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The Jehoshua Novels


“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” So said Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai today as Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel is ready for  “a significant expansion of the operation” against Gazans - widely expected to be a ground assault Israeli troops are building up for.

If Assad was to say the same as Yishai about one of his own Syrian cities, it would be widely condemned as admitting to a war crime. Ditto if Hamas was to say it about Israel in general. In the US, though, those in the corridors of power have greeted Israeli aggression with carte blance permission. Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, gave a statement yesterday that was the greenest of all possible lights to Israel’s bombing of civilians.

“We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard.”…>“Just to be clear on the precipitating factor: These rockets had been fired into Israeli civilian areas and territory for some time now. So Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rocket for far too long, and that is what led the Israelis to take the action that they did in Gaza.”…“We wouldn’t comment on specific targeting choices by the Israelis other than to say that we of course always underscore the importance of avoiding civilian casualties. But the Israelis again will make judgments about their military operations.”

Just today, twenty one Palestinians died in airstrikes. Eight were children and five were women. Reporters Without Borders condemned airstrikes on two media centres in Gaza used by several international news outfits, strikes that wounded six Palestinian journalists, saying “Attacks against civilian targets constitute war crimes.”

Obama himself doubled down on the administration’s support for war crimes.

“There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on from outside its borders,” Obama said Sunday in his first public comments on the fighting. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend its borders.”

Umm, did you forget about your own drones raining missiles on people across the globe, Mr. President? Or the bombs sent from outside it’s own borders currently raining down on Gaza? In any case – whether the rockets or Israeli airstrikes came first this time around is a bit of chicken-and-egg question, although the favorite for instigator is actually Israel. Let’s not forget too the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza – a military blockade of a civilian population being a textbook act of war.

The fact remains, you don’t support one side’s war crimes even if you think the other side started war crimes first. That’s not how it’s meant to work.

And let’s have some sense of perspective here – at current rates it’d take Hamas over 4 million years to do to Israel what Israel could do to Gaza in a week. Since this new round of conflict erupted last Wednesday, three Israelis have been killed, but 65 Palestinians are dead, most of them civilians. Jonathan Cook relates the tale of a recent “fair an balanced, both sides do it” segment that went very off script.

The dramatic conclusion to CNN’s interview appears, however, to have otherwise trumped normal journalistic considerations.

The pre-recorded interview via Skype opened with Mohammed Sulaiman in Gaza. From what looked like a cramped room, presumably serving as a bomb shelter, he spoke of how he was too afraid to step outside his home. Throughout the interview, we could hear the muffled sound of bombs exploding in the near-distance. Mohammed occasionally glanced nervously to his side.

The other interviewee, Nissim Nahoom, an Israeli official in Ashkelon, also spoke of his family’s terror, arguing that it was no different from that of Gazans. Except in one respect, he hastened to add: things were worse for Israelis because they had to live with the knowledge that Hamas rockets were intended to harm civilians, unlike the precision missiles and bombs Israel dropped on Gaza.

The interview returned to Mohammed. As he started to speak, the bombing grew much louder. He pressed on, saying he would not be silenced by what was taking place outside. The interviewer, Isha Sesay, interrupted – seemingly unsure of what she was hearing – to inquire about the noise.

Then, with an irony that Mohammed could not have appreciated as he spoke, he began to say he refused to be drawn into a comparison about whose suffering was worse when an enormous explosion threw him from his chair and severed the internet connection. Switching back to the studio, Sesay reassured viewers that Mohammed had not been hurt.

The bombs, however, spoke more eloquently than either Mohammed or Nissim.

Some US lawmakers are positively egging on Israel to take Gaza back to the Middle Ages, if not further.

Appearing on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday, [Republican Senator Saxby] Chambliss voiced no opposition if Israel opted to use ground forces. “Israel has a right to protect itself. And if sending ground troops in is the only way they can clean out these nests of rockets being fired at them, you cannot blame them for doing it.”

Again, no mention of Gazans’ right to protect themselves.

I hope all those who voted for Obama out of “lesser-evillism” are uncomfortable with the company they’re keeping this Sunday.

Update: Thank you, Keith Ellison.

  Military escalation will not resolve this—just as the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza did not end hostilities. I join Noam Shalit, the father of former Hamas prisoner and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in calling for talks between the parties to resolve this crisis. Talks in the past helped to secure the release of Gilad Shalit and thousands of Palestinian detainees. Dialogue and negotiation can help save lives now.

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