Despite Gaza ceasefire, analysts wary of Israeli government promises

NEWS ANALYSIS By Ashahed Muhammad

( – Although a ceasefire was announced Nov. 21, ending eight days of bombing, human rights organizations and analysts believe if Israel is not made to abide by international law, such agreements are meaningless.

“The international community must ensure that Israel abides by the terms of any such truce,” said a statement from Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah. “Until Israel is held accountable for its repeated violations of international law, it will continue to flaunt its obligations without fear of censure.”

Analysts say given the impunity with which Israel operates while blatantly ignoring United Nations Resolutions and previous Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreements, it may only be a matter of time before violence flares up again.

“Israel has a long history of violating such agreements in the past,” said Ali Abunimah, a policy advisor for Al-Shabaka, a Washington D.C.-based Palestinian policy network and think tank. Mr. Abunimah is much sought after for his commentary and analysis as an author and co-founder of the online news service Electronic Intifada. In a Nov. 22 interview with South Africa’s Radio Islam, he said Israel continually demonstrates the “settler colonial mentality,” which views the lives of Israelis as more sacred than those of the Palestinians.

Tarek Khalil, a law student at John Marshall Law School in Chicago told The Final Call he rejects the entire narrative of Israel’s “right to self-defense.”

“You cannot be the military occupier, you cannot be the dispossessor, and claim self-defense,” said Mr. Khalil. “You can’t be a bully, going into somebody’s pocket taking away their lunch money, then when the person resists, you punch that person down and then claim self-defense.”

Although Mr. Khalil voted for U.S. President Barack H. Obama in both elections, he feels his votes “have been wasted.” Saying the president is “following in the footsteps of his predecessors,” he criticized Mr. Obama’s tough talk on Iran and against Hamas, while hypocritically supporting the violent actions of the Israeli government and its military.

“It’s the labeling that confuses people,” said Mr. Khalil, also a civil rights clerk with the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “The perception is if America does it or Israel does it, it’s countering terrorism, but if Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it’s terrorism. The double standard is unbelievable.”

He believes Israel’s political leaders are disingenuous when claiming to regret civilian casualties caused by their relentless bombing. Israel brags about how “sophisticated and precise” their weapons are and extols their ability to conduct targeted extrajudicial assassinations on moving targets, but expects the world to believe they are unable to prevent the deaths of women and children in their bombing campaigns, he added.

Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas had worked to honor the previous terms of the ceasefire agreements. It is the latest in a long line of agreements broken by Israel; in fact, Ahmad Jabari was reportedly in possession of a long-term ceasefire agreement when he was assassinated, and many believe Israel knew it.

Though the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Mr. Netanyahu claimed only to be targeting the senior commanders of Hamas and their control and command facilities, over two-thirds of those killed in Israel’s merciless bombardment were non-combatants and one-third were children.

Hamas emerges stronger

Speaking to reporters from Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 21, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal characterized the ceasefire agreement as a victory against the punishing Israeli war machine.

“Israel in all its objectives failed,” said Mr. Meshaal, who went on to thank Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, saying he and the nation “fulfilled its responsibility” in working to broker the deal.

Meshaal also thanked Iran for their “supportive role in arming and financing” the resistance in Gaza. Meshaal insisted they desired peace, but were prepared for future Israeli incursions. Speaking to Israel and its leaders Meshaal added, “If you commit, we will commit. If you do not commit, the rifles are in our hands.”

Analysts agree Hamas has emerged as the winner in the latest conflict, especially since not much substantive was heard during the eight-day conflict from Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abunimah called Abbas “politically irrelevant.”

“Abbas is sitting in the West Bank, and his forces which are trained by the United States and supervised by an American general are going out with the Israeli army and coordinating with the Israeli army every day,” Mr. Abunimah noted. “While he’s cooperating with the Israeli army actively, resistance factions in Gaza were engaged in a life and death struggle with the same Israeli army that Abbas is working with every day,” he added.

Speaking on Al-Manar TV in Lebanon shortly after word of the ceasefire was announced, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, a vocal critic of Israel, encouraged the resistance and advised cautious optimism.

“We will watch what is going to happen in Gaza, and we hope that there will be an end for the offensive and a victory for the resistance as it is expected,” said Mr. Nasrallah. “God willing, our brothers in the resistance could set their own conditions and take a powerful position. This power was the power of the fighters, blood, patience and steadiness which we witnessed during the offensive,” he added.

It was hailed as a victory as raucous celebrations broke out in Gaza and Ramallah, but the human toll will still haunt the Palestinian people. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-governmental organization based in Gaza City, at least 160 were killed during the eight days of bombing, including 105 civilians, 34 of whom were children. Additionally, 1,000 were wounded, 971 of them were civilians.

According to multiple international media reports, a partial summary of the terms of the agreement is as follows:

– Israel is to stop all aggression against the Gaza Strip from land, sea and air, including cross-border incursions and targeted killings.

-Palestinian factions are to stop all aggression from Gaza towards Israel, including rocket fire and attacks on the border.

-All border crossings are to be opened 24 hours after the ceasefire takes effect, easing restrictions on travel of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip.

Predictably, the IDF and Israel’s hawkish politicians put their spin on the establishment of the ceasefire agreement. An announcement was made via the Israel Defense Force’s official Twitter feed stating, “After 8 days, the IDF has accomplished its goals in Operation Pillar of Defense. A cease-fire agreement has come into effect.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, delivered a statement from his office in Jerusalem already seemingly hinting at future military action as he addressed Israeli citizens.

“I realize that there are citizens who expect a harsher military action and we may very well need to do that,” said the Prime Minister. “During the last week, Israel has lost several victims. On behalf of the entire population, I send condolences to the families, and wish the wounded a speedy recovery,” he added.

Despite the tough talk from Israel’s hawkish leaders and citizenry, Mr. Khalil believes the world is with the Palestinians and the voices are rising and demanding justice.

“The world is on our side. President Obama can stand on the side of injustice but the world is on our side,” said Mr. Khalil. “The Palestinian’s will is strong, the spirit is powerful, and we will overcome this occupation one way or the other.”

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