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Rampage in Gaza for a Bump in the Polls

My Brilliant Career

by MIKE WHITNEY

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets.   

Poem by Pablo Neruda, "I’m Explaining a Few Things"

Barack Obama has passed his first test with flying colors. He’s made himself disappear so Israel can continue its killing spree in Gaza. The last time a president shrunk this small was when Ariel Sharon took his wrecking-ball through Jenin during the second intifada. Bush slipped down a mouse hole so Israel’s "Man of Peace" could finish his dirty work unopposed. Now Obama has taken refuge in that same dark hideaway.  What a relief it must be for his critics at AIPAC and the far-right think tanks to know that the next Commander in Chief will be every bit as compliant as the last. That’s "continuity they can believe in".

Obama has remained serenely detached while American-made F-16’s have dumped more than one hundred tons of lethal ordnance on the captive population of Gaza. In fact, the president-elect has spent more time working on his abs at the Semper Fit gym in Honolulu than trying to stop the bloody onslaught which has already resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinians, half of who are civilians.

When asked why he hasn’t given his opinion on the conflict, Obama spokesman have blandly stated, "There’s only one president at a time".

Uh-huh. So why was Obama so quick to condemn Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia? Is the yardstick for measuring aggression different in the Caucasus than it is in the Middle East? Or is it because politicians are just too afraid to cross Israel?

"If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I’d do everything in my power to stop them," Obama proclaimed on a recent visit to Israel.

Right. It’s too bad Palestinian parents can’t claim that same right without being branded as terrorists.

Perhaps Obama’s inaction will finally put to rest the idea that he’s a man who is seriously committed to justice or change. He’s not. He’s nothing more than an ambitious and well-spoken young man who’s being used to conceal the genocidal operation of the imperial machine; a fact that is particularly poignant on a day like December 29, the 118th anniversary of Wounded Knee, when more than 200 Lakota Sioux were mowed down by the 7th Cavalry on the Pine Ridge Reservation marking the end of the Indian Wars. Like the Palestinians, the Indians were guilty of nothing more than having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Needless to say, if Obama had been around then, he would have looked askance and bit his tongue just as he has today. The truth is Obama is a "cool guy" who doesn’t really feel that strongly about anything. That’s why Obama’s moral authority has been gravely eroded before he’s even been sworn in. The bloody streets of Gaza are an indictment of Obama not Hamas.

When people see the photos of the Palestinian children being extracted from the debris of bombed-out buildings in Gaza; they should ask themselves whether Obama could have saved a few lives by just speaking out. The fact is, he had a chance to defend the people who can’t defend themselves, but chose silence and complicity instead.

The attack on Gaza was not a spontaneous response to rocket-fire or a defense of Israel’s national security. It was all mapped out more than 6 months ago as a way to repair Israel’s battered image after its defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in 2006. 

According to Ha’aretz:

"Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak 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. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well. Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas’ security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities." (Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz)

Barak tried to use the pretext of a "ceasefire" to create a false sense of security so the IDF could carry out a decapitation operation against the Hamas leadership. It’s all reminiscent of Barak’s performance at Camp David, where he persuaded Arafat that he was serious about peace negotiations while his friend Sharon was back in Jerusalem firing on Palestinians and inciting the second Intifada. It’s called Israeli kabuki. The myth of Barak’s  "generous offer" to Arafat has been a stunning propaganda coup–facilitated to large extent by the New York Times–but there’s nothing to it. The current operation, "Casting Lead", exposes the real Ehud Barak, the man "who in the last few months gave orders to withhold insulin, chemotherapy drugs, dialysis supplies, and all forms of medicine from the people of Gaza, which turned out to be just as lethal as the orders to send the warplanes to attack mosques and universities." How does the portrayal of Barak as "peacemaker" square with his true identity as the remorseless Israeli Minister of Defense?

Ha’aretz again: "While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas.

Indeed. The Palestinians were sold out again by a fellow Arab, Mubarak, who closed off the Rafah checkpoint so that wounded and frightened Palestinians couldn’t find refuge in a neighboring state. Israel can always count on venal Arab leaders to help them crackdown on their people.

Even more cynical, a couple days before the bombing began, Israel opened the border to let  food and medical supplies through for the first time in months. The supplies were used as bait; a way of getting Hamas to lower their guard so they’d be less prepared for the next day’s surprise attack. Every detail was carefully worked out.

McClatchy journalist Dion Nissenbaum shows how Israel has gone to great lengths to prevent reporters from traveling to Gaza and covering the conflict.

"Israel has joined a notorious and small list of countries preventing reporters from doing their job. Israel, which prides itself on being the healthiest democracy in the Middle East, joins North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma in denying media access to a major story.

In essence, Israel has transformed the entire Gaza Strip into a closed military zone.

Reporters from every major news organization, from the BBC and CNN to The New York Times and The Washington Post to NPR and McClatchy to AP and Fox News, are being barred by Israel from going into Gaza to cover the deadliest military campaign there since Israel seized the area from Egypt in the 1967 war.

"Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way," the FPA said in the statement. "We believe that it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza." (  Dion Nissenbaum, "Israel Stifles Free Press Covering Gaza"
McClatchy Newspapers)

An iron curtain has been thrown up around the Gaza Strip keeping the western press (as it is) from reporting the airstrikes on mosques, hospitals, universities and homes. Even a girl’s dormitory was reduced to rubble. The only photo record of the attacks is coming from the Arab press which has done a first rate job.

As always, the corporate media has spun a pro-Israel line that distorts both the facts on the ground and the overall strategic objectives. According to a report by Reuters, an Israeli defense official said that "Israel has contingency plans for a sweep to crush Hamas and hand over Gaza to Abbas, who, unlike the Islamists, seeks coexistence with Israel."

No one believes that this is a realistic goal, so it’s possible that Israel is trying to divert attention from their real (unknown) objective. An article in Ha’aretz suggests that Israel may be planning to expand the fighting into Lebanon, although this is purely conjecture.

Israel has steadfastly rejected the results of the 2006 elections which made Hamas the ruling majority.  What is typically overlooked by Israeli leaders is that Hamas succeeded where Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas have  failed. They’ve brought about the complete cessation of suicide bombings. For years, Israel insisted that the suicide attacks were the greatest threat to Israel’s security and main obstacle to negotiations. Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh removed that obstacle by stopping the attacks, but it made no difference. Israel simply moved the goalposts. Israeli PM Olmert has neither offered his thanks nor made any attempt to resume peace talks. At the same time, the press has continued to demonize Hamas as though they have made no concessions for peace. But they have made concessions for peace; the suicide attacks have stopped and Hamas is responsible!  Israeli civilians are safer because of Hamas. Is that worth nothing?

Israel has expressed its gratitude in the typical way, by imposing a complete blockade on Gaza’s 1.5 million people and cutting off the flow of food and fuel from the outside. This shows that it’s not terrorism that Israel is really afraid of, but independence. They will not allow an independent Palestinian government to emerge on land they believe is their own.  Hamas cannot be controlled like the Palestinian Authority, so Israel is committed to eradicating it. The problem Israel faces now–after killing 300 Palestinians–is that Hamas’ ranks will swell while support for Abbas will vanish.

Tzipi Livni has promised to topple Hamas by any means possible if she is elected prime minister. Livni has also suggested that any final settlement with Mahmoud Abbas will include a plan for getting rid of one million Israeli Arabs who now live within the Green Line.

According to Chris Marsden, Livni believes that: "A Palestinian state would provide ‘a national solution’ for Israel’s Arabs, she told Israeli radio. Her programme for maintaining a Jewish and ‘democratic’ state of Israel was ‘to have two distinct national entities,’ she said. ‘Among other things,’ she added, ‘I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel…and tell them: ‘Your national aspirations lie elsewhere.’ " The expulsion of Israeli Arabs has long been promoted by the Israeli far right." (Chris Marsden, "As death toll mounts; Israel threatens ground invasion of Gaza")

Thus, both political parties–Kadima and Likud–support some form of ethnic cleansing.

 It sounds  cynical  to say that the real motive behind the current siege could be something as mundane as winning an election, but that is the most likely explanation. With Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu solidly ahead in the polls, and the balloting just 6 weeks away; the only hope for Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak is a sudden surge in public approval. War is a reliable way to bathe oneself in glory provided one’s enemy is properly vanquished. That should be possible if Barak’s legions move swiftly to round up some high-ranking Hamas officials and declare "victory" a week or two before the voting begins. (A poll taken on Sunday in Israel showed that Barak’s Labor Party has already gained 50 percent since the bombing began!)

Author and jazzman Gilad Atzmon summed it up best in his article "Eine Kleine Nacht Murder":

"Not many people in the west are aware of the devastating fact that killing Arabs and Palestinians in particular is a very effective Israeli political recipe. The Israelis are indeed confused people. As much as they insist upon seeing themselves as a ‘Shalom seeking’ nation, they also love to be led by politicians with an astonishing record of unlawful murderous activity. Whether it was Sharon, Rabin, Begin, Shamir or Ben Gurion, Israelis love their ‘democratically elected leaders’ to be belligerent hawks with their hands dripping with blood and backed by a solid record of crimes against humanity."

MIKE WHITNEY lives in the Pacific Northwest and can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com