A Tragedy With Many Actors

by CESAR CHELALA

The Israeli attack on Gaza is another act in the human tragedy playing out on Palestinian land. This military extravaganza designed to appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral audience, is replete with the usual off-stage catcalls to “starve them out”, “kill them off”, etc. However, we are not simple spectators at a Broadway play but witnesses to a drama of the basest variety. The recent cease-fire deal between Israel and the Palestinians can be permanent or just a temporary interval until the basic causes of the conflict are resolved.

The background to the strike against Gaza, to quote Jonathan Cook, winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism, is once again an Israeli-engineered confrontation “as pretext for a ‘retaliatory’ attack”.

As Cook states, “On November 12, as part of efforts to calm things down, the Palestinian militant factions agreed a truce that held two days – until Israel broke it by assassinating Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. The rockets out of Gaza that followed these various Israeli provocations have been misrepresented as the Casus Belli. But if Netanyahu and Barak are responsible for creating the immediate pretext for an attack on Gaza, they are also criminally negligent for failing to pursue an opportunity to secure a much longer truce with Hamas.

We now know, thanks to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, that in the period leading up to Jabari’s execution Egypt had been working to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. Jabari was apparently eager to agree to it. The peace activist had already met Barak to alert him to the truce, but it seems the defence minister and Netanyahu had more pressing concerns than ending the tensions between Israel and Hamas.”

President Obama is one of the main actors in this drama. He has repeatedly emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself from the barrage of missiles thrown by the Palestinians, stating that any country has the right to do so under these circumstances. Perhaps it escapes the US President that the US has been raining missiles in other countries’ peoples, decimating families and killing hundreds of children in the process.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also one of main people responsible for the ongoing conflict. In a recent speech he stated, “There is no moral symmetry, there is no moral equivalence between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The terrorists are committing a double crime: they fire at Israeli civilians and they hide behind Palestinian civilians. By contrast, Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties.”

Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist and Haaretz correspondent in the Occupied Territories, recently wrote: “Farmers on their way to sell vegetables in the marketplace, vendors of purified drinking water and people who just happened to live too close to the targets of Israeli air strikes were among the 34 Palestinians estimated to have been killed in Israel Defense Forces attacks in the past two days alone.

Just six of those casualties have been confirmed as members of militant groups.

Among the Palestinians killed in Gaza this week are the 12 members of the Daloo and Manzar families, including four small children, who died when an Israel Air Force pilot bombed their home by mistake, according to the IDF.

Between 94 and 96 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed between the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense and 6 P.M. Monday [November 19], at least 58 of them civilians and at least 18 of them children.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a stoic player, and tends to follow the line set by her boss, the President.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, also known as Special Envoy to the Middle East, is only a secondary character, although he firmly believes that he is one of the main ones. He only acts when a handshake with a powerful politician is needed. His actions have not yet yielded any positive result. His frequent flyer miles, however, have increased substantially during this long process..

Although a cease-fire was achieved, there will probably be many more acts in the Israeli-Palestinian drama. We can only hope that it will end up with peace and justice for all. The power of justice has myriad ways of overcoming the power of might.

Cesar Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.

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