The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza


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By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN

http://www.counterpunch.org/finkelstein01132009.html

The record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Israel broke the ceasefire by going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At that point—and now I’m quoting the official Israeli website—Hamas retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched the missiles.

Now, as to the reason why, the record is fairly clear as well. According to Ha’aretz, Defense Minister Barak began plans for this invasion before the ceasefire even began. In fact, according to yesterday’s Ha’aretz, the plans for the invasion began in March. And the main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one; to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in layman’s language basically means Israel’s capacity to terrorize the region into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.

And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border. That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international consensus, they had joined most of the international community, overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas.

As was documented in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair by the writer David Rose, basing himself on internal US documents, it was the United States in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority and Israel which were attempting a putsch on Hamas, and Hamas preempted the putsch. That, too, is no longer debatable or no longer a controversial claim.

The issue is can it rule in Gaza if Israel maintains a blockade and prevents economic activity among the Palestinians. The blockade, incidentally, was implemented before Hamas came to power. The blockade doesn’t even have anything to do with Hamas. The blockade came to—there were Americans who were sent over, in particular James Wolfensohn, to try to break the blockade after Israel redeployed its troops in Gaza.

The problem all along has been that Israel doesn’t want Gaza to develop, and Israel doesn’t want to resolve diplomatically the conflict, both the leadership in Damascus and the leadership in the Gaza have repeatedly made statements they’re willing to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border. The record is fairly clear. In fact, it’s unambiguously clear.

Every year, the United Nations General Assembly votes on a resolution entitled “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” And every year the vote is the same: it’s the whole world on one side; Israel, the United States and some South Sea atolls and Australia on the other side. The vote this past year was 164-to-7. Every year since 1989—in 1989, the vote was 151-to-3, the whole world on one side, the United States, Israel and the island state of Dominica on the other side.

We have the Arab League, all twenty-two members of the Arab League, favoring a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We have the Palestinian Authority favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We now have Hamas favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. The one and only obstacle is Israel, backed by the United States. That’s the problem.

Well, the record shows that Hamas wanted to continue the ceasefire, but only on condition that Israel eases the blockade. Long before Hamas began the retaliatory rocket attacks on Israel, Palestinians were facing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza because of the blockade. The former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, described what was going on in Gaza as a destruction of a civilization. This was during the ceasefire period.

What does the record show? The record shows for the past twenty or more years, the entire international community has sought to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border with a just resolution of the refugee question. Are all 164 nations of the United Nations the rejectionists? And are the only people in favor of peace the United States, Israel, Nauru, Palau, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Australia? Who are the rejectionists? Who’s opposing a peace?

The record shows that in every crucial issue raised at Camp David, then under the Clinton parameters, and then in Taba, at every single point, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. Israel didn’t make any concessions. Every concession came from the Palestinians. The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed a willingness to settle the conflict in accordance with international law.

The law is very clear. July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank and any of Gaza. They have no title to Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem, according to the highest judicial body in the world, is occupied Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice ruled all the settlements, all the settlements in the West Bank, are illegal under international law.

Now, the important point is, on all those questions, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions. They made all the concessions. Israel didn’t make any concessions.

I think it’s fairly clear what needs to happen. Number one, the United States and Israel have to join the rest of the international community, have to abide by international law. I don’t think international law should be trivialized. I think it’s a serious issue. If Israel is in defiance of international law, it should be called into account, just like any other state in the world.

Mr. Obama has to level with the American people. He has to be honest about what is the main obstacle to resolving the conflict. It’s not Palestinian rejectionism. It’s the refusal of Israel, backed by the United States government, to abide by international law, to abide by the opinion of the international community.

And the main challenge for all of us as Americans is to see through the lies.

Norman Finkelstein is author of five books, including Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Beyond Chutzpah and The Holocaust Industry, which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions. He is the son of Holocaust survivors. This article is an edited extract of the views of Finkelstein given at DemocracyNow.org. His website is www.NormanFinkelstein.com

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7 thoughts on “The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza

  1. I am very tired of the western media and its brainwashed zombies (including Finkelstein) referring to the brave Palestinian people and their resistance as “Hamas” and the brutal Israeli colonizers as “Israel”. This is a sneeky attemt to delegitimize Hamas which is the authentic government elected by a large majority of the Palestinian people. The conspiracy to dub Hamas as “terrorist”, and thereby the Palestinian people, is despicable. The fight is between Palestinie and Israel, not between Hamas and Israel.

    The London Economist had a leader (“The hundred years’ war”, January 10), which says much of value regarding the conflict in Palestine, but remains discreetly silent about issues that Israel uses to justify its assault on the hapless Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas was handsomely elected to govern by a very transparent democratic mandate of the Palestinian people. The Israeli screed of demonizing Hamas as a “terrorist” organization, despite the legitimacy bestowed on it by an open election, is just that — demonization. The repeated refrain that “Israel has a right to defend itself” is both gratuitous and misleading. Defend itself from what? There is no right for an occupying power to defend its occupation. An occupied people, however, do have a right to resist occupation.

  2. First, Israel does not occupy Gaza – how many times does it have to be said.
    Second, yes, the “hapless” Palestinian people voted for Hamas which means that they agree with their stated aim of the destruction of the state of Israel. They should therefore not be surprised when Israel returns fire after being rocketed.
    Third, over 8000 rockets fired into Israel since 2000, so tell me again, what is Israel protecting itself from?
    I am tired of people like you believing every anti-Israel propaganda stunt provided by the same people who are responsible for 9/11, the Madrid train bombing, the July 7 bombings, the Mumbai attacks and not to mention the oppression of millions of their own people. WAKE UP!

  3. LB has it ass-backwards. Israel does much worse than occupy Gaza. It has literally imprisoned 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza-strip of Palestine, shooting, humiliating and starving these poor people, far more brutally than the apartheid regime did in the old South Africa with its racist bantustan policy. Israel not only occupies Gaza, but it also occupies all of Palestine.

    The question is not what Israel would do if rockets were fired at it, but what an oppressed and abused people should do if they their land was confiscated and their children slaughtered.

  4. Let’s see, 8000 rockets, the smallest able to demolish part of a house and kill the occupants inside that part hit, the largest capable of flattening a house and killing all its occupants. I think Israel exercised considerable restraint, for too long. Maybe it should have started rocket clubs and shot similar rockets back at Gaza, terrorizing the whole city? The same rockets fired back in a more confined area, with greater chance of hitting someone would have created hundreds if not thousands of deaths! Is that the argument? OK, sounds fair to me. Next time Israel should do that instead. It would have saved a lot of money on expensive hi tech weaponry if all it was meant to do was to kill and injure people.

    • Yeheshkhal, thank you for your comments. How did Israel’s disproportional “Response” in any way ensure its security, make its citizens safer, eliminate Hamas, and reduce terrorism? So far we have more than 1,300 deaths and a global outcry from the world denouncing Israel’s military offensive. Perhaps a re-examination of its policy towards Gaza and West Bank is warranted,no?

  5. Certainly rockets fired at INNOCENT civilians is a war crime.

    But the town of Sderot is an ethnically cleansed and occupied Palestinian town.

    And according to International Law there is no right for an occupying power to defend its occupation.

    An occupied people, however, do have a right to resist occupation.

    i.e. What the rockest are being fired AT is occupied land and/or against the occupier of Palestinian territory.

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