Bush Blessed Israel’s Assault on Gaza But the Aftermath Belongs to Obama

by James M. WallMedic holds child

Raise your hand if  you still believe Israel’s claim that its 23-day assault on Gaza was a necessary retaliation against Hamas for breaking a cease fire. Ok, put your hand down and listen up.

Consider the dates of the assault’s start and abrupt ending. The first Israeli air attack on Gaza came on December 27, 2008. Barack Obama was the president-elect. George Bush would be president until noon, January 20, 2009.

Israel had less than a month left to operate with impunity under the blessing of the out-going U.S. president.

Twenty three days after December 27, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, announced that his government would  remove its forces from Gaza “at the greatest possible speed”.

The assault troops were out of Gaza by midnight, January 18. 2009. The Palestinian death toll had reached more than 1300. The injured totaled more than 5100.

Two days later, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States.

Before he entered the White House Obama knew what was happening in Gaza. His transition team remained in touch with the Bush White House. The London Guardian provided a daily death and injury report. Bloggers, like this one, also provided statistics on the wounded and dead.  Few U.S. papers bothered to even notice.

President-elect Obama insisted he had no control over what was happening in Gaza. That was true. As he put it, “we have only one president at a time”.

Now, six months later, President Obama has everything to do with the aftermath of Gaza, starting with some unfinished grisly and sad business involving the refusal of Israel and Egypt to allow heavy digging equipment to cross into Gaza.

Helene Cobban points to a Ma’an story on bodies still trapped in the Gaza rubble. Ma’an is a Palestinian news agency which reports:

The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) officially began implementing its rubble removal operation on 9 July. About 420 tons of debris will be cleared at a cost of 12 million dollars, funded by Canada.

Gaza Ministry of Public Works vehicles have been used, but Israel’s and Egypt’s refusal to allow reconstruction materials into the area has forced many residents to dig, hoping to find lost loved ones on their own.

Ibrahim Radwan, undersecretary at the ministry, said that “the delay in finding the missing is due to a lack of necessary funds, estimated by the ministry at 16 million US dollars.” He also cited a lack of machines.

This is what the aftermath of a 23-day military Israeli assault looks like. The side with the machines, the one in absolute military control, determines when bodies may be dug up and given decent religious burials. Ma’an provides the names of the 59 still missing Palestinians. They range in ages from 12 to 79, men, women and children.

Ma’an would not object if you want to print this list of 59 and post it on your church bulletin board.  Their deaths were funded by U.S. tax payers which makes their deaths, and now their burials, partly our responsibility.

This is the aftermath of the Gaza assault which Barack Obama now faces. The good news is that in this aftermath, he is displaying a toughness, missing among recent U.S. presidents, in dealing with the Israeli government.  Consider these developments.

The Obama administration is making demands Israel is not accustomed to hearing from Washington. Obama is also playing a diplomatic game Israel hasn’t seen for a long time.

Nothing in the past sixteen years has appeared in the Jerusalem media with anything close to this ominous (to Israel) story which ran online July 24:

The US State Department rebuffed speculation that the administration of President Barack Obama was considering imposing economic sanctions against Israel in order to prevent it from continuing West Bank settlement construction.

Spokesman Phillip Crowley told reporters on Thursday that remarks made by deputy spokesman Robert Wood earlier this week had been “misinterpreted.”

Asked at a press briefing on Tuesday whether the US was considering putting financial pressure on Israel to get it to comply with US demands, Wood had said: “It’s premature to talk about that.“ (Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2009).

Blogger Richard Silverstein links to that “premature” denial story in his Tikun Olam blog:

What is deft about this particular series of statements is that the U.S. both plants the idea that it may be willing to consider sanctions if all else fails; and immediately denies the import of the statement in order to make it appear it was a mistake. But the seed has been planted. Now everyone in the Netanyahu government and the Israel lobby is aware of what the next step could be. They know what’s in store if they continue trying to play hardball regarding the settlement freeze and related issues.

On the same day, July 24,  Ha’aretz ran a story by Aluf Benn with this headline: “U.S. Warns Israel: Don’t Build Up West Bank Corridor”.

Nothing in the story about “unhelpful to the peace process”.  The language has changed. “Unhelpful” has been replaced by “stiff warning”. And this is a White House that actually knows where and what E-1 is and how Israel intends to use it.

The U.S. administration has issued a stiff warning to Israel not to build in the area known as E-1, which lies between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Any change in the status quo in E-1 would be “extremely damaging,” even “corrosive,” the message said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed in the past to finally build the controversial E-1 housing project – as have several premiers before him, though none has done so due to American pressure. He opened his recent election campaign with a visit to Ma’aleh Adumim in which he declared: “I will link Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim via the Mevasseret Adumim neighborhood, E-1. I want to see one continuous string of built-up Jewish neighborhoods.”

Evidence is also piling up that the Israelis will have some scrambling to do to clean up the damage they left behind in Gaza, in destroyed lives, property, and Israel’s own international reputation. And more than scrambling will be needed to resist “stiff warnings” about “corrosive” behavior from the new American government.

Avi-Shlaim-Book-Launch-046_160And what about Israeli scholar Avi Shlaim, a loyal Zionist, IDF veteran, and sensitive soul? He is emerging as my new Israeli hero.  The first ten days of the assault on Gaza, which led to the deaths of many of those Palestinians still trapped in the rubble of their homes, prompted Shlaim to write a column for the London Guardian, with language rarely, if ever, found in print on the American side of the Atlantic.

Here are the opening lines from the column Shlaim wrote January 7, for the Guardian.

The only way to make sense of Israel‘s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Shalim’s family immigrated to Israel from Iraq in 1950. He has served in the Israeli army, and is now a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. He has written two highly-regarded books, The Iron Wall and Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. Another book, Israel and Palestine, will be published in September.

For more on Shlaim’s story as an Israeli scholar shattered by the Gaza attack, read Robert Fisk’s most recent London Independent column.

It gets better. Shlaim is not alone. There is a growing Israeli and international impatience and anger over what Israel did in Gaza.

UN official Richard Falk, for example, suggests that war crime charges could be involved.

Israeli soldiers, reflecting back on their part in the Gaza assault, have described the “excesses” of the army’s conduct.

Even the U.S. mainstream ‘s CNN has suggested that the original excuse Israel gave for launching the attack on Gaza collapses upon closer inspection.

To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson in his comment on the late Walter Cronkite and the war in Vietnam, “If CNN rejects our cover story, then Israel has lost Middle America.”

Surely, Middle America would want President Obama to inform Israel’s Prime Minister that there still 59 bodies lying beneath the rubble Israel left behind after its 23-day assault on Gaza, an assault that was conveniently/deliberately planned to keep it off Obama’s watch.

It is the Aftermath that now rests squarely and heavily on President Obama’s shoulders.

Picture in Gaza above is from Global Research and Rafah Today

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 writings.me, 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 jameswall8@gmail.com 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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4 Responses to Bush Blessed Israel’s Assault on Gaza But the Aftermath Belongs to Obama

  1. The Rev. Daphne Grimes says:

    Thank you for your article. After many visits to Israel/Palestine over the Past twenty eight years, I believe that the only way to change Israel’s attitude may be through some stiff financial pressure. I am glad that crack is appearing, and pray that Obama keeps up the pressure. I will be in Israel again in September, I hope with my new book, Journeys to Jerusalem, Troubling Times in a Holy Land, from my journals and experiences of the past 50 years. I hope our news media will start reporting what has been happening there as it is, especially the last disastrous attack on Gaza, and the present refusal to allow assistance there.

  2. Rev. Frank Smith says:

    Thank you for keeping the truth in front of us. We live in Miami and get a very biased view of what is happening in Israel/Palestine. Every time someone tries to explain what is happening in a balanced way in the Miami Herald , a stream of pro Israel articles and letters are printed. It is so important that the truth be know.
    Thank you for your faithful witness.

  3. David R.Evans says:

    Rev. Frank Smith,
    You, in Miami are not alone in your shadow of truth. Everyone should view and pass along these two excellent documentaries on the truth of modern Israel and how the false charge of anti-Semitism keeps challenge of Israel’s genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine at bay:



  4. Harris Fawell says:

    Once again you have printed the truth about the Israel – Palestinian seemingly endless war of horrors. These are hard truths but they must be printed for the sake of Israel as well as for the Palestinans. I trust the President Obama is listening. Harris

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