Unimaginable horrors are being inflicted on Gaza by the Israeli State, supported by Western imperialism. In the first of two articles on Palestine, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin looks at how the ground was prepared for this genocidal attack.
“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”
– Israeli President Isaac Herzog
Israel has been bombing Gaza for over a week. More bombs have been dropped on Gaza in a single week than the US dropped on Afghanistan in a single year. The city is being reduced to a pile of rubble. MSF’s Ghassan Abu-Sitta on Saturday described the scenes:
“The bodies are stacked up, people are afraid to bury their dead. I had to evacuate Al Awda hospital when the Israeli army warned that it was going to target the hospital and the hospital had two hours to evacuate. We made sure that the patients were in ambulances and then we left”.
At the time of writing, the official death toll stands at over 2,750, almost half of which are children. The real figure is likely to be much higher – how can you count the dead when so many of them are buried beneath buildings?
The savagery of the attack marks a major escalation from Israel. They have long followed the policy of “mowing the lawn” – entering Gaza once or twice every decade to destroy it and set back any resistance. But even in the 2014 massacre, where 2,200 Palestinians were killed over the course of about 6 weeks (by comparison, 67 Israelis were killed), they still claimed to be targeting buildings containing Hamas militants and said they were careful to avoid killing civilians. 550 dead children show this for the lie that it was, but nevertheless they maintained this pretence.
All pretence has been abandoned now. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” on Gaza and said they were fighting “human animals”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tweeting out videos showing the bombing and levelling of residential buildings – a Prime Minister tweeting his own state’s war crimes. The Israelis warned Gaza of what was coming and ordered 1.1 million Gazans to flee. Then they bombed the Rafah border crossing – the only border crossing people could escape through. Israel went on to warn Egypt against sending aid, saying that it would bomb any aid convoy that came near the crossing. Organisations like Human Rights Watch are reporting that Israel is once again using white phosphorous – a chemical weapon, the use of which constitutes a war crime.
The West Cheers on Israel’s War Crimes
“We’re fighting Nazis […] I’m not going to feed electricity or water to my enemies”
– Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
As Israel continues its barbarous assault, US and EU leaders are not just turning a blind eye and ignoring Israel’s war crimes – they are actively supporting them. US President Joe Biden condemned “evil” Hamas and immediately promised to provide yet more military aid. He claimed he had seen a video of a baby beheaded by Hamas, before the White House had to walk back this claim – it was a barefaced lie. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen was straight out of the traps to reiterate Israel’s “right to self-defence”. Israeli flags lit up EU buildings and were flown alongside the EU flag. Even as Gaza is being pulverised, she has been in Israel, offering her continued support. Not a word said about Israeli war crimes, or the Palestinian death toll which has by now far surpassed the number of Israelis killed by Hamas and other militants as they broke out of their open air prison in Gaza.
As Israel cut off water, electricity and fuel from Gaza, the EU declared that aid to Palestinians would be cut – only reversing the decision on Tuesday. Meanwhile, there has been a crackdown on support for Palestine across Europe. People Before Profit’s West Belfast MLA Gerry Carroll was reported for his tweet in support of the Palestinian resistance. France, Germany and Hungary have all banned pro-Palestine protests and police in France broke up protests that went ahead. UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has asked police to consider waving the Palestinian flag as an offence.
Nor is their support for Israel merely ideological. The UK has deployed military personnel to the eastern Mediterranean “to support Israel and restore regional stability”. Germany has offered military support to Israel. The US is increasing its military aid and moving military ships and aircraft closer to Israel.
This comes on the back of years of military aid ($3.8 billion a year) from the US and years of arms deals and military contracts between the EU and Israel. The destruction being wrought on Gaza now simply would not be possible without the support of US, EU and British imperialism.
“”Erase the memory of them. Erase them, their families, mothers and children. These animals can no longer live.”
– Ezra Yachin, Israeli army veteran who took part in the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948
To prepare the ideological ground for Israel’s assault on Gaza, a propaganda offensive was launched to dehumanise Palestinians, whip people into a frenzy and justify the deaths of thousands of people. Biden’s claim about a beheaded baby was a lie originated with i24, an Israeli propaganda outlet with links to the Netanyahu family. So-called news correspondent Nicole Zedeck first reported that babies, “40 at least”, were taken out in gurneys. The evidence for this was the word of an IDF soldier. It was reported without question by Zedeck, and, scandalously, the story was repeated without interrogation by many mainstream media outlets. Apologies that came later from the likes of CNN’s Sara Sidner came too late. The story had been spread all over the world and had provoked widespread outrage, fury and a thirst for vengeance.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hamas fighters had raped women during their attack. They later retracted this, saying “such reports have not been substantiated”. The retraction itself takes up a tiny column on the right of the article – easily missed, and again, the damage already done.
Moreover, what is now emerging is that, rather than an indiscriminate rampage by Hamas fighters when they broke out of Gaza, most Israeli civilian hostages who were killed were caught in the crossfire between Hamas and IDF soldiers. Palestinian fighters took the hostages in the hopes of exchanging them for some of the thousands of Palestinians locked up without trial in Israeli jails. Some of the hostages who are now free report being treated with dignity while being held – certainly more dignity than what is afforded to Palestinian prisoners in Israel, who are routinely subjected to physical torture, psychological intimidation and prolonged imprisonment without trial.
However, the IDF does not appear to have been particularly concerned with securing their release. Released hostage Yasmin Porat reported what she saw to Israeli State Radio:
“I see people from the kibbutz on the lawn. There are 5 or 6 hostages lying on the ground outside just like sheep to the slaughter in the face of shooting by our [commandos] and the terrorists. […] They were killed in the crossfire. Understand there was very, very heavy crossfire. They [the IDF] eliminated everyone, including the hostages. […] Two tank shells were shot into the house. It’s a small kibbutz house, nothing big, you saw it on the news. Not a large place. At that moment they were all killed.”
It is clear that the fighting was brutal and that hundreds of people were killed. But the testimonies indicate that Israel’s narrative of wanton, indiscriminate murder of civilians by Hamas fighters is inaccurate.
Meanwhile, various celebrities got in on the act, drumming up support for Israel. An open letter by 700 Hollywood celebrities repeated the lies about indiscriminate killings, mutilations, and rapes, calling for support for Israel as it “takes the necessary steps to defend its citizens in the coming days and weeks”.
Justin Bieber shared a photo of destroyed buildings in Gaza to his 293 million followers, with the caption “Pray for Israel”. Presumably his mistake was pointed out to him, because he deleted it and reposted the message on a blank background. Jamie Lee Curtis shared a photo to her 5.5 million followers with the caption “terror from the skies” and an Israeli flag. The photo was of a Palestinian man with a child in his arms, looking up at the sky in fear. It was taken in Northern Gaza. Curtis later deleted the photo without comment.
The racism behind the lies – the tropes of violent muslims, of the threat brown men pose to women – has been deliberately stirred up so that Israel’s monstrous assault will be supported. Every Palestinian is seen as guilty, every Gazan a legitimate target.
On Friday, in preparation for a ground invasion, Israel told the Northern Gazan population to flee to safety in the South. The Israelis then bombed a convoy of civilian cars as they fled south.
The Ground Has Been Prepared for a Genocide
“The war is not just with Hamas, the war is with all the civilians”
– Betzal Taljah, Israeli soldier
Israel’s Minister for Communications, Shlomo Karhi, said that all internet services in Gaza would be cut from last Saturday. It is only through internet videos and correspondence with residents and journalists in Gaza that we know of the horrors that are being inflicted there.
After a week of relentless bombing, along with countless genocidal statements from Israeli leaders, it looks as though the ground invasion could happen without Gazans even being able to tell the world what is being done to them.
The thought is chilling.