WARNING: this article makes uncomfortable reading.
I realise that some readers on either side of the Israel-Palestine barricade might not like me very much me as they read. I won’t take this personally.
The alarm clock always wins: you have to wake up to smash it against the wall.
ISRAEL – some facts.
“Israel just doesn’t want a just peace.”
Gideon Levy Israeli author & journalist
He almost lost the West Bank to peace in April 2014, and was still furious about the US recognition of the new Unity government in Gaza when, less than three months after its formation, outrageous fortune smiled on him.
The July kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys was an event which he exploited and manipulated to stoke a furore of domestic outrage. With 95% of the Israeli public behind him, Netanyahu could, once again, mow the lawn in Gaza, and cut down those green shoots of peace.
Dubbed a Slaughter of the Innocents, Israel’s latest war has been viewed by many critics as a crime against humanity because of the high civilian death and casualty rate.
The Slaughter of the Innocents: The First Four
Sixteen year old Israeli boy, Naftali Fraenkel, and his two friends were kidnapped and shot dead in the West Bank on 12 June 2014. One of the boys, Gilad Shaer, phoned the police. After several hours, the police issued a Hannibal (i.e. kidnapping) alert. It is now widely accepted that the Israeli government withheld key facts:
- within hours of the SOS call, a torched car bearing the boys’ bloodstains, and Israeli license plates, was found by Palestinian police in Hebron.
- hours after the Hannibal alert the authorities knew three boys were already dead.
On 3rd July 2014, two days after the three Israeli boys were buried alongside each other, another sixteen year old boy was kidnapped in East Jerusalem. Although entirely unconnected with the killing of Naftali and his friends, Mohammed Abu Khdeir was beaten, doused in petrol – which was also poured down his throat – then burned alive. Four days later, the parents of Naftali Fraenkel and Mohammed Abu Khdeir comforted one another on the phone. Naftali’s mother said:
“The shedding of innocent blood is defiance of all morality, of the Torah. No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents.”
Mother of 16 year of Naftali Fraenkel
The kidnappers and murderers of all four boys were extremists operating unilaterally, without the knowledge of the democratically elected representatives of their respective areas – Hamas (West Bank) and Likud (Israel). Despite the repeated assertions of Palestinian officials, including Hamas, that Hamas had no knowledge of the abduction and killing of Naftali and his friends, and that a rival splinter group in Hebron had carried out the crime, Israel’s democratically elected prime minister, Netanyahu, launched Operation Protective Edge on 8th July 2014. Since then, over 60 Israelis and 1800 Palestinians, of which 400 are children and the rest mainly civilians, have been killed.
GAZA – some facts.
Gaza, a tiny, densely populated, sea bound strip of land, which has been occupied since 1918. The British handed it to the Israelis in 1948. Since this date, the UN has been a permanent and necessary humanitarian presence there. The Oslo Agreement in 1994 forced Israel to accept Palestine rule in the area, whereupon Israel erected the Gaza Strip Barrier, effectively a prison wall cutting Gaza off from the wider land mass, and still in existence today. Several significant and terrible wars have been sparked by Israel’s refusal to demilitarise and open its Gazan borders. The Al-Aqsa Intifada raged for five years, with Israel only withdrawing its ground troops from Gaza in 2005. Following the election of Hamas in 2007, both Israel and Egypt imposed an absolute blockade of Gaza’s land sea and air. Imports and exports, and movement of people in and out of Gaza, all but stopped, prompting the Gaza War of 2008-9.
“No country and no people would live the way that Gazans have been made to live. The question of the morality of Israel’s action depends, in the first instance, on the question, couldn’t Israel be doing something [to prevent] this disaster that is playing out now, in terms of the destruction of human life? Couldn’t they have done something that did not require that cost? And the answer is, sure, they could have ended the occupation.”
Materials essential for the reconstruction of Gaza, following sustained and decimating Israeli military incursions there since 2007, cannot get through the blockade, with gravely deleterious consequences for the physical environment. The ongoing siege of Gaza, in which electricity and water is made available (by the Israelis) for as little as two hours a day, has generated abject desperation in the territory.
Israel has been the subject of more than 60 condemnatory UN resolutions since 1948 (and Palestine none). In 2013 alone, the U.N. General Assembly criticised Israel in 21 resolutions. Only 4 other resolutions were passed that year, concerning Iran, Burma, Iran and, of course, Syria (for killing 120,000 of its own people). Since its inception, Israel has, with complete impunity, annexed, arrested, blitzed and bled all that stood in the way of its Zionist aims. Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, began in July ’14, and is essentially a continuation of the previous wars in the blighted territory.
Hamas is the consequence of Gaza’s despair.
HAMAS – some facts.
“If you strangle a people, deny them supply for years, extreme reaction is inevitable.”
Arabic meaning enthusiasm, and an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas was democratically elected into office in the Israeli-occupied Gaza strip in 2007, defeating the moderate Fatah affiliates of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Unlike the PLO, which is recognised as a legitimate political force by the UN, Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organisation by the West, Israel and Egypt; but not by the rest of the Arab world, China and Russia. Hamas’ political objective is to free Palestine from Israeli occupation and establish an Islamic state. The latter aspiration has resulted in depressingly conservative lifestyle changes since 2007. Gazan women must wear the hijab. They must not dance, go to a male hair dresser, or run in marathons. Mixed bathing water parks and kids’ holiday camps have been closed; beauty parlours and internet cafes blown up. Hamas denies the Holocaust, bans folk tales and beats up lewd pop singers. Nonetheless, Israel’s devastating brutality in the 2008 and 2012 wars has served to maintain support for Hamas in the West Bank’s degraded and despairing populace.
Some military facts:
Puffed up with crusading righteousness and American money, Israel is world’s fourth most powerful military. By contrast, Gaza’s armoury comprises suicide bombers, kidnapping, homemade rockets and mortars, and boys throwing stones. In the days between Israel’s bombings of three UN Gaza schools – despite repeated and unequivocal UN communication that dozens of civilians, including children, were in refuge there – the US rushed through Congress $225m emergency additional funding for Israel’s fail-safe Iron Dome defence system. The US did not make any funding available to protect Gaza’s besieged population, including its 800 000 children, from Israel’s bombs.
Northern Ireland – an analogy.
The whys and wherefores of rockets and suicide bombers become irrelevant when you, your countrymen and your loved ones are their target. I can personally recall the decades of unease on the UK mainland following fatal IRA bombs in, for example, Hyde Park, Birmingham, Westminster, Chelsea Barracks, Harrods, Brighton, Deal Barracks, Bishopgate and Warrington. The situation was much worse again in Northern Ireland itself.
Armed by American money, militant Irish Republicanism was the serious threat to British national security, even though our military was vastly superior, and included nuclear capability. IRA bombs killed soldiers, and civilians, including children, in the UK mainland. Through systematic torture and murderous violence the IRA held their own communities to ransom, particularly in Belfast. To the British, the IRA and their affiliates were ruthless, unpredictable and irrational, resisting every effort to make peace, and deaf to the condemnation of, among others, two Popes.
Yet this is precisely what Israel is doing in Gaza.
And they are getting away with it because
“Unless you have been on the street facing Israeli troops in Gaza, or sleeping on the floor under an Israeli aerial assault, as I have several times while delivering aid in 1989, 2000, and 2009, it’s impossible to imagine the total disproportion of power in this conflict. “I saw boys who were merely running away shot in the back by Israeli soldiers with Uzi [submachine guns] and arrayed in body armour, and in 2009 and 2012 at Rafah witnessed Israel’s technological superiority in coordinating sophisticated computers, drones, and F-15s with devastating effect. “
Dr. James E. Jennings, president of Conscience International and executive director of US Academics for Peace.
Sifting the US and UK Orwellian newspeak on the subject of Israel, in particular the fantastical coverage of Fox News, yields a singular equation.
Anti-Israel = anti-Semitic.
Anyone who has the temerity to criticise Israel, even slightly, is likely to be deluged with deranged Zionist verbal abuse (I will be, as a result of this article). The corporate media, particularly in the US, present post-1948 Israel as the perennial victim, in particular by (quite rightly) humanising Israeli casualties – pictures, names and histories of the victims are provided. By contrast, Palestinian deaths, even of children, are collateral damage, and passed off with newspeak notions of IDF due care and diligence with regard to civilians, and Hamas’ calculated use women and children as human shields. (For the record, there is no substantive evidence that Hamas have used human shields. And even if they were, why shoot, given that Israel has its almost infallible Iron Dome? ) A more realistic (although similarly specious) equation is this one:
Pro-Israel = Anti-Muslim
This is because many people in the West, even if they don’t admit it, see Israel as the ONE spot in the wildly chaotic, corrupt and misogynistic Middle East with which they can identify. Understandably infused with collective guilt (see next section) about the Holocaust, the West is, in addition, or perhaps consequently, cognisant that Judaism is the cornerstone of Christianity, which underpins Western culture and law, and especially our justice system.
The West views with profound distaste Middle Eastern Sharia Law punishments such as stoning, decapitations and mutilations. It balks at low status of women across the region; and is baffled and horrified by acute Sunni-Shia violence raging between millions of people there. Unsurprisingly, these negative perceptions show the more culturally familiar Israel in an unduly positive light. It is not a giant logical leap from this notion of affinity with Israel to that of being supportive, or at least not hindering, of Israel’s efforts to defend itself, and therefore our Western values, against all of that.
In tandem with the compelling pro-Israel messages, are strong ones about Islamic extremism threatening to take over Christendom. Particularly in the non-intellectual press– Dailies Mail and Express, and, of course, the red tops – salacious delight is taken in Muslim-themed news items such as the Trojan Horse schools plot, veil-wearing mass immigration, or the building of yet another Mosque. A recent report into press standards last year noted
“a serious and systemic problem of racist, anti-Muslim reporting within sections of the British media”
Leveson Inquiry 2012
Appalling crimes such as the murder of Pte Lee Rigby, conspire with reports of flourishing al-Qaida cells and honour killings in Bradford and Birmingham etc, and British Muslim support for 7/7 and 9/11 , to create a very real and prevailing fear of Muslims, notwithstanding the condemnation of these crimes by Muslim authorities, e.g..
The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was truly a barbaric act. Muslim communities then, as now, were united in their condemnation of this crime. This was a dishonourable act and no cause justifies cold-blooded murder.
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council
The fact that Lee Rigby’s killers were clinically insane is less newsworthy than the fact they were Muslims. Exactly as in the case with Zionist murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, it is profound mental disturbance, allied to a warped view of religion which is the problem. As can be seen in the Tony Blair article (above) increasingly, Muslim and Jihad have tended to be conflated in reportage. Misconception results. For example, the extent that a decade after 9/11 more than half of Fox News viewers were found to believe that American Muslims wished to establish Sharia law in the US. The massive death toll, including over 400 children, of (Muslim) Palestinians has elicited from US and UK leaders and media sporadic mumbling about Israel’s right to self-defence, and platitudes about civilian casualties. But for the main part, they are silent about the latest Gazan pogrom. We must be careful. There is a terrible precedent in recent history which tells us that
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”
(German pastor and Resistance fighter executed 1945 for plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler)
The Holocaust – you need to know that:
There is substantive evidence that the majority of ordinary Germans did know that local concentration camps were incarcerating and killing Jews en masse. It is not possible, given the scale of the pogrom on German soil, that ordinary citizens could not have known about it. Indeed, by the end of the war, large numbers of German people were working in death camps, including those with gas chambers, such as Mauthausen (Austria) ; Neuengamme (Hamburg): Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen (both in Brandenburg); Natzweiler (Elsass); Stutthof (east of Danzig); and Dachau (Bavaria).
The Holocaust, unquestionably the most shameful crime against humanity in modern history, happened because of the resounding silence and complicity of almost everyone who could have stopped it. As well as being scared, the masses were reluctant to speak out because of their own negative perception of Jews. As is well documented, Hitler deluged his public with mass media propaganda, lies and fiction to paint Jews as money-obsessed, war-inciting, Christ-killing Devil’s spawn who were responsible for Germany’s humiliating WW1 defeat. He had very clearly outlined in Mein Kampf, published and widely available since 1926, and spent his whole political career advocating, that every last Jew be exterminated. And, while the world was silent, six million of them were.
“ 95% of Israelis support Operation Protective Edge.”
(Source, Vox Media accessed 010814. Israeli Arabs were not polled.)
It is very difficult to gauge the degree of dissent to Operation Protective Edge within Israel, but certainly most of Netanyahu’s press ganged populace believe that Israel is the injured party. Daily infusions of wholly slewed news are supplied to Israelis through their homeland press – e.g. The Jesrusalem Post and Ynet News, and US channels Fox “News” and, depressingly, even CNN and NBC. Emphasised, by means of omission or manipulation of key details, is the idea that the huge Palestinian death toll, along with the casualties and damage to private and municipal property in Gaza, is entirely justified collateral damage as the Israeli’s battle to defend themselves from terror in Gaza. Thanks to mass demonstrations on the streets and via social media, the real message is getting out: that Israel’s Gaza offensive is, in fact, collective punishment and that the huge number of civilian deaths cannot be passed off as collateral damage. Both inside and outside Israel, people have opposed the war, and condemned Israel. Many have showed extraordinary courage by breaking ranks with their pro-Israeli circles. There are so many of them, and only a few are named and depicted in this piece. They are the lamp bearers guiding us the way toward peace, the ones that history will remember as
The Schindlers of our Time
At enormous cost to their personal lives and careers, a growing number of politicians, academics, religious leaders, journalists and soldiers have come out publicly against Israel’s 2014 military incursion into Gaza.
Many of these dissenters endure horrible abuse and complete loss of status within their community because they are Jews who say Israel is in the wrong.
Each one of these conscientious objectors has catapulted the truth into the eye of Israel’s gigantic military and propaganda machine. They are the singular, most positive outcome of the abhorrent Gaza war. These Schindlers of our Time refuse to accept the mass slaughter of Gaza’s innocents as justified, and are helping the world find the courage to do likewise. It’s worth noting that Oskar Schindler was not especially clever or gifted. On the contrary, he was a rather unexceptional and flawed man. But his Krakow enamelware factory window gave out onto the dreadful spectacle of the burgeoning Nazi pogrom against the Jews. In 1939, Schindler chose to go to the window, and SEE what was really happening out there, in his midst.
The humanity we share enjoins us to go to the window as Schindler did. Our window is the computer or phone screen. There, if we wish, we will see for what has really happened in Gaza and why, and how it can be stopped.