Looking at Israeli and Western media coverage 1 of Hamas resistance against Israel epitomises Orwell’s problem; “[that] is to explain why we know and understand so little, even though the evidence available to us is so rich. … [One must be] impressed with the ability of [Israeli Hasbara] 2 to instill beliefs that are firmly held and widely accepted, although they are completely without foundation and often plainly at variance with obvious facts about the world around us.” 3
As “the crocodile tears have begun over hostages taken by Gaza militants” 4 one has yet to find a comparable outcry about Israel holding 2.1 million people of Gaza, including one million children 5, hostage in one of the most densely populated areas on earth 1 for nearly 20 years 6. Exceptional accidental Freudian slips of honesty such as British prime minister David Camerons portrayal of Gaza as a “prison camp” 7, are quickly brushed aside and forgotten.
Scarcely ever anyone dares to say the quiet part out loud, namely that “…the people of Gaza … have been immured in a concentration camp.”, describing the events of October 6. 2023 as “…breaching the camp’s walls”, and demanding that moral consistency ought to compel one to “honor the heroic resistance in Gaza…if [one] honors John Brown’s armed resistance to slavery [and] the Jews who revolted in the Warsaw Ghetto”. 8
It seems that Gaza militants have achieved, howbeit for only a very brief period, to subject a limited sample of the Israeli military and civilian population to a specimen of terror that the entire people of Gaza have been subjected to for decades. However, Israeli state violence against Gaza, which is far more extensive in scale and destructiveness 9 10 11, is placed in a different category altogether. “Whatever the actual sequence of cause and effect, official [Israeli] violence is described as responsive or provoked (‘retaliation’, ‘protective reaction’ etc.), not as the active and initiating source of abuse.” 12
Across the spectrum there is harsh condemnation of Hamas attacks “in the strongest terms”, urging maximum restraint, stressing that violence can’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 13 Assuming, as is standard practice, that the demand for restraint does not apply to Israel, even a cursory look at the past quickly reveals a multitude of peaceful uprisings in Gaza 14 15 that have either been politically or violently crushed, and – most devastatingly – barely reported by agenda setting media outlets. Let’s not forget that nonviolence is a tactic, not a fundamental principle 16, in popular struggles. In the words of Stokely Carmichael “…for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience”. Unfortunately, the Israeli state and its supporters have none.
As a reaction to the unprecedented incursion of Hamas resistance, the state of Israel is “embarking on a long and difficult war … which will continue with neither limitations nor respite until the objectives are achieved” 17, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu purposefully avoids defining Israels objectives, it is evident that the people of Gaza will be subject to yet another brutal cycle of violence as “Israeli tanks could be seen crossing farmland in parts of southern Israel, heading south toward Gaza. [The] military ordered an evacuation of civilians from 24 villages near the Gaza border, a possible prelude to a ground assault. Israeli warplanes also struck Gazan cities in response for the attack on October 6. 2023.” 18 Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, stating that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, [and that] everything is closed”, justifying the harsh measures by adding that “we are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly”. 19 Needless to say that Israeli state terror directed against Gazans is never associated with animals or barbarism in the mainstream.
The most astounding support for Israel has been promised by its main ally, the U.S., as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said “he had ordered [an] aircraft carrier…and five guided-missile cruisers and destroyers…near Israel”, thereby bolstering regional deterrence efforts. The obvious question never discussed is why Israel, a high-tech militarised state equipped with nuclear weapons as deterrence, characterised by the CIA as the “regional economic and military powerhouse, leveraging its prosperous high-tech sector, [and] large defense industry” 20, requires U.S. support to resolve a local dispute in its Gaza Bantustan. 21 Really!?
As many countries express their sympathy for the plight of Israelis and pledge their support to the state of Israel, the reaction towards Gaza and the Palestinians is in stark contrast, vehemently condemning Hamas and its supporters whilst at the same time collectively punishing all Gazans by withholding humanitarian aid. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he is suspending aid totalling around 19 million euros, justifying Austria’s decision by elucidating that “the extent of [Hamas] terror is so horrific … that [Austria] cannot go back to business as usual [and] will therefore put all payments…on ice for the time being”. 22 The harshest critique Schallenberg had to face was Reuters recognising that “[he fails to] distinguish between Gaza, a Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, and the much larger West Bank run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival to Hamas”. No one asked Schallenberg if Austria’s reaction to Israeli violence against the Palestinians would elicit a similar reaction; nor did anyone point out that withholding aid primarily harms civilians, and thereby strengthens Hamas. Shortly after Austria announced freezing its humanitarian aid for Gaza, the European Union followed suit, halting aid payments of 691 million euro 23, with Germany soon to follow.
The situation for the population of Gaza is bound to end in a cataclysm. Consequently, it is crucial to focus on what can be done to limit the amount of carnage to be inflicted on Gaza, with the hope that indigenous Palestinians are not exterminated 24 as a society by “settler-colonialism, the most vicious form of imperial conquest” 25.
While the situation might seem hopeless, it is not!
First and foremost it is vital to engage in challenging the seemingly overwhelming amount of propaganda designed to constrain any discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict within an extremely narrow framework. This framework has been very successful in framing Hamas as a violent terrorist organisation and the Palestinians as second class citizens. Despite its success one should not succumb to defeat. On the contrary, any opportunity to challenge such narratives by pointing out the suffocating hypocrisy they are based on ought to be seized – especially now – as the events of October 6. 2023 and its brutal aftermath are unfolding.
One particularly striking example of such propaganda, due to the fact that it is also used as an argument on the left, is the comment that “Palestinian militancy has accomplished nothing but increasing the misery of the Palestinian people. If Palestinians instead turned more to huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns, the resulting videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom. 26 That of course is “a total fabrication. Palestinian nonviolence has been going on for a long time, very significant nonviolent actions.” 14 15 The key thing to point out is the high degree of cynicism in those comments. What one ought to be doing is preaching nonviolence to the U.S., the leading perpetrator of violence in the world. One ought to be calling for nonviolence where we are, and of course in U.S. client states, like Israel, where the U.S. is the provider of the means for violence. It’s easy to preach nonviolence to some victim somewhere, saying, “You shouldn’t be violent. We’ll be as violent as we like, but you not be violent.”
The aim is not to provide a collection of flawed arguments, but rather to demonstrate that with today’s technology at our fingertips and the willingness to ask the most basic questions to test certain arguments on whether they are principled, takes little effort. As in the previous example, upon encountering the claim that Hamas and the Palestinians have not sufficiently engaged in nonviolent protest, a straightforward internet search query asking to list nonviolent Palestinian uprisings yields a trove of instances of massive nonviolent protest, indicating with high probability that the statement arguing Palestinians did not engage in enough nonviolent protest is a fabrication. While assessing the accuracy of a statement ought to have priority, it also helps to understand who is making certain claims, as that, in many instances, sheds some light on why certain aspects are highlighted, whilst others remain unmentioned.
“By entering into the arena of argument and counterargument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one’s humanity. This is the feeling [many] find almost impossible to repress when going through the motions of building a case against the [Israeli] war in [Gaza]. Anyone who puts a fraction of his mind to the task can construct a case that is overwhelming; surely this is now obvious. In an important way, by doing so he degrades himself, and insults beyond measure the victims of our violence and our moral blindness. There may have been a time when [Israeli] policy in [Gaza] was a debatable matter. This time is long past.” 27
Sadly, the above quote from the book American Power and The New Manderins 27 is what comes to mind when engaging in so called “intellectual discourse” about the Israel-Palestine conflict at this time. It is a small thought experiment where the words “America” and “Vietnam” have been replaced with “Israel” and “Gaza”. You decide whether the experiment is a success or a failure by assessing the validity of the statement after the substitution…
Finally, the simplest and most rational option at our disposal to address this crisis is to address the root cause. As is often the case, the root cause can be discerned if one cares to look:
“The root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This requires upholding international law and ending Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, and all other aspects of Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians. The Israeli government must refrain from inciting violence and tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, especially around religious sites.” 11
In other words: Call for a stop to the illegal blockade on Gaza and cease inciting violence and tensions!
- Gaza Strip ↩︎
- Israeli Propaganda Isn’t Fooling Anyone – Except Israelis ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky, Knowledge of Language (New York, 1986), p. xxvii; cited in James McGilvray, Chomsky (Cambridge, 1999), p. 239. ↩︎
- Hostages: Learning from Israel, Oct.7, 2023. ↩︎
- The West Bank and Gaza: A population profile ↩︎
- Blockade of the Gaza Strip ↩︎
- Gaza is a prison camp, says David Cameron, Jul.26, 2010. ↩︎
- John Brown’s Body–in Gaza, Oct.7, 2023. ↩︎
- Norman G. Finkelstein, Gaza: An inquest into its martyrdom, University of California Press 2018. ↩︎
- Norman G. Finkelstein, I Accuse, OR Books 2020. ↩︎
- Israel/OPT: Civilians on both sides paying the price of unprecedented escalation in hostilities between Israel and Gaza as death toll mounts ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The polotical Economy of Human Rights – Volume 1, Haymarket Book 2014, p. 6. ↩︎
- What to know as conflict erupts between Hamas and Israel after deadly attack, retaliation, Oct.7, 2023. ↩︎
- Palestine’s Hidden History of Nonviolence ↩︎
- 2018–2019 Gaza border protests ↩︎
- Non-violence is not a principle, it is a tactic ↩︎
- Security Cabinet Convenes and makes Series of Operational Decisions ↩︎
- Israel and Hamas Battle Around Gaza as Netanyahu Warns of ‘Long and Difficult War’ ↩︎
- Defense minister announces ‘complete siege’ of Gaza: No power, food or fuel ↩︎
- The World Factbook: Israel ↩︎
- Israel’s Gaza Bantustan ↩︎
- Austria suspends aid to Palestinians, Germany reviews support ↩︎
- EU freezes $728 million in funds to Palestinians due to Hamas assault ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky: “Exterminate all the Brutes”: Gaza 2009, Jan.19, 2009 ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky: The Unipolar Moment and the Culture of Imperialism (Edward Said Memorial Lecture), Dec.3, 2009. ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky: Israel’s Actions in Palestine are “Much Worse Than Apartheid” in South Africa, Aug.8, 2014. ↩︎
- Noam Chomsky, American Power and The New Mandarins, The New Press 2002, p. 9. ↩︎
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