Friday, December 19, 2008
How a truce ends posted by Richard SeymourOn 19th June, a 'truce' of sorts between the Israeli government and the Hamas government in Gaza was negotiated at Cairo. The truce was scheduled to last for a period of six months, and would therefore end today (Israel maintains that the truce was indefinite but, as will become clear, this is misdirection). In exchange for some easing of the blockade imposed on Gaza, and an end to military incursions into Gaza, Hamas agreed to end the firing of home-made rockets into southern Israel. The blockade remained in place and exerted the devastating humanitarian effects that UN spokespersons have pointed out. The occasional rocket was still fired.
But on 4th November, Israel blocked all crossings into Gaza, preventing both trade and aid, and launched a series of raids into Gazan territory. Some people might take this to be an act of war, and it certainly escalated aggression against Gazans collectively, which in other circumstances might be described as a war crime. Richard Falk, the UN human rights rapporteur, argued that it constituted a "crime against humanity". Israel seems to be taking to pains to demonstrate its contempt for such qualms. Earlier this week, it was reported that Falk was prevented from entering Gaza, detained and then expelled. Yesterday, Israeli jets launched another raid on Gaza. Hamas, who have arguably been unreasonably patient for more than a month, fired off ten rockets and advised the media that as there was no truce to speak of, it could not be renewed.
What is interesting about this is that the truce, such as it was, ended on 4th November, but no one noticed. How could this be? Israel did not exactly cover its tracks - it was flagrant, brazen, openly violating the terms of the truce. Even Gordon Brown, whose government has been party to Israel's blockades and putschism, reportedly asked Ehud Olmert to stop the seige. Israel would seem to have been going out of its way to ensure the resumption of full combat, perhaps the better to proceed with its reported plans to depopulate the north of Gaza. So, how did this state of affairs elude the media, so that they are now largely convinced that Hamas is responsible for ending the truce?
The clue, perhaps, is that Israel doesn't regard its violations as violations. Thus, Ehud Barak maintained a few days ago that the "lull" was still in place, just as its renewed siege was generating serious international criticism. And perhaps this is the underlying assumption of many reporters: Israel's crimes are expected, because they are the overwhelmingly dominant force. They can impose mass starvation on a population of 1.5m, and it is just business as usual, certainly not something that should result in retaliation or that should be considered a break in the 'lull'. This is a view that is challenged in some of the Israeli press. As a Ynet op-ed points out: "the lull between Israel and Hamas, which lasted about five months, was violated in the wake of Israeli military activity within the Gaza Strip that prompted Qassam barrages. This operation served as further testament that Israel still views the Gaza Strip as an area under its absolute control in every way, and reserves the right to do whatever it wants there; a sort of occupation by remote control."