The USA did a pretty thorough job of clearing (ethnically cleansing) the American Indians off their land and setting up shop on the vacancies. And now it looks like we are using that same skill set to clear off the land in Palestine. We give what the USA calls “our friends” in Israel over $3 billion a year, and how much of that money did they spend to kill the over 1800 Gazans who have died in the last few weeks? Whatever the amount, we paid for it with our tax dollars. To grind salt into the wound, the US congress passed a resolution supporting the slaughter, and passed it without a single vote of dissension.
Ostensibly, we are paying for “Israel’s right to defend itself.” But when defense looks unbearably like offense, we should know someone is manipulating the language. More on that later.
For those who need a quick orientation:
Gaza and the West Bank together make up the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They are geographic pieces of land separated by the midsection of Israel. The West Bank is the larger of the two and is itself broken up by large Israeli settlements (essentially suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that illegally encroach deeper and deeper into the West Bank.) Therefore the territory of the West Bank is fragmented and variously administered by 1)the Palestinian Authority, 2)a combination of the PA and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or 3)straight up by the IDF, depending upon the designation assigned by the Oslo Accords. The Oslo accords were a series of talks and agreements between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, finalized in 1995.
Gaza, on the other hand, is a much smaller 139 square mile strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea. Israel evacuated all its settlements in Gaza in 2005, but has retained control of air and sea space, all the borders and all the flow of people and goods over those borders. Israeli forces make regular incursions into Gaza, or send missiles into Gaza periodically assassinating the political leadership of Hamas, (the political party in power in Gaza,) and occasionally people standing near by (bystanders, “So sorry…”) Actually, Israel doesn’t limit itself to assassinations within Gaza, but has been implicated in assassinations of Hamas leadership in other countries as well. All your friends and relatives have probably condemned the rockets Hamas sends indiscriminately and usually non lethally into Israel, but likely few of them can name the countries in which Israel has carried out its assassinations, nor the names of the cities within Gaza where Israel has fired missiles and killed with impunity. (United Arab Emirates and Khan Younis are two examples)
Israel also makes incursions into the West Bank, with the tacit agreement of the Palestinian Authorithy (in hot pursuit, warm pursuit, and ice cold pursuit, actually any pursuit that suits them) but Gaza feels it more intensely. Israel is more threatened by Hamas than it is by the ruling party in the West Bank (Fatah.)
Hamas and Fatah are the two largest political entities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Fatah has been negotiating with Israel on and off sine the Oslo accords but Israel will not communicate with Hamas because Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the US and other countries. Earlier this summer Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement to form a unity government which was very threatening to Israel. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and has not renounced military resistance to the occupation. Israel pulled out of the interminable “Peace Talks” when Hamas and Fatah made this announcement. (The fact that Israel is not being called upon to purge itself of the factions that call for the transfer of all Palestinians to other Arab countries, nor to renounce targeted killings and assassination, but Hamas must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and renounce violence is illustrative of how uneven the playing field is.)
This reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah mends a breech that deepened in 2006 and 2007 after elections for parliamentary seats were held in the occupied Palestinian territories at the urging of the Bush administration. Among the handful of Palestinian groups participating, Hamas and Fatah were the largest two political parties. By international observer accounts these elections were fair and free. Hamas won 76 of 134 seats—much to the horror of the US and Israeli governments, who refused to recognize the results of the election. Hamas was unable to take its seats in the parliament and fierce fighting, sometimes referred to as the Palestinian Civil War, broke out. In the end, Hamas prevailed in Gaza and assumed power there, and in the West Bank, Fatah remained in power. Gaza and Gazans became isolated, blockaded and strangled by Israel. The West Bank saw more Israeli settlement construction, which was accomplished by destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods, homes and farmland. The PA engaged in talks with Israel which are often seen as “stall tactics” while more settlements are built. Hamas on the other hand harrassed Israel by lobbing rockets into southern Israel, which until recently caused no fatalities and very little property damage. Such was the situation leading up to the reconciliation agreement.
Two grizzly events against this backdrop have been blamed for the current bloodbath in Gaza, but these events may also have been manipulated to justify punishing Palestinians for the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Three Israeli boys were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. Hamas was blamed, though they denied ordering the murders and ultimately were cleared of responsibility. Israeli forces conducted a broad sweep throughout the West Bank and arrested between 300 and 800 Hamas members, many of whom had been released during the prisoner swap for the release of a long held Israeli soldier. Those Hamas members are back in Israeli jails. While this round up was being conducted, a Palestinian boy was kidnapped and killed. Three Israelis, one adult and two minors were arrested and admitted to kidnapping, killing and burning the young Palestinian. Hamas intensified the number and range of the rockets it fired into Israel. Israeli and US accounts characterize the escalation of Hamas rocket fire as retaliation for the murder of the Palestinian boy. But the re-arrests of the recently released Hamas members may have been an Israeli provocation to provide a pretext for unleashing a bruising blow to Hamas in Gaza. As the pattern goes, (In 2008 and 2012, Gazans were killed in similar circumstances) Israeli claims it is acting in “self defense” and the US supports that claim, even in the face of almost 2000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza.
Once the killing abates, the status quo will remain: the blockade, the lethal incursions, the bulldozing of homes and farmland, the expansion of settlements and the continuing construction of the wall the separates not only most Israelis from the West Bank, but snakes into Palestinian territory, separating Palestinian farmers and villages from the farm land that is their livelihood.The world’s attention will wander elsewhere, Gaza will be left to pick up the pieces of Israel’s self defense and the killing calm that Israel craves will be restored. As Americans who are footing the bill, we need to decide which side we are on, and what we are going to do about it.