The Gaza Attacks: “Israel carefully planned the attack to extract the highest possible price.”

UPDATE: Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have entered their fifth day. The Israeli cabinet has rejected a call for a cease fire. 

Amira Hass writes in Ha’aretz on the careful planning of these attacks. Hass covered Gaza and the West Bank for Ha’aretz for many years. She is currently a correspondent for Haaretz. Her understanding of Gaza’s neighborhoods adds an important insight into the Israeli bombing campaign of Gaza. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza.  Here are the opening paragraphs of her Haaretz report:

This isn’t the time to speak of ethics, but of precise intelligence. Whoever gave the instructions to send 100 of our planes, piloted by the best of our boys, to bomb and strafe enemy targets in Gaza is familiar with the many schools adjacent to those targets – especially police stations. He also knew that at exactly 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, during the surprise assault on the enemy, all the children of the Strip would be in the streets – half just having finished the morning shift at school, the others en route to the afternoon shift. 

This is not the time to speak of proportional responses, not even of the polls that promise a greater share of Knesset seats to the mission’s architects. This is, however, the time to speak of the voters’ belief the operation will succeed, that the strikes are precise and the targets justified. 

Take, for example, Imad Aqel Mosque in Jabalya refugee camp, bombed and strafed shortly before midnight on Sunday. These are the names of the glorious military victory we achieved there – Jawaher, age 4; Dina, age 8; Sahar, age 12; Ikram, age 14; and Tahrir, age 17, all sisters of the Ba’lousha family, all killed in a “precise” strike on the mosque. Another three sisters, a 2-year-old brother and their parents were injured. Twenty-four neighbors were wounded and five homes and three stores destroyed. This part of the military victory did not open our television or radio news broadcasts yesterday morning, nor did they appear on many Israeli news Web sites. 

This is the time to speak about the detailed maps in the hands of IDF commanders, and about the Shin Bet advisers who know the exact distance between the mosque and nearby homes. This is the time to discuss the drone planes and the hot air balloons fitted with advanced cameras floating over the Strip day and night, filming everything. . . .


For Philip Weiss’ analysis of the media coverage of the Gaza attacks, click here.  For another Weiss posting which includes a cell phone video clip taken by an Al Jazeera camerman, click here

by James M. Wall

The mind boggles, the heart aches, and the anger builds. Massive suffering and destruction in Gaza enters its fourth day. The death toll exceeds 350 and the wounded total approaches 1,400.

American political leaders and media reports say the attacks are the fault of Hamas. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, a regular commentator on MSNBC, makes a big deal about all those rockets Hamas has been slinging Israel’s way, and once again quotes Barack Obama’s ill-chosen statement that if someone were sending rockets that threatened his daughters, he would respond. 

Which raises the question:  Now that Obama has demonstrated that he needs to work out a better understanding of proportionality–a serious flaw in a president, as we know–we must ask, what would Obama do if his daughters lived in Gaza with bombs falling from the sky?  He would not be able to do very much because the only weapons available to the Obama parents would be those largely ineffective rockets Hamas keeps firing at a major military power out of their frustration and anger. 

American political leaders and American media are trash talkers, something that basketball player Obama knows well. They talk trash about anyone opposing Israel even though the smart ones know that the justification for Israel’s attack on Gaza is a complete farce.  Define farce? Doing something that does not connect to reality. 

Media coverage constantly repeats Israeli talking points that absolves Israel of all blame. The Bush White House blames Hamas. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say, in unison, Israel has every right to “defend itself”. So let us be forewarned: With Reid and Pelosi running the Congress and Rahm Emmanuel in the White House, if Obama names Dennis Ross as his envoy to the Middle East, expect the policy of “never blame Israel” to continue. If Ross is tapped, who you gonna call? Ghostbuster Hillary Clinton?  Good luck on that one.

A moment in history with Joseph Welch springs to mind. On that memorable day in 1954 Welch had finally had all he could take of Senator Joe McCarthy’s deceptive and deceitful attacks.

Reacting to a McCarthy attack on a Welch staff member during a Senate committee hearing, Welch said what should now be said to Israel and its American sponsors, and which someday will be said when enough sensible Americans wake up to the reality of Israel’s Occupation: 

Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . .Little did I dream you could be so reckless and cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale & Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale & Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I will do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me. .

These brutal attacks against Gaza are part of a long range ethnic cleansing strategy that is “reckless and cruel” and it has done enormous injury to the Palestinian people.  It is a strategy that has been on the Israeli planning books since 1948. Was Israel ever called to explain its actions?  Where is the challenge today for its farcical rocket rationale?

Check the record. Both ill-fated invasions of Lebanon were blamed on “attacks” from the other side.  All those targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders?  Think back, Pilgrim: Those attacks were sold as responses to something those “targeted” leaders would have done had they lived. Think of it as Israel’s version of  preemptive strikes. 

 Challenge is an online magazine which originates in Israel from a peace-minded publisher. In its current issue, Challenge describes the current attack on Gaza as carefully planned  in advance. It even has its own military title. And the attack, according to Challenge, was enthusiastically received in Israel:

Israel’s military operation called Molten Lead started on Saturday, December 27, 2008 and took more than 200 lives in its first day, much to the satisfaction of the Israeli public. Already on Friday there were cries of “Go get ’em!” from the columns of the leading newspapers, and on Saturday the Gazans got what Israelis have long been wishing them. This was no spontaneous operation, no mere response to the recent firing of rockets on the towns of the Negev. In the preceding half year of calm, while warning that Hamas was arming itself, Israel carefully planned the attack to extract the highest possible price.

Marty Pertz, editor in chief of The New Republic, and a zealous Israeli supporter, doesn’t care when the attacks were planned,. He wants no part of this disproportionate argument.  To get the full flavor of his belicosity, read his blog in full. And then pray that Peretz reflects only the more extreme Zionist proponents in the US. Here is a taste of Peretz:

The government in Jerusalem had made it unmistakably clear that it would no longer tolerate this fire power aimed at innocent civilian life. It had been saying this for months to an increasingly skeptical and apprehensive, not to say, restive public. And to Hamas which didn’t seem to care. Instead, it threatened Israel by word and follow-up deeds that confirmed the recklessness – as if confirmation was needed- of also this Palestinian “liberation” movement, the last in the long line of terrorist revolutionaries acting in the name of pathetic and blood-thirsty Palestine.

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews. At roughly noon, another 60 air-attack vehicles went after other Hamas strategic positions. Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded.  The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.

Glenn Greenwald’s reading of Pertz is harsh. You owe it to yourself to read Greenwald, also in full. 

Let us be brutally honest here.  This onslaught has been in the works since Hamas defeated Fatah in the January 2006 parliamentary election. Israel and the US insisted the Palestinians hold democratic elections. They just did not mean for Hamas to win.

Palestinian voters forgot the old reminder, “It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature”.  Hamas had been lulled into believing that the winner of a democratic election assumes control of the government. But Mother Israel told Hamas “it’s not nice to mess with this Mother because she has the biggest guns”. So Israel cut off all Palestinian funding with the full collaboration of its US and European allies. 

Hamas pulled in its collective belt and kept talking about this thing they thought was democracy. Didn’t work. Mother Israel sold the Fatah party leaders on the riches and power they would have if they joined the enemy.  Lo and behold, while more than 300 Gazans die from Israeli bombs, Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas drinks the cool aid and reads the script, “Its all the fault of Hamas”.  In World War II, he would be a Quisling. (Source: From the name of  Major Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian diplomat and army officer who ruled Norway for the German occupiers from 1940-45.) 

Does Mahmoud Abbas not know, has he not heard, what his new best friend, Mother Israel, is doing in Gaza?  Of course he knows and of course he has heard. But power corrupts.

President Abbas needs to read this description of Gaza from Ali Abunimah, writing after the first day of attacks for his online Electronic Intafada: 

“I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing.” Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel’s latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel’s attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels “terrorists” were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling’s joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is “self-defense” against “terrorists” and therefore justified. Israeli bombing — like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan — is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel’s massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in “retaliation” for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today’s horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel’s method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel’s idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

Richard Silverstein points to an analysis of the Gaza agony:

In the midst of this madness called Operation Solid Lead, I see one of my roles as recording who got it right and who got it wrong.  I am grateful for Sol Salbe informing me of Tom Segev’s strong denunciation of Israel’s Gaza onslaught published in Haaretz. Here is a long excerpt full of wisdom. For anyone who asks how to end this mess, read the last paragraph below:

…The assault on Gaza…demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another.

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to “teach them a lesson.” That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom – via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.

The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to “liquidate the Hamas regime,” in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a “moderate” leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.

As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.

All of Israel’s wars have been based on yet another assumption that has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselves. “Half a million Israelis are under fire,” screamed the banner headline of Sunday’s Yedioth Ahronoth – just as if the Gaza Strip had not been subjected to a lengthy siege that destroyed an entire generation’s chances of living lives worth living.

Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.

Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to. That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas, and Israel has something to offer the organization.Ending the siege of Gaza and allowing freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank could rehabilitate life in the Strip.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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8 Responses to The Gaza Attacks: “Israel carefully planned the attack to extract the highest possible price.”

  1. Pauline Coffman says:

    You have pulled together the history and the current intent of the Israeli government. Thank you!

  2. Harris Fawell says:

    Wow! What a sad event. One can only hope that when Obama becomes President that he will act more even handedly toward Israel and Hamas and the Palestinians and indeed the whole 60 year war mess. How can America be so one-sided in regard to Israel? We must be hopeful but when one reads the comments of Sen. Reid and House Speaker Pelosi it seems like the same old Bush responses. And can we expect anything different from Secretary of State Clinton, and Chief of Staff Emmanuel? We must hope that Obama as President will change the US foreign policy toward Israel. Harris Fawell

  3. Tom Cook, HOHIPC U.S. Liaison says:

    Shefar’am, Israel, 29 December 2008:

    The Siege on Gaza!… What incredible shame!…

    by Elias J,. Jabbour, Founder/Director, The House of Hope International Peace Center, Israel

    Gaza, a wounded piece of Palestine, is left alone to die a slow helpless death… its people with their children, women and elderly are yelling and groaning in agonizing pain and dying from sickness and hunger while the whole world stands by watching indifferently as if nothing has happened.

    The “‘civilized” world or more correctly the “Stone Age World” which cries or pretends to cry over the human rights in Somalia and Sudan and everywhere except in Palestine, fails to see any wrong when these Palestinian “human beings” are left to die. Yet, blindly the world celebrates its 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights!

    The representative of the current United States Administration to the Security Council has called the sending of a rescue ship with food, provisions and medicine to alleviate this suffering “an act of stupidity!”… but he doesn’t consider the starving of one million and half Palestinians as a crime against humanity! Shame on you sir!

    The occupation forces whose feet have trodden on Gaza land hundreds of times for so many years have killed and scattered its people and destroyed their homes and still do the same to this very day as the ancient Mongols under Houlako invaded and destroyed the Iraqi territory in the historical past and as the New Mongols of the 21st century are now doing in Iraq.

    The occupying forces require no permit to enter the Gaza Strip whenever they like and no one in this world dare stop them! Breaking through its borders and violating its people’s humanity as if going on a picnic, they are killing its people and destroying land, trees and homes, returning to footsteps of dancing music with no sense of moral or human remorse and without consideration of any human or international law. This amid the most heinous indifference to the International community and amid the deafening silence of the Arab World!

    This small piece of land –a fragment of the crippled Arab world besieged from its four corners and even from its beloved “big Brother” Egypt, which locks them in to the south by closing their only exit to the outside world, leaving them to live or die in their big prison; a small strip of land, suffocating within its crowded and powerless population, stands alone to face one of the fiercest military powers in the world, bombarded by air, sea and land, cutting human flesh into pieces like one cuts a piece of cake!

    In the face of all this the Arab World sleeps on. The Arab world appears to be paralyzed, crippled, and handcuffed, while busily dealing with its own needs. And so, we stand stunned before this unjust siege… stunned by the cruelty and the mercilessness of the “New Mongols” as they prevent the humanitarian rescue ships from reaching the mouths of hungry children, pregnant and weaning women, the widows and orphans. What a corruption of “civilization”!… what a “prostitution” of so called justice!… what a shame!…

    This painfully inhuman and immoral scene brings to mind the Nazi “Monster” of World War II, who boasted in his madness as his armies reached the Volga river while the Russian army was retreating: “No ship will ever dare sail in the Volga from now on!” Today as a hollow echo the “New Mongols” are boasting: “No ship dare enter the sea of Gaza to carry a crust of bread to a hungry child or a drop of medicine to a sick old man!”

    How similar today is with yesterday and how merciful the past is compared to the present! I must remind the “New Occupiers” who should know better than any, that the ships did in fact return to sail the Volga and still sail! And one final word to the occupiers: “Don’t boast about what you are doing because sooner or later you will enter history from its back door like those who entered before you!!… Sadly your children will cry out in shame for what their parents have done!

  4. I just visited Obama website at and asked him to answer your question: what would Obama do if his daughters lived in Gaza with bombs falling from the sky? Thanks Jim.

  5. elam says:

    The destruction in Gaza is tragic and certainly disproportionate to the amount of destruction in Israel caused by the daily launches of rockets and mortars from Hamas into Israel. But let us imagine another scenario:

    The USA took California, Arizona, New Mexico, etc from Mexico by force. Historical fact. Now suppose that a new anti-USA government in Mexico declared that there can be no peace with the USA until all of the stolen lands are returned and then begins launching rockets and mortars daily into Texas, California, and Arizona. What do you suppose would be the response from the USA? Would it be proportionate?


  6. wallwritings says:

    Elam, I fear you are arguing from a hypothetical that lacks credibility.
    If one and a half million Mexicans still lived in those US states with no US citizens living there, and those Mexicans had been living for fifty years under a military oppressive control, their borders controlled and the population
    subjected to bombing attacks from F-16s, then a few rockets tossed into Kansas would be an ineffectual and pointless response. But it would be understandable.

  7. Shirin qadir says:

    Hoping that Obama as President will change the US foreign policy toward Israel? I don’t think so. its vey naive of the Muslim world to even think of it. The way Obama has been distancing himself from Muslims, he will not be any better then President Bush who attacked iraq (WMD) as soon as he stole the presidency.
    President elect Obamas’s policies are, and will be, the policies of a “loyal” friend of Israel, unequal,uneven, and unjust.
    Justifying the evil attacks of Israel as did Bush.Israel has every right to defend itself, yeah sure.
    Now we don’t need to hear the same kind of cruel statments from President elect Obama.
    That will be very dishearenting for all the Muslim world.
    So please President Obama keep those statements to yourself and don’t try to justify the massacre of innocent people in Gaza.
    We can see that coming soon from you as you have been showing it already with your gestures and actions.
    I am hopeful that the UN, the international community and the people of America will make an effort to join togather and act swiftly to help stop the massacre of innocent people.

  8. Post well done. Comments excellent.

    This is a very good read. I must admit to feeling a tiny bit proud of the constructive thoughtfulness some in the human race can express, instead of the shame that this whole event conjures. I think posts like this one inspire the best in us.

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