Retaliation

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Respect for international law offers the greatest hope for peace but Western governments have so far lacked the will to enforce it. Urgent intervention in the form of sanctions on Israel could save many lives and provide hope for the future.

The November 14 assassination of Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli drone-launched air strike occurred just as a shaky ceasefire had begun to establish itself. This is the second time that Israel has mounted a major Gaza offensive when about to hold an election, the first being the occasion of Operation Cast Lead. Debate over grave social issues in Israel will once again be pushed aside in favour of crude war propaganda.

Before the Israeli drone strike, the New York Times reported the shooting dead by Israeli forces of a mentally-handicapped Palestinian man in Gaza.

On November 8 the Israeli Army invaded the Gaza Strip. Eight tanks, escorting four bulldozers (routinely used to destroy crops on Palestinian farms in both Gaza and the West Bank), invaded Abassan village, shooting 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa in the abdomen and killing him as he played football with his friends. Later that day the Palestinian Resistance blew up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.

On Saturday, November 10, an anti-tank missile fired by the Palestinian Resistance wounded four Israeli soldiers driving a Jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary. This was not a civilian target but a legitimate occasion for armed resistance. Palestinians, after all, have the same right to defence as any other people. Israeli artillery shelled a soccer field in Gaza, killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank shelled mourners at a funeral, killing two more people and wounding more than two dozen others.

On Sunday, November 11, one Palestinian was killed and dozens more wounded in fresh Israeli attacks. Israel's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on his government to cut off water, food, electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza's population.

On Monday, November 12, the Palestinians offered to renew the ceasefire if Israel would end its attacks.

On Wednesday, November 14, Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari, who had been a prominent player in negotiations for the release of the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, At least eight other people were killed in the Israeli attack, at least two of them child bystanders.

Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, in common with many Western news media, always refers to Israeli air strikes, shelling and other acts of violence against Palestinians as 'retaliation'. Never is it acknowledged that Palestinian rocket fire could ever itself be retaliatory. Occasional acts of legitimate armed Palestinian resistance are, of course, never reported as such by our news media.

Israel calls the shots – literally

At the time of the planned Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009), Israel had successfully provoked Hamas rocket fire by breaking a six-month ceasefire. Up until then the Palestinians had adhered to the ceasefire and there was no benefit for them in ending it. During Operation Cast Lead, Israel committed war crimes that targeted and killed hundreds of civilians, using weapons that did not discriminate between targets. The Israeli offensive intentionally destroyed civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. All this is a matter of verifiable international record.

Is it so hard for Western commentators to grasp the essential truth that the occupying power is the aggressor and that the occupied people are the victims? Is it not self-evident, after so many decades, that Israel enjoys vast military superiority over a people that has no defence force and severely limited capacity for retaliatory resistance? International law describes the Israeli presence as belligerent occupation. The great majority of Gaza's population are refugees, ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist militias and, later, by the new self-declared state of Israel. Israel continues to deny these refugees their UN-sanctioned right of return.

Meanwhile it should not be forgotten that the people of the West Bank, from whence no missiles are fired, suffer daily oppressive violence at the hands of the Israeli Occupation. From the grotesque forcing of a man to demolish his own home and then pay a fine to the Israeli Occupation, to the destruction of olive harvests, irrigation and power supply systems and the torture of children (an acknowledgement of these abuses can be found in the UK Parliamentary record – Hansard.) Whether or not missiles fly from Gaza, it seems that Israel is provoked by the mere existence of the Palestinian people.

The policy of requiring the Palestinian people to negotiate their liberty, under the duress of military occupation, is plainly unjust and doomed to failure. Respect for international law offers the greatest hope for peace but Western governments have so far lacked the will to enforce it. Urgent intervention in the form of sanctions on Israel could save many lives and provide hope for the future.

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