The official name for Israel's latest assault on Gaza is "Operation Protective Edge." A better name would be "Operation Déjà Vu." As it has on several prior occasions, Israel is using weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers to bombard the captive and impoverished Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll now exceeds 500. As usual, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders understand Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restraint, and that its actions make Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of most of the world.
This Orwellian situation is eloquent testimony to the continued political clout of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the other hardline elements of the Israel lobby. There is no other plausible explanation for the supine behavior of the U.S. Congress--including some of its most "progressive" members--or the shallow hypocrisy of the Obama administration, especially those officials known for their purported commitment to human rights.
The immediate cause of this latest one-sided bloodletting was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli hikers in the occupied West Bank, followed shortly thereafter by the kidnapping and fatal burning of a Palestinian teenager by several Israelis. According to J.J. Goldberg's reporting in the Jewish newspaper Forward, the Netanyahu government blamed Hamas for the kidnappings without evidence and pretended the kidnapped Israelis were still alive for several weeks, even though there was evidence indicating the victims were already dead. It perpetrated this deception in order to whip up anti-Arab sentiment and make it easier to justify punitive operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
And why did Netanyahu decide to go on another rampage in Gaza? As Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group points out, the real motive is neither vengeance nor a desire to protect Israel from Hamas' rocket fire, which has been virtually non-existent over the past two years and is largely ineffectual anyway. Netanyahu's real purpose was to undermine the recent agreement between Hamas and Fatah for a unity government. Given Netanyahu's personal commitment to keeping the West Bank and creating a "greater Israel," the last thing he wants is a unified Palestinian leadership that might press him to get serious about a two-state solution. Ergo, he sought to isolate and severely damage Hamas and drive a new wedge between the two Palestinian factions.
Behind all these maneuvers looms Israel's occupation of Palestine, now in its fifth decade. Not content with having ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 and not satisfied with owning eighty-two percent of Mandatory Palestine, every Israeli government since 1967 has built or expanded settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while providing generous subsidies to the 600,000-plus Jews who have moved there in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu confirmed what many have long suspected: he is dead set against a two-state solution and will never--repeat never--allow it to happen while he is in office. Given that Netanyahu is probably the most moderate member of his own Cabinet and that Israel's political system is marching steadily rightward, the two-state solution is a gone goose.
Worst of all, the deaths of hundreds more Palestinians and a small number of Israelis will change almost nothing. Hamas is not going to disband. When this latest round of fighting ends, the 4.4 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza will still be Israel's de facto prisoners and still be denied basic human rights. But they are not going to leave, mainly because Palestine is their homeland, but also because they have nowhere to go, especially given the turmoil in other parts of the Middle East.