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The Gaza massacre in perspective

by Chandra Muzaffar

Honest, accurate media presentation of the context surrounding a conflict is vital for an in-depth understanding of the conflict. In the case of the on-going Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, the context has been distorted by much of the media. The impression given is that Israel had no choice but to retaliate against a constant barrage of rocket attacks launched by Hamas after the latter decided to end the Hamas-Israel truce on 19 December 2008. 

While rocket attacks targeting civilians in the southern part of Israel are wrong from the point of view of international law, the media has failed to tell the public the whole truth about why Hamas ended the truce and how Israel is largely responsible for the underlying conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and other Arabs. There are at least five dimensions to the larger context shaping the conflict that have not been highlighted in the media.  

One, even after the so-called Israeli "withdrawal" from Gaza in August 2005, the Israeli army has conducted numerous raids and air strikes in Gaza in the name of fighting "terrorism" which have killed hundreds of civilians including women and children. These assaults intensified after Hamas captured the Palestinian Legislative Council in a free and fair election in January 2006. When Hamas ousted its rival Fatah from Gaza in June 2007, Israel went all out to destroy Hamas through military and non-military means. 

Two, in spite of Israeli attacks, Hamas, a few violations notwithstanding, observed its June 2008 truce with Israel. Not a single Israeli was killed by Hamas rocket fire during the six month period of the truce.  The Hamas leadership even proposed a 10 year truce to Israel in April 2008. There was no response from Israel.  It was because of continuous Israeli military strikes, the closure of border crossings and a suffocating blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel, that Hamas was forced to end the truce on 19 December.   

Three, in juxtaposing Hamas rockets with the Israeli arsenal, the media seldom mentions the tremendous asymmetry in military power between the two sides. What are Hamas's  homemade rockets compared to the wide range of sophisticated lethal weaponry at the command of the world's fourth most powerful army?  The death toll from the present assault tells the whole story: 375 Palestinians to 5 Israelis as of 30 December after 4 days of air bombardment. 

Four, to grasp the significance of this asymmetry one has to place it in the context of the Israeli blockade of Gaza that we have alluded to that began soon after Hamas won the 2006 election. By punishing the people of Gaza for voting Hamas through the imposition of  a blockade that has increased poverty and destitution and denies life-saving drugs to the critically ill, Israel has made the victims of its cruel and callous siege even angrier and more desperate. The media has made no attempt to link Hamas rocket attacks to the siege. 

Five, neither has the media explained to the people that at the root of this longstanding conflict that goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century is the occupation, annexation and oppression of the Palestinians Within a year of the unjust partition of the land in 1948, 78 percent of Palestine was in the hands of the Zionists. Gaza is part of the 22 percent that was annexed in 1967. Since 1948, Israel, argues Israeli historian Illan Pappe, has embarked upon a policy of "ethnic cleansing" that seeks to eliminate the indigenous Palestinians from their land. None of these facts and opinions is given any ventilation in the mainstream international media. 

It is not difficult to understand why this is so. Zionist influence over the US-Europe controlled international media is enormous. In the US, control over the media is part of what the American sociologist, James Petras describes as the " Zionist Power Configuration" (ZPC) which extends to the principal arteries of the economy, political institutions and the intellectual and cultural life of the nation.  

This is perhaps a propitious moment to challenge the ZPC. The US economy is facing its severest crisis ever which must impact adversely upon Zionist power both directly and indirectly.  With its inevitable economic decline, US global hegemony which has been a critical factor in sustaining and perpetuating Israel's military dominance of the Middle East is also coming to an end. New patterns of global power are in the offing. 

At a time like this, it is important that Americans themselves realize that blind, uncritical US support and protection for Israel is damaging to US interests. It is significant that no less a statesman than George Washington had warned the American nation in his farewell address that "passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. .... facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest... betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter ... It leads also to concessions to the favorite  nation of privileges denied to others..."  In the last few years, some Americans from the Establishment have begun to see this. Jimmy Carter would be a case in point. Academics such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have also criticized the incestuous relationship between Zionist lobbies and the State in the US. More individuals and groups should be encouraged to oppose the subordination of the US to Israeli interests in the Middle East. 

The Palestinians and other Arabs who have to contend with Zionist power should also develop more effective strategies to pursue their struggle for justice. At this juncture many of them oscillate between violence and rhetoric. What is needed is strategic thinking and planning which will produce new forms of challenge and resistance to Zionist dominance. For instance, those who try to break Israel's Gaza blockade by transporting food and medicines through ships are not only providing much needed assistance but are also raising public consciousness about the inhumanity of the Israeli regime. Two women have been at the forefront of such initiatives: the Nobel laureate, Mairead Maguire and former US congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney.  

Such initiatives it is hoped will accelerate the demise of Zionist power and US hegemony and create the conditions for the liberation of the Palestinians and other oppressed peoples.  (Courtesy  International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia.)

 Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia and President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). In 2002, he was a member of the Internet World Court on Israels War of Extermination Against Palestine.