To describe Israel’s aggression on the Gaza Strip as a war or military operation would be inaccurate. It is a pogrom being conducted with a high degree of efficiency. More than 1,000 Palestinians, many of them unarmed civilians, including over 300 children, have been killed and thousands injured in the 19 days after the military assaults began. Israel’s ground forces have cast an iron ring around the people of Gaza and its planes have pounded most public buildings, including mosques and government offices, to rubble. Food, fuel, water, and medical supplies are running low. The injured face harrowing ordeals as they try to reach hospitals. Even the Red Cross, which normally stays clear of political controversy, was recently provoked into issuing a communiqué complaining that its workers were prevented from reaching the wounded. Israel is indisputably engaged in crimes against humanity. It seeks to justify them by pointing out that Hamas continues to fire rockets at its towns and cities, glossing over the gross disproportionality in death toll. As an Israeli journalist recently observed in an article in Frontline, for these rockets to cause serious injury they have to literally fall on a person. The massacre of innocents can be for no purpose other than creating terror as an end in itself. Israel’s aggression is not likely to uproot Hamas. Politically, the extremist organisation looks set to gain from the tragedy.
Israel is now apparently willing to acquiesce in an Egyptian-sponsored truce provided it puts in place a mechanism that prevents Hamas from bringing rockets into the Gaza Strip and firing them. The same outcome could have been achieved had Tel Aviv kept its part of the bargain by easing the economic blockade during the six-month ceasefire that ended in December. Hamas will almost certainly not accept a fresh truce agreement unless it contains provisions for the lifting of the quarantine. If Israel’s objective was to force the people of Gaza to turn against Hamas by first applying economic pressure and then by launching the aggression, it has failed on both counts. The real political loser is the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, which has lost ground even in the West Bank over the past two weeks. Instead of doing what it could to mitigate the aggression, the Authority has been busy suppressing anti-Israel protests. Arab governments that have failed to take a strong stand against Israel have also suffered political damage. Both authoritarian Egypt, which has ensured that not many protests broke out in the streets, and the regime in Jordan find themselves on the wrong side of domestic public opinion, which demands greater firmness against Israel’s brutal ways.