The Pillar of Cloud in Gaza and beyond

Bombing Gaza into the middle ages.

Gaza, long under siege by Israel, has again been set ablaze. Israel’s game plan for its “Pillar of Cloud” offensive couldn’t have been clearer. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the idea “the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages”. His colleague in the Israeli cabinet, Avi Dichter, used an even more dehumanizing analogy - just format out Gaza like it were a computer hard drive.

In the world’s most congested “open-air prison”, as David Cameron once described Gaza, the desperation of being trapped in a spiral of death and destruction is nothing new. However Israel keeps raising the bar. Not satisfied with a campaign of aerial bombardment that has so far killed over fifty Palestinians, majority of them civilians, and maimed hundreds including children, women and media personnel, Israel is promising to move towards a “second phase”. What macabre scenes lie ahead of Gazans in this second phase is anyone’s guess. Is it going to be a ground invasion like in Lebanon? Is it going to be melt down into the crazy Samson option that sounds a little too fatalistic for even NATO hawks1?

The narrative

The Israeli establishment narrative reminds one of an old Aesop’s fable - that any pretext will serve a tyrant. It’s carefully engineered propaganda that’s fit to print, blog and tweet in media outlets across the world. It goes like this - that Hamas precipitated this latest outburst of violence by firing rockets into Israel. That some of these rockets have inched closer to the trendy Tel Aviv and Israeli heartland. That Israelis having endured this threat for too long, are finally resorting to resolute defensive action2. The sentinels of freedom from The Hindu to The New York Times have taken on this propaganda leaflet to frame the conversation around Gaza as a fight between equally belligerent parties.

Israel’s PR blitzkrieg has almost nothing to do with what really happened. This is yet another chapter in an ongoing occupation of the Palestinian lands by a truly rogue nation. Even if one were to divorce the historical context of this conflict and look at this episode, the immediate escalation didn’t begin when Hamas rockets were fired into Israel wounding four soldiers traveling in a jeep, as Israel claims. If anything, it began when Israeli armed forces shot a mentally disabled person and left him to bleed to death at the border. It further escalated when a schoolboy playing football was killed by the Israeli occupying forces in tanks and armoured vehicles. As Noam Chomsky and other activists recently said in a challenge to the media propaganda:

News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties. What is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties. It doesn't take an expert in media science to understand that what we are facing is at best shoddy and skewed reporting, and at worst wilfully dishonest manipulation of the readership.

What emerges from more informed analysis of this matter are vastly different perspectives3. That this is entirely in line with Israel’s consistent strategy of militaristic domination of Palestine, aided and abetted by American and European imperial interests. That such an excuse was necessary to prevent Palestinian bid for a non-member state recognition in the UN. That this was an assassination attempt to halt a truce being brokered in Cairo, as a noted Israeli mediator has said. Last but not the least, that this staged retaliation may have also been part of a shrewd electoral calculus by the rightwing coalition trying to hold on to power in the Israeli polls in January.

Indian connection

As we stand in solidarity with Palestinian people, we can not afford to miss the Indian connection. Like America, India too has blood on its hands. From its well-deserved status as a rogue, belligerent nation that has flouted more UN resolutions than anyone cares to count, Israel has become India’s second biggest weapon’s supplier, second only to Russia. Having jettisoned the long-term support of Palestinian people’s right to self determination in the 90s, India under successive Congress and BJP governments has moved closer and closer to Israel, as part and package of its new found role as a client state vying for American favor. The official Indian response with its usual cheap talk about disengagement and bilateral talks is nothing but a straight out copy from the US-NATO playbook. No condemnation of Israeli aggression, no demand for enforcement of countless UN resolutions on Israel, no expression of solidarity with Palestinians under siege - nothing.

We have a Minister of Defence who presides over billions of dollars in weapons purchases from Israel feeding its war mongering, a Minister of External Affairs who, when not threatening to assassinate political opponents at home, gets on a jet plane to impress his imperial paymasters of his services as a “valued partner to the US”, a Minister of State for External Affairs, who despite his stellar conservative Muslim credentials cannot be called on to question such insignificant matters like ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinian people by his new found pals overseas. Just as the calls of economic divestment and academic and cultural boycott of Israel has begun to gain momentum, India’s blue eyed boy of foreign affairs and of late of educational reform, has been busy speaking in Israel on matters of security and strategic importance. It’s clear that any effort for peace in Gaza has to begin by political mobilization here at home.

  • 1. Samson Option is a strategic deterrence option outlined by Israeli security establishment. Noam Chomsky describes it best when he says “it goes back to the biblical story of Samson who, you remember, killed a lot of Philistines, and then they caught him and blinded him. And he was in a Philistine temple. He'd gotten his strength back; his hair grew. And he stood between two pillars, and he pulled down the pillars, and the ceiling fell, and he killed more Philistines in his death than in his lifetime. He was basically the first suicide-bomber, who killed lots of Philistines. (..) But that's the Samson option: "we'll bring the temple down, even if we kill ourselves."
  • 2. The statements made by President Obama and the White House National Security adviser are typical of this spin doctoring. Refer to
  • 3. Max Ajil has written a sharp commentary in Jacobin and Prof. John Mearshimer has a longer more analytical piece in London Review of Books titled “A PIllar Built on Sand”