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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How the 2008/09 Gaza "war" should've happened

Operation Cast Lead
It’s Saturday, December 27, 2008. Dozens of families gather together in Gaza City to celebrate the graduation of hundreds of prospective police cadets. Suddenly, the ceremony is interrupted by several explosions. Chaos ensues as men, women, and children are strewn about the now-destroyed police academy. As medics rush to the scene to provide immediate medical care to hundreds of wounded Palestinians, Israel continues to bombard “strategic” Hamas locations, most of which are located in the Gaza Strip’s most densely-populated cities.

While rumors circulated of a pending Israeli ground invasion, the body count for December 27th, 2008 surpassed 220 – the highest one-day death toll between Israelis and Palestinians in decades. Horrified by Israel’s barbaric attack, the United Nations Security Council convenes an emergency meeting on December 28th, 2008. Soon, talks of a “no-fly zone” over Israel dominate the public discourse.

While the Security Council convenes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosts a press conference where she pulls no punches in revealing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the genocidal maniac that he is. During the televised speech, Rice states, “We have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Olmert would commit unspeakable atrocities.” She doesn’t stop there. In an unprecedented show of solidarity with the Palestinians, Rice warns, “Further delay will only put more civilians at risk. So let me be very clear on the position of the United States: We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the no-fly zone and protect Palestinian civilians…and we will use our unique capabilities to prevent further bloodshed.”

Condoleezza Rice’s strong stance against Israel’s Operation Cast Lead did not come as a surprise to many throughout the international community. Lacking airplanes, tanks, artillery, and other forms of advanced weaponry, the Palestinians in Gaza stood no chance against Israel’s military might. Somebody had to protect them.

As soon as Rice finished her press conference, more horrifying news emerged from the Gaza Strip. Ehud Olmert had bombed every inch of the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying Gaza’s last-remaining connection to the outside world. Worse, as the Islamic University in Gaza City was reduced to rubble, hundreds of Israeli infantry and armored forces gathered on Israel’s border with Gaza. Olmert did not just want to pummel the Gaza Strip from the sky; he clearly wanted send a message to all Palestinians that Israel’s will cannot be resisted.

Realizing that they were running out of time as the body count continued to grow, the UN Security Council voted to impose a “no-fly zone” over the Gaza Strip on December 29th, 2008, and appointed a coalition to enforce the international body’s decision. In accordance with UN Resolution 1948, France, Britain, and the United States assumed leadership over the coalition and immediately began shooting Israeli planes out of the sky.

As American, British, and French fighter jets incapacitated Israel’s air force, representatives from Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the civil authorities convened a meeting in Khan Younis. There, they debated the pros and cons of the UN Security Council’s interference in the conflict. Some felt that there was a distinction between foreign intervention, which they were all emphatically against, and the UN Security Council’s imposition of a no-fly zone. Others, however, saw no distinction between the two, and argued that any form of foreign military support would have disastrous consequences.

Despite having reached a consensus at the conclusion of the meeting – that no foreign troops would be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip under any circumstances – one question still lingered: why, after having virtually ignored the Palestinians’ plight for decades, did the UN Security Council care so much about the Palestinians now?

On January 3rd, 2009, Israel abandoned its air attack and initiated a brutal ground invasion. 11 people, including a young girl, were killed when Israeli forces destroyed a mosque in Beit Lahiya. Despite the UN Security Council’s demand that Israel immediately cease all military operations in the territory, Israel pressed forward. On January 10th, 2009, after the death toll had surpassed 800 and after the goals of the US-led coalition became less and less clear, NATO assumed control over the operation.

No sooner had NATO made the decision to intervene did Israel put the nail in its own coffin. On January 11th, 2009, video footage proved that Israel was using illegal phosphorous munitions against unarmed Palestinian civilians. Furious over Israel’s malicious disregard for international law and Palestinian life, NATO forces bombed Israel’s Ashdod and Eilat naval bases. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave a televised speech declaring that NATO’s attack on Israel represented the international community’s betrayal of the Jewish people.

Unfazed by Olmert’s ad hominem attacks, NATO threatened to bomb more military facilities if Israel did not immediately withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip, lift the siege on the territory, and compensate those Palestinians that lost loved ones and were displaced internally as a result of the conflict. Realizing that his options were limited, Olmert acquiesced and ended Operation Cast Lead. The siege on the Gaza Strip was lifted immediately, and the UN Security Council oversaw the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction.

The fall-out from Olmert’s war on Gaza was nothing short of monumental. Unable to recover from the ordeal, Olmert’s government collapsed immediately, and the new government was forced to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 242 under the threat of economic sanctions. Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ended, and illegal settlements were dismantled under the watchful eye of UNIFIP (United Nations Interim Force In Palestine). The apartheid wall was removed and a new constitution guaranteeing the equal rights of all people living on the historic land of Palestine was drafted and ratified.

Unfortunately, the international community’s actual reaction to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead massacre was nothing short of spineless. Had the United States, Britain, and France even attempted to stop Israel from murdering more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, dozens, and maybe even hundreds, of lives could have been saved. Instead, by interfering directly in Libya’s uprising against Gaddafi under the (arguably legitimate) premise that Libya’s civilians needed protection, the United Nations Security Council and NATO revealed the double-standards that continue to define the politics of international relations. In today’s world, a person is only worth as much as her national identity. As a result, the world's superpowers enjoy sole discretion over how valuable a person's life is, and arbitrarily decide who is worth "saving" and who should be allowed to die.

(This post first appeared on kabobfest.com and can be found here)

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