Bomb ghettos and civilians die. I write as news comes that Israeli gunners have managed to shell and kill nearly 50 Palestinians, including women and children, fleeing a United Nations-run school in Gaza. I can guarantee that Israeli claims about Hamas's use of that school are already on the wires. Since no one is going to quiz him on the matter of bombing civilians, let me quote Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on this issue:
Rea: "My question is about using violent means. When people use violent means, inevitably innocent people suffer, children, not only on the Palestinian side, but Israeli children too. What do you think?"
Meshal: "Unfortunately, the insistence on violent repression by our assailants leads to innocent blood on the street. Since 1996, 12 years ago, we have proposed to exclude civilian targets from the conflict on both sides. Israel did not respond to that. When Israel insists on killing our kids, our elders and senior citizens and women, and bombarding houses with the gunships, F16s and Apaches, when Israel continues these attacks, what is left for the Palestinians to do? They are defending themselves with whatever they have. Our (Qassam) missiles and rockets are very crude. Hence we fire them, within their own capabilities, in reaction to Israeli atrocities. If we had smart missiles -- and we wish that some countries could give us these -- rest assured that we will never aim at anything except the military targets."
You say it's ludicrous to allow Meshal such self-exculpation? No more ludicrous, in fact far less so, than endlessly citing Israeli generals about the essential humanity of their enterprises, since Meshal confesses to the crudity of the Qassams, whereas the Israelis ladle out bosh about the "sophistication" and accuracy of their fusillades.
Of course, the guaranteed lethal inaccuracy of all bombing and shelling in populated areas ensures that you end up with some horror like Qana in 1996 (Operation Grapes of Wrath, launched by Shimon Peres before an election), where Israeli artillerymen killed more than 100 refugees, including many women and children, in the compound of a UN peacekeeping force. In that instance, the response of apologists for Israel was to claim that Hezbollah had staged the whole thing and planted the bodies there.
I suppose we should be thankful that President-elect Barack Obama initially declined all comment on Israel's attacks. "No comment" is probably better than the likely alternative: full-throated applause, a la Bush, for Israel. Then the carnage at the UN school moved Obama to break his silence, saying, "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern for me." The fact that Gaza comes first in that sentence will no doubt prompt some angry columns claiming that Obama is tilting toward the Palestinians. Of course, his consistent groveling to the Israel lobby has been widely noted.
But if the elites are as solidly part of the amen chorus as they have been down the decades, once you leave the corporate and political highways and get on the side roads of the Internet, the picture is changing. The precipitous decline of the Old Information Order is marked in the shift in opinion, noted in a Dec. 31 Rasmussen poll showing that while Americans remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, they are split almost evenly on the question of whether Israel should attack Gaza -- 44 percent in favor of the assault and 41 percent against it. The same poll showed that in contrast to solid Republican cheers, only 31 percent of Democrats are supportive of Israel's attack, unlike their elected representatives. On Obama's "Change" Web site, there has been pressure from the Democratic base for Obama to condemn Israel's attacks.
That's a faint ray of hope. Otherwise, it's a bleak panorama. Israel's long-term drive to leave Palestinians a few patches of ground in a balkanized West Bank continues with no serious international challenge, as does its determination never to accept Hamas -- the democratically elected Palestinian government -- as a negotiating partner. Why do so if you have the United States behind you and can haul Mahmoud Abbas out of his kennel whenever necessary? What alternative does Hamas have but the rockets? I imagine that Israel's intransigence means the suicide bombers will soon be put to work again.
© Creators Syndicate
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Albion Monitor January
9, 2009 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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