December 30, 2008
Death and sorrow continue to pour down in torrents over Gaza. And every death is delivered with the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States. American money, American weaponry -- and unstinting, unquestioning American diplomatic support -- are underwriting the brutal carnage. There is scarcely a single voice along the commanding heights of American power to raise the slightest protest against a savage war crime being committed in broad daylight, day after day, with the approval and connivance of the "civilized" world. The hard, enclosed, impenetrable shell of American "bipartisanship" has achieved a steely perfection on the issue of Palestine; it is itself a missile -- a weapon of mass destruction -- falling on the people of Gaza.
Everyone knows that the United States government is the only force that could rein in the virulent militarism of the Israeli state, which is now reaching literally genocidal proportions. But there is no faction in American politics that has the courage, the will -- or the desire -- to offer even the most tepid criticisms of Israeli policy. At one time, the old-style "country club" Republicans -- like Bush the Elder and his gilded gofer, James Baker -- sometimes served as a counterbalance. This was not due to any far-sighted statesmanship or moral acumen on their part, of course; it was down to their deep-dyed anti-Semitism, bred into them for generations (Bush I's father, Prescott, was of course a business partner of the Nazis -- even after America and Germany were at war), and also to American Jews' historic affinity for the Democratic Party. As James Baker once famously said, when the first Bush Administration was having some PR problems after threatening to withhold some aid to Israel for continuing to steal Palestinian land: "Fuck the Jews; they didn't vote for us anyway."
But of course, the Republican Party soon threw in its lot with the knuckle-dragging Nationalist Christians who, despite a raging anti-Semitism of their own, championed Israel because of its perceived role in their lurid apocalyptic fantasies. The Israeli militarists seized on this fresh source of political influence in Washington -- despite their awareness that their new American allies (including George W. Bush) fervently believed every Jew would burn eternally in hellfire, and that Israel had no meaning for them except as a counter in their ignorant eschatological games. Thus the literally vicious circle was closed. All of the powerful factions at the imperial Potomac court were now united in knee-jerk support of the worst Israeli depredations.
There have of course been very forthright, principled objections to Israeli policy voiced in American society for many years -- most prominently by leftist and liberal Jews -- but these voices have no power, no influence. The only group in American power politics who could conceivably make an effective stand against Israel's policies without facing charges of anti-Semitism are the prominent Jewish Democrats. They could provide cover for other politicians and office-holders to denounce the current war crime in Gaza and begin to move American policy into a slightly more sane, just and productive stance toward Israel-Palestine. But this is not happening, and it will not happen. One scours the myriad news sources in vain to hear a critical word against the slaughter in Gaza even from such supposed ultra-liberal figures as Sen. Russell Feingold, much less such time-servers, cranks and shills as Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein or (God help us) Joe Lieberman.
So the killing will go on -- perhaps with the occasional pause for Israel to reload (with American ordnance, natch) -- or perhaps another "ceasefire" in which the people of Gaza are once more treated to a replication of the Warsaw Ghetto (as astute commenter Scott Douglas pointed out on this site the other day). Meanwhile, let's take a look at some of views of what is really happening in Gaza.
First, a glimpse on the ground in Gaza. From the Guardian: 'I didn't see any of my girls, just a pile of bricks':
The family house was small: three rooms, a tiny kitchen and bathroom, built of poor-quality concrete bricks with a corrugated asbestos roof, in block four of Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. There are hundreds of similar homes crammed into the overcrowded streets, filled with some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in the Gaza Strip.
But it was this house, where Anwar and Samira Balousha lived with their nine children, that had the misfortune to be built next to what became late on Sunday night another target in Israel's devastating bombing campaign of Gaza.
An Israeli bomb struck the refugee camp's Imad Aqil mosque around midnight, destroying the building and collapsing several shops and a pharmacy nearby. The force of the blast was so massive it also brought down the Balousha family's house, which yesterday lay in ruins. The seven eldest girls were asleep together on mattresses in one bedroom and they bore the brunt of the explosion. Five were killed where they lay: Tahrir, 17, Ikram 15, Samer, 13, Dina, eight and Jawahar, four...
[Their father], Anwar, 40, sat in another house where a mourning tent had been set up. He was pale and still suffering from serious injuries to his head, his shoulder and his hands. But like many other patients in Gaza he had been made to leave an overcrowded hospital to make way for the dying. Yesterday his house was a pile of rubble: collapsed walls and the occasional piece of furniture exposed to the sky. He spoke bitterly of his daughters' deaths. "We are civilians. I don't belong to any faction, I don't support Fatah or Hamas, I'm just a Palestinian. They are punishing us all, civilians and militants. What is the guilt of the civilian?" Like many men in Gaza, Anwar has no job, and like all in the camp he relies on food handouts from the UN and other charity support to survive.
"If the dead here were Israelis, you would see the whole world condemning and responding. But why is no one condemning this action? Aren't we human beings?" he said. "We are living in our land, we didn't take it from the Israelis. We are fighting for our rights. One day we will get them back."
Here's Tariq Ali in the Guardian:
The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch....
The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato's favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.
As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the west claims it is combating in the "war against terror."
The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer. The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money.
Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The west and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the "international community" in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, US and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run....
Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this....Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority's combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a "peace process" that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people. It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad base of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran....
What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline ˝ demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest-armed oppression of modern history.
"Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against occupation force," said General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993.....
No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to western and Israeli interests, but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas' programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country. From the fantasy maximalism of the first to the pathetic minimalism of the second, the path is all too short, as the history of Fatah has shown.
The test for Hamas is not whether it can be house-trained to the satisfaction of western opinion, but whether it can break with this crippling tradition. Soon after the Hamas election victory in Gaza, I was asked in public by a Palestinian what I would do in their place. "Dissolve the Palestinian Authority" was my response and end the make-believe. To do so would situate the Palestinian national cause on its proper basis, with the demand that the country and its resources be divided equitably, in proportion to two populations that are equal in size ˝ not 80% to one and 20% to the other, a dispossession of such iniquity that no self-respecting people will ever submit to it in the long run. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians alike, in which the exactions of Zionism are repaired. There is no other way.
Dennis Perrin hones in on the underlying philosophy behind the current campaign, which has little or nothing to do with the stated reason of "taming Hamas," but is instead part of a long-running strain in Israeli politics aimed at eliminating the Palestinians as a living, thriving people, and reducing them to the status of the American Indians:
This has been a Zionist goal from well before the formation of Israel in 1948. As Ze'ev Jabotinsky put it in his seminal "The Iron Wall" from 1923, "Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us, spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie." Thus, "we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question." Jabotinsky was an inspiration to and godfather of modern Israeli rejectionism, primarily for those on the Israeli right, but not excluding more "moderate" Zionist currents. The bottom line is that Palestinians have never been part of the equation. They've been in the way, and their ongoing existence and resistance provide Israeli hardliners the fuel needed to openly kill and marginalize them. What is happening now in Gaza is merely the latest chapter of this barbarous narrative. Judging from official Israeli statements, this narrative is hardly near its end.