There can be no doubt that the Israeli military onslaught on Gaza in 2014 was a crime against humanity. This widespread, systematic and prolonged assault killed more than 2,100 people and wounded over 10,500. Shamefully it also merely marked a continuation of the relentless, almost ritualistic, violent collective punishment against the Gazans.
At times this is a jarring account of the massacre of innocent people. Blumenthal does not shrink from documenting the obscenity of the Israeli attack, interviewing survivors and graphically cataloguing many of the atrocities which stained 51 days of intense violence that left no-one in Gaza unscathed. The two day barrage that obliterated most of Shejaiya and killed over 120 of its residents, an hour long artillery bombardment that eradicated Beit Hanoun, the destruction of Rafah, murder of 121 of its civilians and the systematic execution of Hebrew speaking Palestinians, are among the horrific examples of countless shocking Israeli military actions.
This valuable book also highlights incidents and events that seemingly escaped the mainstream narrative of the conflict, including the Hamas / Islamic Jihad pre-invasion peace proposals, promoting a 10 year truce with Israel and a request for international troops at borders, seaports and airports that were rejected by US Secretary of State Kerry and Egyptian President Sisi. Similarly unreported was the intense hand-to-hand fighting that followed the invasion of Shejaiya, when the Israeli forces suffered reverses.
Operation Protective Edge was not a war of armed force against armed force. Where it was Israel was beaten, but aerial bombardment and the resultant civilian massacre did not bring it success either. Despite pitiful official international support for Gaza, the most closely surveilled and intensely controlled area on earth, displayed no signs of submission. After 51 days of military onslaught there were even Gazan victory parades that celebrated its steadfastness.
As Blumenthal concludes, Israel cannot ensure long-term security until its neighbours are also able to live with freedom and dignity. The majority of Gazans are under 18 years old, growing up with little experience of anything more than the abject misery of military occupation, cyclical aerial bombardment and uninterrupted siege. A sense of global abandonment might have consumed Gaza but it also ignited the flames of rage and spreading radicalisation. This ghetto of children can perhaps be excused for setting the stage of the next conflict almost as soon as the curtains had closed on the last.
Originally published at The Morning Star