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The 2018 Gaza Massacre – Some Geopolitical Considerations

April 5, 2018

The November 2012 Israeli bombing of Gaza. It left 500 dead, thousands wounded and left the area essentially void of infrastructure

“When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez…and it’s Easter time two…” It’s a line from a Bob Dylan song (Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues). Always struck me as one of the better descriptions of loneliness, total isolation. What would be the modern Palestinian version? “When you’re caught in an open air prison in Gaza, the Israeli’s pounding you and all your Arab ‘friends’ have long abandoned you too…”

(Note: Friday, April 6, 2018. The Palestinians in large numbers are back demonstrating at the wall that seals Gaza from the world. And the Israelis are firing at them once again as I write this. Once again, the events are described as “clashes.” They are not clashes; it’s the continuation of the massacres of last week)

But it is out of that isolation, that the Palestinians increasingly have come to the understanding, that with no Arab government willing (or able) to help, that they must rely on what has always been their most potent weapon: the courage, militancy and solidarity of their own people. Gaza, fenced in, blockaded, attacked, starved, its infrastructure battered by repeated Israeli attacks resembles the blockade of Leningrad (by the Nazis during WW2) in many ways. Yet this battered population was able to mobilize 30,000 people, men, women, children to expose their bodies to Israel fire power. Now, one week after Israelis killed 18 and wounded more than 1500 Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, the Palestinians have promised to return to the wall sealing Gaza, this time 50,000 strong. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has threatened once again to fire on peaceful Palestinian demonstrators”

No doubt the Palestinians are alone in the quest for justice in the Middle East, divided in two regions, politically split between an increasingly discredited Fateh and Hamas in Gaza, with no Arab “allies” willing to support them. Rhetorically, Arab governments are “standing behind them” – far behind in fact – so far behind that these allies are nowhere. Israel knows this and acts with impunity as it did, on Passover Eve, on March 30, “Land Day” and as they might do again tomorrow. Concerning Land Day, a 2016 article in Mondoweiss notes:

“The first Land Day, on March 30, 1976, saw thousands of Palestinians take to the streets in protest of the confiscation of thousands of acres of Palestinian land in the northern Galilee region of Israel. During the protest, six demonstrators were shot dead and over 100 were wounded.”

This year, to mark the 42nd anniversary of that uprising within Israel’s 1967 borders, the people of Gaza planned – and carried out – a massive demonstration, both in solidarity with their Palestinian sisters and brothers within Israel, but also to underline and protest the dire conditions under which they have been forced to live. 30,000 Gazans, knowing the risks involved, took to the streets of Gaza in a peaceful, organized demonstration to the wall surrounding Gaza. As Max Blumenthal commented in a recent interview:

To understand why people are marching to what’s considered the border between Gaza and Israel you have to understand what Gaza is. Gaza is basically a human warehouse for refugees who are pushed out of their land and their property in 1947, in 1948, during the systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias and what eventually became the Israeli military. Some 750000 people were turned into refugees in order to establish the state of Israel with a Jewish majority.

The march did take place. The Israeli military responded with a massacre. At last count, 18 Palestinians killed, some 1500 wounded; of those more than 773 hit with live ammunition, the rest with rubber bullets, and gas. In a telephone conversation with Binjamin Netanyahu, Israels prime minister, U.S. President Donald Trump ignored bringing up the subject. Showing just how low to the bottom of the ethical barrel, it can go, the Trump Administration issued a statement – not critical of the Israeli perpetrated massacres – but criticizing the Gaza Palestinian demonstrators instead:

 On Thursday, White House envoy Jason Greenblatt said, “We condemn leaders and protesters who call for violence or who send protesters—including children—to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed.” Greenblatt’s statement made no reference to Israeli forces, who have opened fire on those protesters, including children.

At the time of this writing, the Palestinians have promised to return to the wall sealing Gaza, this time 50,000 strong. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has threatened once again to fire on peaceful Palestinian demonstrators.

Widely circulated videos show Israeli soldiers shooting down unarmed protesters.


As nothing, and I repeat absolutely nothing in the Middle East takes place in isolation of other regional players and the United States, one has to wonder about the geo-politics of both the Palestinian insistence on demonstrating at this time and the Israeli response. The more I think of it, the 30,000 Palestinians took the streets of Gaza, exposing themselves to violence of the Israeli military were issuing a plea to the world – bypassing the Middle East – to intervene on their behalf.

Having lost all hope that their Arab brothers and sisters might come to their aid, the Land Day demonstration hoped to arouse the sympathies of the world beyond the Middle East, that the international community might respond to the Israeli repression by setting in motion some kind of peace conference – in which Washington would play no role – that would force the Israelis to the negotiating table. At least until now, excepting a few protests (Ireland, South Africa) that international support has not materialized. Will that change as more planned demonstrations result in more Palestinian casualties? There are more marches planned in the coming weeks.

Having lost all hope that their Arab brothers and sisters might come to their aid, the Land Day demonstration hoped to arouse the sympathies of the world beyond the Middle East, that the international community might respond to the Israeli repression by setting in motion some kind of peace conference – in which Washington would play no role – that would force the Israelis to the negotiating table. At least until now, excepting a few protests (Ireland, South Africa) that international support has not materialized. Will that change as more planned demonstrations result in more Palestinian casualties? There are more marches planned in the coming weeks.

Although there are many factors which have led the Palestinians to take their case beyond their Arab neighbors to the broader world, one key development which influenced Palestinian thinking was the Trump Administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capitol. The Palestinians reason that this could only have happened with Saudi approval. With the Saudi consent, the myth, however fragile, of serious Arab governmental support for the Palestinian cause, completely collapsed.

As for Israel, its strength is deceptive despite all that military hardware, its support from the Trump Administration (and other ones in the past). If it can hit the Palestinians – both in the West Bank and Gaza – with impunity, surprisingly, on the geo-political regional level, its options continue to narrow. In fact it is increasingly isolated so much so that in the end, currently it only has two allies: the United States and Saudi Arabia. That might sound strange, but it is accurate. Actually the Israelis and the Saudis have been exchanging intelligence information and coordinating regional policy (Syria comes to mind) for decades.

What is new about the relationship then is not the relationship itself, but that both the Israelis and the Saudis have come out of the closet. (I’ll deal with the Saudi situation in a further commentary). They do so in an environment where U.S. plans for the region have shattered. Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh have no one to turn to other than one another as they repeatedly – and unsuccessfully – scramble to put together a coherent regional policy.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia, for different reasons, need to cooperate even more closely and, together, coordinate with the Trump Administration. They are doing just that. As usual there is all kinds of horsetrading going on. The Israelis have demanded that the Saudi’s recognize them, grant them air space, tone down any criticism of the current wave of Israeli repression and not make a fuss about moving Israel’s capitol formally to Jerusalem. In exchange, Israel, through AIPAC and the like (and with the help of a number of lobbying firms including Brownstein, Farber, Hyatt and Schreck originally out of Denver) will try to tone down the growing criticism in the U.S. of Saudi involvement in the 9-11-2001 attacks. There are a series of 9-11 related law suits moving forward that if they go to court could cost the Saudis billions and ruin its reputation and credibility both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Two recent events give indications of the increasingly closer ties between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Salman:

• These past few days, there was an important regional meeting in Ankara Turkey It included Iran, Turkey and Russia and dealt with major regional issues, Eurasian integration, Syria, the Palestinians. It was the second tri-lateral meeting between the three. Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh were all excluded. Such a meeting that gives direction to regional political directions, without Washington would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.
• There is another development, hardly noticed; the Saudis have given the OK to direct flights from India to Israel over Saudi territory. There is some speculation that this is opening the door – or air space – for the Israelis to use Saudi air space, some time in the future, to attack Iran.
• Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman recognized Israel’s right to exist, an indication of the increasingly close ties

The regional balance of forces has shifted over the past few years. Israel’s position is increasingly isolated. Frankly it has no other allies other than the Saudis and Washington as the three draw more closely together in alliance. The events in Syria – the failure of the United States (with its allies, among which is Israel) to partition Syria – the so-called Doha Protocols -, along with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal) are just two indications of Israel’s continued loss of influence. The idea that the Netanyahu government can strike Lebanon or Syria with impunity is simply nonsense. Hezbollah represents a serious counter force to any Israeli military intentions in Lebanon. In Syria, although there have a several Israeli air strikes, frankly Israel’s options are limited as well.

The danger of all this…what is referred to as “the wounded beast syndrome” for all three.

More thoughts in later blog posts.


Norman Finkelstein on Gaza

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Conklin permalink
    April 6, 2018 8:51 am

    The events this week in Israel have been very disturbing, but the reaction in mainstream American Press is tepid at best. If Israel were to put a bunch of dogs in pen, deny them food, sanitation, medical care, etc, and then shoot and kill them with sniper fire because they were barking, the world would be outraged. Yet the situation in Israel which constitutes one of the worst war crimes in my lifetime continues with the support of the American people. Rob’s Blog is an important avenue to raise consciousness. Today’s Blog is very meaningful because it states succinctly the facts on the ground that American Media ignores. Twenty five years ago, when there was not an internet, we would not have this viewpoint, but today we do. However, without thoughtful scholars like Rob, the internet would not be an advantage. I hope everyone who reads this blog will forward the link to at least one other person so that we can raise consciousness and get justice for the victims in Palestine.

  2. Les Canges permalink
    April 7, 2018 10:12 am

    And my best friend, the Doctor, won’t even say what I got.

  3. Alan Marks permalink
    April 11, 2018 8:43 pm

    We obviously live in different worlds. Have you not seen the videos of the burning tires? The Molotov cocktails? The stones and slingshots aimed at IDF personnel? What would you think if 1,350,000 South Americans stormed the southern border of the US. (the number is derived from Israel’s size relative to the size of the US)? I can guess. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the fact that concrete sent to GAzA to build houses, roads, schools, etc. is being diverted into tunnels for HAMAS to infiltrate the border with Israel. Or perhaps you believe that HAMAS is a peaceful group that just wants peace with Israel and that is why they launch 1000’s of rockets into Israel. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the fact that over 1200 trucks a day with supplies cross from Israel into GAZA. You probably are also unfamiliar with the fact that GAZA gets its electricity from Israel. I might also point out that in 2005 Israel withdrew all Israelis from GAZA and turned the territory over to the Palestinians.GAZA is not ruled by Israel.
    Oh, and one last fact. Since 1967 Israel’s Capital has been Jerusalem. All its government buildings are in Jerusalem. Been there, seen that.
    PS. If you do go to Israel, see if you can tell the difference between an Israeli Arab and anybody else in Israel. Talk to an Israeli Arab and ask him or her if he or she would rather live in Israel or in the PA. Then come back to the US and we can talk.

    • April 11, 2018 8:52 pm

      My dear friend Alan… yes, we live in different worlds when it comes to this subject.It is not worth commenting on your remarks as I disagree with them all. Every comment. There is nothing, nothing, Alan that can justify what Israel has done to the Palestinians in Gaza today…and for a very long time. on this subject there is nothing, nothing of a dialogue that will take place. I cannot understand how a decent human being like yourself cannot see the situation for what it is… but then I am used to this… Jewish friends who are humane, decent on everything but….the Palestinians

    • Bill Conklin permalink
      April 12, 2018 6:19 am

      This is a note to Alan:

      The only way that person can think like you do about the situation in Israel is that you are one of the three: 1. A psychopath, 2. An uninformed person who receives information from a psychopathic sky god, 3. An imbecile.

      My worry is that if the majority of the world thinks like you do, there is no hope. Just for your information: South Americans are not prisoners inside of a hopeless prison run by a bunch of Northern European War Criminals, if they are at our border, they just want to work cheap so a a few American Capitalists can exploit them for their labor. You are defending a “country” that has no moral right to exist. Hopefully when the rightful owners of the region finally take control of the country, they will democratically change the name to “Palestine”.

    • Bill Conklin permalink
      April 13, 2018 5:05 pm

      This is another reply to Alan:

      Hi Alan:

      I spoke with Rob and he told me that I shouldn’t have called you an imbecile. Actually, I said it was one possibility so I will eliminate that possibility and apologize. However, there is still an important issue. How can an adult who is literate enough to respond to a blog on a computer believe the stuff you believe? That is the mystery.

      Israel is a country that occupies the Palestinian land. It was created by a bunch of Anti-Semite Zionists who came to Palestine and murdered, raped and displaced over a million Palestinians. These Zionists (hereinafter referred to as Anti-Semites) burned down the homes of the Palestinians and built their own homes. The Anti-Semites eventually put over two million of Palestinians (hereinafter referred to as Semites because they have Semitic DNA and speak a Semitic language) into a concentration camp called “Gaza” Over the years Hamas obtained some enhanced firecrackers which they have shot at Israel to make a statement that they are not totally victims.

      It is my opinion that Hamas, by the use of Firecrackers, has played into the Massive Lie Campaign of the Anti-Semites (Zionists). The Anti-Semites drop bombs on their caged victims (The Palestinian Semites) and deny them food, medical care, and have the most inhuman blockade in the history of the 20th and now the 21st Century. The Anti-Semites are committing a massive incremental genocidal war crime against the Semites. And what is really bizarre is the Anti-Semites claim that their “God” gave the land of the semites to them.

      Well their God is the same god who allowed the Nazis to murder millions of “Jews.” Do you understand that? The God of Moses murdered over 26 million people in the Old Testament in the flood because they pissed him off. Archeologists believe that 4,000 years or so ago, there were 26 million people in the world. So the God that gave the land of the Semites (Palestinians) to the Anti-Semites (Zionists) was the same God that was very experienced at murder and mayhem. He certainly had the right qualifications.

      Amazingly you believe that it is OK for a bunch of white European Assholes to sit on a hill and murder people they have put in a cage because they are protesting by burning tires, shooting firecrackers and throwing stones.

      Does the tooth fairy put money under your pillow when you go to the Dentist. You sound like you must be and Anti-Semite (Zionist) so I suppose you don’t believe in Santa Claus. At least you and I probably agree on something.

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