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The Lessons of Violence

Posted on Jan 21, 2008
Hamas mourners
AP photo / Khalil Hamra

Palestinians mourn over the body of Hussam Zahar, 24, son of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, during his funeral in Gaza City. Hussam Zahar was killed Jan. 15 in an Israeli strike on Gaza.

By Chris Hedges

The Gaza Strip is rapidly becoming one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. Israel has cordoned off the entire area, home to some 1.4 million Palestinians, blocking commercial goods, food, fuel and even humanitarian aid. At least 36 people have been killed in Israeli strikes since Tuesday and many more wounded. Hamas, which took control of Gaza in June, has launched about 200 rockets into southern Israel in the same period in retaliation, injuring more than 10 people. Israel announced the draconian closure and collective punishment Thursday in order to halt the rocket attacks, begun on Tuesday, when 18 Palestinians, including the son of a Hamas leader, were killed by Israeli forces.

This is not another typical spat between Israelis and Palestinians. This is the final, collective strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza. The decision to block shipments of food by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency means that two-thirds of the Palestinians who rely on relief aid will no longer be able to eat when U.N. stockpiles in Gaza run out. Reports from inside Gaza speak of gasoline stations out of fuel, hospitals that lack basic medicine and a shortage of clean water. Whole neighborhoods were plunged into darkness when Israel cut off its supply of fuel to Gaza’s only power plant. The level of malnutrition in Gaza is now equal to that in the poorest sub-Saharan nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uses words like war to describe the fight to subdue and control Gaza. But it is not war. The Palestinians have little more than old pipes fashioned into primitive rocket launchers, AK-47s and human bombs with which to counter the assault by one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. Palestinian resistance is largely symbolic. The rocket attacks are paltry, especially when pitted against Israeli jet fighters, attack helicopters, unmanned drones and the mechanized units that make regular incursions into Gaza. A total of 12 Israelis have been killed over the past six years in rocket attacks. Suicide bombings, which once rocked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have diminished, and the last one inside Israel that was claimed by Hamas took place in 2005. Since the current uprising began in September 2000, 1,033 Israelis and 4,437 Palestinians have died in the violence, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. B’Tselem noted in a December 2007 report that the dead included 119 Israeli children and 971 Palestinian children.

The failure on the part of Israel to grasp that this kind of brutal force is deeply counterproductive is perhaps understandable given the demonization of Arabs, and especially Palestinians, in Israeli society. The failure of Washington to intervene—especially after President Bush’s hollow words about peace days before the new fighting began—is baffling. Collective abuse is the most potent recruiting tool in the hands of radicals, as we saw after the indiscriminate Israeli bombing of Lebanon and the American occupation of Iraq. The death of innocents and collective humiliation are used to justify callous acts of indiscriminate violence and revenge. It is how our own radicals, in the wake of 9/11, lured us into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Israel has been attempting to isolate and punish Gaza since June when Hamas took control after days of street fighting against its political rival Fatah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah leader, dissolved the unity government. His party, ousted from Gaza, has been displaced to the Israeli-controlled West Bank. The isolation of Hamas has been accompanied by a delicate dance between Israel and Fatah. Israel hopes to turn Fatah into a Vichy-style government to administer the Palestinian territories on its behalf, a move that has sapped support for Fatah among Palestinians and across the Arab world. Hamas’ stature rises with each act of resistance.


Square, Site wide

I knew the Hamas leader Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, who was assassinated by Israel in April of 2004. Rantissi took over Hamas after its founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by the Israelis in March of that year. Rantissi was born in what is now Israel and driven from his home in 1948 during the war that established the Jewish state. He, along with more than 700,000 other Palestinian refugees, grew up in squalid camps. As a small boy he watched the Israeli army enter and occupy the camp of Khan Younis in 1956 when Israel invaded Gaza. The Israeli soldiers lined up dozens of men and boys, including some of Rantissi’s relatives, and executed them. The memory of the executions marked his life. It fed his lifelong refusal to trust Israel and stoked the rage and collective humiliation that drove him into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood and later Hamas. He was not alone. Several of those who founded the most militant Palestinian organizations witnessed the executions in Gaza carried out by Israel in 1956 that left hundreds dead. 

Rantissi was a militant. But he was also brilliant. He studied pediatric medicine and genetics at Egypt’s Alexandria University and graduated first in his class. He was articulate and well read and never used in my presence the crude, racist taunts attributed to him by his Israeli enemies. He reminded me that Hamas did not target Israeli civilians until Feb. 25, 1994, when Dr. Baruch Goldstein, dressed in his Israeli army uniform, entered a room in the Cave of the Patriarchs, which served as a mosque, and opened fire on Palestinian worshipers.  Goldstein killed 29 unarmed people and wounded 150. Goldstein was rushed by the survivors and beaten to death.

“When Israel stops killing Palestinian civilians we will stop killing Israeli civilians,” he told me. “Look at the numbers. It is we who suffer most. But it is only by striking back, by making Israel feel what we feel, that we will have any hope of protecting our people.”

The drive to remove Hamas from power will not be accomplished by force. Force and collective punishment create more Rantissis. They create more outrage, more generations of embittered young men and women who will dedicate their lives to avenging the humiliation, perhaps years later, they endured and witnessed as children. The assault on Gaza, far from shortening the clash between the Israelis and Palestinians, ensures that it will continue for generations. If Israel keeps up this attempt to physically subdue Gaza we will see Hamas-directed suicide bombings begin again. This is what resistance groups that do not have tanks, jets, heavy artillery and attack helicopters do when they want to fight back and create maximum terror. Israeli hawks such as Ephraim Halevy (a former head of Mossad), Giora Eiland (who was national security adviser to Ariel Sharon) and Shaul Mofaz (a former defense minister) are all calling for some form of dialogue with Hamas. They get it. But without American pressure Prime Minister Olmert will not bend.

Israel, despite its airstrikes and bloody incursions, has been unable to halt the rocket fire from Gaza or free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in the summer of 2006. Continued collective abuse and starvation will not break Hamas, which was formed, in large part, in response to Israel’s misguided policies and mounting repression. There will, in fact, never be Israeli-Palestinian stability or a viable peace accord now without Hamas’ agreement. And the refusal of the Bush administration to intercede, to move Israel toward the only solution that can assure mutual stability, is tragic not only for the Palestinians but ultimately Israel.

And so it goes on. The cycle of violence that began decades ago, that turned a young Palestinian refugee with promise and talent into a militant and finally a martyr, is turning small boys today into new versions of what went before them. Olmert, Bush’s vaunted partner for peace, has vowed to strike at Palestinian militants “without compromise, without concessions and without mercy,” proof that he and the rest of his government have learned nothing. It is also proof that we, as the only country with the power to intervene, have become accessories to murder.

Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and author most recently of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” can be found every other Monday on Truthdig.

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By lilmamzer, January 21, 2008 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

We deserve to perish. We deserve all the hatred and violence and ruin that we are reaping.

LMAO you self-hating fool.

God bless the USA and God bless Israel in their fights against Islamic fascism and the terrorist mindset.

Deluded fools like you, Non Credo, will never live to see the US or Israel fall, no matter how much you wish for it.

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By lilmamzer, January 21, 2008 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment

By the Gazan Arabs’ own “democratic” choice, they bring Israeli defensive fire upon them, and not nearly enough. Why are Haniyeh and Zahar still converting oxygen into carbon dioxide? They should each be enjoying a Hellfire up the ass.

The world will be a better place when Hamas and all those who support them are deep in their dirt naps where they belong.

GO IDF!!!!!!!!!!

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By A Lebanese, January 21, 2008 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Because it is widely believed that both Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist groups….well heres a thought…..If you are stupid enough like the rest of the Zionist controlled assholes
that brand Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,then i wonder how and where you were educated..
Vast parts of my country was occupied by the fucking parasites long before Hezbollah was even an
idea let alone an organization…
and you know why my learned friend? because the parasites had envisioned or believe they were God’s
chosen people and they had to create the “greater Israel” running from Palestine through lebanon,
syria,Jordan and Egypt…i couldnt even visit my hometown of Bint jbeil in the south of Lebanon
till it was liberated by Hezbollah in 2000 because there were checkpoints all over the south
where the parasites were holding all young lebanese youths and forcing them into a militia to fight
against their fellow lebanese..i dont want to ramble all day long to give you details of rape,
carnage and pillage that they commited while they were there…but one thing i repeat,
know this you and your fucking president Bush,no matter how hard it is pushed by the Zionist
media to brand them as terrorists,
Hezbollah will remain and i can guarantee you that a third of the lebanese people will gladly lay
down their lives for them,but will never accept occupation again..i think we showed that in
the summer of 2006.

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By jbart, January 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

200 rocket attacks kill 10 Israelis?  WOW !! These guys are good !! Israel kills 30-something.  Howard, as a man, how can you face your face every morning when you shave, and see someone worth being? You are the PROBLEM.  Not blind or oblivios, unfortunately, just evil. All that is wrong with mankind.  A truly vial person that contaminates society through his deceit, someone NOT to be trusted. You probably have spent MOST of your sorry life “lying” to get ahead.  A true religious person. Take advantage of them before they can take advantage of you, huh? I guess, call me that “anti-S” if you choose to but, as I stated to someone of your ilk that was attempting to take advantage of me in business through unethical behavior( and it applies here, as well) you “give” anti-semites a “case”. You, and your types, gives a case against you, and yours. Make your bed, lie in it. Yee reep what yee sow. If you dance to the tune, you gotta pay the piper. How many more do you need, babe? You get what you wish for? Relying on the “Christian” ethic, are you? They “turn the other cheek”, huh? A good group to lie to, huh? Hitting a nerve yet, HOWARD ??  Come on, let’s play. I must warn you of something, though.  I grew up on LONGISLAND. I’ve lived the life, and am ready to parry. You game, MF?? Show some “calyones” and come back at me. If you got them.

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By jbart, January 21, 2008 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This comment is NOT “aimed” at the pro-Israeli bloggers (you, and we, know who you are). Not meaning to “disturb” anyone’s sensibilities, I want to comment on the “cyclical” nature of the Human Race. Do the Israelis have Gas chambers prepared and operational? Is this the “fate” of the Palestinians that are seen as a threat to Israel’s existence? Will you “destroy” the bodies as the Nazis did, or have you perfected the process to be less costly and more efficient? You “cry out” anti-Semitism. Fine. Use that ploy. It has a history of working quite well. But, if you look into the details (‘cause we all “know” about the devil in the details), you will see things for what they are. Rather than working to get people to “get along”, regardless of disagreement, ELIMINATE the opposition from opposing. As a “devout” atheist, I couldn’t give a crap about either of your religions. Therefore, I am an “unbiased” commenter. All of you religious lunatics, in my humble opinion, are full of shit. But, to annihilate and eliminate, due to the power/ability to do so, is WRONG !!! I admit to not having read the “blogs” here, but I don’t need to. Everyone seems to have a consistent opinion. Howard and Lilzamer are pro/sympathetic to the “unfortunate “plight” of the Israelis, albeit the “contributions to society/humanity that HOWARD constantly uses in his proponent commentaries. Then there are the “opposites”, which are many, that blame the Israeli Gov’t for having too much influence in American politics.  I’m afraid that I tend to “join” the majority on this issue.  How about, Israel protects itself and its interests, without a significant “handout” from America? Not bad huh, Howard/Lilzamer?  You are so secure in the value/purpose to the good of mankind that Israel offers, why does Israel (great country that it is with all of the contributions it makes to society) need outside financial assistance? I welcome your response. Please refrain from using the “anti=Semitic” rap as it’s beyond “worn out” and holds very little “strength” in true discussion. I’d also like to hear about the apparent “extermination” being imposed on the Palestinians in GAZA. If you care to explain/rationalize the actions.  Thanks.

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By P. T., January 21, 2008 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

The Zionists are attempting The Final Solution.

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By Douglas Chalmers, January 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

Re: Who will pay? - By P. T., January 21: “Israel wants to be left alone.  In peace.” ...The Zionists want to murder, steal land and water, and ethnically cleanse—in peace…”

Can you imagine this happening in the USA? Well, it DID once….... The “Indian wars” of the American Wild West (and before) were a planned oppression of those with the land but without a superior military.

Most of the land was eventually taken not by settlers alone but by ethnic cleansings. Pushing people out is effectively the same as a war of attrition. Essentially they must migrate elsewhere or are exterminated.

Thus, Israeli “settler society” is fundamentally exactly the same as the white American version - and both have their religious delusions to justify their own view of being “right” to do as they please.

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By Howard, January 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

That’s utter nonsense about the annihalation of the Pal’s.

They could of had their own country for the last 60 years, just like Israel. But they said no.  They could have it NOW, but look what kind of country they are running. Not a hint of anything civil, social, economic or realistic. Israel left Gaza and turned over to them extensive farm buildings and land and they destroyed them all.

Monies galore would be thrown at them by the nations of the world, even though the Arab nations refuse even yet to help with all their billions, if they decided to have a normal country. Like the rest of the world.  It is not Israel’s fault that their leaders lead them to poverty, desolation, unrest and chaos.

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A Khokar's avatar

By A Khokar, January 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

This annihilation of Palestinians at the hands of Jews is not acceptable at all. Palestinians are being strung into a hold; to suffer and die a starved death. This is a crime against humanity.

Have the Jews forgotten that prior to their mass exodus from Europe; they were also a powerful creed there; but their illicit designs and their Centuries old habit of deceit brought them a curse of holocaust; which was thirsted upon them so vehemently. They were murdered and gassed in millions. God gave them a respite but I think the faculty of wisdom has once again been taken away from them. They failed to recognise that when they were low of the low, destitute and in dire need of refuge; these Palestinian gave them their homes and shelter!

I am afraid that History may not repeat the events of holocaust again!  Most of the Israelis are wise people; I am sure; they may not like to suffer once again; the untoward events like holocaust to happen; now at the hands of destitute Palestinians.

*The oppressor may not know what all lays there in the anguish and tears of oppressed widows.
*That when it becomes a tsunami and wipes away every assailant along with it.

Love for all, Hatred for none

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By dick, January 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

According to the god of Israel, their neighbors are their enemies, and must be destroyed (all that breathes) and their land confiscated. Thus, in Palestine, there can be no peace. The USA should have remained neutral 60 plus years ago, but instead chose to step into the mayhem and even support it, to this day.

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By P. T., January 21, 2008 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

Just as the U.S. has a Vichy-style government in Iraq, Israel wants one in the occupied territories.

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By P. T., January 21, 2008 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

“Israel wants to be left alone.  In peace.”

The Zionists want to murder, steal land and water, and ethnically cleanse—in peace.

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By Howard, January 21, 2008 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

Israel wants to be left alone.  In peace. Israel is a vibrant modern growing country that has offered friendship to its neighbors and received back terror against it for 60 years.  And continued words like yours hurt everyone.

It was words, not machinery, that produced Auschwitz. Incitement and hate language are early warning signs of genocidal intent by their perpetrators. If the rocks, daggers, guns, suicide bombs, Kassams and long-range missiles are the hardware of today’s terror threats to Israel, it is the incitement that is the software.

The missiles and rockets are a physicl form of incitemnt. The road map explicitly calls for an end to incitement as an essential precondition for all future agreements. Official monitoring, reporting and sanctioning of incitement are the essential next steps to eradicating this fundamental obstacle to peace and threat to human life.  For both sides. Yet Gazans are being misled (again), as Hamas has stated over and over ad nauseum that their goal is the complete destruction of Israel. They teach this to their young daily in schools and mosques. They offer nothing less to their chidren. Though they could.

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By Bubba, January 21, 2008 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

Comparing Israel’s behaviour to that of the Third Reich is a mistake.  It’s understandable on the heels of the rage one may feel, appropriately, upon viewing the ever unchecked barbarity of Israel.  But it is still a mistake.

Let Israel’s unparalleled, sixty-plus-year history of state terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity speak for itself. 

Also note that study after study and survey after survey—let alone the day-to-day, year-to-year, decade-after-decade facts on the ground—have shown that a majority of Israelis—often a vast majority (90%), as in Israel’s most recent, barbaric invasion of Lebanon—has steadfastly supported successive Israeli governments in their unparalleled, sixty-plus-year history of state terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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By dale Headley, January 21, 2008 at 10:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It doesn’t matter what the people of Gaza, or even the people of Israel want.  Prime Minister Olmert wants the largesse of the U.S. government to continue, so he must please George Bush.  And whom does George Bush seek to placate, aside from the militant factions of the Zionist movement in America?  His GOD, of course - the genocidal and vindictive Yahweh of the Old Testament, who sanctioned and led a bloody rampage through the middle east to assassinate all men, women, and children who lived there in order to make room for his “chosen people.”

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By P. T., January 21, 2008 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

Israel rejects a ceasefire in Gaza.  Hamas retaliates, as we would if the U.S. were attacked.

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By Conservative Yankee, January 21, 2008 at 9:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


“Just like we would do if people were sending in missiles into Tuscson or Detroit from across the border. Most likely more we’d do a little more.”

It all depends on whom those rockets were hitting in Detroit or Tucson. If they were falling on poor children without even a hope of ever entering the middle class, or if they fell in South Central, or Compton, or Lawrence Massachusetts, we would probably send FEMA (at their convenience)to relocate them.

My Grandmother was tortured by the dichotomy of the German love of children and the way Nazis treated Jewish children.

Unfortunately for her, she lived long enough to see Israel do the same thing.

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By Howard, January 21, 2008 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

Israel left Gaza and instead of building a nation decided to continue violence. Is that Israel’s reward for leaving Gaza?  If there was no instigation from the rockets there would be no response by Israel to go after the militants making and firing them off into Sederot which is a mile from the border in Israel.

Just like we would do if people were sending in missiles into Tuscson or Detroit from across the border. Most likely more we’d do a little more.

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By P. T., January 21, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

The Palestinian rockets, which are fired in retaliation for Israeli attacks, have nothing to do with it.  The Israeli rejection of a ceasefire is proof of that.  Israel and the U.S. hope that attacking Gaza will lead the people there to overthrow the Hamas leaders, which were elected.  Gaza is being attacked for voting the “wrong” way.  Israel and the U.S. want a stooge they can control, such as Abbas.  It is terrorism by Olmert and Bush, pure and simple.  It didn’t work in Lebanon, but they’re trying it in Gaza.

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By Expat, January 21, 2008 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

I hardly know where to begin; do you actually read any non-Israeli newspapers.  Do you read anything?  Nah, forget it, because you just don’t get it and nothing will show you the reality of the situation in Gaza.  I’m incredulous at the thing you have written.  You…....forget it.  just go on with your lala view of the Israeli government.

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By Howard, January 21, 2008 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

What should Israel do?  Hundreds of rockets causing injury and death for months now.  How else can they get the Gazans to stop?

Hedges offers no solution.  Barely mentions the effect of the rockets aimed at civilians.

“There is no power crisis in Gaza. Apparently Hamas, out of its own considerations, has decided not to transfer fuel to the power station,” said a security official in Jerusalem. “There is enough diesel in Gaza to power the station. And to the best of our knowledge there is also enough fuel for cars. Enough fuel has been provided and there should not be any shortage,” the official said.

  Israel also rejected the claim that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying that Palestinian liaisons have said that there are sufficient stockpiles of food and water. “Our feeling is that someone over there, apparently Hamas, is trying to exaggerate the problem and make it seem as though there is a humanitarian crisis. There is no truth to this.” Minutes after the Gaza power station shut down, Gaza residents holding candles began marching through the city’s streets along with Palestinian children holding signs in English and Arabic. (Ynet News)

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By Conservative Yankee, January 21, 2008 at 7:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My Grandmother who survived several German “camps” had this to say on the subject of Israeli treatment of their “Arab brothers” (the only two Semitic people… Abraham’s children)

“You think that we could live under Hitler’s system and learn nothing?”

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By Expat, January 21, 2008 at 7:41 am Link to this comment

In my humble opinion, Israel has become the monster they fought in and after WWII.  They have lost their way in the world of justice.  How in their god’s name can they commit these barbaric acts and then justify them exactly as did The Third Reich?  I understand many Israelis also are horrified by their governments behavior.  It seems we and they have the same problem, an out of control government no longer responsive to the people.  This begs the question: Why don’t we change it?

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By Expat, January 21, 2008 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

How is it, Israel escapes condemnation by the world for the same crimes against humanity that South Africa was rightly vilified for?  Apartheid is apartheid, no matter where it happens.  It doesn’t belong solely to S.A.  Israel will be the undoing of America in the eyes of the world.  Without justice how can there be hope?

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By Marjorie L. Swanson, January 21, 2008 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

I was a big fan of Israels for most of my life. Now I am not.  Quite frankly I don’t support any country, including our own, when it does evil things. Hopefully the good people in Israel will rise up and stop this insanity. If not, then they are agreeing with what their leaders are doing. Hopefully our people will rise up and throw out anyone in our government that supports the evil war in Iraq.

I don’t care if they once did. I don’t care about the past. Stop the madness now. Or you are the evil. In both Israel and America. When you make war on harmless civilians you become what you claim to fight.

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By shawn, January 21, 2008 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

True…  Israel has been doing this long enough to know that this type of action will not stop the rocket attacks nor will it quash the Palestinians’ fight for independence.  I suspect that this is more about Olmert’s precarious political position.  The Winograd report will come out soon blaming (essentially) him for the horrible screw up it was.  On top of that, now that Avigdor Lieberman has quit his coalition, his majority in the Knesset is slim and shaky.  I think he’s using Gaza as a proving ground to solidify his “bad-ass” credentials…  It’s a shame he has to kill Palestinians and, thus, endanger Israelis, to do it.  But then again, that’s Israeli politics for you.  Nothing new there…

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