Back to Gaza Again
“There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” said President Obama. When he made this perfectly sensible statement he was not thinking of the Palestinians in Gaza, helpless victims of Israeli bombs and missiles in some cases dropped or fired by F-16 fighters or Apache helicopters manufactured in the US.
For years now, there have been the same shortcomings in accounts of events in Palestine. First, the tendency to repeat the half-true tale in which the “terrorism” of the besieged justifies the besiegers’ “response”. Then, the granting of impunity to a belligerent with overwhelming military superiority, a belligerent that claims to be the victim just before a further escalation. Lastly, the stressing of the democratic character of Israel, although its government includes a racist, extreme right wing, represented in the cabinet by the foreign minister.
Has the Arab Spring made so little difference in the Middle East that the same scenario can be repeated in Gaza four years after Operation Cast Lead (1)? Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, reviewing developments in the region since 2011, note that the usual working assumptions no longer apply: “The US is allied with Iraq, which is allied with Iran, which supports the Syrian regime, which the US hopes to help topple. The US is also allied with Qatar, which subsidises Hamas, and with Saudi Arabia, which funds the Salafis who inspire jihadists who kill Americans wherever they can” (2). At least, in Gaza, things initially appeared to be simpler. Binyamin Netanyahu, weakened by his failed investment in the US Republican candidate Mitt Romney, counted on the Palestinians to restore the electoral balance. He considered the bombing of Israeli towns required him to punish Hamas again for failing to prevent the attacks. He “forgot” that the first rockets had been fired in Gaza on 10 February 2002, when the Israeli army was still encamped there.
Europe has acted as a diplomatic agent for Israel in the matter, and France has contributed to this alignment. During a meeting with Netanyahu in November, President François Hollande warned against “the temptation for the Palestinian Authority to seek at the UN General Assembly what it doesn’t get in negotiations” (3). What negotiations was he talking about? A few days earlier, the foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, referred briefly to the first signs of a crisis in Gaza: “Rockets were fired against Israel throughout the weekend and Israel immediately responded” (4). French diplomats should not have to take their cue from official US pronouncements.