If you think the current Israeli invasion of Gaza is a response to the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers in late June, think again. Israel’s invasion was a pre-planned action and, if you simply go back and examine the news reports since April, you will realize that the missing teens became a convenient, tragic symbol that Israel disgracefully used as a pre-text for trying to destroy Hamas. Let me walk you thru some of the relevant press clippings.
Let’s start on 25 April 2014 with an article by John Lyons of the Australian entitled, Fatah, Hamas Unity Hurts:
After a bitter seven-year split, Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, announced yesterday that they had agreed on reunification.
The US expressed “disappointment” and Israel reacted angrily, immediately cancelling a round of peace talks with the Palestinians. . . .
Periodically, Hamas fires rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. However, more often than not the rockets are fired by Islamic Jihad or one of the five Salafist groups who do not acknowledge Hamas’s right to rule Gaza.
Israel’s policy is to respond to any rockets from Gaza, regardless of who fires them. Within hours of the latest announcement, Israeli jets launched an air strike on Gaza. Israel said this was in response to rockets fired from Gaza.
On 2 June 2014, Israel was still miffed at the apparent unity forged between Fatah and Hamas. Agence France reported:
Early on Monday, Israeli warplanes staged two bombing raids on targets in central and southern Gaza following rocket fire on southern Israel, a spokesman said.
“After two rockets were fired at Israeli territory over the last two days, the Israeli airforce attacked two terrorist sites in central and southern Gaza,” he said, noting the raids were successful.
Since the start of the year, about 150 rockets have struck Israeli territory, but the border has been relatively calm for the past few weeks.
Did you catch that number? 150 rockets had hit Israel since 1 January 2014. I’m not suggesting that Israel do nothing, but the nature of these rockets must be put into proper perspective. They are very inaccurate and lack explosive power. It would be a very serious matter if Israel was showing footage like that being broadcast from Gaza. You know, shattered, leveled piles of rubble and the bodies of blood soaked women and children. But, fortunately, Hamas is a group of fuck ups and lacks any real rocket/missile power.
Israel stepped up its Information Operations on the 3rd of June, when it released the following information to the Jerusalem Post. Purpose? Start laying the foundation for going after Hamas as part of a broader strategy to split Hamas from Fatah:
Hamas’s weapons production program in Gaza is moving ahead at full speed, with local rocket production centers churning out thousands of projectiles, according to Israeli security evaluations.
As Hamas in Gaza prepares to attempt a reunification with Fatah in the West Bank, the Islamist regime today forms one of the largest armed forces in the region, and has restructured itself into a military-like combat entity, complete with territorial divisions, a senior security source told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“Hamas doesn’t really need the Iranians for support anymore. It creates its own weapons, and is responsible for most of its own training,” the source said.
At the same time, foreign trainers, from places like the battlefields of Syria, arrive in Gaza to share their military expertise with Hamas.
Gazan terrorist groups have amassed 10,000 rockets so far, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said at the end of May.
These include dozens of medium-range rockets that can reach greater Tel Aviv, placing 70 percent of Israeli civilians in range from Gaza’s rocket arsenal.
But any renewed clash with the IDF would put almost all of these assets in immediate jeopardy, as the IAF would set about to destroy them at a very fast rate.
Hamas’s fighting divisions are made up of some 16,000 gunmen, while Islamic Jihad has built up a fighting force of 5,000 armed guerrillas, with the aid of Iranian funds and training. Islamic Jihad has over 2,000 rockets, and that number is growing.
According to Israeli evaluations, there are the 4,000 or so members of the smaller Gazan terror groups, each armed with their own mini arsenals of rockets, bombs and assault weapons. Many of these groups have pledged allegiance to the global jihad ideology of al-Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri, and maintain ties to fellow jihadis in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula, as well as Syria.
Israel manifested further displeasure on 9 June over the Hamas/Fatah unity deal by targeting one of the Palestinians who brokered the deal:
Israeli border guards barred Munib R. Masri, one of the wealthiest Palestinians, from entering the Gaza Strip after he helped broker the unity agreement aimed at healing the Palestinian Authority’s rift with Hamas.
Masri, chairman of Palestine Development & Investment Co., said he was blocked from entering Gaza by military order after waiting more than two hours at an Israeli crossing point. A spokesman for Israel’s Civil Administration, which runs the heavily guarded facility, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by phone, e-mail and text message.
“It’s the first time this happened to me,” said Masri, 80, who said he has been shuttling between Gaza and the West Bank for seven years, trying to bridge the hostile conflict between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas leaders who rule Gaza. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.
The Israeli drumbeat to lay the foundation for attacking Gaza continued, with this op-ed appearing in the Israeli publication,Globes:
(2) The United States and the European Union declare Hamas, which has been tyrannizing over the Gaza Strip since Israel evacuated it and which has lobbed hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during that time, a terrorist organization. This is the equivalent of calling Mars a planet. Then, after the end of the “negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, negotiations that never actually took place and talks where the participants talked a great deal but never to each other, that same terrorist organization is invited into the Palestinian Authority government and miracle!, the United States and the European Union declare that they will deal with such a government.
If an individual or a private company or organization were to deal with the Taliban or with Hamas it would be subject to prosecution and a fine or prison. But, hey, the government does what it likes, no? To blazes with the fact that if the Hamas/Fatah marriage of convenience (Fatah gets protection and Hamas gets money) were to last, and Hamas were to take over the PA, which would be a sure thing if elections were held as have been announced, future rocket barrages would be launched against central and northern Israel as well as the south. All major population centers would be at risk. If Israel were to retaliate militarily, as it certainly would, the Jewish warmongers would be roundly denounced by the same US and European governments.
Under the tutelage of Israeli lobbyists, U.S. politicians eager to carry Jerusalem’s water got into the act. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman put out this piece on the 12th of June:
The nightmare scenario of a Hamas-Fatah unity government is finally upon us.
This means Hamas, a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands, will soon become a member of the Palestinian Authority (PA)-an internationally supported, U.S. taxpayer-funded organization.
Given this new reality, and the fact that current U.S. law strictly prohibits funding to any government with undue influence from Hamas, Congress must reassert its constitutional authority and suspend foreign aid to the PA.
And in return for any assistance in the future, the U.S. must make clear, unequivocal demands.
The PA must immediately dissolve the unity government with Hamas, recognize Israel’s right to exist, promise to abide by all previous agreements, renounce all forms of terrorism, cease paying salaries to convicted terrorists, end its statehood process at the United Nations, immediately hold free and fair elections, establish protections for religious expression at all holy sites and places of worship, and abide by all applicable U.S. laws on foreign assistance.
Leading up to unification, policy experts and politicians argued that suspending funds to the new government would create a vacuum to be filled by Turkey, Iran, and Russia. This would only further alienate the U.S. and Israel from the international community, their argument went.
But Hamas’ words and actions demonstrate that this view is shockingly naive.
One day later, three Israeli teens go missing. The Israeli Government, seizing the moment for its propaganda value,immediately blames the crime on Hamas:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel knew ”for a fact” that the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers was the work of the militant Islamic movement Hamas but held the Palestinian Authority responsible, arguing that the abduction proved that the world was wrong to accept the Palestinian government formed this month with Hamas’s consent.
”Israel warned the international community about the dangers of endorsing the Fatah-Hamas unity pact,” Mr. Netanyahu said, referring to the secular Fatah faction led by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. ”The dangers of that pact should now be abundantly clear to all.” Speaking in English to galvanize international attention, he added, ”This will not advance peace; it will advance terror.”
In the largest military operation in the West Bank in years, Israel arrested at least 86 Palestinians, many of them senior Hamas figures, over the weekend, and sent thousands of specialized troops into the area, limiting access to the city of Hebron. The executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization condemned Israel’s ”racist” campaign, rejected Mr. Netanyahu’s ”foul accusations” and referred to the kidnapping as ”alleged,” according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
But, as Max Blumenthal has reported, Israel knew the fate of the teens and those responsible early on:
From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.
Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported.
Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive.
Blumenthal also noted the action of the Israeli Government on the 17th of June, when Israel’s UN Ambassador launched a tirade against the world for backing the Hamas/Fatah unity and tied this directly to the missing teens:
On 17 June, the same day the Israeli army forcibly confiscated CCTV cameras in Beitunia that captured footage of its soldiers killing two unarmed Palestinian boys during a Nakba Day protest, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor appeared behind a lectern at the UN Mission in New York City.
“It has been five days since our boys went missing,” Prosor thundered, “and I ask the international community, where are you? Where are you?!”
Referring to the Fatah-Hamas unity government, Prosor added: “All those in the international community who rushed to bless this marriage should look into the eyes of the heartbroken parents and have the courage to take responsibility by condemning the kidnapping. The international community bought in to a bad deal and Israel is paying for it.”
Beside Prosor stood a large placard displaying the smiling faces of the three missing teens beneath a hashtag reading #BringBackOurBoys. Israel’s propaganda blitz was approaching its apex.
For days, leaders of Israel’s trained online propaganda brigades — from the Israeli army spokesperson’s unit, to the Jewish Agency, to the Prime Minister’s Office — flooded social media with the #BringBackOurBoys hashtag. Mimicking Michelle Obama’s promotion of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that aimed to raise awareness of the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamist militants, the Israeli prime minister’s frowning wife, Sara, posted a portrait of herself on Facebook holding a card that read, #BringBackOurBoys.
Even though the teens had gone missing in the West Bank, Israel was focused on Gaza to the South and its plan to gut Hamas (if it could):
The IDF ramps up operations to rescue three kidnapped Israelis in West Bank by calling up a limited number of reserves, preparing anti-rocket batteries.
The IDF has called up a limited number of reserves as the military operation to rescue three kidnapped Israelis in the West Bank continues to grow. The call up is small in scope at this stage.
Also on Sunday, the air force deployed a number of Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in southern Israel.
The IDF arrested 80 Hamas members – including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council – in a massive wave of raids throughout the West Bank early on Sunday, as part of Israel’s response to the kidnapping of three Israeli youths on Thursday.
He described the operational pattern of the kidnappers as “certainly being complex and different,” suggesting that a terrorist organization was involved.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu placed the blame on Hamas for the kidnapping, although the terrorist organization immediately denied the charge, calling the accusation “stupid.”
Hamas leaders Hassan Yousef, Wasfi Qabaha, Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah were among those arrested by the IDF, according to Palestinian reports. Two senior Hamas officials were also reported to be missing from their homes since Thursday. Security forces were investigating any possible connection to the kidnapping.
From Jun 14th thru the end of the month, Israel started bombing Gaza while Hamas retaliated by firing rockets. This was not a case of Israel sitting around minding its own business. It was a deliberate policy decision to provoke a war with Hamas in hopes of destroying it and rupturing its new found unity with Fatah. On the 29th of June, top Israeli officials signaled the upcoming invasion of Gaza:
The army is still searching for three Israeli teenagers missing since June 12, whom Israel says have been abducted by Hamas. Netanyahu said today that if Abbas wants to “‘proceed on the path to peace’’ he should ‘‘tear up his agreement with Hamas.’’
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the army may have to reoccupy Gaza.
‘‘We have to decide if we go with the option of a full occupation of the Gaza Strip,’’ Liberman said on Army Radio today. ‘‘We have seen that a limited operation only strengthens Hamas.’’
The government may declare illegal a domestic Islamic group, described by Netanyahu as ‘‘the northern branch of the Islamic Movement,’’ after protesters blocked roads on June 27 and called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers, Netanyahu said today.
Israel continued to milk the tragedy of the missing teens until the 30th of June when, with much fanfare, Netanyahu announced the discovery of the bodies of the missing teens and vowed retribution against Hamas:
After 18 days of searching and nationwide prayers, the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens has prompted an outpouring not only of grief but also a desire for revenge against Hamas.
“Alongside deep sorrow, we will remain resolute to punish the atrocious terrorists,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Shimon Peres, whose seven-year presidential term ends today. “Our war against terrorism will only intensify and will not waver so that this murderous terrorism won’t dare to rear its head.”
A full-scale Israeli assault against Hamas, the Islamist movement that has amassed rockets in the Gaza Strip capable of striking Tel Aviv, is almost certain to fuel escalation along the Gaza-Israel border. Hamas vowed retaliation.
“If [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] wages war on the Gaza Strip, the gates of hell will be opened,” warned a Hamas spokesman this afternoon.
Given widespread Palestinian bitterness over Israel’s detention of its own boys and young men on a regular basis, as well as the deaths of at least five Palestinians during the military search operation, a strong Israeli retaliation now could provoke widespread unrest in the West Bank as well.
But Israelis are ready to risk such consequences, says Gershon Baskin, the founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.
“The Israeli public is fed up, it is prepared for a military operation even if they know rockets are going to fly all over this country,” he says.
Israel now is in the briar patch. Hamas has not surrendered nor has it been defeated. While the body count of Palestinian women and children continues to mount, Israel is suffering as well. Remains to be seen if they have the stomach for their own casualties and the economic and political costs of waging such a one-sided battle.