Israel may stop dropping bombs on Gaza as early as today:
Israel’s security cabinet is expected to meet Saturday night to declare a cease-fire in Gaza and will keep its forces there in the short term while the next stage of an agreement with Egypt is worked out.
“It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Friday. “There will be discussions tomorrow morning, and it looks like a cabinet meeting will take place tomorrow night. Everyone is very upbeat.”
What amazing timing. I wonder why Israel is suddenly all joyous over the prospect of a cease-fire, when just a few weeks ago they were so anxious to begin this war and haven’t shown any signs of letting up since? Surely this wasn’t a cynical war of opportunity:
The Israelis attacked now because of two non-military cycles: the news cycle and the presidential cycle. This was like a war by an astrologer: the stars had to be in exactly the right position before the Apaches could start blasting and the Merkavas could roll.
The most important cycle of all is the news cycle. This war happened during international media dead week, between Christmas and New Year. Ordinary people are drunk or hungover or snowed in, and the people who matter, the media players, are off in Cancun and Phuket, soaking up rum and sun with their blackberries turned off. They’re not going to bum out their call girls watching the news from Gaza.
And the Israelis wanted a time when everybody was distracted for a simple reason: asymmetrical war isn’t pretty.
The other cycle is more of a gamble: the presidential cycle. I can’t believe nobody’s saying the obvious here: the Israelis want to do this now, once and for all, while Bush is still in office. They know that Bush will let them do whatever they want. Bush and Cheney are literally more extreme than about half of the Israeli electorate.
And on Tuesday, America inaugurates its first African-American president. Barack Obama is something of an unknown quantity. This war is proving costly in the goodwill-toward-Israel category. Forgive me for thinking that the Israeli rulers are thinking along those lines, and deciding that now would be a good time to hammer through a cease-fire. Let a couple of days pass without a fresh atrocity, let the world get distracted by Obama’s inauguration, and maybe all of those pictures of dead kids won’t be so heavy on everyone’s minds.
Is that it, Israel? Is that why everyone’s so “upbeat”?
Some people aren’t likely to forget so soon:
The medical director of al-Quds hospital has not wept since he helped evacuate several hundred people from the blazing Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) compound on Thursday night, but he says: “My heart is crying.”
He says he is standing next to the smouldering remains of a pharmacy filled with bandages, medicines and other medical supplies, describing the chaos as intensive care patients and premature babies were wheeled onto the street.
The compound was hit twice during heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Tel al-Hawa district in the west of Gaza City.
Staff from the hospital say they do not know exactly what hit the building, but the UN has said Israeli tank shells struck three hospitals, including al-Quds, in Thursday’s fighting.
When you’ve targeted UN buildings, family homes, hospitals and countless civilians, simply declaring a cease-fire won’t allow people to forget the relentless horror visited upon them.
Some people aren’t likely to forgive so soon:
The Palestinian doctor provided Israeli TV viewers with regular updates on Gaza fighting’s human toll. But Friday’s report was different — with sobs he told how his three daughters and a niece were killed by an Israeli shell.
“I want to know why my daughters were harmed,” Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish said on Channel 10. “This should haunt (Israeli Ehud Prime Minister) Olmert his entire life.”
Throughout the 21-day war, Abu al-Aish has brought accounts of war’s tragedy to Israeli living rooms, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering.
Gazan officials identified Abu Al-Aish’s slain daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.
At least two other daughters were injured.
Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist, is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in two Israeli hospitals. He is also is a known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, and an academic who studied the affects of war on Gazan and Israeli children. He works at Gaza’s main Shifa Hospital.
“Everyone knew we were home. Suddenly we were bombed. How can we talk to Olmert and (Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni after this?” Abu al-Aish told television reporters at the border crossing.
“Suddenly, today when there was hope for a cease-fire, on the last day … I was speaking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. The doctor who treats Israeli patients.”
Israel, you murdered a peace activist’s daughters. Listen to him: “How can we talk… after this?” If what you wanted was to hammer the Palestianians until they were soft and pliable, you failed.
Nobody could have anticipated that Israel couldn’t bomb its way to peace with Palestine.
Israel hoped that the war in Gaza would not only cripple Hamas, but eventually strengthen its secular rival, the Palestinian Authority, and even allow it to claw its way back into Gaza.
But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indee
d, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.
The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.
This is a pretty familiar outcome – what rises from the ashes of an attack like this is typically not more moderate or agreeable to the offensive power. Fatah was already disliked and now they are seen to be cooperating, either directly or indirectly, with the bombing of civilians.
Luay Suboh, 10, from Beit Lahiya, lost his eyesight and some skin on his face Saturday when, his mother said, a fiery substance clung to him as he darted home from a shelter where his family was staying to pick up clothes.
The substance smelled like burned trash, said Ms. Jaawanah, the mother who fled her home in Zeitoun, who had experienced it too. She had no affection for Hamas, but her sufferings were changing that. “Do you think I’m against them firing rockets now?” she asked, referring to Hamas. “No. I was against it before. Not anymore.”
There are a lot of mothers, Israel, who because of your actions are going to send their surviving children to become suicide bombers. Because they’ve learned they can’t trust you. Because all they’ve seen from you is a determination to utterly destroy them:
In October of this year, Haaretz published a report regarding the strategies the IDF intended to use to fight “the next war.” The article’s title: “IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war”:
In an interview Friday with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, [GOC Northern Command Gadi] Eisenkot presented his “Dahiyah Doctrine,” under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
“We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases,” he said. “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized” . . . .
What can the Palestinian people do, in the face of that? When you impose a “peace” on them that continues to starve, impoverish and humilate them? The kindness and compassion of Israeli dissenters won’t be enough to overcome the horrors of what they’ve seen.
You say you had to defend yourselves. But even reporters who covered the towns that suffered the fear and uncertainty, the occasional injury and even more rare death from Hamas’s rocket fire, are realizing the truth:
For the first time I turned on an Arab channel, al-Jazeera, to get an update on what was going on. And then I knew it was impossible to give any equivalency between the situation in the Israeli towns in the south with the tragedy that was unfolding in Gaza.
That night I felt sick, I couldn’t sleep – I could only see images of children, and children, and more children. The ones who had been blinded, the ones who had lost their limbs, or just that picture of the small girl’s head, her eyes wide open. It was only her head, nothing else.
Are those images likely to make people turn to the puppets you install for salvation, or will they be looking at the fighters who stood against you despite the odds? Do you really think the people will turn against those fighters, or turn to them? I think all of us but the war-blind bastards who started this slaughter know the answer. But let’s try a thought experiment, just to see what the outcome might be:
Nearly seventy ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.
Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.
This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.
Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.
From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.
Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.
Israel. You knew this. The history of countless countries is filled with praise for those who faced impossible odds and did not give in, who faced imminent destruction and did not flinch. So many times when relentless attacks did not crush people’s will, but reinforced it. And when the people you are fighting have absolutely nothing left to lose, when you’ve taken from them their sons and daughters and offered them no peace, no security, and no dignity, when you’ve given them every reason to believe that what you want is nothing more than their utter annihilation, they won’t turn to your puppets for their salvation. They will turn to those who refuse to give in.
It didn’t have to be this way. You could have given the Palestinians reasons to turn away from Hamas, by making sure they weren’t starving, sick and desperate. By treating them as human beings with rights and dreams
of nationhood instead of as a despicable underclass needing to be cast out and subjugated.
How much different it might have been if, instead of trying to beat the Palestinians down, you had instead lifted them up.