Gaza Under Siege

Phyllis Bennis

Gaza has been redefined. Gaza is now synonymous with carnage, rising death tolls, destroyed schools, and city streets slick with blood. As In These Times February issue went to press, the death toll of Palestinians had passed 750 – 219 of them children. Twelve Israelis had died, four of them by friendly fire.”

This is not a war against Hamas rocket fire, as Israel claims. (See Gaza in the Crosshairs,” published last week.) It is a war against a defenseless, imprisoned population. The Israeli-Hamas ceasefire that Egypt negotiated in June 2008 was largely holding. But in the five months between June and November, Gazan civilians faced a tightening siege, with shortages of food, clean water, electricity, fuel, hospital equipment and medicine – conditions severe enough for humanitarian workers to deem the situation in Gaza as catastrophic.

Israel violated the ceasefire with a Nov. 4 attack in Gaza that killed six Palestinians. On New Year’s Eve the influential Israeli daily Ha’aretz, reported that senior Israeli defense officials had confirmed that the government instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. … [A]lthough the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.”

The article described the key components of Israel’s war strategy this way: long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public.” 

On Jan. 4, in an address to the Israeli Cabinet, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni explained the value of diplomacy this way: The intensive diplomatic activity of the last few days aims to alleviate the pressure for a ceasefire and to allow time for continuing the military operation in order to achieve its goals.”

The United States has succeeded in providing full diplomatic protection to Israel in the U.N. Security Council, preventing Tel Aviv from being held accountable for violating international law – specifically, prohibitions against collective punishment, against targeting civilians and against disproportionate force. 

So far, council members have not had the courage to insist on a public vote on a U.N. resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and immediate access for humanitarian support. It is likely the General Assembly will respond. But so far, Gaza cannot look to the United Nations for help.

It remains for the people of the world to respond, and they have – Free Gaza” humanitarian ships have sailed to Gaza (although Israel blocked the group’s sixth voyage in international waters), tens of thousands have protested around the world, including inside Israel, and the independent media has continued to defy Israel’s effort to keep journalists out of Gaza.

Pressure must also be placed on President Obama. He promised to change the mindset that led to war. The Israeli assault on Gaza reflects the same mindset as the U.S. invasion against Iraq: the belief that power equals right, that terror can somehow be destroyed by war. We must urge Obama to reclaim his commitment to change.

The U.S. government has enabled this attack – by funding, protecting and arming Israel. U.S. citizens must be part of the worldwide voice demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. There is no time to waste.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and serves as international adviser for Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is the 7th updated edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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