Israel fails to stop Palestine's struggle for freedom

January 30, 2009

"What truce are they talking about. We work on the land just like farmers. We don't have bombs. These people don't want to make any truce", Khalil Mohamed Breaim told Al Jazeera on January 28.

Breaim was the uncle of first Palestinian victim of the post-ceasefire Israeli attack on Gaza and was marching with hundreds of others demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for his homeland.

The attack on the farmer followed a remote-controlled bombing of an Israeli border patrol truck. Israel response saw troops crossing into Gaza and killing the farmer and an alleged Hamas member on a motorbike. Since then, Israeli aircraft have targeted the tunnel network in the border region between Gaza and Egypt, according to a 28 January Deutsche Welle report.

Despite claims that a ceasefire had been in place for10 days, Israel's aggression has continued. On January 22, in a second day of shelling against local fisherpeople, Israeli navy forces injured seven people, according to the International Middle East media centre.

More and more stories are emerging to reveal the horrific extent of the suffering inflicted by Israel's war, in which it explicitly targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The deliberate targeting of civilians has been well documented. Sameh A. Habeeb, writing directly from Gaza in a January 29 article on Electronic Intifada, however, stated: "I recently came across a story that changed my focus completely and revealed to me the true nature of Israel's soldiers and their intent in invading Gaza … the brutal massacre of thousands of chickens."

On January 5 in the al-Zeitoun neighbourhood, "Israel killed 49 members of the Samouni family, after soldiers ordered them to gather into a single home, which was shelled several hours later.

"A number of chicken farms are located only a few meters away from the Samouni house … Thousands of chickens were caught in their sheds, as the bulldozing destroyed their cages …

"Abu Ahmed al-Sawafari, an owner of a chicken farm, was sitting amidst the rubble of his destroyed farm. He explained that 'I have been working on that profession for long years. I have been growing my business by all efforts. Israelis came then left causing an earthquake in the area'."

Short of evidence coming to light that the chickens were firing rockets, this is an act, one of many, whose only logic is to destroy the Gazan economy and the livelihood of its long-suffering people.

The Palestinian NGO Network (PNN) released a statement on January 28, calling for an international boycott of Israel and an end to Israel's siege of Gaza, stating: "For 22 days the Israeli military indiscriminately shelled homes, mosques and schools, leaving no area of Gazan society untouched. During Israel's barbaric military campaign, approximately 1,300 Palestinians were killed.

"According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, almost four of every five persons killed was a civilian. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than one of every three fatalities was a child.

"Practices and tactics adopted by the Israeli military during its offensive, which included bombing and shelling densely populated areas, strongly indicate that civilians were deliberately targeted."

The statement claimed: "The goal of the Israeli military was clearly to leave an indelible imprint in the minds of the Palestinians, both the current and future generations — an image of unprecedented destruction — in the hope of erasing the memory of resistance and struggle amongst the people of Gaza.

"In doing so Israel would be free to impose its goals, and instill a culture of obedience, and compliance with the occupying power."

PNN argued that Israel's actions were "not only war crimes but also crimes against humanity". It lent its support to the growing international campaign to have Israeli leaders charged and tried over their actions during the war on Gaza.

While the PNN called for a massive increase in aid to Gaza, including a massive program of reconstruction to be controlled by Palestinians themselves, it stated its refusal to accept aid from the US-government-funded USAID, "due to the United States' constant military and financial support to Israel, or from any other parties whose support to Israel facilitated Israel's military aggression in the Gaza Strip".

With total reconstruction costs expected to be over US$2 billion, Hamas has agreed to work with all aid groups in an effort to help rebuild Gaza. It will also compensate the families of those who have been injured, killed or had their houses destroyed.

A Hamas spokesperson told Al Jazeera on January 25 that 20,000 homes had been destroyed during the war.

In a January 29 Inter-Press Service interview, Katharina Ritze, head of mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that in the "best case scenario", involving the lifting of Israel's siege and an end to Israel blocking humanitarian aid, Gaza would take "several years" to recover.

The most recent attacks come on the back of a US envoy to the Middle East. Envoy head, George Mitchell, has come to the region for a talk circuit that has made clear it will yet again fail to recognise the democratically-elected Palestinian government led by Hamas.

Included in Mitchell's tour will be talks with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia regimes as well as West Bank-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Representatives of the Gazan authorities are not included.

US and European leaders have been behind a call to return power to Abbas, despite his term in office expiring and falling popularity among Palestinians.

Abbas is refusing to call fresh elections, as he is required to, fully aware that he has no hope of winning.

Nonetheless, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters after an EU meeting with representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Norway, and Abbas's Fatah faction: "We believe that Palestinian reconciliation behind Mahmoud Abbas is fundamental to progress."

Abbas told a January 27 press conference that Hamas were responsible for bringing destruction to Gaza. Abbas claimed that it was Hamas who broke the ceasefire that lead the Israeli attack.

In fact Israeli troops broke the ceasefire by crossing into Gaza on November 4, killing six and capturing six others.

Abbas's argument is the same as that used by Israeli officials to justify a massacre, but has no basis in reality.

Abbas's further loss of support among Palestinians has come as a direct result of collaboration with Israel, even sending in troops to suppress rallies in support of Gaza within the West Bank during Israel's onslaught.

Fatah also demanded a national unity government, acceptable to the Western governments, before Gaza's border crossings are opened and the siege lifted. This demand aims to hold Hamas hostage and give back control of Gaza to Fatah, which failed to seize Gaza from the elected government in a 2007 US-backed coup.

The viability of Israel as a state based on Jewish supremacy over other religious and ethnic groups in the area has been increasingly called into question since its latest bloodbath began.

No less a figure than former US president Jimmy Carter has added his voice for a sustainable solution to the Palestinian question.

In a January 26 Associated Press interview, Carter explained that Palestinians will soon outnumber Jews across the territory of historic Palestine (the territory now claimed by Israel plus the West Bank and Gaza).

He explained that this would leave Israel with three options: expelling many Palestinians; allowing Palestinians to remain but depriving them of equal voting rights and in doing so maintaining an apartheid state; or else granting Palestinians equal voting rights, which would give them a majority.

He said that the third option would mean no longer having a Jewish state. This would mean the "destruction" of Israel and the creation of democracy.

The problem for Israel is that while it inflicted enormous suffering on the people of Gaza, it failed to achieve any of its key war aims. In the process, its international reputation has been shredded, with the largest pro-Palestinian protests ever, involving millions, occurring around the world.

Israel lost the war: the Hamas-led government remains in power and the Gazan people, while severely battered, remain unbowed.

What can Israel do?

It can recognise that its project of a Jewish-only state based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is ultimately unviable and begin negotiations to resolve the issue of Palestinian self-determination and the creation of a new democratic state based on equality between all religions and ethnic groups.

Or it can continue along the genocidal path of war and oppression, aiming to resolve the Palestinian question through mass killings and expulsions.

Which path Israel choses will depend on the international solidarity movement and how successful it is isolating the Israeli regime and pressuring governments to cut support.

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