Palestinian-Israeli conflict is yet again in the news. Like the intractable conflict, the media is engaged in covering the protracted tragedy the conflict has produced. And the more protracted the tragedy gets, the more hand-wringing and frustration it is producing all over the world over Israel’s bloody over-reaction to the pin pricks of vastly outmaneuvered Palestinian nation.
The chain of events which began with the killing of three Israeli teenagers in June has taken on a wearily familiar pattern. No one claimed responsibility for the killings, yet the event was a trigger enough for the Israelis to engage in an exercise of inflicting collective punishment on the Palestinians which has become too well-known a feature of Israel’s policy in recent decades.
The fact that two Palestinian boys were killed prior to the killings was carefully suppressed in the Israeli narratives and the mainstream media coverage. Using the pretext of the right to retaliatory action in response to the killing of three Israeli teenagers, Israel has embarked upon a ceaseless round of punitive and indiscriminate missile strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Though there was a hope abroad that the Israeli settlers’ revenge killing of a Palestinian boy might stay the bloody-minded intent of Israeli bombardment, the Israeli right wing government has opted to go in for the overkill.
Israel’s action has so far resulted in the death of more than 200 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed with more than 17,000 Palestinians fleeing from the strikes and seeking shelter in schools, according to the UN. In a single targeted Israeli strike four Palestinian children were killed. In contrast, the jerry-built rockets fired from Gaza have killed only one Israeli so far, showing the asymmetry of fire power.
Israel has also dropped strong hints that it has called up reservists in preparation for a possible ground assault. Already, the Gazans are being asked to leave the area in advance of the Israeli invasion. The ground assault when launched may cause further bloodshed of Palestinians on an unprecedented scale.
And the Western world is watching supinely for the ground invasion to get underway putting a seal of approval on the Israel’s policy of retaliatory over-aggression. However, despite the Palestinian leadership imploring the international community to get involved and stay the Israeli bloody hand, no firm condemnation of Israeli actions or a fresh peace initiative has come forth with the exception of Egypt’s fuzzy ceasefire plan which fell through because of Egypt’s perceived new closeness both to Israel and the USA.
Within Israel itself, the more right wing elements of the Israeli political spectrum are booing the hawkish prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, for not acting muscularly enough. Together, these developments set the stage for dangerous and sustained escalation of hostilities by Israel. While the world is consumed in the superficial optics of the conflict in terms of Gaza-fired rockets and the Israeli retaliatory missile strikes, the Israeli government is methodically going about its long term purpose of annihilating the remaining signs of Palestinian cultural life and the painstaking rebuilt infrastructure after the last episode of the invasion in 2008.
This renewed Israeli destructive spree is of a piece with the Israel ‘s long term goal of strangulating the mass of crammed Palestinians within the Gaza Strip to a slow death. (Gaza already looks like a South African Bantustan after the Oslo Accord with its entry and exit points controlled by the Israeli defence forces.)
The latest invasion is a replay of the 2008 invasion, which failed to achieve its military objectives of cowing down the Hamas. Yet the pretext of hammering Hamas every few years is used as a ploy to incrementally advance Israeli long term strategic purposes.
One clue to these larger strategic purposes has been provided by veteran Israeli historian Uri Avnery. He links the current round of bombardment and the impending invasion by Israel to the broader purpose of re-stationing Israeli troops near the Jordanian border. The cooked up and phoney pretext for this outrageous act would be to stop the ISIS at the Jordanian border before they reach Israel as made plain by the Israeli prime minister recently. This would, in practice, mean extending the Israel border right up to Jordan with Palestianian areas becoming subsumed as isolated enclaves with the greater Israel — a long term of Zionism.
Thus, Palestinian areas will become literally Bantustan as predicted by Edward Said long ago and validated by Uri Avnery recently. The other larger purpose has also been hinted at in the past decade beginning with the invasion of 2008. This larger purpose pertains to grabbing control of the underground water reservoirs and hydrocarbons deposits in the coastal area of Gaza which has assumed greater strategic importance against the backdrop of new energy and gas deposit discovered in the Mediterranean sea in recent years.
With Egyptian gas reserves running out, Israel has become key energy supplier to Egypt after the discovery of gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea. Some observers of geopolitics also hinted at similar larger purpose that drove the 2008 invasion. That the same logic may be at work in the current spate of hostilities can hardly be ruled out.
Seen in this context, the Israel’s seemingly retaliatory actions have much larger strategic objectives attached to them. This consists in driving the Palestinians out of the rump Palestine in a broader project of land grabbing. Part of this grand plan has already been achieved by settling Israeli settlers on Palestinian land. The rest will be accomplished through semi or full reoccupation of the Gaza Strip.
As veteran journalist Robert Fisk puts it starkly in the Independent, “This is not just about the foul murder of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank or the foul murder of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem. Nor about the arrest of many Hamas militants and politicians in the West Bank. Nor about rockets. As usual, it’s about land.”
This is what the current Israeli aggression is about; and it should be roundly condemned for its darker designs of further dispossessing the Palestinians of the remaining small strip of land to which the whole Palestinian population has been confined.