Palestine is witnessing a new round of violence, one that has cost nearly 1,300 Palestinian lives and has maimed thousands of others. World opinion is unfairly tilted towards Israel. Most commentators, politicians and journalists in the west blame Hamas for the escalation. They argue that Hamas provoked Israel with its rocket attacks to a point where the latter had no choice but to retaliate in self-defence. Things are, however, not so simple.
The current violence is the result of a series of events that happened before the situation exploded. On June 2, 2014, a unity government was formed in Palestine that sought to end hostilities between Fatah and Hamas. The unity government was supposed to strengthen the Palestinian leadership so that it could present a unified front in its fight for self-determination. To Israel’s utter disbelief, the US and the EU showed their willingness to engage with the new unity government in Palestine. Only 10 days later, three Israeli students were kidnapped in Hebron. This offered Jerusalem an opportunity to do away with the nascent unity government in Palestine. Despite having confirmation of the death of the kidnapped students, the Israeli government launched a mock search operation — Operation Brother’s Keep — in order to rescue them. As part of this operation, the Israelis killed at least 10 Palestinians and arrested around 600 including the entire leadership of Hamas in the West Bank. Several Palestinian homes were also destroyed. The aim of the phony search operation was to wipe out Hamas in the West Bank and, thus, obliterate the unity government.
On the night of July 6, 2014, seven members of the Hamas movement were killed in an Israeli airstrike. In response, Hamas fired rockets into Israel. As the violence escalated, Israel bombed several sites in Gaza. Hamas demanded that Israel immediately stop its bombing campaign, release its members and lift the blockade on Gaza that has locked two million Palestinians into a tiny area, condemned by Israel and the international community to hunger, poverty and desperation. On July 8, 2014, Israel unleashed Operation Protective Edge on the people of Gaza that, until now, has claimed more than 1,300 Palestinian lives. Most of the people targeted by Israel are civilians including women and children. More than 100,000 have lost their homes.
In retrospect, the seeds of the current violence were sown in 2005 by Ariel Sharon when he withdrew Israeli settlements from Gaza. It was a calculated move in order to delay a final peace settlement with the Palestinian Authority and continue the occupation of Gaza from afar. Israel controlled the borders of Gaza, its waters and the movement of its residents. This tactical move weakened the comparatively moderate Fatah while strengthening the radical Hamas movement. The situation became intractable just like the Israelis wanted.
The main objective of Operation Protective Edge is not to root out terrorism, as argued by the Israeli government. Rather, it is to break up the national unity government with which everyone, including the EU, UN, US, China, India, Turkey and Russia, had agreed to work. Israel and its supporters argue that the current operation is the result of the abduction of Israeli youths. Israel blames this incident on Hamas. However, until now, no proof has been offered by the Israeli authorities to support this claim. Hamas, on the other hand, categorically denied any involvement in the abduction.
Despite an overwhelmingly supportive western media, the Israeli narrative has not been fully accepted by the world. Moreover, Israel is facing serious resistance from Hamas and is suffering unexpectedly heavy losses. Hamas is proving itself to be a well-organised movement that cannot be overcome easily. The relatively high Israeli death toll attests to this fact.
It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. While Israeli planes shower death and destruction on helpless Palestinians, the western media blames Hamas for the carnage. The Israelis have a clear plan of action that is followed to the letter when they are dealing with Palestinian casualties: show empathy, express remorse and blame Hamas. An example of this approach can be found in the incident on July 16, 2014 when Israel killed four innocent boys on Gaza beach. The Israelis acknowledged the tragedy but blamed the Palestinians. The US media fell in line and repeated the Israeli account. The spokesperson of the US State Department Jen Psaki’s response could be matched word-for-word with the Israeli narrative.
The cold-blooded murder of four Palestinian boys was witnessed by Ayman Mohyeldin who works for NBC. Mohyeldin’s coverage was carried by NBC but he was swiftly recalled from Gaza without giving any reason. Another CNN journalist, Diana Magmay, watched Israelis cheer in ecstasy while their airplanes bombed helpless Palestinians. She was horrified and immediately reported the fact that she was appalled by the scene. She immediately began receiving threats, including bombing her car if she said “even a single wrong word”. CNN recalled her from Gaza.
The above cases, as well as several others that have not come to the fore, have made it clear that Israel’s is waging two wars on the Palestinians: military and propaganda. In both cases, it seems to be winning. While everyone in the west is blaming Hamas for its amateur homemade rockets that have, until now, failed to cause any harm to Israel and its citizens, there is no mention of salvaging the unity government, which, in the opinion of this writer, is the main reason for the Israeli aggression. The unity government could not only have united the Palestinian factions, it could also have helped them achieve their eventual goal of statehood.
General Raheel has acquired quite a varied reputation. He talks infrequently but means exactly what ...