In November 2007 at the Annapolis Conference, held at the proposal of
George W Bush, a plan was worked out that was supposed to produce a deal
between Israel and the Palestinians. Just over a year later the peace plan is
in ruins. The Israeli ruling class has concentrated all its military might to
Once again the Middle East is engulfed in the
flames of war.
On Saturday 3 January Israel
poured large numbers of troops and tanks into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip
in a massive ground offensive despite mounting European and Arab calls for an
immediate ceasefire. The assault was accompanied by an intense bombardment from
warplanes, helicopters, artillery and naval forces off the coast, and,
according to local reports, it cut off the population centre around Gaza City
from the southern strip.
The invasion was preceded by an intensely destructive bombing campaign,
which caused considerable disruption to the Hamas forces. It has also destroyed
most of the infrastructure and killed many people, mostly ordinary civilians,
men, women and children, most of who have nothing to do with Hamas. The effects
of this on a terrified population, deprived of food, water and medical
supplies, can only be imagined. It was clear from the start that it was only
the prelude to invasion, since all history proves that air bombardment on its
own can never win a war, conquer a territory, or even prevent the launching of
In purely military terms the outcome in the short term is not in doubt.
A modern, well-equipped, highly trained and disciplined army is confronting a
mainly irregular fighting force with inferior weaponry. The Israelis have
complete domination of the skies, as was shown in the horrific air bombardment
that preceded the invasion. Unsurprisingly, the first stage of the offensive is
unfolding like clockwork. The Israeli army has cut the main road to Gaza City
and has surrounded it, squeezing it as in an iron vice.
The leaders of the western world wring their hands about violence and
appeal for a halt to the killing. But the stance taken by the West stinks of
hypocrisy. George Bush is the biggest terrorist in the world. The USA and its Coalition partners have killed far
more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Israelis in Gaza. They have no moral
right whatsoever to condemn the evils of war and terror. Yet these ladies and
gentlemen claim the right to pose before the television cameras passing
judgements on others.
The Israelis are paying no attention to these complaints. They say the
war will continue until there are guarantees that there will be no more rocket
attacks. Unless the Israeli army can stop these attacks, the whole affair would
have been entirely counterproductive. If it fails, Israel would not only have
earned the condemnation of the rest of the world (we will not speak of the Arab
world), but it would have revealed itself as weak – whereas the whole purpose
of the exercise is precisely to be a show of strength. Therefore, the war will
inevitably continue, at least for the time being, irrespective of either the
sincere protests on the streets or the insincere protests and crocodile tears
of bourgeois politicians.
Israel has mounted its most extensive public
relations offensive (which conveniently includes keeping foreign journalists
out of Gaza).
The world is constantly told that Hamas’ rockets are a terrible threat to Israel’s
security (although up to the invasion they had only killed four people). But
they would like the images of children being pulled like broken dolls from the
ruins of their homes in Gaza
to be hidden from view. The aim is to place sole blame for this crisis on Hamas
and relate it to the global "war on terror". The war is continuing, and will
continue, until the rulers of Israel
judge that they have achieved all or most of their objectives.
The Israeli army is advancing remorselessly. It has effectively sliced Gaza in two. While it is
true that Hamas has greatly improved its fighting capacity in the last period,
and that its hard core includes trained fighters, it cannot hope to stand
against the Israeli army. The overwhelming military superiority of the Israeli
army was seen at the beginning of the war when they entered Gaza without much trouble. But from now on
the situation will change. One Hamas spokesman warned that Gaza would become a "graveyard" for Israeli
soldiers. But this is an exaggeration. At least initially Hamas fighters
appeared to offer only limited resistance to the Israeli assault.
However, in order to achieve its declared ends, the Israelis will soon
have to go into heavily populated areas, where every alley, window and rooftop
will be a potential ambush, every doorway a potential booby-trap, and every
passing civilian a potential suicide bomber. The Financial Times wrote:
"Hamas militiamen will be able to inflict casualties on Israeli troops if they
enter the deadly labyrinth of Gaza City and its refugee camps, as they were sucked into
the treacherous ravines of south Lebanon. Israel
has failed to control Gaza
or shut down Hamas in the past, even after assassinating nearly all its veteran
Although, from a strictly military point of view, Hamas cannot defeat
the Israeli army, neither can there be a formal military "victory" of Israel
over Hamas. Ground fighting in Gaza’s
congested cities and refugee camps will mean many more civilian casualties. It
will also mean that the Israelis will take more losses. Even the destruction of
the missiles – seemingly a very modest task – will not be so easy, since they
are mainly small home-made devices that can be easily moved and concealed in
many different places.
Eventually, the rocket fire will be silenced, or at least reduced, but
at what cost in civilian lives one can only imagine. The appalling suffering of
the people of Gaza
aroused the conscience of the world. 75 percent of the population has no
electricity, the hospitals are overwhelmed and food is hard to obtain. The
pictures of dead and wounded women and children on the television screens of
the world will serve further to inflame the passions of the Arab world, further
alienate international public opinion and further isolate Israel.
Just and unjust wars
It is the height of stupidity to allow one’s attitude to war to be
determined by the official propagandas, which always seeks to place the blame
on the other side and to present the victims as the aggressor and the
aggressors as the victims. In the same way it is unwise to allow oneself to be
swayed by emotions and to evaluate war in sentimental or moralistic terms.
The pursuit of war – any war – is to make the enemy submit. Whether one
likes it or not, this involves killing people. The interests of the
belligerents dictate wars, whether economic, strategic or political. Whether
one considers war in a given case to be just or unjust depends on these
factors, and not at all who fired the first shot, or whether it was a case of
offence or defence. When all the conditions for armed conflict are given, the
actual outbreak of hostilities can be provoked by any accident. It is
completely superficial, however, to confuse what is accidental with what is
From a Marxist point of view, the only wars that are just wars are
those wars undertaken by the oppressed and exploited against the oppressors and
exploiters. There have been such wars throughout history, starting with the
wars waged by Spartacus and his slave army against the Roman slave state. In
such cases, the working class must always take the side of the poor and
oppressed against the rich and powerful. The war in Gaza is such a war. It is the war of a poor
oppressed people fighting for their rights against a powerful imperialist
state. That is the main thing. All other questions are subordinate to this.
The Israeli leaders argue that this was a war of defence. Every state
that wishes to commence hostilities against another state must always find some
excuse for its action. Hence, if we are to believe what they say, there has
never been an aggressor state in the whole of history.
In 1914 Britain declared war on Germany to defend "poor little
Belgium", although this same poor little Belgium was brutally holding
down millions of
colonial slaves in the Congo.
At the same time Germany was
defending itself against barbarous and aggressive Russian Tsarism and
defending itself against aggressive Prussian militarism, and so on and
This war is no different. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, said
the assault was aimed at taking control of key parts of the Gaza Strip that are
used by Hamas and other militant groups to fire rockets on Israel. He described
the latest escalation as "unavoidable", adding the offensive was aimed at
securing peace for the country’s residents in the south. Not for the first time
in history the aggressor presents his violent aggression as the only way to
ensure – peace.
The argument that this was a response to the missile attacks of Hamas
is clearly a subterfuge designed to conceal the real motives. The tactics
employed by the Israelis provide clear proof of what was already evident: this
offensive was prepared well in advance and corresponds to a well thought-out
plan. That Hamas has obligingly provided the Israelis with a convenient
excuse for this aggression is beside the point. The Economist (January
3) published an editorial with the title Gaza:
the rights and wrongs in which we read the following sentence: "But however
resort to military means to silence the rockets of Hamas should have been no
surprise. This war has been a long time in the making." (my
What caused this war?
Hamas was firing rockets into Israel (it is still doing so). From
a military point of view these attacks were mere pinpricks. They did not even
dent the power of the Israeli state or army. What they did do was to sow fear
and panic in the civilian population of the areas that were affected and thus
provide the Israeli government the excuse it needed to launch this attack. It
has served to push the population of Israel behind the most reactionary
and bellicose elements. Far from undermining Zionism, it has strengthened it.
We cannot defend the launching of missiles against civilian targets in Israel. But our
condemnation of these methods has nothing in common with the cynical hypocrisy
of Bush, who is the biggest terrorist in the world. Our opposition to
terrorism is not for alleged moral reasons or pacifist sentimentality. It is
because these methods do not work and are completely counterproductive.
In any case, it is quite clear that the real motive for the invasion
was not these rocket attacks. According to the New York Times the number
of missiles launched by Hamas was not increasing but decreasing before the
attack – from hundreds to only 15 or 20 a month. However, the response of the
Israelis has been brutal in the extreme. The UN, with its usual polite
euphemisms, calls it "disproportionate". Let us quantify that statement. The
Bible says: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. But in
the first eight days of conflict, more than 500 Palestinians were killed in the
Gaza Strip, of whom the UN estimates more than a quarter are civilians. By
has lost five of its citizens, including two soldiers. This is a ratio of a
hundred to one.
As a matter of fact, Israel
declared war on Hamas long ago. There is more than one way of waging war,
including economic war. Let us therefore retrace the steps that led to war.
pulled out of the Mediterranean enclave in 2005, they had no intention of
allowing the Palestinians to exercise genuine self-determination. Ever since
the people of Gaza had the temerity to elect
Hamas three years ago, the Israelis and the West have subjected Gaza to a remorseless
economic blockade that has led to the slow strangulation of the economy. At the
same time, Israel has
significantly expanded its occupation of the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem.
Hamas won the legislative elections in 2006 not because most
Palestinians agreed with its ideas but largely because after the failure of the
so-called peace-process and years of bloody intifada, they became
disgusted with the corruption of the Fatah leaders and their collaboration with
But the so-called democrats in the West were not prepared to accept the result
of the election. They are all in favour of democracy as long as the results of
elections are favourable to their interests. But if they do not like the
result, they resort to all kinds of measures to undermine and overthrow the
democratically elected government, whether it be the government of Salvador
Allende in Chile, Hugo
Chavez in Venezuela or Hamas
This was followed by a bloody civil war between Hamas and Fatah,
was instigated by the Israelis. Fatah forces attempted to seize control
of Gaza by a coup in the summer of 2007 but it was defeated
and Hamas strengthened its hold on power in Gaza,
to the dismay of Israel and
The latter responded by subjecting the people of Gaza to what was in
siege, backed by total diplomatic isolation. By these means, Israel,
with the complicity of the USA and the EU, decided to punish the people
of Gaza, both those that
voted Hamas and those that did not, by slow starvation.
This was already a unilateral declaration of war. If the USA,
or any other country had its ports blocked, its roads and borders closed and
all diplomatic links severed by the actions of a foreign power, it would have
been grounds for a declaration of war. Hamas responded with missile attacks and
suicide bombings in Israel,
which were militarily useless but suited the Israeli hawks very well. This
alarmed the Saudis and others, who appealed to their friends in Washington to intervene to prevent a new conflict that
could destabilise the whole Middle East.
Last summer, the Egyptian government, shaken by the events in Gaza and the effects on
the Egyptian masses, brokered lengthy negotiations with the Israelis, which
finally fixed a six-month truce. The Egyptians also sponsored talks between
Hamas and Fatah with a view to establishing a power-sharing deal to put an end
to two years of vicious infighting.
But all this immediately began to unravel. Israel tightened trade
and refused to free any of its thousands of Hamas prisoners. These were
provocative moves designed to undermine the Hamas moderates and force a
military confrontation. On the other hand Fatah, in its stronghold on
the West Bank, clamped down on Hamas, with dozens of arrests
and the sacking of some 400 teachers said to be affiliated to Hamas.
After the ceasefire there was no serious attempt to negotiate with
Hamas. Instead there was one provocation after another. In Israel the
approaching elections and government crisis also produced a hardening of
attitudes. Under such conditions no Israeli politician could afford to appear soft
on the question of Hamas. On the contrary, there was a kind of competition to
see who could deliver the most bellicose speeches. When two sides are preparing
for war, bellicose speeches can have a logic of their own.
If you drive an animal into a corner, it is well known that it will
bite. Before the end of the official truce on December 19th, the
already dead. The Hamas leadership concluded that the deal with Israel
had brought no gains for Gaza. They repeated their accusations that
Abbas had sold out to his Western backers and sought nothing but Hamas’
destruction. Egypt, the
supposed mediator, was in fact complicit in Israel’s siege. From the
the Hamas leaders, the failure of the ceasefire left them with no
but to continue firing rockets into Israel.
This bloody tit-for-tat was bound to end in an open outbreak of
hostilities. The final provocation came in November when Israel killed six gunmen it said were digging
tunnels to launch a raid on Israel.
Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets, which furnished Israel with the
excuse it needed to launch a long-prepared offensive. The invasion of Gaza was the inevitable
Impotence of the "United Nations"
Once again, the so-called United Nations has revealed its complete
impotence. As the Security Council prepared to meet on Saturday night, Ban
Ki-moon, UN secretary-general telephoned the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
to voice deep concern over Israel’s
ground operation. "He is convinced and alarmed that this escalation will
inevitably increase the already heavy suffering of the affected civilian
populations," according to a statement from Mr Ban’s office. Oh yes, they are
all deeply "concerned". But the concern of these gentlemen does not prevent a
single drop of blood being shed and is of an entirely theatrical character.
For half a century the UN has been passing resolutions on the
Palestinian question, without the slightest result. Now they are not
capable of passing a resolution. Within hours of the start of Israel’s
offensive, the US had blocked a United Nations Security Council
call for an immediate ceasefire, made by the only Arab member of the
Council, Libya. Although
there was "strong convergence" within the council on the need to "halt
violence", the US
refused to accept even the compromise of a joint press statement. The
presidential statement requires consensus among all 15 members, and in
case, would have fallen short of a binding UN resolution.
UN officials suggested US
opposition to any outcome that might have implied criticism of Israel was
determined by statements from the White House that had put the blame on Hamas
since the start of the crisis. Of course it was! The statements of Alejandro
Wolff, deputy US envoy
merely echoed the statements of the Bush administration, including Condoleezza
Rice, secretary of state that the situation in Gaza "should not be allowed to return to the
status quo ante".
What does this mean? It means that until the Israeli army has finished
pounding the people of Gaza
into submission and destroying Hamas, there is no question of a ceasefire.
These brutal statements are only recognition of the cruel reality of the
situation. And the impasse at the UN cruelly exposes the impotence of the
Security Council. After an inconclusive three and a half hour session of the
Council on Saturday night, Mr. Wolff repeated the lie that the root cause of
the crisis was continued Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. The US, he said,
"saw no prospect of Hamas abiding by a ceasefire demand by the UN" and
therefore it would not do the council any good to issue statements that would
not be adhered to.
This piece of sophistry deserves a place of honour in the annals of
diplomatic hypocrisy. In the first place, in a war there are always at least
two sides. It is presumed that Hamas would not accept and therefore such a
resolution would be a "waste of time" Yet the US representative in the UN only
mentions one side – Hamas – but not Israel. Would Israel accept the UN call for a
ceasefire or not? The question is left unanswered.
Secondly, the argument is entirely phoney. According to this logic
there would have been no point in passing UN resolutions in regard to Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass
destruction prior to the US
invasion of that country. At least the US went through the motions of
passing "resolutions for peace" in the UN. Here, by contrast, it openly
supports an act of naked aggression, without any diplomatic niceties. And the
UN says: "amen!"
In fact, what that episode revealed is the real position of the UN and
the attitude of Washington
to it. The imperialists use the UN as a talking shop to perpetuate the myth of
"international law" and the existence of a world body that stands higher than
the national interests of the great powers. This is intended to fool naïve
people into believing that they can appeal to the UN to stop wars. The left
reformists are particularly prone to such illusions. But in reality all serious
matters are settled, as they have always been settled, by force. Only hopeless
pacifists and people who believe in fairy stories can have any trust in the UN.
International diplomacy in general, and especially the diplomacy at the UN,
remain what they always were: a cynical deception of the people and a
convenient mask for aggression.
Obama and Bush
It is well known that the interests of US
imperialism are very much at stake in the Middle East,
both for strategic and economic reasons (oil). It is also well known that the
only reliable ally that Washington has in the
Middle East is Israel.
This fact explains the attitude of George Bush to the conflict.
However, it is important to bear in mind that, although Israel is a
faithful ally of US imperialism in the region, this does not mean
that it does not have interests of its own and that these do not
coincide with those of the USA
on each and every occasion. During the period of the Cold War, when the
USSR still existed, and countries like Egypt, Syria
and Iraq were in its sphere
of influence, the Americans were compelled to support Israel, almost
unreservedly. But since the fall of the USSR twenty years ago, the
has varied to some extent.
Washington needs to cultivate the Arab world, reassure
the nerves of Saudi Arabia
and win friends and influence people (especially those with oil). That is why
Bill Clinton in 2000 began to put pressure on Israel to reach a deal with the
PLO. The Israeli ruling class was never enthusiastic about this but had no
alternative but to grit its teeth and accept, since Washington pays the bills and, as we know,
he who pays the piper will always call the tune. The result was the abortion of
the Oslo and Madrid
agreements, which established a truncated statelet on the West Bank, cut off
from Gaza. This
was a complete travesty that satisfied nobody. The Palestinians accepted it on
the understanding that it was only a first step in the direction of a genuine
Palestinian state. However, twenty years later, we are no nearer this goal.
Now, in the dying days of his administration, Bush is once more giving
unconditional support to Israel
in its attack on Gaza.
This was entirely predictable. At least George Bush speaks clearly. There is no
doubt on whose side he is on in this war. But what about the incoming
President, the new miracle-worker, the peacemaker Barak Obama? What is his
position on the war and what has he got to say about it? So far he has said
hardly anything, under the pretext that he is "not yet President" and "America must
speak with one voice."
Despite his diplomatic silence we know very well what Obama thinks. On
a visit to one Israeli town in July of last year he said: "If somebody was
sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going
to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do
the same thing." Mr. Obama forgets to mention the small detail that Palestinian
territory is being occupied by Israelis, as the territory of the United States was occupied by Britain in the
18th century, when the American people, though they lacked rockets,
used other, equally violent means, to expel the invaders.
Are there no differences, then, between Bush and Obama? The interests
of US imperialism in the Middle East are what determine the actions of both men.
In that sense there is no real difference. But there are important differences
on how they interpret these interests, just as changing circumstances can
modify the tactics of politicians who share the same interest. The motto of the
US Marine Corps is "Speak softly and carry a big stick". But like his
predecessor Ronald Reagan, George W. represents the most aggressive, provincial
and obtuse wing of the US
ruling class. His natural inclination was to speak loudly and hit everybody in
sight with a baseball bat. This tactic can sometimes be crudely effective, but
in the long run can create a lot of bad headaches.
Obama is a more subtle and intelligent representative of imperialism
than Bush. He has inherited a difficult situation, both in the USA and
internationally. There is an economic crisis, growing unemployment and falling
living standards at home and a trail of foreign policy disasters abroad. There
is growing pessimism and discontent in the US, which was reflected in the
election of Obama and which he must do something to pacify. One of the pledges
that Obama made during his election campaign was to begin the pullout of US
troops from Iraq.
public, completely alienated from the war, will demand that this pledge be
carried out. But certain things flow from this.
It will be impossible to carry out a withdrawal from Iraq unless Washington
is prepared to negotiate a deal with both Syria
and Iran, both of which have
influence within Iraq
and other parts of the region. But Damascus
and Teheran will drive a hard bargain, and part of that bargain must include
the Palestinian question. Since both Syria
have long posed as the defenders of the Palestinian cause, it is unthinkable
that this issue should not be on the agenda.
All this is well known to Israel
and must have been a major element in their decision to invade Gaza. As the Economist expressed it:
"With Iran’s nuclear threat
on the horizon, and Iranian influence growing in both Lebanon and Gaza, Israel
is keen to remind its enemies that the Jewish state can still fight and still
win." In effect, the Israeli imperialists are saying to Obama (and anyone else
who cares to listen): Do not forget that we are still here and we are a power
to reckon with! We can make or break any deal you arrive at. Ignore us at your
Differences among the imperialists
As always, there are different nuances between the imperialist powers,
just as there are different material interests at stake. There are differences
between the USA and Europe, just as there are differences within the European
Union and also between Bush and Obama. While in the short run these differences
will not alter the course of the war in Gaza
(the Israelis have their own interests to uphold), they can have important
consequences for what happens after the war is over.
The strategists of imperialism are seriously concerned about this
conflict. These concerns have nothing to do with humanitarian considerations,
the loss of life or the sufferings of the Palestinians. They reflect the
dangers that exist for the interests of imperialism in the Middle
East, which is a key area in the global arena. In an editorial
published on January 4, entitled "A dangerous gamble in Gaza", the Financial Times wrote:
decision to pour ground troops and armour into the Gaza Strip is a dangerous
gamble. If the goal is to reduce the number of rockets Hamas can fire at
neighbouring, southern Israeli towns, it is probably achievable – for now. But
proposes to cut the heart out of its most implacable Palestinian opponents, it
"In either case the mounting casualties, including civilians, from Israel’s
disproportionate air, sea and artillery bombardment in densely populated urban
areas will so blacken its reputation, and so undermine moderate Arab and
Palestinian opinion, that its political position will be seriously weakened."
Therefore, some governments, especially in Europe,
are anxious to put an end to the hostilities as soon as possible and broker
some kind of agreement. Alarmed at the possible repercussions of the invasion
of Gaza, the EU
has sent not one, but two, missions to the area, although what they can achieve
other than earn a very satisfactory salary, is unclear. They want "an
internationally monitored ceasefire, of sufficient duration to resume and
conclude negotiations on that basis; for Israel then to lift the blockade;
and for new elections to decide who speaks for the Palestinians – Fatah, whose
position is fast being eroded by this crisis, Hamas, or a combination of them
both". (The Financial Times)
Politicians like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair weep crocodile tears about
the horrors of violence, the deaths of innocent people and so on, and
constantly appeal for peace ("an immediate ceasefire"). This sounds very nice,
but in fact is just empty talk. The fact is that there is no peace but war, and
our attitude to war is not determined by the fact that people die (as they
always do in wars), but what are the real causes of the conflict and whose
interests are at stake.
France, as usual, is playing its own game in the Middle East. It is no accident that Abbas met the French
president Nicolas Sarkozy in Ramallah on Monday. Unlike Britain, France
is not always willing to dance to Washington’s
tune and sacrifice its national interests to those of Israel and the USA. France
wants to get its hands on the oil and markets of the Middle East that US imperialism covets, and is prepared to fish
in troubled waters and occasionally to step on Washington’s toes to improve its relations
with the Arab world. However, in the last analysis, France is only a small player on
the world scale. Its attempt to pose as the "friend of the Arabs", apart from
being hypocritical, can decide nothing.
Once again, the British government emerges as the most servile lackey
The only difference between the two is that whereas Bush speaks with cynical
frankness, the statements of the British are full of hypocritical cant intended
to create a false impression of impartiality, like cyanide pills coated with saccharine.
John Sawers, Britain’s
ambassador at the UN, said he was "very disappointed" at the failure of
Saturday night’s UN meeting. He said that the idea of deploying monitors should
be explored. Ways had to be found to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, which had
contributed to the crisis.
What does this mean? How can monitors be deployed when a war is raging?
What are they meant to monitor? The fact that people are being killed? But we
can find this out merely by switching on our television sets. Monitors can only
be sent to observe a ceasefire. Since there is no ceasefire, what role would
there be for monitors? Only this: to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Israel
possesses the strongest army in the region and is armed with all the latest
weapons of destruction. In comparison with this, the Palestinian arsenal is
Lilliputian. Despite this, for British diplomacy the entire question boils down
to the need to prevent arms reaching the Palestinians, which can "contribute to
Isn’t this priceless? What they are proposing in London
is to disarm the Palestinians in the face of continued Israeli aggression.
That is to say, they wish to disarm the oppressed in the face of the oppressor.
But there is a small problem here that most assuredly can "contribute to the
crisis", namely, the Palestinians already have arms and are using them to
defend themselves. What is to be done about these arms? They must be
taken out of the hands of the Palestinians (in order to secure peace). Since,
unfortunately, the Palestinians refuse to disarm, someone must take the arms
from them by force (for peace, of course). That someone is the Israeli army,
who are doing a very thorough job of "peacemaking" (through war).
And so, with many a sigh, the professional diplomats in London wipe the tears
from their eyes – and obediently stand to attention behind the Americans and
Israelis. The public declarations of sympathy with the innocent victims of
violence (99 percent of whom are Palestinians) are merely a smokescreen to
conceal from an indignant public that the policy of the "democratic"
governments of Europe and the United States
is to stand by and do nothing while Gaza
What are the war aims of Israel in the present conflict?
They want to smash as much of Hamas’ military potential as possible, intimidate
and terrify the population of Gaza and to send a warning to other countries in
the region (and indirectly to Washington) that they are a power that is not to
be meddled with. Although the Hamas rockets were not the major cause of the
cannot be said to have succeeded if the rockets continue to fall on Israeli
They will therefore proceed to methodically destroy as much of Hamas’
forces and military infrastructure as possible. In the first place they must
locate and destroy the missiles that are being launched onto Israeli territory,
and which were supposed to be the cause of this war. Secondly, they will
attempt to find and kill as many of the Hamas leading cadres as they can and
(they hope) smash it as a viable fighting force. They wish to destroy the
supply lines that enable Hamas to receive arms and other material from Egypt. This
will take time, and the war will continue until they have realised all their
There are other aims that are not military but political and are never
mentioned. The first relates to the coming elections in Israel, where
there is a growing economic, social and political crisis. As a reflection of
this crisis a series of splits have developed in the political leadership of an
increasingly shaky coalition. There has been infighting over strategy between
Tzipi Livni, foreign minister and leader of the governing Kadima party, and
Ehud Barak, the bellicose defence minister and leader of the Labour Party. This
infighting reached such a point that Haaretz, a leading newspaper, called for a
ceasefire – in the Israeli cabinet.
The general election will take place in February and it is clear that
both leaders are trying to compete with Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right
wing chauvinist party Likud. In particular, Barak is attempting to sound even
more aggressive and nationalistic than the hawkish Netanyahu. These electoral
considerations are undoubtedly a factor in the situation, but they do not
exhaust the question. In such an important matter as war, more fundamental
questions than electoral politics must be at play and different interests are
An important element in the equation is the prestige of Israeli armed
forces, which was severely dented in the 34-days’ war against Hezbollah in
Lebanon in 2006.The Israeli military establishment, still smarting from its
humiliation in Lebanon, would like to prove the superiority of the Israeli
armed forces. They wish to re-establish the credibility of Israel’s
deterrent power. An attack on Gaza
presented itself as an ideal opportunity and the plans for this were obviously
prepared a long time ago. The question of the missiles was merely the excuse
for a conflict that was inevitable.
The current operation in Gaza is a
direct consequence of the 2006 war in southern Lebanon, but it is by no means
certain that there will be a comparable outcome. The Israeli generals have had
sufficient time to absorb the lessons and are probably better prepared. Their
intention now is to make a limited strike that will seriously damage the
fighting capacity of Hamas and kill as many of its leaders and militants before
withdrawing, having inflicted maximum damage on the economy and infrastructure
of Gaza that will take a long time to rebuild.
Unlike the war in Lebanon
this was not a rushed and improvised military response but has been carefully
prepared. The physical conditions of this war are also different. Small, flat
and isolated, Gaza presents a far easier
operating environment than did Lebanon.
The Israelis moved swiftly to split the strip in two. This gives the Israeli
army a position it can hold if it is forced to remain in Gaza for a long time,
if necessary, reducing the ability of the main concentrations of fighters in
the north to get further supplies from the south. Although there can be all
sorts of reverses, at present the Israeli army has Gaza by the throat.
- Zionism declares "all-out war" on Gaza by the Editorial Board of Militant (Iran) (January 3, 2009)
- Israeli barbarism in Gaza by Dekel Avshalom (January 6, 2009)
- Stop Israel’s massacre in Gaza! by Walter Leon (December 30, 2008)
- Israel: Tel Aviv municipal elections – a Pyrrhic victory for the Right by Dekel Avshalom (November 17, 2008)
- Three years after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza: critical reassessment by Dekel Avshalom (August 28, 2008)
- Hamas and Israel agree on ceasefire by Dekel Avshalom (June 19, 2008)
- Much ado about nothing: the Israeli "peace" talks with Syria by Dekel Avshalom (May 28, 2008)
- Israel turns 60 – where next for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples? by Luke Wilson (May 16, 2008)
- The Middle East, Annapolis and the Palestine problem: More talks about talks by Alan Woods (December 6, 2007)