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Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won't Tell You About Israel

The savage punishment of Gaza traces back to decades ago.

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This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the U.N. but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes.

One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land.

From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on Nov. 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.

The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier.

The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of the newspaper Haaretz, describes him as Israel’s “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet there for more than five years.

The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the eventual release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Baskin reports that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari “received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”

A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on Nov. 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate.

Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the U.N. reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.

In November one of the first in a series of hideous photos sent from Gaza showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier.

In writing about the trip I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed medicine and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the U.S.-Israeli siege, and of Egyptian complicity.

The casualty rates from the November episode were about average: more than 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and six Israelis.

Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in The New York Times, the reporter David Carr observed that “it has come to this: Killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’ ”

The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced U.S. military equipment and relied on U.S. diplomatic support, including the usual U.S. intervention efforts to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.

With each such exploit, Israel’s global image erodes. The photos and videos of terror and devastation, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people whose eyes are open.

The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington. But even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.

 
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