Israel and Gaza: Beyond the Ubiquitous BS

by Andrew Loewen on November 18, 2012

Originally posted here.

Life value compared in font-size: 3 Israelis = 25pt, 13 Palestinians = 11.5pt (via Mehdi Mollahasani)

The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years. – Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, November 17 2012

Israel’s occupation and oppression of the indigenous people whose land and resources it claims is the most striking theater of western hypocrisy in the world. The dispossession of indigenous peoples in North America is comparable – revealing the settler-colonial logic of support for Israel – but not as immediately dramatic as the violently compressed timeline of Palestinians (1948 – present). And whether it’s theNew York Times or the Globe & Mail, NPR or the CBC, all the major news coverage of the conflict is biased in favor of Israel’s elaborate PR machinery. Even supposedly progressive sources like Mother Jones are crap. When the 11-month-old son of a BBC journalist was killed by Israeli shelling on Wednesday, the BBC chose not to report it. This puts an extra onus on those of us who know better – or want to – to educate family and friends and use social media to point people to more accurate sources (two of the best websites to bookmark are Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss).

One of the enduring myths about the Israel-Palestine conflict is that it’s complicated. It’s a unique inversion of the usual media bias toward oversimplification. The truth is the conflict is not difficult to understand. It’s very simple. Restricting ourselves to the present hostilities in and near Gaza, we know there’s an occupying power and a subjugated, imprisoned population. The former is the most militarized nation on earth, and in the case of Gaza, the latter is among the most densely populated, traumatized, and impoverished peoples on earth. Even British Tory leader David Cameron once called Gaza an “open-air prison.”

That’s why the last time Israel launched a full-scale assault on Gaza in 2008, the casualty figures were 1400 to 13 in favor of Israel. It was a bloodbath. 773 to 930 Palestinian civilians were killed (depending on sources). 4 of the 13 Israeli deaths were from friendly fire. Of the remaining 9, 3 were civilians.

Which means more than 100 times as many Palestinian children were killed by the IDF in Operation Cast Lead than all Israeli civilian casualties combined. Overall, the comparative civilian casualty figures were roughly 300: 1. It was a massacre, not a war. Israel’s arsenal – from F16s to white phosphorous – is of course furnished in great part by American taxpayers, who send Israel $3 billion a year, mostly in killing equipment, while many Gazans are in a constant scramble for simply enough water. The favored expression for killing Palestinians these days is, no joke, “to mow the lawn.”

In this recent escalation no major news outlet has reported that it is Israel that violated a truce – assassinating their own “subcontractor” – in a rush toward another premeditated pre-election assault on Gaza.

With so many links flying around Facebook and Twitter, I thought I’d assemble the best of them in one place. If you only read one thing on the current conflict, I suggest this short, incisive piece by International Relations scholar John Mearsheimer in the London Review of BooksA Pillar Built on Sand:

[T]he ongoing attacks in Gaza are part of a long-term strategy to coerce the Palestinians into giving up their pursuit of self-determination and submitting to Israeli rule in an apartheid state.

Next up is an even shorter piece that explains both the timeline of the current escalation and the rationale for Israel’s recurrent military campaigns against the caged population whose calories it sadistically counts to keep just above starvation levels. Reformatting Palestine:

This practice has nothing to do with irredentist Likud governments, or the “failure” of the peace camp. Violence is the truest testament to the Israeli peace camp’s historical success in selling war as peace and state-guided capitalism as “socialism,” a practice perfected in Israel well before it became a mainstay of European social democratic parties. The Zionist “peace” camp has been the party of generals, and generals seldom make peace. Especially in Israel, they directly profit off its absence, and this violence is constitutive of Israeli history. It is perfectly rational, a necessary component of displacing a society and building a new one in its place.

Already linked above, this is a quick, useful primer on Gaza, Ten Things You Need to Know About Gaza:

4) “ON A DIET”

In 2006, Dov Weissglass, the then chief of staff to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon summed up his government’s approach to Gaza and its residents when he confessed: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

A rhetorical flourish? Not quite: in 2008, Israeli defence officials in charge of restricting food and supplies from entering Gaza went so far “as to calculate how many calories would be needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the impoverished Palestinian territory, according to a… declassified military document.”

Also linked above: How Israel shattered Gaza truce: a timeline

On 14 November Israel carried out the extrajudicial killing of Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari.

Reuters noted that the Israeli attack “appeared to end a 24-hour lull in cross-border violence that surged this week.”

Noam Chomsky’s book Fateful Triangle (1983; 1999) is widely regarded as the definitive account of the US role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He recently visited Gaza for the first time. In this short clip with Amy Goodman he stresses that what people in Gaza most desire is what Israel denies them: dignity.

Finally, for more background on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the exiled Israeli historian Ilan Pappé recently gave a great talk at Australia’s National Press Club. Pappé is renowned for his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which draws on newly accessible Israeli archives to explain the process of ethnic cleansing by which the state of Israel was established. He is among a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians who recognize that Israeli leadership has rendered a “two-state solution” impossible. The “two-state solution” supposedly favored by all parties is actually a shitty farce. Here’s a visual aid to underscore the point:


Pappé, whom I adore, discusses prospects for the future in the question period at the end of the video.

National Press Club: Ilan Pappe from DJ Rubiconski on Vimeo.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron Aarons November 19, 2012 at 6:29 am

Chomsky is a Zionist — a defender of the “right to exist” of Israel as a Jewish state. His harsh criticisms of Israeli policies and actions are consistent with that stance and serve to give him more credibility in his actions in defense of Israel, including his opposition to the Palestinian Right of Return and to the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign.

He also promotes, and has always promoted, the myth that Israel is supported by the U.S. mainly for military and strategic reasons, denying the power of the Israel lobby in U.S. politics. Most of the left, even those who support BDS and a one-state solution to the Palestine conflict, engage in the same denial, so he rarely gets attacked for that, but even his explicit Zionism gets a pass from most of the left because he is a celebrity and he does criticize Israel’s obvious atrocities.


Andrew November 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Important points, and sadly Norman Finkelstein follows his old mentor in opposing the BDS campaign.


Brian S. November 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm
Arthur November 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Thanks. VERY Powerful!


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