Middle East

The Bombing of Gaza


I generally stay off this issue,
but as the bombing in Gaza continues to worsen and the Los Angeles Times insists on printing blatantly one-sided accounts, like this one, to supposedly inform us, it is time to offer a few counterweights.

(Note to LA Times reporter Michael Muskal: When writing a “primer” about the “key factors behind” any given conflict, like, say, the violence being rained down on Gaza, it is generally considered comme il faut to actually present the “factors” affecting both sides of the conflict, not to merely offer a justification for the side with which you agree, which is activism masquerading as journalism.)

To put a bit more of a human face on the situation, here is an essay written on the second day of the bombing by Dr. Akram Habeeb, Assistant Professor of American Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza.

As a Fulbright scholar and professor of American literature at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I have always preferred to keep silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I always felt that it was my mission to preach love and peaceful coexistence. However, Israel’s massive offensive against the Gaza Strip has spurred me to speak out.

Last night, during the second night of Israel’s unprecedented attack on Gaza, I was awakened by the deafening sound of intensive bombardment. When I learned that Israel had bombed my university with American-made F-16s, I realized that its “target bank” had gone bankrupt. Of course Israeli politicians and generals would claim that IUG is a Hamas stronghold and that it preaches terrorism.

As an independent professor, not affiliated with any political party, I can say that IUG is an academic institution which embraces a wide spectrum of political affinities. I see it as prestigious university which encourages liberalism and free thought. This personal point view might seem to be biased; therefore, I would invite anyone who would doubt about my assertions to browse IUG’s website and research its history. They would learn about its membership in various international academic institutions, the active role its professors play in scholarly research as well as prizes and research grants they have received.

Why would Israel bomb a university?
Israel did not only target my university last night. It also bombed mosques, pharmacies and homes. In Jabaliya refugee camp Israeli bombs killed four little girls, sisters from the Balousha family. In Rafah they killed three brothers, aged 6, 12 and 14. They also killed a mother, along with her one-year-old child from the Kishko family in Gaza City ….

And then there is this from Italian journalist, Vittorio Arrigoni, who has been writing from Gaza:

…By bombing the central police station in Al Abbas in the city centre, the neighbouring elementary school was also seriously damaged by the explosion. It was the end of the school day and the children were already in the street. Most of their flapping sky-blue aprons were splashed with blood. When bombing the Dair Al Balah police academy, some dead and wounded were also recorded from the market nearby, Gaza’s central market. … I saw many corpses in uniforms in the various hospitals I visited – I knew many of those boys. I greeted them every day when I met them in the street on my way to the port, or walked to the central café of an evening. I knew several of them by name. A name, a history, a mutilated family. The majority were young, around eighteen or twenty, mostly without political leanings, not with Fatah nor Hamas, simply enrolled into the police force once they had finished university in order to have a secure job in Gaza…. [According to a UN report released this past July, the unemployment rate in Gaza Strip is at 45 percent, the highest in the world.]

I haven’t seen any terrorists among the victims today, only civilians and policemen. Exactly like our own local police agents, the Palestinian policemen massacred by the Israeli bombings could be found every day of the year pacing the same city square, supervising the same street corner or road. Just last night I poked fun at a couple of them for the way they were cloaked up against the cold, in front of my house. I want the truth to redeem some of these dead. They’d never fired a single shot against Israel, nor would they have ever done so – it wasn’t in their job description to do so. They acted as traffic wardens, took care of internal security.

….I own a video camera, but today I discovered what a terrible cameraman I am. I can’t bring myself to film mangled bodies or faces drenched in tears. I just can’t. I start crying myself. The other international ISM volunteers and I went to the Al Shifa hospital to give blood. That’s where we received a call informing us that Sara, a dear friend of ours, had been killed by a piece of shrapnel near her home in the refugee camp of Jabalia. A sweet person, a sunny soul, she had gone out to buy some bread for her family. She leaves 13 children behind…..


FYI: Today, Tuesday, there will be a rally at the Westwood Federal Building at 3:30 p.m.. The rally has been orgainized to protest the ongoing bombing of Gaza.

The rally is being sponsored by an LA-based group called LA Jews for Peace.


  • Celeste, pul-eeeze. Why is it that liberal causes have to rely on saying “it’s for the childrennnnn.” Are the arguments weak on their merits?

    Maybe one of the big problems is that terrorists launching the rockets against Israel and being defended by liberals are hiding among women and children.

  • From the sane

    …Hamas tells Israel that if they don’t stop their assault then Hamas is going to resort to suicide bombings. Are you believing this? Hamas feels free to fire rockets indiscriminately into the Israeli civilian population. They’re telling Israel that if it tries to stop them from playing with their rockets, they’ll move on to suicide bombs. In other words … the message is that Israel just has to endure the rocket attacks and do nothing in return. …

    Think about that on your way to the rally. Israel has children, too.

  • I find when that one of the best English-language sources of news about Israel-Palestine conflicts is the Israeli paper Haaretz:


    This paper is much more balanced than the “liberal” US press, which generally seems scared of even a shadow of criticism or perspective when it comes to Israel. The Israelis have a far more vigorous debate over their own policy than their glib, generally ill-informed cheerleaders from the sidelines in the US.

  • As is yours Celeste, Bob Herbert writes a good column today in the NYT

    Published: December 29, 2008
    Does anyone know where George W. Bush is?


    Yea where is Dubya? And is this just the last nod given by the Bush Fascist’s to Israel to pound on the Palestinians?
    Just before he finally gets his ass out, and disappears to the Bush bunker in Kennebunkport it seems the Bush league and the Israeli militarists have staged this latest crisis as a test for the incoming Obama administration.
    How are they going to react? Will they fall in line and behave as they are supposed to?

    Does he love me or love me not?

  • Agreed, Reg. The discussion at Haaretz about Israel-Palestine issues is always far, far better and more even-handed than in the American papers.

    DQ: The Herbert column is good. Thanks for flagging it. And, yeah. Where the hell is bush?

  • Fact is that Israel pulled its troops and settlers (against a lot of domestic, conservative opposition) out of Gaza a few years ago with hopes of a continuing truce on both sides, but Fatah has continued to shell Sderot with colleral damage even to areas as far as 20 miles away. (Fatah vs. Hamas, Arafat’s party which was once considered a terrorist org, is the real problem here — and this university was sadly infiltrated by Fatah, making professors and child/ civilia victims like the one you quote just another unfortunate case of “collateral damage.”)

    It’s true that there is a lot more vigorous debate within Israel about the Palestinian conflict than here in the U. S., however — I was pleasantly surprised to find this first-hand, and to find that in general, except for certain religious strongholds, being in Israel feels a lot more mediterranean along the lines of Italy or Greece than I’d expected — broadly, “Tel Aviv” (and Elat etc.) plays while Jerusalem prays” is pretty much true.

    Re: the one-sidedness, I have been called anti-Semitic over the years just for criticizing the Israeli government or conservative/ biblical points of view: which is absurd since liberal Jews (like liberals of ANY bent, note our blog hostess and the frequent commenters she clearly elevates for recognition) certainly don’t equate criticizing the policies or views of the Bush or any conservative/ non-liberal administration with being “anti- American.” Even Jews have to tread carefully when criticizing Israel, or endure being called “self-hating.”

    Still, there is no comparison between the relatively liberal views of the Israeli government, which protects the rights of all parties/ religions to express their views and form political parties, and those of any Muslim government. Show me one where a pro-Israeli, or even nonimally Jewish, party is allowed to exist. (Even in Egypt and Jordan, being Christian is “allowed” only within certain acceptable parameters, under the watchful eyes of their governments — another whole discussion.) In this case, I think Dr. Habeeb needs to take his complaints mainly to Fatah and their supporters (incl. Syria and Iran).

    Where this will lead, certainly worries me. Israel saying it’s all-our war, while understandable given the background and record of failure or any compromise with Fatah, gives justification to the enemies of Israel (and the U.S.) who continue to see this situation in isolation, as a case of a powerful military vs. “people armed with a few guns and grenades and suicide bombing martyrs.” In a world where the image is more powerful than the substance, especially with those getting their whole “information” from their own very biased sources, and where there is just pressure to be “with us or against us,” these scenes will no doubt just add fuel to the fire.

  • “Think about that on your way to the rally. Israel has children, too.”

    What Woody statement says to me is that is that 1 Israeli life is worth 300 odd Palestinians. This because each statement about the massive airial assault on Gaza, using the most technically advanced ordinance and delivery systems in the world in the hands of one of the most powerful armies in the world is “balanced” against miscelaneous toy rocket launches by unidentifieed Palestinians militants, as if they are similar activities, with simillar consequences. Woody is comparing the violence of an occupying force with that of of a captive population which presides in what Israelis like Jeff Halper calls the worlds largest open air prison. What rights if any do Palestinians have to defend themselves? Lets not forget that there are no rockets coming form the West Bank yet Israel continues expanding its illegal settlements there. It shot at non violent protestors in the West Bank yesterday, killing one person. Let’s be clear that this is an attack on the entire population of Gaza and it must be stopped.

  • I’m copying what I wrote over at Coopers as it relates to what reg says here.

    I tend to agree with John M about the dishonest way we tend to evoke the “vigorous debate” in Israel. The intention may be good but in the process we end up producing a kind of fiction, that there exists a real and significant opposition to the strangulation and horrrors we see inflicted in Gaza. Lets remember that 80 per cent of Israelis support the brutal action and that Palestinian lives are being used to further electoral ambitions of Israeli politicians. Gideon Levy, who wirtes for Haaretz, is surely someone Marc would cite as being part of the “healthy debate”, here’s what he recently wrote about the feckless Israeli peace camp.

    “The Israeli peace camp was born in sin and died because of a lie: It was born as the legitimate son of the sin of occupation, and died the illegitimate son of the lie that “there is no partner” with whom to negotiate on the other side. Between September 1967 and October 2000, it spent 33 years waging the brave and determined struggle of a minority against a majority, “traitors” against “patriots,” “defilers of Israel” against “lovers of Israel,” David against Goliath. Today, we must painfully admit that it was struggle that did not produce much.

    At the end of Camp David, when he told us “there’s no partner,” Ehud Barak propagated an even bigger lie: that we have a peace camp. How pleasant it is to delude ourselves that we have one, and how depressing it is to know that we don’t. There is no left – just empty words. When the only demonstration in town is over student tuition, when the only discourse in city and village alike concerns the “Big Brother” TV show, and the loudest cries are over “corruption” and Olmert’s frequent-flier miles instead of over the jailed Palestinian who is bleeding and beaten, who hasn’t had a normal day in his life – then we know for sure that there is no peace camp in Israel in 2008.

    Maybe there never was? Maybe a camp that is defeated with such intolerable ease just needs to be told there is no partner in order to simply disappear. The moment this camp witnesses terrorism – that means of struggle for all those who seek liberation – it shuts itself down at home, planning the next package tour and watching a reality show, in fear, silence, betrayal and sick apathy, while half an hour away, the cruel occupation lives on. It’s much crueler today than it was back then, when a dozen Matzpen members printed that public appeal, a voice crying in the wilderness, the barren desert wilderness of the Israeli left and of Israeli society as a whole…

    The term “left” and the expression “peace camp” need to be removed from the dictionary of Hebrew terms. We no longer have the right to make use of them. Any use whatsoever. “

  • Above should be “given the…record OF (not or)failure of any compromise with Fatah…” I’m always trying to post a comment while the phone is ringing or something…

    Meanwhile, Celeste’s comment at #4, jumping in to corroborate reg’s views, only supports my para #4, which you DO have to take into account as part of the big picture in that region. We really can’t criticize Israel as if it existed in a geographic and ethnoreligious vacuum, or in the midst of the EU. We tend to hold it to the same standards we value here, but I’ve come to realize how self-destructive that can be for a small country in a place where most of its territory can be shelled by enemy neighbors on all sides.

  • Ahmed above quotes with approval Gideon Levy’s dismissal of the notion that there is or even was a real Israeli “peace camp:” (a camp Ahmed himself calls “feckless”

    “The moment this camp witnesses terrorism — that means of struggle for all who seek liberation — …” Well, there’s the crux of it, isn’t it?

    Since when do we all agree with this premise? To the contrary, the belief that terrorism is inevitable as “that means of struggle for all who seek liberation” is what ostensibly divides “civilized” societies from those which aren’t (for lack of better terminology). Whether it’s the Palestinians, Kashmir separatists in Mumbai, the Serbs vs. Croats, Shining PATH with their hostage-taking brutality, the IRA, those who’ve bombed Madrid or the World Trade Center, etc., haven’t we come to an agreement that terrorism must NOT be rewarded?

  • Ahmed, the lesson is that people with small armies shouldn’t be provoking nations with bigger armies. Israel wouldn’t be retaliating if Hamas had not started launching missiles against Israel. The Palestinian deaths are blood on the hands of the terrorists who start the fights and hide among innocent, though supportive, people.

  • Woody, I assume then that you support non violent resistance to the occupation? And since we are complicit in the strangulation of the Palestinian people through our support for every single act of ISraeli aggression what should people in the United States be doing?

  • “the contrary, the belief that terrorism is inevitable as “that means of struggle for all who seek liberation” is what ostensibly divides “civilized” societies from those which aren’t (for lack of better terminology”

    This statement is devoid of any moral standing unless it aplies the same standards to the violence coming from Israel, which, lets remember is an occupying power.


  • Ahmed, if the Palestinians have no capability to voice concerns other than lobbing terrorist missiles into Israel, then maybe they should stop, shut up, and accept their situation for now.

  • Since most military analysts believe that Hamas has intended to provoke the Israelis into a land invasion, the “lesson” is a bit more complicated than Woody would have it. “Big armies” vs “small armies” isn’t necessarily the key to success in these situations of occupation and seige.

    After decades of occupation and an aggressive settlements policy that was backed by successive Israeli governments, the Israelis have created their monster. In the case of Hamas itself, this is true literally since the Mossad helped Hamas in its early formations as a counter to the mainstream PLO, when Fatah was seen as the major military threat. This story is rife with such ironies. The notion that now the Israelis are acting in good faith and only want peace is dubious in light of the history. And terrorism in such situations is in the mind of the beholder – why is an aerial bombing not “terrorist” while a suicide bombing obviously is. Is it not terrorist to blow up a family if the head of it is a member of Hamas ?

    Unfortunately, Jabotinsky, the Zionist ultra-nationalist (big fan of Mussolini and fascist ideology until Hitler spoiled the party) who in contrast to the “paternalistic” labor Zionists recognized that the Arabs would likely cling to their own nationalism with the same tenacity and ferocity he did and must be conquered, has become the prophet of the contemporary Israeli state. They should name the wall after him – he actually wrote an article “The Iron Wall” on the need to defeat Arab nationalism by force in which he said of Zionism “there is no other morality.” He is the father of the Irgun – which was blatantly terrorist – and of the Likud party, which has been dominant in Israeli policy for three decades.

    That said, I think the Palestinians have had some of the worst leadership in modern history. They haven’t been able to escape their own demons and reactionary cultural context. I have no solutions to offer frankly. Just cynicism and a bit of a clear eye as to the calamitous “friendship” of the US with the Israelis. Israel is the only “friend” I’m aware of that had the hubris to knowingly attack one of our ships and kill dozens of our sailors – and amazingly, given their “special connections” among our elites, to get away with it, including an official, although not very effective, coverup. Google USS Liberty, including the wikipedia article and tell me that the Israelis aren’t the kinds of “friends” who exempt one from needing enemies. Unfortunately, I think that the situation has deterioriated into such a downward spiraling mess that it’s beyond a settlement that serves any broader humanitarian interest than the respective ideologues.

  • Another mea culpa, in #6 I meant Hamas not Fatah as the culprit which intentionally broke the cease-fire, angering Fatah as well…

    Ahmed’s comment in #14 is the kind that tries to obfuscate reality by taking as a given that Israel and groups like Hamas and all terrorist organizations are equal (by the logic he uses, that includes Al Qaeda), and it’s useless to get bogged down there.

    (Being in Egypt even among the educated “elite” is a real eye-opener to how much the Arab world really does hate Israel and holds as a given that its own admitted terrorist past makes it morally equivalent to Muslim terrorists today: they point to Begin/ Shamir etc. as terrorists who used terror/ mass killing as a tool of liberation, and indeed they were if you look at the Irgun vs. British objectively — maybe Jews need to come to terms with that aspect of their past, and admit that claiming those people were heroes without blemish is just another case where one person’s terrorist has been another’s revolutionary hero. Still, I always tell such Arab friends that we can’t justify terrorism today just because it happened in the past: we live in far more complex and potentially explosive times, and they have far more tools available.)

    As for Woody’s comment #15, I’m not suggesting that Palestinians “shut up, and accept their situation for now,” but point out that Palestinians have “snatched defeat from victory” once again by openly extolling terrorism instead of diplomacy and the many tools to sway public opinion available them in this internet age — tools used to advantage by others.

    However, I totally disagree with Ahmed’s premise (shared by terrorists everywhere from Kashmir to Catalonia to the IRA to Al Qaeda etc. etc.) that terrorism is justified whenever you don’t like new national or political boundaries. If you look at all the places in the world where territory has been redrawn to the disadvantage of some groups, you can start with the “former Yugoslavia,” look at Hungarians/ Croats/ Germans of former Austro-Hungarian Empire who have been oppressed by their new masters in Serbia, Romania, etc. (until recently there was all-out cultural and even physical genocide going on in these areas as well), and you could then “logically” argue that continued terrorism in all those regions was justified until each ethnic group got back its ancestral territories. (Which is another can of worms, when you look at the fact that Transylvania belonged to Hungary for over a 1000 years yet to Romanians, all that was an “occupation” of a region they claim kinship with going back to the Roman Empire; hence they’re not allowing archeological findings to be released except those which reflect their politics — also the case in NW China/ Xingiang, where the Han Chinese are intent on claiming that the indiginous Turko-European Uighurs are the interlopers.)

    The Romanian “revolution,” like the Eastern/ Central European one in general, was eventually “won” because people across ethnic groups rose to oppose a common dictator and not because they continued killing each other: arguably, because they’d stopped. With the Chinese government, the Uighurs, Tibetans and other truly “occupied lands” the dissenters have no rational peace partner along the lines of the Israelies in “occupied Palestine,” not even close, nor do they have free access to disseminating their ideas via the internet, as everyone does in Israel.
    India, like Israel, is a democracy if often an unwieldy and messy one rife with its own ethno-religious tensions on all sides, and in that context as well, terrorism is not only far from inevitable but justifiably condemned by the world.

    In China, we see that Tibetans are tired of the Dalai Lama’s decades-old strategy of peace over violence, yet I’d argue that the Tibetans are a lot better off for it, than if a few million Tibetans had taken to all-out violence in the streets decades ago — that would have been put down as a “justifiable act to quell terrorism,” and who’d have even remembered the Tibetans now? (In that sense, Woody’s right that the Palestinians’ utterly lack of realism in their situation adds to the self-destructive nature of their political worldview, although I have to distance myself from most of Woody’s views on this matter — just as I do from the evangelicals’ biblical support of Israel.)

  • Reg – because terror is their policy.

    Israel’s isn’t, and their behavior is consistent with a non-terror policy. If they wanted to terrorize, they could have done it a lot more effectively and a lot less expensively with indiscriminate shelling instead of precision weapons use.

    And that’s rather obvious.

  • Do the Palestinians have access to so-called “precision weapons “? And why would the Israelis colonize and settle the occupied territories if their only goal was peace and an equitable two-state solution. The Israelis have done their best to humilate and degrade the Palestinans. And that’s rather obvious.

    These apologetics for the Israelis are utter bullshit – ahistorical, blind to the military realities and fundamentally racist. By the way – what’s the position of the wonderful regime we’ve installed in Baghdad on this question ?

  • Do the Palestinians have access to so-called “precision weapons

    It’s harder to find a more precise weapon than a suicide bomber, isn’t it? Do you support the use of suicide bombers in civilian settings by the Palestinians? Blowing up families on purpose?

    For that matter, do you seriously argue that the rockets fired from Gaza are aimed at military targets?

    Apologetics for the Palestinian tactic of intentional murders of civilians are disgusting. One might even wonder if they are anti-semitic in origin.

  • Moore – that yous should even ask if I support suicide bombers makes you not worth another minute.

    You’re an idiot. Half-wit and boring. You’re the apologist here.

  • Israeli PM Barak clarifies the situation:

    “On the election campaign trail in 1999, Ehud Barak was asked what he’d have done if he’d been born Palestinian, and answered without hesitation, ‘Joined a fighting organization.'”

    Mr. Moore is welcome to address further questions about the relative morality of sides in this conflict to Barak’s HQ in Jerusalem.

  • reg supports previous war crimes.

    ● Violation of the Constitution and his oath of office by invading and waging war against states that had legally and democratically withdrawn their consent from his government, inaugurating one of the cruelest wars in recent history.
    ● Subverting the duly constituted governments of states that had not left the Union, thereby subverting their constitution right to “republican form of government.”
    ● Raising troops without the approval of Congress and expending funds without appropriation.
    ● Suspending the writ of habeas corpus and interfering with the press without due process, imprisoning thousands of citizens without charge or trial, and closing courts by military force where no hostilities were occurring.
    ● Corrupting the currency by manipulations and paper swindles unheard of in previous UShistory.
    ● Fraud and corruption by appointees and contractors with his knowledge and connivance.
    ● Continuing the war by raising ever-larger bodies of troops by conscription and hiring of foreign mercenaries and refusing to negotiate in good faith for an end to hostilities.
    ● Confiscation of millions of dollars of property by his agents in the South, especially cotton, without legal proceedings.
    ● Waging war against women and children and civilian property as the matter of policy (rather than as unavoidably incident to combat).

  • Well, reg, then is there any relevant meaning to your comment below?

    Do the Palestinians have access to so-called “precision weapons

  • I guess the meaning insofar as you’re concerned is that you consider suicide boming “precision weapons.” But then I’ve known for years that you were completely crazy.

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