Gaza atrocity saves Eretz Israel… but leaves Israel weaker
SO, what the Israeli army started on the night Barack Obama became US President-elect, ends as Barack Obama travels to Washington to be inaugurated as the next US president to be faced with trying to sort out the mess that is the Middle East. The Israelis have announced a ceasefire.
In the next days the full, appalling horror of what the Israelis have done in Gaza will start to be revealed. But just as the US media was diverted by the Obama celebrations on the night of Tuesday 4 November when Israeli tanks and bombers breached the ceasefire to provoke the latest conflict, the Israelis hope that attention will again be diverted from Gaza by the inauguration.
And, as Robert Fisk reports, the world forgets quickly when it comes to the Palestinians: “Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead — almost all civilians, most of them children and women — in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?”
With utmost cynicism the Israelis have used the interegnum between the US elections and the arrival of a new US President plus media manipulation to put back the cause of peace in the Middle East. In the US, if not Europe and the rest of the world, the media manipulation has worked. Here in the US it’s hard to know that a major act of ethnic cleansing has been taking place, indeed some media portray events solely as an attack on Israel by Gaza.
Yet again. Any talk of a secure, viable Palestinian state, and fixed Israeli borders is as far away as ever. Peace is not on the agenda. A new US President has been trumped. And Israel will be weaker.
But the vision of Eretz Yisrael — a 21st century Israeli state stretching from inside Egypt in the south and into Lebanon and Syria and to Jordan, and even beyond to the Euphrates and Iraq in the east, as defined in 2000-year-old texts from the Hebrew Bible (sic) — is safe for another day. “The one and only Hebrew nation — in all of its Holy Land inheritance.”
(The map to the left is just one of many based on a multitude of mythical biblical interpretations. The extent of Eretz Yisrael depends on who you consult, and when, and often what’s in their interests. Osama Bin Laden, for instance, draws a map of Eretz Israel that extends across almost all the Middle East from Cairo, the Sudan, across Saudi Arabia, half of Iraq and even into Turkey.)
Certainly, the Gaza war has sown the seeds of the next generation of “terrorists” to guarantee the Israelis their excuses for another Gaza, another Lebanon, another walk away from talks, another breach of agreements, another dismissal with contempt of UN resolutions.
In the last days of the Bush presidency the worst-US-president-ever has continued to aid his friends and tie the hands of his successor. Israel has got yet another military agreement (on top of the near $7 million a day of US aid) that the US will blockade Gaza to prevent arms being smuggled into Gaza (the right of all peoples to defend themselves does not extend to Palestinians).
Whether or not Israeli troops fully withdraw from Gaza, whether or not Israel fully lifts the blockade and opens the border crossings, and keeps them open, will be seen.
If the troops do withdraw and the border crossings are opened, then after three weeks of bloodshed and systematic demolition of much of Gaza’s pathetic infrastructure, Israel will merely have returned to what it had agreed at the time of the June ceasefire, but never implemented. Then the crossings stayed shut. The blockade of Gaza was never lifted. Gaza was turned into a concentration camp.
Mark Steel, writing in the UK’s Independent, noted: “Dov Weisglas, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, referred to the siege of Gaza that preceded this bombing, a siege in which the Israelis prevented the population from receiving essential supplies of food, medicine, electricity and water, by saying, ‘We put them on a diet’.”
But the impression will be that Israel is weaker:
❏ Hamas survived. In the Arab world that will be seen as a victory. Just as it was a victory when Hizbollah survived everything the Israelis could throw at it in Lebanon.
❏ The people of Gaza are almost certainly more united behind Hamas than they were before.
❏ A whole new generation of militants has been recruited against Israel.
❏ Mahmoud Abbas, the putative Palestinian leader has been exposed as powerless and lacking any influence whatsoever over the Israelis, despite becoming their willing pawn and anti-Hamas mouthpiece. He has lost all credibility. Israel’s clampdown on the West Bank has not weakened, the settlements are still being constructed, the wall carving up Palestinian land goes ahead, Palestinian homes are still being bull-dozed.
❏ Israeli politicians have been exposed as cynical, callous opportunists willing to slaughter a trapped population to serve their own short-term electoral needs.
❏ Apart form the US, the world has expressed outrage and is appalled at another Israeli atrocity. For many the Israeli state is increasingly seen as a pariah state.
❏ Younger Jews around the world are reported to be moving away from blind loyalty to the Israeli stated, recoiling in embarrassment at the inhumane spectacle.
As Israeli tanks and troops entered Gaza at the beginning of January The Independent’s John McCarthy spelled out the reality of Israeli strategy: exploit the shame of the western world over the Holocaust, keep taking Palestinian land and never talk about borders.
“The simple fact is that Israel has the most powerful psychological influence to count on — the world’s collective guilt over the Holocaust. This means that although the world may sporadically slap Israel’s wrists, no one dare go too far, perhaps out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or in any way attacking a people who have historically suffered so much. The tragedy is, though, that it is now another people, the Palestinians, who are suffering because of the world’s hesitation to offend Israel.”
McCarthy asks: “But is there really a viable peace process to restart?” A two-state solution requires Israel to graciously give up occupied territory in the West Bank to create a Palestinian state there and in Gaza.
“But,” says McCarthy, “there are few signs that the Israeli establishment, fully committed to the Zionist goals of creating Eretz Israel (a Greater Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan), plans to relinquish very much land at all: 250,000 Israelis already live on the West Bank. On the contrary, Israel’s road and settlement building programmes continue apace.
“Israel’s policy has always been to build ‘facts on the ground’ while delaying accepting any final borders. Her founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, summed this up with the phrase ‘where we plough our last furrow is where we put our border’.
“Ben-Gurion’s political heirs are still ploughing. While conceding that a Palestinian state of some sort is necessary to ensure Israel is kept as purely Jewish as possible, they will put off delineating that state until Israel ends up with as much land and as few Palestinians as possible on that land.”
❏ Israel bans Arab parties from forthcoming elections.
IN 1896 a young Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl claimed the “Palestine of David and Solomon” would be the future Jewish state. It would extend from the Turkish mountains of Cappadocia in the north to the Suez Canal in the south.
The Kingdom of David and Solomon did not stretch from Turkey to Suez. The Israelite kingdom last just 73 years. And it ended almost 2,900 years before Herzl’s vision.
As Herzl and his fellow early zionists agitated among the rich and powerful in the capitals of western Europe for a Jewish homeland in the Middle East — “at Basle I fonded the Jewish state” — some 650,000 palestinians continued a life rooted in almost 4,000 years of history, and uninterrupted for 1,300 years.
So when Israel Zangwill coined the propaganda phrase “The land with people — for the people without land” at the turn of the 20th century it was a lie. In 1901 fewer than one-in-ten of the population of Palestine was Jewish.
But that community of Jews, Christians and a vast majority of Muslims did, for the most part, live in peace and harmony.
By 1947 the peace had long ended. Herzl’s vision was becoming a reality.
The Jewish National Land Fund had bought up 6 per cent of Palestine on behalf of 1/2 million European Jewish immigrants. Land fund director Joseph Weitz made clear, “there is no room for both peoples in this country”.
Within a year the Israelis’ first war of aggression was over. The new Israelis had seized 78 per cent of the land and in under six months 750,000 Palestinians fled to become the first Palestinian refugees, filling refugee camps (see map left, click the map for a larger version) in Jordan, Lebanon and particularly Gaza.
The zionists had proclaimed their new state “by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people”. It was a lunatic claim.
HG Wells commented at the time: “If it is proper to reconstitute a Jewish state which has not existed for 2,000 years, why not go back another thousand years and reconstitute the Canaanite state? The Canaanites, unlike the Jews, are still there.”
He could have mentioned the Egyptians, the Abyssinians, the Babylonians, the greeks, the Turks or even the Romans.
But on the basis of interpreting a few verses from The Bible the new Israeli state was consumed with territorial ambition. The Jewish National Fund Charitable Trust — the offical organisation of the Israeli government for land acquisition and settlement — defined Eretz Yisrael.
Eretz Yisrael, it said, takes in the whole of the Sinai, the whole of Jordan, the whole of Lebanon and the whole of Syria.
Israeli founding father, Irgun terrorist leader and later Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wrote: “Eretz Yisrael will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”