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Friday, January 09, 2009 

Plea for peace.

From the second that the United States abstained from voting on the UN security council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, Israel knew that it had a completely free ride to continue with its onslaught in the Gaza Strip. Forget that according to Ehud Olmert, Hamas's firing of rockets this morning, when Israel had been bombing the strip all through the night, showed that the UN ceasefire was "unworkable"; the unavoidable message sent from the United States was that its surrogate could continue to hammer the Palestinians for at least a few more days yet.

All the messages coming from the US at the UN was that it was going to vote for the resolution and had overcome its objections to the various drafts which had been circulated. It's impossible to know exactly why they decided at the last moment to abstain, although Reuters suggest it was because Condoleezza Rice made the mistake of calling Bush prior to the vote. Their excuse was that they first wanted to see what happened vis-a-vis the Egyptian mediation efforts, but after a day of continuing carnage and further apparent polarisation it's difficult to see what can be achieved there.

Neither Hamas nor Israel seem to have an apparent end game in sight. Israel's actions so far, despite killing over 800 Palestinians, destroying countless supposed smuggling tunnels, and turning a distinct minority of the Gaza strip into rubble, has not even began to break the back of Hamas, who continue to fire dozens of rockets into Israel every day. Hamas is calculating that the longer it manages to hold out, the more likely that it claim to have successfully resisted the IDF, and potentially extract the ceasefire conditions which it wants, which is the lifting of the effective Israeli blockade which stayed in place despite the previous agreement between the two. For the moment the people of Gaza, despite bearing the brunt of the assault, have not blamed Hamas, or at least have not publicly. The longer the bombardment continues however, the more likely it will be that the civilians themselves will, if not now, perhaps later decide that Hamas has paid not with its own blood but with the blood of its people instead.

In launching the assault on Gaza, it was apparent from the beginning that the thinking of the Labour-Kadima coalition was firmly on upcoming election, now less than 5 weeks away. While the poll ratings for both have at least temporarily increased, they cannot depend on them staying at those levels, especially if they are forced into a ceasefire with Hamas still able to fire rockets into Sderot, even if not able to reach the bigger cities which it has managed during the conflict. It's apparent that Hamas cannot inflict the sort of casualties on the IDF which Hizbullah managed during the 2006 war, and so there's likely to be little pressure on the human cost score, the majority of the Israeli public more than apparently not caring a jot for the Palestinian death toll. The cynicism with which the attack was decided upon, where life is considered expendable for the goal of staying in power, says much about the real attitude towards the civilians that Israel claims time and again not to be targeting.

Two weeks on, and the complete futility of the whole exercise seems more alarming than before. Hamas talks tough but can't even begin to follow through on its promises, while Israel knows full well that even if it does succeed in disarming Hamas or destroying the organisation in Gaza, which is most unlikely, that another, potentially even more radical group or party will emerge in its place. The only solution is direct negotiations with Hamas, where both sides will have to make painful concessions, but for the moment the indiscriminate slaughter and the crushing tyranny of the occupation, combined with the casual confiscation of land and building of illegal settlements looks set to continue. Such intransigence only encourages protest, however potentially pointless, which is why tomorrow's protest outside the Israeli embassy needs to be as large as possible. Peace is possible, but not while both sides bomb and rocket in the supposed name of it.

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Thank you for continuing to blog the lesser reported sides of the situation in Gaza. I've given up even trying to talk about it with anybody I know because it inevitably results in me being called a Jew-hater or anti-semitic (of which I am assuredly neither). Despite claims that the press has an anti-Israeli bias, the fact remains that this is still being presented as justified whilst ignoring exactly what happened to end the ceasefire.

Thanks for being a voice of sanity and compassion

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