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The ‘stars aligned’ in Israeli politics (and a nameless Gaza family is massacred)

Media Analysis
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Israel called its recent onslaught on Gaza “operation Black Belt.” The two-day attack started on November 12th with Israel’s extrajudicial assassination bombing of Islamic Jihad commander Baha abu al-Ata (killing him and his wife, wounding two of his children) and by its completion killed 34 Palestinians, over half whom were civilians.

The assault also included the bombing– in a “mistake”– of a family, the al-Sawarkahs, killing nine, including five children, two of them infants.

Speaking at the height of the operation, Israeli Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman said of the timing, that “the stars aligned so that it was the right timing” – a time to kill, that is.

Haaretz reported that comment two days ago in an article in Hebrew by Yaniv Kubovitch and Amos Harel. This precise quote is omitted in the English version of the article, which is shortened, and only features Yaniv Kubovitch as author.

But the whole story is even more cynical-making.

The focus of the Haaretz article  is a letter sent by the Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to all army units, hailing the success of the recent operation. As the article notes in its subtitle, the “Nine family members killed by mistake in an Israeli strike are not mentioned in the letter Kochavi sent to all army units.”

Actually that’s not the case. The letter does address the al-Sawarkah massacre, and tries to make it go away.

But first the back story. Immediately following the bombing on November 14, the Israeli military’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on his official social media accounts that a senior Islamic Jihad commander by the name of Abu Malhous was killed in the strike.

This statement was false, and irresponsible. Yaniv Kubovitch reported at the time:

Haaretz found that the false statement, which defense sources confirmed wasn’t based on any intelligence gathered by Israeli security agencies, was inspired by unreliable information shared on social media, including an Israeli Telegram group.

Palestinian students look on the pictures of members of Sawarka family who were killed by an Israeli airstrike, at their school, in Deir al-Balah, central of Gaza Strip on November 16, 2019. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Palestinian students look on the pictures of members of Sawarka family who were killed by an Israeli airstrike, at their school, in Deir al-Balah, central of Gaza Strip on November 16, 2019. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

So they had identified “the wrong guy”? No– after that, the claim from the army went, that the al-Sawarkahs’ house was thought to be an empty shack, belonging to Islamic Jihad “terror infrastructure”. Kubovitch further revealed:

The building where the family lived was on a list of potential targets, but Israeli defense officials confirmed to Haaretz that it had not been looked at over the past year or checked prior to the attack.

Then the army changed the story again, and its spokesman said that “the building was confirmed as a target several days before the attack”.

But now the dust has settled, and chief of staff Kochavi needs these soldiers to be proud, and not have them doubt that they are still the most moral in the world when they see the photos of the al-Sawarkah family. So in anticipation of the odd or nosy soldiers who might be wondering about that bombed family, Kochavi inserted a question into his letter to all soldiers:

“What happened on the night of the attack of November 14, in which a family was killed in Deir al-Balah?”.

Reporter Kubovitch summarizes Kochavi’s answer to his own question:

According to the answer, buildings that were identified as Islamic Jihad infrastructure were attacked. These buildings were “incriminated” as a military target several months ago, and checked by experts once again several days before it was attacked. The commanders were instructed to explain to the soldiers that after an initial investigation into the incident, the identification of the target and the planning of the attack were done in accordance with the obligatory IDF instructions, and that the investigation of the incident is ongoing.

See, the victims hardly need to be mentioned. They are not even just numbers – they hardly even exist. Just a “target”, an “incriminated” one too, and if you heard anything about a whole family being massacred, well, that’s just propaganda – we’re investigating…

So, back to those “stars” aligning, as the Shin Bet chief said. It makes sense to look to the stars, when there appears to be no other legitimate explanation for the timing of the extrajudicial assassination which opened this two-day carnage. Let us not even question the legitimacy of extrajudicial assassination. In Israel these killings are seen as completely mainstream, even Netaynahu’s ‘liberal’ opponent Benny Gantz promised to return to more systematic assassinations if he got elected, during a campaign in which he boasted of having brought Gaza back to the “stone age”.

No, the timing is the question. About this, even the conservative Michael J. Koplow in Israel Policy Forum noted:

The strike was unusual, coming amidst a period of relative quiet in Gaza and during an Israeli moratorium on targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders.

So if the explanation of the timing is not really in the stars, as the Shin Bet chief suggests, where is it? As always, politics. The attack took place in the midst of Benny Gantz’s (now failed) attempt to create a government coalition, following Netanyahu’s failure to do the same in the month before. The attack predictably got Gantz to praise the army for making “the right decision,” adding that he had received updates on the strike before it was carried out.

“Blue and White will support any justified action taken to keep Israel safe, and we place the security of our residents above politics,” Gantz said.

When Israeli politicians say “above politics”, it almost always is the precise opposite – they are just desperately trying to hide it.

Gantz needed to save his militant credibility, which was being eroded by Netanyahu’s charge that Gantz was trying to create a “weak” government reliant on the “Arabs,” who support “terror.” So Gantz would bring on Israel’s “annihilation”.

The Gaza onslaught showed the muscle and resolve that Zionists like to see. Even though he is the caretaker of a transitional government, Netanyahu can still kill many Arabs. And Gantz couldn’t not praise that.

Israeil army “recap” of its assault leaves out the massacre of the 9 members of the al-Sawarkah family.

So, the stars did align, after all: Netanyahu, Gantz, and Kochavi all lined up and united the nation against the common enemy – Gazan men, women and children, the inhabitants of the uninhabitable concentration camp.

No one needs to know the names of these people. They are just terror targets. All the rest is commentary.

H/t Ronit Lentin

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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8 Responses

  1. Misterioso on November 28, 2019, 10:22 am

    Wise words:

    “Encountering Peace: Lost love of the homeland,” by Gershon Baskin.

    The Jerusalem Post,
    November 29/18

    EXCERPT:
    “I admit that it is difficult today for me to identify with Israel, to feel pride in Israel, to feel love for the homeland. There is a strong sense that Israel is heading in the wrong direction and that the divisiveness within the country is not incidental, but instigated and directed from above. There are many reasons for this feeling, including:

    • “The encouragement of the de-legitimation of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and increasing racism and discrimination against them.

    • “The recent demonstrations of “commitment to the Jewish identity” in Afula by the new mayor and municipal council there would be labeled as clear and blatant racism in any other democratic country.

    • “This is the direct result of a campaign of de-legitimation launched and orchestrated by Netanyahu for most of the last decade leading the passing of the “Nation-state law” and rejecting the principle of equality as written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

    • “There is constant de-legitimation by the prime minister and his associates of human rights and civil society organizations working for peace and coexistence.

    • “The continual shrinking of free expression by the self-censorship of those who are now afraid to express their political opinions freely – including journalists, television personalities, artists, musicians and other people with a public profile.

    • “The legitimation of the closure of Israel’s borders to those who express dissent against the government’s positions.

    • “The continual barrage of legislation or attempts to legislate the withering away of democratic rights that were, until a few years ago taken for granted.

    • “The significantly growing dissociation of young Jews in the Diaspora from identification with the State of Israel.

    • “The abhorrence felt by people all around the world toward Israel, not because of antisemitism – most of them support Israel’s right to exist – but because of Israel’s policies and aggression toward the Palestinian people.

    • “The existence and dominance of a freebie newspaper “the Bibiton” Israel Today, which has changed the map of Israel’s news media and which is solely funded by an American billionaire of moral question [Sheldon Adelson] who backs a white supremacist American president and Israel’s most right-wing prime minister.

    “All of these examples have at their root the unending occupation and continual entrenchment of Israel in the territories it occupied in June 1967, including the construction of development of Israeli settlements and the continual attempts of depopulation of Palestinians. There is a lack of any initiative for resuming a peace process with the Palestinians and there is continued de-legitimation of their leaders.

    “Israel under Netanyahu is facing an existential reality of its own making. The real threats to Israel are not Iran or Hezbollah, Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The real threats are not BDS or antisemitism in the West or in the Muslim world. The real threats to Israel come from the failure to determine a border in the east that leaves millions of Palestinians without citizenship and without democracy under Israel military control, more than one and half million Arab citizens of Israel who are increasingly feeling alienated from their state, and increasing numbers of Israeli Jewish citizens, like me, who are being pushed to dissociate ourselves from our homeland.”

    • Jonathan Ofir on November 29, 2019, 1:41 pm

      Misterioso, quoting Gershon Baskin: “The abhorrence felt by people all around the world toward Israel, not because of antisemitism – most of them support Israel’s right to exist – but because of Israel’s policies and aggression toward the Palestinian people. ”

      Well, you know, they wouldn’t be antisemitic also if they didn’t support “Israel’s right to exist” -they could just be factual, and say that no country has a “right to exist” as such.

      Ben White writes: “So, does Israel have a “right to exist”? The answer, or at least an important part of the answer, is that no states have a “right to exist”, without exceptions. States come and go, are formed, and broken up. South Sudan was created in 2011. The USSR ceased to exist in 1991. Czechoslovakia became Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993.” https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/we-need-talk-about-israels-right-exist

      This slogan of “israel’s right to exist” is often being chanted by the Israel-apologists, although it really doesn’t have any meaning in itself, and is a fallacy. What they are really speaking about, whether wittingly or not, is preserving the Zionist model of a “Jewish state” at all cost, and they are putting the discussion of its nature beyond the pale.

      • eljay on November 29, 2019, 7:41 pm

        Israel exists and it should be entirely up to the people in and of that country to decide whether or not it should continue to exist.

        Colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist states – Jewish or otherwise – have no just or moral right to exist.

      • Nathan on November 30, 2019, 7:43 am

        Jonathan Ofir – When the issue of Israel’s right to exist comes up in a debate or in negotiations, the real significance is to clarify intentions. So, for example, when Israel negotiates with the Arabs, the demand that the Arab side recognize the Jewish state is merely a way of clarifying if the issue of discussion is to negotiate an end of conflict. Statehood does not depend on the recognition of others, and Israel is no exception. However, in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians, it’s important to find out if the Palestinians are negotiating in order to improve their position in an ongoing conflict into the future, or if they have decided to end the conflict. The Palestinians have made it very clear that they will not recognize the Jewish state, and so they intend to continue the struggle indefinitely.

        In a debate in a forum such as Mondoweiss, the issue of Israel’s right to exist has a different meaning. Very often an article or a comment has all kinds of grievances or gripes about Israel. It sounds like criticism (i.e. it’s meant to correct some flaw). Then the question of Israel’s right to exist is added to the conversation. If the answer is “yes, Israel has a right to exist”, then it’s obvious that the grievances were raised in the framework of criticism. However, if the answer is “no, Israel should not exist”, then it’s obvious that the grievances were raised as an expression of hostility. It wouldn’t really matter if the grievances were to be rectified tomorrow morning, because they weren’t really the issue. Some people like to avoid answering the question by claiming that “no state has a right to exist” or (as you claimed) that “it has no meaning”. Of course everyone understands the intention of such silly avoidance. Obviously, you believe that the State of Israel shouldn’t exist, and all your gripes and complaints were a way of expressing animosity (it’s not criticism at all).

      • eljay on November 30, 2019, 9:34 am

        || Nathan: … The Palestinians have made it very clear that they will not recognize the Jewish state … ||

        And rightly so. “Jewish State” is a religion-supremacist construct that:
        – prevents non-Jewish Israeli refugees* from returning to their homes and lands;
        – relegates non-Jewish Israelis to second-class-citizen status within their own country.
        ________________________
        (*”demographic threat”, according to Jewish supremacists)

      • Jonathan Ofir on November 30, 2019, 12:10 pm

        Nathan: “The Palestinians have made it very clear that they will not recognize the Jewish state, and so they intend to continue the struggle indefinitely.”

        You see, now it’s not enough to recognize Israel (as the Palestinians in fact did in 1993 per treaty) – now they have to recognize it as a Jewish state.

        I like Ali Abunimah’s appraisal from 2009:

        “As I’ve mentioned, it’s ever harder to disguise this loss of legitimacy when you have a Jewish minority ruling over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority. Recently you will have noticed the Israeli government’s new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s quote unquote right to exist as a Jewish state as a condition for peace. Many people are outraged by that. I’m frankly quite comforted by it. [Laughter] I’ll tell you why. Because that demand is really an acknowledgment of failure. It’s an acknowledgement that without Palestinian consent, the Zionist project and the Jewish ethnocracy in Palestine cannot be maintained, and I think it has zero long term prospects.” https://mondoweiss.net/2019/11/ali-abunimahs-prophecy-of-israels-loss-of-legitimacy-10-years-after/

        You see Nathan, this is what it’s really about – it’s not about Israel’s “right to exist” really, because such an argument is a non-starter anyway (you consider this “silly avoidance”, but it is you who is applying the avoidance here). What it’s really about, is Israel’s right to be a racial supremacist state.

        The Palestinians already recognize your existence – more than Ghandi did for Pakistan (and more than Israel does for Palestine) – what more do you want? Now, in 2009, the demand became not just recognize, but as a “Jewish state”, thus accept your ethnic cleansing wholeheartedly.

        It is Israel which will not end the hostility, because its goals are squarely settler-colonialist.

        The notion that “Israel’s right to exist” is a kind of litmus test to determine the sincerity of your motives in negotiations is nonsense. If you need to ask trick questions based on fallacy to determine truth, you’re just full of delusion, if not just full of yourself.

      • Talkback on December 3, 2019, 12:25 pm

        Nathan: ” Statehood does not depend on the recognition of others, and Israel is no exception.”

        That’s obviously ahistorical rubbish. See the fate of Rhodesia. Without international recognition “Israel” would have only continued to be the mere declaration of statehood by an illegal alien called Gruen.

        Nathan: “So, for example, when Israel negotiates with the Arabs, the demand that the Arab side recognize the Jewish state is merely a way of clarifying if the issue of discussion is to negotiate an end of conflict. ”

        And with “end of conflict” you mean ending their legitimate demand for equality and restoring their inaliable rights granted by international and human rights law. Because Israel has actually nothing to offer. Contrary to the Palestinians which have allready recognized Israel it has nothing done in return. Even when it lies about wanting a two state solution it simply means bantustans and pseudo souvereignity. You know, a Palestinian “homeland” under Jewish rule. Why can’t you be honest about it? (Rhetorical question)

        It seems that you would have also supported the recognition of Germany as an Aryan state. Or Southafrica as the a Boer state.. You know, in your words that would be “a special state for a special people”.

  2. Mooser on November 28, 2019, 12:59 pm

    “Speaking at the height of the operation, Israeli Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman said of the timing, that “the stars aligned so that it was the right timing” – a time to kill, that is”

    The “stars aligned” while Israel can’t align up a government.

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