WSWS

Mounting death toll as Israel’s war on Gaza escalates
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, May 14 2021

A Palestinian medic gives treatment to a wounded girl in the ICU of the Shifa hospital, Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Gaza City.
She was injured by a May 12 Israeli strike that hit her family house. Doctors are trying to keep up with waves of blast
and shrapnel wounds, cuts and amputations. (Photo: Khalil Hamra/AP)

Air strikes have continued to pound the Gaza Strip, killing more than 100 Palestinians, among them at least 27 children, and wounding more than 980 people since the start of hostilities. Israel has struck more than 750 targets associated with Hamas since the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls. These include buildings used by Hamas, its security and intelligence apparatus, banks, and a Hamas naval squad. It has destroyed three high-rise buildings and killed around 60 Hamas operatives, including 10 senior commanders. Israel’s Minister of Defence Benny Gantz glorified the carnage, saying:

We have attacked many hundreds of targets, towers are falling, factories are collapsing, tunnels are being destroyed and commanders are being assassinated.

He declared that military operations in the Gaza Strip would continue until it brings a “complete and long-term peace.” Threatening the Palestinians in a video, Gantz said, “Gaza will burn.” He reminded them that he was IOF chief of staff during Israel’s last war on Gaza in 2014. That war killed 2,192 Palestinians, including 1,523 civilians of whom 519 were children, injured tens of thousands more, and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and much basic infrastructure. Gantz warned:

If Hamas does not stop its violence, the strike of 2021 will be harder and more painful than that of 2014.

On Thursday, Gantz ordered the called up of 16k army reservists and sent ground forces to the border in preparation for “all eventualities and an escalation.” IOF spox Hidai Zilberman said that plans for a ground invasion were being prepared and that the IDF had begun an arrest campaign in the West Bank against Hamas members. At least three Palestinians have been killed in clashes with security forces in the West Bank and a further 27 injured as protesters took to the streets. Gaza’s hospitals, already struggling to cope with the pandemic, are battling to care for the wounded amid a shortage of beds, staff, equipment and blood and problems with the power supply. A Red Crescent coordinator said:

The situation here is very difficult, I can’t describe the horror in words.

This takes place in one of the most impoverished and densely populated areas in the world, with more than two million people living in just 140 square miles. Subject for 14 years to Israel’s illegal blockade of its borders, it has become an open-air prison like the Warsaw Ghetto. Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world, with 82% of the population now out of work. A recent survey by the New Family organisation reported that 63% of Gazans live below the UN-defined poverty line of $2 a day. Electricity is only available for a few hours a day, while almost all water is contaminated by untreated sewage or salt.

The IDF said Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups had launched more than 1,500 projectiles towards Israel. Rockets have killed seven Israelis, including two Palestinian citizens and two children, indicating the overwhelming superiority of Israel’s aerial weaponry. Israel’s bombardment began after Netanyahu ignored Hamas’s ultimatum to withdraw security forces from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood, on Monday evening. More than 1k security forces had stormed the compound during Ramadan, attacking worshippers with rubber bullets and stun grenades and injuring hundreds. East Jerusalem has witnessed weeks of increasingly violent clashes between the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, who face a court order evicting them from their homes, and Jewish settlers and right-wing fanatics. Several families in Silwan, a neighborhood to the south of the Old City, are also facing expulsion. The planned evictions are part of a broader campaign of ethnic cleansing to remove Palestinians, who form 40 percent of Jerusalem’s population, in favour of Jewish settlers. Last year, Israel increased home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making more than 1,000 Palestinians homeless. In the first four months of this year, in East Jerusalem alone, Israel has demolished more than 50 Palestinian homes and structures, issued 40 additional demolition notices and approved plans for nearly 5,000 new settlement units.

The reaction from the US and the major European powers to Israel’s pre-meditated criminality has been one of staggering hypocrisy. For months, they have demonized China for its supposed genocide of the Uighurs without citing evidence to support their claim. Yet in the case of Israel, its war crimes against Gaza are greenlighted with the mantra of “Israel’s right to defend itself,” while its plans for ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem are portrayed as no more than a legal dispute over ownership. Netanyahu has also declared war on Israel’s Palestinian citizens opposing the planned evictions of the Sheikh Jarrah families, the racist attacks on East Jerusalem residents, and the storming of the al-Aqsa mosque. Israel Palestinians, some 21% of the population, are the poorest in Israel, with nearly half of Arab households below the poverty line. They have suffered decades of discrimination, made official in 2018 with the passage of the “Nation-State Law” enshrining Jewish supremacy as the legal foundation of the state.

Jewish racists along with hundreds of settlers from the occupied West Bank have marched through Arab neighbourhoods in towns and cities, chanting “Death to the Arabs,” throwing bottles and stones and provoking violent clashes while the security forces turned a blind eye. While such attacks have long gone on in the occupied West Bank, attacks now taking place openly within Israel itself echo the ethnic cleansing that drove the Palestinians from their homes between 1947 and 1949. This week, in the central city of Lod, riots broke out, with violent clashes between Jewish mobs and the Palestinians, leading to the death of a Palestinian and further riots in which a synagogue, school and several vehicles were burned by Palestinians. The government announced a city-wide nighttime curfew and declared a state of emergency, the first time the government has used emergency powers since the lifting of military law over Arab communities in 1966. In Bat Yam, a seaside town south of Tel Aviv, gangs of Jewish extremists marched down the main streets, smashing Arab-owned businesses and attacking passersby. They took turns beating and kicking a man presumed to be an Arab, even as his body lay motionless on the ground, on live television. Four of the alleged attackers were arrested while chanting “death to Arabs” and “may your village burn.” All have been released on bail anonymously. According to the city’s mayor:

The riots were organized by provocateurs who came from outside the city.

Video clips have circulated on social media of Jewish mobs trying to break into Palestinian homes, shops and setting up roadblocks. President Reuven Rivlin warned that the country was descending into a “senseless civil war.” Netanyahu said the attacks amounted to “anarchy” and that he was sending in military forces, including 10 reservist units, to help police maintain order in towns and cities with mixed populations. A major factor in Netanyahu’s calculated efforts to ram through the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and provoke a war was his determination to end any possibility of opposition leader Yair Lapid forming a government. He appears to have been successful. Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina Party, said that in the light of recent events, a “government of change,” made up of parties seeking to replace Netanyahu as prime minister was now out of the question and he was in favour of a unity government.

Israel’s war crimes and the hypocrisy of “human rights” imperialism
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, May 14 2021

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a residential building in Gaza City, May 13 2021.
(Photo: Hatem Moussa/AP)

Blinken’s appearance Wednesday at a State Dept press conference provided an object lesson in the absolute cynicism of the “human rights” imperialism with which he is identified. Blinken used the event, which was ostensibly called to present a report on “international religious freedom,” to denounce China for committing “crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs.” He was echoed by the State Department’s point man on “religious freedom,” Daniel Nadel, who declared:

It is absolutely clear what horrors are taking place in Xinjiang, being perpetrated by the PRC Government. And we will continue to speak out because we must.

These two representatives of US imperialism spoke as airstrikes in Gaza were claiming scores of victims, including 17 children, while terrorizing the entire population of the impoverished occupied territory by toppling high-rise buildings with missiles. Within Israel itself, the corrupt and unstable right-wing Netanyahu government is unleashing the kind of repression previously reserved for the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank against an unprecedented revolt by Palestinian Israeli citizens. Several hundred protesters have been injured by riot police and mounted units. The government is sending border troops and possibly even regular army units to suppress internal resistance, while Netanyahu said Thursday he is prepared to institute “administrative detention” against “rioters,” allowing for indefinite imprisonment without charges or trials.

No one at the State Dept is particularly troubled by or compelled to “speak out” against these war crimes and “horrors.” On the contrary, Blinken and other US spokesmen endlessly mouth the mantra that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” while insisting that there can be no comparison between the Zionist state’s “targeting the terrorists” and the “terrorist” Hamas “indiscriminately raining down rockets” on Israel. Biden declared on Thursday that “there has not been a significant over-reaction” on Israel’s part, providing an unmistakable green light for the escalation of the slaughter of Palestinians and an assurance that the flow of US money and arms that make it possible will continue uninterrupted. Indeed, there is no comparison between the primitive Gaza rockets and the high-tech killing machine of the IOF. As in virtually every such confrontation over the past 15 years, the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza outnumber those of Israelis by more than 10 to one. Once again, basic infrastructure in what has justifiably been described as the world’s largest open-air prison is being smashed to pieces, condemning the population to even deeper poverty.

Blinken and his deputy tacked onto their defense of Israel’s airstrikes a pro forma statement that Palestinians have the right to “safety and security.” Yet that right is systematically denied by the Israeli occupation, which routinely shoots, kills and maims Palestinians, including children, imprisons them without due process, seizes their land and bulldozes their homes to make way for the malignant spread of Zionist settlements and denies them freedom of movement. The US used its veto power in the UNSC this week to suppress even a nonbinding resolution supported by the rest of the body’s members because it suggested that curbing the most egregious of these crimes was necessary to prevent a march to war. Can there be any doubt as to the reaction of Blinken and his State Dept cohorts if Beijing were carrying out in Xinjiang even a fraction of the violence meted out by the Israeli state? Washington has already insisted that China’s policy toward the Uyghurs constitutes “genocide,” a deliberately inflammatory allegation. While undoubtedly Beijing employs methods of state repression in Xinjiang as it does elsewhere in China, there exists no evidence to support the charge of genocide, and Washington, whose victims over the course of 20 years of uninterrupted wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East number in the millions, is hardly in a position to point the finger. But the State Dept pursues the strategy outlined by Joseph Goebbels:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

This propaganda campaign against China receives unstinting support—and embellishment—from the corporate media. Case in point was the Nov 2019 article written by WaPo editorial page editor Fred Hiatt titled:

In China, every day is Kristallnacht.

The best that Hiatt could come up with to support the charge that something similar is happening “every day” in Xinjiang was testimony from one Bahram Sintash that mosques had been demolished and cemeteries bulldozed. Sintash is an operative of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a branch of the World Uyghur Congress and American Uyghur Association, both of which are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an agency created to carry out publicly funding operations that were previously conducted covertly by the CIA. The NED boasted in 2020 that it had provided nearly $9m to Uyghur separatist groups since 2004. Tied to extreme right-wing forces in the US and internationally, these groups seek to carve out an ethno-state in Xinjiang and openly call for the “fall of China.” In other words, the evidence of “genocide” is supplied by elements directly funded by Washington, a circular state propaganda operation in which papers like the WaPo and the NYT serve as willing conduits.

Meanwhile, those who expose the crimes of Israel are branded as “anti-Semites” in an exercise that twists that term beyond recognition into a calumny against anyone who expresses the disgust and anger felt by people all over the world, including millions of Jews, over the ongoing war crimes in Gaza. Indeed, this definition is itself anti-Semitic, identifying Jews everywhere with the criminal policies of a state that rules in the interest of a narrow Israeli financial and corporate oligarchy. The vast gulf separating the indifference of US imperialism toward these crimes and its “horror” and invocation of “human rights” in relation to Xinjiang proves once again that all morality is class morality. The moral indignation of imperialist operatives like Blinken is activated only when it is needed to justify wars of aggression and plunder and advance the interests of the US financial oligarchy. That the filthy banner of “human rights” previously raised to justify wars in the Balkans and the MENA is now being unfurled as part of the preparations for “great power” conflict with China and Russia is a measure of the extreme tensions and dangers in the global situation. The events in Gaza and the increasingly uncontrollable crisis in Israel itself have the potential to set a match to this tinderbox, paving the way to a catastrophic war.

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