Stop the War’s Chris Nineham on the sham ‘truce’ that was a prelude to a long-planned ground assault and why this Saturday’s Gaza Under Attack national demonstration is so important.

Chris Nineham

How much more do the Palestinian people have to suffer? The Israeli government’s decision to invade Gaza will intensify the massacre of Palestinian civilians which they have suffered over the last ten days.  It makes a mockery of Israel’s claims of being interested in a ceasefire.

This is not the act of a government looking for peace, compromise or any agreement.

This is the act of a government committed to pitiless war against a whole people.  The decision to invade was voted through unanimously by the Israeli cabinet and it has all the signs of being carefully pre-planned. In the words of Israel’s Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Benny Gantz: “We’ll launch a joint ground-aerial assault, using full force. We’ll continue to expand the fire all over the Gaza Strip.”

Israel’s chief military spokesman Brig Gen Motti Almoz said that the operation is open-ended. “We will be striking the infrastructure… with large ground forces accompanied by massive air force support, naval forces and intelligence.”

He called on hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents to evacuate areas, warning the “military is operating there with very great force”.

Israel’s justification for the invasion is feeble. The aim, it says, is to destroy tunnels out of the besieged enclave, which it claims, quite absurdly, ‘threaten Israeli security’.

Israel says Hamas is being punished for not accepting the terms of ceasefire proposals. But these terms were never even discussed with Hamas. It is now clear that Israel’s loud support for the ceasefire ‘deals’ was nothing more than a sham manouevre to justify the long-planned ground offensive.

Instead of condemnation of the Israeli invasion by the western powers – and the threat of an immediate diplomatic break if Israel did not end its onslaught – there has been a deafening silence.

It is reported that John Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu  spoke on the phone shortly before the attack, no doubt giving Israel, as ever, its assurance of US support, whatever atrocities are committed.

Earlier  statements from US officials bordered on the surreal. In a comment on the Israeli killing of four children playing on the beach two days ago, the US State Department’s Jen Psaki said, “The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed”.

Israel then launched an invasion which will bring even more civilians into the path of its jugenaut – the world’s fourth most powerful military power attacking one of the most over-crowded and deprived territories on earth.

Gaza resident, Sarah Ali, described events on Twitter as the invasion began: “Israel is literally bombing Gaza from everywhere: air, sea, and land. Terrifying sounds across the Strip. Sound of gunboat shelling is the most horrible. Drones. Apaches & warships. Tanks on the outskirts of east & north Gaza. Families stuck with injuries. This is a war zone.”

Why do Western governments fail to condemn Israeli aggression? Why do our media not expose this conflict as a one-sided slaughter? Why is the context of this “conflict” never given?

It only takes a glance at maps of the Palestinian controlled land in 1948 compared to today to see that Israel is engaged in a long running process of colonisation. Israel’s illegal settlements are stealing ever larger swathes of the West Bank, within which Israel’s wall of separation imprisons the Palestinian population. Palestinians have to pass through hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints every day in the course of their normal lives. The comparisons made with apartheid South Africa are striking, but so rarely commented on by the mainstream media, particularly at those times, like now, when Israel’s savagery is given full rein.

The Israeli Defence Forces own figures show that even before the ground invasion the suffering on each side is utterly disproportionate. Israel launched 1,960 attacks on Gaza in eight days, destroying 1,370 homes, killing more than 250 Palestinians, injuring close to 2000 more, and displacing 18,000 people. The United Nations says nearly 80% of those killed were civilians, including over 50 children. Medical charity Doctors of the World says the Palestinian healthcare system has been seriously damaged by Israeli airstrikes and is running out of essential supplies.

Israel, on the other hand, reported one fatality and minimal damage to property in the same period. On the first night of the invasion, 24 more Palestinians, including three children, were killed. One Israeli soldier was killed.

The real dynamic underlying the conflict is hidden for the simple reason that the Western powers regard Israel as a vital ally in their efforts to maintain their influence and control in the Middle East. The US provides more military aid to Israel than to any other country in the world – three billion dollars worth every year. The US buys more exports from Israel than any other country. Israel is one of the British arms industy’s key military clients. Without this kind of support Israel could barely survive, and would certainly be incapable of inflicting the levels of death and destruction that Gaza is suffering today.

We need to redouble our efforts to isolate Israel. On Saturday we will march from David Cameron’s official residence in Downing Street, London, to the Israeli Embassy. Our message to the British government will be, stop giving Israel – in David Cameron’s words, “the UK’s staunch support”. Our message to Israel will be, stop your barbaric bombing of Gaza, lift your seven-year siege of Gaza that has made life so intolerable for all its 1.8 million people, stop your endless theft of Palestinian land.

And our message to the people of Gaza will be – as it is for the hundreds of similar protests taking place in cities and towns across the world: You are not alone. Our solidarity is with you in your darkest moments. Justice for Palestine will in time prevail.

The politicians and the media may look the other way as Israel commits its atrocities, but there is now a huge global movement against Israeli aggression. We have a particular responsibility. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said yesterday that Britain “can fairly be called the nerve center of Western pro-Palestinian sentiment.” On Saturday we need this message to resonate around the world. Please join us in Downing Street at 12 noon, if you can.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

18 Jul 2014

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