“Look outside, F-16 jet fighters are smiling for you, missiles are dancing for you, zannana [the Palestinian name for pilotless drones] are singing for you. I requested them all to wish you a happy new year.” That was the darkly humorous text message Fathi Tobal, a Gaza City resident, received from a friend on his mobile phone today.
Tobal added ironically, “While other people around the world celebrate, it seems the Israeli air force is trying to save us the cost of fireworks.”
On New Year’s Eve in Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians are confined to their homes under candlelight and with scarce food supplies, but worst of all with the constant fear of the bombs which have already killed almost 400 people, and injured 2,000. [continued…]
Israel is going after the trappings of governance, of power, of control, of rule. And the reason is the belief that the force that may eventually sweep Hamas from power is not Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, but pure anarchy.
If Hamas cannot rule, if it cannot provide the people with what they need, if the leaders are in hiding, if anarchy reigns, then Hamas’s legitimacy is delivered a major blow.
And this, to a large degree, explains Israel’s targets. Jerusalem wants to hit Hamas’s ability to rule, it wants to encourage anarchy that would threaten the organization.
Israel’s opening of the Gaza crossings to allow in humanitarian aid contributes somewhat to this sense of anarchy, because it makes Hamas look unable to govern. If the Palestinians must rely on Israel’s green light to let food aid in from third countries, then that undercuts Hamas’s argument that it is able to serve its public. [continued…]
Last week I was in Gaza. While I was there I met a group of 20 or so police officers who were undergoing a course in conflict management. They were eager to know whether foreigners felt safer since Hamas had taken over the Government? Indeed we did, we told them. Without doubt the past 18 months had seen a comparative calm on the streets of Gaza; no gunmen on the streets, no more kidnappings. They smiled with great pride and waved us goodbye.
Less than a week later all of these men were dead, killed by an Israeli rocket at a graduation ceremony. Were they “dangerous Hamas militant gunmen”? No, they were unarmed police officers, public servants killed not in a “militant training camp” but in the same police station in the middle of Gaza City that had been used by the British, the Israelis and Fatah during their periods of rule there.
This distinction is crucial because while the horrific scenes in Gaza and Israel play themselves out on our television screens, a war of words is being fought that is clouding our understanding of the realities on the ground. [continued…]
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that Israeli attacks on Gaza had to stop before any truce proposals could be considered.
“First, the Zionist aggression must end without any conditions… Second the siege must be lifted and all the crossings must be opened because the siege is the source of all of Gaza’s problems,” he said in a televised speech to Palestinians.
“After that it will be possible to talk on all issues without any exception,” Haniyeh said, referring to recent truce proposals raised by all parties, including Israel. [continued…]
Israel… – always swift to announce its imminent destruction of “terrorism” – has never won a war in a built-up city, be it Beirut or Gaza, since its capture of Jerusalem in 1967. And it’s important to remember that the Israeli army, famous in song and legend for its supposed “purity of arms” and “elite” units, has proved itself to be a pretty third-rate army over recent years. Not since the 1973 Middle East conflict – 35 years ago – has it won a war. Its 1978 invasion of Lebanon was a failure, its 1982 invasion ended in disaster, propelling Arafat from Beirut but allowing its vicious Phalangist allies into the Sabra and Chatila camps where they committed mass murder. In neither the 1993 bombardment of Lebanon nor the 1996 bombardment of Lebanon – which fizzled out after the massacre of refugees at Qana – nor the 2006 war was its performance anything more than amateur. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact Arab armies are even more of a rabble than the Israelis, the Israeli state would be genuinely under threat from its neighbours.
One common feature of Middle East wars is the ability of all the antagonists to suffer from massive self-delusion. Israel’s promise to “root out terror” – be it of the PLO, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian or any other kind – has always turned out to be false. “War to the bitter end,” the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has promised in Gaza. Nonsense. Just like the PLO’s boast – and Hamas’ boast and Hizbollah’s boast – to “liberate” Jerusalem. Eyewash. But the Israelis have usually shown a dangerous propensity to believe their own propaganda. Calling up more than 6,000 reservists and sitting them round the Gaza fence is one thing; sending them into the hovels of Gaza will be quite another. In 2006, Israel claimed it was sending 30,000 troops into Lebanon. In reality, it sent about 3,000 – and the moment they crossed the border, they were faced down by the Hizbollah. In some cases, Israeli soldiers actually ran back to their own frontier. [continued…]