The mother of all smokescreens


The withdrawal of 8500 settlers from Gaza is being portrayed as a trauma engulfing the Jewish state, and the world’s media have descended to report the inevitable struggles between Messianic Jews and Israeli forces.

While the removal of the settlers should be applauded, the Sharon Government’s motives in doing so are thoroughly transparent – a unilaterally imposed move designed to stop the peace process rather than kick-start it.

The ‘disengagement’ aims to distract the world’s gaze from the true intentions of the ultra-nationalists currently running Israel and, thus far, is proving thoroughly effective. A three-layer barrier of fence and walls on the border with Gaza is nearly completed, and will effectively confirm Palestinian fears that they will be living inside a giant prison. Israeli officials have acknowledged that they retain the right to mount incursions into Gaza if ‘suspected militants’ are found. Israel will maintain control over land, sea and air crossings as well as water and gas reserves.

Thanks to Peter Nicholson at The Australian

Thanks to Peter Nicholson at The Australian

This kind of Orwellian situation masks a greater truth: Sharon intends to reinvade Gaza on whatever possible pretext comes his way. This will allow Israel to prevent any movement whatsoever towards Palestinian statehood or even functioning Palestinian institutions.

Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian writer for who is based in Gaza, was recently told by an Israeli army spokesperson that, ‘as a Palestinian from Gaza, you are considered a security threat first, a journalist second.’ He wrote in the Washington Post that the Gaza withdrawal will ‘simply restructure Israel’s occupation. Instead of controlling our lives from within, Israel will control Gaza from without.’

Perhaps the most disturbing development is in Jerusalem. The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report in early August that revealed how the rightful capital of three of the world’s monotheistic religions was being divided and conquered by the Jewish state. Settlements continue expanding. The ‘security’ fence, once completed, will encompass virtually all of expanded, municipal Jerusalem and major settlement blocks in the north, east and south. Over 50,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem will be cut off from their own city and forced to access hospitals, school and families through Israeli military gates, likely to be closed at a soldier’s discretion. Territorial continuity of a Palestinian state will be impossible under these latest changes.

Both Labor and Likud governments have always continued settlement expansion, even during the so-called ‘peace process’ of the 1990s. Hind Khoury, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of State for Jerusalem Affairs, rightly says that Israel ‘greedily insists on retaining control over the whole of Jerusalem,’ and calls for American and international pressure on Israel to change its ways. ‘Negotiations require an Israeli partner,’ he argues, ‘and Israel, as the more powerful party, realises it can impose its own agenda rather than negotiate a solution.’

Israel constantly tells the world that there is ‘no partner for peace’, when in reality the Palestinian leadership, though fractured, is more than ready to negotiate a two-state solution. The Israeli press recently announced that twenty-one new Jewish homes will be built in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old Muslim Quarter, though Muslims do not have similar rights to build their own homes there.

When former Israeli Prime Minister and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from the Israeli cabinet in early August, he claimed in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the upcoming disengagement ‘ignores reality and blindly advances the establishment of an Islamic terror base that will threaten the state.’ Netanyahu’s agenda is clear. He wants to regain the reigns of the country and hopes the public has forgotten his corruption-drenched leadership of the 1990s.

The New York Times praised Netanyahu’s ‘free-market reforms’ as contributing to lifting the country out of recession, but they must have missed a report released in the same week by the Israeli National Insurance Institution. It found that Israel led the West in rates of child poverty, and that 1.534 million people lived below the poverty line. In a population of around six million this is a startling figure, and yet it seemed to escape the attention of the world’s media. Israel’s vastly expensive ongoing occupation is directly related to the economic malaise.

The withdrawal from Gaza is the mother of all smokescreens and masks a blatant attempt by Israel to create irreversible facts on the ground – more settlements and the security fence surrounding Jerusalem all make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible. Former Israeli Education Minister, Shulamit Aloni, recently called Sharon a ‘megalomaniac’ who should face justice on war crimes. ‘He doesn’t mind sacrificing the lives of others, as happened in the invasion of Lebanon,’ she said. ‘Sharon and the Israeli leadership always try to make Israelis believe the lie that the Palestinians want to throw us to the sea.’ It is a lie perpetuated by pro-Israeli supporters around the world, including the Howard Government.

Throughout this entire ‘disengagement’ period, it’s as though our mainstream media has been led by the Israeli Government’s propaganda unit. The Gaza withdrawal is but a sideshow. One of the few journalists to make critical comment on the situation was the Hobart Mercury‘s Greg Barns. He explained how the ‘security’ fence was cutting Jerusalem in half, examined the Israeli dehumanisation of Palestinians in daily life, and articulated the great unspoken truth in the Western hemisphere: Zionism has created a monster and must be dismantled.

Alongside Israel’s internal struggles lies the country’s strategic position with America. It is increasingly clear that Iran is perceived as a ‘problem’ and needs to be dealt with. But how? The current spy scandal engulfing AIPAC, Israel’s premier lobby group in Washington – involving two former senior staffers, a Pentagon official and the sharing of classified information about Iran and Iraq – remains virtually ignored in the world’s media.

The real story is Israel’s possible attack on Iran, essentially as America’s proxy. With America bogged down in Iraq, the neo-conservatives have planned on using Israel to take out an enemy they’d both like destroyed. On 13 March, the London Times reported that, ‘the inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon gave “initial authorisation” for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert.’ Why is it so difficult to discuss and acknowledge Israel’s profound role in shaping and moulding American foreign policy?

Recently deceased British politician Robin Cook wrote in 2004 that, ‘we would have made more progress against terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq.’ The world refused to listen and Israel now sits on the precipice, implosion a heartbeat away.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.