Gaza’s horror continues. Friday’s ceasefire attempt to stall the violence that has ravaged homes and lives of Palestinian civilians lasted less than three hours. Israel’s bombing of civilian areas over the last four weeks continues to wreak breathtaking havoc. More than 100 civilians were killed last Wednesday; more than 70 on Friday. Around 1,600 Palestinian civilians have died so far, more than 7,000 are injured and nearly half a million displaced from their homes. No image of human tragedy is prompting a rethink in Israeli policy. UN schools sheltering civilians have been targeted. Tel Aviv maintains that Hamas remains a threat and that it will press ahead till its capacities are destroyed. Hamas fires rockets at Israel daily but the latter is able to successfully intercept them with its advanced weaponry and continue reacting with disproportionate force. Three Israeli civilians died from Hamas’ rocket attacks while 63 Israeli soldiers have been killed during this ill-thought through and unconscionable assault.
It is not clear what Israel’s endgame is. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a prolonged campaign. His government must know that a violent subjugation of civilian populations works rarely and is no guarantor of peace and stability. Such State-sponsored campaigns will have a toxic effect on its society and worsen Israel’s isolation. Accusations of war crimes too will not go away easily. Tel Aviv must contend with the effects of world public opinion increasingly arrayed against it as a nation, even as governments continue to support Israel for most part.
The Obama administration, in a way, articulated the wedge between State and civil society perspectives through its contradictory messages on Israel this week. It termed the shelling of a UN school as “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible” but it also approved an immediate transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to Israel, apart from shipping rocket motors two weeks ago. Exporting weapons at this time is also indefensible. The United States and Israel are equally cynical about Gaza’s suffering.