Here’s a headline from Israel Today that you didn’t see in many local papers: ‘US, Australia back Gaza strike; rest of the world doesn’t.’

Yes, another Coalition of the Willing has been assembled and, yes, once again we’ve enrolled in its lonely ranks.

The Australian army won’t, of course, see action in Gaza but then the service John Howard provided for George Bush was always far more political than military. Australian support added a veneer of legitimacy to Bush’s illegal invasion – and, as the Israeli press notes, that’s the part Gillard’s playing now.

In fact, with most of the world erupting in anti-war demonstrations, if you close your eyes, it might be 2003 all over again.

The attack on Gaza began with what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz inevitably described as ‘shock and awe’. Once more, we were told that high-tech wonder weapons would surgically separate the belligerents from the combatants. Once more, this proved utter nonsense. Despite Israel’s exclusion of foreign journalists from Gaza, we know that the IDF has attacked a university, a school, a mosque, many civilian police stations, a television station, the Palestinian parliament, the ministry of education, the ministry of housing, and the ministry of foreign affairs.

As with Iraq, the military campaign follows a crippling regime of sanctions, the effects of which were largely ignored by the Western press. Famously, in 1996, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when confronted by the figure of half million Iraqi children dead because of the blockade, responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” The Israelis arrived at the same calculation about Gaza where, even before the attacks, Palestinians were suffering from malnutrition. As to their state now, well, you can either believe Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (there is, she says, “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”) or Amnesty International (“The health sector in Gaza lacks equipment, medicine and expertise at the best of times and has been further depleted due to the prolonged Israeli blockade. It is now completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with the large number of casualties.”)

The conventional narrative about Gaza holds that Hamas provoked the crisis, flouting a ceasefire and increasing its rocket launches in early December. Like the dog-and-pony show about Iraqi WMDs, this is entirely misleading. As Jeremy Hammond notes, in reality, the ceasefire actually came to an end on 4 November because, with the media’s attention focused on the US elections, Israel launched an airstrike into Gaza that killed five Palestinians.

Perhaps more importantly, though it’s rarely acknowledged in the Western media, for some time now Hamas has indicated that it would accept a two-state solution. In April this year, MSNBC reported the following:

The leader of Hamas said Monday that his Palestinian militant group would offer Israel a 10-year “hudna,” or truce, as implicit proof of recognition of Israel if it withdrew from all lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

Khaled Mashaal told The Associated Press that he made the offer to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in talks on Saturday. “We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition,” Mashaal said.

In his comments Monday, Mashaal used the Arabic word “hudna,” meaning truce, which is more concrete than “tahdiya” – a period of calm – which Hamas often uses to describe a simple cease-fire. “Hudna” implies a recognition of the other party’s existence.

As recently as 23 December, Hamas was still making similar offers.

Hamas would consider renewing a lapsed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, but wants guarantees the Jewish state will halt incursions and keep border crossings open for supplies of aid and fuel, a spokesman said today.

One doesn’t have to admire Hamas’ political philosophy or strategic orientation to recognize that it’s not an amorphous expression of innate evil, firing missiles at Israel just for the hell of it. Given that the blockade of Gaza has been condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and just about every reputable human rights organisation in the world, Hamas’ insistence on the opening of the border as a precondition of peace seems entirely reasonable. But, in 2003, we were told that Saddam refused admission to weapons inspectors (when in fact they were withdrawn by Richard Butler), and today we hear constantly that Hamas that makes negotiations impossible.

There’s a final comparison between Iraq and Gaza, and it’s even more important. More than anything, the invasion of Iraq re-accustomed the Western world to colonial violence on a massive scale, not simply because it resulted in the deaths of perhaps a million people but also because the day-to-day business of an occupation necessarily normalizes brutality, with Abu Ghraib merely the most overt example. Defending the indefensible in Iraq steeled a generation of apologists to accept a hitherto unthinkable level of cruelty – so long as it was inflicted on Arabs.

Today, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald draws attention to Michael Goldfarb, the editor of the Weekly Standard (an American version of Quadrant), writing about Israel’s assassination of a Hamas leader.

The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.

In September, President Bush lectured the United Nations on terrorism. “No cause,” he said, “can justify the deliberate taking of innocent human life”. The naïve might think that killing little children fits his description exactly, even if their father belongs to Hamas. But that would be to miss the point.

What the world learned from Iraq is that Arabs don’t count. And that’s what we’re seeing again in Gaza.