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The Massacre of Civilians in Gaza Is Deja Vu All Over Again

Max Blumenthal's Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (Image: Nation Books)

Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is a benchmark book in US journalism. Fearlessly – and with detailed research and anecdotal accounts – Blumenthal offers an audaciously honest alternative to the narrative of Israel being a victim state built upon a foundation of morality and humanity.

What Blumenthal uncovered does not necessarily represent the majority of Jewish Israelis, but it does account for the political context that showed widespread support for the latest opportunistically manipulated slaughter of the innocents in Gaza – and a growing intense racism toward Palestinians that includes advocates of exiling and murdering them.

Blumenthal, who is of Jewish heritage, did not fall prey to writing a sensationalistic book; he follows the journalistic story and writes whatever the facts reveal. His perspective on an Israel that has denied the humanity and grievances of the Palestinians since pre-Israeli statehood days has not been welcome by the US book promotion machine, even among many progressive outlets.

In an October 2013, Truthout interview with Rania Khalek, Blumenthal commented on the cold reception Goliath has received by many media figures:

Pro-Israel partisans in the US typically get hysterical about books like this because the real Israel is really impossible for them to grapple with. It shatters the dream castle Israel that goes to the heart of their identity as tribalistic, secular American Jews. I really believe that they are determined to ignore this book for as long as they can.

The other more obvious and salient reason why I’m not getting the same mainstream attention I got with Republican Gomorrah is because people like Rachel Maddow and Terry Gross, who can really move books, are simply afraid of the Israel issue and what it can do to their careers and the kind of pushback they’ll get from pro-Israel partisans behind the scenes. What we’re seeing is cowardice at the top of a hollow media establishment that extends into public radio. . . . Even people who don’t agree with my conclusions about what should happen in Israel-Palestine are hungry for this kind of information.

In order to expose more readers to Goliath, Truthout is offering the book with a contribution of $35. Click here to receive. No book could be more timely.

The following is an excerpt – which focuses on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attack on the Gaza Strip – from the first chapter of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, one of several such military campaigns in the past few years (including, of course, the current one) known in Israel as “mowing the lawn” of Hamas:

By the end of 2008, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip had been left to fend for themselves. Gaza was surrounded on all sides by Israeli sniper towers, electrified fences, concrete walls, and a naval blockade that prevented fishermen from trawling waters more than 3 kilometers from shore. Weaponized drones hovered overhead night and day, humming an incessant single note dirge that served as a constant reminder of Israeli control. Heeding Israeli government pledges to push Gaza’s economy “to the brink of collapse,” army bureaucrats in Tel Aviv developed complex mathematical formulas to regulate the caloric intake of each person trapped inside the coastal strip. Gazans were forbidden from exporting products and prevented from importing cardamom, potato chips, seeds and nuts, cement, fruit preserves, ginger, fishing nets, notebooks, musical instruments, size A4 paper, and toys.

“It’s like an appointment with a dietician,” Dov Weissglass, an Israeli government aide, joked during a meeting of top military and intelligence officials. “The Palestinians will get a lot thinner but won’t die.”

With the blockade tightening, a student at the Islamic University of Gaza named Yousef Aljamal watched helplessly as his younger sister was denied a permit to leave Gaza for a basic surgery on her gall bladder. Denied entry on the grounds that she was a “security threat,” she died days later.

“During the time of the siege,” Aljamal wrote in his diary, “Gaza was turned into an open air prison, walls were built to prevent the shine of the sun, tanks were on the borders prepared to shell, and soldiers observed the hungry and sick people inside but still prevented them from getting their food and medicine, much in the same way they prevented them from getting their freedom.”

For a few hundred Gazan police cadets, December 27, 2008, held the promise of a short relief from the suffocating climate of the siege. That morning in Gaza City, the cadets assembled to celebrate their graduation from Hamas’s new police academies. They stood as a symbol of the order that finally presided over Gaza after years of gangland-style corruption and repression by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA). After winning what the US Congressional Research Service called a “free and fair election,” then fending off a US-backed Fatah coup attempt, Hamas, the Islamist political party, sought to consolidate its control over Gaza, faithfully observing a ceasefire with Israel. In November, Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, al-Quds Brigades (from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) fired dozens of rockets at Israeli military bases and towns in the western Negev Desert in retaliation for an Israeli army operation that killed six Hamas members in Gaza. The Israeli raid occurred on November 4, violating the ceasefire on US election day, when Western media were almost entirely focused on the outcome of the presidential election. The Hamas rocket attacks caused consternation but did not kill any Israelis.

A brass band assembled as the police cadets prepared to march before their commander, Major General Tawfiq Jaber. Many of the cadets’ parents hurriedly made their way to the ceremony from across Gaza. Just as the band struck up a martial tune, an Israeli F-16 roared across the sky, launching a laser-guided missile into the center of the ceremonial procession. When the choking plumes of thick smoke cleared, a scene of terrible carnage came into view. At least forty police officers, including General Jaber, lay dead on the concrete. Survivors squirmed around helplessly, writhing in pain, their uniforms stained with the flesh and blood of their comrades.

Sixty more Israeli F-16s were now in the air, on their way to target police stations and civilian installations across the Gaza Strip. Within a matter of minutes, Israeli forces killed 240 Palestinians, including a score of children while they were leaving school. The initial volley of precision-guided weapons was aimed at civilian targets, from universities to factories to family homes. Earlier in the year, Israeli Minister of Defense Matan Vilnai warned the people of Gaza that they “will bring upon themselves a bigger Holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

In Bethlehem, just over the Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank, a twenty-seven-year-old Texas transplant named George Hale lit his customary morning cigarette and hustled through the brisk mountain air to his job at Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian wire service. Two days earlier the city center had been lit up with Christmas decorations. Thousands of local Christian worshippers and international pilgrims had descended upon the Church of Nativity, fully restored from the destruction wreaked by Israeli troops that had besieged it during the Second Intifada.

Now the streets were nearly empty. Hale wandered into the modest office, hung over from drinking late with a few of his ex-pat coworkers. He sank into his chair, expecting to spend another day curating reports about ordinary Israeli violence and intra-Palestinian spats. Suddenly, his e-mail in-box began to fill with panicked messages from Ma’an’s Gaza bureau. The first e-mail read, “Israel attacking. Hundreds dead.” Hale blurted out in disbelief, “Hundreds? Bullshit!” With Hale’s outburst, the office flew into chaos. Editors grabbed their phones and dialed up Ma’an’s Gaza contacts, seeking details about the horror taking place. It was worse than they had heard: Israel was pounding the Gaza Strip with the full capacity of its navy and air force. A land invasion was likely on the way. “Hardly anyone outside Palestine read our website,” Hale said. “Then, on the first day, our traffic lit up like we’d never seen before. It almost crashed our server. All of a sudden, the whole world was watching, which basically meant all eyes were on Gaza.”

As reports of atrocities in Gaza spread throughout the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Palestinians rushed to organize protests, demanding an end to the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas had taken to the local media to howl about the “massacre and act of criminal aggression” by the Israelis.

But the conduct of his security forces, which had been trained by the US General Keith Dayton and coordinated with the Israeli army, belied his militant histrionics. As crowds of Palestinians gathered in downtown Nablus, Hebron, and in Ramallah’s Manara Square, the epicenter of Mahmoud Abbas’s mini-fiefdom, Palestinian Authority forces swarmed the protesters, arresting them in droves, attacking some with pepper spray, and even killing one demonstrator. Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli troops dispersed stone-throwing youths with rubber bullets and teargas. Calls for the Palestine Liberation Organization (the umbrella group known as the PLO) to break diplomatic ties with Israel were virtually absent from the Palestinian news agency, Wafa, the official media organ of the PA, which instead projected an image of widespread protests to Arabic language audiences. In fact, Israel’s Defense Ministry had given Abbas advance notice of the assault on Gaza, beseeching him to take control of the coastal strip after it vanquished Hamas. Though Abbas refused, he kept the governors of Gaza in the dark about the coming onslaught.

With the West Bank quieted by a blanket of internal repression, and the Gaza Strip transformed into a theater of human despair, Israeli society was witnessing some remarkable developments.

Copyright by Max Blumenthal. Not to be reprinted without permission of the publisher, Nation Books.

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