Time is short to head off catastrophe in southern Gaza

Tents for displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis

Israel could next devastate southern Gaza, already damaged by the apartheid military’s onslaught, if bombing resumes this week.

Yasser Qudih Xinhua News Agency

Time is short.

Just hours remain before Israel could start an all-out assault on southern Gaza.

If grassroots pressure doesn’t force President Joe Biden and the Democrats to rein in Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the warmongers around him, the last seven weeks may be surpassed by even greater horrors.

There’s no indication Biden will budge and insist this temporary ceasefire becomes permanent. Only two US senators have called for a ceasefire and just over 40 members of the House of Representatives.

Politico noted on 21 November that “there was some concern in the administration about an unintended consequence of the pause: that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”

That entry of journalists is vital, but it’s not happening.

A CNN journalist recently told me they’re trying to get in, but there’s no evidence of success. Nor is there any evidence that CNN will tell its viewers that Israel is denying entry, presumably because it doesn’t want the network to document the war crimes it has committed over the past seven weeks.

With these journalists not getting into Gaza during the first days of the pause, it’s less likely that pressure will be put on American politicians because there’s less evidence of what Israel has wrought with American weapons.
Even deputy national security adviser Jon Finer is very hesitant to address whether Israel has adhered to international law in Gaza.
The Biden administration is increasingly complicit.

Israel has hit more than “15,000 targets” in just seven weeks, including with 1,000 and 2,000-pound bombs in what The New York Times terms “liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas.”

The newspaper adds, “More than 60,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip, satellite analysis indicates, including about half of the buildings in northern Gaza.”

Civilians killed “at historic pace”

Palestinian civilians, according to The New York Times, are being killed in Israeli strikes at what experts say is a level with “few precedents in this century.” The newspaper headlines the article with “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace.”

That will only get worse if Biden is unwilling or unable to stop Netanyahu in the hours ahead of what would likely be a catastrophic invasion of Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Already 1.7 million people are displaced in Gaza. Where will these people go if Khan Younis and Rafah are also wiped out?

What are the chances of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians trying to get into Egypt as a consequence of heavy Israeli bombardment and talk by Israeli officials such as Avi Dichter, a government minister, of a “Gaza Nakba” based on the 1948 dispossession of 800,000 Palestinians?

The danger of ethnic cleansing remains very real.

Biden’s political mindset was set in the 1950s and early 1960s, before the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and even before his 1973 meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. He’s not proving capable of changing long-held beliefs and assimilating information well-known by younger voters about Israel’s policies of dispossession, occupation and apartheid.

Israeli government officials, including the prime minister, very much want to get back to the business of bombing Gaza and shooting Palestinian civilians.

If Israel’s war effort starts back up, the blame will fully rest on Israel and the US and their determination to wipe out not just Hamas but Gaza and Palestinians.

The Washington Post noted that “US officials are now using the pause to urge Israel to make its expected military operation in the south of Gaza, where nearly 2 million Palestinians are concentrated, more targeted and less deadly, according to two senior administration officials.”

Many current and former grassroots Democrats are going to have zero confidence in “targeted” Israeli strikes when they see them – once again – wiping out whole families in Khan Younis and Rafah.

Biden will be seen as caving, yet again, to the apartheid prime minister.

The American president reportedly said to five prominent Muslim American leaders telling him of the overwhelming loss of Palestinian life, “I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself.”

But those are words and not backed up by meaningful action. Short of a dramatic break with Israel over dispossession, occupation and apartheid wielded against Palestinians, Biden has lost a key component of his coalition.

Taking bold action on such matters, however, is not within Biden.

The dangers are very real when the US finds itself allied with and rearming an apartheid regime with a segregationist finance minister who supports epidemics in southern Gaza as a means of advancing Israel’s war aims.

Biden’s political instincts in backing Israel in wiping out much of Gaza will have profound long-term political consequences. This will be exacerbated if Biden doesn’t listen to grassroots Democrats in the days ahead.

According to The Washington Post, “Many senior officials fear Israel will not show restraint as it moves its operation to the south of Gaza and worry the longer the conflict goes on, the more harmful it will be for Biden politically and diplomatically.”

This is accurate and disastrous for Palestinians.

Biden doesn’t have the energy, political sense or moral compass to hold Israel to account in Gaza or the West Bank.

Why would he?

He has helped drive the carnage.

The death and misery in Gaza are inscribed with Biden’s name, now and forever.

Only a massive grassroots campaign and continued pushing on elected officials might save Biden from horrible political instincts and, more importantly, from ongoing support for Israeli war crimes.

Protecting Palestinians from the devastation Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich seek to rain down on Gaza, however, is not naturally within Biden.

Palestinians will pay a very heavy price – on top of the more than 14,000 already killed and thousands more thought to be buried under the rubble caused by Israeli bombardment – if there’s not a successful intervention with Biden in the days ahead.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.