Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Gaza changed everything

Gaza fought back, and always will, because Israel’s intent is to wipe it out, writes Ramzy Baroud

Al-Ahram Weekly

After every bloody episode of violence perpetrated by Israel, media spin doctors are deployed with one grand mission: to absolve Israel of any responsibility in their acts of carnage.

Not only do these apologists demonise Palestinians but anyone who dares to take a stand on their behalf. The main pillar of this Israeli strategy has been blaming the victim. Such a tactic is nothing new in the way the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict is presented in western media, whose narrative has been much closer to that of Israeli official and media discourses than that of Palestinians. This has continued despite the decades-long military occupation, successive wars, and countless massacres.

Ever since the Israeli siege on Gaza, following the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power in January 2006, Israel has needed all of its hasbara (“pro-state propaganda” in Hebrew) savvy, alongside that of its backers in western countries, to explain why a population has been brutalised for making a democratic choice. The sheer amount of deception involved in the cleverly knitted story that purposely conflated Hamas with Al-Qaeda (similar to earlier comparisons made between the late Yasser Arafat and Hitler), among other ruses, was a new low, even by Israeli standards.

While the media demonised Hamas, the resistance, and all the other “bad” Palestinians who voted for the movement, it intentionally ignored the fascism that was taking over Israeli society.

For the bad — as in “radical”, “extremist”, anti-peace — Palestinian to exist, he has to be juxtaposed with the good Palestinian, represented by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and any faction, person or leader willing to, practically speaking, co-exist with the Israeli occupation. The PA went even further by cooperating with Israel to ensure the demise of the Palestinian “radicals”, as in those who insist on resisting the occupation.

Thanks to the PA, the price for the Israeli occupation has never been so cheap. Despite repeated attempts to re-activate the so-called peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu always found a way to torpedo such efforts, even those promoted by his closest allies in Washington. “Peace” is a major risk for Netanyahu, whose government is sustained by Jewish nationalists and extremists who feel no particular need to end their colonisation of the West Bank.

Abbas had done a great deal to ensure that Israel feels no pressure to negotiate. Every attempt at resistance, even by standing peacefully with placards and banners in Ramallah’s Al-Manara Square was crushed — often brutally.

Gaza, however, remained an exception. Israel’s brutality there has reached unprecedented levels, especially after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which killed and wounded thousands. Many predicted that the crimes in Gaza would turn the tide against Israel, but they didn’t. Israeli influence over the media was still tight enough that somehow they managed to neutralise the impact of Cast Lead. The advent of the Arab Spring and the devaluing of human life, as happened in Syria, Libya and Egypt, somehow buried Israeli crimes in Gaza, but only temporarily.

Israel’s latest war on Gaza amounts to genocide. Israel’s argument that it was “defending itself” is no longer a sufficient excuse. No amount of hasbara is enough to explain the burying alive of entire families, the summary execution of civilians, the pulverising of entire neighbourhoods, the gunning down of children playing on a beach during a deceptive “lull” in the conflict, the destruction of dozens of mosques and churches, the killing of civilians hiding in UN schools-turned temporary shelters.

It was particularly embarrassing for Israel, but also revealing, that the Gaza resistance, confronted by tens of thousands of well-armed invaders, was able kill 64 Israelis. All but three of the dead were soldiers, and most were killed inside Gaza.

As the world was awakened to the level of devastation created by Israel in Gaza, many also became aware that such wrath is not independent from the fascism that has gripped Israeli society for years. In Israel, there is no longer room for dissent, and those in the highest positions of power are the ones who openly and freely preach genocide.

In his excellent article in the American Conservative on 6 August, Scott McConnell wrote: “All societies have their hate groups and extremists, but nowhere in the democratic world are they nearer to the centre of power than Israel.” He continued: “In the 1980s, Meir Kahane had a small following in Israel, but his pro-ethnic cleansing party was made illegal. Now Kahanists are in the centre of the country’s ruling ideology.”

This was discussed in the context of statements made by Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset and a “top player in Israel’s ruling Likud Party”. Feiglin called for Palestinians from Gaza to be resettled in concentration camps, and all of Hamas and its supporters to be “annihilated”. Who can now, with a good conscience, protest those who use the Nazi analogy to describe what is happening in Palestine?

Meanwhile, in this age of social media, where mainstream news networks no longer have complete command over the narrative, no self-respecting intellectual, journalist, official or any citizen with a conscience can plead ignorance and stand on the fence of neutrality.

Gaza has indeed changed everything. Israel’s criminality and fascism should no longer be only a matter of contested media debate but must be acknowledged as an incontestable fact. Our language, as in our perception, must also change to accommodate this plain reality.

To end Israeli genocide and occupation the wheel of continuous action must turn and keep on turning. Those who support Israel’s policies must be exposed, and those who facilitate the Israeli occupation and sustain its war machine are complicit in the war crimes committed daily in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. They must be boycotted. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement must grow and serve as the main platform for international solidarity.

Time for clever words and no action are long gone. Those who remain “soft” on Israel, for whatever reason, have no place in what is becoming a global movement with clear demands: end the occupation, punish its sustainers, halt ethnic cleaning and genocide, end the siege, and bring Israeli and other culprits to the International Criminal Court to answer for their massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The writer is managing editor of the Middle East Eye.

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