In articles acknowledging the one year anniversary of the assault on Gaza, blunt and unsparing language about what really happened is often avoided. Despite sympathy for and support of the Palestinian people in their struggle against dispossession and oppression, the description of what took place in January 2009 is sometimes buffered by a misguided sense of political correctness. Yes, it’s terrible. Yes, it is unjust. But we don’t want to be inflammatory or risk offending the sensitivities of those who through their own willful ignorance cling to the notion that Israel is a victim state, fighting for its very survival. The argument is that we should reach out to them and attempt to educate them and win them over.
I’ll be more forthright in this commentary.
The sociopathic Zionist administration of Israel, as part of its continuing brutal colonization of Palestine, set out to deliberately devastate the already nearly-incapacitated infrastructure which supports the existence of one and a half million human refugees. The people of Gaza, second-, third-, and fourth-generation dispossessed Palestinians, are living in forced exile from land their families inhabited and cultivated for generations. Half of them are children under the age of fifteen. Their culture and their economy has been systematically ravaged by Israel for decades and since 2006 a criminal siege supported by the United States, as well as much of the international community, has deprived them of all but the most minimal resources for subsistence. This oppressed and brutalized population was then bombed, bulldozed and terrorized mercilessly for twenty-three days.
Below is a small sampling of facts concerning what the fourth largest military in the world did to a captive and defenseless population. The source materials used to substantiate these statistics are available on request. If the reality presented here goes beyond the stretch of your imagination, you can verify the data yourself. Though you’d better hurry. Much of this information appears to be disappearing down Google’s memory hole, just as is the fate of the people of Gaza. A source referencing the percentage of agricultural land destroyed in the onslaught which was used for a shorter version of this article just a few weeks ago is no longer archived in Google’s cache. Surprise, surprise.
You will also find that exact figures vary somewhat depending on the source. But whether it was 21,000 structures or 22,000 structures destroyed, whether 280 schools were destroyed or badly damaged verses 230, the overwhelming truth of the physical devastation which took place in Gaza and the fact that this destruction was deliberate and premeditated is irrefutable. Even the Goldstone Report, itself a document with severe pro-Zionist overtones issued by a declared Zionist and a supporter of Israel, states unequivocally, “…[the] deliberate actions of the Israeli forces and the declared policies of the Government of Israel … cumulatively indicate the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip in violation of international humanitarian law.”
We’ve heard time and again that more than 1400 Palestinians were killed, over 80% of them civilians, including 342 children. It has become a familiar talking point in discussions of last year’s assault, so much so that it may have lost its impact on our consciousness. But what we often aren’t reminded of is the horrific level of carefully-planned destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza orchestrated by Israel during Operation Cast Lead.
Financed and armed by the United States, the Israeli military destroyed fifteen percent of the structures in Gaza, approximately 22,000 buildings, including 5300 housing units destroyed or subject to major damage. Another 52,000 homes received some form of structural damage. Over 200 factories and 700 stores and businesses were destroyed or badly damaged. Of the residences, factories and businesses completely destroyed, 1300 of the homes and approximately 25% of the commercial property was deliberately and painstakingly bulldozed or exploded by Israeli ground forces. Eight hospitals and 26 primary health care clinics were damaged or destroyed. More than 280 schools were damaged or destroyed.
Water and sewage treatment facilities as well as electricity infrastructure were deliberately targeted leaving vast segments of the population with little or no power or clean water for the duration of the assault and for weeks and months to follow. Massive amounts of agricultural lands were systematically bombed or bulldozed. Some estimates suggest that as much as 80% of the arable land in Gaza has been ruined or declared off-limits to the people of Gaza over the last decade. Two million litres of wastewater at Gaza City’s sewage treatment plant, bombed during the assault, leaked into surrounding agricultural land making it unusable.
An Israeli television station boasted that Israeli war planes alone, without accounting for tank, ground troop and warship ammunition, dropped approximately one thousand tons of bombs on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The effort involved months, if not years, of carefully-considered target selection, giving lie to any claim that the devastation was incidental. It requires a stunning level of denial and self-delusion to pretend the destruction which was achieved in Gaza had anything to do with Israel’s “security” or the targeting of Hamas militants. This was savage and barbaric collective punishment unleashed on a civilian population, nothing more. Any suggestion to the contrary must be sharply and immediately ridiculed as absurd.
This was arguably the first aerial bombing campaign ever conducted on a defenseless civilian population held captive within a fenced enclosure and not allowed to escape the assault. It is a measure of the cynical mindset of the Israeli military that leaflets were sometimes dropped in neighborhoods about to be bombed suggesting the residents flee. We are about to destroy your home; you had better get out. Flee to where? Gazans are not allowed to leave their open-air prison, not even when under attack. This tactic on the part of Israel also gives lie to the claim that homes and buildings were targeted because there were Hamas militants “hiding” inside. Why then warn them to leave before destroying the structures?
Given this litany of horror and the coldly premeditated nature of its execution, we need to ask what kind of society condones this level of savagery on the part of their government? What precedent is there for such monstrous disregard for even the most basic tenets of human decency? We need look no further than the behavior of our very own United States, of course. In Iraq, the toll of our psychotic militarism is well over a million human beings (not counting the years of punishing economic sanctions) and a large part of the infrastructure of an entire nation of more than 26 million people has been obliterated. Let’s not even begin to tally up the deaths resulting from U.S. imperialism around the globe in the last sixty years alone. It would put the Zionists to shame–mere pikers in the annals of human slaughter.
And what of Gaza today, one year later? Israel’s continued illegal siege, enabled by the U.S., Egypt (a U.S. client state) and the international community has prevented any substantial amount of building materials from entering Gaza. Essentially, no reconstruction has been possible. The people of Gaza live amongst the rubble left to them by Israeli hatred and aggression. They are attempting to rebuild their society using mud bricks and materials salvaged from the wreckage.
The next time someone attempts to argue, “Israel has a right to defend itself,” or uses what I call the abusive spouse defense, ”Look what you made me do,” tell them, “No.” Tell them there is no and can never be any acceptable justification for the deliberate devastation of entire societies, no matter what political, ideological or “security” issues, real or imagined, may be at stake. It is unconscionable. It is wrong. Plainly put, there is no sane argument in favor of such behavior. Those who believe there is must be contradicted and opposed at every available opportunity.