An Unfolding Pattern of Genocide: Notes from Gaza

After a Palestinian rocket attack, Israel’s Interior Minister urged in late September 2008, “the IDF should…decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it.”

— Dr. Norman Finkelstein, “Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza: Foiling Another Palestinian ‘Peace Offensive’.” Counterpunch, 28 January, 2009

Norman Finkelstein argues in his latest article that we are wrong to assume that Israel launched its war against Gaza purely for narrow political purposes (an upcoming election — there was no upcoming election during the Israeli war against southern Lebanon in 2006), while the claim that Israel reacted in “defense” against “Hamas rockets” has already been thoroughly discredited by a wide range of analysts and news media. Instead, the war against Gaza was motivated by two goals, Finkelstein argues, one being that of “deterrence,” to instill new fear of Israeli power, and the second being to forestall, as on many other occasions, any attempt at peaceful negotiation. In the latter case, this would have meant Israel reconciling itself to a Hamas government, which it refuses to allow to continue. To spread fear, one has to spread damage and pain, to “educate” the Palestinians (Thomas Friedman) about the true force of Israeli supremacy.

It now seems more than clear from the consistent pattern of the attacks, and despite the flimsy public justifications that left journalists incredulous (let alone the rest of us), the rush to embrace any technicality to be found under international law, and the cold monotone of one-sided notions of rights, that the Israeli plan was one of genocide. Long standing critics of Israel, let alone its victims, already knew this, but what is significant of this moment is that much of the rest of the world is finally catching up to these realizations, which is why condemnations continue to pour in from all corners of the globe, and a de facto boycott already seems underway (more below). Here are some notes from current reports, preceded by an overview from Finkelstein:

The Operative Plan of State Terrorism:

The operative plan for the Gaza bloodbath can be gleaned from authoritative statements after the war got underway: “What we have to do is act systematically with the aim of punishing all the organizations that are firing the rockets and mortars, as well as the civilians who are enabling them to fire and hide” (reserve Major-General); “After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza” (Deputy IDF Chief of Staff); “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target” (IDF Spokesperson’s Office). Whereas Israel killed a mere 55 Lebanese during the first two days of the 2006 war, the Israeli media exulted at Israel’s “shock and awe” (Maariv) as it killed more than 300 Palestinians in the first two days of the attack on Gaza. Several days into the slaughter an informed Israeli strategic analyst observed, “The IDF, which planned to attack buildings and sites populated by hundreds of people, did not warn them in advance to leave, but intended to kill a great many of them, and succeeded.”…The Israeli columnist B. Michael was less impressed by the dispatch of helicopter gunships and jet planes “over a giant prison and firing at its people” — for example, “70…traffic cops at their graduation ceremony, young men in desperate search of a livelihood who thought they’d found it in the police and instead found death from the skies.”

As Israel targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and U.N. sanctuaries, as it slaughtered and incinerated Gaza’s defenseless civilian population (one-third of the 1,200 reported casualties were children), Israeli commentators gloated that “Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first-a second chance to get it right,” and that this time around Israel had “hurled [Gaza] back,” not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s. (Finkelstein, 28/01/2009)

“We will take no one into consideration.” — Ehud Olmert (See video at Ynet News, “We Should Level Gaza Neighbourhoods,” 02/10/2008.)

The Dahiya Strategy: Pulverize them all…

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth Friday, IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following: In the next clash with Hizbullah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the “world.”

We shall pulverize the 160 Shiite villages that have turned into Shiite army bases, and we shall not show mercy when it comes to hitting the national infrastructure of a state that, in practice, is controlled by Hizbullah. This strategy is not a threat uttered by an impassioned officer, but rather, an approved plan. (Yaron London, 10/06/2008)

Anything affiliated with Hamas is a target…and everything is connected:

From the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (31 December 2008):

Since the beginning of the military operation in the Gaza Strip, on 27 December 2008, the army has bombed dozens of houses, public buildings, and other structures throughout the Gaza Strip.

The principle of distinction, one of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, states that all parties engaged in combat must distinguish between civilian objects and military targets, and are forbidden to intentionally attack civilians and civilian objects. The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions establishes two conditions that must be met for an object to be considered a legitimate military target: it must effectively contribute to military action and its total destruction or partial neutralization offers a clear military advantage.

Despite this, other statements made by Israeli officials in recent days raise the suspicion that the army is not maintaining the requisite distinction in its attacks in Gaza. Prime Minster Ehud Olmert stated that, “Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people but with Hamas, which has dedicated itself to acting against residents of Israel. Accordingly, the objects attacked today were selected with the emphasis on the imperative to prevent harm to innocent persons.” In an article published in yesterday’s Washington Post, a senior military official was quoted as follows: “There are many aspects to Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” Major Avital Liebowitz, of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, told the correspondent that the army had indeed widened its target list in comparison to previous operations, saying Hamas has used ostensibly civilian actions as a cover for military activities. “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target,” she said.

These comments suggest that the operation in Gaza is aimed against every person and entity tied in some way to Hamas, even if they are not engaged in military action against Israel. An examination of the sites that were bombed in recent days raises questions regarding the legality of targeting many of them.

Shrinking Gaza, Targeting Livelihoods, Ethnic Cleansing:

Israeli army fires on civilians and Human Rights Workers in Beit Hannoun
Posted on: January 30, 2009
International Solidarity Movement

…Freije Abu Jeremi pointed out what had been their barn-house, containing 20 sheep; as well as chickens and rabbits. “The soldiers shot all the sheep in the legs”, she recalled, “before they demolished the shed”. This intentional killing of livestock, took place throughout the Gaza Strip during the Israeli Operation “Cast Lead”. Whilst dismissed by many Palestinian residents as the actions of deranged individuals, the emerging pattern is one of economic oppression – of the intentional destruction of Palestinian livelihoods.

Approximately 80 houses were demolished in the “buffer zone” area to the north and east of Beit Hannoun – in the lands that abut the Green Line – rendering at least 400 residents homeless. 20 homes were demolished in Sikka street alone, which leads up to the Erez border crossing.

Whilst before Israel’s war on Gaza, the Israeli-enforced “buffer-zone” on the Palestinian side of the Green Line extended 300m from the electrified fence. Now it is extremely dangerous to enter lands that are 1.5 kilometres from the Green Line.

….In every region that borders the Green Line, residents are reporting similar incidents – that, despite the public declaration of a cease-fire, Israeli forces continue to fire on Palestinians on a daily basis, with two farmers killed since the ceasefire supposedly came into effect. Such violations not only make a mockery of any notion of a ceasefire, but also work to effectively annex Palestinian land, by rendering it uninhabitable. Indeed, combined with the demolition of houses in these areas, such actions are indications of a clear policy of ethnic cleansing.

Were chickens firing rockets too?

Were chickens firing rockets?
Sameh A. Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 29 January 2009

A number of chicken farms are located only a few meters away from the Samouni house. These farms came under fire by Israeli forces and were totally bulldozed. Thousands of chickens were caught in their sheds, as the bulldozing destroyed their cages. Some died immediately, others slowly without food or water for four days.

IDF targeted children carrying white flags…

Israeli troops killed Gaza children carrying white flag, witnesses say
Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers, 27 January 2009..

…More than 70 members of his family crowded into one apartment for days. On Jan. 7, Abed Rabbo said, the shelling intensified, and they heard an Israeli solider calling for people to come out of their homes.

Abed Rabbo said he gathered his wife, their three daughters and his mother, Souad. Souad Abed Rabbo said that she tied a white robe around a mop handle and two of her granddaughters waved white headscarves as they walked outside.

When they opened the door, they saw an Israeli tank parked in their garden about 10 yards away.

“We were waiting for them to give us an order,” Khaled said last week as he stood in the ruins of his home. “Then one came out of the tank and started to shoot.”

Souad Abed Rabbo said she was shot as she pushed her son back inside and her granddaughters fell on the stairs. When the shooting was over, she said, 2-year-old Amal and 7-year-old Souad were dead.

The allegation is one of at least five such white flag incidents that human rights investigators are looking into across the Gaza Strip….

“The evidence we’ve gathered in two of the cases so far is exceedingly strong,” said Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch working in the Gaza Strip. “All the research so far suggests they shot civilians that were leaving their homes with white flags.”

Along with the white flag incidents, Human Rights Watch is calling for an international investigation into widespread charges that Israel prevented medical teams from helping wounded Palestinians trapped in their homes and needlessly demolished hundreds of houses, including dozens in Ezbt Abed Rabbo.

“This was not a rogue unit,” said Abrahams. “The needless civilian deaths resulted from concrete decisions made by the military.”

Punishment via closed borders:

At a time when civilian victims of war and the many impoverished persons of Gaza await international aid and materials for reconstruction, as the U.N. seems to grow ever more exasperated about not being able to move in urgent supplies in sufficient quantities and at a sufficient pace, it is now obvious once again that the Israeli state is trying too starve and punish all Gazans…over a single Israeli soldier. The atrocity of the collective punishment, for the sake of teaching a crude little lesson in power and obedience to Hamas, and doing so in such a transparent manner that once again it will backfire on Israel:

U.N. makes $613-million appeal for Gaza
Los Angeles Times, Richard Boudreaux, January 30, 2009

But major rebuilding will be impossible, officials in Gaza say, until Israel and Egypt fully open their borders. Israel, which says it is worried about the possible military use of some building materials, allows only limited shipments of humanitarian aid, fuel and consumer goods into Gaza.

Hamas advisor Yousef said that Egypt was reluctant to relax its border controls until Hamas and its Palestinian rivals agree on a power-sharing arrangement. And Israel is insisting on the release of an Israeli soldier Hamas has held for 2 1/2 years.

Israel’s infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said Hamas must decide whether to meet Israel’s conditions or risk being blamed for keeping much of Gaza in ruins.

“To start construction works, you need cement, pipes, all sorts of construction materials,” he told Israel Radio. “If Hamas leaders want to leave this area in the state that it’s in right now, they will have to answer to the residents.”

Jewish Fundamentalists in the Military: Theology of Genocide…

Condemnations still coming in, and maybe a de facto boycott is in progress…

African Union condemns Israeli attacks on Gaza
International Herald Tribune
30 January 2009

The African Union has condemned Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The 53-member AU is urging the United Nations to investigate human rights violations during Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Farmers claim UK, Jordan boycotting Israeli fruit: Fruit growers disappointed by canceled orders from abroad, leaving produce to rot in warehouses
Yair Hanson, Ynet News, 16 January 2009

Ilan Eshel, director of the Organization of Fruit Growers in Israel, said Scandinavian countries have also been canceling orders. “It’s mostly Sweden, Norway, and Denmark,” he said. “In Scandinavia the tendency is general, and it may come to include all of the chains.”

Eshel says the boycott did not exist before the Gaza offensive was launched. “It’s getting worse, and more voices can be heard calling to boycott Israeli merchandise,” he said. “Until the operation began we had excellent business, though the economic recession in Europe was causing a slight fall in the market.”

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6 thoughts on “An Unfolding Pattern of Genocide: Notes from Gaza

  1. I was reading Counterpunch almost exclusively for a few days now so I missed some of these articles. This is a really good collection of links and we all need to start paying very close attention to how the Israelis get so many free passes for committing genocide right under everyone’s noses. That video was amazing and these people have the nerve to preach about “Muslim fundamentalists”.

    People are too self-involved, too wrapped up in themselves, that they just give our government a pass, takes everything for granted. You’re right, to Palestinians, all this is like old news. To those who still cringe every time they hear “anti-semite!” whenever they think something unauthorized about Israel, they should grow up and crack that shell open, step out. Hell, if not then anytime someone criticizes Obama you’ll have some hysterical freak screeching “Racist”!

  2. Fantastic analogy on the anti-Semite issue MadAxe.

    You know Max, just when I think it can’t get any worse, new facts seem to surface. How long does this go on? When do indictments start happening? Reparations? instant relief of occupation? Another 60 years maybe?

  3. I had been following the Israel/Gaza conflicts for some time now, in shock and dismay at what has transpired. I am still amazed at some of the justifications for the unabashed attacks on civilians in Gaza – such as “Well, they shouldn’t elect terrorists” or “Why haven’t they ousted the regime?” ad naseum.

    To address Madaxe’s query, they get away with it because they have better media control, and have the US as their unmovable ally, both on the ground and in the UN. Don’t forget, the Palestinians in the Strip are Muslim or followers of Islam of varying degrees. Which, in the US to many, still means that they are the enemy.

    I was notably disturbed when Israel continued to deny that the Gaza strip was in a humanitarian crisis, and worse yet, that we sat idly by.

    I do not blog on this topic, but i have voiced out about it a few times. It saddens and enrages me.

    Imperialism, it’s what’s for dinner!

  4. Sorry I did not see these comments waiting earlier.

    MadAxe, welcome back, I see your mind has still been on current events. I agree with both Tali and Anok (and MadAxe you should also see their work when you get a chance) regarding…well regarding all of their points…but in particular this anti-semite issue.

    I personally have been targeted with this accusation, and even told by people who were not present, that big rallies I took part in here in Montreal called for the “destruction of Israel” and “murdering of all Jews.” It is a complete and total lie. But I ask myself: does the person stating this lie know that he/she is lying? And if so, what does that tell them about the cause they are fighting for, a cause that demands that facts be fabricated out of thin air?

    Anok, I think you are right about the shield provided by Islamophobia. I also think I need to make time to read the works of Norman Finkelstein and James Petras, who have done a lot to detail the workings of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.

    What would also be useful is if we could compile one long fact sheet about each and every member of Obama’s cabinet, with details of each person’s stances on Israel and connections to Israel lobbies. I can already see how much of this would look, just from what I know about the Clintons, Biden, Lawrence Summers, and Emmanuel Rahm. The thing is that it should be a wiki page to which many could contribute…and here is where I fail: I have no wiki-building experience at all.

    Thanks everyone for the comments and visits, much appreciated.

  5. P.S: leaving the US aside, I need to find out more about the workings of the Israel lobby at my own university, which I suspect is significant. Next time they plan on bringing an Ehud Barak or a Benjamin Netanyahu, like several years ago (which led to student riots), I will organize a massive citizens’ arrest and “welcome” them on that basis.

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