| By Eric S. Margolis |
There are two completely different versions of what is currently happening in Gaza.
In the Israeli and North American press version, Hamas - 'Islamic terrorists' backed by Iran - have in an unprovoked attack fired deadly rockets on innocent Israel with the intent of destroying the Jewish state.
North American politicians and the media say Israel "has the right to defend itself".
According to the UN, most of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian refugees subsist near the edge of hunger. Seventy per cent of Palestinian children in Gaza suffer from severe malnutrition and psychological trauma.
Medical facilities are critically short of doctors, personnel, equipment, and drugs. Gaza has quite literally become a human garbage dump for all the Arabs that Israel does not want.
Gaza is one of the world's most-densely populated places, a vast outdoor prison camp filled with desperate people. In the past, they threw stones at their Israeli occupiers; now they launch home-made rockets.
Call it a prison riot, writ large.
This has pleased Israel's supporters in North America who have been cheering the war in Gaza and have been backing away from their earlier tentative support for a land-for-peace deal.
Israel's successes in having Western media portray the Gaza offensive as an 'anti-terrorist operation' will also diminish hopes of peace talks any time soon.
Obama inherits this mess in a few weeks. During the elections, Obama bowed to the Israel lobby, offering a new US carte blanche to Israel and even accepting Israel's permanent monopoly of all of Jerusalem.
Obama keeps saying he must remain silent on policy issues until George Bush, the outgoing US president, leaves office, but his staff appear happy to avoid having to make statements about Gaza that would antagonise Israel's American supporters.
Unless he moves swiftly to distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration, he will soon find himself facing the same problems and anger as the Bush White House.
Arab deal killed
The plan, now likely defunct, had called for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders and share Jerusalem in exchange for full recognition and normalised relations with the Muslim world.
Arab governments will now be unable to sell the deal as they face a storm of criticism from their own people over their powerlessness to help the Palestinians of Gaza.
Egypt, in particular, is being widely accused of collaborating with Israel in further sealing off and isolating Gaza. It seems highly unlikely they will be able to advance a peace plan with Israel for now.
This is a bonus for right-wing Israelis, who have always been dead set against any withdrawal and strongly supported the attack on Gaza.
Other Israeli factions who were always lukewarm about the Saudi peace plan are now unlikely to reconsider it.
Israel's hardliners point to Gaza and claim that any Palestinian state on the West Bank would threaten their nation's security by firing rockets into Israel's heartland.
Mighty information machine
Though Israel's use of American weapons against Gaza violates the US Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, the docile US Congress will remain mute.
Israel's assault on Gaza was clearly timed for America's interregnum between administrations and the year-end holidays, a well-used Israeli tactic.
It calls for a non-religious state to be created in Palestine, meaning an end to Zionism. Ironically, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and late leader of Hamas, had spoken of a compromise with Tel Aviv shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004.
Israel's hopes that it can bomb Gazans into rejecting Hamas are as ill-conceived as its failed attempt in 2006 to blast Lebanon into rejecting Hezbollah.
Those Americans who still do not understand why their nation was attacked on 9/11 need only look to Gaza, for which the US is now being blamed as much as Israel.
The brutal collective punishment inflicted on Gaza will likely strengthen Hamas and reverse any hopes of a Middle East peace in the coming years.
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