An Examination of Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire Agreements

  Exemplified by Pillar of Cloud, November 14 to November 22, 2012

and the Ceasefire Process Surrounding It

by Betsy Wolf-Graves

A candid look at the most recent attack by the Israeli Defense Forces on Gaza shows how Israel’s well-oiled propaganda machine manipulates the public perception of events

The attack was given the name “Pillar of Cloud”, derived from the biblical story of a pillar of cloud protecting the Israelites as they traveled across the desert. An examination of what Israel means by ”ceasefire”, will identify actual happenings which have been skillfully hidden from the mainstream media.

The Anomalous Definition of Ceasefire

The concept of ceasefire is part of a strategy conceived by Israel to be disseminated among the western media to maintain the belief that Israel has to defend itself from Arab aggression.

Any army should be prepared. Israeli Defense forces are no exception.  Where Israel may differ from other military is that Israel has developed a scenario with its well-equipped forces that puts the Palestinians and the rest of the world on notice that Israel will always be in control.[1]

“Ceasefire” between Israel and Gaza is a term masking the stranglehold that Israel has upon that small, overpopulated strip. Israel controls the air, the sea bordering Gaza as well as access and egress by land. Gaza has been called “the world’s largest outdoor penitentiary.”

Israel apparently does not take ceasefires seriously. Witness its aggressive actions after the signing of a ceasefire. The Palestinians attempt to follow the spirit of the ceasefire (what option do they have?) The response of the Israeli military is their answer: the Palestinians have no partner for peace. An example might be the Israeli attack on Gazans after a peace agreement was brokered by Egypt in 2008. [2]

Israel’s Public Information Strategy

The Israeli public information corps is prepared to contact all the influential mainstream news sources in the U S and the European Union to promote its interests. The public information officer with whom I am most familiar is Mark Regev. He is described in Wikipedia as “the international spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel, a position he has held since 2007. He has been called by The Guardian as Israel’s Master of Public Relations”.

The success of Israel’s propaganda campaign is expressed at the highest level. President Obama rightfully condemned the attacks on Israeli civilians by rockets coming from Gaza[3]

He was totally silent regarding attacks on civilians by the Israeli forces.  Does this mean that the blackout on such information reaches all the way up to the presidency or did the president purposely ignore the information?

Is more balanced reporting available?  The answer is, “Yes”.  Examples might be the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and occasionally, the Israeli paper, Haaretz. In addition there are regular reports from both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. These groups reach only a small fraction of the targeted population when compared to the reach of MSNBC, FOX News, CBS. and even the New York Times.

The anatomy of situations leading up to a ceasefire can be described in this manner:  the Israeli military maintains a steady harassment of the Gazan population in various ways: shooting at farmers attempting to work their fields, attacking and arresting fisherman or confiscating their boats, maintaining a steady stream of drones and other  aircraft in the skies over Gaza.  Pummeled to despair by this barrage that creates great trauma among the population, the Gazans retaliate with rocket fire into Israeli territory.  At this point western media is alerted to the fact that rockets are being launched against Israel from Gaza. The next step comes from Israel as it launches an enormous attack against Gaza and its population, maintaining that it is forced to do so to protect Israeli citizens. This is roughly the genesis of operations such as Cast Lead, late December, 2008 to middle of January, 2009 and the more recent, Pillar of Cloud, November 14 through the 21, 2012.

The next section shows that, contrary to the Israeli version, of Palestinians endangering Israeli lives without any reason, there is a context of violence against the population of Gaza before the formal attack by Israel, during the attack and after. The information is taken from the raw reports released by various groups.

 The Actual Situation Surrounding Pillar of Cloud in Four Parts

Part 1: October 2012: One month prior to Pillar of Cloud, Israeli attacks on Gaza resulted in the following:

  • 8 adult civilians killed by Israeli fire:
  • 24 civilians injured by Israeli fire:including a mother and her four children, plus five other children.
  • 6 boatloads of fishermen attacked by Israeli warships:
  • 4 fishermen arrested:
  • 2 incidents of boats confiscated.by military.
  • Boats confiscated:  2 incidents
  • Farmers attacked:  2 groups as they were attempting to harvest olives
  • Farmland attacked: At least 28 incidents of heavy artillery were directed at farmland; bulldozers were also used* Civilians living near these areas were also threatened.
  • Groups attacked:  Children coming home from school were shot at from Israeli planes.

Also targeted were agricultural workers and 2 people on a motorcycle.

Some villages were subjected to hours-long pounding by aircraft.  Mention of specific locations under Israeli missile attacks: Khan Younis and a neighborhood near Gaza City.

Buildings targeted: abandoned Gaza airport, minarets of three mosques, a warehouse, a kindergarten, a family residence, the building housing the International Federation of Association Football, a religious school, five other schools, an entertainment complex, a newly built home, greenhouses.

It is evident that the IOF was focused on attacking food sources for Gazans, namely their fish and their crops.In one small town its only bakery was destroyed.  Gaza’s skies are continually filled with drones and other aircraft, likely to shoot at any minute, creating a stressful environment for the people who live, work and go to school in Gaza.

Some of the issues of livelihood have to do with the limits on Gazans’ fishing rights.  The Oslo Accords granted the Gazans rights to fish within 20 nautical miles of their territory. After Operation Cast Lead, December 2009, fishing limits were set at three miles.  Within the ceasefire agreement after the recent November attack, Pillar of Cloud, the approved area was six nautical miles. The agreement took on a life of its own with the dominant power determining what a ceasefire should look like.[4]

Part 2 November 4-14 Period immediately preceding Pillar of Cloud

  •  November 4 An unarmed, mentally disabled male shot and killed by IDF because he strayed too close to buffer zone.
  • November 8  A 13-year old boy playing soccer in front of his home shot and killed by IDF forces.
  • November 9  Eight civilians killed by air and ground IDF forces:  5 adults and three children who also had been playing soccer. (This may have been in response to two rockets fired into Israel which injured four Israeli soldiers)
  • November 14  Assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmad Al-Jabari who was purportedly carrying a draft of a permanent peace agreement with Israel with mechanisms for maintaining a ceasefire.. Also killed was his assistant, Mohammed Al-Hums. An Israeli missile had struck their car as they were driving down a quiet residential street.[5]

Part 3 November 14- 22 Pillar of Cloud

Estimates of Gazans killed or wounded from Nov.14 to Nov. 22:  Between 158 and 177 Palestinians died in the operation. 40 to 103 were identified as civilians. An additional 1,200-1,300 Palestinians were injured, Mohammad Omer, in his article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2013, identified 175 deaths from Operation Pillar of Defense.

Specific Incidents:

19 people, including five children and a pregnant teenager, were killed over two days of nearly nonstop aerial attacks by Israel.  Dozens were wounded.

The single deadliest strike[of the entire operation, (which Israel said was intentional), killed ten members of the al-Dalu family, including five children, in their home, plus two of the family’s neighbors, destroying several houses in the process.[6]

Palestinian Media targeted by Israeli Forces

During the eight-day time period of the war, two Palestinian cameramen, were killed and at least  10 media workers were injured. Four media offices were damaged as well as the offices of four private companies. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building[7]

Pillar of Cloud Palestinian casualties from the Palestine Center for Human rights:

  •  156 Palestinians, including 103 civilians were killed
  • 33 children, 13 women and 3 journalists were among those civilians who were killed.
  • 1,000 Palestinians, including 971 civilians, were wounded.

(including 247 children, 162 women and 12 journalists)

  • IOF carried out 1,350 airstrikes, in which 1,400 missiles were launched.
  • 55 houses were completely destroyed, while hundreds of other houses sustained damages ranging between big damage and partial damage.
  • 2 mosques were completely destroyed, while another 34 mosques sustained partial or big damage.
  • 8 governmental establishments, 13 security offices and police stations, and 2 bridges connecting the central Gaza Strip with the northern Gaza Strip were destroyed.
  • 6 media offices, 6 health institutions, 28 educational institutions and 22 civil and charity associations were targeted.
  • Much agricultural land sustained heavy damage.[8]

Fishermen arrested and attacked by Israeli Forces

Thursday, 22 November 2012, 29 fishermen were arrested while out at sea. [9]

Israeli Casualties from November 14 to November 22, 2012:

Israelis killed between November 14 and 22:  4 Israeli civilians and 2 soldiers.

Three Israeli civilians, including a pregnant woman, were killed on Thursday (Nov. 15) in Kiryat Malachi, a small southern Israeli town, when a rocket fired from Gaza struck their apartment house.

Israelis injured same time period: 240.[10]

 Note: The discrepancies in the various totals are based on how casualties are interpreted and what cut-off dates are used.  One source may count deaths by “friendly fire” while others ignore them. Some may count wounded who later died. Others may count casualties from earlier unexploded ordnance.

Part 4, the Situation of Gazans from November 22 through November 30, 2013:

(Commentary on the following Ceasefire Agreement signed by both Israel and Gaza November 21, 2012)

Understanding Regarding Ceasefire in Gaza Strip

1.a. Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.
b. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks, and all attacks along the border.
c. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements, and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
d. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2. Implementation Mechanism:
a. Setting up the zero hour for the Ceasefire Understanding to enter into effect.
b. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
c. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations, Egypt – as the sponsor of this understanding – shall be informed to follow up.

Authored and distributed by: Office of the Egyptian president  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense

 Israeli Forces killed a Palestinian civilian in the southern Gaza Strip.

5 Palestinians died of wounds sustained earlier, including one woman, who died of wounds they had sustained in the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

42 civilians, including 7 children, were wounded along various border fences on farmland in the Gaza Strip that the ceasefire agreement agreed belonged to Palestinians.

Israeli Forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israel has continued to isolate the Gaza Strip from the outside world.[11]

 Total casualties reported for month of November 2012

DATE_________________________________DAILY TOTAL_________________CUMULATIVE TOTAL
1-13/11/2012______________________________9____________________________9
14/11_____________________________________8___________________________17
15/11____________________________________11___________________________28
16/11____________________________________12___________________________40
17/11____________________________________16___________________________56
18/11____________________________________24___________________________80
19/11____________________________________37__________________________117
20/11____________________________________29__________________________146
21-30/11_________________________________45*_________________________191
___________________________TOTAL______191 http[12]

By compiling an inventory of casualties from one Israeli incursion, we hope that a more comprehensive picture has been produced underscoring what it means to be a Palestinian in a land where Palestinians are obviously not wanted. For better or worse, it also happens to be their homeland. We also demonstrate that the treacherous machinations of Israeli governments can directly influence the actions of U S officials.

Will any ceasefire hold?  Is there hope for success with ceasefires?  The answer, unfortunately, is “Probably not.” The reason is clear if we look at the history of Israel since its beginnings as a state. Early on, David Ben-Gurion, identified as the father of the State of Israel, wrote to his son that he did not see any problem with accepting the partition of Palestine as he did not feel constrained to stay within those borders but predicted that the Jewish state would include all of Palestine.[13]

Are Palestinians the only victims of this painful drama?  It is not logically possible.  The other actor, the Israeli government and population, is also a victim in this ongoing tragedy.  Just as the Israeli government defines Palestinians as less than human, it is also defining its own culture as bereft of the ability to develop a humanistic solution to its problems. Therefore it seems stuck in a no-man’s land of stereotyped action and reaction.  Ironically this has less to do with the unfortunate Palestinians who happen to be in the way than to Israel’s knee jerk reaction to monsters of its own making.  This is not a promising future for young Israeli children unless they find their way, not out of the Pillar of Cloud but out of the Pillar of Hatred.

[1] Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008) – See more at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-invasion-of-gaza-operation-cast-lead-part-of-a-broader-israeli-military-intelligence-agenda/11606#sthash.wKHglv1J.dpuf

[3] Obama Speaks to Israeli Egyptian Leaders about Gaza Violence. Articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-14/news/sns-rt-us-palestinians-israel-obamabre8ae050-20121114_1_president-mursi-israel-and-hamas-militants-hamas-military-commander

[4] “.Mohammad Omer, an award-winning journalist, was asked to describe the situation in Gaza in the month prior to Israel’s 8-day attack. The data presented was pulled from the information he provided. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2013 pp. 20-21 also

[5] Hating the Oppressed in Gaza, Rania Khalek, Extra, the magazine of FAIR, January, 2013, pp. 11-12

[6].  In Gaza, There’s Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide, Mohammad Omer, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2013, pp 15-16.

[7] Unlawful Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Media, Missiles Kill Two Media Workers, Toddler; 10 Wounded. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/20/israelgaza-unlawful-israeli-attacks-palestinian-media

[8] Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (14 -21 Nov. 2012), Thursday, 22 November 2012, Palestine Center for Human Rights  http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9045:weekly-report-on-israeli-human-rights-violations-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory-14-21-nov-2012&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183

[11] Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (22 -29 Nov. 2012), Thursday, 29 November 2012, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9072:weekly-report-on-israeli-human-rights-violations-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory-22-29-nov-2012&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183

[12] MOH final report on Gaza deaths, wounded 01-30 November 2012://todayingaza.wordpress.com/tag/operation-pillar-of-cloud/

[13] The Iron Wall, Shlaim ,Avi, P. 19.  Also Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 7th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 138-140.

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