Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The “Gaza Holocaust” and the Israeli “Hot Winter”

By Bachir Habib
Picture: Associated Press

Do the calls for peaceful resolutions and accountability change anything in Middle East? Is anyone able to stop the cycle of violence hitting the Palestinians both internally and externally? Once again, Israel is violating the principles of proportionality and distinction in International Humanitarian Law. So what? May respond the Ministry of Defence, it has always been the case and so it will remain. We live in a time where Arab pressure is unrealistic if not surreal while the maximum we can expect from the United Nations is a weak call for both sides to end the hostilities.

Unfortunately, Israel chose the ideal timing to carry out its operation “Hot Winter” in Gaza. And neither the Arab regimes nor the allies of Hamas outside the Arab World succeeded or even tried hard to make Israel miss the chance of starting what the Israeli defense’s minister deputy proudly described as the “Gaza Holocaust”.

On one hand, Iran’s Ahmedinejad is busy paying a US protected visit to Iraq and calling from there to the withdrawal of American troops! Syria is busy dealing with two potentially embarrassing situations: First, denying the meeting held in Washington between its US ambassador Imad Mostafa and an Israeli official in Washington which resulted in a leak that suggests Syria is willing to resume peace talks with Israel. Secondly, fixing the damage done to its relations with other Arab states over its role in Lebanon and the Arab League Summit planned in Damascus late March.

On the other, Hezbollah, another ally who succeeded back in 2006 in easing the Israeli military operation on Gaza by opening the Lebanese front, finds itself in a very different posture and facing a number of problems. Imad Mughniyeh, described as Hezbollah’s military brain, “chief of staff” and architect of Hezbollah’s resistance during the 2006 July war was assassinated in the Syrian heartland just a few weeks before “Hot Winter”.
The Southern Lebanese front is more difficult to access for Hezbollah due to the implementation of Resolution 1701 and the presence of around Fifteen thousand UNIFIL troops south of the Litani River. The latest bad news for Hezbollah is the deployment of the American warship USS Cole in the Eastern Mediterranean, a military maneuver with a highly loaded American political message to the allies of Hamas.

This is the tragic political and military context in which the Gaza population is trapped. The result so far is 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, killed in just six days while the world sits still. Abu Mazen’s decision to suspend all contacts with Israel, and some NGO’s accusing the Jewish state of violating International War Conventions will unfortunately lead nowhere.

This intricate political and military context is not a coincidence; it is a puzzle where each and every political actor in the region fits and shares its part of responsibility in drawing that new framework:

Hamas failed to capitalize on the move to throw Fatah out of Gaza.

Iran is busy dealing with Iraq and the pressure on its nuclear program.

Syria has been hit twice in the past few months (The Israeli raid on its territory last September and the assassination of Mughniyeh in Damascus) without the hint of a response.

Hezbollah is still celebrating the Winograd commission report which confirms its claim that Israel was defeated in 2006.

Israel is comfortably operating its “Gaza Holocaust” …While the Arabs are still wondering whether they should hold a summit.


American back to the Indian said...

The use of Holocaust with capital "H" is too frequently misused. Westerners see the use of it the Middle East to deny "The Holocaust" happened and at the same time used it for every action of the "zionist regime" alone. All this does is inflame passions of hate and revenge. The fact that The Holocaust was planned industrialized extermination of 11 million people that included Roma, Polish, Blacks, Christians of concience, handicapped, political dissedents and homosexuals. Also 3000 twins were also experimented on in the name of Nazi ideology of racial purity.

Family friends had guests visit that were German, not Jewish, concentration camp survivors. I heard their story and saw the tattoos on their arms. Their crime was not to sign the Nazi loyalty oath so this couple with a young child were sent to a camp. Their child died, they were fed 300 calorie rations a day. The husband was assigned harsh labor. The wife had been a nusre and was assigned to care for the victims of Nazi experiments. One experiment was strapping a can with a starved rat to a girl's stomach to see how long it would take for the rat to eat into her and she died.

So no Gaza is a disaster, a catastrophe, but not a Holocaust.

Anonymous said...

Dear American back to the Indian,

I'm aware that the term holocaust is controversial... It has been used in this article only to stress on the words of an israeli official:
"Israel's deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai said Palestinians risked a "shoah", the Hebrew word for a big disaster - and for the Nazi Holocaust".
so the words used in this article are not mine but israelis ones.
and it's a pity, as your comment suggests, picturing that all what happened in world war II was only directed against the jews, it's a pity to forget all the disabled, gypsies arabs and and and....
anyway, I find it for example weird to refer only to discrimination against jews when the word antisemite is used. While any dictionnary gives the following definition for the word semite:

Sem•ite /semat/ noun a member of the peoples who speak Semitic languages, including Arabs and Jews


American back to the Indian said...

Dear Bachir,

My apologies, I did not make clear my remarks were not meant for you directly, but as general for any reader. I read Vilnai's remark and cringed, as I knew how shoah would be misused. As with many other words they have more than one meaning and application. This is overlooked for political agenda's that as you say continue the cycle of violence. Vilnai's use of shoah feeds the propaganda that Israelis are Nazi and any an all actions on their part will be made to fit The Holocaust.

The propaganda spin on the Al Qassam site yesterday was that the 8 killed in Jerusalem were "student soldiers". The Nazi had student soldiers, perhaps this is the impression they wanted to give. Killing unarmed children was blessed by Hamas and Palestinians bought into it and were rejoicing. In my opinion Hamas has used Palestinians and given the perception they are a blood thirsty lot to many in the world. So too do acts of suicide bombers, the last one killed a 76 year old woman shopper. What was won?

You make other very good points to to discuss, but in the interest of not making this extremely long post I will comment on just a few for now. The internal violence you mention, which causes disunity brings to mind an American saying, "Those who do not read history and learn from it are doomed to repeat it." Disunified societies have chaos and win nothing. My Iroquois ancestors learned this long before the Euros arrived. Warring amongst tribes created the destruction of civil society and many abuses for years. Finally a great peace was called for and a Constitution was made and held to. That constitution is still in use today by Iroquois nations and can be read at this link.
I see Palestinians needing a Great Peace as the Iroquois did. If they do not have peace within themselves, there will not be one to negotiate peace with others.

"Once again, Israel is violating the principles of proportionality and distinction in International Humanitarian Law."

What is proportional? Shouldn't this be applied to both parties? If Israel used the same tactics as those firing missiles and rockets into Israel would there be fewer dead Gazan civilians? They are being launched from densely populated areas. Returning similar fire to those locations I can see as having a different result than the ones landing in Israel. It is not the size of the artillary it is where it lands.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that proportionality is not a the centre of this argument. But what is at its centre is the occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli army. The Palestinians are resisting this occupation, some of them with very questionable tactics, such as the random launch of rockets or the suicide mission in Jerusalem. And yes it is a cycle. But what does the west do about it. Condemn while supplying weapons to the IDF and remain silent when 130 palestinians are slaughtered in a matter of days.


Anonymous said...

Dear American back to the Indian,
Where the israeli palestinian relations are trapped now is simply a situation of action and reaction. In this logic, it becomes easy to come up with arguments supporting one or the other side. In the end, there s the propaganda machine, that will make look a qassam rocket like a balistic one, while it is an artisanal rocket made locally in homes basements sometimes!...let's not exaggerate this as israelis do.
but still, the use of qassam strategy is very questionable as joesph said in his post, and for mainly political reasons that have a very negative impact on negociations between israel and the palestinian authority. the result for all this is a suffering of the palestinian population in gaza from Hamas' strategy one one hand and the israeli reactions on another.
regarding the jerusalem attack, i think it's less questionable than the qassam strategy, first this school is part of the mefdal party organizations, an extreme right wing party very popular within the very radical israeli settlers. second, boys attending this kind of schools and centers are definitely or radical settlers that go for example and burn palestinian olive trees and lands defying even the Israeli authorities, or will join the army. these are facts. and here, yes I'll risk it comparing such schools to the islamic madrassa in pakistan. After all radicalism is radicalism... I think this is one reason why the israeli reaction to the jerusalem attack was not violent as it has always been when israeli civilians are targetted.
Finally, i know it's hard to have a clear vision when we're surrounded by propaganda machines from both sides. but anyway, i ithink it's good sometimes to go back to the roots in order to define a position. and going to the roots when it comes to the palestinian israeli conflict, it's simply a story of a population that have been kicked out from its homes and lands by force!... still, palestinians made many compromises and recognized israel, and are negociating a peace, Israel in the past has refused the option of a binational state, ok now they're talking about a 2 state solution, but still, israel looks very far to compromise on the two major issues: the right of return and the status of jerusalem. only when israel will be ready to make real concessions in these two issues, then peace will be possible.