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Day 17

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Does Israel Really Want Peace?

Which Side Are You On: the Bombers or the Bombed?

by STANLY JOHNY

Ever since Israel started bombing Gaza on July 7, Israeli propaganda mills, with support from the Western media, are working overtime to justify the attack. The justifications are not new, though. They repeat the ‘Hamas-as-terrorist’ narrative and that the attack is nothing but “self-defence”. The Americans and most European nations endorse this “right to self-defence” of Israel, and deflect any meaningful international pressure to stop the violence it’s unleashing on the people of Gaza. Critics of this violence are often painted as “biased” or even anti-Semites. Let’s take a look at their key arguments one by one.

Did Hamas trigger the Israeli attack?

No, it didn’t. Well before the abduction of the three Israeli boys on June 12 and their subsequent murder, relations between the two sides were tense. Almost a month prior to the kidnapping, on May 15 to be precisely, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in Ramallah, which the international mainstream media still refuse to discuss. Soon after the Jewish kids went missing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it’s a Hamas act, though till date no evidence is provided to substantiate the claim. Subsequently, Netanyahu ordered a “rescue operation” in West Bank that saw the Israeli troops killing at least six Palestinians, carrying out mass arrests, including those released from prison in 2011, demolishing houses, etc. And then a Palestinian boy was burnt alive by Jewish extremists. It’s after all these that Hamas started firing rockets into Israel, which the latter used as a pretext to start its latest attack on Palestinians. 

Hamas wants Israel’s destruction 

Think twice. Hamas wants an independent Palestinian state. Hamas emerged out of the failure of the PLO in securing nationhood for the Palestinian people after decades of struggle. True, it’s a politico-military movement, but don’t miss the fact that Hamas is resisting the continuing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel. Despite this, Hamas has a number of times expressed willingness to reach long-term ceasefire and peace agreements with Israel. The best example is the incumbent unity government in West Bank. The government, formed after a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Fatah party in April, has Hamas’ recognition. President Mahmoud Abbas had said the unity government would recognise Israel and respect the past agreements between the two sides. The government had even continued its military cooperation with IDF. Israel, however, rejected all these overtures and started attacking Hamas after the kids went missing.

Israel has the right to defend itself

Well, according to international law, as lawyer Noura Erakat argued in Jadaliyya, Israel doesn’t have the right to self-defence against occupied Palestinian territory. One can argue that it ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, so it has the right to self-defence against rockets from Gaza. But effectively, what Israel has won after disengaging from Gaza is a licence to massacre Gazans. What Israel is now doing to Gaza will not come under any definition of self-defence. It has attacked Gaza thrice since Ariel Sharon pulled out troops and settlements from the strip in early 2005. In the first attack, in 2008-09, Israel killed around 1,500 Palestinians and systematically destroyed the public infrastructure in the strip. The New Yorker says 14% of the buildings in Gaza were partially or completely destroyed, including 21,000 homes, 700 factories, 16 hospitals, 38 primary health centres and 288 schools. In the second attack, in 2012, Israel killed around 150 Palestinians in a week. The current attack is already into the third week, and has killed more than 700 Palestinians, with a huge majority being civilians including a big chunk of kids. Is this self-defence or genocide?

Israel is going to wars because of Hamas

Who said so? Not even the idea of Hamas was born when Israel attacked Lebanon in 1978, and then again in 1982. At that time, the Israeli leadership said they were attacking the PLO and wanted to destroy the PLO’s military infrastructure. And then they went on attacking the Lebanese people. They do the same thing now. Israel always wanted one or the other excuse to continue its aggression. Even if Hamas demilitarises itself now, there’s no guarantee that Israel will stop attacking the Palestinian people. Look at the West Bank. There are no weapons in there. Hamas is not in power. Did Israel stop its military bullying in the West Bank? It didn’t. Instead it expanded its military presence, encouraged more Jewish settlements, grabbed more Palestinian land turned the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah into a paper government. This is what Israel does when resistance recedes.

Does Israel want peace?  

Its own recent actions suggest otherwise. The frequent invasions of Gaza, the continuing settlements and the subjugation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, disregard for international law and organisations and the absolute rejection of discussions on the border of a future Palestinian state all point to Israel’s not-so-secret strategy to deal with the Palestinians militarily than agreeing to peace with them. Israel knows that it will have to make some compromises to reach even a pro-Israeli peace agreement. It doesn’t want to do that. It doesn’t want to end the occupation of West Bank, it doesn’t want to pull out the Jewish settlements from Palestinian territories, it doesn’t want to give the land it grabbed back to the Palestinians, it doesn’t want to discuss the status of Jerusalem and it doesn’t want to talk about the Palestinian refugees’ right to return. This is what wise people call Zionist colonialism, and it explains why Israel is attacking Gaza again and again.

Is Hamas a terrorist outfit?

Hamas is fighting for one of the most disadvantaged peoples of the post-War world. They represent the victims, not the aggressor. To be sure, it has attacked the Israeli civilians and is firing rockets into Israel. But if violence against civilians is the yardstick to call Hamas ‘terrorists’ what would you call the state of Israel, given the number of civilians dead in its wars and invasions since its inception? Look at the ongoing Gaza attack. The UN says more than 75 per cent of the Palestinian casualties are civilians, including at least 140 children. Is someone around the corner calling Israel a terrorist nation?

Is Stanly Johny biased?

You are asking the wrong question. The right question is which side you are on, with the bombers or with the bombed? Yes, I am with the bombed.

Stanly Johny  is an Indian journalist. He can be contacted at stanly.mambilly@gmail.com