The real objective behind the Gaza invasion in 2014 was two-fold. It was aimed at destroying Palestinian unity and deflecting US pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians.

The long-term Israeli goal was to de-populate Gaza by emptying it of Palestinians. This was in keeping with the overall Israeli policy of de-Palestinization which referred to a process of deliberate and methodical killing of Palestinians, destruction of their infrastructure, and confiscation of their land. In the occupied West Bank, this policy was pursued by systematically building a racist, apartheid regime through a separation wall, fast-paced Jewish settlements, total control over water resources and the economy, depriving the Palestinians of their political, social, economic, and cultural rights. The strategy was to create a situation that would psychologically terrorize the Palestinians to leave Palestine or to live as a colonized people to serve the colonial power at the cost of their independent identity and legitimate rights as a nation. In Gaza, Israel pursued the objective by carrying out periodic military invasions of the densely populated and impoverished region. Crushing of the armed resistance, represented by Hamas and Islamic Jihad (IJ), was the most convenient tool. The Israeli objective was to destabilize and delegitimize Hamas in the eyes of its supporters and demonize it before the international community. Without Hamas, the Israeli right wing thought , the Gazans would be left with only two options: either leave the territory or submit to Israeli rule. Ironically, the Gazans decided neither to leave nor to accept Israeli subjugation; they decided to stay in Gaza and resist Israeli rule even while living under subhuman conditions due to the decade-long blockade. However, by consistently focusing on Hamas as a mortal threat to the security of Israel and branding it as a terrorist organization before the international community, particularly the West, Israel was able to scuttle, rather than sabotage, the peace process.

Another un-declared but related objective, which was common to all Israeli military operations in Gaza in the post-2007 phase, can be called the strategic weakening or staggered crushing of the armed Palestinian resistance, represented predominantly by Hamas and its importance in the Palestinian national movement. Israel, which has awesome military superiority and is fully backed by successive US administrations, could always crush Hamas in one go by completely eliminating its leadership and the entire infrastructure. It did not want to do this for two reasons: 1) it was somewhat worried about the American public opinion (not so much about International Law and International Humanitarian Law, much less world opinion) which was becoming increasingly critical of Israeli handling of occupied Palestinian territory since the 1987 Palestinian intifada; and 2) more importantly, the total crushing of Hamas would force the Israeli leadership to negotiate meaningfully with the Palestinian Authority. Because, then, the argument that Israel did not have a negotiating partner would not hold ground. Moreover, by crushing Hamas fully, Israel would lose its bogey of terrorism and security as the Abbas-led PA had completely renounced armed resistance in favor of negotiation. Further, keeping Hamas alive served the Israeli game of keeping the Palestinians divided and fighting with each other. Therefore, the basic objective of all the Israeli military operations was not to punish/finish Hamas as much as to punish the ordinary Palestinians so that the Palestinians either leave Gaza or perish there in suffering and humiliation. There was also the issue of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return which Israel rejects outright.

The 2014 operation was a well-thought-out military strategy by the Netanyahu government to send a clear message to the Palestinians in general and those living in Gaza in particular: surrender to Israeli occupation or suffer the IDF brutality or leave Palestine. The corollary dimension of this continual and excessive focus on a militaristic approach toward Hamas in Gaza was to put the security narrative at the center stage of international, especially Western, debate over the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Such a security narrative, spearheaded by the Israeli State, not only sought to justify the IDF’s brutal methods against innocent, unarmed, and highly vulnerable Palestinian civilians as “legitimate means of self-defense” but also to completely undermine and delegitimize the Palestinians’ right to resist Israeli occupation. Because the Palestinian nationalist aspirations challenge the very foundation on which the right-wing and ultra-right-wing forces have maintained their dominance over Israeli politics and state since the second intifada. By seeking the limelight on the “Hamas-sponsored terrorist threat” from Gaza, the Israeli State conveniently used it as a cover to carry out its colonial practices in the West Bank – creeping encroachment of Palestinian land, building new settlements and expanding the existing ones, inflicting daily suffering on the Palestinians through various restrictions and many forms of collective punishment, encouraging settler vigilantism, strengthening its stranglehold on East Jerusalem, etc.

The consequences of the 2014 invasion were devastating for the Palestinians in terms of loss of lives, the traumatic experience of those who survived and witnessed the indiscriminate killing of their near and dear ones, the infrastructural damage and destruction, the further impoverishment of the Gazans, and so on and so forth. The invasion also underlined Israel’s mastery over various forms of collective punishment against the Palestinians in total violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention. These aspects were largely neglected by the Western media which sought to overemphasize the Israeli narrative and thereby granting a degree of legitimacy to the extreme right-wing agenda pursued by the Netanyahu government vis-à-vis the Palestinians. This naturally put Hamas at a great disadvantage in garnering support for its legitimate right to resist Israeli occupation and the crippling siege of Gaza for almost a decade. In fact, the branding of Hamas as a “terrorist organization” by the US and European countries emboldened Israel to continue with its militaristic policy against Gaza with impunity. The blanket US support, in particular, sustained and, in a way, justified brazen Israeli aggression against Gaza.

Targeting the Hamas has been largely a tactic of Israel’s broad strategy of crushing Palestinian resistance in any form. Therefore, the real issue is not Hamas per se but the message and the spirit it represents in the Palestinians’ long struggle against Israeli occupation. If Hamas gets crushed by Israel’s brute military force in due course, or moderates itself by bringing fundamental changes in its Charter, or gets marginalized in Palestinian politics, there could be another organization to take its place to carry out the resistance against Israel as years of peace negotiation has brought no concrete gains for the Palestinians. Therefore, the core issue is Israeli occupation vs. Palestinian resistance. To put it differently, as long as the Israeli occupation remains Palestinian resistance will be there. Israel’s military operations against Gaza, including the one in 2014, are but attempts to divert the attention of the international community from that core issue under the grab of “Hamas terrorism vs. Israeli security.” Prolonged reliance on such diversionary tactics, without resolving the core issue, may ultimately backfire and harm, rather than benefit the Israeli State and society.


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