[News] Bombs Meant to "Send Gaza Back Decades"

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Tue Jan 20 13:45:27 EST 2009


January 20, 2009

Bombs Meant to "Send Gaza Back Decades"

Israel's Doctrine of Destruction



In the last days before Israel imposed a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza 
to avoid embarrassing the incoming Obama administration, it upped its 
assault, driving troops deeper into Gaza City, intensifying its 
artillery bombardment and creating thousands more displaced people.

Israel's military strategy in Gaza, even in what its officials were 
calling the "final act", followed a blueprint laid down during the 
Lebanon war more than two years ago.

Then, Israel destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure in a month of 
intensive air strikes. Even in the war's last few hours, as a 
ceasefire was being finalised, Israel fired more than a million 
cluster bombs over south Lebanon, apparently in the hope that the 
area could be made as uninhabitable as possible.

Similarly, Israel's destruction of Gaza continued with unrelenting 
vigour to the very last moment, even though according to reports in 
the Israeli media the air force exhausted what it called its "bank of 
Hamas targets" in the first few days of fighting.

The military sidestepped the problem by widening its definition of 
Hamas-affiliated buildings. Or as one senior official explained: 
"There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole 
spectrum because everything is connected and everything supports 
terrorism against Israel."

That included mosques, universities, most government buildings, the 
courts, 25 schools, 20 ambulances and several hospitals, as well as 
bridges, roads, 10 electricity generating stations, sewage lines, and 
1,500 factories, workshops and shops.

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah estimate the damage so 
far at $1.9 billion, pointing out that at least 21,000 residential 
apartment buildings need repairing or rebuilding, forcing 100,000 
Palestinians into refugeedom once again. In addition, 80 per cent of 
all agricultural infrastructure and crops were destroyed. The PA has 
described its estimate as "conservative".

None of this will be regretted by Israel. In fact the general 
devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been 
the offensive's unstated goal. Israel has sought the political, as 
well as military, emasculation of Hamas through the widespread 
destruction of Gaza's infrastructure and economy.

This is known as the "Dahiya Doctrine", named after a suburb of 
Beirut that was almost levelled during Israel's attack on Lebanon in 
summer 2006. The doctrine was encapsulated in a phrase used by Dan 
Halutz, Israel's chief of staff, at the time. He said Lebanon's 
bombardment would "turn back the clock 20 years".

The commanding officer in Israel's south, Yoav Galant, echoed those 
sentiments on the Gaza offensive's first day: the aim, he said, was 
to "send Gaza decades into the past".

Beyond these soundbites, Gadi Eisenkot, the head of Israel's northern 
command, clarified in October the practical aspects of the strategy: 
"What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in 
every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply 
disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction 
there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are 
military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan."

In the interview, Gen Eisenkot was discussing the next round of 
hostilities with Hizbollah. However, the doctrine was intended for 
use in Gaza, too.

Gabriel Siboni, a colonel in the reserves, set out the new "security 
concept" in an article published by Tel Aviv University's Institute 
of National Security Studies two months before the assault on Gaza. 
Conventional military strategies for waging war against states and 
armies, he wrote, could not defeat sub-national resistance movements, 
such as Hizbollah and Hamas, that have deep roots in the local population.

The goal instead was to use "disproportionate force", thereby 
"inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will 
demand long and expensive reconstruction processes".

Col Siboni identified the chief target of Israel's rampages as 
"decision makers and the power elite", including "economic interests 
and the centres of civilian power that support the [enemy] organisation".

The best Israel could hope for against Hamas and Hizbollah, Col 
Siboni conceded, was a ceasefire on improved terms for Israel and 
delaying the next confrontation by leaving "the enemy floundering in 
expensive, long-term processes of reconstruction".

In the case of Gaza's lengthy reconstruction, however, Israel says it 
hopes not to repeat the mistakes of Lebanon. Then, Hizbollah, aided 
by Iranian funds, further bolstered its reputation among the local 
population by quickly moving to finance the rebuilding of Lebanese 
homes destroyed by Israel.

According to the Israeli media, the foreign ministry has already 
assembled a task force for "the day after" to ensure neither Hamas 
nor Iran take the credit for Gaza's reconstruction.

Israel wants all aid to be be channelled either through the 
Palestinian Authority or international bodies. Sealing off Gaza, by 
preventing smuggling through tunnels under the border with Egypt, is 
an integral part of this strategy.

Much to Israel's satisfaction, the rebuilding of Gaza is likely to be 
even slower than might have been expected.

Diplomats point out that, even if western aid flows to the 
Palestinian Authority, it will make little effect if Israel maintains 
the blockade, curbing imports of steel, cement and money.

And international donors are already reported to be tired of funding 
building projects in Gaza only to see them destroyed by Israel a 
short time later.

With more than a hint of exasperation, Norway's foreign minister, 
Jonas Gahr Stoere, summed up the general view of donors last week: 
"Shall we give once more for the construction of something which is 
being destroyed, re-constructed and destroyed?"

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. 
His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, 
Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and 
"Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed 
Books). His website is <http://www.jkcook.net>www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National 
(<http://www.thenational.ae>www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

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