Yesterday, Israel launched air-strikes against the Hamas governed Gaza Strip. F16’s and Apache helicopters rained missiles down upon 150 targets yesterday and today, killing at least 280 people and wounding about 600 people (though some estimates are as high as 700). Israel’s Defense Minister (and former PM) Ehud Barak said that the operation (‘Operation Cast Lead’) in Gaza were going to continue and expand: “This will not be a short operation. The war on terrorism is an ongoing one, and we will have to stand firm in order to change the situation in the south.” The breakdown of the 6 month Egyptian-brokered truce ended December 19th, which Hamas failed to renew because of Israel’s failure to uphold the terms of the truce. A tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye, escalation ensued, resulting in the violence over the past few days. Whereas there have been massive Palestinian casualties, only one Israeli has been killed and 4 have been wounded from the 110 rockets that Hamas militants fired into Israel.
A Palestinian envoy to the UN, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, argued that the ongoing Israeli aggression in Gaza is unjustified, since it punishes the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza for the actions of a few. He urged action from the UN within the next two days. The disproportionate response from Israel only further highlights the disparity between the Goliath Israeli forces and superior military weaponry, versus the David Palestinians. The violence has sparked protests all across the globe, with calls for a halt in violence coming from the UN, EU, and the Vatican. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon called for “an immediate halt to all violence,” and expressed his alarm at the sudden violence. The EU President “condemns the disproportionate use of force” in the Gaza strip. Pope Benedict, in his weekly Angelus prayer, said ‘I implore an end to the violence which must be denounced in all its forms and a restoration of the truce on the Gaza Strip. The terrestrial homeland of Jesus cannot continue to be the witness of such bloodshed which is repeated ad infinitum.’ In cities around the world, such as London and Tehran, protesters stood outside Israeli embassies to denounce their aggression in Gaza.
The White House has issued a statement that echoes Israeli claims that all the violence being wrought upon the Palestinians in Gaza is their own fault. This is a classic example of blaming the victim: like saying a victim of rape is at fault because her skirt was too short. U.S. UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on Hamas to end the rocket attacks, as though that gesture would persuade Israel to stop its campaign. He also urged people not to “point the finger at Israel.” A Bush spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, also laid the blame at the feet of the Hamas “thugs” who have been launching rocket attacks into Gaza. Again, the people in Gaza were not responsible for the attacks, yet they are taking the full brunt of the violence. To her credit, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has called on both sides to resume the truce and for all “concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.” Israeli officials, such as Barak and Foreign Minister (and PM frontrunner) Tzipi Livni, have also blamed the air-strikes on the Palestinians. In response to the calls to renew the truce, Barak argued, in an interview on Fox News, that asking Israel to accept a truce with Hamas would be like asking the U.S. to accept a truce with Al Qaeda, further evidence that Bush’s War on Terror has set a dangerous precedent. Livni and former PM Benjamin Netanyahu are both running for PM, and both are promising to topple the Hamas government in Gaza.
PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are preparing for an overwhelming invasion of Gaza. Some 6500 reserve soldiers have been called up, while Israeli tanks have lined up on the border between Gaza and Israel. There is no doubt that both the Israeli government and Hamas militants are engaged in terror: they both use violence against property and human life intended to coerce a civilian population to influence the policy of the government. Unfortunately, the Palestinians suffer.
Meanwhile, President-elect Obama, while on vacation in Hawaii, has been in contact with officials like Condoleeza Rice to determine the facts. Unfortunately, for the Palestinians, though Obama has pledged to make peace in the middle-east one of his top priorities, he has also pledged to “forge an unshakable bond” with Israel. In other words, any hopes of an evenhanded policy in the middle-east are unfounded.