As of this morning, the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza have killed an more than 1,000 Palestinians, wounded more than 4,000 and dislocated at least 100,000 residents fleeing Israeli troops and bombs. The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice condemns Israel’s onslaught, and we call for an end to the American support that makes it possible.
Humanitarian aid providers on the scene say that most Palestinians killed were non-combatants and 24 percent were children under the age of 18. Israel’s precision missiles and artillery have targeted schools (46), mosques (66), hospitals, U.N. shelters, power plants and now entire towns and residential neighborhoods. Since their advance into Gaza earlier this month, more than 40 Israeli soldiers have been killed. In three weeks of fighting only two Israeli civilians have lost their lives.
Amnesty International and U.N. observers have concluded that Israel’s strikes are indiffer-ent to the loss of innocent human life and that an international war crimes investigation is warranted. At least 50 Israeli soldiers have refused to parti-cipate in the assault for reasons of conscience.
The current conflict is only the latest in a series of Israeli as-saults on Gaza recurring every two or three years. There have been six in the last eight years. Each has caused non-combatant casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. In 2009, 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli border towns cannot explain this pattern. These rock-ets rarely injure or kill Israeli citizens. And the last ceasefire in 2012, agreed to by both parties, lasted until Israel — not Hamas — resumed its military strikes on Gaza. Moreover, each Israeli attack seems only to set the stage for the next round of warfare. Each assault — includ-ing the present one — has increased Hamas’s popularity and political legitimacy among the people of Gaza and among Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories.
Despite this record of ap-parent futility, a majority of Israelis have bought the idea that the pain they inflict on Gaza’s population is a rational act of self-defense, even though they know these attacks create deep hatred and resentment and cannot remove the Hamas ruling party from power. Many now accept the metaphor “mowing the grass” to describe their periodic attacks on Gaza’s Pales-tinians, something you do peri-odically to control the weeds. As self-defense, this posture is short-sighted and self-defeating.
We wonder, therefore, whether political scientist John Mear-sheimer is right that Israeli military power is not really about self-defense. Rather, that “Israel’s actions in Gaza are inextricably bound up with its efforts to create a Greater Israel that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” Endless war buys Israel time to expand its illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire until Israel ends its longstanding economic strangu-lation of Gaza. The Israeli block-ade has led to mass impoverish-ment, widespread trauma and a deepening health crisis afflicting the 1.8 million residents of Gaza. We note that Hamas was democrat-ically elected in 2006 to represent all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And today Palestinians everywhere overwhelm-ingly agree with Hamas’s position that peace is im-possible without an end to the blockade.
The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice supports the Palestinian demand for an immediate end to the Gaza blockade and an end to Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank. We in the United States must recognize and reject America’s historic support of Israel’s expansionist objectives. This support — military, econo-mic and political — enables Israeli aggression. It is the single greatest obstacle to peace.