Palestinian health officials reported, one of the highest daily death tolls in decades of conflict.
After the strikes, which created panic across the strip, filled hospitals with the injured and sent black clouds billowing into the sky, Palestinians launched dozens of rockets into southern Israel, killing a man in the town of Netivot and wounding at least four.”

Unsurprisingly, there’s a domestic political calculus invovled here, as the Labor/Kadima Parties attempts to stave off charges of weakness from the conservative Likud Party:

“The assault occurred at a time of political uncertainty in Israel, with elections scheduled for February to choose a successor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is stepping down in the wake of corruption charges. Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who leads in recent polls, has accused the government, led by the Labor Party, and the centrist Kadima party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, of not doing enough to act against Hamas.”

A Hamas-Israel ceasefire ended December 19th. Israel has maintained a strict embargo against Gaza, which has caused tremendous economic and humanitarian cost. Hamas expected the embargo to be lifted at the end of the ceasefire, however Israel refused, arguing, “Hamas had not kept its pledge to bring the rocket fire to a halt.

“Over the past week, the number of rockets and mortar shells being fired into southern Israel increased dramatically, with more than 60 fired Wednesday and more than 80 Thursday. The rise has sown fear in Israeli towns, but there had been no fatalities among Israelis during the week until Saturday.”

As the LA Times reports:

“As Palestinian medical officials put the death toll at 271 and said many were unarmed civilians, the scale of the bloodshed unsettled the Middle East and alarmed world leaders involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Juan Cole points out the disconnect between the US response to these attacks and that of the rest of the world, including the EU and the UN:

“The UN Security Council held a special evening session on Saturday and issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. The attacks drew a furious response from the Arab world. Egypt, which has collaborated with Israel in blockading the Gazans, branded its partner’s air strikes ‘murder.’ The US, which for some odd reason holds an irrational hatred of the Palestinians, branded the dead Gaza policemen ‘thugs’ and blamed the massive aerial strikes solely on Hamas, the fundamentalist Muslim party that controls Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, outgoing president of the European Union, issued among the more measured responses: ‘The President of the Republic expresses his lively concern at the escalation of violence in the south of Israel and in the Gaza Strip. He firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that have led to this situation as well as the use of disproportionate force. The president of the republic deplores the significant loss of civilian life and expresses his condolences to the innocent victims and their families.’

Sarkozy ‘requests an immediate cessation of rocket fire directed at Israel as well as of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and he calls on the parties to exercise self-restraint. He reminds everyone that there is no military solution to Gaza, and demands the implementation of a durable truce.'”

Dozens of innocent bystanders were killed in the Israeli attacks.

Glenn Greenwald adds:

“Here, as but one illustrative example, is Caroline Kennedy — who, in order to win her Senate seat, is self-consciously trying to turn herself into a Barack Obama clone — responding recently to a question about Israel from Politico:

QUESTION 8: Do you think Israel should negotiate with Hamas? Do you agree with Israel’s Gaza Strip embargo? Would you support an Israeli airstrike on Iran if they felt Tehran’s nuclear program represented a threat to their survival?
ANSWER: ‘Caroline Kennedy strongly supports a safe and secure Israel. She believe Israel’s security decisions should be left to Israel.’

What could be more absurd than that? Apparently, not only should we continue to feed Israel billions of dollars a year of American taxpayer money and massive amounts of weapons — thereby ensuring that the world, quite accurately, perceives their actions as American actions — but we should then take the position that they are free to do anything they want with it, no matter how extreme or destructive to our interests, and our only view on all of it should be that we blindly support whatever they do.”

Exactly.

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