Gaza at War

Cold wintery evening in Tel Aviv, the evening of the ground invasion, a new step in the escalation of what may become a new big war. There were hundreds of demonstrators – many young people, a lot of families with children, all sorts of Israelis and Palestinians, under red banners calling to end the warfare in Gaza. In Jerusalem, deep fog all but covered the walls of the Old City.

But even deeper is the fog of war. It is too early to predict the future developments. We still do not know what the goals of the Israeli invasion are, and we do not know the strength of Palestinian resistance. Fighters decide the future now, not the pundits. The war may go on to confrontation with Iran; it may bring too long rule of Hosni Mubarak to an abrupt end, it may cause a new intifada, it may re-shape the Middle East.

First week of war did not bring much success to Israel. The attack began as a firestorm of fury, but its only “success” was a surprising bombing of a graduation ceremony at the Gaza police school with some three hundred casualties, mainly young graduates. Next time, they may bomb schools on September 1st with even “better” results. Besides, the Light-unto-Nations-people bombed the university and a few mosques, and killed a few babies as a late tribute to King Herod on the Innocent Martyrs Day. Certainly war crime, undoubtedly mass murder, but hardly the holocaust they promised.

The Israeli drag-queen of the Defence Minister Ehud Barak improved his ratings: 53 percent of Jews are satisfied with his performance (Gawd, they are easy to satisfy!) compared to just 34 percent about six months ago. “Polls now predict five additional Knesset seats for his Labor Party in the coming February general election. That’s 40 Palestinian corpses per seat. No wonder Barak promises it’s just the beginning: at this pace, it will take Labor just about two thousand additional corpses to go from rags to riches, from a dead political party to an absolute majority in parliament like in the good old days”, noted Ran ha-Cohen.

Barak’s roundish Pickwickesque figure has been marketed by his PR campaigners as Der Fuhrer (Ha-manhig) of his folk, “he is not nice, but he is a leader”. “He is not nice; he is murderer” – replied the demonstrators in Tel Aviv. Barak is quite unlikely fuhrer, with his feminine face, a perfect mate to the masculine butch Tsipi Livni who is being marketed as “another Fuhrer”. Our friend and Livni’s cousin Gilad Atzmon wrote of these gender-confused characters in charge of the Jewish state: “Both Livni and Barak have to provide the Israeli voter with some real exhibition of devastating carnage, so the Israelis can trust their leadership.”

Meanwhile they do not make much progress. Despite daily bombardments, the Gazans keep shooting back, improving their hits and their weapons, reaching as far as Beer Sheba. Moreover, they are not begging for unconditional ceasefire, and the Israeli wish-list of ceasefire conditions appear as hopeless as that they had vis-à-vis Hezbollah two years ago. The initiative remained firmly in the Hamas hands – until today.

The Gaza leadership made a daring if calculated risk when they refused to extend the lapsed ceasefire agreement unless the Jews lift the siege off the Strip and agree to observe it on the West Bank as well. These demands infuriated the petty fuhrers who were used to decide the questions of war and peace alone, and propelled them into action.

The Israeli government miscalculated: their action received justifiably hostile response all over the world. Some of the best pieces against Israeli aggression appeared in the Western mainstream: by Mark Steel and other writers of the Independent. With expected exception of President Bush’ administration, the West speaks and demonstrates against the invasion. For sure graffiti on a synagogue wall brings out more demonstrators than bombing of a mosque and killing of all worshippers, but still it is possible that the Jewish yoke over the Western public opinion may be broken in the result of this intervention. What is unexpected, is that Russian media, usually strongly pro-Jewish, speaks in one voice against Israeli aggression.

Now it is the time to demonstrate, to call for ostracism of Israel, for resignation of Mubarak, and it is the time to support the legitimate government of Gaza. Stay tuned.

Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.