(FAIR) — In a piece headlined “Deadly Gaza Raid by Israel Threatens Nascent Ceasefire” (11/11/18), the New York Times described an Israeli assault near the city of Khan Yunis that killed seven Palestinians as
the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014, set off a seven-week war.
This depiction of the attack as a unique occurrence in recent times is wildly inaccurate. Since the 2014 Gaza War, the IDF has carried out 262 ground incursions into the Gaza strip, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Seventy of these have occurred in the past year alone. As Henriette Chacar, writing for +972 Magazine (11/13/18), points out:
Israel carried out 21 incursions into Gaza in 2014…. The next year, in 2015, that number more than doubled, to 56 incidents. In 2016 and 2017, 68 and 65 incursions took place, respectively. By end of October 2018, 73 such incidents had been recorded, according to the UN data.
Such incursions are a regular occurrence, but are rarely reported by media or known to the general public. Chacar’s article (which was reposted by Lobe Log—11/14/18) quotes retired Israeli Gen. Tal Russo: “Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region.”
Operations by the Israeli military can have a devastating effect on ordinary Palestinians in Gaza. Combined with the ever-changing “buffer zone” declared by the IDF, they make it difficult for nearby farmers to grow crops or raise livestock, worsening the area’s already tenuous economic situation.
Errors like the New York Times’ minimize the degree to which Israel continues to occupy Gaza, despite claiming to have “disengaged” in 2005, and aid a media narrative in which the IDF is reacting defensively rather than acting as an aggressor.
Please tell the New York Times to issue a correction on the frequency of IDF ground incursions into Gaza.
If you wish, leave copies of your communication in our comments below. Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.
Israeli senior officials spend sleepless nights worrying about an unpredictable Trump
Over the past six months however, trouble seems to have emerged in paradise, especially evident within Israeli defense, intelligence and diplomatic circles, where people examine Trump’s conduct from up close on a daily basis, try (to no avail) to understand his modus operandi and policies, and who are extremely worried about things to come.
President Donald Trump will mark two years in the White House this month, a milestone that by appearances has been a dream come true for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu spent 11 years in office with Democratic US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who — to put it mildly — did not appreciate or believe him and waged a constant war of attrition against him over the settlements he approved in the West Bank. Finally, there is a Republican on the scene — and what a Republican! Netanyahu and the entire Israeli political right welcomed Trump ecstatically. But did their expectations pan out?
Initial indications were promising, with growing pro-Israel declarations at the United Nations and a presidential visit to Israel in May 2017 that was greeted with sweeping enthusiasm. Things peaked with Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the nuclear agreement with Iran and move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. If we add to all of the above the pro-Israel advocacy by former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is more popular with Israelis than most of the local politicians, we get a dream come true, a state of affairs that transcends all expectations and a golden age in general.
Over the past six months however, trouble seems to have emerged in paradise. If one sets aside the settlers and the impressive control wielded by Ambassador Ron Dermer over Trump’s circle and Netanyahu himself — who calls Trump “my friend” at every opportunity — one finds other views, too. These are especially evident within Israeli defense, intelligence and diplomatic circles, where people examine Trump’s conduct from up close on a daily basis, try (to no avail) to understand his modus operandi and policies, and who are extremely worried about things to come.
The first indications of Trump’s shifting policy came with his surprising announcement of a speedy US troop pullout from Syria for no obvious reason. It was followed by the Pentagon’s refusal to allow Israel to sell Croatia upgraded F-16 fighter jets and Trump’s latest amazing comment that as far as he was concerned, the Iranians “can frankly do whatever they want” in Syria. All of this, along with the tense wait for Trump’s long-touted “ultimate deal” plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, is raising the level of concern for many in Israel.“With this president,” a senior defense source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “anything could happen. For good and bad. There is no well-thought-out policy, no clear pattern of behavior, no orderly decision-making. You wake up each morning hoping for the best.”
“As strange as it sounds,” a senior diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “generally speaking, Trump’s policy is a continuation of Obama’s, only with a different style and means. Obama wanted to pull out of the Middle East, and Trump does too. The US interest remains as it was: to return home. That has not changed and will not change. The difference is in the Tomahawk missile strike [against Syria] that Obama scrapped and which Trump carried out. That’s all, and also in style. We knew,” the source added, “that Trump would leave Syria. You have to know how to listen to him. And we are now dealing with it.”
Israel is not at ease and finds it hard to accept the US withdrawal from Syria. From a military standpoint, the American presence is marginal. In terms of diplomacy and psychology, it holds tremendous importance. The very US presence curtailed Russia’s influence in Syria and imbued the pro-American players — including Israelis, Kurds and others — in the arena with self-confidence and provided them with tail winds. It also greatly benefitted Israel’s ongoing military activity in the Syrian arena against Iran’s entrenchment there. Netanyahu has in recent days exerted pressure on the White House, and he now claims he had elicited a promise from the president of a gradual rather than an immediate withdrawal from Syria. Some in Netanyahu’s circle believe Israel should apply more aggressive pressure, including the mobilization of the president’s evangelical political base, to reverse Trump’s decision.
But Netanyahu hesitates. Despite his friendship with Trump, no one ever knows where Trump has drawn his red lines and when they will be crossed, turning the president into an anti-Israel troll — as has been the case with quite a few US allies over the past two years.
“In general,” a senior Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Trump’s impact on our area is dramatic and disquieting, not always in our favor. He blew off the Palestinian issue, ignited violence in the Gaza Strip with the embassy move and made an enemy of [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas, who has lost all trust in the peace process. He even shook up Saudi Arabia with his famous sword dance and by making [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] the be-all and end-all. This all ended with the killing of [Saudi journalist Jamal] Khashoggi on Oct. 2, 2018, and the continued massacre in Yemen. We have to ask ourselves where this is leading and prepare for every eventuality.”
And we have yet to mention the most explosive, sensitive and crucial issue, which is Israel’s campaign against Iran’s nuclear program and its entrenchment in Syria. “The US pullout from the nuclear agreement was received here with great enthusiasm,” another defense source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But there is still no bottom line, and this could go in worrying directions.” The source added, “The Iranians stopped [the nuke program] when they were two years away from the bomb. Now they are still there, but they are hesitating. They are trying to pave a road for themselves around the sanctions. If they fail, they could consider going back to enriching uranium or even forge ahead quickly with a bomb in order to present the world with a fait accompli of the North Korean variety.”
Israeli intelligence, which had slightly eased its focus on Iran for the sake of monitoring the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, was obliged recently to restore resources, means and attention to monitoring the suspended nuclear program and related developments. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is presumably debating which way to go. Should he instruct his people to renew limited uranium enrichment and shorten the distance to nuclear capability from two years to one or even order a “storming” by his forces?
Israel, as mentioned, is monitoring the situation. It is concerned not only about developments in Tehran, but also about the goings-on in Washington. No one in Israel will say so on the record, but there are scenarios according to which the Iranians make such a move and Trump simply ignores it, just as he is ignoring developments concerning his negotiations with North Korea.
“Our big fear is that Trump will lose interest at some point and say that the Iranians can do whatever they want with their nuclear program and he wouldn’t care, just like he said this week about the Iranian entrenchment in Syria. We have to be prepared for that, too,” a high-level security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “In the Trump era, we simply have to be ready for anything and not be surprised by any scenario.”
Israel at Seventy: Symbol of War, Racism, Reaction
Featured image: May 12 vigil in South Africa supporting the Great March of Return in Gaza. (Source: BDS South Africa)
The settler state of Israel turns 70 on May 14. In imperialist capitals, especially Israel and the U.S., this state built on the bones of the Palestinian people will be praised and celebrated. The U.S. will open its embassy in Jerusalem the same day.
It is a state built on lies.
The people of the world have a different assessment of Israel at 70. It is a pariah state and international outlaw; a dog of war armed and unleashed by the Pentagon; a symbol of war, of racism and apartheid, and of reaction. It is a danger to all people of the region, including Israelis.
The continued struggle of the Palestinian people is most responsible for shattering the colonizer’s illusions.
A dog of war unleashed by the U.S.
More than anything, Israel is an agent of war, since its formation.
Just a day after the Trump administration exited the Nuclear Accord with Iran, in a coordinated move, Israel violated the sovereign borders of Syria and bombed what it called “Iranian positions” there. The provocative nature of these attacks, and bombings days later, were to draw Syria and its allies into an escalating conflict. Israel’s internal name for its strikes—“Chess.”
Israel has attacked all bordering countries, some, like Lebanon, repeatedly and for decades. It occupied or annexed all of historic Palestine and territory from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. This not because it had to do so to survive. It is because imperialism backed the formation of Israel on stolen Palestinian land, not as a homeland for Jewish people but as an agent of war against Arab independence. The Holocaust survivors who populated it were meant to fight and die for imperialism. To this end, the U.S. has given this country of 8.5 million people $254 billions (2016 dollars) since its formation. Most of this is in sophisticated offensive weapons and spy equipment. Israel has been constantly at war with its neighbors for the benefit of U.S. imperialism.
War ‘games’ with US prepare for more aggression
More aggression appears to be in the works. In mid-March, the U.S. and Israel participated in joint training war games called “Juniper Cobra.” Thousands of U.S. and Israeli soldiers prepared for the simultaneous launch of thousands of rockets against Israel from Lebanon, Syria, Iran and even Gaza. U.S. Army’s European Command said that if there is a need for them U.S. soldiers would arrive in Israel within two or three days.”
In September, Israel simulated an invasion of Lebanon targeting Hezbollah. This was Israel’s largest military drill in 20 years, involving all branches of the Israeli military.
The secret war on Syria
For six years, Israel has waged a secret war on Syria. In August, Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. General Amir Eshel said Israel had launched nearly 100 strikes in Syria since 2012. Many of these gave air cover for Al Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate fighting to dismember Syria. Israel also gives them medical support. The Israeli military acknowledges giving medical treatment to 1,000 al Nusra fighters since 2011.
An apartheid state
Israel has issued murderous assaults twice on Gaza and blockaded it for 11 years. It it steadily annexing the West Bank, and regularly arrests and jails activists for indeterminate periods. Israel has declared Israel itself to be an exclusively Jewish state, when 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. It prevents Palestinian refugees from returning to their lands and homes simply because they are not Jewish. Members of the African National Congress have described what they saw in occupied Palestine as worse than South African apartheid.
Racism is not only directed against Palestinians. The Israeli government is taking steps to expel to Africa, tens of thousands of migrants, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan. Known as Israel’s “Dreamers,” many are children who have known no other home and grew up speaking Hebrew.
No democracy, no Jewish ‘homeland’
Israel claims to be a democracy and a Jewish homeland. This “democracy” published in January a list of 20 human rights organizations whose members would be banned from the country. This included Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace that support some form of Palestinian rights.
A state that claims to be a refuge from anti-Semitism has twisted the definition of the term to include those who oppose the policies of the Netanyahu regime, many of them war crimes. It has launched an international campaign to get other governments to accept this patently false definition and make it legally binding. This is aimed at the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel, which calls for an end to the occupation of Palestine, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees to their homes.
In the U.S., both Democratic and Republican legislatures have happily complied. Such a bill is currently pending before the U.S. Congress, and 23 states have pass laws outlawing BDS as “anti-Semitic.”
There are other indications of the cynicism and opportunism of the Israeli government. Of all the segments within the U.S. elite, the Netanyahu regime is most closely aligned with the religious ultra-right and the neo-cons, known for their virulent racism and anti-Semitism,
Class character of Israeli state exposed
It is also aligned with the most reactionary, repressive and anti-democratic forces in the Arab world—the Saudi Arabian regime and the Gulf states.
Steadfastness and struggle become objective factors
After the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion,said,
“The old will die and the young will forget.”
This was an illusion.
Seventy years after the indigenous population was driven from Palestinian and Israel proclaimed in its place, the Palestinian struggle for human and national rights has been passed down for three generations. It is viable, vibrant and growing.
The justice of the Palestinian cause is clearer than ever on the international arena. The steadfastness of the Palestinian people, seen now in the “Great March of Return” on the Gaza border, inspires the whole world.
The Syrian people, too, after seven years of war, remain determined to defend their country and way of life. After the U.S. bombed Syria on April 13, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in defiance.
The U.S. and Israel may be planning more attacks, but that does not mean they will have the final say. The determination and resilience of the oppressed make their struggle an objective force. And it will not be defeated by missiles, snipers or bombs.
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