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The Gaza offensive: an Israeli tradition

BY PATRICK HITCHON | FEBRUARY 23, 2009 7:30 AM

On April 10, 1948, the New York Times reported on the massacre of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin thus: “200 Arabs killed, stronghold taken. A combined force of Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern group, Jewish extremist underground forces, captured the Arab village of Deir Yassin on the western outskirts of Jerusalem today. In house-to-house fighting, the Jews killed more than 200 Arabs, half of them women and children. The Irgunists and Sternists escorted a party of U.S. correspondents to a house near Deir Yassin, offered them tea and cookies, and amplified details of the operation. The spokesman said he regretted the casualties among the women and children at Deir Yassin but asserted that they were inevitable because almost every house had to be reduced by force. Ten houses were blown up. At others, the attackers blew open the doors and threw in hand grenades.” The exact numbers of the casualties have been contested, depending on whose side you are. Nevertheless, the details convey the policies adopted at the time by Israeli forces to expel Palestinians and acquire their land. The above attack was orchestrated by Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister of Israel.

In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and professor of history at the British University of Exeter, describes the expulsion of the Palestinians orchestrated by Zionist leaders. In his preface he states, “The Zionist Policy was first based on retaliation against Palestinian attacks in February 1947, and it transformed into an initiative to ethnically cleanse the country as a whole in March 1948. When it was over, more than half of Palestine’s native population, close to 800,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and 11 urban neighborhoods emptied of their inhabitants (my mother’s family being one of them). The plan decided upon on March 10, 1948, was a clear-cut case of ethnic cleansing, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity.” Where is the worldwide outcry against this injustice leveled against Palestinians?

The current 22-day attack by Israel on Gaza has claimed 1,300 lives and 5,300 injuries, half of whom are women and children. This reprisal was allegedly in retaliation for Hamas’ lobbing rockets into Israel. These rocket attacks are unacceptable by any standards. The root cause of these rocket attacks is the 18-month-old siege that Israel had applied on Gaza. Hoping for a Hamas collapse, and in an attempt to replace Hamas’ control of Gaza, Israel has opted for collective punishment. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, soon-to-be replaced Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have chosen to resort to this bombardment. It came at a time when George W. Bush was on his way out and in preparation for elections in Israel. This in accordance with Israel’s past “iron-fist policies,” “teaching the Arabs a lesson,” and “breaking their bones.” As far as the bombardment of a U.N. school sheltering Palestinians, the bombing of a U.N. depot, and the illegal use of phosphorus bombs, Israel apologizes, and will conduct an investigation.

Sound familiar?

I wonder what the relatives of the 1,100 killed during the June 2006 Lebanese bombardment by Israel really think of their neighbors to the south? I wonder what the feelings are of the Gaza parents, brothers, and sisters of those who have been dismembered, disfigured, and killed by the Israel Defense Forces?

The root of the problem is Israeli aggrandizement and intransigence toward U.N. resolutions. Scores of U.N. resolutions have called for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories, repatriation and compensation of Palestinian refugees, dismantling the 200 illegal settlements, and the end of Israeli occupation. Thanks to our administration’s unconditional support of the Israeli war machine, these many resolutions have been vetoed.

Israelis should not have to take shelter from Hamas rockets. Also, Gazans and Lebanese children should not be taking shelter from Israeli phosphorus and cluster bombs. We have seen enough of blinded and dismembered Gazan children. We do not need any more apologies or investigations. Our unwavering support of Israel has cost us our image in the world. We are no longer viewed as an arbitrator but as a biased supporter of Israel at all cost.

It is time for us to stop dodging the shoes of disgruntled Arabs and instead reach for their extended hands searching for a congratulatory and friendly handshake. If we change our policies in the Middle East, this will happen.

The author is a UI professor of neurosurgery and bioengineering.


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