Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 19 January 2009
now, after the Gaza ceasefire?
Israel claims victory while announcing
a ceasefire in its military actions in Gaza.
But it has lost much more than it gained, and the effects of its aggression
has damaged its image and the peace process.
so Israel has finally announced a unilateral ceasefire
in its war on Gaza,
after 22 days of the most violent and aggressive bombardment of Palestinians
trapped in the small and overcrowded strip of land.
is not pulling out its troops and tanks. Its re-occupation of Gaza thus continues. Neither is it lifting the
siege, raising the question how to bring supplies to a people who have
been starved of food and deprived of medical care and electricity.
long as troops and the siege continue, the war on Gaza
is not yet over, and the plight of the Palestinians continues.
immediate question is the response of Hamas. It has vowed to fight on
as long as Israeli troops are in Gaza.
Whether rockets will still be fired into Israel will be closely watched.
weeks and years ahead, there will be heated debate on the Israeli military
action of the past three weeks, the disastrous effects on Palestinian
lives, and the political impact on Israel,
Palestine and the region.
announcing its ceasefire, the Israeli premier claimed victory, saying
its enemy Hamas has been weakened militarily and taught a lesson.
political goal of either toppling Hamas or shattering its hold of power
has failed. The reverse happened. Most analysts believe Hamas has emerged
with a much stronger political standing among Palestinians and the Arab
world, with its prestige having risen for having stood its ground and
Israel has indeed done a disservice
to Hamas' rival, the Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, whose image
and legitimacy diminished increasingly the more the war continued.
Israel and its supporters tried to
portray it as a war between equals, the rest of the world saw it differently.
It was a one-sided onslaught of a powerful war machine using the most
deadly and sophisticated weapons against a defenceless people who have
been deprived of weapons, food and health care.
of the atrocities has been the use of bombs that release clouds of white
phosphorous, which causes the most painful injury and death, burning
the skin to the bone.
the borders were sealed, the Palestinians were unable to flee from the
war zone. They just became captives awaiting their fate. Over 1,200
died and more than 5,300 wounded, with grossly inadequate facilities
to treat the victims.
Israel's audacious action in the face of popular
outrage around the world was only possible because of the staunch support
of the United States
government. The Israeli Prime Minister even boasted how he phoned President
Bush to insist that the US
abstain in the UN Security Council vote calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Bush administration supplied Israel
with most of the weapons and aircraft used in the war against Gaza. European countries are also n not blameless.
While they decry the civilian deaths, they did not put pressure, such
as aid withdrawal, on Israel.
double standards and hypocricy are staggering. While billions of dollars
of funds and weapons are constantly supplied by the West to Israel,
there is a ban on any weapons to be obtained by the elected government
in Gaza. The Palestinians are
thus prevented from defending themselves, while they have to absorb
the most horrendous bombardments.
almost two years there has been a blockade of Gaza,
preventing food and other essential items from crossing the borders.
When the Palestinians build tunnels across the border with Egypt to enable the inflow of food
and essentials, this is portrayed as a crime.
people across the world asked these questions: Why deny weapons to Gaza
to protect itself while supplying such deadly and sophisticated weapons
which used them to such deadly effect? Why grudge the people of Gaza to obtain food and medicines
through the tunnels when these essentials are blocked from entering
by road or ships?
the incoming US President, Barrack Obama, will act differently
from his disastrous predecessor who gave a blank cheque to Israel.
The speculation is that Israel decided on its ceasefire before Obama
took over office, as it is unsure whether the new President will be
as supportive as Bush.
even if he wants to be more even handed in his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, Obama faces the power of the Israeli lobby. The US Congress
on 10 January voted overwhelmingly (390 to 4) to fully support Israel in its war action.
issue that will long be the subject of public outrage is the heavy onslaught
on civilians. Israel's
propaganda machine insisted that its military never targeted civilians,
and blamed Hamas for “hiding among the people” and causing the civilian
bought this blame-the-victims story, since the majority of those that
died or were injured were civilians, including so many infants and children.
The head of the United Nations' relief agency expressed his increasing
anger on the effects of Israel's
Israel claimed its bombing was based
on pin-point precision, and avoided civilian casualties. If there was
such precision to avoid civilians, why did its missiles hit United Nations
facilities three times?
a UN school was hit, killing 40. Second to be hit was the headquarters
of the UN relief agency where hundreds were seeking shelter. Just days
later, two people were killed when missiles struck another UN-run school,
prompting the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to express his “outrage.”
had been assured by Israel
that the UN's premises would be fully respected. Perhaps Israel wanted to “teach a lesson” not only to Hamas
but also to the United Nations, whose officials had become increasingly
critical of Israel.
experts have described many of Israel's
actions as war crimes. United Nations senior officials have asked that
the Israeli military be held accountable for several incidents that
caused the deaths of civilians. Will there be follow-up actions to hold
Israel to account?
Israel's image in the eyes of the world has plummeted
to a new low may be one of the most important effects of its war on
Gaza. The peace process is
in tatters. Palestinians understandably hold a deeper grievance against
a cruel power that killed and wounded the family members of so many
of them. Millions of people around the world came out in protest to
show their outrage.
the end, it is hard to see what Israel
has gained from its “victory” in Gaza,
while there are so many negative effects. The verdict will likely be
that this was a senseless and counter-productive three weeks of aggression
against an oppressed and defenceless people.
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