Israeli Government’s Lies About Gaza Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

Yves here. This post is an interesting artifact of the persistence of reticence to criticize Israel for its open policy of genocide and its persistence it it even after the ICJ implemented provisional measures intended to stop it. Perhaps this caution is due to censorship threats in the UK.

Note that author Paul Rogers pairs his discussion of Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians, which he refuses to depict as the point of the exercise, with Israel’s banging on about Hamas as a threadbare cover story.

In the meantime, as many of you know now, Israel has contemptuously rejected Hamas’ call for a 135 day (phased) ceasefire and withdrawal of the IDF. From the Financial Times:

In a press conference on Wednesday night, Netanyahu instead vowed to continue Israel’s military offensive in Gaza until “total victory” was secured, saying his country would achieve this “within months”.

“We won’t settle for less,” he said. “Surrendering to Hamas’s delusional demands . . . will not only not lead to the release of the hostages, but will invite another massacre.”

However, the Financial Times gives more prominent play to the continuing slaughter, although the onus is on readers to connect the dots that this is policy, and not an unfortunate byproduct:

Israel’s four-month military campaign in the besieged Gaza Strip has trapped more than half of the enclave’s population in a sliver of land between the Israeli ground offensive, the Mediterranean and the sealed border with Egypt.

It is a humanitarian crisis with few modern parallels. Now Israel has said its forces will target the city of Rafah in its campaign against Hamas, whose senior leaders in Gaza have evaded capture…

The estimated 1.4mn people crammed into the southern border city, already enduring dire conditions and intermittent bombings, have nowhere further to flee.

Fear of the coming offensive pervades the sprawling tent camps in Rafah, lashed by winter rain, where most of the displaced live after Israel’s military advanced from north to south, razing at least half of the strip’s buildings….

Recent satellite images, radar data on building damage and interviews with displaced people show the extent of the pressure on Gazans in Rafah and the dangers of any extensive Israeli military operations in the densely packed area…

Running water is rare, toilets overflow and fresh food is too expensive for most. Israel has laid siege to the strip since the war began, and only limited aid has entered; people rely on intermittent deliveries of food and medicine trucked in by the UN and others.

The story has a good set of visuals on the progress of the Israel attacks and Palestinian flight, as well as more detailed satellite photos of the Rafah area.

Now to the main event.

By Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies in the Department of Peace Studies and International Relations at Bradford University, and an Honorary Fellow at the Joint Service Command and Staff College. He is openDemocracy’s international security correspondent. He is on Twitter at: @ProfPRogers. Originally published at openDemocracy

The on-the-ground situation in Gaza is increasingly difficult to reconcile with the persistent claims from the Israeli government that its defence forces are prioritising the minimising of civilian casualties.

More than 27,000 Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed and several thousand are missing according to the Gazan Health Ministry, with many more buried under rubble. More than 66,000 have been wounded, with many thousands more traumatised.

For those who survive this prolonged, horrific attack, there will be life-long impacts on health and life expectancy caused by the malnutrition and spread of infectious diseases being reported by UN bodies such as the UN Relief and Works Agency, the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme.

Israel president Binyamin Netanyahu’s claims may now seem beyond farcical, but they make a kind of sense if seen as the claims of a government following two different policies at the same time, with messages intended for different audiences.

Given the impact that the mass killing of Palestinians is now having on Israel’s few remaining allies – especially the US and UK, where protests in support of Palestinians regularly draw large crowds – Israel must maintain the pretence of an orderly war with few civilians killed.

Netanyahu’s government is lying, but it would be naive to expect otherwise. Lying is what many powerful states routinely do, particularly in wartime.

The classic example, after all, is on nuclear strategy. Most governments publicly take the stance that nuclear weapons are solely weapons of last resort, the ultimate deterrent to be used when all else has failed. That may be reassuring, but it isn’t true.

In reality, all the nuclear powers – the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and the rest – can see value in nuclear forces that could be used in circumstances of limited war.

Right from the start of Britain’s nuclear age in the late 1950s, consideration was given to using nuclear weapons in all conflicts short of world wars. Some of the earliest nuclear weapons were actually free-fall bombs for use by Scimitar and Buccaneer strike aircraft operating from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers in distant waters from early in the 1960s. Nuclear weapons were carried on task force ships during the Falklands/Malvinas war more than 40 years ago. There were even threats of nuclear use from senior politicians during the Iraq war 20 years ago.

US nuclear plans have also existed in myriad different forms. In NATO for example, nuclear options extended from ‘demonstration’ shots to show the Soviets the US meant business, to limited ‘packets’ of nuclear weapons that might include nuclear artillery shells, short-range missiles, to powerful weapons.

The numbers in a package might vary from a handful to 50 or more, always with the idea that a limited nuclear war could be ‘won’, and the opponent defeated.

In both the UK and the US, this reality was a very far cry from the public idea of stable deterrence – but that was only ever the declaratory policy. What we are witnessing in Gaza is something akin to this, an implementation policy that differs from what is said in public – the declaratory policy. Israel has repeatedly failed to minimise civilian casualties and the current Gaza war is no exception apart, of course, from the sheer size of the Palestinian death toll.

From early in Israel’s current attack on Gaza, I have argued the Netanyahu government fell into Hamas’s trap by declaring that nothing less than the group’s total destruction would suffice. This remained the aim even when Israel’s Western allies were getting uneasy at the sheer number of Palestinian civilian casualties.

We are now at the end of the fourth month of the war. Palestinian casualties are massive but Netanyahu and the IDF persist, combining large-scale bombing with attempts to dislodge Hamas paramilitaries.

In areas like northern Gaza, where the IDF has claimed full control for over a month, Hamas continues to fight and fire rockets into Israel, and there are even reports that the group “is rebuilding a system of governance”. Meanwhile, the IDF and intelligence agencies clearly do not know where Hamas is holding a hundred or more hostages.

The really damaging outcome for Israel is that right across the region and beyond, it has lost its reputation for being in control of its security. For a state that puts such a huge stake on being secure, 7 October was a disaster of historic proportions, but the response of this particular government is proving to be an even greater disaster as the Palestinian death toll heads beyond 30,000 and Israel’s reputation plummets as never before.

In short, it is proving extremely difficult to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian death toll rises by the day, half the houses in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged and many thousands of Palestinians are facing the winter in tents. Meanwhile, hard-line Israeli politicians in Netanyahu’s government talk openly of the need to replace Palestinians in Gaza with Israeli settlers and the national security minister, Itmar Ben-Gvir, argues that aid convoys into Gaza should cease.

At some point, reality will intrude, the war will end and Israel will have to start coming to terms with a very different security environment, one that can be resolved only by talking to the Palestinians and working towards a mutually acceptable long-term peace deal.

The US could speed that up, as the only state that has anything like a veto on Israel due to its massive military support. So far there is not much sign of that, but Joe Biden is facing increasing domestic opposition and that may, before long, make a difference.

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  1. Acacia

    Re: Last paragraph. Obviously, “I am a Zionist” Biden would fall on his sword and lose the upcoming election before ever vetoing Israel.

  2. JohnA

    The total destruction of Hamas is not the main aim. The total destruction of the Palestinian people current and future generations is clearly what Netanyahu is aiming for, hence the targetting of women and children. That the western powers are sitting on their hands and even continuing to support him, is beyond disgusting and shameful. There are no words for it.

    1. ambrit

      It reminds me of the Armenian Genocide of a hundred plus years ago in Turkey. Lots of public agitation to stop the slaughter and no effective State interventions.
      As I have stated before; the only effective action to stop this all will be the nuking of Jerusalem.

      1. bertl

        Alternatively, the use of thermobaric bombs in Hiafa and/or Tel Aviv by any country under threat which is allied to Russia may well send a very clear message to those powers complicit in the genocide and to encourage the others who want to chance their arm in other theatres against the Russian Federation and it’s allies. And it will have the virtue of leavingt buildings for the Palestinians to begin their new lives in.

      2. MRLost

        US policy clearly supports genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinians. This is self evident because the US continues to deliver the very weapons Israel is using to perpetrate this on-going genocide. If it’s okay to commit genocide, then why shouldn’t Israel use nuclear weapons against Iran? Israel may believe they would be doing the world, or at least the US, a favor by using nukes to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US certainly would object no more to Israel killing maybe millions of Iranians than the US is presently objecting to Israel killing tens of thousands of Palestinians. All good. So if nukes are used during this latest and greatest slaughter, it seems most likely they will be used by Israel – who actually has them, no question – against the country Israel identifies as its greatest foe, Iran. Biden and Blinken would privately applaud such an escalation. Trump would love it. As a bonus, such use would dramatically lower the world-wide threshold against nuclear weapons which would also benefit Israel in its future wars against Islam. Israel nuking Iran is all but guaranteed if the US continues to green-light the current genocide. Why not? What would Biden do? Piss himself?

  3. furnace

    For all the cold-blooded insanity of the genocidaires, they maybe should get a bit of a realpolitik check. You get to dictate what others do when you’re in a position of absolute superiority and able to impose your will, which takes overwhelming military capacity. And yet, by now all they managed to prove is that the IOF is more far more incompetent and having a harder time than the US in the Vietnam, despite Gaza being tiny. At least the US troops entered in the damn tunnels!

    At some point, reality will intrude, the war will end and Israel will have to start coming to terms with a very different security environment, one that can be resolved only by talking to the Palestinians and working towards a mutually acceptable long-term peace deal.

    On this note, this is not quite right. Reality has already intruded, and the only thing that is still to be decided is the magnitude of the debacle. The end results range from the end of the Greater Israel project and the slow death of zionism, to total and sudden collapse. As Tinkzorg pointed out on twitter, there won’t be any peace for Israel. They committed a genocide against a population that literally all their neighbors sympathize with (though not the ruling elites) and these things aren’t quickly forgotten (see: the Holocaust). And a state isolated in hostile terrain and vastly outnumbered by a population that utterly hates it to its bones is not a good position to be in. They should have studied the history of the Crusader States; but by now it’s too late.

  4. Michaelmas

    OP: …from the start of Britain’s nuclear age in the late 1950s, consideration was given to using nuclear weapons in all conflicts short of world wars. Some of the earliest nuclear weapons were actually free-fall bombs for use by …strike aircraft operating from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers ….

    This breathless announcement that some of the earliest nuclear weapons were free-fall bombs is deeply silly, since they all were. That was all there was till ICBMs were developed, once H-bombs enabled the necessary miniaturization to put nuclear weapons on missiles.

    The UK developed thermonuclear weapons in 1957, the third country after the US and the USSR to do so.

    OP: Nuclear weapons were carried on task force ships during the Falklands/Malvinas war more than 40 years ago.

    Meh. Rogers is again being ingenuous or silly. It was a lot more specific than ‘task force ships.’

    Rumor has long had it — as they say — that Thatcher told President Mitterand of France that a British Polaris submarine was ready to launch a nuke at the Argentinian capitol, Buenos Aires, if Mitterand doesn’t give her the radio codes for the Exocet missiles that France had sold to Argentina.

    Only rumor. Still, Mitterand did give Thatcher and the UK the Exocet missile codes. Perhaps Aurelien can comment.

  5. Benny Profane

    The campaign for President is going to be something to see. A very old and deteriorated man, getting worse by the day, will have to get out in front of the public a fair amount, but will most likely be harassed by vocal anti genocide protesters wherever he goes. Sure, he can try to operate in a secure bubble at events and the media will help him as much as they can, but that’s what Hillary tried to do, and how did that work out? Meanwhile, Trump will be holding rock star level rallies, maybe two a day. Unless they kill him.

    1. jan

      I wonder how often Biden will be able to travel by that time. I regularly see clips on Xwitter now that make me think “tell me this is a deepfake”. How can he handle the stress of traveling all over the place?
      Larry Johnson mentioned a few times that Biden gets heckled at pretty much every campaign event now, people yelling “Genocide Joe!” and such. Can’t be too much fun for him (I hope).

  6. john r fiore

    It should be noted that in 1987, Senator Biden, then the ranking democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, worked tirelessly with Senator Proxmire for Senate ratification of the UN treaty against Genocide…and it was ratified…40 years after it was introduced in the UN,,,,,Furthermore, in 1999, Senator Biden, still ranking democrat on the Foreign relations committee, urged immediate US and NATO military action to “cease Kosovo Genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Serbs”…his words worked and Belgrade was bombed for 99 days and nights. Lets jump to today, President Biden, 80 years old, with 121 days of “real” genocide in front of hjis eyes 24/7, is blind to Israels genocidal war against gaza.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Does Israel lie? Of course they do. The western powers gave them a blank check to lie and whatever bs stories they come up with, they know that not only will it be endorses by the western powers but the main stream media will report it as god’s truth. Hamas chopping babies heads off? Reported world wide and endorsed by Biden himself. Mass rape of hostages? If the IDF does it, then surely Hamas does it, right? And look at one of the latest ones. Israel claims that 12 of some 13,000 workers for the UNRWA are Hamas but they can only show those intelligence files their friends as they are secret. So right away many of the Collective West cut UNRWA funding which means starvation for Gaza. Now Israel is saying that it is maybe 6 people out of 13,000 and not 12. It does not matter as whatever they come up with, western countries and western media will report it as the truth.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Rev.

      Israel has also said 4, but did not feel that it had to prove the case against.

  8. Antifa

    One will obtain a much fuller view of Israel’s vital importance to virtually all world governments by reading Professor Jeff Halper’s book, War Against the People. Kindle has it for $9. He explores how Israel has made itself essential to the modern security states that are now the norm everywhere.

    A video of him giving a 58-minute summary of his book is available for viewing.

    Also, Yotam Feldman has a film — The Lab — describing how Israel’s occupation is not a burden but a global business opportunity. Vimeo has it for rent or sale.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      There’s similar going around the City and other business capitals.

      One of my bank employer’s clients, Pret A Manger, has been approached about opening in new settlements, seaside and inland, in Gaza. Another client, JC Bamford, has been approached for the construction of these new settlements. We already provide trade finance to JCB for exports to Israel.

      War! What is it good for? Bankster bonuses. That’s what. Next question?

  9. Dissident Dreamer

    Hamas ceasefire proposal – full text via Palestine Chronicle

    Netanyahu has rejected this out of hand, Biden calls it “over the top” and Blinken has said some elements are “obviously nonstarters”. It would be useful if our free and fearless press would ask him which ones.

    It seems remarkably restrained to me.

    Hamas doesn’t ask for a permanent ceasefire. 135 days seems like a lot at first sight but it’s in three phases of 45 days each. If you look at the other elements it would be hard to get them done even in that time and anyway I’d expect that number to be somewhat negotiable.

    They don’t ask for an all for all prisoner exchange. In the end all the Israeli hostages would be exchanged for all the women, children and the old and sick plus 1500 men to include 500 under long or life sentences. This last I guess could be a problem but remember this is out of 8800 currently held of which at least 4000 are not charged let alone convicted. There is no mention of the tens of thousands of Israelis who have committed war crimes in the last four months. Again, there may be room for negotiation.

    They don’t, in the first phase, ask for the complete withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, just from residential areas to allow people to return to whatever’s left of their homes.

    The rest is all about humanitarian aid, including rebuilding hospitals, allowing in 500 trucks of aid per day (as per before the invasion), and bringing in temporary accommodation such as caravans, containers and tents, basically as ordered by the ICJ.

  10. Revenant

    It us not just the Israeli lues, it is our complicity. I was sickened by today’s BBC article wearing its bleeding heart on its sleeve for the difficult security situation of Israel’s northernmost town, Metula.

    “We are surrounded” is the tone deaf self-pity of the Israelis. Well, you choose to be there – says nobody at the BBC. And I couldn’t confirm but I suspect the town is beyond the 1948 borders (and possibly, being next to Golan, beyond 1967).

    Why are the basic facts of the Israeli position (occupying land beyond its UN borders and aggressively attacking non-Jews outside and inside them) not stated before the sob stories…? Why is Israel given a free pass forever to play the victim?

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said.

      If you think the BBC is bad, not that other UK broadcasters are better, the French must take the biscuit. The double standards and crude and casual racism are breathtaking. Just when you think they can’t sink further, someone does, vide Francois Hollande making a sweeping distinction between Israeli victims and Palestinian aggressors and some pundit talking about Rachida Dati yesterday.

      1. Revenant

        Thank you GK for the educational response. I had a good look at the map and related documents. Whatever happened to the railways…? :-(

        So Metulla’s strategic vulnerability is the result of the original partition plan, not subsequent wars. It doesn’t change the point that complaining about it is chutzpah when the town is the fruits of dispossession and in not mentioning this the BBC skews the picture unjustifiably.

        By the way, I never realised that when Britain left Palestine, we made no effort to implement any part of the UN plan (cross-your-fingers idealism by Bevin, cynicism by the Foreign Office Atlanticists) or made any effort to provide transitional government. Like a schoolboy with a conker, we threw it to the crowd and shouted “Scrambles!”….

        Probably one of our worst strategic decisions after WWII. We might have remained East of Suez if we had remained on the side of Lawrence and the Arabs.

        1. gk

          The railways were electrified and expanded.

          Oops, sorry. I read Altneuland, a marvellous comic novel; it’s hard to believe how Herzl got so much wrong. For example, the Jewish community overwhelmingly votes to reject Ben-Gvir (called Geyer, but it’s obvious who it is). If the British had stayed, Beeching would have eliminated the railways anyway. Israel railways had plans to rebuild them, but I suspect their priorities have changed.

          As for the sudden departure of the British, it was shortly after the murder of Clifford Martin and Mervyn Paice, an event that got even Thatcher to cry when telling Trudeau (the real one) about it. It provoked the last pogroms to take place in the UK, and I can see why they didn’t want to have any more to do with the place. The Arabs had nothing to do with this, course, but since when did they matter?

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