BY SETH GALINSKY
The death toll from Tel Avivís assault on the Gaza Strip as of late July has surpassed 1,100 ó three-quarters of them civilians, including at least 218 children. More than 6,000 Palestinians have been injured and at least 170,000, about one-tenth of the stripís population, have fled their homes. The Israeli army had destroyed more than 3,540 buildings, damaged 120 schools, six hospitals, and water, electricity and sewage systems that affect nearly all of Gazaís 1.8 million people.
After a two-day lull, Israeli forces renewed airstrikes and artillery fire across Gaza, killing 30 people July 28 and knocking its only power plant out of commission. Most of Gaza’s electricity comes from Israel, but many of those power lines have been damaged since fighting began July 7.
The Israeli assault began after Hamas fired scores of missiles aimed at populated areas in Israel, they said in protest of the arrest of Hamas supporters. According to the Israel Defense Forces, since July 7 Hamas has fired more than 1,000 rockets, with the full expectation that it would draw a massive counterattack. Most of Hamas’ widely inaccurate projectiles landed in unpopulated areas. The IDF says Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted nearly 500 rockets.
Politically hostile to mounting a mass popular struggle that could mobilize Palestinian workers and farmers and win support throughout the region, including among Jewish working people, Hamas’ anti-working-class strategy maximizes the sacrifice of civilians in Gaza. Their aim is to gain sympathy in wings of bourgeois public opinion that might bring diplomatic pressure on Tel Aviv. Hamas systematically places its targeted rocket launchers and other weaponry in densely populated working-class neighborhoods, as well as schools, hospitals and other public facilities.
And the group’s promotion of Jew hatred and explicit targeting of Jewish civilians cuts off the possibility of winning solidarity for the Palestinian struggle from Jewish working people in Israel, which would help end the blockade of Gaza, open the borders for work and travel, and advance other national demands.
There are fewer and fewer refuges for workers and farmers in Gaza, a narrow strip and one of the most densely populated regions on earth. According to the United Nations, Israel’s military has declared at least 44 percent of the territory a “no-go zone” that residents should evacuate.
The Israel Defense Forces say that they give civilians in Gaza advance notice to flee targeted areas through leaflets and text messages.
A letter to the Israeli government from nine human rights groups in Israel notes that “one is hard put to consider the dispersal of leaflets ‘effective warning’” when residents of the Gaza Strip have “no way to completely evacuate the targeted area.”
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas had tried to restrict protests in solidarity with Gaza. But as outrage grew, Abbas’ governing Fatah party backed a July 24 protest of 10,000 near the Kalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank village of Ramallah. At least two protesters were killed and more than 100 wounded when Israeli soldiers and border police attacked.
Opposition inside Israel
While polls indicate widespread support among Israeli Jews for the military assault, opponents of the war have sought to get out their views inside Israel.
Hundreds of Jews and Palestinians protesting in Haifa July 18 were joined by Basel Ghattas, Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi, three Palestinian members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The protest was initiated by Hadash, a political party established by the Communist Party. Counterprotesters chanted “Death to Arabs, Go to Gaza.”
Haifa police had refused to grant a permit for the demonstration but under pressure from Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, allowed the action to take place.
Several thousand opponents of the assault, most of them Jewish, protested in Tel Aviv July 26.
Haaretz columnist Ilene Prusher noted in a July 20 article on the liberal Israeli daily’s website that a “deluge” of criticism poured in after she wrote, “Think of the horror of being a parent in Gaza and knowing nowhere is safe, there are no shelters,” unlike in Israel where there is a widespread network of shelters.
Tel Aviv intensified blockade in 2007
Israeli forces occupied Gaza for 38 years after capturing it in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. They withdrew in September 2005 but retained control of its borders and airspace. Thousands of Gaza residents were no longer allowed to enter or work in Israel. Since 2005 Hamas and other Islamist groups have fired thousands of missiles into Israel. In June 2007, after Hamas wrested control of the territory from Fatah in pitched street battles, Tel Aviv intensified its blockade.
Even before the recent assault, “35 percent of Gaza’s farmland and 85 percent of its fishing waters were totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli imposed restrictions,” the United Nations said.
Power outages took place up to 12 hours a day. More than 90 percent of the water supply is unsafe for human consumption without treatment. The Israeli government has denied visas to all but a handful of Gaza students to study abroad.
The second largest employer in Gaza after the government is the United Nations and 80 percent of the population is dependent on U.N. agencies for at least some of their food. Unemployment is estimated at 50 percent.
Residents of Gaza are not only cut off from Israel, but Egypt where the Cairo government has repeatedly bombed, flooded or bulldozed tunnels linking Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, most recently late last year.
Farmers are unable to get pesticides, fertilizers and other basic supplies needed for their crops or permits from the Israeli government to export what they manage to produce.
Over the last several years, Hamas has lost support in Gaza and throughout the Middle East. Bourgeois regimes in the region, many in crisis themselves, have retracted support for Hamas and less and less feign support for the Palestinian cause.
From New York and Chicago to London and Athens, Greece, tens of thousands have joined protests against the Israeli assault and continued blockade of Gaza.
In Paris, protests July 19 and 20 were marred by dozens of masked youth who set fire to synagogues and Jewish-owned stores.
An article posted July 23 on +972, a website based in Israel and Palestine that opposes the Israeli occupation, responded to the anti-Jewish actions in Paris. “We, as supporters of the Palestinian people, too must actively push back against any form of bigotry or violence against Jewish communities,” wrote Yasmeen Serhan, a Palestinian-American student at the University of Southern California. “Ultimately, such violent actions are no better than the right-wing extremist ‘Death to Arabs’ protests taking place throughout Israel.”
Writing in March in the Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat, Tunisian poet Amal Mousa criticized Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah for stating, “We are a people that love death for the sake of Allah as much as our enemies love life.”
Mousa added that Hamas’ course has “not brought the Palestinians any significant results.”
“In fact, Palestinian and Arab blood has been wasted,” she said.
The Israeli government has stated it will only accept a permanent cease-fire if Hamas destroys all its missiles, demilitarizes Gaza and destroys all its tunnels.