Eyeless in Gaza: When will Israel let its People Go?

Israeli war planes struck the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has roughly 7.5 million people, Gaza roughly 1.7 million. Israel bombed and destroyed Gaza’s only airport and refuses to let Gaza port operate. It still places severe restrictions on Gaza imports, and lets Palestinians there export almost nothing of what they make. Nearly half of Gaza families were forced out of what became southern Israel by militant Jewish nationalists, and many still live in refugee camps. They could walk home in an hour if allowed to. Instead they are kept in a huge open-air cage.

Gaza’s population is roughly that of Houston, where 217 people were murdered last year. Gaza’s Palestinians are far, far less violent. A few young militants send tiny home made rockets (not katyushas) over the border and almost never hit anything. (Occasionally they smuggle in a real rocket; but those don’t typically hit much either.) The Israelis justify their air strikes and other actions with reference to what they call terrorism but Palestinians call resistance. Israel offers the Palestinians nothing for making peace, and even punishes the suckers who sometimes negotiate.

The Israelis have 400 nuclear warheads, a fleet of F16s, and the best military in the region. Palestinians in Gaza have virtually nothing.

The other big news from Palestine is hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners in Isreli jails. It is a good symbol for the situation. The Israelis have kidnapped and jailed the Palestinian population. Palestinian politics and activism is one big prison riot.

What Israeli authorities seem unable to understand is that the Palestinians will never disappear and will never get used to their prison. The F-16 air strikes on a pitifully weak people (often directed at the gulag of Palestinian refugee camps) may make some Israeli officers feel macho. But they just fuel more violence, and aren’t a policy.

It is true that their captivity to Israel and the poverty imposed on them (they are less well off now than in the 90s) has allowed Muslim fundamentalist HAMAS to come to power there. Desperation does not produce moderation. Here are the remarks last Friday of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, as summarized by the USG Open Source Center:

“At 0954 GMT, the Gaza-based HAMAS-run Al-Aqsa Satellite Television Channel in Arabic carries live a Friday sermon from the Al-Shati Grand Mosque in Gaza delivered by HAMAS Leader Isma’il Haniyah.

Haniyah starts by welcoming visitors to Gaza Strip and says that visits by individuals from other countries “confirm the bonds of brotherhood and faith and confirm the crucial nature of the Palestinian cause and the centrality of the struggle against the Zionist project which perches upon this holy land.”

Haniyah dedicates most of the sermon to commemorating Palestinian Land Day. He begins by recounting the events in 1976 that led to confrontations between Israeli forces and Arab Israeli protestors. Haniyah identifies Land Day as the first occasion in which Palestinians living inside Israel rose up against the “injustices” of the Israeli authorities.

Haniyah says that there will be no “concessions or bargaining over land considering that this is the essence of the struggle against the occupation.” He condemns settlement activity and the perceived encroachment on Palestinian lands and holy sites. He adds that the Land Day “reinforces the unity of the Palestinian people” within Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and abroad.

He continues: “Today, as we mark this anniversary, we reaffirm our rejection of resettlement, displacement, and bargaining over the land of Palestine.” He adds: “There can be no replacement for the land of Palestine.” He rejects the idea of resettling Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. He denies claims by the media outlets that residents of the Gaza Strip are “looking for a place to be resettled in the Sinai Peninsula.” He says that it was the Gaza residents who in 1954 confronted plans to resettle the Strip residents in Sinai.

Haniyah says that Palestinians are under various kinds of pressures to give up their land, including the recent visit by US President Barack Obama. He says that the visit served to reaffirm US policy fundamentals “toward Israel, Zionist national security, the supremacy of Zionist capabilities and power,” and reinforcing Israel’s position amid the transformations taking place in the region. He says that the Arab uprising have caused Egypt, which used to be a s trategic asset for Israel, to become “a strategic asset for Palestine, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian resistance, and Gaza.”

Haniyah Addresses the Palestinian Authority, which he says still believes in “illusions” and “still thinks well of the United States.” He cautions the PA of “falling once again into these political traps.” He claims that the PA receives funds in exchange for delaying Palestinian national reconciliation.

He then pays tribute to Palestinians living inside Israel, saying that they “defend Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestine, and every grain of Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic holy land.” He says that even after 64 years since the start of the occupation, “we do not acknowledge the legitimacy of its existence.” He adds: “We are determined to continue along the path of perseverance and resistance”

With regard to Palestinian reconciliation, Haniyah says: “We are prepared to make all the necessary concessions as long as they do not affect the fundamentals and rights in order to regain Palestinian national unity.”

Haniyah ends the sermon by calling on the worshippers to sign a petition that lists the fundamental demands of the Palestinian cause…”

I don’t care for Hamas or Haniya, but they are a product of an unjust policy. The Palestinian prison riots will end when the captivity of the Palestinian people ends.

26 Responses

  1. Juan, you know the solution. The solution is the internationalization of the region. Then any person is from the village that he is going to and not from the village that he is comming from.

  2. When dealing with important subjects such as the apartheid practiced in Gaza sometimes humor has more impact than anger.

    Here is a bitter sweet vignette from Funny or Die showing a Palestinian attempting to get to a date in spite of the IDF.

    link to funnyordie.com

  3. Wish more people read you, professor Cole! You tell the sad truth of the story so well! The children of Gaza appreciate it!

  4. There can be only one “justification” for Israel’s behavior, including its permanent occupation and taking of Palestinian lands. Zionism.

    Neither Israel nor the United States have yet admitted that Zionism is but another form of apartheid, but it is. And, like all previous apartheid constructs, this one will not stand for long.

    The majority of people around the globe simply do not believe God gave Jews, or anyone else, a proprietary homeland—or, for that matter, any other special consideration or accommodation. Most believe we, in the eyes of God, are all equals, all one.

    In the meantime, as self-proclaimed “true believers” and constant aggressors, Israel and the U.S. become increasingly reviled. It’s a risky and self-destructive path that we are on. The sooner we realize it and fix it, the better for everyone.

  5. “Promise was that I
    Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
    Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
    Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves”

    From John Milton’s “Samson Agonistes”

  6. Juan, ” I don’t care for Hamas or Haniya” is a rather unnecessary statement. It is for the Palestinians to choose their leaders and parties, and HAMAS was chosen by many for its policies to help them fight the occupation, not for militant Islam, and many Christians in Gaza support Haniyah.
    Israel does not seem to believe in the possibility of legitimate resistance of a people, but the support by US/UK/Europe etc is the main reason they get away with it.

    • Because both attempting to murder children and attempting to brainwash children into pursuing martyrdom are OK!

      • Seth, the IDF are the ones murdering children; as for martyrdom, the Gazans are murdered, NOT volunteering to be killed. Are you thinking of the long-abandoned suicide attacks? The Palestinians in Gaza are imprisoned by Israel, whose attitude and actions include brainwashing the “chosen”ones into thinking thinking that only Jews matter.

  7. I would like to add two comments.
    1. The title may be misleading, upon reading it one can suspect we (Israelis) are bombing in Gaza without a cause. While the situation was opposite – a fraction of the Hamas decided to instigate the situation by firing “tiny home made rockets” (which killed 6 Israelis in the last conflict) into Israel, with a clear knowledge Israel will streak back. BTW I would to see any of you guys standing next to one of them when it explode..
    2. Many people believe, that one of the main reason Hamas came to power was NOT because of the Israeli siege, but because of the corruption in the PLO leadership.

    • The “instigation” was the killing of Ahmed Jebari in a targeted killing.

      However, the “tiny home-made rockets” are not exactly accurate, as there are not only Katyushas but also Iranian-manufactured Fajr missiles with 200lb payloads.

      There was a great psychological and tactical leap of technology when Gazan militants finally had a rocket capable of striking Tel Aviv. The scenes of thousands of Isralis in Tel Aviv scurrying for cover as air raid sirens blared had not occurred since 1991 when Scuds hit Israel from Iraq.

      • Almost all of the thousands of rockets cited as having gone out of Gaza are tiny and home-made. Katyushas are very rare by the numbers.

  8. This misses the point entirely as the Israelis did not ignite the latest flareup. When rockets and mortars suddenly fall on your land, any nation has the right to respond. The Israeli response was proportionate.

    • Proportionate?

      In the past Ehud Olmert gave a speech immediately following the conclusion Operation Cast Lead indicating that the Israelis would create “disproportionate” responses to future rocket attacks. Olmert was admitting planned conduct that violated international law.

      If you study the genesis of the latestt missile firings they were in response to Israeli abuses, but in any event recent rocket attacks were not even tied to Hamas, but fringe groups of Islamic fundamentalists.

      • Ahem, let’s stick with the facts in the field. Olmert has not been Israel’s PM for years. Your claim that the missile firings are a response to “Israeli abuses” makes little sense. There was a cease fire both sides agreed to. If there’s ever to be a lasting resolution, then each side has to act like grown ups and control itself. Raining missiles on Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim because of the latest sense of grievance is a ridiculous excuse and only will lead to more escalation.

    • “right to respond”? No you don’t! Oppressed people have the right to resist. Oppressors do not have the right to oppress.

      This logic may make the Israelis feel somehow justified. Perhaps they need it to sleep at night, but it will not bring them peace.

      If Israelis want peace then treat the Palestinians as you would have Israelis treated. Turn Israel into a country of equal rights. Turn it into a civil society.

    • It’s a well known fact that before every Israeli national election Israel’s leaders have the habit of provocating a war against the Palestinians to get the population’s support and vote therefore… It was like that in December 2008 when more than 1,000 Gazans were bombarded and killed by Israel. So why would it have been different in November 2012?

      You should read this:

      Israel: masquerading as the victim of an unprovoked attack
      A pattern of Israeli aggression after U.S. elections

      link to pslweb.org

      and this:

      A Permanent Truce with Israel was Being Negotiated as Assassination of Hamas Leader Occurred

      link to intellihub.com

      And finally, this:

      Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict?

      link to theatlantic.com

      AN EXCERPT:

      A summary of events in the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, Nov 8 – Nov 15

      By Emily L. Hauser

      “Recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip have been unusual only in scope. Violence and fear of violence is a near-daily reality for the residents of Gaza and Israel’s southern communities. There’s a constant back and forth, and on both sides, there’s always something or someone to avenge.

      “For instance, some Palestinian sources date the start of this latest round of violence back to November 4, when Reuters reported the death of “an unarmed, mentally unfit man” who strayed too near the border fence, did not respond to reported Israeli warnings, and was then shot. Palestinian medics report that Israeli security personnel prevented them from attending to the man for a couple of hours, and say that he likely died as a result…”

      Since November 1948 Israel has been stealing Palestinian land, occupied it, and fenced or surrounded with walls Palestinian agricultural land, humiliating Palestinians, shooting them, especially children and women (do you wish to see the special T-shirts the IDF soldiers had made, showing a child or a pregnant woman (“two for one” the t-shirt said) seen through the scope of a rifle…

      Even with all that injustice, dire life, killing, you give the impression that you wish for them to simply lie down and die. As we saw it in France during WWII, there’s a way of reacting to all those military excesses described above, and it’s called résistance. If it was good with the French and some Jews who fought with the French against Hitler’s armies, it’s also good for Palestinians to defend what’s theirs in order to have every chance of surviving Israel’s attempts of elimination.

      The U.S.A. may veto all UN motions against Israel’s wrongdoings and non respect of the UN Resolutions condemning Israel, but history will be eventually showing a greater sense of justice and finally condemn Israel, and unfortunately all the pacifist and humanitarian Jews will be accused as well, the ones who want to live in peace with the Palestinians, their neighbours. More and more Jews refuse to hear/see Israel claim that it’s doing all those crimes for the good of all Jews. Orthodox rabbis claim that Israel shouldn’t have been created until the coming of the Messiah.

      I also suggest that you watch Occupation 101 on video on the Net, and the online 4 parts of the 6-hour TV Series The Promise, and also Defamation.

      • The Operation Cast Lead adventure that commenced on December 27, 2008 and concluded on January 18, 2009 was timed in a very specific manner to maximize political gain with minimal interference:

        (A)it was commenced after the U.S. presidential elections so lame-duck President George W. Bush would not be accountable to voters for any perceived inaction;

        (B)it began after Christmas so not to interfere with the busiest tourist time for Israel when Christians visit the Holy Land;

        (C)it started when the governments of many Western nations were largely closed down for the holidays;

        (D)Knesset elections in Israel were approaching and Olmert’s Kadima Party needed a popular military action to increase Kadima’s standing in polls after the 2006 misadventure in Lebanon that resulted in the embarrassing findings of the Winograd Commission report;

        (E)the military operation was halted on January 18, 2009 – two days prior to the inauguration of President Obama so as to avoid giving him a reason to publicly criticize Israel and also not to simultaneously capture international media attention with Obama , thus detracting from Obama’s historic swearing-in.

        Olmert’s popularity in Israeli opinion polls actually dropped during Operation Cast Lead – which some suggest was due to the fact that Hamas was not destroyed as an organization, nor was Gilad Shalit located and rescued despte IDF search teams combing Gaza. Operation Cast Lead itself, however, had the support of 94% of the Israeli public.

        In the end the Kadima Party was roundly defeated with Likud gaining control of the government with its coalition and Bibi Netanyahu ascending to his second term as PM.

  9. “The Israelis have……the best military in the region. Palestinians in Gaza have almost nothing.”

    Israel has indeed wreaked havoc in Gaza via air strikes and other incursions, but there has been damage to Israeli interests as well.

    The city of Sderot, near the Gaza border is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to the ongoing conflict; outside Jewish donations had kept the municipality afloat until drying up later upon the perception that rocket attacks were no longer a problem. It is estimated over 70% of Sderot’s children have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. One of Sderot’s most prominent residents, Amir Peretz, known as a liberal of the Labor Party spearheading better relationships with Arabs, while he was defense minister had a Qassam rocket explode near his house that resulted in a relative having his legs amputated.

    Six Israelis died and over 200 wounded during the November of 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. Property damage was extensive.

    While I believe that much of the violence toward Israel is being caused by their government’s unjust and illegal blockade of Gaza, it is clear that innocent children and adults in Gaza as well as adjacent Israeli communities have also suffered significantly due to the ongoing violence.

    • Many Palestinian families huddling in refugee camps in Gaza were expelled from Sederot and never given any reparation for lost property, indeed then the Israelis chased them into Gaza and abused them ever since.

  10. Juan, you write that “What Israeli authorities seem unable to understand is that the Palestinians will never disappear and will never get used to their prison. The F-16 air strikes on a pitifully weak people…But they just fuel more violence…” But that is the policy: Israel wants an angry weak Gaza; otherwise Israel would have to enter good faith negotiations and it’s the only party that would have to give up anything of worth. We know from past events that when the Palestinians provide goodwill gestures, the Israeli response is to ratchet up the violence to avoid having to deal fairly. For one of many examples, consider: “In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas…­[that] was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters.” (We all know the rest of that horrific event.) link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, Rudolph, but wasn’t there an election coming in Israel after that November 4, 2008 when Israel violated its ceasefire to start a new war, named Cast Lead, and use it to make the resistance Gazans look like terrorists, use that new war to have the Israeli population back the government for re-election, and ultimately claim again to be the victim of “terrorist Gaza” in front of the whole world?

      The same thing might have happened in the same proportion last November, before the 2012 Israeli election. It’s obvious that Israel keeps trying to fool the whole world with its PR and Western media influence, while the majority of countries know what’s really happening in Palestine. One day there might be a radicallisation of most countries against Israel, just like there was one against Apartheid South Africa. Beware Israel!

  11. The purpose of the Israeli air strikes is to trigger Palestinian counter-attacks, which can be characterized as “terrorist attacks” and used as justification for more land grabs.

    It will stop when a Palestinian Gandhi leads an effective passive resistance. Rock throwing and homemade rockets make matters worse, a daily march of unarmed civilians to reclaim their homes (and thus highlighting Israeli oppression) will defeat the Israeli occupation.

    • There will never be “a Palestinian Gandhi”. The Israelis know that such a person is far more dangerous to the Jewish State than a thousand terrorists. The terrorists are self-defeating and Israel will slaughter them. The Israeli PR machine will manufacture another “Israel as Victim” story and the US will cheer them on and supply more money and weapons. It is a reoccurring theme.

      A Palestinian Gandhi would destroy all that. The idea of the Jewish State would be at risk. Such a threat must be dealt with early before they can gain any stature. Israeli death squads are very efficient. They travel the Palestinian territories and the wider world and do their dirty work. They are even glorified in a movie; “Munich”.

      A Palestinian Gandhi would be the end of Israel. He must be stopped at any cost!

  12. Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip. It should be at least mentioned that Egypt’s blockade of Gaza is certainly as bad as Israel’s blockade.

    • Israel left in 2005 since the forces needed to protect the few thousand Jews in the select parts of Gaza were excessive; instead Sharon expanded the takeover of the West Bank land of Palestinians. It is worse now that air, sea, land borders of Gaza are fully and cruelly controlled, stopping normal exports and movement of people, as well as violent attacks on the people. Egypt continues to aid israel eg by drowning the lifesaving tunnels into Gaza.

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