The Revenge Doctrine, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 11 2014 @ 12:20pm

Funeral of a five-year-old child in Gaza

J.J. Goldberg reveals that the official story of what happened after those three Israeli yeshiva students were kidnapped is more hasbara than fact:

Once the boys’ disappearance was known, troops began a massive, 18-day search-and-rescue operation, entering thousands of homes, arresting and interrogating hundreds of individuals, racing against the clock. Only on July 1, after the boys’ bodies were found, did the truth come out: The government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.

What more do you need to know about the bigotry, callousness and hubris of Netanyahu? Well, this, maybe:

It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren’t acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus. Hamas’ Hebron branch — more a crime family than a clandestine organization — had a history of acting without the leaders’ knowledge, sometimes against their interests. Yet Netanyahu repeatedly insisted Hamas was responsible for the crime and would pay for it.

So Netanyahu knew that the kidnapping wasn’t by Hamas proper, insisted that it was anyway, withheld the truth about the boys’ deaths in order to sustain a massive process of collective punishment of Palestinians in the West Bank, and then unleashed yet another brutal, lop-sided pulverization of Gaza. This is not a rational regime; and it is not a civilized government. J.J. Goldberg notes the Israeli military’s profound ambivalence about where Netanyahu is taking the country, along with the religious fanatics and racist haters who propel him forward.

And yes, yes, and yes again to the notion that Hamas should not be firing rockets into Israel at all, let alone at civilians directly, even though they have incurred no casualties and have bounced off the Iron Dome when they encroached too far into Israel proper. But in this instance, there is no equivalence. One side deliberately and deceptively instigated absolutely unjustified collective punishment of an entire population, and pre-meditatedly whipped up nationalistic and racist elements to back them up. They then went on to bombard Gaza – and many civilians – into another submission – after a period of relative calm and peace. The result is another disproportionate slaughter: around 100 Palestinians dead so far, and no Israelis. If you see nothing wrong with this, your moral compass is out of whack.

Meanwhile,  Obama and other world leaders have offered to broker a ceasefire, but Netanyahu has made it clear he’s not interested. An unnamed Israeli official tells Raphael Ahren that the goal of the bombardment this time is to permanently dismantle Hamas’s ability to strike Israel (didn’t they say the same thing last time?):

“It is quite possible that Hamas would agree to an immediate ceasefire — we’re hitting them hard, they want the situation to cool down,” the senior official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity. Brokering a ceasefire with Hamas would have been possible a week or a two ago, but an agreement that would leave in place the group’s offensive capacities not what Israel wants, the official said.

“Today, we’re not interested in a Band-Aid. We don’t want to give Hamas just a timeout to rest, regroup and recharge batteries, and then next week or in two weeks they start again to shoot rockets at Israel. Such a quick-fix solution is not something we’re interested in.” While refusing to discuss concrete steps the Israel Defense Forces plan to take in the coming hours and days, the official said that the government is discussing a ground invasion of Gaza “very seriously.”

Robert Naiman wants more US pressure on Israel to end the escalation:

The United States government has many levers on Netanyahu. Of course the U.S. gives Netanyahu billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars a year, but while it would be politically difficult (to put it mildly) to cut off U.S. military aid – the Obama Administration could not bring itself to cut off military aid to the Egyptian military coup, even when clearly required to do so by U.S. law – the Administration has many other, more subtle levers on Netanyahu that it could deploy without giving AIPAC, the ADL and their allies a convenient target for counterattack. The Administration could raise the volume of its public criticism of Netanyahu. The Administration could let it be known that it might refrain from vetoing a U.N. resolution that condemned Netanyahu. The Administration could “leak” that it is deepening efforts to engage Hamas politically, then issue a non-denial denial when these efforts are criticized. The Administration knows full well that it has all these levers and more. All it lacks is sufficient public political pressure to use them to force an end to the killing.

Au contraire. Most of the political pressure will come from those defending this latest slaughter built on a knowingly false pretext. Know despair.

Update from a reader:

I’m an American currently spending the month in West Jerusalem with my family.  Look: I’m no fan of Netanyahu or the current right-wing coalition here. I’m still trying to understand the implications of the government’s withholding of the information that the three teenagers were likely killed immediately after abduction. But when you say that the rocket fire from Gaza has caused “no casualties” in Israel, this is untrue. For example:

Following a barrage of rocket fire targeting southern Israeli cities, a rocket launched from Gaza hit a fuel tank near a gas station in Ashdod, causing severe damage and a fire. One person was critically injured by the strike, while seven other Israelis were lightly injured, according to Magen David Adom.

Granted the level of casualties is far lower than what we’re seeing on the Palestinian side, but it’s not “no casualties” on the Israeli side.

And when you say that rockets “bounced off the Iron Dome”, you are wrong both figuratively and literally.  Iron Dome only intercepts rockets bound for populated areas; all the rest it lets go. It has an astonishing 90% success rate at interceptions, but even so that means 10% are getting through to cause damage.

Even when the rockets fall harmlessly, they trigger sirens and send thousands of civilians running for cover.  We see relatively few rockets launched toward Jerusalem, but I’ve had to drop everything and run with my family to shelter several times in the past week.  It’s nerve-wracking.  I can’t imagine how bad life is for civilians in Gaza right now.

(Photo: A Palestinian man sits next to the body of five-year-old Abdallah Abu Ghazal killed in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral at a mosque in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 10, 2014. By Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)