On Gaza-2: Countering the myths

Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, in an article well-worth reading titled Palestine’s Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood painstakingly tries to refute all the reasons given by apologists for Israel’s actions to justify this latest assault on the Palestinians. Those myths, which the mainstream media and both democratic and Republican politicians in the US tend to repeat uncritically, consist of the following:

  1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
  2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.
  3. Israel claims to be pursuing peace with ‘peaceful Palestinians’.
  4. Israel is acting in self-defense.
  5. Israel claims to have struck military targets only.
  6. Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people.
  7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.

Like nearly all durable myths, they do contain factual elements but these are merely used as scaffolding to create a propaganda edifice designed to hide the truth. Interestingly, Barghouthi’s article was published on the allegedly ‘liberal’ Huffington Post website with an extraordinary disclaimer not usually given for other writers, in which they essentially disowned him. As Jeremy Sapienza comments;

HuffPo runs all kinds of commentary from all over the political spectrum (or at least its leftish side), but only those who dare speak against the sainted Israelis seem to require an editorial explanation that resembles an apology.

Justin Raimondo follows the money to the people from whom Arianna Huffington, the politically opportunistic creator of the site, gets her substantial support and argues that the website did this because its financial backers would not take kindly to anyone breaking the media consensus in the US that Israel is always the innocent party.

Jennifer Loewenstein makes the crucial point that is necessary in order to understand why every year or two ones sees these violent flare ups in that region. The reason is that Israel has no intention whatsoever of ever giving the Palestinians a viable nation of their own based upon agreed international frameworks. So they will regularly create these conflagrations in order for US and European public consumption, to argue that the elected leaders of the Palestinians should not and cannot be negotiated with.

In a recent talk given at Case, the noted scholar on the Israel/Palestine question Norman Finkelstein made the same point, that it should not surprise anyone that Israel regularly declares that some incident is an intolerable provocation and unleashes its massive military power (underwritten by the US taxpayers) on the hapless population. These regular assaults should not be seen as reactions to events. They are, in fact, standard policy.

Jonathan Hari provides evidence to support the view that Israel has no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian to be created:

The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser, Dov Weisglass, was unequivocal about this, explaining: “The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians… this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”

Richard Silverstein over at Tikun Olam in a post titled Gaza: The Horror suggests that the Gazans are merely disposable pawns in Israeli politics.

It is an Israeli Shock and Awe (and you remember how that turned out). Ehud Barak has prepared a veritable 12 course feast of blood, gore, and mayhem for Gaza. It is Barak’s ultimate political play for the coming elections. If he wins, then he helps Labor maintain its ever-fainter role in Israeli national politics. If he fails, then he and Labor sink together.

Whatever the reason, what is happening in Gaza is an unspeakable atrocity, on top of the unspeakable atrocities that all the Palestinians have been experiencing in both the West Bank and Gaza over these many years.

POST SCRIPT: But can he get the Senate also under his thumb?

Now that Al Franken has been declared the winner of the Minnesota US Senate election, can we hope to see policy speeches set to rock music?


  1. KAC says


    I am slightly surprised that a trained and highly accomplished basic scientist such as yourself would fall prey to tendentious emotionalism and take refuge in conspiracy theory. I acknowledge that I am at risk here of engaging in an ad hominem attack.

    First of all and in the interest of brevity, allow me to note that, as always, realpolitik, rather than morality or emotionalism governs interstate relations, even within the ambit of radical Islamism. I include Hamas in this designation as they assert legitimate governance of Gaza, at least. To illustrate, consider the posture of the Egyptian government (it maintains a sealed border with Gaza) and the relatively muted reactions of the majority of Arab governments to the war, along with their delays in expressing them. Also note that even Hezbollah has confined it’s response to empty rhetoric, rather than opening a second front and Iran has already stated it will restrain that group, regardless of any proclivities they might exhibit in other directions.

    Whatever their ideological attitudes might be toward Israel, it seems that, practically considered, most governments in the neighborhood are quite willing to have Iran’s Hamas proxy (and Iranian/Shia political ambitions) dealt a nasty blow, especially if its done by Israel. Hamas, recognizing all this, has even sent a delegation to Cairo after spurning Egyptian overtures for a Fatah-Hamas mediation offer. It seems they now recognize that, as the Weather Underground belatedly realized back here in the USA, “bringing the war home” to Israel was both a tactical and strategic error.

    Second, anyone familiar with irregular warfare doctrine (which hasn’t changed materially in decades) understands the advantages of urban warfare. Not only is the battlescape most suited to defense, but substantial civilian casualties can be assured. These casualties rally foreign elites to the cause. Civilians simultaneously protect fighters while exposing the invader to maximum casulties. Certainly, Israel could adopt the approach used in Stalingrad or by the Wehrmacht against the Polish Home Army during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising or, to cite a more recent example, the Russians in Grozny, but Israel won’t do that.

    Of course, it would be just swell if a diplomatic solution could be negotiated, but (unless you like to indulge in fairytale thinking) neither side is much disposed to this end, even though the specifics of a solution have been known for a long, long time.

    So, in summary, your argument is emotional and it suffers heavily from obvious sympathies for civilian casualties. We all mourn those, but why do you care so much about the Middle East, anyhow? The problems there distract from more pressing humanitarian disasters in The Congo, Darfur and elsewhere… where only non-whites suffer and die.

  2. says

    Mano, Hasn’t Israel been Patient enough?

    What should Israel do in your opinion, when Hamas doesn’t think of it’s people but only thinks of how to throw missiles on civilians.

    I don’t agree to the Death of women and children in Palestine but I blame Hamas in their death.

    We are in 2009, why can’t we all just live in peace.

    Most of the Israeli people want peace, unfortunately in Gaza they educate children to hate Israel and even encourage them to Kill Israeli people, this is the root of the problem as I see it, the education.

    I believe if Palestinian people would live in peace with Israel their economy would grow, and everyone would be so happy, but I am probably to naive.

    You know what, this is where I agree with you being Atheist.


  3. says


    I’m curious. What is the “conspiracy” that you refer to?

    And what in your opinion are “the specifics of a solution” that “have been known for a long, long time”?

    I am also puzzled about your comment about the Congo, Darfur, etc. Are you implying that there is a hierarchy of concerns that each person must work through before they are entitled to address this one?

  4. kural says


    Tha Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel and the eviction of the Jewish people, if not their submission to Islam, in the Middle East. The Hamas is as much a legitimate representative of the “Gazans as Jeorg Haider was representative of the Austrians. that both came to power electorally does not mean much.

    The Hamas like all despotic terrorist organizations, notably the LTTE of Sri Lanka, is now belatedly realizing that absolute dominance of its constituents is a recipe for disaster. In Sri Lanka too the LTTE over decades of bloodthirsty violence exterminated every moderate and pro-Sinhala leader among the Tamils, and is now left with no one of credibility to deal with the world outside. The Hamas too by driving out the Fatah from Gaza has allowed them to prosper in the West Bank. As with the LTTE the Hamas too now finds itself isolated diplomatically. There is a good reason that the LTTE and the Hamas aren’t resorting to their favourite means of butchering innocents -- the suicide vest clad bomber. Much of the world seems to have had enough and is not willing to tolerate any form of terrorism.

  5. says


    I would turn your question around: The Palestinians have been under occupation for over four decades, no autonomy, unable to enter or leave without Israeli approval, restricted in their movements internally by hundreds of checkpoints, subject to daily harassments and arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces, their homes demolished by bulldozers, their land steadily encroached upon by settlers, their access to food, medicine, water, energy, all restricted and controlled by a hostile power. What would you do in their situation? Haven’t they been patient enough? If given the choice, where would you prefer to live: in Israel or in the occupied territories or Gaza?

    An atheist wishing for peace is no better than a religious person praying for peace. What we need is to support a specific peace plan. Such a plan has been has been outlined in UN resolutions 242 and others and, among other things, calls for a return to pre-1967 borders which will require the dismantling of all the settlements and the demolishing of the wall. Do you support that plan? If not, what plan do you have in mind to get the peace that you and I seek?

    I will be writing more about this tomorrow.

  6. says


    I am interested in how you judge who is the legitimate representative of the people of Gaza. What criteria are you using to judge the legitimacy of any people’s leadership?

    I would pose the same question to you that I posed to Skin above. Where would you choose to live: In Israel under the kind of rocket and suicide bomb threat that they face or in the occupied territories and Gaza under the Israeli occupation conditions I described above?

  7. KAC says


    Taken in order:

    1). You note that there are, “…people from whom (Huffington)..gets her substantial support…” Those “people” are advertisers of various stripes, all of whom appear to be political liberals. Other than that, I am totally unaware of any shared agenda. Your reference doesn’t supply a convincing one, either. Thus, the obvious implication of your quote is that there is some sort of occult and manipulative cabal to whom Huffington, and I assume others, is in thrall because in her case she is, “…politically opportunistic…” This swipe at Huffington’s alleged motive is, of course, not only entirely unsubstantiated, but also a statement of the obvious: rather than being a singularity, it is applicable to most every politician, journalist, university faculty member, etc.

    2). The elements of a settlement are clear. They include (but are not limited to):
    a). Recognition of the Israeli state by ALL Arab (and Persian, I suppose) entities,
    b). Mutually acceptable borders, the contours of which are achieved by negotiations and,

    c). Some form of restitution for Palestinian Arab refugees with equivalent restitution for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, this by dint of political necessity rather than uniqueness of the situation.

    You will find a nice synopsis of the the consensus in the current, “Foreign Affairs” by Walter Russell Mead. If you are bored during a faculty meeting, you can also read the Arab League proposal, the Jordanian-Israeli and Egyptian treaties and a plethora of others for additional elements of a regional solution.

    On the matter of refugees, you can find an agonizing litany of 20th Century refugee issues in post-war Europe (involving log orders of magnitude more displacements and expropriations) in Tony Judt’s, “Post War” and a comprehensive history of human obloquy and genocide in, “Blood and Soil”, by Ben Kiernan.

    3). I am not implying a hierarchy of concerns. I am simply transfixed with amazement when the bulk of the world’s hypocritical “sympathy” has as its nexus the Middle Eastern conflict when tragedies of much greater magnitude involving millions of deaths (The Congo, Zimbabwe, Chechneya, for instance) don’t make back-page news or merit attention by the majority of media pundits (or bloggers, such as yourself).

    I rather doubt that the majority of those demonstrating significant interest in the Arab-Israeli matter do so because of strategic interests. As for myself, I see nothing whatsoever that is unique about this petty conflict aside from location and religion…but those are not unique, either. So, there must be another explanation: I picked one that I liked in my first reply to you.

    Finally, I should point out the obvious: wars always have and probably always will entail just as many (generally more) civilian than military casulties, be they “collateral” or, more usually, deliberate, “morale being a military target” to quote WSC. Without being pedantic, I suggest you familiarize yourself with, for instance, the Thirty Years War as an example from relative antiquity. WW-II might intrude into your recent memory as an egregious recent example.

    If, on the other hand, you wish Israel to simply vanish, we part company on that issue. That state is no more or less illegitimate than any other, including the US, which (in case you’ve forgotten) occupies Native American land in it’s entirety as does Canada. How about the Spanish in Mexico? Well, I could go on…

    Favor a “single state solution” instead? Perhaps you might harken back to the relatively recent War of Partition between India and Pakistan for the likely outcome of that approach, as just one example.

    Submitted with the usual disclaimers,

    So, in conclusion, the only reason the Middle East matters to me is its geostrategic significance. Otherwise, its a case of the old Italian adage, “He who has land will have war”. Right?


  8. kural says

    A leadership that emerges through violence that is aimed as much against the rulers as against the people it claims to represent lacks legitimacy. The LTTE, the Maoist terrorists of Nepal, and now the Hamas, are all simply mob leaders. Any group that claims to fight for “liberation” (leftist/communist) or faith (as in the case of Hamas) or as in the case of the LTTE combines rabid misinformed ethno-nationalism with despotism would fit my definition. The Hamas is concerned as much with exterminating or converting the Jews of the Middle East as about purifying the Muslims whom it rules of anything but a hardened faith based beliefs and practices. Besides Hamas’s claim to exclusively control of Jerusalem rests on religious beliefs.

    And where would I rather live? In the Middle East, if I could I would live in Israel, a liberal, modern, progressive state that is intellectually vibrant. Gaza isn’t the morass it is because of economics, it is also because of politics and its twisted ideologies. Which is why Israel’s neighbors, many of whom have enjoyed the bounty of oil revenues for decades have managed to build nothing better than attractive eye candy festooned intellectual wastelands.

  9. SimonJM says

    KAC maybe you could give your view of the continued settlement expansion, the failure of Israel to lift the blockade and or even whether you think the US has been a even broker and that one can pick and choose which UN resolutions you wish to uphold or ignore?

    I do take your point regarding the legitimacy of Israel with reference to the US or for that matter Australia, Canada, Tibet or one could even raise the Basques.

    I wonder do you consider that past wrongs can be used to justify continued wrongs especially when they are done within living memory? There is after all a strong evidence for ethnic cleansing/war crimes by Jewish forces in 1947. You may indeed have a point about legitimacy, but if that is gained through ethic cleaning it is soon lost.

    “Besides Hamas’s claim to exclusively control of Jerusalem rests on religious beliefs.”

    Kural did you write that with a straight face?

  10. Kural says


    Certainly. Hamas and much of the “Arab Street” has voiced -- with a straight face -- that the existence of Jewish State in and around Al Quds -- Jerusalem -- is an abomination, blasphemous, and that it must be destroyed. Some among the Israeli leadership are willing to share Jerusalem as a neutral territory, accessible to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Not the Hamas. And also try telling Hamas that the story about Mohammed mounting a winged stallion on the Dome of the Rock and flying to Paradise, is just that -- a story. and try saying it with a straight face!

  11. SimonJM says

    I’ve no doubt that many in the Arab world hold such views, and are in fact Anti-Semitic, but given how the have been treated it is quiet easy to understand why they hold such views. I don’t consider this any worse than the views of some Jewish people that Palestinians are dogs to be put down. Yes maybe ‘some among the Israeli leadership are willing to share Jerusalem as a neutral territory’ but others don’t and we have the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements, which says much of what the current leadership think of the peace process. As to Hamas, I’m not at all sure what they want, there isn’t enough Western objective media to convey their side of the story. & I doubt you would trust any links I sent from Arab or alternative news sources. Lastly, being an atheist I think they all have mythically elements, Islam Judaism and Christianity. Certainly when you even have Israeli archaeologists saying that their way no Jewish invasion of Canaan and that the Jews were just another Canaanite tribe, the whole thing is just ludicrous. The Palestinians and the Jews are the same people, which the genetics upholds BTW.

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