At this writing, one Israeli has been killed by Hamas fire; hundreds of Hamas rockets have either fallen harmlessly or been destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense. The toll among Palestinians in Gaza is roughly 200 dead, and about 1,500 wounded. This then is not so much a war as a high-tech slaughter. Israel could kill Palestinians more rapidly of course, but seems to have judged it can go on at this pace, killing 15 to 2o a day, without provoking an international reaction. For some Israelis it is pure entertainment: yesterday The Independent reported that Israelis had set up couches and were serving popcorn to watch their air force’s destruction of Gaza’s homes from the nearby hills.
It is useful to try to construct a timeline, to understand how we got from Point A, the failure of the Kerry peace mission, to the present. My sympathies are more with the Palestinians subject to bombardment than with the Israelis who are bombarding them, but the timeline to be as objective as possible, so I would welcome reader suggestions of alterations, additions, or changes of emphasis.
1) March: Israel announces settlement expansion while negotiations are going on.
2) April 1, Negotiations break down. Israel refuses to comply with a scheduled and previously agreed-to release of prisoners. PA president Abbas announces PA will apply for membership in 15 UN organizations.
3) Abbas forms a “technocratic” unity goverment with Hamas.
4) May 2, American negotiators both on and off the record blame Israeli settlement construction as the main reason for the talks failure.
5) Both Western European countries and the U.S. ignore Netanyahu’s demands to sever their relations with the Fatah-Hamas “unity” government.
6) May 15, Israeli snipers kill two Palestinian boys in Beitunia, on the West Bank during Nakba day demonstrations. The killing was caught on video.
7) June 1, Netanyahu announces plans for 3,300 new housing units on the West Bank.
8) June 12, three Jewish Israeli teens are kidnapped and murdered on the West Bank. Netanyahu immediately claims Hamas is responsible, but gives no evidence. Hamas denies responsibility for the kidnappings. The Israeli government names two suspects, Hamas members from a Hebron clan which has previously been in disputes with Hamas leadership. It is soon reported that the government has known from the beginning the kidnapped teens have been shot. Israel goes on a campaign against Hamas on the West Bank, arresting 500 and raiding 1,500 schools and businesses.
9) June 30, Bodies of murdered Israeli teens found on the West Bank near Hebron.
10) July 2, Three Israelis kidnap and burn alive a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem. They are arrested within days.
11) July 3, Israeli police are caught on video beating up a Palestinian-American boy, the cousin of the murdered Palestinian. The photograph of his battered face are shown world-wide, and the U.S. State Department protested. Meanwhile several stories are published in Israel and the United States lamenting the violent and deeply racist currents running through Israeli culture, particularly its youth.
12) July 6, Israeli air force bombs a tunnel in Gaza, killing six Hamas men. The bombing ended a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that had prevailed since 2011. Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets, and Israel launched Operation Protective Edge.
From what I can tell of the U.S. media, by breaking its ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza, Israel has turned the tide. CNN rushed Wolf Blitzer to Israel, where he dwelled on Israeli fears, discomforts, and inconveniences caused by Hamas rocket fire. Think tank guests from pro-Israel organizations were duly interviewed, invariably repeating the point that America would never put up with rockets being fired at it from Mexico. This is of course true. But it is equally true no Americans would put up with living under the conditions that Israel has subjected the Palestinians to, in Gaza and the West Bank. Generally the higher up one was in the American media, the more pro-Israel was the coverage. Dianne Sawyer showed an image of a Palestinian house destroyed by Israeli bombs, and claimed they were Israeli victims of Hamas rockets. She later acknowledged the error.
But in some instances, major news organizations did have people reporting from Gaza, who would occasionally remind listeners that the Gazans didn’t have Iron Dome or warning sirens: they were essentially at the mercy of Israel’s high-tech, American-provided, air force.
The American political class is so corrupted and indebted to pro-Israel money that it is impossible for the United States to play any kind of effective mediating role. That’s true for Republicans and Democrats alike. The congresswoman who represents the American teen who was beaten to pulp by the Israeli police refused to even release a statement about it—that’s the kind of obedience “pro-Israel” money can buy on Capitol Hill.
But Europe is quiet too. One of the more interesting comments about the slaughter came from Judy Dempsey, who edits and writes for the Carnegie Europe think tank blog. “European Leaders, Go to Gaza” she urged, professing shock at the European silence. She urged European leaders to organize massive medical assistance to Gaza. Even Netanyahu would think twice about assaulting a European hospital ship. I know, the World Cup has been going on, and many other things. But there’s something about the bombardment of a captive population that turns the stomach. And of course it has long-term strategic implications. Nearly half of Gaza’s 1.8 million population are minors, people who will grow up into some sort of adulthood. Israel will only be able to kill a tiny fragment of them. What will become of them as they grow up, how will they perceive the world, what choices will they make? The poet’s words come to mind:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.