Event Title

Historical Record and Narratives of Israel's Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) in Gaza

Presenter Information

Thomas Cohn, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 243

Start Date

4-27-2018 11:00 AM

End Date

4-27-2018 12:20 PM

Abstract

This paper investigates competing narratives of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) in Gaza. Israel asserts it disengaged from Gaza in 2005, then Hamas seized power and launched rocket attacks. Israel claims that after years of forbearance, it defended itself militarily, trying to minimize collateral damage, but Hamas hid behind civilians, creating numerous non-combatant casualties. Contradicting this narrative are statements by individual Israeli policymakers and military personnel, as well as by expert, respectable sources including news media, development and human rights organizations, and United Nations agencies. This paper therefore finds that Israel’s narrative did not reflect facts on the ground. The Gaza disengagement exacerbated the longstanding economically crippling “closure” of Gaza and Palestine’s territorial fragmentation long designed to prevent statehood. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority was already corrupt. Hamas, which had declared its anti-Semitic charter obsolete and accepted a Palestinian state on the international border, won election in this political-economic context. Hamas preempted a U.S.-backed Fatah coup attempt. Israel imposed a blockade, creating a humanitarian crisis. Israel refused Hamas’s diplomatic initiatives for months before agreeing to a ceasefire stipulating cessation of Hamas rocket fire and easement of the blockade. Despite Hamas’s compliance, Israel violated the ceasefire on spurious grounds, a modus operandi since the 1950s of intentional provocations eliciting enemy retaliation, creating a war pretext in pursuit of strategic interests. Upon Hamas’s retaliation, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, condemned by the U.N. Fact-Finding Commission as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”—a more accurate conclusion.

Keywords:

Gaza, Gaza disengagement, Israel, Hamas, Operation Cast Lead, Israel Defense Forces (IDF), policymakers, closure, blockade, siege, civilians, civilian infrastructure, human rights, human shields, international law, war crimes, diplomacy, negotiations, ceasefire, disproportionate, indiscriminate, Asa Kasher doctrine, Dahiya doctrine, racism, impunity, modus operandi

Notes

Session I, Panel 3 - Political | Confrontations
Moderator: Zeinab Abul-Magd, Associate Professor of History and Chair of International Studies

Major

Politics

Advisor(s)

Eve Sandberg, Politics

Project Mentor(s)

Eve Sandberg, Politics

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Apr 27th, 11:00 AM Apr 27th, 12:20 PM

Historical Record and Narratives of Israel's Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) in Gaza

King Building 243

This paper investigates competing narratives of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) in Gaza. Israel asserts it disengaged from Gaza in 2005, then Hamas seized power and launched rocket attacks. Israel claims that after years of forbearance, it defended itself militarily, trying to minimize collateral damage, but Hamas hid behind civilians, creating numerous non-combatant casualties. Contradicting this narrative are statements by individual Israeli policymakers and military personnel, as well as by expert, respectable sources including news media, development and human rights organizations, and United Nations agencies. This paper therefore finds that Israel’s narrative did not reflect facts on the ground. The Gaza disengagement exacerbated the longstanding economically crippling “closure” of Gaza and Palestine’s territorial fragmentation long designed to prevent statehood. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority was already corrupt. Hamas, which had declared its anti-Semitic charter obsolete and accepted a Palestinian state on the international border, won election in this political-economic context. Hamas preempted a U.S.-backed Fatah coup attempt. Israel imposed a blockade, creating a humanitarian crisis. Israel refused Hamas’s diplomatic initiatives for months before agreeing to a ceasefire stipulating cessation of Hamas rocket fire and easement of the blockade. Despite Hamas’s compliance, Israel violated the ceasefire on spurious grounds, a modus operandi since the 1950s of intentional provocations eliciting enemy retaliation, creating a war pretext in pursuit of strategic interests. Upon Hamas’s retaliation, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, condemned by the U.N. Fact-Finding Commission as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”—a more accurate conclusion.