By Bill Van Auken - The Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza is a war crime for which not only the government of Israel but also that of the United States bears full responsibility.
The relentless bombing campaign, which in its first 48 hours has left at least 300 dead and 1,000 wounded, is a deliberate slaughter of innocent civilians and an act of state terror. The toll of casualties, many of them women and children, is certain to rise. As Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz put it, "This is only the beginning."
The pretense that this assault is an act of retaliation for the recent scattered rocket attacks that have been carried out against Israeli territory from inside Gaza is preposterous. Israel, with the collaboration of Washington, has been preparing the current bombing campaign and threatened ground assault for months, under the cover of the supposed cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas-led administration.
"These people are nothing but thugs," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who insisted that Israel was only acting to "defend itself" against "terrorists."
This is the official story that is largely echoed by the mass media and endorsed by the leadership of the Democratic Party.
Few bother to point out that not a single Israeli was killed by the homemade rockets that supposedly justified Israel launching its Gaza bombardments and killing 300 (one Israeli died in a rocket attack afterwards.) Such a disproportionate response is hardly an aberration. During the last eight years, barely a score of Israelis have died in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. During the same period, Israeli forces have killed nearly 5,000 Palestinians.
Nor is there much concern over the fact that Israel chose to launch its bombing in the most crowded and desperately poor urban area on the face of the earth precisely at the hour that schoolchildren were making their way home. Under these conditions, ritualistic US statements urging Israel to "avoid civilian casualties" amount to mocking the victims.
Having maligned an entire people as "thugs," the White House has given the green light for a bloodbath. More importantly, it has provided the indispensable resources for carrying out this crime, assuring Israel more than $3 billion a year in US military aid and supplying the IDF with the deadly tools of its trade—F-16 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, TOW and Hellfire missiles and the fuel and spare parts needed to keep them in operation.
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