Cease-fire halts Israeli assault; Gaza struggle unresolved

A cease-fire agreement went into effect in battle-scarred Gaza on Nov. 21. After a week of heavy bombing raids and missile attacks by the Israeli armed forces that killed more than 160 Palestinians and wounded over 1,000, mainly civilians, Israel and the elected Hamas government of Gaza agreed to end hostilities. The government of Egypt, with the participation of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, brokered the agreement.

Before the truce, it had appeared that Israeli troops and tanks would be entering Gaza in a full-scale assault. But the Palestinians never relented in defending themselves. Almost 1,000 Palestinian short-range missiles replied to the Israeli bombardment. It was reported that six Israelis were killed.

Hamas fighters were also prepared to fight the Israelis on the ground in Gaza, an area about the size of Detroit. Most observers agree that Hamas’ determination increased its prestige inside Palestine and internationally.

The BBC reported that “a shift in international support” away from Israel deterred an Israeli ground invasion. Images showing large numbers of Gaza’s civilian casualties, especially children, had prompted mass demonstrations around the world. Public support inside Israel for this new attack on Gaza also waned as rockets fell throughout southern Israel, even reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel’s much-touted “Iron Dome” anti-missile system was reported to have stopped only about one-third of the projectiles fired.

Israel also aroused international criticism when the Israeli military admitted it had purposely targeted a building housing media in Gaza on Nov. 18, wounding eight journalists, one of whom needed his leg amputated.

Speculation is widespread as to the reasons behind the Israeli attack on Gaza. Some sources noted that it came before Israel’s elections. Others questioned whether it is only a practice run for an Israeli attack on Iran. The Palestine Liberation Organization’s scheduled application to the United Nations for recognition of Palestine as a nonmember state, set for Nov. 29, may also have been a factor.

Whatever the hidden causes, it is clear that Israel did not carry out, and could not have carried out, such a large-scale operation without the approval of the U.S. government. President Barack Obama repeated the tired mantra that “Israel has a right to defend itself” for the entire week that Israel slaughtered Palestinian civilians with weapons made in the U.S. and paid for by billions of dollars of U.S. military aid to the Zionist state.

Obama even promised more U.S. money for expanding the Iron Dome short-range anti-missile system, while continuing to fund the Arrow and Arrow-3 medium-range system. A third anti-missile system, said to thwart long-range missiles and called David’s Slings, is now being prepared. It is sure to cost U.S. taxpayers billions more.

The cease-fire itself is very ambiguous and fragile. While it called for an end to the major military attacks and targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, it failed to address the underlying problems of the people in Gaza.

Israelis still gun down civilians

Discussion is supposed to take place on the rigid restrictions placed on Palestinians in regard to the border “buffer zone,” fishing rights and the strangling economic blockade of the area imposed by Israel. When Palestinian farmers entered the buffer zone after the cease-fire, however, Israeli soldiers gunned them down, killing one and injuring 25, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Despite the risk, Palestinian fisher people tested the cease-fire by sailing out past the restrictive 3-mile limit, without incident.

The Israeli government responded to the wide support for Gaza on the West Bank by arresting numerous Palestinian activists, mainly Hamas supporters. Four members of the Palestinian Parliament were among those jailed.

While Egypt used its influence with Hamas to win approval of the truce, President Mohamed Morsi’s future is uncertain. When Morsi unilaterally seized additional powers over the Egyptian government on Nov. 23, this led to mass protests across Egypt. Contending demonstrations of Morsi’s supporters and the opposition are expected on Nov. 27.

Long-term prospects for peace in Palestine remain grim in light of attitudes like that of Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, quoted by the Palestine News Network (Nov. 20) as saying, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” The PNN article noted that Israeli military “deterrence without any possibility of a political settlement ensures that this madness will go on indefinitely.”

But that, then, is the role of the ­Israeli state. Israel was created by the ­United States — which controlled the newly formed United Nations — in 1948 by funneling desperate Jewish refugees into ­Palestine. There, they became the inevitable and willing agents of imperialism against the rising tide of Arab nationalism that threatened the profits of the Western oil corporations.

Israel’s role has not changed in the 64 years since then. Hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. in economic and military aid make the Israeli government a subservient tool of U.S. interests in the region. Only a mass movement in the U.S. demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel, along with a movement inside Israel of Jewish people opposed to Zionist apartheid, can break this cycle of violence. n