-Israel and US targeting childrens on his global war on terror campaign-
By Khalid Amayreh
Journalist — Occupied Palestine
Long days of massive Israeli bombardment from the air, land, and sea is leaving a trail of destruction in the impoverished Gaza Strip. (Reuters photo)
Israel has been trying rather frantically to convince the international community that its ongoing campaign of death and terror against the Gaza Strip is actually in response to the firing by Palestinian fighters of largely ineffective, homemade projectiles on nearby Israeli settlements.
Needless to say, Israeli efforts to this effect have met more than a modicum of success, especially in Europe and North America where the media is traditionally pro-Israel.
However, a careful reading into the overall Israeli strategy toward the besieged coastal enclave (of Gaza) reveals that Israel has several other hidden or undeclared goals it hopes to achieve on the long run.
According to Illan Pappe, Professor of History at the University of Haifa, one of the main goals of the current campaign, which he referred to as “massacre” and “genocide,” is simply to kill and maim as many Palestinians as possible and to destroy as much of Gaza as possible for the purpose of “casting terror and fear” in the Palestinians’ hearts. His views are amply vindicated.
Israeli heavy artillery bombed the Fakhoura School, run by UNRWA, killing at least 43 civilians and injuring hundreds others.
The goal of creating a humanitarian disaster seems to have been already achieved, with the Palestinian death toll now exceeding 700, and the number of the injured 3000-figure, hundreds of them sustaining critical injuries.
Moreover, the Israeli air force has nearly completely wiped out the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, by bombing homes, mosques, apartment buildings, college buildings, student dormitories as well as public and government buildings, petrol stations, electric generators, money-exchange offices, and drug stores.
In the second week of the manifestly asymmetrical war, the Israeli army began targeting mourning tents, residential homes, and shopping centers, annihilating entire families.
For example, on Monday morning, 5 January, Israeli warplanes bombed a mourning receptions and buildings where refugees have sought shelter from the bombing, resulting in the death and maiming of hundreds of civilians.
Last week, an Israeli missile destroyed the home of Nizar Rayan, a leading Hamas ideological figure, annihilating his entire family of 14.
Hospital sources and news agencies are speaking of numerous entire Palestinian families completely or nearly completely annihilated in indiscriminate Israeli bombing and shelling of their densely populated neighborhood.
On Tuesday, Israeli forces, using heavy artillery, bombed the Fakhoura School, run by UNRWA, killing at least 43 civilians and injuring hundreds others. Most of the victims are children who had sought shelter at the school. Earlier, three members of the same family were killed when another school, also run by UNRWA, was hit by an Israeli missile.
Ahmed Yousuf, a political advisor to Prime Minister Ismael Haniya, described what is happening as “a real holocaust.”
“It is true that our people are not being shipped to gas chambers. But they are being exterminated in a huge fire storm engulfing Gaza from Rafah to Beit Hanun.”
Israel may well be interested in repeating in Gaza what happened in 1948 when organized Israeli terror forced Palestinians to leave their ancestral homeland.
Dispersing Gazans out of Palestine
There is no doubt that one of the key but undeclared goals of the present campaign against Gaza is to bring down the Hamas-led government in Gaza.
Israel hopes that the annihilation of several thousands of Gazans, coupled with the destruction of thousands of homes as well as the basic civilian infrastructure will eventually generate chaos and lawlessness and ultimately to the demise of the Hamas-led government.
According to Pappe, the history professor, Israel may well be interested in repeating in Gaza what happened in 1948 when organized Israeli terror, including a large number of massacres, forced the bulk of the Palestinians to leave their ancestral homeland.
Israeli political and military leaders have been speaking rather gleefully about the “shock-and-awe bombing” being meted out to the estimated 1.5 million- inhabitants of the coastal territory.
Last week, Major General Yoav Gallant, the commander of the Israeli southern command was quoted by the Ha’aretz newspaper last week as saying that the aim of the Operation Cast Lead was to “send Gaza decades into the past” and “inflict maximum number of enemy casualties.”
A retired Israeli officer told this writer that Israel wanted to “apply the shock therapy” to the Palestinians.
“We want to show them what we are capable of doing to them,” said the retired officer.
“They may call us ‘Nazi’ or ‘cruel’ or ‘criminal’ or what have you. But we don’t care, because we are strong and the western world stands on our side, while the Palestinians are helpless.”
“First, they want to delete the word ‘resistance’ from the collective Palestinian mindset,” Qassem said.
Abdul Sattar Qassem, a former presidential candidate and Professor of Political Science at Al Najah University in Nablus in the West Bank attributes the “indiscriminate and devastating” bombings of Gaza to an Israeli desire “to cast terror in the hearts of the Palestinians.”
“First, they want to delete the word ‘resistance’ from the collective Palestinian mindset.
“And second, they want to tell us that Israel is too strong to be resisted and that we must accept any solution imposed by Israel, even if such a solution is devoid of justice for the Palestinian people.”
Qassem says that Israeli leaders and Israelis in general “simply can’t bring themselves into understanding how a thoroughly tormented and severely beaten people is still resisting and demanding concessions from mighty Israel.”
“They can’t accept the fact that we have not surrendered to them, that we are still struggling after all they have done to us, that we have survived in spite of every thing.”
Palestinians argue that Israel is using Hamas merely as a pretext to perpetuate its 41-year-old occupation and settlement expansion.
Replacing Hamas & Expansion Strategy
Despite the enormity of the Israeli bombing and the huge anguish it causes, especially among defenseless civilians, there are very few signs of unrest or even consternation toward Hamas.
Israel obviously hopes that the victims and Gazans in general will direct their anger toward Hamas, not toward Israel.
However, it is clear, at least as of now, that the victims are blaming Israel rather than Hamas for their suffering and losses.
One Hamas official, Fawzi Barhum, scoffed at remarks by Israeli leaders threatening to destroy Hamas.
“They can do it if they kill 10 million Palestinians and 1500 million Muslims.”
Some observers opine that the Israeli campaign is likely to boost Hamas especially in the long run.
This is not to say though that Israel cannot dismantle Hamas’s government using sheer military force. This goal can be relatively easily accomplished through an extended reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, which can be followed by a hasty hand-over of authority to the western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah.
However, such a scenario is fraught with political and security complications for Israel and the PA.
Indeed, it is highly likely that any Palestinian, e.g. Fatah, forces returning to Gaza “aboard Israeli tanks,” as a result of the Israeli campaign, would be stigmatized by the bulk of Palestinians, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as well as in the Diaspora, as quislings and collaborationists. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was quoted this week as saying that the PA wouldn’t replace Hamas by force.
More to the point, the elimination of the Hamas-led government could, especially in the long run, complicate security problems for Israel as it would free Hamas from the political restrictions and other commitments that any government would have to abide by.
Hence, it is possible that Israel will only opt to leave Hamas substantially weakened, especially militarily and psychologically, rather than paralyzed. This is at least the view of the security establishment headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Israel and, to a larger extent, the outgoing Bush Administration, must also be hoping that a weakened Hamas wouldn’t be able to put up a serious opposition to prospective “peace accords” that the PA or the PLO might reach with Israel.
Such accords, Israel hopes, would lead to the creation in the West Bank of a Palestinian entity under effective Israeli control which also would allow the Jewish state to annex large parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and especially obliterate the paramount issue of the Right of Return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes when Israel was created more than sixty years ago.
Israel has long complained that Palestinian “terror” in general is the main obstacle impeding the achievement of a peace agreement between the PA and Israel. This Israeli view, however, is dismissed by all Palestinian factions, including Fatah, as red herring.
Palestinians, irrespective of their political and ideological affiliations, argue that Israel is using Hamas merely as a pretext to perpetuate its 41-year-old occupation and settlement expansion.
Israel has been seeking rather exhaustively intelligence information that would lead to Shalit’s whereabouts, but to no avail.
Searching for Shalit
One of the undeclared goals of the Israeli operation in Gaza is to try to know the whereabouts of Gilaad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in the summer of 2006, and liberate him.
According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, the invading Israeli army has been rounding up scores of Gazans and questioning them on the whereabouts of Shalit as well as the locations of the Qassam missiles.
Israel has been seeking rather exhaustively intelligence information that would lead to the discovery of Shalit’s whereabouts, but to no avail.
A few weeks ago, the Shin Beth, Israel’s chief domestic security agency, offered to give a reward of $10,000 to any Gazan willing to give information that would lead to the liberation of Shalit.
In the past, similar offers met the same failure.
Some Israeli military officials are likely to think that through the arrest of a high-ranking Hamas personality, such as a cabinet minister or an important security chief, Israel can extract information that would lead to the liberation of Shalit.
Nonetheless, it is well known that very few people know the place where Shalit is detained. Moreover, it is highly likely that in case the Israeli army finds out Shalit’s whereabouts and the Israeli army carries out a rescue operation, he will be killed in such an operation.
The tacit Israeli messages are unlikely to serve the intended purpose, namely that Iran must freeze its nuclear scheme.
Message to Iran
The bloody and destructive rampage in Gaza may very well be aimed at conveying two messages to Iran and the Shiite resistance group, Hizbullah, namely that it is futile and pointless to challenge Israel, militarily or otherwise.
This is what the Israeli media has been alluding to, especially during the first phase of the Israeli offensive.
However, and even despite the almost dreadful nature of the killing and destruction wreaked on Gaza, the tacit Israeli messages are unlikely to serve the intended purpose, namely that Iran must freeze its nuclear scheme.
First of all, the whole world realizes that the Israeli air force has been hitting a virtually completely defenseless population that has little or no means of protection against the state-of-the-art of the American technology of death.
After all, Gaza has no regular army, no air force, no air defenses. Ultimately, we can’t really speak of war between two sides since the Gaza Strip, which has been languishing under a harsh siege, is virtually an occupied territory controlled by Israel.
Indeed, in a confrontation in which thousands are killed and maimed on one side, while a few people are killed on the other side, we can’t speak of real war, only of a real massacre.
Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. He obtained his MA in journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in 1983. Since the 1990s, Mr. Amayreh has been working and writing for several news outlets among which is Aljazeera.net, Al-Ahram Weekly, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and Middle East International. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.