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Analysis: Why Israel attacked Gaza
Published Thursday 15/03/2012 (updated) 15/03/2012 19:44
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The first Israeli missile sped down to its target, scorching the Gaza earth and everything in between. Palestinians collected the body parts of two new martyrs, while Israeli media celebrated the demise of two terrorists.

Zuhair Qasis was the head of the Popular Resistance Committee. He was killed alongside a Palestinian prisoner from Nablus, who had recently been freed and deported to Gaza.

Then, another set of missiles rained down, this time taking Obeid al-Ghirbali and Muhammad Harara.

Then, a third, and a forth, and so on. The death count began on March 9 and escalated through the day. The Hamas government urged the international community to take action. Factions vowed to retaliate.

In these situations, Western media is usually clueless or complicit. Sometimes it’s both. The Israeli army was cited readily by many media outlets without challenge.

The first round of attacks was justified based on a claim that Qasis was involved in the planning of an attack that killed seven Israelis last year. The Israel army didn’t even bother to upgrade that claim – which already resulted in the killing and wounding of many Palestinians.

Even Israeli media had drawn the conclusion that the attack then originated from Egypt, and no Palestinian was involved.

Al Jazeera reported that some of the victims were decapitated, a familiar scene in most of Israel’s unforgiving atrocities.

Expectantly, Palestinians fired back. “The national resistance brigades, the DFLP's armed wing, the Al-Aqsa brigades, and the armed wing of the PRC, the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din brigades, have all claimed responsibility for rocket fire,” reported Ma'an news agency.

The incessant Israeli provocations would not have been enough to end the months-long truce. Palestinians know that Israeli provocations are often, if not always, politically motivated. This time however, the people killed were leaders in al-Muqawama, the local resistance parties. Neither Hamas’ might nor diplomacy could persuade Gaza’s many factions to hold their fire. Israel knows this fact more than any other party. This is why it sent such unmistakably bloody messages.

Israel needed Palestinians to respond, and urgently so. But why did Israel decide to ignite trouble again?

To answer the question, one needs to make a quick stop in Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently tried to articulate a case for war against Iran there. Unlike the successful effort to isolate and strike and invade Iraq in 2003, the Iran war campaign is not going according to plan.

The Israelis are desperate to see Iran’s nuclear facilities bombed by American bunker buster bombs - some of which weigh up to 13,600 kilograms. Israel’s former head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, assured the "free world" -- a term often manipulated by Netanyahu -- that a bombing campaign can succeed if it's followed by the right measures. "Iran, like Iraq and Syria before it, will have to recognize that the precedent for military action has been set, and can be repeated," he wrote (as cited in CNN, March 9).

There is growing consensus in Israel that "something has to be done" - at least to set back Iran’s uranium enrichment by few years, per the assurances of deputy director of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, Ephraim Kam. Republican candidates in the US, and even President Obama himself, agree. But Obama, despite his groveling at the recent AIPAC conference, dared to question the timing and the way in which Iran must be brought to its knees.

The US president is becoming increasingly isolated within Washington because of his stance on Iran.

It is election year, and Israel knows that a window of opportunity will not be open for long. "Netanyahu won a crucial battle in Washington this past week. No one brought up the Palestinians. Netanyahu has quite masterfully shifted the conversation to the subject of Iran," wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic (March 9). He is right, of course, but only within the context of "peace process" and conflict resolution.

The Palestinians were mentioned in a different context, and repeatedly so. Ephraim Kam, for example, expected that thousands of rockets would rain on Israel from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran itself. The Associated Press quoted Vice Prime Minister Dan Meridor as saying, "The whole of Israel (is vulnerable to) tens of thousands of missiles and rockets from neighboring countries. If there is a war […] they are not just going to hit Israeli soldiers. The main aim is at civilian populations" (Feb 20).

Per this logic, the only way to prevent rockets from reaching Israel is by attacking Iran. An independent Israeli commentator, Yossi Melman predicted that a weakened Iran "would undoubtedly have an impact on Hamas and Hezbollah" (CNN, March 9).

Yes, the Palestinians were infused plenty in Israeli war rhetoric. They were liberally presented as the jackals who would pounce on vulnerable Israel. Who would dare challenge this tired victimization narrative? Who would have the audacity to point out the fact that Israel has the region's strongest army, equipped with hundreds of fully-functioning nuclear heads, while Palestinians fighters -- who had until recently respected the truce, although Gaza's siege was never lifted -- are armed with light weapons?

No one in the mainstream media, of course. But then, as the supposed threat has reached an all time high, Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum told AP: "Hamas weapons and the weapons of the Palestinian resistance, in general, are humble weapons that aim to defend and not to attack, and they are to defend the Palestinian people […] that does not give us the ability to be part of any regional war."

Hamas has its own calculations independent of Israel's war momentum. But losing Hamas would jeopardize the very equation Israel has been constructing for years. The "radical camp" must remain intact, as far as Israel is concerned. No political polarization caused by the so-called Arab Spring will be allowed to endanger the Israeli narrative: the radicals, the evil alliance, the threat facing the "free world" and all the rest. Great resources were spent on spinning the perfect story to justify a preemptive war.

Then, on March 9, less than two days after Barhoum made his comments of "humble weapons," heads began to roll in Gaza. Literally. And the media machine resumed its work unabashed. "Gaza rockets fire disrupts life in Israeli south," read a headline in Israel’s Haaretz. "IDF strikes Gaza terror targets following rocket barrage," declared another in The Jerusalem Post. It's war all over again. Israeli civilians run to shelters. Sirens blare. US media reports the fate of "besieged" Israelis and Palestinian "terrorists."

It matters little to them that it was Israel itself that stirred the trouble, broke the truce, and fanned the flames.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com
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1 ) Mel / Gaza
15/03/2012 17:52
Exactly! According to Netanyahu "Gaza is Iran". That says it all. This was/is part of his preparation for war on Iran. He's trying to get public support with his lies and dangerous war rethoric.

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
15/03/2012 18:23
You're too polite. Israel was told she couldn't bomb Iran -- so she went home and kicked the Pals. It's the nation state as a rather unappetizing five year old.

3 ) urhopeless / allofthem
15/03/2012 23:50
no. it wasn't Israel that stirred up the trouble - the Hamas terrorists were firing rockets at Israel before this incident. and by the way, you forgot to mention that these 2 guys were planning terror attacks against Israel

4 ) Blame / Iran
16/03/2012 01:14
"Zahar confirms that the resistance against Israel continues واشاد الزهار بالدعم اللامحدود الذي تقدمه ايران لفلسطين . Zahar praised the unlimited support provided by Iran to Palestine."

5 ) johnny benson / usa
16/03/2012 04:48
israel has the right to target would be terrorists......wherever they are.....what about the 8 israelis dead on the sinai border road.....such hypocrisy

6 ) Mel / USA
16/03/2012 14:56
US-proxy militarist FOB 'Israel' extra-judicially assassinates &murders,with impunity,INNOCENT native Arab civilians,with full contempt for international laws,Conventions,morality,humanity! It's done so for 64 YEARS
Civilian Palestinians RETALIATE,defend their right to exist on ancestral land,in any way they can,as they're LEGALLY entitled to do,with whatever primitive weapons they have,versus brutal Zionist punishment.
Cause & effect!
Ask Obama? He's also,now,an extra-judicial assassin?

7 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/03/2012 21:19
re johnny benson #5: 'israel has the right to target would be terrorists......wherever they are...' The reasoning here is circular. Since Israel lists most anyone plausible she has killed as a 'would-be terrorist' all her victims become 'would-be terrorists,' and what you are in effect saying is that Israel should get to kill all she wants to, whenever she wants to, wherever she wants to. ...but that's what you really mean, isn't it? It's what you want. It's why you love Israel so.

8 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/03/2012 21:24
Re urhopeless #3. Israeltroll manages to go 0 for 3. Hamas didn't fire any rockets -- although Israel would dearly love it if they would. The rockets fired weren't the stated reason for the Israeli onslaught, and absolutely no evidence was offered to substantiate the Israeli claim that her victims were 'planning an attack.'

9 ) Colin Wright / USA
17/03/2012 01:13
What is more than evident -- indeed, obvious -- is that Israel figured out it wasn't going to get to bomb Iran and IMMEDIATELY turned on the Palestinians. It is possible to over-analyze a society's behavior, to attribute to it elements of rationality and calculation that simply aren't there. All one has to do is to realize the essence of Israel's nature and then her behavior becomes perfectly explicable. She's a very nasty little boy. She does what nasty little boys do.

10 ) Joe Fattal / USA
17/03/2012 03:46
1) Mel / Gaza Correct "Gaza is Iran". Gaza for the Israeli is a safer reason to attack than attacking Iran that might retaliate and retaliate big. Someone might say that the Palestinians fire rockets at Israel and Israel has the right to retaliate, fine. But there are other ways that Israel attack the Palestinians, like uprooting their olive trees, restrictions on their travelling, anti-slogan against Christians and Muslims and so on. Its not all about rockets. Its about Iran.

11 ) Teri / USA
18/03/2012 22:33
Israel should be held accountable for atrocities as is any other country. Genocide and murder are not self-defense. Israel has a history of false flag attacks to justify attacking weaker parties or unarmed civilians. Israel has many nuclear bombs already,but wants Iran defenseless.Israel wants to acquire Iran's oil fields, Iran's place on the Straits of Hormuz, Iran's pretty people for human trafficking, and Iran's money. Israel is out for robbery, not self-defense.

12 ) Colin Wright / USA
19/03/2012 22:04
To Teri #11 'Israel is out for robbery, not self-defense.' I think it's simpler than that. Israel just needs war. Absent war, she lacks a sufficient common identity. There must always be an 'other' to strengthen what is ultimately a rather contrived and artificial bond. Notice that the target varies -- but that there is always a target. This has been true since 1948.
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