By BEN WHITE –
Israel is at war with the Palestinian people. More accurately, Israel is writing a new, brutal chapter in its ongoing war against the Palestinian people, a horror story stretching back decades, and, appallingly, with more pages to be written.
As of now, the Israeli military has killed 100 Palestinians*, and wounded an estimated 680, figures that continue to rise. OCHA, a UN body, reported at 15:00 local time Thursday that 58 civilians were among the dead, including 11 women and 21 children. The headline in today’s Daily Telegraph: ‘Half of Gaza’s dead ‘are women and children”. OCHA also recorded 70 destroyed homes, with 342 housing units destroyed or severely damaged overall.
On Thursday, an unnamed IDF official told Israeli media that strikes on the Gaza Strip were being conducted at a rate of one attack every four and a half minutes. The source also claimed that when “Gaza residents see the great damage to the Strip”, it “will speak for itself”. Collective punishment then, wrapped and packaged as ‘self-defence’.
Israel has been at war with the Palestinians ever since towns and villages were ‘cleansed‘ in the Nakba (many of whose refugees now reside in the bombarded camps of Gaza). This latest attack is no different. Fuller, more comprehensive accounts of the devastation will emerge in due course. For now, there are already things that we know.
In roughly the first 48 hours, Israel dropped an estimated 800 tons of explosives on an area the size of Detroit. Young people watching a World Cup match in a beachside café, killed by an airstrike. Families destroyed: Kawareh, Hamad, al-Nawasra, al-Haj, al-Ghannam. Toddlers killed when missiles hit their home: like Mohammad Khalaf Odeh al-Nawasra and Ranim Jawdat Abdul-Karim Abdul-Ghafoor, both aged 1-years-old.
Friday morning, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that there were “deeply disturbing reports” of “civilian casualties, including of children”, due to Israeli “strikes on homes”. Such reports, Pillay added, “raise serious doubt” Israel is abiding by “international humanitarian law”. Israeli NGO B’Tselem has already highlighted that the Israel military “itself acknowledged” attacks that “were illegally aimed at homes that were not military targets”.
No wonder the Israeli government is so worried about the possibility of Palestinians seeking justice at the International Criminal Court.
Israel is churning out the same tired propaganda, albeit in shiny infographic form. “Human shields”, they repeat. For the IDF, it seems there are no Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: just “terrorists” and “human shields”. This is the army, remember, that has actually used human shields, in the literal sense of hiding behind a civilian while you storm a house. “Human shields” says Israel, a country that has moved half a million of its citizens to colonies in territory held under military occupation.
But the IDF telephones residents before bombing their house, Israel’s propagandists say, with a straight (or angst-ridden) face. Indeed. Perhaps they got their inspiration for this tactic from the likes of the Real IRA, who telephoned ‘warnings’ before blowing up Omagh.
Operation Protective Edge. Operation Pillar of Defense. Operation Cast Lead. A child of seven years old in the Gaza Strip today has already lived through three massacres. Israel’s emergency services list those treated for shock. If the Palestinians did the same, there would be a roll of paper with the name of every single resident of the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s policies towards the occupied, stateless Palestinians are routinely characterised by collective punishment. Exports from the Gaza Strip are almost entirely banned. Israeli forces target Palestinian farmers, scrap metal-collectors, protesters, and fishermen in Gaza’s IDF-imposed ‘Access Restricted Areas‘ (ARA). Between the November 2012 ceasefire and February 2014, Israel killed at least 8 Palestinian civilians in the ARA and injured 120 more – opening fire on fishermen almost 150 times in the first 12 months after ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’.
And note that just in the build up to this week, from June 11 to July 6, Israeli airstrikes killed 13 Palestinians, including a child, injured 30, and damaged 11 schools and a health centre. On June 27, Israel injured eight civilians in Khan Yunis; on June 26 and 28, Israeli forces at the perimeter fence shot and injured three civilians. All before the ‘escalation’, remember.
When Israeli jets were bombing Palestinians in the 2008-’09 massacre, officials were clear about the objective in hand. An IDF spokesman claimed that “anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target“, while Shimon Peres said Israel’s aim was “to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel”.
And now the same is happening again. The IDF press releases and spokesperson updates about ‘terror targets’ conceal a simple, brutal truth. Israel is hitting Palestinian civilians, and it is hitting them hard. To even speak of a ‘war’ risks confusion. This is not a clash or a conflict, a tit-for-tat cycle or tribal tussle. This is an anti-colonial revolt.
* 178 at least to this day.