FIRST POST DECEMBER 31, 2008
Even by its own dismal standards, Israel's blitz of the Gaza Strip represents a new threshold of savage and reckless militarism. The fourth strongest military power in the world has subjected an essentially defenceless and impoverished population of 1.5m Palestinians to a brutal aerial bombardment, claiming at least 350 victims and more than a thousand injured.
As always, Israeli propaganda has presented the assault as a reluctant response to "terror" specifically Hamas's mortar and Qassam rocket attacks on southern Israel.
There is no doubt that Hamas's military wing should not be firing rockets anywhere near civilian populations, but Qassam rockets are a negligible military weapon compared to the vast firepower that Israel has unleashed on Gaza since its unilateral withdrawal from the strip in 2005. According to the UN, 11 Israeli civilians died from Qassam rocket attacks between 2004 and 2007. In Gaza, by contrast, more than 300 Palestinians died in 2006 alone, a year in which the IDF fired 14,000 artillery shells into the strip. More:
Instead of engaging Hamas politically and allowing it to fulfill its democratic mandate, Israel declared it would not negotiate with "terrorists" and set out to undermine Hamas financially and make it impossible for it to govern.
Western governments have generally limited themselves to hypocritical calls for "restraint" and sanctimonious cant about "unacceptable" civilian casualties, while leader writers and media pundits wring their hands at Israel's vulnerability or engage in "blaming the victim" sophistry. As always, Israeli spokesmen insist on the restraint and humanity of its armed forces and express regret at the loss of "innocent" lives.
For too many Israelis and too many of their supporters Palestinians and Arabs can never be fully "innocent". Even less so when they have had the temerity to elect a "terrorist" government.
Such satisfaction will not last long. Hamas will undoubtedly take its revenge, and Israel will carry out further acts of futile "counter-terrorism". Even as it exposes the fraudulent "peace process" of the last few years, the assault on Gaza will resonate across the Muslim world for decades to come, providing carte blanche to those who believe that if Israel and its supporters can kill with impunity, then so can they.