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Let’’s all Bomb a Ghetto, Raise a Cheer?

Let’s all Bomb a Ghetto, Raise a Cheer?

Half drowned in the torrents of supportive speech and prose lavished here and in Europe on Israel’s criminal onslaughts on the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza, one naturally tends to compare and contrast such paeans to those extended to kindred barbarities by Israel in the past. Is the amen chorus louder, softer or more or less the same? If you stick to highway traffic through the columns and bulletins of the major media, aside from some passable stuff on the cable news shows, the flow of ignorant drivel seems as toxic as ever, maybe worse, since Israel has tried to empty Gaza of all reporters. The Israelis wipe out whole families, phone apartment blocks to terrify the occupants with boasts that their homes will shortly be blown up, and the Israel claque here stresses the consummate humanity of the attackers. Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post celebrates the birth of the new year by extolling Israel for being “so scrupulous about civilian life.” Professor Alan Dershowitz dishes out congratulation for Israel’s “perfectly proportionate” onslaught. My mind goes back to Martin Peretz in 1982 inscribing in The New Republic glowing sermons on the doctrines of humanity instilled in the IDF, words written not long before Israeli generals gave the green light for the killers of the Phalange to go to work, disemboweling women in the camps under the indifferent or admiring gaze of IDF personnel. Bomb ghettos and civilians die. I write as news comes that Israeli gunners have managed to shell and kill nearly 50 Palestinians, including women and children, fleeing a United Nations-run school in Gaza. I can guarantee that Israeli claims about Hamas’s use of that school are already on the wires. Since no one is going to quiz him on the matter of bombing civilians, let me quote Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on this issue in a response to Alya Rea of CounterPunch and me in Damascus last May. The interview appears in the latest CounterPunch newsletter: Rea: “My question is about using violent means. When people use violent means, inevitably innocent people suffer, children, not only on the Palestinian side, but Israeli children too. What do you think?” Meshal: “Unfortunately, the insistence on violent repression by our assailants leads to innocent blood on the street. Since 1996, 12 years ago, we have proposed to exclude civilian targets from the conflict on both sides. Israel did not respond to that.

When Israel insists on killing our kids, our elders and senior citizens and women, and bombarding houses with the gunships, F16s and Apaches, when Israel continues these attacks, what is left for the Palestinians to do? They are defending themselves with whatever they have. Our [Qassam] missiles and rockets are very crude. Hence we fire them, within their own capabilities, in reaction to Israeli atrocities. If we had smart missiles — and we wish that some countries could give us these — rest assured that we will never aim at anything except the military targets.” You say it’s ludicrous to allow Meshal such self-exculpation? No more ludicrous, in fact far less so, than endlessly citing Israeli generals about the essential humanity of their enterprises, since Meshal confesses to the crudity of the Qassams, whereas the Israelis ladle out bosh about the “sophistication” and accuracy of their fusillades. Of course, the guaranteed lethal inaccuracy of all bombing and shelling in populated areas ensures that you end up with some horror like Qana in 1996 (Operation Grapes of Wrath, launched by Shimon Peres before an election), where Israeli artillerymen killed more than 100 refugees, including many women and children, in the compound of a UN peacekeeping force. In that instance, the response of apologists for Israel was to claim

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