On Sunday afternoon, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, ending a three-day escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. After two unarmed protesters were killed during the weekly Friday protest, two Israeli soldiers were killed in a firefight at the border. The Israeli military responded by bombing targets in Gaza resulting in two more Palestinian deaths. In response, Hamas and other minor political groupings such as Islamic Jihad, launched a barrage of projectiles into Israel.
According to a Hamas leader, the organisation felt escalation was a necessary response to Israel shirking its obligations to ease the blockade — one of the terms of the ceasefire after Operation Protective Edge. To signal resistance against Israel, Hamas and other militant groups in the strip occasionally launch homemade projectiles into southern Israel. In reality these “rockets” are weak, especially compared to the high tech war machine that Israel possesses. In fact, only four Israelis were killed by the indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel’s urban areas. According to the Independent, this is the first time in five years that an Israeli has been killed by a projectile launched from Gaza.
As a side note: when the Jerusalem Post reported early on about injured Israelis, their numbers were inflated by 10 who were mildly injured while running to shelter and 45 who suffered from “anxiety”. Only three in this case were actually injured from Gaza rocket fire.
Why then, in the face of such a relatively insignificant threat, does Israel decide to erupt into a bombing frenzy in one of the poorest areas in the world? Israeli officials often say it is about something called “deterrence capacity”.
Deterrence capacity is essentially a measure of how terrified people are of a violent response if they were to cross Israel. Throughout all of Israel’s statehood, deterrence capacity has been at the centre of its military strategy. It is established when the Israeli forces “demonstrate real hooliganism” at the demand of the high Israeli officials. The more indiscriminate the violence and the more fear struck into the hearts of Palestinians, the less likely they are to resist Israel’s harsh treatment. The Israelis use the term “mowing the lawn” to describe these periodic outbursts of violence. It is a deliberate attempt to beat a desperate people into submission in order to accomplish political ends. In a word, it is the definition of state terrorism.
On Sunday, while the bombs were still falling, Hamas and Islamic Jihad signalled that they were ready to reach a ceasefire. Israel ignored this because, according to Israeli officials, they wanted to reestablish their deterrence capacity. Netanyahu promised “massive strikes” and even began mobilising ground forces in preparation for an invasion. In other words, the military wanted the population of Gaza to suffer more so that they would fear Israel more. If they fear Israeli bombes enough, Israeli strategy assumes the people of Gaza would quietly accept the destruction of their society. The only reasonIsrael did not escalate was that it did not want to juggle the PR of bombing a defenceless population during the Eurovision song contest which is being held in Tel Aviv this year.
The decision to continue the bombardment came even after it was known that many civilians, including a pregnant woman and and an infant, were killed in the attacks. Israeli command evidently did not care about these casualties. This is just the latest example of Israel using security concerns to justify outright terrorism. To show just how spurious the security pretext is, ask simple question: What effect will the bombing have on Israeli security?
The bombings are never designed to destroy Hamas militarily. That would be impossible without completely obliterating the strip after a costly invasion and then entirely uprooting Gaza’s civil society. The attacks also do not weaken Hamas politically, but strengthen it. Hamas’s popularity comes in part from their reputation as an armed resistance against Israeli aggression. Armed resistance wouldn’t be as popular if Israel was not continuously antagonising the population with a crippling blockade and perpetuating the humanitarian crisis.
When Israel attacks Gaza, they’re not expecting some sort of change to the status quo.Bombing the enclave only serves to exacerbate both feelings of hostility as well as the underlying conditions. All of this increases the likelihood of Palestinian violence. As long as Israel refuses to address the roots of the situation, daily life in Gaza will remain unchanged, along with the conditions that lead some to justify firing projectiles into Israel.
So, when Israel bombs one of the most densely populated areas on earth, remorselessly slaughters infants and bombs school shelters and personal residences all in the name of security, the serious reader must understand it as nothing less than a cover for the continuation of terrorism against the Palestinian people. Without wilful ignorance, mental gymnastics or outright cognitive dissonance, there’s no other way of putting it.