Gaza massacres must spur us to action
By Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada
27 December 2008
“I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air
force is doing.” Those were the words, spoken on Al
Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense
official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of
Israel’s latest massacres were broadcast around the world.
A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes
and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of
locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at
least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of
these locations were police stations located, like police
stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas.
The US government was one of the first to offer its
support for Israel’s attacks, and others will follow.
Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police
officers. Among those Israel labels “terrorists” were more
than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training.
An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and
injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead
children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time
thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on
their way home from school.
Shmerling’s joy has been echoed by Israelis and their
supporters around the world; their violence is righteous
violence. It is “self-defense” against “terrorists” and
therefore justified. Israeli bombing — like American and
NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan — is bombing for
freedom, peace and democracy.
The rationalization for Israel’s massacres, already being
faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is
that Israel is acting in “retaliation” for Palestinian
rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the
six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no
Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rockets
But today’s horrific attacks mark only a change in
Israel’s method of killing Palestinians recently. In
recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly
and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary
medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated
and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5
million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and
children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians
died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin,
cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from
reaching them by Israel.
What the media never question is Israel’s idea of a truce.
It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce,
Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel
starves them, kills them and continues to violently
colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and
medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is
also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there
is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for
As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations
agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic
Intifada in November: “there was five months of a
ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people
of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration
of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our
supplies were also restricted during the period of the
ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very
vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of
closure we ran out of food.”
That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks
— whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in
Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and
bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the
West Bank, and yet Israel’s attacks, killings, land theft,
settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one
single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in
Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel’s demands, even
assembling “security forces” to fight the resistance on
Israel’s behalf. None of that has spared a single
Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel’s
relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for
instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50
years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November,
so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.
Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did
last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of
children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once
again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that
this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.
But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage
being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably,
it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The
images that stick are of Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi
Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling
with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the
pictures of Livni and Egypt’s foreign minister smiling and
slapping their palms together.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last
wednesday the Israeli “cabinet authorized the prime
minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister
to determine the timing and the method” of Israel’s
attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni
tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell
her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza’s streets
red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of
the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by
keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a
On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people
feel at Israel’s renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense
of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to
channel it into a political response that can change the
course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.
But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them.
Already I have received notices of demonstrations and
solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the
world. That is important. But what will happen after the
demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we
continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?
Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real
solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political
action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group
reaffirmed this today as it “called upon all civil society
organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately
in any possible way to put pressure on their governments
to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute
sanctions against it.”
The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for
Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the
framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw
emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do
not wake up to “another Gaza” ever again.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is
author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the
Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).
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