Gaza Assault Will Radicalize Islamic Jihadists
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Jan. 24, 2009
Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
Israel's Bloody Gaza Assault Will Radicalize
Islamic Jihadists for Years to Come
Interview with Chris
Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of
"War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning,"
conducted by Scott Harris
Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza ended as if perfectly timed to coincide with the end of George W. Bush's presidency and before Barack Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20. Israel and Hamas both declared a unilateral cease-fire on Jan 18. Israel stated that the attack was launched on Dec. 27 to stop Gaza's Hamas government from firing crude rockets into southern Israel.
The death toll resulting from the Israeli Gaza assault is estimated at more than 1,300 Palestinans, many of them civilians. Israel reported that ten of their soldiers and three civilians were killed during the Gaza operation. Several Arab nations accused Israel of using radioactive depleted uranium munitions in Gaza, a charge that Israel denies.
Many observers link the Israeli government decision to attack Gaza with the quest for political advantage in the nation's Feb. 10 parliamentary election. The ruling Kadima Party's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Labor Party Defense Minister, Ehud Barak are hoping to overtake Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently ahead in the polls to become Israel's next prime minister. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges about the repercussions of the slaughter of civilians in Gaza -- and the connection between the many injustices suffered by Palestinians and the decades-long conflict.
CHRIS HEDGES: I'm certainly no friend of Hamas. I've been very harsh about religious fundamentalism of all types. I don't approve of their tactics of using suicide bombers. Hamas, when they took power in 2006, carried out a series of executions of opponents within the Gaza Strip. The rocket attacks are a war crime. But I think that we have to understand that all this doesn't negate the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance, armed resistance to the Israeli siege and the occupation of Gaza -- that the use of violence on the part of the Palestinians is in direction response to the violence of the occupation. And when you belittle, humiliate, and oppress a people for as long as the Israelis have oppressed the Palestinians, violence is a tragic but normal reaction. That's what happens, and I think that that sort of has been lost in much of the debate. That it is Israel that is not only in violation of U.N. resolutions, but in violation of international laws. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk has repeatedly pointed out.
BETWEEN THE LINES: And of course, your main message I take away from the column titled, "Peace is in the Eye of the Beholder," is that we constantly hear from our leaders, whether they be in Israel or in Washington, that the ends justify the means. That the disproportionate violence and slaughter launched on civilians and combatants alike in Gaza is justified because Hamas has launched crude rockets into Israel -- and this was the only way that it could be stopped. In a tough world where we live, is there an alternative? I guess that's the question that we're all asking.
CHRIS HEDGES: I think the Israeli response has been deeply counterproductive to Israel's long-term security interests. Not only was it wildly disproportionate, I think the UN says that now that 50,800 Palestinians are homeless, some 400,000 are without running water, more than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed. Now that the firing has stopped, relief agencies are finding whole neighborhoods flattened. So the number of dead is set to rise, and rise significantly.
The tragedy of the entire Israeli - Palestinian conflict has been, ever since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, has been an attempt by the Israeli leadership to crush the Palestinians. And unfortunately, that kind of a tactic, which has been long the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, has given rise to a militancy, an Islamic militancy, not only within the Palestinian community. When I first went to cover Gaza and the West Bank, the leadership was decidedly secular -- as was most of Palestinian society -- but has fueled radical Islamic movements throughout the region.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Chris, is there any hope that Barack Obama can go where past presidents have not in brokering some long-lasting peace here?
CHRIS HEDGES: I don't think much is going to change in the Middle East under a Barack Obama administration. Israel has -- they call them facts on the ground -- but Israel has created a situation on the ground that pretty much makes the viability of a Palestinian state impossible. The vast expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank during the Bush administration, the use of a security barrier or wall, which doesn't run along the 1967 green line, demarcation line, but dips deep into Palestinian territory -- well, once all this links up with ring roads and restricted military zones -- and the U.N. has drawn up maps that have shown this, Israel has essentially -- has or will by the time they're done, seize about 40 percent of West Bank, including most of the aquifers.
And I think that it's very clear now that Israeli policy is to reduce Palestinian existence to a subsistence level of misery, to make sure that Palestinians are completely hemmed in and ringed by the Israeli military, so that if they become too restive, all movement, all food, all supplies can be shut down, as they've done in Gaza and as they've done in the West Bank. That is their policy. I think that it is one that will come back to haunt Israel. But it's very clear that the possibility of a two-state solution died with Yitzak Rabin.
Chris Hedges served as New York Times Middle East bureau chief for seven years. He is author of "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." Read Hedges' column, "Peace is in the Eye of the Beholder," online at www.truthdig.com. "Peace is in the Eye of the Beholder," online at www.truthdig.com .
• "Worldwide Protests Condemn Israel's Gaza Attack and Occupation," Excerpt of speech by Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, at a Jan. 9 New Haven, Conn. protest rally, produced by Melinda Tuhus
• "Israel's November Violation of Gaza Cease-Fire Sets Stage for Current Conflict,"Interview with Ali Abunimah, conducted by Scott Harris, Between The Lines, Week Ending Jan. 16, 2009
• "CNN Confirms Israel Broke Cease-Fire First in November,"Rick Sanchez, CNN, Jan. 5, 2009
• Electronic Intifada at www.electronicintifada.net
• "Hardline Jewish Settler Violence Against IDF Has Alienated Many Israelis," Interview with Hagit Ofran, conducted by Melinda Tuhus, Between The Lines Week Ending Dec. 19, 2008
• U.S. Chapter of Peacenow.org at peacenow.org
• Other Voice -- A group for a civil solution in the Sderot-Gaza region at www.othervoice.org
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