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‘Who can demonstrate the most subservience to Israel’

Aug 06,2014 - Last updated at Aug 06,2014

US President Barack Obama should be ashamed. He has played no part in ending the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and has, almost certainly, allowed Israel the latitude to continue its offensive until the tip-over point from international tolerance to international condemnation was reached.

This happened on Sunday when an Israeli airborne missile hit the road outside an UNRWA boys’ school in the southern city of Rafah. Ten people were killed and 30 injured out of the 3,000 people sheltering in the school after being driven from their homes by Israeli bombing and shelling.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was “appalled by [the] disgraceful shelling” and noted that UNRWA had repeatedly given the school’s location coordinates to the Israeli military.

She said, without irony, that “Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties” as the daily death toll had then reached 1,750, 84 per cent of the fatalities being civilians, according to the UN.

Psaki did not use the word “barbaric” to describe Israel’s massacre of the innocent victims, as used by Obama when it was reported that a single Israeli soldier, Hadar Goldin, had been captured by a Hamas squad, allegedly after last Friday’s ceasefire began. 

“Barbaric” is not a word the US — or any other Western politicians — use when referring to Israel’s behaviour.

Under the terms of the new ceasefire, Israel has unilaterally withdrawn its troops and tanks from Gaza promised to halt all military action in and against Gaza.

The previous 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, scheduled to begin early last Friday, fell apart mainly because US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to pull a fast one on Hamas.

The text of the ceasefire accord said that “forces on the ground will remain in place”, but did not allow Israel to expand its offensive or Hamas to challenge Israeli troops in areas they already occupied.

With the aim of winning over Israel, Kerry said it would be permitted to continue “defensive operations” without defining what “defensive” meant.

Kerry had been warned by Hamas Chief Khaled Mishaal — via Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Al Attiyah — that Israel had to end operations and leave Gaza for the ceasefire to take hold.

Well aware of this conditional approach to the ceasefire, Kerry put pressure on Qatar and Turkey, both Hamas backers, to exert pressure on Hamas and its allies to agree to the proposal despite the fact that its conditions were not taken into account.

Israel’s pretext for violating the ceasefire was the capture of Goldin an hour and a half into the ceasefire (at 9.30am) in a clash which killed two comrades just outside or in a tunnel in Rafah, which lies on the Egypt-Gaza border not the Israel-Gaza border.

The Israeli army argued that destroying tunnels was a “defensive” measure, stretching the meaning of “defensive”.

This was certainly an “offensive” act in the context of a ceasefire where troops would remain “in place”, not advancing or taking offensive action.

Hamas argued that the incident took place before the ceasefire came into effect. Israeli soldiers had not penetrated the eastern areas of Rafah at the time, and its forces could not cease firing at Israeli units, which were constantly moving.

The Electronic Intifada, which carries a detailed account of the incident, quoted veteran correspondent Rageh Omaar who was in Rafah an hour (9am) after the ceasefire began and found Israel was shelling the area heavily. This suggests that the Hamas’ version may have been correct.

The Electronic Intifada article reported that there were numerous casualties from the shelling before 10pm and concluded that this “would mean that Israel launched a massive and indiscriminate barrage at just about the time it says a soldier was captured”.

This would indicate that this barrage may have been intended to wipe out the Hamas unit that may or may not have captured Goldin.

Some Israeli media outlets put forward “friendly fire” as the cause of his death, which was not announced until late Saturday night, 40 hours after his alleged “capture”.

There are at least two types of “friendly fire”: unintentional and intentional.

Since Israel did not say it had mounted a mission to rescue Goldin, the barrage may have been “friendly fire” that put his life at great risk or intended to kill him, in accordance with the controversial Hannibal Directive adopted by the Israeli military in the mid-1980s, following its ill-fated invasion and occupation of Lebanon.

In a 2009 interview published by the Israeli liberal daily Haaretz, Brigadier-General Moti Baruch said the “unequivocal” significance of the directive is that “’no soldier is to be captured, and that is an unambiguous message”.

Hamas vehemently denied capturing Goldin, said it had lost contact with the unit operating in the area of the incident and surmised the fighters had been killed along with the Israeli soldier.

Nevertheless, Israel used his alleged capture as a pretext to pound Rafah, which had not been as massively targeted earlier in the offensive.

Israel observes the Hannibal Directive to avoid the capture of its soldiers.

Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian fighters in 2006 and exchanged after five years for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel wants no repeat of the Shalit affair.

The Hannibal Directive is no secret to the US defence establishment, State Department and White House. All they have to do to find out about this long-standing policy is to “Google” it!

Before Obama uttered the word “barbaric”, some thought should have gone into assessing what Israel was doing.

As I said earlier, there was no effort to rescue Goldin, only a blanket barrage that killed 160 Palestinians before his death was admitted.

Furthermore, the US has enough satellite spies and communication interception gadgets to have assessed whether Israel or Hamas had breached the ceasefire, whether it was Israeli troops by entering eastern Rafah and carrying out an offensive operation against a tunnel or Hamas by fighting back in an area where it had a presence before the ceasefire went into effect.

The US reaction was flagrantly dishonest and dangerous.

Obama not only said Goldin’s capture was “barbaric”, he also took the view that it would be difficult to reinstate the ceasefire because Hamas could not be trusted to “follow through”.

He was wrong because it is Israel that cannot be trusted.

Israel has violated ceasefires since its establishment by war in 1948 and can be dubbed a “serial ceasefire cheat”.

Obama could never acknowledge this, particularly four months before a mid-term congressional election hotly contested by his Democratic Party, which fears being outbid by Republican rivals in the contest over who can demonstrate the most subservience to Israel.

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