Lapid’s unprovoked war deepens Gaza’s ongoing Nakbas

2. Gaza Airstrikes
(File photo: AFP)
2. Gaza Airstrikes

Osama Al Sharif

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

In the annals of the ongoing Palestinian tragedy, Gaza has become a repository of strata of “Nakbas”, or catastrophes. It is home to those who were evicted or had fled Jewish encroachment, often bloody, on their ancestral land from 1948 onwards. It had become a dumping ground for millions of Palestinians who had nowhere else to go. And for more than 15 years, it had become the largest open air prison on Earth, a festering wound for 2 million inhabitants that refuses to heal.اضافة اعلان

Under direct occupation for decades, and later blockaded by Israeli forces until today, Gaza had become a soft underbelly for the occupation. In 1992, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that he wished he could “wake up one day and find that Gaza has sunk into the sea”.

But Gaza did not sink into the sea and rose repeatedly from the ashes to challenge the fortress that is Israel. For Israeli leaders subjugating a defiant Gaza had become a way to endear themselves to largely right-wing voters. The imbalance in power notwithstanding, Israel waged wars against besieged Gaza, leveling buildings and killing civilians only to agree to a ceasefire in the end. Gaza, bleeding and mourning, was never defeated. An impasse would prevail for months, even years, before another war is waged with the same tragic results.

The latest round was planned and launched deliberately, and without provocation, by interim Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The target was Gaza’s second largest resistance group, Islamic Jihad. Lapid, a media man in a previous life, wanted to be baptized by fire, three months before crucial elections.

There is no evidence that the group was planning terrorist attacks against Israel. Gaza has been under tight Hamas control for almost 15 years. It is Hamas that poses the bigger threat to Israel.

Israel waged an 11-day war on gaza last year, in which it targeted Hamas. Hamas’ rockets reached the heart of Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem back then. The war ended without a clear winner, but hundreds of Palestinian civilians had died, mostly under the rubble of their houses.

This time, Israel said it had no quarrel with Hamas. And indeed, the Islamist movement was spared and its rockets were never fired. Israel’s attack on the Islamic Jihad was brutal, killing at least three senior military leaders. But the rockets, 1,000 of them, rained on southern Israel and few reached Tel Aviv. In the end a ceasefire was reached, through Egyptian mediation. Both sides declared victory. The impasse resumed.
The duplicity of the West and the suspicious silence of some Arab countries sent a message to radical Israeli leaders that it was open season to strike Gaza — the West Bank is not much better — with impunity.
Israel started this latest war under the pretext of self-defense. The US and Britain were quick to side with Israel. No one questioned what Israeli self-defense means. A preemptive strike, Israel claimed. But Islamic Jihad could not start a war on its own — not without Hamas’ acquiescence. Israel’s self-defense pretext gives it open license to kill. Yes, it killed a handful of Islamic Jihad leaders, but in the process it slaughtered more than 40 civilians, including 15 children and four women.

Pundits on both sides agree that Islamic Jihad infrastructure may have suffered, but it will soon be rebuilt. As for military leaders, they will be replaced as well. So what did Israel achieve?

Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz hoped that the operation would endear them to radical voters come November. It is a competition between them and Benjamin Netanyahu, who had waged war against Gazans more than once — ironically his forays into Gaza did not help him much at the polls.

Israel is deeply divided between the right and the radical right. Neither side has qualms in seeing future leaders proving their credentials by having their hands dripping with Palestinian blood.

This time around, the world looked the other way as Israel perpetrated yet another massacre. The double standards no longer raised eyebrows. Activists asked what is the difference between Palestine and Ukraine. In Israel itself, few pundits accused Lapid and Gantz of wading into Palestinian blood for purely electoral gains. There was no excuse for this war, they said.

The duplicity of the West and the suspicious silence of some Arab countries sent a message to radical Israeli leaders that it was open season to strike Gaza — the West Bank is not much better — with impunity. While the cold-blooded murder of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last May stirred so many across the world, few will bother to call for an investigation into the slaughter of Palestinian children in Gaza. They did not before, so why would they do so now?

Every few years Israel sends a message to its people that it still has the advantage of deterrence. But its enemies know now that Israelis have no stomach for long wars, nor do they see a path to a lasting and durable peace. Its foes also know that internally Israel is in trouble and the day will come when its domestic front will pose the greatest challenge.

For Gaza, the festering wound, life after the aggression will not be much different from life before the aggression. The truce is holding for now, but both sides know that another bloody round could be around the corner.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.    

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