Israel and Gaza Extend Ceasefire amid Last-Minute Attacks
Max Blumenthal assesses the circumstances surrounding the cease-fire from Ramallah
SHARMINI PERIES, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
Hamas and Israel has agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. To discuss this breaking news we are joined by Max Blumenthal in Ramallah. Max is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.
Max, thanks for joining us.
MAX BLUMENTHAL, AUTHOR, GOLIATH: LIFE AND LOATHING IN GREATER ISRAEL: Great to be on with you.
PERIES: Max, you have been in the throes of this 50-day battle. What do you think of the ceasefire agreement?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I think that the fact that Hamas extracted a ceasefire from Israel, from the Israeli government, is remarkable and is in itself a political victory that confirms the success of the kind of armed struggle that they waged against Israel’s ground invasion and aerial attack throughout the last seven weeks. It’s confirmed it to a civilian population that is beleaguered but which stood behind the model of Hamas’s armed resistance throughout the whole time and whose support for that model has actually gained in intensity, to the point of a total consensus within the Gaza Strip over the last few days as Israel began attacking residential towers in the Gaza Strip. So for the people living in the besieged Gaza Strip, this is an enormous victory.
However, we don’t know what concessions they will be able to extract from their occupiers, for the Egyptians who are a partner in their occupation and siege, and from the United States, which is the ultimate benefactor of their siege. We don’t know, because negotiations on the terms of the deal won’t take place for a month in Cairo. And it’s there that we’ll finally understand what the terms of the deal are.
What we need to know now is that Netanyahu blocked a vote within his own cabinet on the ceasefire because most of his cabinet was against it. Tzipi Livni, who is not a right-winger, who sort of exists to Netanyahu’s left within the Israeli political spectrum, seemed to have expressed grievances and was grumbling about the ceasefire because it gave Hamas some of the terms that it sought. We don’t know what they are, but this seems to be a political defeat for Netanyahu and the Israeli military.
Their strategy was to basically commit what the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called politicide, which is to attack the civilian population of Palestine, of Gaza, to assail the symbols of their government, to attack them economically, and to force them into a position where they no longer can choose their own government, where they can no longer choose the political direction they want to go in, and where Israel can decide their fate for them. And that’s what Israel successfully did in the West Bank after the Second Intifada. They have utterly failed in the Gaza Strip. And that, I think, is the ultimate victory of Hamas.
PERIES: Max, over half a million people have been displaced as a result of this 50-day war. They have no water. They have no place to live. Will they be resettled as a part of this agreement today?
BLUMENTHAL: Without a doubt there will be in the ceasefire agreement a release of aid into the Gaza Strip, humanitarian aid and building materials. And building materials in the Gaza Strip have been hard to come by. I don’t think that will do much for the people whose neighborhoods have been rendered uninhabitable. I mean, you’re talking about people whose livelihoods and farms have been destroyed, 70 years of work of their families completely destroyed. Eighty-nine families have been completely liquidated by the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. So none of this will be answered by humanitarian aid and building materials.
What people were fighting for was something that they feel like they’re entitled to. They had an airport in the Gaza Strip until 2001, when Israeli bulldozers demolished it. And then it was bombed by the air. They want a seaport, and they were guaranteed a seaport in the ’90s under the Oslo agreement. They want that. The fishermen, who haven’t been able to even take their boats out for weeks, want to extend the perimeter within which they can fish. There’s no fish in the Gaza Strip right now. There’s almost no sanitation. I mean, I’m currently suffering digestive problems just because I brushed my teeth with the water in the Gaza Strip, not having drank it. There is no electricity in much of the Gaza Strip. So these have to be answered. People in the Gaza Strip are some of the most educated people in the world. It has a 99 percent literacy rate. And the medical professionals I met are, like, at the top of their field, but they have no supplies. So people know what they’re entitled to there, and they’re willing to fight for it. The question is whether the siege will be lifted and they’ll be able to live the lifestyle that they feel like they’re entitled to according to the terms of this agreement. And Israel and Egypt will do everything they can to prevent that.
Well, there was a clear logic behind Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, and it began with literally demolishing 40 percent of the Gaza Strip, the parts on the border regions, which exist [incompr.] neighborhood[incompr.] the ethnocratic, militaristic state of Israel, that it’s there in places like Beit Hanoun, in places like Beit Lahia, in places like [incompr.] and Shuja’iyya that the Palestinian civilian population endured its worst losses. And I walked through the rubble of these areas and I saw entire neighborhoods leveled to the ground. And they could be uninhabitable for the next decade, uninhabitable possibly for 20 years. It’s unknown if these areas will be rebuilt.
The point of the attacks on these civilian populations was to tighten the cage on the entire Gaza Strip, basically committing ethnic cleansing and turning refugees into refugees again, but this time they have nowhere to flee. Now you have hundreds of thousands of people sleeping and staying in squalid conditions in UN-run schools because their homes are destroyed. And it’s unclear what their fate is.
What Israel accomplished, in a political sense, by attacking the civilian population in these areas is the exact opposite of what they intended to do. What they intended to do was turn the civilian population against Hamas, get them to blame Hamas for their own suffering, and instead they produced a complete consensus for armed resistance. The fighters of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, are like saints in Gazan society right now. They are the heroes of Gaza. And it’s thanks to Israel destroying their neighborhoods and it’s thanks to the fact that these Qassam fighters are from these neighborhoods and defended these neighborhoods with their lives as an indigenous guerrilla force. There is support for Hamas even among people who belong to factions that are opposed to Hamas, like Fatah.
PERIES: Max, thanks for joining us today.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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