As ever, the dominant narrative being presented to us on the current conflict in Gaza is that Israel is defending itself and its civilians against unprovoked aggression by Palestinian terrorists. And as expected, it is the same narrative being pushed in Washington and London, as like a well-rehearsed play the actors involved perform their respective roles with the same old aplomb.
It is the same narrative we have been subjected to over countless years, one intended to paint Israel, that democratic outpost of western civilisation surrounded by barbarian hordes intent on its destruction, as perennial victim.
But as in the past, so as now, it is a lie.
The truth is the current conflict has little if anything to do with Hamas or its rockets. It does however have everything to do with the state of Israel’s decades-long policy of occupation, embargo, siege, collective punishment, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Israel’s war is not with Hamas but with the Palestinian people in their entirety, both the 1.5 million in Gaza and the 2.5-3 million in the West Bank. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is occupation, checkpoints, and settlements. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is an economic embargo, siege, and collective punishment. It is a war being waged every second of the indignity and humiliation suffered by its victims.
Yet despite the irrefutable facts of Israel’s barbaric treatment of a people criminalised for daring to exist, we are treated to a constant inversion of the truth, which holds that the many and multiple depredations being suffered by the Palestinians do not amount to one of the most sustained and grievous crimes against humanity in history, but are the result of their intransigence and violence. This is the song of colonialism. The victims always bring it on themselves. If only they would learn to bear their chains in silence. As Golda Meir said, “We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
And they are killing them, right now, even as the world looks on – again.
Worse, when we consider that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people constitutes a clear and inarguable breach of international law, and has done for decades, the Western media’s continuing policy of ascribing a moral equivalence between Israel, an oppressive settler colonial state, and the Palestinians, an oppressed colonised people, monumental insult is added to monstrous injury. There is no moral equivalence. Nor can there ever be one.
Israel’s latest military assault against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which, at 40km long and 10km wide with a population of between 1.5 and 1.7 million people, is one of the most densely populated pieces of land in the world, goes by the biblical name of ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. As with ‘Operation Cast Lead’ four years ago, during which 1400 Palestinians were killed, thousands more were wounded, and war crimes, as adduced by the UN and the Red Cross, were committed wholesale, this latest military operation is designed to terrify the Palestinians into submission.
The major, though as yet unquantifiable, difference between now and then is Egypt. Mubarak, Israel’s man in Cairo, has been replaced by Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt and champion of the Muslim Brotherhood, and at time of writing the prime minister of Egypt has already visited Gaza to show solidarity and offer Egypt’s rhetorical support to the Palestinians. The question now is how this support will manifest if, as expected, Israel escalates its assault in the days ahead. The answer could well have a bearing on the future not only for the Palestinians but the region as a whole.
Meanwhile in Washington the Obama administration, thus far supporting Israel in time-honoured fashion when it comes to the US and its closest ally, will not relish the prospect of strained relations with the most populous Arab nation in the world. Not now with the region still in a state of flux as a result of the Arab Spring. And not even despite the fact that Israel is and remains America’s closest ally. Former US president Ronald Reagan, with the candour of a man accustomed to making and breaking governments at will, said it best: “The greatest security for Israel is to create new Egypts”.
A new Egypt has been created, but not by Israel or the US, by the Egyptian people. And it remains to be seen how this will impact on Israel’s ability to continue in the old way.
It is a question that is still to be answered. What we know for certain now is that oppression breeds resistance. The rockets being fired against Israel from inside Gaza are the natural response of a people under siege for the crime of exercising their democratic right to elect a government of their own choice. And when it comes to that government, Hamas’s supreme crime, according to Israel and its apologists, is that in its charter it states its desire to see the destruction of Israel. Standing alone, and shorn of any historical or actual context, it is a desire that cannot be understood or accepted by any reasonable person. But add this context, in the shape of the previously mentioned decades-long occupation and policy of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and national humiliation: is it really beyond comprehension that the people suffering this oppression may develop along the way a hatred of their oppressor, however irrational it might seem to us who don’t and consequently could never understand its dehumanising impact?
In the last analysis, the only way Israel will ever be able to guarantee its security is if it guarantees the security of the Palestinians. This will first of all require an end to the inherent racism that exists in the heart of every coloniser towards those being colonised. The Palestinians are not subhumans. They are not products of a lesser culture or race. They are a people who have suffered six decades of injustice that continues as a stain on the conscience of the world.
Incinerating their children in the name of civilisation and democracy renders both meaningless.