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The Politics And Propaganda Of
The US-Israeli War On Gaza

By Max Kantar

05 January, 2009

Author's note: As I write this, Israeli troops have begun their much anticipated ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

The biggest propaganda surrounding American mainstream discourse on Israel's war on Gaza can be found in the main assumption underlying the entire discussion. Within the ideological confines of US mainstream media, Israel's Gaza war aims are, without exception, represented as an earnest effort to "stop the rocket fire from coming out of Gaza" and "[to] create a new security equation in southern Israel." [1]

While this presupposition defines the framework of media coverage and is of course professed by the Israeli government, it not only defies elementary logic concerning the security and welfare of Israeli civilians in the south, but it also implies a complete distortion of what has transpired over the past several months.

The Cease-fire agreement until November 4th

Although Hamas was unsuccessful in fully stopping all rockets from being fired into Israel during the first four and one half months of the six month Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, it did halt all of its own rocket firing, drastically reduce the number of rockets fired into Israel by other militant groups, and also arrested other unrelated militants for their participation in such breaches of the agreement.[2] Other militant groups, such as Islamic Jihad, took responsibility for a number of rocket attacks during the cease-fire period, while Hamas officials have also alleged that some rockets had been fired by Israeli collaborators.[3]

In all, it appears that until November 5th, Hamas observed the cease-fire agreement as it did not fire any rockets into Israel. The only way it could be accused of breaching the agreement is by failing to completely stop militant groups such as Islamic Jihad from their occasional rocket launches–a failure that Israel bares no small responsibility in as it has strangled and undermined the democratically elected Hamas government from the moment of its seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, significantly inhibiting Hamas' ability to be able to administer control over the territory it governed. [4]

Israel never exhibited any commitment to observing the truce. In fact, by not easing (let alone lifting) the illegal siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israel simply ignored its central responsibility in the Egyptian brokered agreement. The siege of the Gaza Strip, which Israel had been administering since June 2007, has caused hundreds of deaths of medical patients, drastically reduced public access to fuel and electricity, and severely limited the import of not only necessary commercial goods, but humanitarian food convoys as well. [5]

Amazingly, Israel broke the cease-fire agreement almost daily in Gaza's coastal waters while trying to impose an artificial six mile fishing limit on Gaza's fishermen–a limit that has no legal significance.[6] While trying to enforce non-existent fishing limits, the Israeli Navy rammed, damaged, and destroyed several Palestinian fishing boats. They also routinely fired upon unarmed civilian fishing boats carrying Palestinian civilians as well as international volunteers. [7]

On November 4th, Israel attacked Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip killing at least six militants in order to "thwart the threat" of a tunnel being dug by the Gaza border. Hamas responded to the Israeli breach with a barrage of rocket fire on November 5th. [8] Immediately, having obtained the necessary pretext, Israel completely sealed Gaza's borders, resulting in humanitarian food and medicine convoys being completely barred from entry for several days on end.[9]

The Israeli siege was condemned by the UN General Assembly President Ban Ki-Moon as "[intolerable],"culminating in "collective punishment," a war crime under the 4th Geneva convention. He joined calls in the international human rights community for a campaign of boycott and divestment of Israel to "pressure" it into ending its policy of "apartheid" and "massive human rights abuses," specifically ones coming as a result of the humanitarian catastrophe inflicted by Israel's siege on Gaza's mostly youthful (56% children) population. [10]

The Israeli siege was only tightened by Israel as they continued to attack targets in Gaza while Hamas continued responding with rocket fire in southern Israel. The cease-fire agreement, for all intents and purposes, (although not officially) ended on November 4th. Several Palestinian militants were killed throughout the duration of the official cease-fire period. No Israeli casualties were reported, to my knowledge.

An Empty Doctrine Used to Justify the Attacks

If we are to take seriously the Israeli claim, echoed by the chorus of elite media and our leaders in Washington, that the purpose of its bombardment of Gaza is to halt rocket attacks on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, we should first ask what evidence exists that would provide rationale for such an approach in trying to put a stop to Hamas rocket fire.

The fact is that the Israeli authorities knew full well that by massively escalating its violent attacks on Gaza, Hamas militants would surely respond with barrages of rockets, which they have. Israeli military violence has never succeeded in stopping Hamas from firing rockets into Israel's south. It has had the opposite effect.

Indeed, no Israelis had been killed during the cease-fire period, despite over a dozen Palestinians being killed by Israeli attacks and raids on Gaza beginning with the November 4th Israeli assault. Not surprisingly, four Israelis have been killed after Hamas predictably stepped up its rocket attacks in response to Israel's unprecedented slaughter which began on December 26th; all four Israeli deaths have no doubt come as result or reaction to Israel's massive aerial campaign. [11]

Clearly, the prevailing doctrine hailed by the US and Israel and regurgitated faithfully by US media outlets depicting Israel's war on Gaza as a struggle to bring an end to Palestinian rocket fire is extremely falsified and misleading.

It was Israel who was unwilling to abide by the terms of the cease-fire agreement by continuing to maintain the illegal economic blockade of Gaza, shooting at fishermen and internationals, attacking the Gaza Strip on November 4th, and subsequently increasing its strangulation of Gaza, predictably bringing a virtual and premature end to the cease-fire period. But there's more.

Hamas has showed its willingness to observe and agree to cease-fire agreements–the only proven tactic in curbing violence against both Palestinians and Israelis.[12] In fact, although it was scarcely reported, after three bloody days of overwhelming Israeli aggression, a Hamas official, Ahmed Yusef, explicitly expressed Hamas' readiness and desire to renew the cease-fire and "extend it to another six months." Yusef also noted that Israel would have to make a mutal "commitment" presumably along the lines of the previous Egyptian brokered cease-fire agreement, in which Israel categorically failed to adhere to. [13]

Just two days later, with unilateral US backing Israel responded by flatly rejecting a 48 hour humanitarian cease-fire agreement proposed by French officials.[14] The United States, once again, halted the prospect of a passing a legally binding cease-fire resolution in the United Nations Security Council proposed by Arab League the following evening. Such a resolution would've been the obvious way to put an immediate end to the carnage. [15] Therefore we can conclude that, Israel and the US, not the Palestinians, are the parties who have been blocking any steps toward easing the violence. But such an uncontroversial conclusion has no place in respectable liberal media outlets.

To further examine the validity of the notion that stopping Gaza rockets is the "central cause" of Israel's current "campaign" in the Gaza Strip, it is instructive to note of the nature of the Israeli bombings, i.e. who has been killed and what specific infrastructure has been targeted.[16]

After eight straight days of relentless aerial punishment, much of the already destitute Gaza Strip has been turned to rubble with Israel reportedly "running out of targets to hit."[17] Not surprisingly, the UN has reported that "at least 25% of Gaza's dead were civilians," with UNRWA representative, Christopher Gunness noting that "the number may well be far higher."[18] Palestinian human rights groups, such as Al Mezan, have claimed the civilian death rate to be much higher while pointing out that civilian police officers not participating in hostilities are not legitimate military targets under international humanitarian law.[19] Furthermore, after three days of Israeli air attacks, a Palestinian doctor in Gaza told the BBC that "nearly all the casualties he had seen...had been civilians."[20]

So far, several mosques have been bombed. Many homes have been bombed and destroyed, killing children in their beds and other civilians. [21] An apartment complex was assaulted with half of those murdered being innocent civilians.[22] Water wells and communication facilities have also been attacked, killing multiple workers. Israeli warplanes have struck at least one prison killing security forces as well as inmates.[23] The public Islamic University and its female dormitories were targeted for destruction by the IAF. The government ministries of health and education were also bombed out as well. Along with several civilian police stations, (the main targets of Israel's aggression) a police graduation ceremony was targeted, killing dozens of young men. [24]

If for a moment it is possible to escape the doctrinal framework of mass media where "Israeli bombing targets" are by definition "Hamas rocket launching sites," regardless of what sort of people or infrastructure US-supplied weapons tear to pieces, clear headed people will note that very few of Israel's targets have anything to do with neutralizing rocket launching capabilities–something that would be very hard to do, if not impossible.[25] The merciless Israeli bombings are meant to undermine and destroy civil society in the Hamas-ruled Strip. Hamas' military wing has hardly been hit by Israel's attacks. [26]

Of course, Gaza's police stations and officers have been Israel's main targets, targets that incidently have no known connection to militant rocket attacks, killing scores of young officers and destroying massive amounts of infrastructure. If Israel was concerned with Hamas' ability to maintain a cease-fire agreement by stopping all rockets from entering Israel, they would not be trying to eradicate the very institutions responsible for assuring law and order in the Gaza Strip.

Could it be that Israel is becoming embarrassed by Hamas' rather frequent calls for a two state settlement based on the pre-June 1967 borders, the very essence of the global consensus for the past three decades–the same consensus that the US and Israel have categorically rejected in international isolation? [27] If Hamas' security forces are destroyed, rockets will continue to rain on Israel's south giving American and Israeli rejectionists an ideological weapon to avoid the threat of a settlement involving dismantling Israeli settlements. If Israel maintains its commitment to confrontation and ceaseless violence, Hamas will surely continue to fire rockets, and their calls for a peaceful settlement will be lost in mutual tragedy and war rhetoric. And Israel will again be able to avoid the threat of peace.[28]

The isolation of "Hamastan" (Gaza) is imperative for Israel to consolidate its West Bank settlement and annexation programs. Both resistance to the occupation and the political threat of an authentic two-state settlement cannot be tolerated. Either Hamas must be eliminated or beaten into submission, persuaded into using its authority to "emasculate" Palestinian aspirations towards self-determination. [29]

Baseless presuppositions and propaganda about Palestinian rejectionism and Israel's "moral [scrupulousness]" aside,[30] Israel is savagely massacring hundreds of Palestinians with American weaponry for a reason as old as dirt, "the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak," to guarantee that there will be no peace that recognizes Palestinian rights as equal to Jewish rights. [31]

Max Kantar is a freelance writer and undergraduate. He can be reached at [email protected]


[1] This consensus can be found throughout the mainstream US media. The first quoted words are from a Morning Addition NPR interview (Steve Inskeep) "New Year's Day: No Let Up in Gaza Air Attacks," January 1, 2009. The second quoted words are from the New York Times, "Israel Pursues Diplomacy but Presses Attacks," Kershner & Bronner, January 1, 2009

[2] "Hamas arrests Gaza rocket squad after two Qassams hit Negev" Ha'aretz, 10/7/2008

[3] "Hamas official blames rockets on collaborators," All Things Considered, NPR, December 29, 2008

[4] For further discussion on this topic, see my "Ideological Barriers to Peace" September 9, 2008 (

[5] For exhausting mainstream documentation of the "catastrophic" humanitarian effects of Israel's siege on Gaza, using mainstream sources such as human rights groups, (the sources include the UN, BBC, and Ha'aretz) see "The Facts about Israel's war on Gaza" by Adam Sheets (

[6] One should note that Israel's claim that it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip can be easily dismissed (in fact, for several reasons) simply on the basis that it would have no authority to enforce any fishing limit on Gaza's fishing boats if in fact Gaza were an independent territory. For further discussion about the 1994 Oslo fishing agreements and the nature of Israeli bullying towards Gaza's fishermen, see Mel Frykberg's "Israel Besieges Gaza's Fishing Industry," Dec. 8, 2008 (

[7] See the reports written by activists from the Palestine based International Solidarity Movement on their website (, also, "Gaza fishermen suffer Israeli Navy Harrassment" (Mel Frykberg, Institute for Middle East Understanding, Dec. 9 2008), see note 4

[8] Williams, Rachel "Hamas fires rockets after Israel kills six in Gaza" The Guardian, November 5, 2008

[9] See note 5, in which the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, the UN Relief and Works Agency, International Committee of the Red Cross, are all cited by Ha'aretz and the BBC in roundly condemning the Israeli strangulation of Gaza as "collective punishment," a war crime

[10] November 24th speech by Ban Ki-Moon to the UN General Assembly, full text can be found at (, for information on Gaza's youthful population (56% children) see UNICEF Media Release: "Schools re-open to darker, colder classrooms" Feburary 1, 2008

[11] DemocracyNow! headlines Dec. 30, 2008 (

[12] For further commentary on the success of cease-fire agreements (in terms of Hamas rocket fire) see Justin Alexander's "The Assault on Gaza will not stop rockets..." January 3, 2009 ( Alexander also points out that "Hamas (but not other factions such as Islamic Jihad) observed from November 26th 2006 to April 24th 2007"

[13] For Hamas' verbally declared desire for a 6 month cease-fire agreement, see note 3

[14] Bronner, Ethan "Israel Rejects Cease-Fire, but offers Gaza aid" New York Times, Dec. 31, 2008

[15] see "US Foils Draft UN Resolution to Stop Gaza Attacks" (
us-foils-draft-un-resolution-to-stop-gaza-attacks/) All the sources for the details of the US rejection of the efforts to create a legally binding resolution to stop the violence are provided within the article in the form of direct links

[16] quoted words can be found in the source provided in note 14

[17] NPR's Mike Shuster reporting from Jerusalem, "New Year's Day: No Let Up in Gaza Air Attacks," January 1, 2009.

[18] "UN: 25% of those killed in Gaza civilians," Ynet, Dec. 31, 2008,

[19] Al Mezan Press Release: "Most Gaza Casualties were non-combatants, civilians" December 28, 2008, (

[20] "Israel strikes key Hamas offices" BBC, December 29, 2008 (,)

[21] "Five sisters killed in Gaza as they slept" Macintyre & Ghazali, The Independent, December 30, 2008

[22]Levy, Gideon "The IAF, bullies of the clear blue skies" Ha', December 31, 2008

[23] see note 19

[24] see note 22

[25] According to Justin Alexander, (author of Conflict, Economic Closure, and Human Security in Gaza, a report conducted for the Oxford Research Group) "Israel's current campaign against the police in Gaza and other Hamas security infrastructure is unlikely to damage the capability of rocket crews - small autonomous units that are not tied to particular locations - but it could reduce Hamas' ability to enforce future cease-fires." See note 12 for further discussion and analysis by Alexander

[26] For an excellent analysis and discussion of the Israeli political motivations of the recent aerial attacks, see Israel-based British journalist, Jonathon Cook's "The Real Goal of the Slaughter in Gaza" Jan. 2, 2009, (

[27] See note 5, scroll down for documentation of Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh's letter to President Bush noting that Hamas would accept a "Palestinian state in the 1967 borders" and in return would "[offer] a truce for many years." Hamas officials have made similar statements on several occasions, with Haniyeh reiterating the position less than two months ago to a group of European Parliamentarians in Gaza. (See "Haniyeh: Hamas willing to accept Palestinian State with 1967 borders" by Amira Hass writing for Ha'aretz Nov. 9, 2008) To my knowledge this went unreported in the US media

[28] It has been widely recognized inside Israel that the 1982 (and 1978) Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon was undertaken to destroy the "political threat" (Defense Minister Ariel Sharon) of the PLO who posed a direct ideological danger to Israel's expansionist agenda in the West Bank by calling for negotiations and supporting the international consensus of establishing a Palestinian state in the pre-June 1967 territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem

[29] Cook notes that Israel used Arafat as a tool for subordinating Palestinian resistance, and after the second intifada broke out, Israel decided that Arafat had "outlived his usefulness" and the "Palestinian Authority was gradually emasculated." Cook goes on to theorize that Israel may hope to use Hamas in a similar way after potentially "beating" them into "compliance" in the recent attacks. See note 26 for more details

[30] Krauthammer, Charles "Moral Clarity," The Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2009

[31] Loewenstein, Jennifer "If Hamas Did Not Exist," Jan. 2, 2009

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