As of Monday, more than 550 Palestinians have been killed and 3,350 wounded in the latest Israeli assault on Gaza. By contrast, the Israeli death toll currently stands at 27, including two civilians.
While often described as a “war,” the indiscriminate use of advanced weaponry against a trapped population in a densely populated area with no means of escape -- Gaza is often referred to as the “world’s largest open-air prison” -- constitutes nothing short of a massacre.
U.S. academic Noam Chomsky recently noted, “Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defence, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armour, no command in control, no army and calls it a war.
“It is not war, it is murder.”
Meanwhile, Israeli politicians have fed the flames of hate as the conflict has brought out the most reactionary elements.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got the ball rolling with his incendiary calls for “revenge” following the deaths of three Israeli teens, which Tel Aviv immediately blamed on Hamas. Even after the government knew the teens were dead, it continued to feed illusions that they might still be alive as it used the tragedy to whip up war fever.
Subsequent scenes recalled some of the most horrific episodes of the 20th century, as Israeli crowds chanted “Death to Arabs” in Jerusalem. In a grotesque spectacle, spectators gathered on a hilltop outside Sderot with lawn chairs and popcorn to watch bombs falling on Gaza, bursting into applause with every successful strike.
Decades of anti-Arab sentiment have led to implicit and even open calls for genocide -- and not just from ordinary citizens. One day before a Palestinian youth was kidnapped and burned alive, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked wrote a Facebook post stating that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy,” advocating the destruction of that society “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages” and the murder of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”
Such intolerance extends also to anti-war and anti-occupation Israelis. Protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem against the action in Gaza have come under attack by right-wing mobs that will brook no dissent.
In the face of the tremendously lopsided casualty figures, apologists for Israel have been forced to rely on the usual clichés about Israel’s “right to defend itself” (apparently, Palestinians living under a decades-long military occupation do not have this right) or the use of civilians as “human shields” by Hamas (a catch-all term that excuses all Palestinian deaths by blaming them on the Islamist organization).
Shamefully, this includes the leaders of Canada’s political parties. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parroting of Israeli propaganda points is no surprise, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has gone full George Orwell by praising Israel’s “commitment to peace.”
A myopic focus on rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas ignores the fact that these rockets are a largely ineffective and desperate strategy by an oppressed population.
Israel today represents an anachronism -- the last colonial settler state, founded at a time when former colonial countries were gaining independence.
In a state built on the memory of the Holocaust, it is one of the great tragedies of history that a nation built with such promise must go to such gruesome ends in its own perceived need for self defence.
Prince Albert Daily Herald