People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 01, 2011



Israeli Govt Preparing for Another War


Yohannan Chemerapally


WITH the political upheaval in the Arab world showing no sign of abating, the right wing government in Israel is trying to fish in troubled waters. The Israeli government like the other regimes in the region was initially upset with the successful uprising of the people in Tunisia and Egypt. The Israeli government was particularly angry with the Obama administration for allowing the political demise of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian leader was somebody the Israeli leadership had long trusted. But the subsequent events in Libya and Bahrain have brought back some cheer in Tel Aviv as the international focus has now shifted to Libya and Syria, two countries that have had a track record of standing up against the West and Israel. The recent upsurge in the Arab world has further widened the Sunni-Shia schism, which is viewed as a helpful development in the corridors of power in Tel Aviv.




As the attention of the international community was diverted, the Israeli government started laying the groundwork for yet another military assault against the hapless population of Gaza. Tensions started rising after Israeli air strikes killed two Hamas members inside Gaza in mid-March. The killings forced Hamas to retaliate for the first time in two years with a 15 minute barrage of rocket fire. This is the first time in two years that the group has admitted responsibility for firing rockets into Israel. Since the murderous ‘Operation Cast Lead’ launched by Israel two years ago, Hamas has reigned in its militants from firing rockets into Israel in order to ensure that the fragile cease fire is not broken by the other side. On the few occasions rockets have been fired into Israel, the responsibility has been claimed by the Islamic Jihad and other militant groups who operate independently from Hamas.


On March 23, a bomb exploded in a crowded bus station in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring 24. This was the first serious terror incident inside Israel in the last three years. Hamas was quick to deny responsibility but all the same the Israeli government was quick to pin the blame on Hamas and wasted no time in escalating its policy of targeted assassinations and kidnappings inside Gaza and in foreign countries. After the Jerusalem bombing, Hamas had issued a statement stressing on the importance of restoring the cease fire. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu as expected assumed a belligerent posture. He postponed a scheduled trip to Russia and issued a statement promising prompt retribution from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). 


Even before the bomb in Jerusalem had gone off, the Israeli deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, openly talked about the need for another ‘Operation Cast Lead’. He said that he was saying this despite being aware that such an act “would bring the region to a far more combustible situation”. Shalom had also said that Israel will not tolerate a pro-Iranian government on its border. He was referring to Lebanon which today is run by a government backed by the Hezbollah. Israel had launched a full scale war on Lebanon in 2006 in an abortive attempt to militarily defeat the Hezbollah militia. In the event, the much vaunted Israeli army, the most powerful in the region, dismally failed and had to return with a bloody nose. Hezbollah leaders have warned that if Israel once again tries to invade Lebanon, Hezbollah rockets will target Tel Aviv, the country’s capital.


Both Hezbollah and Hamas have close ties with the Iranian government, as they have been ostracised by the Arab governments in the region, barring Syria. The pro democracy wave sweeping the region however could make things more conducive for the two groups. The new Egyptian government has already softened its stance on Hamas and could open the Rafah border crossing in the near future. This would considerably ease the economic blockade on Gaza. This emerging scenario is viewed with dread by the Israeli political and military establishment.


Israel has since the Jerusalem incident been regularly targeting the Gaza Strip, causing many deaths. One Israeli airborne attack in the third week of March killed three Palestinian youths playing football. Four militants belonging to the Islamic Jihad travelling in a car were blown up by an Israeli bomb in the same week. On April 1, three Hamas activists travelling in a car in Gaza were killed in Israeli air strikes. Thousands of people attended their funeral. An engineer who was in charge of the only functioning power generating unit in Gaza was abducted by the Mossad (Israel’s notorious secret service) earlier in the year as he was visiting his wife’s family in the Ukraine. He resurfaced in an Israeli prison with the authorities claiming that he was a senior Hamas military commander. In the first week of April, Israeli planes hit a car in Port Sudan killing four passengers. Sudanese authorities have said that this is the second time Israel has targeted civilians in the far away Africa country. Israel claims that arms are being smuggled to Gaza through Sudan.


On the West Bank, the Israelis have accelerated their settlement activities. The US veto on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies has only encouraged the right wing government to grab more Palestinian land. All the other Security Council members, including Washington’s close allies had supported the resolution. Many Palestinian families have forcibly evicted and their farms bulldozed to make way for Jewish settlers. An Israeli settler family was killed in early March by a Palestinian in response to the arrests and evictions of Palestinians from their lands in the occupied West Bank. 


Hamas looks prepared to forget the painful episodes of the past, if the Fatah does not insist on going ahead unilaterally with municipal and presidential elections only in the West Bank in the middle of this year. It will not be a level playing field for Hamas as the elections in the West Bank will be closely supervised by the PA security forces. Besides, the West Bank is under occupation by Israel, making the prospects of a free and fair election, an impossible prospect. Many Hamas legislators have been languishing in Israeli jails.




Meanwhile, Netanyahu and the Israeli establishment are not too happy at the prospects of Palestinian unity. Mahmoud Abbas, seems keen to rebuild bridges with Hamas. He has offered to visit Gaza to try and convince them to participate in elections that are being planned this year. Israel is trying its best to scupper the unity moves.  In a move meant to get Washington’s attention, Netanyahu has issued an appeal to the PA to choose Israel as its partner rather than Hamas. “You can’t have peace with both Israel and Hamas”, warned the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu is well aware that the Fatah cannot negotiate a separate peace with Israel without the consent of Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. Recent revelations of Fatah’s collaboration with Israel and the US in the leaked “Jerusalem Papers” have eroded its credibility in the eyes of the Palestinians.


The propagandists for Israel have now started saying that the government will have no partner to negotiate with in case the Fatah and Hamas decide to join hands. The US has conveniently put Hamas on its “terror” list and refuses to enter into any sort of dialogue with it. The Israeli government’s position is that Hamas should recognise its existence. The Hamas leadership has on several occasions said that it was willing to coexist with Israel provided it withdraws to its 1967 border.   


In the first week of April, Israel had another reason to cheer. Justice Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who chaired the UN mandated commission in 2009 that looked into Israeli war crimes during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ suddenly tried to back-track on some of key conclusions of the report. In a signed article in the Washington Post, the judge who is Jewish said that in hindsight he would have come to a different conclusion about Israel’s actions during the war. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”, he had written. He even tries to whitewash the killing of 29 members from one singe family---the Shimouni family. Now Goldstone says that the shelling of the Shimouni residence “was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image”. Netanyahu was quick to demand that “the original report should be thrown into the waste bin of history”. The Israeli government which till now was busy demonising Goldstone invited him to visit the country. Goldstone wasted no time in accepting the invitation.


The old judge, who is a staunch believer, was being pressured by his co-religionists in many ways, crude as well as subtle. Zionist Jews tried to prevent him from attending his own grandson’s ‘bar mitzvah’ in Johannesburg accusing him of being a “self hating Jew”. The Israeli historian, Illan Pappe, has written that the “shameful U-turn did not happen this week. It comes after more than a year and a half of a sustained campaign of intimidation and character assassination against the judge”. In March, the Israeli military intelligence announced that a special unit was created to monitor and even hunt down individuals and organisations suspected of “delegitimising” Israel abroad. Goldstone has always said that he was at heart always a “Zionist”. Pappe wrote: “You can either be a Zionist or blame Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity — if you do both, you will crack sooner rather than later”.


Goldstone’s apparent recanting will not in anyway alter the facts. The other reputed colleagues of his who were part of the team that drafted the report, stand steadfastly by its conclusions that Israel was guilty of very serious war crimes in Gaza. The reports of other groups like “Breaking the Silence” and UN representatives who were on the ground, also attest to this fact. The pictures and images that emerged from Gaza during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ also tell the real story. The Goldstone Report quotes the IDF Northern Command chief, Gadi Eisenkot saying: “We will apply disproportionate force on every village and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved”.


Even today, Israel bars the people of Gaza from accessing construction material to rebuild their shattered homes. Recently the ICRC issued a statement describing the continued blockade of Gaza “as collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligation under international humanitarian law”. The statement noted that all of Gaza’s civilian population “is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility”.