By Ershad Abubacker
The first casualty in any war is Truth, and the latest escalation in violence between Israel and Gaza was no different. Israel and the mainstream media fed by it repeated the rhetoric that the rockets fired from Gaza was the pretext for the current crisis and Israel just ‘retaliated’ to the situation as usual. The problem with this narrative is that it takes just the rockets fired from Gaza as the talking point to the exclusion of everything else and alienates the situations around and leading to the rocket fires.
The extra judicial killing of the Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jabari was just a flare point, but the real issue was the killing of more than 315 Palestinians since Operation Cast Lead. This includes more than 70 Palestinians killed this year prior to the current crisis including the murder of a mentally unstable man on November 04 and a 13 year old boy playing Football on Nov 08. These are verifiable facts and these records must be put straight in the first instance rather than portraying things as a chicken and egg situation as some media outlets say. Israel and its media cronies must understand that they do not have exclusive rights for the usage of the terms ‘Self Defense’ and ‘Retaliation.’ It was Israel who started this escalation and the Palestinians subsequently retaliated to the routine terror.
The current truce came in as a result of Egypt’s steadfastness for the cause of peace. President Mohamed Morsi was under increased pressure from both the international community and his own citizens to bring about a cessation to the escalation and broker a deal between Israel and Hamas. Morsi was strategically well placed to hold talks with both the parties and is probably one of the few world leaders today who could draw the attention of Hamas. As he inherited Egypt from the Mubarak regime, the connections that Egyptian officials had with their Israeli partners was also used in his favour by Morsi to broker this deal.
The crisis also proved to be a testing ground for the Arab League. It took them three whole days and nearly fifty Palestinian deaths to convene an emergency meeting. Though the meeting reflected the mood of the revolutionary changes in Arab world and the delegates visited Gaza, Palestinians and their supporters around the world would like to see some concrete action coming out of Arab League. Like Morsi and Egyptians, the Arab league leaders will have to act upon the popular support for the Palestinian cause in their own countries back in the Arab world. Rather than discussing the political ramification of the current situation, the Arab league must be able to make Israel accountable, based on the Goldstone Report, for the thousands of families who lost their dear ones in Gaza.
This escalation also saw the internet being used by both IDF and Hamas as an instrument of war to establish their claims and counter claims. As in all modern day conflicts, there had been successful attempts by both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides in hacking strategic military and Government websites and online portals of each other. Though Israel was highly successful in inflicting heavy damage to Gazan infrastructure and eliminate some Hamas leaders, these tactics will only gain popularity to Hamas inside Palestine and the Arab world. These extra judicial executions and increasing civilian casualties would help Hamas, as Israel fears, to be recognized as a state player by the international community in the near future.
Now that a cease fire has been rolled out, the real question is whether this would bring long term peace to the Middle East crisis. As long as the 1.7 million people of Gaza, mostly refuges, remains besieged, blockaded, economically shut down and deprived of basic human rights, peace and stability in the region is more likely to remain elusive.
The current cease fire deal does talks about opening of all border crossings and ease restrictions on movements of people and goods in and out of the enclave. But it is not immediately clear on what will be the extent of this border clearance would be; and there seems to be no talk of ease of the Gaza blockade as such. As the Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi rightly said “The real problem is not a truce. The real problem that the Arab and Islamic countries and all friendly countries in the world must focus on is ending the occupation.” Unless and until the there is an end to the occupation in both Gaza and West Bank, further escalations like this are there to be repeated.
Hamas would like to portray the current truce as their moral victory. Since Operation Cast Lead, they have developed significant military capabilities including rockets that could target up to Tel Aviv. If Iran is to be ‘blamed’ for the long range rockets used by Hamas, the same acquisition must be leveled against the United States for providing Israel with, among other military aids, F-16 Falcon jets that sowed death over the civilians in Gaza and the so called democracies who remain neutral proclaiming Israel’s right for self defense. Neutrality does not exist at the phase of a collateral damage as in Gaza. Doing nothing to prevent it is, in fact, choosing sides.
There were also discussions hinting to the current escalations being driven by political motivations keeping the imminent Israeli general elections in mind. Whatever said and done, for the normal Palestinians in Gaza, the war is not yet over with the Israeli Drones still flying over head. They had slowly started rebuilding their shacks after the Operation Cast Lead that wiped out more than 1400 lives and much of Gazan infrastructure. They will now have to start again from the scratch.
But for those families who have lost their dear ones, there is no rebuilding. At least 162 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed within a week of terror and it is very important that we do not dismiss those numbers as part of a larger abstraction. They were ordinary human beings who wanted to live a normal life; mothers, fathers, sons and daughters as you and me. Every life lost is a yearning for a lifetime. Israel will have to pay a heavy price for that.
For those who still support the Israeli version of the story, it is worth remembering the words of the young Iraqi women blogger, Riverbend who wrote during the height of Iraqi invasion by America: “I wish every person who emails me supporting the war, safe behind their computer, secure in their narrow mind and fixed views, could actually come and experience the war live. I wish they could spend just 24 hours in Baghdad today and hear Mark Kimmett talk about the death of 700 “insurgents” like it was a proud day for Americans everywhere…”
Gaza of today is not quite far away from Baghdad of 2004.
– Ershad Abubacker is an Analyst based in Chennai, India. He can be reached at [email protected]. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.