Marilyn Katz :
Netanyahu’s Gaza game plan

Armed conflict will only lead to mounting numbers of dead on both sides.

bombing of King David Hotel

In 1946, The New York Times called Yitzak Rabin, David ben Gurion, and others terrorists for their assassinations of British officers and civilians and the bombing of the King David Hotel. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Marilyn Katz | The Rag Blog | July 25, 2014

Unlike the finite death toll in the Malaysian jet downing, the numbers of dead in Gaza and Israel keep changing and mounting. As of this writing, the count is as follows: In Israel, 29 deaths, among them two civilians. In Gaza, nearly 700 killed, including 500 civilians and 100 children; 4,120 have been wounded. An additional 50,000 Gazans have been left homeless as a result of nearly two weeks of aerial bombings and an accompanying ground invasion.

How do we understand what seems like a futile and deadly conflict for all involved? What are the antecedents? What is the lens through which the combatants see it? And perhaps, most important what is to be done?

The Israeli perspective

To Israel, the bombardments and invasion are necessary to end attacks by Hamas militants, who on July 8 began lobbing hundreds of crudely made rockets into Israel. That hundreds of women and children have died, the Israeli government says, is the fault of Hamas as well, for integrating their leadership and weapons within the civilian population.

Israel argues there was no justification for Hamas’ resumption of rockets.

Israel argues there was no justification for Hamas’ resumption of rockets — that no nation would allow itself to be attacked — even if their attacks proved fruitless in the face of the Iron Dome and other protections put in place by a nation with the world’s fourth largest military system, complete with nuclear weapons. Israel says that their arrest of six men on suspicion of murder of the young Palestinian from East Jerusalem who was burned alive is proof of their commitment to fairness and justice.

The Palestinian perspective

Palestinians assert that the Hamas actions were self-defense of their leadership and people. They point out that Israel, in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of the three yeshiva (Jewish religious schools) students, reigned terror on the West Bank.

Palestinians point out that the arrests of the Israeli murder suspects simply shines a greater light on the disparity of Israeli justice. The six men were arrested, represented by counsel, put in jail and will stand trial under Israeli law. Virtually all Palestinians were considered suspects in the murder-kidnapping of the three Israeli boys and the niceties of lawyers and trials were dispensed with as the IDF broke into and destroyed homes, arrested hundreds, and made stone throwing a crime punishable by death — despite the fact that there was no evidence linking the killings to any person or group.

Palestinians cite that between June 20 and July 8 Israel raided 3,000 homes in the middle of the night.

Palestinians cite that between June 20 and July 8 Israel raided 3,000 homes in the middle of the night, arresting more than 800, and demolished 150 dwellings. They decry that during those weeks the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) killed at least 16 Palestinians, including four children, who received capital punishment without trial for the crime of throwing stones.

They say that such acts would have been universally condemned if committed by any other nation.

They ask: How many Palestinian lives are equal to that of one Israeli?

Historical justifications

Making matters more complex each party in the conflict looks to its own historical narrative for explanation — if not justification.

While progressive Jews in Israel have rallied against the racist propaganda, bombings, and this latest invasion, many mainstream Israelis see the killings of the students as harbingers of an Arab rebellion they have tried to quell since the 1920s, when Palestine first demanded the nationhood they had been promised by the British in exchange for helping defeat the Turkish/German axis.

For Palestinians the latest Israeli attacks, from the nightly raids in the West Bank to the non-stop bombardment of the neighborhoods in Gaza, rekindles memories of the terror visited upon Arab villages by the Irgun and the later massacres at Lydda and Dar Yesein carried out by the nascent Israeli army that prompted the exodus of 700,000 terrified men, women and children from the lands their families had lived on for centuries.

It is as much the narratives of the past as the actions of the present that keep the parties locked in conflict.

A way forward?

Both Palestinians and cynics in Israel (and there are many) believe that the murder of the three young students provided the moment that Netanyahu has been longing for: a chance to provoke the Palestinian population beyond the breaking point, fracture the fragile partnership between Hamas and the PLO (a partnership that Netanyahu first said was essential to any meaningful negotiations, though the administration later said the coalition was the reason it would not negotiate).

A large-scale crisis could, in theory, force the exodus of thousands more Palestinians.

A large-scale crisis could, in theory, force the exodus of thousands more Palestinians — out of fear or despair — from both Gaza and the West Bank. This change in demographics has been, as center-right leaders now admit or proclaim, Israel’s goal from the beginning.

Yet there are those who continue to believe that the better heads of Israel’s political and civic structure will or can prevail.

They argue that while Israelis may defend their policy and compare their acts to those of the American colonists or the Spanish Conquistadors, that unlike those colonizers (or occupiers), Israel is not insulated from consequences by two oceans, but rather is surrounded by Arab nations, all in flux themselves.

They say that although the Israelis have been taught to fear, if not despise, Palestinians and Hamas in particular, they know that despite the rhetoric today’s demons can become tomorrow’s allies. The best of them remember that change between warring factions is possible.

They remind us that Yitzak Rabin, David ben Gurion, and many others were described by The New York Times and hunted by the British as terrorists and murderers for their assassinations of British officers and civilians, their bombing of the King David Hotel, and their bombings of markets and cinemas. Once Israel secured victory, however, these men became Israel’s leading diplomats received by every government in the world.

The best also understand that bombs alone will not stop Palestinian resistance. Children and grandchildren of the Warsaw Ghetto, of the French resistance, schooled on the myth of Masada, where it is said that a band of Jews held off a Roman army for months then killed their wives, children, and themselves rather than surrender, know that all people — not only Jews — are willing to risk death to fight against oppression, dispossession and injustice no matter how great the opposing force.

They know armed conflict as well as the narratives of the past — are not paths forward.

They know armed conflict as well as the narratives of the past — are not paths forward, but lead only to dead ends.

The most educated and thoughtful among them understand that Palestine will not stop fighting until, like Israelis, they have a sovereign state of their own, complete with defensible borders, control of resources, and political recognition. They know that Israel, on the other hand, cannot achieve its democratic promise nor have real security while it occupies the land of another in ways that brutalize both the occupier and the occupied.

In my visits to Israel I’ve met with and been at demonstrations with the thousands of both Palestinian and Israeli activists who know that Israel is at a turning point, that it faces a clear choice. They assert that it is exactly with one’s enemies that one negotiates to find peace.

Americans — Jewish or not and whether we wish to or not — have the opportunity and the responsibility to ensure that Israel makes the right choice. The United States is not a bystander. The demonstration of “shock and awe” that Gazans are experiencing is paid for by America, which since 1948 has provided Israel with more than $122 billion in funding, mostly as military assistance. In FY2014 alone, the Obama administration will allot $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel.

For us, as for the people of Israel, the choice before is as simple as it is complex: End the occupation or endure endless war.

This article was first published at In These Times and was cross-posted by the author to The Rag Blog.

[Marilyn Katz, an anti-war and civil rights organizer during the Vietnam War, has founded and led groups like the Chicago Women’s Union, Reproductive Rights National Network, and Chicago Women Organized for Reproductive Choice in the 1960s and 1970s, and Chicagoans Against War in Iraq in 2002. The founder and president of Chicago-based MK Communications, Katz can be contacted at Read more articles by Marilyn Katz on The Rag Blog.]

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6 Responses to Marilyn Katz :
Netanyahu’s Gaza game plan

  1. Extremist2theDHS says:

    Ms Katz writes a good article and makes fair points and fair analogies. Then ends with a false choice. No Ms Katz, ending the occupation will not lead to peace. It will simply give Hamas more room, money, and time to plan and then implement even more destructive attacks on Israel. There will be no peace as long as the rulers in Gaza refuse to wage peace until Israel ceases to exist.

    Hamas was elected by the people of Gaza and is supported and enabled by them. They have little room to complain when Gaza residents are treated like terrorists.

    Even though 1100 dead Palestinians is tragic, it may well take 50 times that or 100 time that before the Palestinian people and rulers learn the lesson that Israel will not cease nor will its residents live in fear daily.

    When that day arrives … When Hamas lays down its arms and publicly states that it wants to live in peace with its neighbor, then and only then can Israel end its interest in Gaza and make peace.

    – Proud to be an Extremist2TheDHS

    • R Zwarich says:

      Whew! Many thanks to extremist2theDHS for providing a perfect case-in-point example of her or his extremist bias. Let’s see if I have this right….Her or his brilliant ‘plan’ is that once the Palestinians end all resistance to Israeli brutality, once they declare and prostrate themselves in complete surrender to Israel’s brutal and vicious power over them, then there can be peace. Gee…That is certainly an enlightened viewpoint. When Israel wins a complete victory, even if they have to slaughter another 100,000 innocent Palestinian people to do so, (extremist tells us), only then can there be peace. OK, then…..Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Roch says:

    Pres Netanyahu may not be to many likings but he has shrewdly understood that the Saudi+etal petro-wealth muslms will have their brothers and children muslims die horrible deaths –because it is more important to them to prove the jews ugly than to save their own people! You know, the tunnels have never served to help people and children excape –as in american slavery or prisons. The Saudis need to share the petro-wealth with ALL their muslims brothers and Haj them all home to Mecca and Medina. NOW! Or else what point in being a muslim, as one man said?

  3. R Zwarich says:

    It appears that Ms. Katz is trying to find some reason for hope in the midst of violence and hatred. Though I can’t fault her for that, it sure does not seem to me that she is willing to face the stark realities of the situation, and her attempts to be even handed, though admirable, ignore much of the reality at hand.

    The party in firm control of Israel has sworn an oath (in its charter) that israel will never relinquish control over all the land west of the Jordan river, (including Jerusalem). There are gangs of Israeli extremists roaming the streets of Israel chanting “Death to Arabs”, and beating any Arabs they come across, (there is considerable video footage of these extremist mobs in action), pulling Arabs from taxis, or from their shops, to beat them. A member of the Israeli Knesset, (Congress), Ayelet Shaked, has recently issued a call for open genocide against the Palestinian Arabs, calling Palestinian children “little snakes”, and calling for Palestinian mothers to be killed before they can give birth to more “little snakes”. The half million+ Jewish settlers who have colonized Palestinian land have sworn blood oaths that they will fight and die before they ever leave the land they have stolen from the Palestinians. It is reported that many senior officers in the Israeli military share these rabidly racist settlers’ commitment to keeping this stolen land, and driving the remaining Palestinians out of the rest of Eretz Israel. (Greater Israel. i.e.: All the land west of the Jordan).

    In the midst of these harsh realities, one has to wonder if Ms. Katz’s dreams of a Palestine with “its own secure borders” isn’t a bit naive. Many observers contend that this can never happen without first a bloody civil war among Jews in Israel. Israel is at a crossroads? A bit of an understatement. Israel is a nation that is in the throes of a national psychosis, its insanity fueled by its lust for conquest. It is one of History’s great ironies that these people who suffered so much at the hands of a nation gone mad with its own dreams of conquest, would itself come to treat others with the same psychotic insanity with which they were treated.

    I urge Ms. Katz to explain more how her hopes encompass these stark realities of ‘the facts on the ground’ in Israel. I would like to share her vision, but all this reality is in the way.

    R Zwarich

  4. Marilyn Katz says:

    Of course I am looking for some reason for hope – I am a revolutionary by nature (although some might doubt my practice). I don’t look simply at what is but what can be. But in this particular case it is not from hope that I wrote, but just plain common sense.

    When I left Israel and Palestine at the end of May – I did have hope. It was clear to me that at that moment, Hamas and the PLO had reached a viable agreement between them and stripped away the pretext that Israel had used not to negotiate with the PA, the Israeli center-left which theoretically is in favor of the end of occupation was only 6 votes away from power and there are scores of thousands of activists on peace and other anti-occupation initiatives working throughout Israel. The question for me then was simply how to connect the political with the civic for a proend-of occupation victory.

    Less than a month later things were different…Netanyahu had used the excuse of the deaths of the three young Israelis (as I write) to reign terror on the Palestinian people and destroy as much of their political leadership as possible. A month after that things are even worse – the bodies of Palestinians pile up…..hatred grows on both sides (it is hard to love anyone who is destroying your families, homes etc)… But the fundamental premise remains true…Only with an end to occupation. Only with the allowing of the creation of a free Palestine, with access to and control of its borders (TO OTHER STATES) of its water, electricity, seas, skies, mineral resources and lands – will an end to the killing be possible. Only with justice is peace possible. Until then just as Jews did in the Warsaw ghetto (and in many ghettoes before) Palestinians will continue to fight for freedom, for a ‘state of their own”

    And so my premise remains correct despite the hideous situation…End the Occupation or face endless war.

  5. joe manning says:

    Arguably, Israelis are occupiers of Palestine. As such, land concessions, statehood, and reparations are in order.

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