Category Archives: Gaza08-09

New report about carcinogens and fetotoxic materials in Gaza war wounded

The New Weapons Committee recently released a report of detailed biopsy studies conducted on people in Gaza injured by Israeli weapons during the Israeli assaults of summer 2006 and winter 2009. (Hat-tip Ray J.)
The NWC’s May 11 press release warns that the biopsy results indicate Israel’s use of new and potentially very worrying kinds of weapons during those assaults:

    Toxic and carcinogenic metals, able to produce genetic mutations, have been found in the tissues of people wounded in Gaza during Israeli military operations of 2006 and 2009. The research has been carried out on wounds provoked by weapons that did not leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.
    The researchers compared the quantity of 32 elements present in the tissues through ICP/MS (a type of highly sensitive mass spectrometry) . The job, carried out by laboratories of Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), Chalmer University (Sweden) and Beirut University (Lebanon)[I think that’s a referece to the American University of Beirut ~HC], was coordinated by the New Weapons Research Group (Nwrg), an independent committee of scientists and experts based in Italy, who is studying the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population of after-war areas. The relevant presence of toxic and carcinogenic metals found in the wound tissues points to direct risks for survivors, but also to the possibility of environmental contamination.

Scroll further down that web-page for links to the the Word doc version of the study itself and PDF versions of the supporting materials.
Articles 22 and 23 of the 1899 Hague Conventions state the following:

    Article 22
    The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited.
    Article 23
    Besides the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially prohibited:–
    To employ poison or poisoned arms;
    To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army;
    To kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down arms, or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion;
    To declare that no quarter will be given;
    To employ arms, projectiles, or material of a nature to cause superfluous injury;
    To make improper use of a flag of truce, the national flag, or military ensigns and the enemy’s uniform, as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention;
    To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.

Goldstone’s careful documentation & argument

I’ve had the chance to be reading more of the report of the Goldstone Commission Report (PDF). It’s 425 pages long, so not an easy or light read!
But I’ve been very impressed with the thoroughness of both the documentation and the argumentation in the report. Goldstone and his team are very professional and careful investigators of atrocities. He, of course, got his first experience of doing such work when he was investigating allegations of serious wrongdoing by the security forces in his native South Africa in 1989-90. There, too, his investigation was hampered by serious non-cooperation from the state authorities and he was subjected to some fairly vile slurs mobilized by the state’s propaganda apparatus… But he persisted; and his report opened a chink of understanding among many White South Africans who until then had preferred to turn a blind eye, into the actions the Apartheid-era security forces took against their non-White compatriots, allegedly on their behalf…
His latest report shows the same thoroughness he brought to his work there, and later to the indictments he drew up against leading perpetrators of atrocities in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
For example, the Report has pulled together an excellent chronology of all the military incidents that occurred during the six-month ceasefire that started June 19, 2008. This account makes clear– as many official Israeli sources already have– how few in number were the incidents of firing any kind of ordnance from Gaza into Israel during the whole period until November 4– the day on which Israel itself undertook a major and deliberate violation of the ceasefire. But it goes beyond the official Israeli sources in noting that those rockets and missiles that were fired from Gaza prior to November 4 were not attributable to Hamas. many were attributed to– or even claimed by– the Fateh-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades. Others, to Islamic Jihad.
So this picture of an “unstoppably violent” Hamas that Israelis like to portray to the world is quite simply untrue. Yes, Hamas uses violence for political ends. (Like Israel.) But it does not do so irrationally or uncontrollably; and indeed, it turns out that Hamas– like Israel– is deterrable.
The report has a lengthy consideration of the Israeli forces’ firing, on January 6, of four mortars against Al-Fakhoura Street, near to an UNRWA school being used as a shelter for civilians who had fled other zones of fire. The mortars apparently killed more than 31 people. In the course of many, heavily-footnoted pages the report considers all the evidence available to it concerning what actually happened. It noted that the Israelis’ official version of what had happened changed over time.
It finds, para. 690, that:

    the attack may have been in response to a mortar attack from an armed Palestinian group but considers the credibility of Israel’s [argument to this effect] damaged by the series
    of inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies.

It then does some very thoughtful legal analysis of the Israelis’ decision to use mortars in this quite evidently heavily populated area, and concludes thus:

    696. [T]he Mission finds the following:

      (a) The military advantage to be gained was to stop the alleged firing of mortars that posed a risk to the lives of Israeli armed forces;
      (b) Even if there were people firing mortars near al-Fakhura Street, the calculation of the military advantage had to be assessed bearing in mind the chances of success in killing the targets as against the risk of firing into a street full of civilians and very near a shelter with 1,368 civilians and of which the Israeli authorities had been informed.

    697. The Mission recognizes that for all armies proportionality decisions will present very genuine dilemmas in certain cases. The Mission does not consider this to be such a case.

I note that one of the other three members of Goldstone’s fact-finding team was Colonel Desmond Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).
One of the real strengths of the report is that it provides, for the world public, real details about the terrible way in which named people were hurt during the fighting. It also provides a record of evident and systematic disinformation about the nature of the Israeli actions.
In discussions here and elsewhere in the week since the report came out, supporters of the government of Israel have ranted and raved against the report, against Judge Goldstone himself, and against the UN. They have not, however, presented any factual evidence that refutes any of the report’s findings.
And most of them have given no indication whatsoever that they have even read the report. They should. So should everyone concerned about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. And so should all US citizens who are concerned about how Israel uses all the financial and military aid our government gives to it.

Gaza, the Obama administration, and the present

I was reading this account from Reuters of the way that Obama’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, today tried to sideline and bury the important report of the Goldstone Commission.
Firstly, she brushed aside the report’s recommendation that the Security Council should remain actively involved in the follow-up efforts to win accountability from the accused perpetrators of atrocities on both sides during Israel’s December-January assault on Gaza.
Then, this:

    Rice said the focus should be the future.
    “This is a time to work to cement progress toward the resumption of (Israeli-Palestinian peace) negotiations and their early and successful conclusion,” she said.

At first blush this looks like a classic “peace versus justice” dilemma, of the kind I’ve written about extensively in my work on conflict termination and the “justice” issues deriving therefrom.
But then I thought there is already a very, very long history of Palestinians having their “justice” claims brusquely pushed aside in favor of the promise of a future, western-led peacemaking effort… And throughout the past 61 years those efforts have never, ever led anywhere.
So today, the Palestinians are once again asked to forget about their past grievances, and to focus on a promise of some kind of a future peace settlement that, if the past is any kind of a reliable guide, may well prove quite illusory.
Lost in all this, however, is the situation of the Palestinians– in Gaza, but also elsewhere– in the present.
Is there anything the US could do about this?
Of course there is! And it’s not only the case that the US could do something to help the Gazans in the present– the US also should be doing a whole lot more than it has to date to alleviate the harm that they continue to suffer on a daily and continuing basis, since it has enormous leverage over the government of Israel.
But Washington has used not one iota of that leverage to force Israel to open Gaza’s borders up for the passage of the freight that the Strip’s 1.4 million people sorely need in order to conduct a normal, safe, and dignified life.
Winter is approaching in Gaza, where it can bring rain and some bitterly cold winds. And despite all the representations that various do-gooders have made since the parallel ceasefires wet into effect on January 18, Israel has not allowed into the Strip any of the most basic construction materials that are needed to repair the extensive damage that the IDF caused during last winter’s war, in many cases quite intentionally, to housing, schools, factories, and public infrastructure.
So maybe now is not the time to pull together a huge series of international court cases to look into the atrocities of the past. (Or maybe it is.)
And maybe we should give the US-led diplomacy one last chance to build a better future. (Or maybe not.)
But if we look only at the continuously unfolding present, then if the US does nothing to force Israel to open Gaza’s borders to the passage of vitally needed freight, then Washington will be directly complicit in the additional harms that Gaza’s people will suffer this winter.
(Meantime, in today’s statement, Rice criticized the mandate of the Goldstone Commission, and she criticized its policy recommendations. But I don’t think she questioned any of its actual findings. And those findings surely stand as the best draft we have to date of the historical record of who did what to whom in the Israel-Palestine theater in the time of the 2008-09 Gaza War. Even just as a record, the work of the Commission will be invaluable– and it can provide the basis for all kinds of court cases in the future.)

Goldstone Commission reports on Gaza-war war-crimes

The Goldstone Commission, appointed in April by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that were committed during last winter’s Gaza war, has now presented its findings to the Council.
Regarding actions undertaken by the armed forces of the State of Israel, the report states,

    The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named “Operation Cast Lead,” houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still
    living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.
    Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 per cent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.
    The report concludes that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.
    The Report states that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed.
    The report underlines that in most of the incidents investigated by it, and described in the report, loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of “distinction” in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times. The report states that “Taking into account the ability to plan, the means to execute plans with the most developed technology available, and statements by the Israeli military that almost no errors occurred, the Mission finds that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions.”

Regarding actions undertaken by Palestinian armed groups, the Commission found,

    [T]he repeated acts of firing rockets and mortars into Southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” by failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population. “The launching of rockets and mortars which cannot be aimed with sufficient precisions at military targets breaches the fundamental principle of distinction,” the report says. “Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population.”
    The Mission concludes that the rocket and mortars attacks “have caused terror in the affected communities of southern Israel,” as well as “loss of life and physical and mental injury to civilians and damage to private houses, religious buildings and property, thereby eroding the economic and cultural life of the affected communities and severely affecting the economic and social rights of the population.”

Three Israeli noncombatants and ten Israeli soldiers were killed during the war. Of the Palestinians killed, more than 1,000 were noncombatants, including more than 300 children.
Here are the Commission’s conclusion and recommendations (reformatted by me for clarity):

    The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action, the Report says. The Mission found the Government of Israel had not carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.
    * It recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions it should carry out with regard to the violations identified in its Report.
    * The Mission further recommends that the Security Council set up a body of independent experts to report to it on the progress of the Israeli investigations and prosecutions.
    * If the experts’ reports do not indicate within six months that good faith, independent proceedings are taking place, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the ICC Prosecutor.
    * The Mission recommends that the same independent expert body also report to the Security Council on proceedings undertaken by the relevant Gaza authorities with regard to crimes committed by the Palestinian side.
    * As in the case of Israel, if within six months there are no good faith independent proceedings conforming to international standards in place, the Council should refer the situation to the ICC Prosecutor.

What a fascinating road-map towards accountability.
Longtime JWN readers will know that I have long reflected and written about how the demands of peacemaking and the demands of seeking full accountability for past acts can best be reconciled. This is a very important case-study in this field.
Meantime, of course, if Pres. Obama is serious about his support for the human-rights agenda and for building a new, more constructive relationship with the UN, then he needs t get behind this process of holding both parties acountable.
Including, he should immediately signal to both Israel and Hamas that he will condition all future US aid to both of them on their compliance with these recommendations.

A testimony the world needs to hear

Amira Hass had a searing report in Thursday’s Haaretz. It’s about the killing and slow death during last winter’s Gaza war of Ahmed Samouni, age 4, and his father Atiyeh.
Amira, a secular saint from Israel, interviewed Ahmed’s mother Zeinat in May in a Gaza City neighborhood.
Here’s what Hass wrote that Zeinat Samouni told her about the events of Sunday, January 4:

    “We didn’t sleep all night, not even the children. There were 18 of us in one room, we and our children [from 15 days up to 12 years], as well my husband’s first wife, Zahwa, and her seven children [the oldest is 23]. They had come the previous evening because they were afraid to stay in their tin hut. We heard my sister-in-law shouting outside when a fire broke out in her home after a shell hit it. That was around 6 A.M. I was afraid from her shouts alone.”
    Samouni continued: “The soldiers began moving between the houses and shooting. We heard them speaking Hebrew. We all started screaming and crying. My husband only said that we shouldn’t be afraid and that we should read the Koran. We left the front door open so they wouldn’t break it down with explosives and so they would see that there are children here. They came straight into the living room; we were in the children’s room, across the way. [The soldiers] looked frightening. Their faces were blackened with charcoal and they had big helmets with branches in them. We were so afraid we shouted.”
    Mahmoud Samouni, 12: “They were from Givati” – an infantry battalion.
    Zeinat Samouni: “We all shouted. Atiyeh stood up to approach the soldiers and talk to them. He knows Hebrew. Ahmed followed him, crying: Daddy, Daddy. Atiyeh told him, Don’t be afraid.
    “My husband walked toward the soldiers with his hands up. ‘Here I am, Khawaja [term for a non-Muslim]. He barely said a word and they shot him. It wasn’t just one who fired. Atiyeh was at the door of the children’s room, [the soldiers] were maybe a meter away. They kept shooting into the room where we were. Ahmed was hit in the head and the chest, Zahwa in the back. Her sons Faraj and Qanan were also hurt, and my Abdallah [10] was hit in the head and the hip, also Amal [his twin sister].
    “We all lay down on the floor. After maybe a quarter of an hour I shouted to the soldiers, ‘Ktanim, Khawajam, ktanim’ [“little ones,” in Hebrew], and they stopped shooting. I saw one soldier spit twice on my husband. Then they came into the children’s room and in my bedroom they began destroying the furniture and threw something [probably a stun grenade], so the room filled up with smoke and a fire started and everything in the room – clothes, documents, money – was lost.
    “Because of all the smoke and fire we started shouting again, and again said ‘Ktanim, ktanim,’ and we prayed and read the Koran and coughed. I couldn’t see the children because of all the smoke. The soldiers put on gas masks and lit up the place with the lights on their rifles, and spoke Hebrew. We’re crying and the children are peeing their pants and the soldiers are laughing. In the end, they said, ‘Come on, come on,’ and took us out. They spat on my husband again. I look at the pool of blood under his head and a soldier aims his rifle at me. Outside there were soldiers who fired. My children and I went out barefoot, our arms raised. Fahed, Zahwa’s son, carried Ahmed. I told a soldier I wanted to take my husband. He said no. Outside I saw many soldiers.
    “Amal ran to the house of [Uncle] Talal, but the soldiers wouldn’t let us follow her. We walked on the paved road [eastward, toward Salah al-Din Street]. I didn’t notice anything, and suddenly everyone stopped. It turned out that there was a snipers’ post in Sawafiri’s house. They ordered my husband’s [older] sons to pull up their shirts and turn around, and then they ordered them to go to Rafah [south]. We continued and entered the home of Majed [Samouni, another relative]. I looked at Ahmed; his clothes were covered with blood and I saw the two big holes in his head. I gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I screamed, I asked for an ambulance. His mouth was dry. I moistened his lips with saliva, and then with water that Majed brought me.
    “We tore a sheet for white flags, so we could go out. Majed’s wife was pregnant and began going into labor. His mother and I helped her give birth. There were about 40 or 50 of us. The children were hungry. Majed brought pita and olives and tomatoes that were in the house. I asked Ahmed if he wanted to eat and he whispered, ‘Yeah . . . Mommy,’ and I gave him a little bread in water. I fed him like a baby bird. All the time blood was running, everything was covered in it. In the evening he told me, ‘I want to take you and Dad to Paradise.’ I kept bringing towels to absorb the blood and I thought about Amal and about my husband’s dead body.
    “Ahmed died at about or 4:30 or 5 A.M. [on January 5]. I screamed and I closed his eyes. Salah’s girl came and said a shell landed on the home of Wa’el [a relative] and that the roof fell in and everyone was screaming and covered in blood. She said everyone had fled to the city. I said that in that case we’d all leave the neighborhood.
    “We left, the big ones holding the little ones, Fahed carrying Ahmed’s body, all of us holding white flags. The soldiers on the roof of Sawafiri’s house started shooting just as we went out, and there was also shooting from a helicopter and from a tank [on Salah al-Din Street]. We were screaming and crying. We kept walking, barefoot, until the Star Cola factory. An ambulance came a little later. They asked if there were wounded. I said there were some behind us, who could barely walk.
    “We were about 300 people, everyone with white flags and some with plastic bags because they couldn’t find white cloth. The ambulance people apologized for not being able to come, because the soldiers shot at the ambulances. They took us to Shifa Hospital. They put Ahmed next to the others who were killed, and there I saw Talal’s family, all of them crying. Then I noticed the dead and I started to recognize them. I wandered around Shifa like a madwoman, looking for Amal. They told me, ‘We were all in Talal’s house and the soldiers took us to Wa’el’s and a shell hit and we were all wounded and killed.’
    I couldn’t find Amal. My aunt came and started crying and said, ‘Rashad is dead and Talal is dead and Rahma is dead and Safa is dead and Mohammed is dead and Hilmi is dead and Leila is dead and Tawfiq is dead, and Walid and Rebab – and I hugged her and we screamed together. Men and women gathered around, crying with us.
    “They took my son Ahmed from the bed and put him into the refrigerator, and I’m behind them, screaming. The young people are holding me and I’m saying that I want to go into the refrigerator with him. The refrigerator was full. There were so many dead that they didn’t even put Ahmed in a separate compartment, but on the floor. With Mu’athazam and Mohammed. Then a relative came and took us in his car. I didn’t yet know that I had no home to go back to [the IDF demolished it before pulling out]. I didn’t yet know where Amal was and what had happened to her.”

This is one of the many episodes that the Goldstone Commission will be reporting on.

Women in the war zone: Gaza

Kudos to the BBC for publishing an agonizing (and agonized) short interview with Tihani Abed Rabbu, described as “bereaved mother’ in Gaza. Scroll down here to find it.
(But can anyone at the BBC tell me on what basis they placed her interview last and lowest on the page beneath two that seemed far less interesting to me– but that were conducted with, you guessed it, men… And guess what, the first of the men theyfeatured was an outspoken critic of Hamas. I wonder why that placed that one at the top??)
Anyway, scroll on down and read about the anguish of a mother from, obviously, the Abed Rabbu family, whose compound was afflicted so harshly by the Israeli war of last December/January.
Imagine the anguish of this woman, seeing not only the effects the Israeli assault has had but also the effects within her own family of the continuing Hamas-Fateh split– one that has been so assiduously cultuvated by Israel and its western backers.
Here is some of what she says:

    “I’m afraid that after I have lost Mostafa, that I will lose somebody else as well. When my children go to sleep, and I look at them, I start to think ‘who is next – is it Ahmad’s turn, or his brother?’
    “What worries me is the safety of my family, my sons and my husband. My husband is going through a difficult time, a crazy time. He wants to affiliate with Hamas, he wants to get revenge after what they [Israel, I think] have done to us.
    “How do you expect us to be peaceful after they have killed my son and turned my family into angry people – as they refer to us, “terrorists”. I cannot calm my family down.
    “One of my sons is affiliated to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, every day he fights with his brothers and his father.
    “If Fatah and Hamas don’t reconcile after this war, I feel like all those people who died, died for nothing, and that the people from both factions have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause – that they are not paying respect to those who died.
    “They should wake up and put an end to this division. Unless they do that, I won’t feel that my son died as a martyr for the Palestinian cause.”

I have reflected for many years now on the importance of the experiences that women residents of war-zones have to go through when the war comes into the heart of their communities and frequently, including in this case, right into their families.
These reflections arose from the experience I myself had, trying to work as a journalist and run a household and co-raise my young children in the heart of the war-zone that Beirut was back in those days. In my husband’s family– as in Ms. Abed-Rabbu’s– there were supporters of both the different sides in the internal Lebanese war. I can deeply relate to her desire that those rifts be healed.
Too frequently decisionmakers in the MSM simply marginalize women’s experiences. But women’s work in holding families together in very tough times lies at the heart of the social resiliency that can either save or break a community that’s in conflict. So it is not only a compelling ‘human interest’ story– it is also at the heart of the big ‘political’ story regarding whether, for example, the people of Gaza or South Lebanon end up bowing to Israel’s very lethally pursued political demands, or not.
Maybe the BBC could, at the very least, elevate Ms. Abed-Rabbu’s story to the top of that page?

The IDF’s ‘Dahiyah Doctrine’, applied in Gaza

Kudos to Inter-Press Service’s Daan Bouwens for this piece of reporting in which he reminded readers that Israel’s strategic decisionmakers had integrated a policy of major, intentional destruction of civilian targets into their war-planning for certain contingencies considerably before they launched the assault on Gaza, December 27.
Bouwens quotes Valentina Azarov, a legal expert with the Israeli human-rights group HaMoked as arguing that the IDF’s operations in Gaza, “were part of the military strategy called the ‘Dahiyah policy’, being that of indiscriminate killing and the use of excessive, disproportionate force.”
Azarov and Bouwens were at pains to point out that this was Azarov’s own personal assessment. However, she had adduced considerable evidence to back it up.
‘Dahiyah’ is, in this context, a reference to the the heavily populated southern suburb (dahiyeh) of Beirut, in which Hizbullah maintained its headquarters for many years prior to the Israeli assault of summer 2006– and which it has substantially rebuilt since 2006.
But during Israel’s 33-day war against Lebanon that year, it just about leveled the entire Dahiyeh, which was a neighborhood of densely packed eight- to ten-story buildings, most of them residential, but including numerous schools, mosques, shops, and so on, along with more than a few offices for Hizbullah’s extensive social-service bodies, political bodies, and yes, also their military bodies.
The best online resource about the Dahiyah Doctrine is this contribution that Ben White made to the Guardian‘s ‘Comment is free’ section last October. This Wikipedia page on the ‘Dahiya Strategy’ is also helpful.
The White piece has good hyperlinks, including to the then-recent interview in which the GOC of the IDF’s ‘Northern Command’, Gadi Eisenkot, talked openly about the Dayiha Doctrine in these terms:

    “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern division.
    “We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,” Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
    This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved,” Eisenkot added.

In terms of “deterrence theory”, this is a pretty standard threat of “massive retaliation.” (Added to, I guess, a specifically Israeli version of Henry Kissinger’s “Madman theory of deterrence”, as indirectly alluded to here.)
But the results– whether in the Dahiyah or in Gaza– have been devastating.
Back in October-November of last year, when Eisenkot was making his pronouncements about the doctrine and Israelis were commenting on it– sometimes with great approval– just about all the discussion seemed still to be solely about Lebanon and Hizbullah, and future prospects in that theater.
But as we know, Israel’s military planners were meanwhile already working hard to plan an upcoming operation against Gaza– one of the key goals of which was to “restore the credibility of Israel’s deterrence” and to wipe away the stale traces of defeat, flat-out operational ineptitude, and flawed leadership decisionmaking that had marked Israel’s previous war of choice, in 2006.
Only a few of the commentaries in Israel– e.g., this one from Gabriel Siboni– noted the applicability of the Dahiyah Doctrine to Gaza.
Siboni wrote:

    With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite.
    … This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy…

It was left to one of Siboni’s colleagues at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National security Studies, Zaki Shalom, to raise some significant questions about the new doctrine.
The last of his questions had particular significance to the situation in Gaza:

    Finally, how will the plan be applied if it becomes evident that village inhabitants are shunning a mass exodus? Would the IDF activate massive fire that results in hundreds or possibly thousands of civilians killed?

Okay, forget about “village”. (Israelis tend to just assume that all Palestinians live in “villages”. The Dahiyah is not a village, and most of the residents of Gaza don’t live in villages, either.)
But what, more germanely, happens to the plan if there is no place for the civilian residents of the area targeted to safely flee to— as was certainly the case in Gaza?
… Anyway, it seems clear that my longtime acquaintances Richard Falk and Richard Goldstone, both of whom are charged by the UN with investigating Israel’s conduct during the war on Gaza, have an ample paper trail to look to– and hopefully, also to follow up further on– regarding the specific intent of Israel’s political and military leaders to engage from the get-go in avowedly disproportionate operations inside Gaza, including against specifically civilian targets.
Goldstone had a generally good track record in the waning days of his country’s apartheid system, in investigating some of the grosser excesses of the “securocrats”, including the high level securocrats, who ruled the country in those days. Let’s hope he brings that same sensibility, that same doggedness, and that same refusal to be rolled by all the securocrats’ many excuses, special pleadings, and specious arguments, to his current task regarding Israel.

Gaza, three months on

On January 18, Israel and Hamas each separately announced its decision to halt the hostilities they had been engaged in since December 27. That un-negotiated, parallel ceasefire remains fragile and has been far from completely observed. Israel, in particular, has maintained its aggressive presence close by 1.5 million people, surveilling them very closely from ground, sea, and air (including from low-flying drones), and launching numerous attacks against Gazans from all those platforms.
The horror and carnage of full-blown war has not returned. But the tight siege that Israel has, quite ilegally, maintained around the Strip has been inflicting– and daily until now continues to inflict– severe harm on Gaza’s war- and siege-battered people.
Today in Jerusalem, 23 high-profile international NGOs issued a joint statement accusing much of the world of “standing by” as “Gazans sift through the rubble.”
Ma’an News reports,

    More than “lip service to the needs of the people of Gaza” is required, the statement said. It had particularly harsh words for the European Union, set to review its trade and economic relations with Israel in the coming weeks.
    “If the EU does not put the brakes on the process to strengthen ties with Israel, it will be sending a dangerous signal to the world that maintaining a destructive policy of closure is acceptable,” said Martha Myers, country director of CARE West Bank and Gaza.

I agree with the criticism of the EU. But the US is just as culpable for the its failure to challenge Israel’s policies towards Gaza. Perhaps even more so, given the clout the US government has, which throughout the past 16 years it has always unfailingly used to protect Israel from any form of accountability or sanction, regardless of the illegality or gross brutality of the Israeli government’s actions against its neighbors.
The Ma’an report continues thus:

    “Gaza’s industry, including the agricultural sector, has almost completely collapsed and reconstruction has proved a near impossible task. Operation Cast Lead destroyed Gaza’s economy which was already severely weakened after months of blockade. It makes no sense to continue depriving ordinary people the opportunity to earn a living and support their families. The crossings must be opened now to allow the normal flow of commerce. If they are not, the people of Gaza simply will not recover,” added Myers.
    Reconstruction in Gaza is severely constrained. Materials such as cement and reinforced steel rods are still being denied entry by Israel, the statement said.
    Highlighting the ramifications of the decision the joint statement said, “This means that the 20,000 families – or at least 140,000 people – whose homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as a result of the conflict are unable to rebuild their lives. Many are living in tents and in makeshift shelters constructed with salvaged bricks and plastic sheeting, with no end in sight.”
    Country Director for Oxfam Great Britain in Jerusalem John Prideaux-Brune said bluntly that “There has been zero progress in allowing construction materials in to help people rebuild their lives. This is unacceptable, full stop.”
    He called on world leaders to “take practical steps to fully open the crossings and exert as much pressure on Israel and all parties to ensure that families can finally see a light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel. A drip-feed of food aid and medicines is simply not enough.”

I haven’t seen the full NGO statement yet. But the Ma’an report lists the signatories, who are indeed a high-profile and international group.
Among them is, not surprisingly, CARE West Bank and Gaza. I note that when Pres. Obama recently made his financial disclosure forms public, they included a record that last year, from his family’s income of over $2 million, he and Michelle made a $25,000 donation to CARE. So I’m assuming he supports the goals of that excellent, US-based relief and development organization.
(A few quick side-notes here: Late last night I finished writing my own short piece of analysis for IPS on the situation three months after the Gaza ceasefire. The NGOs’ report had not been released at that point, darn it! I was, however, able to include some material from the excellent interview I conducted in Jerusalem last month with John Prideaux-Brune. You’ll see the published piece later today… Ma’an News, which is probably the best OPTs news source, now has a really useful Twitter feed, that you might want to bookmark… Also, as you may have noticed: I’m now back, after a short break with my family in England. Big thanks to Don and Scott for posting extra in my absence.)