Saturday, 16 August 2014

The catastrophe inflicted on Gaza–and the costs to Israel’s standing


From Mondoweiss - The statistics coming out of Gaza as Israel’s most recent bombardment of that hapless territory gradually winds down are on the scale of a natural disaster, but they capture the nature of a catastrophe methodically inflicted by one people on another.

In a month of indiscriminate bombardment, Israel has killed or injured almost twelve thousand people, including thousands of children. It has severely damaged or destroyed the homes of some 17,000 families (over 100,000 people). It has terrorized half a million people into flight from one corner of the tiny coastal enclave in which they are trapped to another, leaving them in urgent need of food assistance merely to survive. Schools, clinics, refugee shelters, hospitals, ambulances, a university campus and Gaza’s only power plant have all come under Israeli fire, sometimes repeatedly. UN schools designed to accommodate 500 people as emergency shelters have been packed with up to 3,000. The social infrastructure—already strained to its limits by years of siege—is close to breakdown. Hospitals have run low on urgent supplies including water and fuel for emergency generators. Morgues were filled; the broken bodies of Palestinian children ended up in ice-cream counters that—in a just world—would be those same children’s sources of delight.

Of the fatalities whose identity and status have been verified so far, 86 percent are civilians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Of those tabulated in its most recent update, 226 are members of armed groups; 459 are children.

Despite the sheer scale of the catastrophe it has inflicted on Gaza, Israel failed to attain a single one of its ever-shifting array of declared objectives (which ranged, according to Israel’s whims, from stopping rocket fire to completely demilitarizing the Gaza Strip).

It is—as usual—a matter of elementary simplicity to dispense with those declared objectives and the mendacious protestations and justifications Israel has fabricated around them. Gaza is not a sovereign state firing rockets across an international frontier: it is an occupied territory held under tight Israeli control. Sealed off by land, sea and air, even its population registry remains in Israeli hands. Internationally recognized as the occupying power in Gaza, Israel is legally accountable for the welfare of the population whose very capacity for life it has been obsessively reducing to ruins. And in any case the sequence of events leading to this bombardment was triggered not by rockets from Gaza but by the recent Israeli crackdown in the West Bank, which culminated in the burning alive of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish fanatics—and, beyond that, five decades of grueling military occupation.

Israel’s repeated claim that it targets only rocket launchers or tunnels is belied by the scale and nature of the weapons it unloaded on Gaza. Its 2000-pound aerial bombs take down entire buildings along with everyone in them (almost a thousand buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed in such air strikes). Its 155mm howitzer shells have a margin of error of 300 yards and a lethal radius of up to 150 yards from the point of impact. Each of the 120mm flechette shells its tank crews fire burst into a 100 by 300 yard shower of 5,000 metal darts carefully designed to shred human flesh. more

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