The Gaza Strip is a very densely populated area, whose population of more than 1.5 million people consists of 56% children. Bombing this area will, of necessity, lead to civilian deaths. There can be no justification for bombing civilian areas; this is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Additionally, what we are seeing is a clearly disproportionate response and collective punishment of the civilian population for the actions of a few. By all accounts, those that are justifying the actions of the Israeli government and military are justifying war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of human rights. The numbers of casualties (3 Israeli civilians have been killed and 69 Palestinians so far; today alone, 23 people in Gaza have been killed, 14 of whom were women and children, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20386755) are deplorable and I condemn the actions of all sides responsible for the deaths of civilians in this conflict. Since these crimes are war crimes (bombing in civilian areas and collective punishment), demanding an end to the violence and demand that the perpetrators on both sides stand before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Discussing timelines in the middle of an atrocity to place blame seems to me to be an absurdity. It becomes an attempt to justify in some sense the atrocity that is taking place; that is unacceptable. It is under duress that I actually am going to do so. The history of what is happening certainly goes back further than the escalations that began on October 29th. For those that insist on more coherent timelines, here is one provided by Ali Abunimah and which discusses the attempt at an effective truce (http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/13/15139430-israel-gaza-agree-to-hold-fire-after-latest-round-of-fighting?lite) that was shattered by the targeted Israeli airstrike that killed one of its negotiators, Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari in an extra-judicial killing. The use of assassination will scarcely be condemned by the US government, as it has used the tactic itself. This is a denial of due process; if someone has committed a crime, bring them to trial and charge them. I do not believe in the death penalty, but assassination by a government is essentially state murder. Actions such as these lead to escalations of violence, they do not reduce them.
What is rather disconcerting to me is that the coverage of the international mainstream media has been atrocious. In some cases, the deaths of Palestinian civilians are not reported. If they are, the narrative places the roots of the latest violence on rockets fired from Gaza as though there is nothing else happening except that (see for e.g., : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20294335; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-20336811; http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/brief-truce-quickly-collapses-as-egypts-pm-visits-gaza/2012/11/16/a10d523a-2fd9-11e2-ac4a-33b8b41fb531_story.html).
However, the roots of the current crisis do not originate there; what happened on the 12th of November is the result of a series of incidents between Israel’s military and military forces in Gaza which include Palestinian civilian deaths. Just for example, on November 5th and November 8th. On November 10th, Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli army Jeep (4 dead) on the Israeli side of the Gaza border. That led to a response by Israel hitting Gazan civilian neighbourhoods, killing 7 Palestinians (5 civilians, 3 of whom were children) and injuring 52 people (http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8978:new-israeli-escalation-against-the-gaza-strip-7-palestinians-including-3-children-killed-and-52-others-including-6-women-and-12-children-wounded-&catid=145:in-focus). That is, an attack on a military jeep was followed by an attack on a civilian area. That is a war crime, it nothing less than that; an attack on a military object results in a response that leads to the deaths of civilians. Nothing I am saying here is disputed. An obvious additional worry is that of a ground invasion by Israeli forces as reservists have been called up and that will set the stage for a repeat of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.
I am certainly not alone in my anger at biased news reporting. According to the following press release from international linguists just concluding a visit to Gaza:
“Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military, and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU. Netanyahu is currently garnering Western diplomatic support for additional operations in Gaza, which makes us worry that another Cast Lead may be on the horizon. In fact, the very recent events are confirming such an escalation has already begun, as today’s death-count climbs. The lack of widespread public outrage at these crimes is a direct consequence of the systematic way in which the facts are withheld and/or of the skewed way these crimes are portrayed.
We wish to express our outrage at the reprehensible media coverage of these acts in the mainstream (corporate) media. We call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them (http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/linguists-including-noam-chomsky-condemn-reprehensible-gaza-coverage).”
Trying for neutrality is difficult in the midst of an atrocity. In fact, I think that it is inherently wrong to do so; in the midst of a conflict, I always stand with the oppressed as opposed to the oppressor and there can never be a moral equivalency between them. It cannot be legitimately argued that a more powerful military's response is reasonable or defensible when its actions and its power to continue escalating them are grossly disproportionate. Those are my beliefs. I hope that they are probably shared by members and readers of the Anti-capitalist Meetup. But, even if you accept the Israeli government narrative stated in this BBC article quoting Prime Minister Netanyahu, the response is disproportionate, and attacks on civilian centres are war crimes. So, calling for an end to rocket attacks and air strikes, an end to the violence and insistence that international law applies equally to all is the only morally acceptable position.