A new wave of hatred towards Palestine is sweeping through Israel from public figures to the man on the street. This hostility is in sharp contrast to efforts in Cairo, where Arab leaders and Western diplomats are trying to hammer out a peace plan.
While Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) official Nabil Sheath expressed hope Sunday night that negotiations would continue, very different noises were coming out of Israel.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Operation Pillar of Defense would continue and likely be expanded, a reference to the possibility that a ground offensive has already been given the go-ahead.
The war in Gaza “must be so painful and difficult that the terror groups will not think twice but a hundred times before they fire missiles against Israel again,” it was reported in The Israel National News.
“Destroy and damage infrastructure, public buildings and government buildings. We must make sure that Hamas will be spending many years rebuilding Gaza, and not attacking Israel,” he continued.
A few days ago he said, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, only then will Israel be calm for the next 40 years.”
His words were relatively mild compared to some of the comments that have been coming out of Israel in recent days.
Journalist, Gilad Sharon, the son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in an editorial in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday called for Gaza to be flattened like the US flattened the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 with an atomic bomb.
“We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,”ranted Sharon.
As the former Prime Minister’s son publicly urged the military to wipe Gaza off the map, a member of the Knesset and the National Unity Party, Michael Ben-Ari, called for Israeli soldiers to kill Gazans without thought or mercy.
“There are no innocents in Gaza, don’t let any diplomats who want to look good in the world endanger your lives – mow them down!” it was reported on the Hakol HaYehudi website.
He also told soldiers to ignore Goldstone; in reference to the UN commissioned Goldstone report on Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza, which found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Israel Katz, the country’s transport minister, has called “for Gaza to be bombed so hard the population has to flee into Egypt.” While Avi Dichter, the minster of home front defense, has urged the IDF to “reformat” Gaza – to wipe it clean with bombs.
Even religious leaders joined the fray, with a prominent Israeli rabbi, Yaakov Yosef, the son of former chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, in a sermon at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron blessed IDF soldiers while urging them “to learn from the Syrians how to slaughter the enemy.”
The Syrian army has come under widespread international criticism for indiscriminately shelling and bombing whole civilian areas.
Incitement to kill by Israeli rabbis is nothing new. In 2007 Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safad, urged Israel to kill a million Palestinians to stop the rocket fire from Gaza.
Regular Israeli citizens have also taken to the streets to almost gleefully express their racist hatred of the inhabitants of Gaza and other Arab states.
A group of Israelis demonstrating in Tel Aviv on Thursday night shouted “They don’t deserve to live, they need to die”, “May your children die” and “Now we want to go back there [Gaza] and kick out all the Arabs”.
While anti-war voices exist, they are in a minority and much of the population is firmly behind it.
Journalist Patrick Cockburn observed during a visit to Israel during the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza the siege mentality of Israeli society.
“Israeli society reminds me of the Unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s or the Lebanese Christians of the 1970’s. Like Israel, both were communities with a highly developed siege mentality, which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people.”
A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Paul Hirschon, vigorously defended Israeli’s actions to RT. When asked about the Interior Minister’s comments that “Gaza should be bombed into the middle ages” and this could mean destroying infrastructure, water supplies and therefore targeting an entire population, which amounts to a war crime, he replied, “That is absolutely not the case as to what is happening and I think you will agree with me that in 1,400 military strikes in the last week, with a tragic incident of 47 deaths, I think you’ll agree with me that the Israeli army is taking every possible step to avoid civilian casualties.”
But Hamas is undaunted by the bombs. Osama Hamden, the director of Hamas’s international affairs, told the Al-Jadeed Satellite channel, “The Palestinians are not in a rush for a truce; we are accustomed to such attacks.”
Insults and threats between the two sides are traded as freely as the bombs and missiles. After the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) twitter warning that, “No Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”
The Alqassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, hit back with, “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers whereever you are (you opened the gates of hell on yourselves)”
But there is a crucial difference between them. Hamas is a militant organization, which many in the world see as terrorist. Israel, however, is a civilized democracy and a rich developed nation and so the hyperbole and venom coming from the mouths of its leaders seems that much more shocking.