Thursday, January 15, 2009

Israel’s Gaza offensive: Is it a just war?

By - Paritosh Chakma

As Israel’s offensive against the Gazans entered 20th day, there seems to be no end to it, at least not for now.

How far is too far? The fighting has killed over 1,000 Gazans, mainly civilians and 13 Israelis since Israel pounded on the Palestinians on 27 December 2008. The toll is increasing every day.

Intense diplomacy is on in Cairo to clinch a workable “ceasefire agreement”. The mediators/negotiators need to more carefully draft the agreement as both Israel and Hamas had earlier snubbed the UN’s resolution of 8 January 2008 calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon once again, after talks with Egypt President Mubarak, appealed for ceasefire. Mr Moon is expected to visit Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, but won’t meet Hamas leaders.

Israel has justified the war saying it is duty bound to protect its citizens from Hamas’ crude rockets regularly fired into Southern Israel habitations. The Hamas’ rockets killed few but disrupted normal life. Ordinary Israelis lived in fear.

Definitely, Hamas have provoked Israel. But on its part, Israel has too made life in Gaza difficult by blocking flow of aids and daily needs. By any standards, Israel’s attack has been disproportionate which is visible from the number of deaths, and scale of destruction of infrastructure including attacks on a UN school housing refugees, medical clinics in Gaza. According to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, more than 40% of those killed in Gaza were women or children.

Yet, Israel has to show to the world that it is capable of defending itself against threats. Certainly when elections are round the corner, the government cannot simply sit back to ignore the Hamas’ rockets. Moreover, Israel wants to set an agenda for next US President, Barak Obama as to how to deal with the threats coming from the Hamas and Hezbulla militants who refuse to recognize existence of Israel. Certainly, Israel cannot afford to have Hamas grown as powerful as the Hezbulla militants of Lebanon who have sophisticated arsenal imported from Iran or elsewhere.

Egypt and other Arab countries can arm-twist the Hamas but not Israel. Only America has considerable influence over this Jews' nation. But it is not very interested to act. On 12 January 2009, President George W. Bush, speaking at his final scheduled news conference before leaving office, said that a "sustainable cease-fire" in Gaza could only be possible if "Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel.”

Any workable ceasefire plans must include immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, end to firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel, end to the economic blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza strip and prevention of arms smuggling by Hamas through undergrown tunnels including through Egypt.

Israel continues to bombard Gaza. But Hamas cannot be destroyed; they are no LTTE. Israel is, by own admission, fighting the war to make its citizens secure. But will the Israelis be more secure after the end of the attack? I don’t think so.

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