It’s not the fact that the tiny sliver of land that is Gaza – a place utterly incapable of sustaining or controlling it’s own economy and supporting civilian infrastructure – is under attack that’s disappointing. It is the depressing inevitability of it all as Israel approaches a set of elections in January 2013 at the convergence of a number of events that could change the very nature of the Middle East.
The news that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a coalition of sorts in what appears to be a desperate bid to hold onto power in the upcoming Israeli elections will have escaped most, coming as it did so close to the conclusion of the US Presidential elections, but the move was important and an indicator of the force (a word used deliberately during the announcement of the coalition) that Israel will use going forward.
The choice of Netanyahu for his coalition partner should ring alarm bells in the mind of anybody with any hopes for lasting peace in the Middle East. That the Israli PM should chose the party of Avigdor Lieberman before the first election ballot is placed tells the world a lot. Lieberman is currently the only foreign minister in the world who does not live in the State for which he is a minister, he prefers instead to live in a settlement that sits in Occupied Palestinian Territory in the West Bank.
The new Israeli coalition is certainly a lurch to the right and recent extra-judicial assassination attacks on leading members of Hamas (a democratically elected group) seem to fulfill previous statements by Lieberman who advocated the death penalty for people who met with Hamas leaders. Lieberman also supports the separation of Israeli Jews from Israeli Arabs, as well as a required oath of loyalty to the “Jewish” State of Israel. An oath of loyalty many have called fascist, but one which, at the very least, is unacceptable to anyone who believes that government of a nation state should be secular, and not favour citizens of one religion over another.
If Netanyahu succeeds in his bid to sew up electoral success, it’s likely that Israel, defended as a beacon of Middle East democracy and liberalism, will pursue drastically less liberal national and foreign policies.
We can perhaps be kind and say that the latest attack on Gaza so soon after the announcement of the joining of Netanyahu and Lieberman in an electoral pact, and yet also so close to January elections is not meant to shore up Government support and project them as ‘strongmen’, we could chalk it up as a coincidence, I suppose. But an attack against Gaza in the same week that the body of Yassar Arafat is beingexhumed for investigation into allegations of his poisoning by the State of Israel? Is that also a part of this unfortunate series of seemingly unconnected events? It would be disappointing if a stray Israeli rocket made analysis of Arafat’s body for unusually high levels of polonium-210 impossible, the attacks from Israel will undoubtedly slow the process down.
The most disappointing thing of all in the pummelling of Gaza, though, is not even the asymmetrical nature of the battle, it’s the complicity of the freshly elected US President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in his first term, and who told us that the best is yet to come in his second term. The Palestinian people have heard promises like that before, and yet still they are denied justice on their own land.
Obama benefited from the extra-judicial assassination of Osama bin Laden, and allows the US to loan billions to Israel in military aid which in turn enables them to use drones to patrol and terrorise Gazan civilians from the air, a technique not entirely unknown to the US military. Netanyahu may have bet the farm on his old friend Mitt Romney becoming the President of the United States of America, even featuring in an advert for his campaign, but so far, Obama has done nothing to curb the excessive use of military force by the State of Israel.
So many things are disappointing about this latest attack on Gaza, it’s difficult to know what to do. But do something we must. Whether it’s supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, or writing to your MP or MEP asking what they are doing to support those Palestinians who want to return to their rightful and legal homes, or simply following what’s happening and educating those around you about the injustice that is happening right now.