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  • Five Lessons Learned from the Israeli Attack on Gaza
  • Muhammad Ali Khalidi (bio)

Several months on, the dust has still not settled in Gaza, as people continue to sift through the rubble, mourn their loved ones, and try to reconstitute their shattered lives. The toll is familiar but hard to fathom: over 2,000 dead (including at least 500 children) and 11,000 wounded, not to mention billions of dollars in property damage. The world has moved on to new “crises”, but while the memory is still fresh, we owe it to the victims to reflect on the conflagration that took place in Gaza last summer. Here are five lessons that I have taken away from the conflict.

1. The security pretext for the Israeli offensive was a complete fabrication

If anyone thought for a moment that the periodic assaults on Gaza (2006, 2008–2009–2012, and now in 2014) had anything to do with Israeli security, the latest offensive has put that idea to rest. The successive attacks on Gaza demonstrate that after every “decisive” Israeli blow to the Palestinian militants, they simply rebuild their military capabilities and develop them more fully and upgrade them considerably. Anyone who thinks that the tunnels that Israel destroyed during the 2014 invasion will not be rebuilt within a matter of months is frankly delusional. The tunnels that will be dug again in the direction of Egypt will be used to provide much needed supplies for the population, as well as to resupply the militant groups. The tunnels that will be rebuilt in the direction of Israel will be used to carry out attacks on Israel--but only if there is a political decision taken to that effect. The only thing that has prevented Hamas and other groups from using the tunnels, which existed at least since 2005, to launch attacks against Israel before this current offensive is the political will to do so, rather than any Israeli security arrangements. Incidentally, these obvious facts also show why the separation wall that Israel has built to encircle the West Bank, cut it off from Jerusalem, and seize more Palestinian land has nothing to do with security, since Palestinian resistance groups can, if need be, scale the wall, dig tunnels underneath it, or otherwise bypass it.

2. The Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005 was merely a way of prolonging the occupation by other means

The “disengagement plan” undertaken by then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 was designed to continue the occupation of the Gaza Strip in a way that was more sustainable for the Israeli military establishment. The plan always called for maintaining complete control over Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters, borders, and entry and exit points. Israel also remained in charge of the electricity grid, water supply, and other infrastructure, such as telecommunications. The disengagement allowed the Israeli army to avoid basing large military units in Gaza to guard several heavily fortified settlements, with a total of around 6000 Israeli settlers. Relieved of this onerous duty, the Israeli military is now free to rule Gaza by remote control, cutting off water and power periodically, preventing people from exiting and entering at will (even at the Egyptian border), blocking basic supplies and everyday needs, and killing combatants and non-combatants alike with regular air strikes. In addition, with predictable regularity, the Israeli military unleashes its entire arsenal on innocent civilians in Gaza, leaving thousands dead and wounded each time. The withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005 has actually allowed Israel to tighten its military grip. The most recent offensive and the previous three attacks would have been unthinkable had a single Israeli settler remained in the Gaza Strip.

3. Israel requires a war every two or three years to test its arsenal

Like a shark that cannot survive when it ceases to swim, the Israeli military, armed to the teeth, and developing new armaments all the time, requires a war to test its capabilities. Israeli military technology is widely exported all over the world and to remain credible, it must be battle-tested. The Israeli military-industrial complex comprises some 150 companies with combined revenues of more than $3.5...

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