East Jerusalem-- New Year's Day
I wake up with a news hangover. Israeli jets are pounding Gaza for the sixth continuous day, and the IDF continues to build up its forces along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion. Olmert promises that more is on the way, yet Hamas remains defiant and has not lost its ability to launch rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities. Angry Arabs demonstrate in Arab capitals, while Arab League members only blow more hot air. Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Palestinian people...no one listens. Leader of Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, says that the resistance (Hamas) is already triumphing and Israel is doomed to failure despite its massive offensive on the Gaza Strip "because of resistance and steadfastness, because of rejecting compromises or surrender." The number of dead in Gaza reaches 400.
Members of the UN Security Council have ended an emergency meeting searching for the proper wording of a draft resolution. I don't know if I should laugh or cry; when did UN resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict make a difference- 181, 194, 242, 338 to name a few? Here in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and other Palestinian towns and villages, there are plenty of words members of the UNSC may want to borrow for their useless resolution: death, horror, and destruction. My New Year's resolution is not to pay attention to UN resolutions.
A Tale of Two Cities
In West Jerusalem, Israelis celebrated New Year's Eve with abandon. The rain did not stop partygoers from crowding cafés, hotels, and nightclubs. Throngs of young Israelis danced to electronica, modern Israeli rock and American pop. In East Jerusalem, celebrations to ring in the New Year were largely canceled. Most people stayed at home glued in front of television screens watching news reports and lamenting the future. Israel might claim Jerusalem as its eternal capital, but it remains a divided city.
Whether Israel accomplishes its objectives in Gaza or not, one thing is certain; the "all-out war on Gaza" will certainly finish Mahmoud Abbas. Since blaming rival faction Hamas for provoking the Israeli attacks, Abbas has been accused of colluding with Israel over the operations on Gaza. His message to Israel that he "would not hesitate to put negotiations to an end" is mocked in the Palestinian street. I have yet to meet someone who has something good to say about Abbas.
The War of Information
For those who have been following my ordeal with Beit Agron, the Israeli Government Press Office, I'm finally issued my "visiting journalist credentials" after additional security checks. I now do not have to practice underground journalism. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has launched a massive public relations campaign to justify its air offensive on Gaza. Israeli officials are well rehearsed in delivering their talking points to an attentive pool of foreign journalists.
"Israel's aim is to stop missile attacks from Gaza" and "Hamas broke the "hudna" (ceasefire)." An Israeli press spokesman quoted Obama when he visited Sderot and said "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that."
Arab media has been giving wall to wall coverage of the events in Gaza. Viewers watch in despair and mutter and curse while they clench their teeth. Images of the dead, many of them children, destroyed mosques and women wailing play in a loop. Angry pundits and guests denounce inept Arab leaders. Mobs setting the Israeli flag on fire. A call for mass demonstrations after this Friday's prayers echoes on several satellite networks. The Israeli government dispatches riot police at the entrances of the Old City. Tomorrow will be another bloody day.
"Go back to America and tell your government what your weapons are doing to us" an old acquaintance tells me angrily.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV