And ‘military logic’, always prevails in the end

Shayan S. Khan
Friday, July 18th, 2014

Israeli tanks have entered Gaza, for the first time since 2009. Photo: AP.


Thursday, July 17, is Day 10 of the latest escalation in the Middle East conflict. Of course that entire region finds itself mired today in so many wells of uncertainty, it would be easy to forget that historically, any mention of “the ME conflict” would immediately draw attention closer to Jerusalem on the map than Mosul. As speculation intensifies over a possible ceasefire agreement being reached to bring the latest episode of horror in Palestinian – particularly Gazan – lives to a close, let us not fool ourselves though, that this time will be any different. In our own little ways, as we take the chance to look away and unburden ourselves a little, from how it tugs at our conscience, rest assured that there can be no absolving ourselves of the albatross that hangs around our neck – the ‘historical injustice’ against the Palestinian people.


For as always, it won’t last. And the conditions on the ground won’t change. The fact that Israel was pushing the possibility more strongly on Thursday evening indicates it feels that its objectives in the current operation have been met (which have been suitably unclear from the start), or that it wants to gear up for a more comprehensive assault including a ground offensive. As Thursday evening gave way to night, the latter was clearly emerging as the more likely outcome. The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem reported that a senior Israeli military officer had been quoted in an off-the-record briefing describing the likelihood of an Israeli ground offensive as “very high”. The “military logic” behind such an offensive is said to be very clear, “as it always has been”.


Undoubtedly. It would be impudent to even suggest any other strand of logic ever had any chance, held any sway. Always that “military logic” that wins out here, faced as it is with such pathetic competitors in the likes of humanitarian logic, or even just plain old logic. Tried and tested, cold and impregnable, “military logic”. In a state founded, sustained and expanded on “settler logic” such as Israel, it makes for an irresistible force that can lay waste to any combination of history, humanitarianism, international law, and US president’s legacy you can throw at it (and notably President Obama with two years left in the White House isn’t even trying). That is what the devolution of the Middle East conflict into a one-sided brawl over the last 66 years since Israel’s founding teaches us.


And so it should hardly be surprising that by late Thursday, whatever efforts there had been towards brokering a ceasefire by General Sisi’s Egypt had fizzled out, and both sides resumed hostilities following a truce that lasted barely a day. Although when it comes to the sheer scale and breadth of their actions, it is manifestly unjust to put the efforts of Hamas and the IDF under the same bracket. How belittling of the IDF! Hamas’s Al Qassam Brigades, who operate their mostly home-made arsenal, are engaged in delivering an important signal: in maintaining even a token level of resistance, they attest to Gazans still holding on to their dignity, and that makes their lives worthwhile still. Highly symbolic, but militarily, shall we say, bereft of any logic. What the IDF is engaged in, is a highly sophisticated military operation. With 18,000 reservists having been called up, the ground operation looms ominously. But even before that, if the Israeli airstrikes that have killed upwards of 230 Palestinians and injured more than 1600 of them fall under ‘hostilities’, we must relegate Hamas’s resort to firing rockets that fall as far as they can reach into Israeli territory when not intercepted and shot down by its US-subsidised Iron Dome missile defence system, to something like an irritant. If on the other hand we start with the Hamas action and categorise it under ‘hostilities’, anything less than ‘bloody murder’ would surely fail to capture the sheer clarity, to go with the overwhelming force, of Israel’s military logic.


Tragedies are for theatre


That clarity is laid bare by the numbers. Immediately after the lifting of the truce on Thursday evening, seven Palestinians including three children from the same family were killed and seven injured in renewed Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed in ten days of hostilities to 237 and 1,770 injured. Gaza-based rights groups as well as the UN have reported that around 80 percent of the Palestinians killed have been civilians. The UN also reported that a quarter of the dead are children. These last two numbers should matter. For they make a mockery of Israel’s claims to ‘precision strikes’ against militants. On Wednesday, there was outrage as journalists staying at a seafront hotel became first-hand witnesses to Israeli shelling that killed four boys aged between 7-11 playing hide-and-seek on the beach. Again, all of the same family. The boys tried to run and hide from an initial explosion, but as they did, the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont reported how “those firing apparently adjust(ed) their fire to target the fleeing”.


For its part, the IDF said in a statement: “Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives. The reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome.” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev came on Channel 4 and faced down the questioning with similar feigned regret. A “tragedy”. What a word at the service of oppressors and aggressors! A sombre note, a reckoning foretold, and guaranteed no repercussions. Sometimes you may prise an admission or two, a confession almost. Once a tragedy has been acknowledged, there is no longer any need to account for it. Try as he might, veteran C4 presenter Jon Snow was reduced to a desperate wreck by the end of his interview with Regev, every bit the seasoned pro. Cool and detached, Bibi Netanyahu’s most trusted spokesman simply knew his lines too well. They all do, the spokes-men and -women of the Israeli government. As well they should. It’s their script we’re reading from. And the best we’re going to get, is “a tragic outcome”.


Post-script: True to form, Israel wasted no time in waiting. The ground offensive got underway in the dying hours of Thursday, and Israeli tanks crossed the border into north-west Gaza around midnight. As this was filed, already 5 deaths had been reported as a result of the ground operation, including a 5-month-old in the town of Rafah, continuing the trend of high civilian casualties, particularly children.

Israel withdrew ground troops from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, and last mounted a ground operation in 2009.

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