Issue 64, March-April 2009
GAZA LIES in ruins. After 22 days of ruthless Israeli aerial bombardment and ground assault, a survey1 of the carnage is as enraging as it is numbing: at least 1,285 Palestinians have been killed; 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, mostly killed on the first day of the bombing as they were graduating from a training course. Twenty-four hundred houses were completely destroyed, and 20,000 partially. Other infrastructure destroyed includes 28 public civilian facilities (ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors, and Palestinian Legislative Council buildings), 29 educational institutions (including Gaza's Islamic University and American High School), 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial, and commercial workshops. There are reliable reports that Israel used the banned chemical weapon white phosphorus, which on contact with skin burns all the way to the bone.2
If one statistic reflects the cruelty of what happened in Gaza, it is this: at least 50 people were killed in various United Nations facilities, where they had gathered to find refuge from the shelling because their own refugee camp was already too unsafe.
The harrowing tales from beneath the rubble are almost too endless and heartbreaking to document the Abed Rabbo family, who came out of the rubble of their home in Jabalya waving a white flag after the Israelis ordered them to leave, only to have three of their children cut down by an Israeli soldier; the doctor in Gaza who called in regularly to an Israeli television station to report on the invasion, whose home was hit by a tank shell and three of his children killed before his eyes while he was on the air; and the extended Samouni family in Zeitoun, 100 of whom were herded from their houses into one building, after which the building was deliberately strafed and bombed, killing 30 family members. The Red Cross, who were not allowed by Israeli forces into the area for four days, found four emaciated children left to starve among their dead relatives.
But two factors make these atrocities all the more disturbing. First, what happened in Gaza, including its destructive targeting of civilians and their infrastructure, was entirely premeditated, planned, and organized months in advance, and with explicit U.S approval. Second, the Gaza attack is only the beginning of an even bloodier escalation of the violent means Israel plans to employ against the Palestinian people and its national movement. If this new escalation is not steadfastly resisted, the level of destruction Israel will inflict will only grow, both locally and regionally, assuming genocidal proportions.
Now is the time for a patient assessment of how Israel's campaign came about, before discussing what can be done to stop it from happening again.
Read the full article here
Toufic Haddad is editor and co-author, with Tikva Honig-Parnass, of Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. War on Terror (Haymarket Books, 2007). He is currently freelance writing in the West Bank, and can be reached at email@example.com.