We don’t need much imagination to conclude that Israel’s current aggression on the Gaza Strip is in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three settlers which Tel Aviv are blaming on Hamas, writes Abdelbari Atwan.
I have been amazed by how much coverage the deaths of the Israeli settlers have garnered on British television, much of it inaccurate, unsurprisingly. The fact that the young men were illegal settlers on occupied Palestinian lands is rarely mentioned.
Despite the much more historically important – and dangerous – continued advance of the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, British television focused on the funerals of the three, and emotive speeches by Israeli leaders, threatening revenge.
The Israeli Ambassador – both past and present – to London had virtually set up camp at the BBC, so often were they called upon to express their sorrow and anger. No Arab Ambassadors were invited and few Palestinians were asked for their views on the story.
I was actually asked by a BBC World Service presenter – not for my opinion, but whether I denied that the Israeli Army had the right to avenge the deaths of three young men by a cell of Hamas?
I asked him how he was so certain that Hamas is behind this operation, he replied that the intelligence agencies have strong evidence in this regard. If they have such absolute intelligence, I persisted, why were they unable to discover the kidnappers and their captives for more than two weeks – these operatives who claim to know every millimetre in the Occupied Territories?
I went further and said to the presenter: “Why don’t we ever see the other side of the picture? Why is there no reporting of the fact that six Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops? Why are their funerals not aired on British television? These human beings also have grieving parents, wives and children?”
The report also described how two homes had been blown up, allegedly those of the kidnappers. Again, I challenged the presenter on the legitimacy of this action. Had these men been charged and tried by a judge and jury? Is it usual to inflict punishment on a man’s entire family, even his little children, by destroying their home?
“Beacon of democracy”
Israel is always heralded as the beacon of “democracy”, in possession of an independent judiciary, the only spot of “civilisation” in the region. How do these actions attest to such a status?
It is an uphill struggle to criticize the British and US media’s bias towards Israel. At least on this occasion I was actually invited to appear on three or four radio and television programmes.
It is deeply frustrating when world leaders, like President Obama, so overtly demonstrate a bias, as he did today by sending condolences to the parents of the Israeli settlers. No words of any kind emanated from the White House for the parents of those killed in Gaza.
Nevertheless we will never give up, and our persistence – and that of many great opinion makers and campaigners, working tirelessly on behalf of the Palestinians – is finally getting across to an ever wider cross-section of the public the facts that have been so carefully hidden from them.
Not being in possession of a crystal ball it is difficult to say what will happen next but we would not be surprised to awaken tomorrow morning to the terrible news and poignant images of a devastating attack on the innocent citizens of Gaza, similar to Sharon’s “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002. The sound and fury of Israeli tanks storming the Gaza Strip, and American-made F-16 shells pulverising Palestinian houses and killing hundreds if not thousands of innocent people, as in the aggression of 2008-9.
Israel’s army feels humiliated by its failures: firstly to prevent the kidnapping of the three settlers; secondly to find them; and thirdly to save their lives. This humiliation should not automatically translate into psychopathic violence.
Hamas is besieged in Gaza, and its two million Palestinians do not even have water, let alone anti-aircraft missiles and other armour, in this holy month [Ramadan]. May their suffering bring them closer to God.
Netanyahu is isolated and marginalized; he may exploit the current situation to boost his own popularity, by acting like a “strong man” who is “looking out for his people.”
Despite the disparity in power, the defenders of the Gaza Strip have still managed to terrify Israel with a rain of rockets that have reached as far as Tel Aviv, forcing the occupiers to trot in dismay and horror to underground air raid shelters upon hearing the sound of a siren.
These defenders are stronger than all the armies and modern weapons that might try to defeat them because right is on their side.