NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP & EDITOR’S COMMENT: January 12

Why the Gaza calm crashed

many have asked in the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, how Hamas, if it saw the consequences of ending the ceasefire — and Hamas did foresee the likelihood of disproportionate Israeli military action — nonetheless could have acquiesced to the inevitable bloodshed — bloodshed that an Israeli army, fixated on restoring its deterrence after its failed 2006 war with Hesballah, would visit on the citizens of Gaza. Some may read into this decision the cynicism of a movement that prioritises resistance; but to do so would be to misread how Hamas analyses their situation and understands the nature of resistance.

At one level, the six month ceasefire simply had failed to satisfy two key litmus tests: The circumstances of life of the Gazan people continually had deteriorated, and the ceasefire was not seen to be taking the Palestinian people any closer to a political solution. On the contrary, Hamas saw a settlement receding further into the distance.

In short, Israel — abetted by the US and Europe — had used the six month ‘ceasefire’ not as a building-block towards doing serious politics and real negotiation, but to squeeze the pips out of the people of Gaza in the hope that a desperate people would turn on their own representatives, leaving Hamas discredited and marginalised. No Israeli had died during this ceasefire, but instead of alleviating the conditions in Gaza, as agreed at the outset, Israel incrementally aggravated them. Not surprisingly, the calm eroded — and finally unravelled — following Israel’s military incursion and breach of the ceasefire with its armed incursion into Gaza on 5 November, in which six Hamas members were killed. [continued…]

How many divisions?

Nearly seventy years 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. [continued…]

Enough. It’s time for a boycott

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause – even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for “the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions” and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. “The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves … This international backing must stop.” [continued…]

Health clinic blown to pieces

“The clinic is completely destroyed with all its equipment and medical supplies,” reports Zack Sabella from the council’s Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees. The clinic was situated in Shaja’ih in Gaza city and is run by the Middle East Council of Churches. The clinic was totally destroyed, but no one was injured, since the building had been previously evacuated. “Minutes before the missile hit the building, which hosts the clinic, the Israeli Air Force fired a warning missile next to it, forcing all residents of the building and the adjacent buildings to flee the area. A short while after, the army directly hit the building and razed it completely.” The health clinic has been part of women’s and childrens health programmes in the area, and DanChurchAid recently started a programme checking more than 10.000 children for mal- and undernourishmanet. “Well have to see how to raise funds for a new clinic, once the war is over.” says Malene Sønderskov, Middle East Coordinator for DanChurchAid. [continued…]

IDF: Hamas rocket fire down 50% since start of Gaza offensive

he Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that there has been a dramatic drop in the ability of Hamas to launch rockets against Israel. Currently, the launches have dropped by 50 percent compared to to the first day of Operation Cast Lead, 17 days ago.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants have continued their rocket fire on Israel every day since the offensive began.

A Grad rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip scored a direct hit on a home in the northern Negev city of Ashkelon on Monday. Earlier Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open field near Kiryat Gat, causing no casualties or damages.

A total of 22 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck Israel on Sunday, one of which exploded in an empty school playground in the northern Negev city of Ashdod. There were no casualties in the incident. Gaza militants fired another 21 rockets at Israel on Saturday. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — To put these numbers in perspective, in 2008 the peak number of rockets fired from Gaza prior to the ceasefire was fewer than 9 a day. During the ceasefire (up until Israel broke it), rocket fire was down to three per month.

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