Gaza: Cruelty Without Consequences

Dear Readers, Below is a letter about the recent (August 2022) Israeli attacks on Gaza.  NVI has long advocated for a nonviolent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Please get involved. The status quo is horrible, particularly for the Palestinians. We must stop the violence and move to a just society where Palestinians and Israelis live in harmony.

Israel is currently gloating over its recent operation in Gaza. It succeeded by all measures: Israel initiated the conflict, first by arresting an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank city of Jenin and dragging him out in humiliation, as he was bitten by a dog; then, anticipating a reaction by his organization, Israel proceeded to bombard Gaza “preemptively.” In three short days, the Israeli military managed to rain death and destruction on Gaza, assassinating another Islamic Jihad leader, killing 46 Palestinians (including 16 children), and wounding 460 others.

 

Photos by Yousef Bassam

 

Meanwhile, it suffered no casualties itself aside from a few lightly wounded by shrapnel. The world press largely followed the Israeli narrative, giving credit to Israeli lies that it was Palestinian fire that killed its child-victims. Israel succeeded in calculating and limiting the actions it initiated, as Hamas was both bribed and bullied into staying on the sidelines and Egypt quickly moved in to suggest a ceasefire once Israel felt satisfied.

The operation succeeded in further fragmenting the Palestinians by distinguishing Hamas from Islamic Jihad and Gaza from the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Palestinians within Israel’s borders, as well as the wider Arab world. Israel suffered no losses, illustrating the power of its iron dome defenses and setting the stage for seeking additional military aid from the supportive US. It achieved a muted response from Arab countries and the international community, which found itself busy elsewhere. Israel successfully used varying tools of influence to “manage” the event, and it got what it wanted at little or no cost. In addition, the Gaza operation served as a useful tool for internal Israeli politics, improving the chances of the interim government ahead of elections. The operation's success was such that Israel did not even need to pretend it was defending itself or only retaliating. Now, the discourse is about Israel’s “right to protect itself” from anticipated Palestinian reactions to Israeli provocations. Its power and military dominance was in full display yet again, as was the weakness and helplessness of the Palestinians.

Israel could now magnanimously turn the faucet and judiciously allow a few droplets of benefits for the imprisoned Gazans: a few more work permits, a few more medical permits, a few more truckloads of food, some fuel for electricity, a bit of water, and some relief aid from Qatar—subject to their continued subservience and “quiet” acceptance of domination and control by Israel. The biggest victory for Israel was in the muted response by the American media. National Public Radio did not even cover the story until the third day when it gave a three minute report that merely parroted the Israeli line, falsely claiming that the bombardment of Gaza was a response to Palestinian rocket fire. Even Israel itself proclaimed that its actions were “preemptive” and not retaliatory. By keeping the operation short, while the attention of the world was diverted elsewhere, it achieved all its objectives and now life could “return to normal.” Israel was even emboldened to step up its arrests, assassinations, raids, and other outrages in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Yet this “success” belies certain realities, which are slowly becoming known to all:

  1. Gaza is a human made disaster whereby two million people live in an open air prison under the total control of Israel, which can attack at will.
  2. Gaza is a narrow strip, 3-5 miles wide and 20 miles long. Its skies are constantly buzzing with drones and military aircraft, which in addition to surveillance can at any time rain down death and destruction. The Gazan coastline is also controlled by Israel, which doles out permits for fishing while exploiting its subterranean oil reservoir.
  3. Over 2/3 of Gazans are refugees whose land, villages, and historic communities are located in what has become Israel. As such, Gazans still dream of a return to their homeland. They are an integral part of the Palestinian people, and no solution for Palestine can exclude them.
  4. Israel continues to occupy the Gaza Strip, keeping it under siege while “remotely” controlling all aspects of peoples’ lives—just as it does with residents of the West Bank.
  5. Egypt participates in this siege, in coordination with Israel.
  6. Israel controls electricity, water, fuel, cyberspace, and food, as well as all entry and exit of people and goods to and from the Strip. It regulates the entry of all aid money and humanitarian assistance, desperately needed after Israel has systematically destroyed the Gazan economy.
  7. Israel’s continued control over Gaza requires it to employ increasingly harsh and more cruel measures, occasionally erupting in huge losses of life for civilians, women, and children. While Israel controls this pressure cooker, “managing” it as it did again this time, the situation cannot be sustainable in the long run.
  8. In any military confrontation, the primitive rockets Palestinians use are no match for Israel’s massive firepower, but serve as a wonderful excuse for Israel to attack Gazans with massive bombardments from air, land, and sea.
  9. Palestinians have no real offensive or defensive power, and their civilians have no shelters or anywhere else to run or escape.
  10. Even when there is no bombardment, Gazans suffer daily from massive deprivations in all aspects of life, to the point that the UN declared the Strip would be unlivable by 2020! (I know, I know. It is already 2022!) Unemployment is over 50% and mental problems have been detected in over 80% of its children.
  11. The residents of Gaza are in fact human, children of God, and deserving of equal dignity as much as anyone else.
  12. Finally, while Gazan lives and livelihood may be worth nothing to Israelis, their continued oppression will continue to exact a toll on Israel’s soul, its morality, and more and more so its image.

Strategically, Israel has no plans for Gaza or the Gazans. It believes it can use its power and influence to continuously “manage” the situation, while its connections, influence, and clever hasbara (“propaganda”) will continue to ensure that it faces no consequences for its actions. The world will conveniently look away and forget or ignore Gaza and its Gazans.

For this situation to persist in perpetuity, it is necessary that a number of things continue to happen:

  • The world must continue to look away from the crisis, pretending that Gaza does not exist
  • All prospects of a just peace must be abandoned, and talk of peace must be limited to empty platitudes and the maintenance of an oppressive status quo.
  • International law must continue to remain impotent, and the US veto must continue to ensure that the United Nations cannot act when it comes to Israel.
  • The International Criminal Court must be kept in check, prevented from addressing Israel’s crimes.
  • The Arab world must continue to be ruled by autocratic regimes and corrupt elites who do not reflect the wishes or interests of its people.
  • People in the rest of the world must continue to do nothing, and Israel’s actions must continue to enjoy impunity.
  • And mostly you, my dear readers, would need to do absolutely nothing.
  1. Take two minutes right now to call your parliamentarians and legislators and demand that they denounce Israel's attacks on Gaza over the weekend, call for an end to Israel's siege, and stop funding this violence.

  2. Listen to Gazan voices in particular young people with We Are Not Numbers.  They are always looking for English language writing mentors for aspiring Gazan journalists. 
  3. Listen and get involved with other NVI groups working to support Gazans such as the Freedom Flotilla/US Boat to Gaza and Hebron International Resource Network.
  4. And please start a book group or write a book review about my book, Beyond the Two-State Solution, which provides a hopeful path forward.


With Peace and Justice for All,

Jonathan Kuttab

Co-Founder of Nonviolence International and Executive Director of FOSNA

 

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