By Miriam Marcuse-Kubitza
Israel’s latest ‘escalation of violence’ in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza, known as Operation Pillar of Defense, which was ended in a cease-fire on Wednesday Nov. 21, was represented by the U.S. and western media outlets as an act of defense on the part of Israel, rather than a ramped-up assault on and massacre of Palestinians. U.S. foreign policy has always maintained support—both ideologically and economically—for the Zionist colonial agenda, and the major news networks consistently reflect this stance.
This most recent Israeli aggression on Gaza actually began on November 5th when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shot mentally ill Ahmad Nabhani who was approaching the border fence between Gaza and Israel. On November 8th, the IDF struck again, and illegally entered Gaza with tanks and helicopters, shooting and killing a 13-year-old boy playing soccer. In defense against Israel’s incursion into Gaza and military shootings, resistance fightersnot affiliated with Hamas fired rockets on November 10th—injuring 3 IDF soldiers. The IDF then exacted a military assassination of Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas leader who had worked to prevent dissident groups from carrying out retaliatory attacks, which thus eliminated the person who had maintained the cease-fire—giving Israel an excuse to ‘retaliate’ when Palestinian resistance groups fired defense rockets. Despite media coverage of Jabari as a “shadowy Hamas military chief,” he was actually promoting Israel’s goal of ‘security’ (non-resistance) in Gaza. Thus, his assassination can be seen as a provocation to incite Hamas to respond with defensive rockets and thus give Israel an excuse for violating the cease-fire and beginning a large-scale military attack on Gaza.
Not only is the assassination of Jabari, killing of civilians, and incursion into Gaza a provocation for Palestinians to defend themselves, but the systematic and structural violence enacted against Palestinians on a daily basis creates a situation in which resistance is necessary for survival. From 1947 to 1949, Zionists occupied the territory of Palestine and forced over 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes, committed 33 massacres, and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns. Many of the refugees from this war fled into Gaza and the West Bank—which were subsequently occupied and militarized in 1967. Gaza is forbidden by Israel to have a port or airport, cannot export what it produces, is prevented from accessing a third of its land for agriculture, and faces numerous other restrictions on access to even the most basic resources and human rights.
These deplorable and inhumane conditions serve as the backdrop for the most recent bombings of Gaza, and illuminate the biases found in mainstream U.S. media coverage of the conflict. While Israel claims it is acting in “self-defense”, this excuse completely and willfully ignores the ongoing occupation of Gaza. It is actually the Palestinians who are acting in self-defense of their very existence and human rights. The rhetoric of defense also becomes ridiculous when looking at the proportion of Israel’s military strength compared to Palestine’s. Israel has high grade weapons and technology systems, while Gaza has no heavy weaponry and only ineffectual rockets that, despite Israel citing hundreds of rockets being fired in 2012, haven’t killed any Israelis until the escalation in mid-November. In the most recent Gaza crisis,1,500 Israeli air strikes have killed 163 Palestinians and wounded 1,225 over the eight-day conflict, including bombings of homes, media buildings, and the Nusseirat refugee camp. In comparison, six Israeli’s have been killed and 200 wounded due to Palestinian rockets from Gaza.
While all lives lost are equally reprehensible, the proportion of casualties must be taken into account when defining who is ‘defending’ themselves and who is the population at risk. Gaza is often referred to as an “open-air prison” in which 1.7 million Palestinians live in only 140 square miles, and where over 1 million of these people are refugees from the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaigns. Israel, on the other hand, has advanced military technology–much of it from the U.S.–and is the colonizing force in the region.
The precarious cease-fire ending the recent assault on Gaza is consistent with U.S. media representations of Palestine and Israel during the attack, and maintains a narrative blaming Hamas both for Israel’s response as well as for any future conflict in the region. The New York Times stated that:
“[Hamas’s] resistance mantra [is] drowning out messages of more moderate groups. The word ‘peace’ has hardly been heard in public here since the shelling stopped, never mind ‘two-state solution’… …Hamas’s strengthened position might even pave the way for unilateral actions by Israel sought by some on the right — annexing parts of the West Bank, for example, or shutting off Gaza more completely — that redraw the political landscape, analysts say.”
This quote reflects both a depiction of Hamas as a militant ‘terrorist’ group rather than a popularly elected governing party, as well as the idea that Palestine does not want ‘peace’ and that resistance is incongruous with peace. This emphasizes the favoring of Israel’s underlying goal of dominance in the region, and condones future Zionist occupation and colonization as part of a process to ‘stabilize’ the area.
If the dominant narrative in the U.S. continues to position Israeli military aggression as defense against Hamas and Palestinian resistance rather than as a cause of this resistance, conflicts in which many civilian lives are lost will continue in the region without question. While the U.N. repeatedly finds Israel in violationof both international law and even its own laws, the statements of U.S. officials is to unequivocally support Israel’s right to bomb Gazans. This support is backed up by major news sources, who continuously favor the perspective of Israeli officials and position Gaza as the ‘terrorist’ and Israel as the victim in the situation. In the end, bloody conflicts do damage on both sides, and peace in the long term will mean ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and allowing Palestinians their right to dignity, resources, and self-determination.