An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
The old man’s message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s “The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War”), we learn that the government’s goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula – and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” – referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) – though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the U.N., to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel’s intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government – the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to U.N. reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the U.S. and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
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