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By Jason Michael
After it has been softened up by a relentless bombardment of airstrikes and laser guided missile attacks, the Palestinian city of Gaza — one of the most populated cities on earth — is right now feeling the full force of an Israeli ground assault. Once again the world is up in arms; governments leaping to the defence of the State of Israel and their people screaming at the grotesque injustice being inflicted on the defenceless Palestinian people. Always it is the same, western states taking the side of the aggressor and ordinary working people appalled at the behaviour of Israel and at the suffering being endured by its victims.
The outrage is all the more acutely felt because of the guilt and silence imposed on us by the propaganda of this nasty little expansionist white settle-colonial outpost in the Middle East. So much of what we want to say, words of anger arising from our frustration at having to once again be powerless witnessed to the slaughter, is denied to us — and some of it rightly so, but not all of it. We are not, for example, allowed to speak of the Jewishness of this aggression. This is not Jewish aggression. This is the aggression of the State of Israel. But Israel deliberately muddies the waters by defining itself as ‘the Jewish state,’ stating that its right as a state to self-determination is ‘unique to the Jewish people.’ Whatever way we cut it, then, and no matter what Jews around the world say to the contrary, Israel makes this state and its behaviour about Jews and Jewishness.
Always it is the same, western states taking the side of the aggressor and ordinary working people appalled at the behaviour of Israel and at the suffering being endured by its victims.
By no stretch is this fair on Jewish people. It is not fair on Israelis. But this is what Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has done — it has legislated into existence a Jewish racialised ethno-state, which is in reality only the legal stamp of approval on what has existed since 1948. Rightly we are not allowed to hold all Jews responsible for what the State of Israel does to Palestine and for the crimes right now being perpetrated against civilians in Gaza. Yet, few in the international media questioned after 11 September 2001 that ‘moderate Muslims’ were being called to speak out against ‘Islamist terrorists’ in countries with which they had no connection. Somehow this was acceptable, but suggesting Jews might be responsible for what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank is the greatest, most disgusting crime imaginable.
Both suggestions, to be perfectly clear, are unacceptable. But we must all acknowledge the part the State of Israel is playing in creating and perpetuating this dangerous confusion. Israel has consistently hidden behind the human shield of the Jewish people — and this is unacceptable.
What else we are not allowed to do is to talk about the past. Israel is unique in this regard; only Israelis — acceptable Israelis, that is — and the Israeli government are permitted access to Jewish history when it comes to explaining the present. Non-Jews and critical Jewish voices have been successfully bullied into silence. No connection can be drawn, and with limited plausibility, between the actions of the State of Israel and the Third Reich. No one is allowed to point back to the events of the Holocaust in order to shame Israel into respecting its Palestinian neighbours, and this regardless of the many parallels — expulsion, ethnic cleansing, resettlement, land theft, and countless killings which arguably fall well within the legal definition of genocide.
When it comes to these matters, the ground has been well prepared. Israel and Zionists in Israel and around the world have deliberately sown confusion; played on both prejudice and ignorance, so as to construct a trap into which even the most innocent can fall and be branded an anti-Semite. And this is not to say antisemitism is ever justified. It, like all racisms and prejudices, is always wrong. But this is a trick that works. Every time the Israeli military or police kill another Palestinian child, Israel’s defenders can point quickly to any number of hot-headed examples of anti-Semitic racism and so use these examples as a stick with which to beat all critics and all forms of criticism.
What is more, we are deprived of even the recent past — the discussion around who started what in every single flare up of tensions and round of violence. No matter what is said, no matter what criticism or observation is made, Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s foreign media advisor, will throw up a smokescreen by pointing to the day before. Every crime committed by the State of Israel is always explained by something Palestinians did the day before. An airstrike on Gaza city, a city of some two million people, resulting in the deaths of any number of children, is always the fault of Hamas for firing primitive Qassam rockets towards Ashkelon or Be’er Sheva. Never are these events described as what they are — disproportionate and malicious assaults, as collective punishments, and as war crimes. No, it is always because of something else that happened the day before.
So, just this once, let’s play Israel’s disgusting little game, let’s stick to the rules of the abuser and stick to the present — what is happening right now — and let’s lay it all out on the table. Let us, for the time being, ignore that Israel stole the land on which it stands from the Palestinian people, and let us, for the moment accept the Israeli narrative that all of this horror is because the Palestinians are the bad guys. Let’s stick to these parameters and see how well Israel really shapes up.
Suppose all of this started ‘the day before,’ during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Palestinian youths began throwing stones at Israeli security police inside the Al-Aqsa mosque complex — a Palestinian controlled area in Jerusalem. Super, the naughty young Palestinians were throwing stones at police — at Israeli police who had no reason to be making their presence felt in Palestine’s most holy place during Islam’s holiest month. Sure, let’s overlook this and focus on the Palestinians throwing stones at the police. What was the response of the Israeli police? This is well documented. The Israeli police opened fire with plastic bullets — injuring scores of protesters and worshippers, and launched tear gas canisters into the crowded precincts of the mosque. As people attempted to escape to safety, the heavily armoured and militarised Israeli police began batoning Palestinians indiscriminately. What was this compared to the harm a stone could do?
Still, all of this was happening while Palestinian families, breaking the daily fast, were being terrorised by white Jewish settlers in the Arab-Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Palestinian East Jerusalem. And let us not point to the day before this when the same extremist Jewish settlers, with the support of the police and the army, were throwing Palestinians — people who have lived in this neighbourhood for generations — out of their homes in order to transform this ancient Palestinian area into a new Jewish quarter. No, that would disrupt the narrative.
Then, of course, this escalated out of control with Hamas, a ‘Islamist terrorist organisation’ — which in reality is a democratically elected political party, launching rockets into Israel — land stolen from the Palestinians in 1948, remember. Yes, this is not good. Yet, Hamas, as the democratically elected government of the State of Palestine, was only doing what any other sovereign state would do in response to invasion, occupation, and open aggression. But this is not a legitimate response in the opinion of Israel because Israel does not recognise the existence of the State of Palestine. But Palestine exists whether Israel accepts it or not, and Palestine existed before the arrival of European Jews and the creation of the State of Israel on Palestinian land. Still, we will accept Israel’s narrative that Hamas firing rockets in retaliation for events in Jerusalem was wicked and evil.
What was Israel’s response? Well, before we get to the response, we ought to mention something about the defence. The United States Senate Report 113-211 (2011) informs us that US funding for ‘Iron Dome,’ Israel’s sophisticated missile defence system, was already in excess of $1 billion on top of the $225 million aid package extension on the prior existing $3.3 billion US ‘aid’ package to Israel. According to Israel, it had already invested $1 billion into the system. In layperson’s terms, what this means is that, with US assistance, Israel has a limitless budget to spend on the most advanced missile defence system in the world.
The Ṣārūkh al-Qassām rocket, used by Hamas, is no match for this technology whatsoever. The Qassam has a range of between 5 and 16 kilometers, carries a payload of no more than than 10 kilos, and is packed with simple explosives and ball bears. They have no guidance technology and so their chances of hitting anything on the ground, on the off chance they get through Israel’s future-tech defence system, is at best a matter of luck. In global military terms, the Qassam rocket is not much more dangerous than a firework.
The other facet to Israel’s defence is its total land, sea, and air dominance of Gaza. The Gaza Strip has no access to the outside world except through Israel — and this includes the trade of food and medicines. Gaza has no airports, no ports, no military, no air force, and no navy. In real terms, Gaza has no capable defence or realistic means of posing a threat to the State of Israel. The Gaza Strip is a ghetto, ‘the largest open air prison in the world.’ While it was ‘heroic’ for the Jewish Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto to smuggle food, medicine, and arms into the Ghetto, Israel’s constant complaint is that Hamas has been operating similar supply tunnels across the Egyptian border for years. And to help with context here the Guardian newspaper reported in October 2012:
The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010, according to files the defence ministry released…
Israel has been actively controlling and limiting the amount of food getting into Gaza as part of its ongoing blockade, a policy which threatens the health and wellbeing of a civilian population — a densely populated city where over 40 percent of the inhabitants are under 14 years of age. In conditions such as this, digging supply tunnels is necessary and heroic.
So much for the defence, now what about the military response? Against a captive and encircled Gaza Strip with no army, air force or navy, the Israeli government has refused to engage in peace talks, it has refused Hamas’ offer of a ceasefire, and has called nine thousand fully trained army reserves to supplement its standing strength of 169,500 active military personnel in a land invasion supported by modern armour (tank) units and covered by one of the most powerful air forces in the world. Gaza has precisely zero percent chance of winning this ‘conflict.’
And it is this disproportionate response — typical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank — that has people around the world up in arms. This war will only result in Palestinian casualties, and many of these will be children and unarmed civilians — young and old. The propaganda from the Israeli government will be, as it has always been, that Hamas is ‘hiding behind human shields,’ but the sorry reality is that in such an overcrowded urban environment non-combatants have nowhere else to go. Israel, as we have already seen, is targeting — as it has always done — residential buildings, meaning that Israel is targeting civilians. But we cannot compare this to the Warsaw Ghetto or any other such event in the Holocaust. These two things simply do not compare. What Israel is doing is in this one regard worse, because it is being done in light of the horrors of the Holocaust.
From the river to the sea — on the ancient homeland of the Palestinian people — this is being done to Palestinians by the State of Israel, and we are watching in stunned disbelief as our governments both fund and support the criminal behaviour of the occupier. We cannot tolerate this anymore. It has to stop, and we have to help make it stop. Israel is right, the greatest crime did happen ‘the day before.’ It happened when Israel became a state. This was never the homeland of European Jews — and they should have never been allowed to take this land from the Palestinians. It was not Palestine that committed the genocide of Europe’s Jews and they should not now be paying for that awful crime. But it is too late to address this now, but what we can address is the behaviour of Israel.
Radio Saorsa | Free Palestine