In the summer of 1982, the Israeli Air Force pummeled the densely-populated and virtually defenseless city of Beirut, Lebanon for nine weeks. A Newsweek Magazine reporter on the scene cabled his New York office … “Watching the Israeli Air Force smashing Beirut was like having to stand and watch a man slowly beating a sick dog to death.”
The Secretary of State at the time, George Shultz, pleaded with President Ronald Reagan to do something to stop the slaughter. Reagan's Deputy Chief of Staff and longtime friend, Michael Deaver, told Reagan he couldn't continue to serve in the administration if Reagan was unwilling to do something to stop the carnage.
On August 12, 1982, President Ronald Reagan made the following entry in his diary:
“Met with the news the Israelis delivered the most devastating bomb and artillery attack on West Beirut lasting 14 hours.
King Fahd called begging me to do something. I told him I was calling Israeli Prime Minister Begin immediately. And I did – I was angry – I told him it had to stop or our entire future relationship was in danger. I used the word holocaust deliberately, and said the symbol of his war was becoming a picture of a seven-month-old baby with its arms blown off.”
Israel's weapon of choice in the siege of Beirut was the cluster bomb. Cluster bombs scatter into bomblets over a wide geographic area. They can kill and maim indiscriminately for months … long after “peace” is achieved.
On November 5, 2008, an Israeli military operation killed six Hamas members in Gaza, breaking an existing cease-fire. In a feeble attempt to retaliate, Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israeli military bases in the Negev Desert. As usual, the ineffective rockets killed no one.
Israel, however, had the opening they wanted. They started a massive attack on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead. The timing was elegant … the world's attention was focused on the American Presidential elections.
The preparations were meticulous. Food products allowed into Gaza were severely curtailed. An Israeli official, Dov Weissglas, joked, “It's like an appointment with a dietitian. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die.”
Plus, the press was barred. Israel had some new weapons to try out, and the press would only get confused and “misinterpret” their positive impact on the peace process.
Max Blumenthal, in his book Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel, describes the effect of the weaponry employed by Israel in that engagement:
“Unarmed civilians were torn to pieces with flechette darts sprayed from tank shells; several other children covered in burns from white phosphorous chemical weapon rounds were taken to hospitals; a few were found dead with bizarre wounds after being hit with experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) bombs designed to dissolve into the body and rapidly erode the internal soft tissue.”
Gaza 2014 presents a slightly different battle environment for Israel. For one thing, it would be impossible, in this day and age, to exclude the press.
At the beginning, the invasion of Gaza was about punishing Hamas for, allegedly, kidnapping and killing three Israeli teens in the Occupied Territories. Remember, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, after the teens were found dead … “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”
Hamas denied any responsibility for the teen deaths (in the past, they have been eager to take credit for their actions). Furthermore, Netanyahu produced absolutely no evidence that the Hamas organization was involved.
Netanyahu needed a new justification to stack up some Palestinian bodies (“mowing the grass” in Israeli slang) and he needed it fast. His right-wing coalition partners demanded it.
Rockets! Of course. We can always say they're firing rockets at us.
OK. The Palestinians have fired almost totally ineffective rockets into Israel in attempted retaliation for Israel's extra-judicial assassinations of Gaza residents that often kill a half dozen or more people that have nothing to do with anything. Plus, the people of Gaza live in what British Prime Minister David Cameron has described as “an open air prison” where Israel regulates who and what can go into and out of Gaza.
So, I guess we can assume that the people of Gaza, and Hamas for that matter, concluded that if Israel was going to take it upon itself to imprison them and periodically execute them, they were entitled to lob a pretty pitiful and largely ineffective rocket into Israel every now and then, just to remind the world they were not OK with the program.
I say, “We can assume” because it's hard to know what the people of Gaza have been going through at the hands of Israel over the years, and how they justify their own actions. Before the latest ongoing Israel massacre, the American media has pretty much stayed out of the Occupied Territories and Gaza. So we just don't know their side of the story.
We hear the Israeli side 24-7.
Israel wants the world to focus on one question: Do they have a right to defend themselves from rocket attacks originating in Gaza?
The American press and the American political establishment has accepted the Israeli argument that they have posed the proper question and that they do have the right to defend themselves.
There is, of course, another question:
Do the residents of Gaza, who have been wrongly imprisoned by Israel in a geographic area approximately one-third the size of New York City and had their freedom of movement and ability to conduct commerce constrained and their citizens subject to extra-judicial executions by drones and aircraft, have a right to resist Israel by any means possible?
Of course they do.
I will post again on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.