Behind the latest assault on Gaza

The latest Israeli Defence Force assault on Gaza, in addition to its targeted assassinations against political as well as military opponents, is horrifying and disturbing. It threatens to escalate into yet another cycle of violence and war-making that does nothing for the security of Jews or Arabs, Israelis or Palestinians. It merely reaps death, destruction, hatred and mistrust.

The root problem in Israel-Palestine remains occupation and the denial of statehood, justice, equal rights, resources and dignity to Palestine alongside Israel. This creates instability for everyone concerned, feeding fear and conflict.

It is also usually forgotten or ignored that most Gazans are refugees who are not allowed to return to their homes or property solely because they are not Jewish.

Is there not deplorable violence and extremism on both sides? Yes. But the all-too-easy language of equivalence masks a massive military and political power imbalance between the 'sides', and fails to acknowledge the destructive nature of the colonial injustice that the current policies of the Israeli government (land theft, resource appropriation, blockade, collective punishment, violation of international law) are perpetuating -- opposed by those from many backgrounds, including Jewish people who are deeply ashamed of what is being done in their name (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/blog/jvp-statement-on-israels-operation-p...).

Indeed it is misleading simply to speak of 'Israelis versus Palestinians'. The real confrontation is between those who believe in justice for all and those who, in practice, do not.

Equally, while the Islamic Jihad, Al Qassam Brigade and Popular Resistance Committee rocket (http://tinyurl.com/aelslc3) attacks (http://tinyurl.com/cmsbnb2) on Israeli population centres are rightly denounced, it is irresponsible and unbalanced not to acknowledge that while they cause distress and property damage, as of 9pm last night no-one had been killed by over 200 of these attacks so far this year, thankfully.

This morning, sadly, the Israeli ministry of defence said three people had been killed in Kiryat Malachi. At least 15 Gazans have died, and many injured, including children - around 50% of the population is under 18 years. More casualties seem bound to follow.

Since 2001, when the rocket attacks started, 53 years after many of Gaza's residents were forcibly removed and 34 years into military occupation, 52 Israelis have died from them. In Israel's three-week 2009 onslaught alone, 1,385 Palestinians were killed, of whom 425 were women and children. There can never be an acceptable demography of death. But to speak of 'balance' is clearly ludicrous.

In 'Permission to Narrate: Half the Story' (http://blog.thejerusalemfund.org/2012/02/half-story-what-idfspokesperson...), Yousef Munayyer sets out what has been happening with the rocket attacks both ways, exposing the continual failure of a key IDF spokesperson to engage the verifiable and unpalatable facts.

Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem calculates (http://old.btselem.org/statistics/english/Casualties.asp) that 6,622 Palestinians and 1,097 Israelis have been killed as a result of the conflict overall since 2000.

Interestingly, the editor of Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz, also thinks that these new military actions in Gaza have more to do with the upcoming Israeli elections than a threat from Palestinians, and said so in an editorial yesterday entitled 'Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza'.

He writes: "The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an election.

"This is what researcher Professor Yagil Levy has called 'fanning the conflict as an intra-state control strategy'. The external conflict helps a government strengthen its standing domestically because the public unites behind the army, and social and economic problems are edged off the national agenda. ....

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in neutralizing every possible rival, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is fighting for enough votes to return to the Knesset. A war against Hamas will wipe out the electoral aspirations of the ditherer, Ehud Olmert, whose disciples expected him to announce his candidacy this evening -- and it will kick off the agenda the "social and economic issue" that serves the Labor Party headed by MK Shelly Yacimovich."

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Israeli officials (notably Ehud Barak) have announced that they are preparing for a substantial broadening of the Gaza operation, including the sending of ground forces.

It also appears that the IDS 'social media war room' has been re-established, and that it plans to shut down Internet services in Gaza to block solidarity and prevent stories about what is going on getting out.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding has provided a linked timeline for the latest escalation in Gaza: http://imeu.net/news/article0023227.shtml There is an NLP one here: http://tinyurl.com/cemycvh

Latest reports say that Israel's security cabinet met last night and made five decisions, including authorising mobilising reserve units.

It is also worth noting, as the New York Times has pointed out, that "targeted killings to retaliate for past deeds, or to deter others, are illegal under international law."

* You can follow live updates from Gaza here: https://twitter.com/theIMEU/watching-gaza

* Background: Professor Paul Rogers, 'The Gaza Conflict in Context': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8362

* Jewish Voice for Peace calls for an end to attacks on Gaza: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17386

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He spoke at the Church of Scotland General Assembly side meeting 'When politics fails: the churches and Israel/Palestine' on 23 May 2012. Ekklesia was part of the JustPeace for Palestine (http://www.justpeaceforpalestine.org/) initiative, now Kairos Palestine Britain and Ireland. It supports the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams (http://cpt.org/) and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (www.eappi.org/), advocating for theologically-resourced nonviolence and justice.

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