OPERATION CAST LEAD, the latest in a series of brutal Israeli military actions against the Gaza Strip that began even before it was occupied during the 1967 war, differed from previous actions in the particularly savage nature of the attack and the vastly disproportionate nature of the forces and weapons used. The 1,400 Palestinian dead, most of them civilians, not to mention the staggering devastation revealed when Israel finally had to allow journalists into the Strip after it ended the assault, had a powerful impact on international and Arab opinion. Unfortunately, the shock of the assault was not sufficient to overcome the venomous split between the Fatah-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas government that took over the Strip by force in July 2007. Indeed, the contrast between the destitution and misery of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip (induced by the assault and Israel’s ongoing blockade) and the (entirely relative) calm and prosperity of the West Bank under Israeli occupation and PA governance may have been intended to deepen the chasm between the two territories.
The magnitude of the operation in Gaza and its repercussions (known and as yet unknown) led the Journal of Palestine Studies to devote a greatly expanded issue to the assault, including an unprecedented 150-page Special Focus that we hope will serve as both reference and record of Operation Cast Lead for researchers and other readers. The special section includes timelines, statistical indicators, a history of Israeli operations against Gaza since 2000, detailed surveys of the armaments of both sides, meticulous casualty lists, and a careful selection of press commentary and analysis highlighting major issues involved in the war and its prosecution. One of our major goals in offering this supplemental section has been to help readers see the operation within its historical context.
Most of the articles and features of this issue also relate to Operation Cast Lead in one way or another. Former MK Azmi Bishara’s long interview highlights in particular the war’s relationship to Israel’s political system and the predicament of the PA. Arms expert Frida Berrigan’s study of U.S. military aid to Israel inevitably addresses the operation, while anthropologist-historian Ilana Feldman uses Gaza as a case study for unintended consequences of humanitarian aid. Journalist Hisham Naffa‘ and political analyst Robert Blecher provide firsthand reports on how the war played out, respectively, in Israel’s Palestinian community and in the West Bank—two issues almost entirely ignored by the U.S. press. Even political geographer Oren Yiftachel’s analysis of Israel’s February Knesset elections touches on Cast Lead’s impact on the vote. Finally, most of the documents of the quarter have direct bearing on the operation.
—Rashid I. Khalidi