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Jan 08 2009

On Gaza-4: The US and UK government reactions

In response to the Israeli attack on Gaza, the US and UK governments and the mainstream media in those countries have been as usual almost unanimous in their support for the Israeli actions and in condemning the Palestinians.

Paul Craig Roberts comments on the underlying reasons why Gaza is being strangled and the hypocritical reactions of especially the US and UK governments.

Israel’s excuse for its violence is that from time to time the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas, fires off rockets into Israel to protest the ghetto life that Israel imposes on Gazans. The rockets are ineffectual for the most part and seldom claim Israeli casualties. However, the real purpose for the Israeli attack is to destroy Hamas.

In 2006 the US insisted that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank hold free elections. When free elections were held, Hamas won. This was unacceptable to the Americans and Israelis. In the West Bank, the Americans and Israelis imposed a puppet government, but Hamas held on in Gaza. After unheeded warnings to the Gazans to rid themselves of Hamas and accept a puppet government, Israel has decided to destroy the freely elected government with violence.

For the US and UK governments, Israel can do no wrong. Israel doesn’t have to stop withholding food, medicine, water, and energy, but Hamas must stop protesting by firing off rockets. In violation of international law, Israel can drive West Bank Palestinians off their lands and out of their villages and give the stolen properties to “settlers.” Israel can delay Palestinians in need of emergency medical care at checkpoints until their lives ebb away. Israeli snipers can get their jollies murdering Palestinian children.

The Great Moral Anglo-Americans couldn’t care less.

The fearful conditions in Gaza have existed for a long time. Chris McGreal in the UK newspaper The Guardian in 2005 reports on life under Israeli occupation:

In southern Gaza, the killings take place in a climate that amounts to a form of terror against the population. Random fire into Rafah and Khan Yunis has claimed hundreds of lives, including five children shot as they sat at their school desks. Many others have died when the snipers must have known who was in their sights – children playing football, sitting outside home, walking back from school. Almost always “investigations” amount to asking the soldier who pulled the trigger what happened – often they claim there was a gun battle when there was none – and presenting it as fact.

And now we hear of over 40 people being killed in separate attacks on two UN schools in a refugee camp where they had sought shelter from the bombardment. As of yesterday, over 200 children have been killed out of a total of about 600 deaths.

Columnist Mark Steel of the UK newspaper The Independent uses black humor to make some sharp points about the way that the US and British politicians and media have reacted to the latest events in Gaza.

When you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual Carnage Responsibility Back To Front Upside Down Massacre Disorder”.

For example, Condoleezza Rice, having observed that more than 300 Gazans were dead, said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible.”

Someone should ask her to comment on teenage knife-crime, to see if she’d say: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there is no hope for peace.”

The gap between the might of Israel’s F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters, and the Palestinians’ catapulty thing is so ridiculous that to try and portray the situation as between two equal sides requires the imagination of a children’s story writer.

The reporter on News at Ten said the rockets “may be ineffective, but they ARE symbolic.” So they might not have weapons but they have got symbolism, the canny brutes.

It’s no wonder the Israeli Air Force had to demolish a few housing estates, otherwise Hamas might have tried to mock Israel through a performance of expressive dance.

Or there’s the outrage that Hamas has been supported by Iran. Well that’s just breaking the rules. Because say what you will about the Israelis, they get no arms supplies or funding or political support from a country that’s more powerful than them, they just go their own way and make all their weapons in an arts and crafts workshop in Jerusalem.

But mostly the Israelis justify themselves with a disappointing lack of imagination, such as the line that they had to destroy an ambulance because Hamas cynically put their weapons inside ambulances.

They should be more creative, and say Hamas were planning to aim the flashing blue light at Israeli epileptics in an attempt to make them go into a fit, get dizzy and wander off into Syria where they would be captured.

But they prefer a direct approach, such as the statement from Ofer Schmerling, an Israeli Civil Defence official who said on al-Jazeera, “I shall play music and celebrate what the Israeli Air Force is doing.”

Maybe they could turn it into a huge national festival, with decorations and mince pies and shops playing “I Wish We Could Bomb Gaza Every Day”.

In a similar tone Dov Weisglas, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, referred to the siege of Gaza that preceded this bombing, a siege in which the Israelis prevented the population from receiving essential supplies of food, medicine, electricity and water, by saying, “We put them on a diet.”

That Weisglas, such a kidder.

Stephen M. Walt, co-author with John Mearsheimer of the book The Israel Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy points out that there is almost complete unanimity in this country’s political leadership for providing unconditional support for any and all Israeli policies. He says that the perception that Americans in general support their government’s stance needs to be challenged:

The evidence suggests otherwise: although most Americans support Israel’s existence and have more sympathy for them than they have for the Palestinians, they are not demanding that U.S. leaders back Israel no matter what it does. But that’s what American politicians reflexively do, even though it encourages Israel to continue immoral and self-destructive policies (including the continued expansion of settlements) and contributes to Arab and Islamic anger at the United States.

Mearsheimer made similar arguments in a very funny appearance on The Colbert Report that yet managed to convey some of the crucial points at issue.

Although there had been criticisms of the US government’s almost unconditional support for Israel and against the Palestinians in the alternative media, it was the appearance in 2007 of the Mearsheimer and Walt book based on their 2006 article in the London Review of Books that took it more mainstream, since these two scholars were very much establishment figures of the ‘realist’ school of political scientists, hardly radicals. For those interested in what the book says, my earlier three part series of posts on their book (here, here, and here) provides an introduction.

POST SCRIPT: The Daily Show on the one-sided response in the US to events in Gaza

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4 comments

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  1. 1
    Rami Mikati

    Dr. Singham,

    I stumbled upon your web journal and am grateful for doing so. I am a fourth-year undergraduate student at Case and the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine here. I want to thank you in spreading the truth. I know that Dr. Fickinger of the physics department also shares our desire for a just resolution. It brings me joy to see faculty at Case in support of justice and peace.

    Thank you,

    Rami

  2. 2
    HRK

    Dr. Singham,

    I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog, but I have to say, I’m somewhat confused by this latest series of posts. Although I understand – and to a large extent agree with – your basic idea that the Israeli policies are self-destructive, I don’t understand why you seem to be giving the Palestinians a free pass on this one. I know plenty of other sources don’t, but as that your basic stance seems to be that civilian deaths are an unnecessary evil, wouldn’t it be better to point out the lack of regard for it that both sides have shown in the past?

    HRK

  3. 3
    Brock

    HRK: I don’t think he has to show “both sides”. If you turn on practically any TV or radio news source, you’ll hear reporters going on and on about Israeli civilian deaths caused by Hamas.

    It’s not a “free pass” because it’s already covered thoroughly, well, everywhere.

  4. 4
    Mano

    HRK,

    I can understand your confusion. It is because I have not followed the rules in the US that whenever the actions of the Israeli government are criticized, they must be immediately be preceded or followed by equal or harsher criticism of the Palestinians, or one is deemed to be ‘not responsible’ or worse. It does not work in reverse. Harsh criticism of Palestinian atrocities against Israelis need not be accompanied by a similar balancing act. Your confusion is an indication of how much these limits of the boundaries of the discussion have been internalized, so that they are assumed to be the norm that everyone must follow.

    I do not choose to follow that rule and will criticize actions that need to be criticized on their own merits without worrying about what motives may be imputed to me. Anyone who has read my writings will know that I think that racial, ethnic, religious, and national divisions and allegiances are not only stupid but even evil, and that the wanton harming of civilians is also an evil, whether done by al Qaeda, the US, Israel, or Palestinians, the Sri Lankan government, the Tamil Tigers, or whoever. Life is precious and ordinary people have the right, wherever they live, to be free of the fear of being the victims of political power plays.

    Justifying or excusing or minimizing an evil by pointing the finger at another evil just leads to a continuing cycle of evil.

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