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Was Israel’s Gaza offensive worth it?

Gideon Levy | Ha’aretz

27 December 2009

Today offers us an ironic conjuncture of commemorations: the fast of the 10th of the Hebrew month of Tevet and the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. On the day of the fast, which commemorates the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem, few Israelis are thinking about Gaza, under Israeli blockade for twice the time ancient Jerusalem was besieged. On the anniversary of the attack on Gaza, few people are doing any real soul-searching.

One way or another, the year since December 27 was a year of shame for Israel, greater shame than any other time. It is shameful to be Israeli today, much more than it was a year ago. In the final tally of the war, which was not a war but a brutal assault, Israel’s international status was dealt a severe blow, in addition to Israeli indifference and public blindness to what happened in Gaza.

Even those who still believe that the attack was justified and necessary, that the firing of Qassam rockets would not have been halted except by such a cruel attack, cannot ignore the political and moral price extracted from Israel because of its violence. Its image in the world, not in the eyes of its citizens, is much uglier than a year ago.

Today it is more shameful to be an Israeli because the world, as opposed to Israelis, saw the scenes. It saw thousands of dead and injured taken in the trunks of cars to something between a clinic and a primitive hospital in an imprisoned and weakened region one hour from flourishing Tel Aviv, a region where the helpless had nowhere to run from Israel’s arsenal. The world saw schools, hospitals, flour mills and small factories mercilessly bombed and blown up. It saw clouds of white-sulphur bombs billowing over population centers, and it saw burned children.

The world refused to accept the excuses and lies of Israel’s propaganda. It was not prepared to compare Sderot’s suffering to Gaza’s suffering; it did not agree that the sulphur mushroom clouds were for self-defense, that the killing of dozens of police on a parade ground was legitimate, that telephoned warnings for people to leave their homes cleared Israel of criminal responsibility for the bombing of those homes.

The world saw the Israeli Goliath strike mercilessly at the Palestinian David. It saw the balance of killing: one Israeli to every 100 Palestinians, and the Israel Defense Forces’ new and terrifying doctrine by which almost everything goes if it prevents casualties on our side. The world knew that in this case a democracy was striking a region that does not enjoy self-determination, whose inhabitants lack basic human rights – refugees and the children of refugees living under siege. So the world responded with justifiable severity toward us; it refused to forgive and be silent.

The world also saw Israel wrap itself in sick apathy despite what was happening. It saw the town squares almost empty of protesters, the cafes in Tel Aviv full of people having a good time. It even saw Israeli families who went to visit the hills around Gaza to show their children the bomb strikes. Later, it also saw that Israel was not even prepared to investigate what it had done, but rather lashed out at all its detractors.

And the world also quickly forgot. A year later, with $4.5 billion collected to rehabilitate Gaza lying in banks’ basement vaults because Israel refuses to open Gaza’s gates to let in supplies, the world is silent, leaving Gaza to its fate, to its ruins. But Gaza has not forgotten its wounds – it cannot forget them. The 325,000 people whose homes were destroyed, 1,300 bereaved families and thousands of injured and disabled, debilitated by anxiety and terror, remain in Gaza. Their suffering has not dissipated.

On the first anniversary of the attack, in the face of such a negative political and moral balance, Israelis must at least ask themselves if all this was worth it. But on the first anniversary, Israel is much busier with the political future of MK Eli Aflalo than its political and moral future. Shame or no shame – what counts is that we feel so good about ourselves.