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(en) Media: A Week of Israeli Restraint* by Tanya Reinhart - an anarchist academian

Date Thu, 22 Jun 2006 18:21:04 +0300


Yediot Aharonot, June 21, 2006, the daily read by most Israelis
Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall (Footnotes added)
> In Israeli discourse, Israel is always the side exercising restraint in its
conflict with the Palestinians. This was true again for the events of
the past week: As the Qassam rockets were falling on the Southern
Israeli town of Sderot, it was “leaked” that the Israeli
Minister of Defense had directed the army to show restraint.1
During the week of Israeli restraint, the army killed a Palestinian
family who went on a picnic on the Beit Lahya beach in the Gaza
Strip; after that, the army killed nine people in order to liquidate a
Katyusha rocket. But in the discourse of restraint, the first killing
does not count, because the army denied its involvement, and the
second was deemed a necessary act of self-defense. After all, Israel
is caught in the midst of Qassam attacks, and must defend its
citizens. In this narrative, the fact that Israel is content merely to
bombard the Gaza Strip from air, sea and land is a model of restraint
and humanity that not many states could match.

But what is driving the Qassam attacks on Israel? For 17 months,
since it declared a cease fire, Hamas has not been involved in firing
Qassams. The other organizations have generally succeeded in
launching only a few isolated Qassams. How did this evolve into an
attack of something like 70 Qassams in three days?

The Israeli army has a long tradition of “inviting” salvoes of
Qassams. In April of last year, Sharon took off to a meeting with
Bush in which his central message was that Abbas is not to be
trusted, has no control of the ground, and cannot be a partner for
negotiations. The army took care to provide an appropriate backdrop
for the meeting. On the eve of Sharon’s departure, on 9 April
2005, the Israeli army killed three youths on the Rafah border, who
according to Palestinian sources were playing soccer there. This
arbitrary killing inflamed a wave of anger in the Gaza Strip, which
had been relatively quiet until then. Hamas responded to the anger
on the street, and permitted its people to participate in the firing of
Qassams. On the following two days, about 80 Qassams were fired,
until Hamas restored calm. Thus, during the Sharon-Bush meeting,
the world received a perfect illustration of the untrustworthiness of
Abbas.2

At the beginning of last week (11 June), Olmert set out on a
campaign of persuasion in Europe to convince European leaders that
now, with Hamas in power, Israel definitely has no partner. The
USA does not appear to need any convincing at the moment, but in
Europe there is more reservation about unilateral measures. The
Israeli army began to prepare the backdrop on the night of the
previous Thursday (8 June 2006), when it “liquidated” Jamal
Abu Samhanada, who had recently been appointed head of the
security forces of the Interior Ministry by the Hamas government. It
was entirely predictable that the action may lead to Qassam attacks
on Sderot. Nevertheless, the army proceeded the following day to
shell the Gaza coast (killing the Ghalya family and wounding tens of
people), and succeeded in igniting the required conflagration, until
Hamas again ordered its people, on 14 June, to cease firing.

This time, the show orchestrated by the army got a bit messed up.
Pictures of the child Huda Ghalya succeeded in breaching the wall
of Western indifference to Palestinian suffering. Even if Israel still
has enough power to force Kofi Annan to apologize for casting doubt
on Israel’s denial, the message that Hamas is the aggressive side
in the conflict did not go unchallenged in the world this time. But the
army has not given up. It appears determined to continue to provoke
attacks that would justify bringing down the Hamas government by
force, with Sderot paying the price.

Even though it is impossible to compare the sufferings of the
residents of Sderot with the sufferings of the residents of Beit
Hanoun and Beit Lahiya in the North of the Gaza Strip, on which
5,000 shells fell in the past month alone3, my heart also goes out to
the residents of Sderot. It is their destiny to live in fear and agony,
because in the eyes of the army their suffering is necessary so that
the world may understand that Israel is the restrained side in a war
for its very existence.

=====

* This op-ed went to press an hour before the Israeli air force killed
three more children in a crowded street in North Gaza, on Tuesday,
June 20.
1. On Monday, June 12, the headlines announced that the Defence
Minister Peretz blocked an initiative of the army to launch a massive
land offensive in Gaza (e.g. Amos Har'el and Avi Issacharoff,
Ha'aretz, June 12, 2006). In the inside pages of the weekend papers,
it turned out that this was a "media spin" produced by Peretz bureau
"based on a security consultation held the previous night" (Avi
Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Lost innocents, Ha'aretz, June 16-17,
2006).
2. This sequence of events is documented in detail in my book The
Road Map to Nowhere, to appear in July, 2006 (Verso).
3. Alex Fishman, Senior security analyst of Yediot Aharonot reports
that at the beginning "the artillery shelling of the Gaza strip was
debated", but then, "what started ten months ago with dozens of
shells a month that were fired at open areas today reached
astronomical numbers of shells. The battery that fired the six shells
on Friday [June 9] fire an average of more than a thousand shells a
week towards the north of the Strip. This means that the battery
which has been placed there for four weeks has already fired about
5000 (!) shells" (Yediot Aharonot Saturday Supplement, June 16,
2006).

http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart
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