[News] When the smoke clears in Gaza

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Aug 9 11:42:55 EDT 2014

When the smoke clears in Gaza

/*Robin D. G. Kelley <http://mondoweiss.net/author/robin-d-g-kelley>* /
/August 8, 2014


/"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of 
the Palestinians" --Nelson Mandela/

Israel's illegal, genocidal war on the people of Gaza has the 
characteristics of a massive tsunami.
Waged with even greater ferocity than Operation Cast Lead or any other 
assault since the Nakba of 1948 or the 1967 War, its destructive impact 
may even be worse. Masked as a war of "self-defense," the 
euphemistically-named "Operation Protective Edge" is state violence at 
warp speed; it is completely indiscriminate yet calculated in its 
targeting of children and adult civilians, hospitals, schools, shelters, 
markets, and neighborhoods. So massive the onslaught, so swift the 
reports on social media, that my twitter feed resembles a ticker-tape 
machine. No one can write or speak fast enough to keep up with the body 

As I write now, the Palestinian dead is inching toward the 2,000 mark, 
the injured close to 10,000; a quarter of Gaza's population is 
displaced; about 10,000 homes were destroyed---including 141 schools; 
entire neighborhoods have been razed to the ground; morgues are filled 
to capacity as dead bodies lay strewn in streets, under rubble or placed 
in vegetable refrigerators or commercial ice cream freezers. The lack of 
electricity, clean water, food, sanitation, medical supplies, among 
other things, means a variety of infectious, nutritional and water-borne 
diseases are imminent.

If you are reading this, you're probably familiar with these terrifying 

Thanks to fearless journalists and activists by way of social media, the 
consequences of the war have slipped past the cordon of corporate U.S. 
media obliged to "balance" horrific images of dead civilians with the 
Orwellian propaganda of Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF spokesman Lt. 
Colonel Peter Lerner, the enthusiastic cheerleading of National Security 
Advisor Susan Rice, and President Obama whose fidelity to Israel's 
"security" manifestly overrides any expressed concerns over the 
slaughter of children.

However heartbroken members of the Obama administration or Congress 
might be over the killing of innocents, they enthusiastically backed 
re-arming Israel with no conditions whatsoever. Obama did not flinch 
when he approved an additional $225 million in "emergency aid" for 
Israel's "Iron Dome." He absolutely refuses to recognize Israel's 
attacks on Gaza as a massacre, apparently missing the irony in hisrecent 
press statement justifying air strikes and dropping humanitarian aid in 
"[W]hen we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I 
believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can 
act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide."

The U.S. did not act carefully or responsibly with regard to Israel. 
Instead, the president was an enabler. He knew full well that the attack 
on Gaza was not about the kidnapping of three Israeli students or the 
so-called terror tunnels running from the Gaza Strip into Israel.As 
Norman Finkelstein recently pointed out on/Democracy Now!/ 
Israel could have easily sealed off the tunnels from within their own 
borders without firing a shot. The war was an aggressive act of 
collective punishment (a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva 
Convention) intended to intimidate Palestinians for supporting Hamas, 
undermine prospects for a unity government, completely disarm the 
territory, and tighten its control of the occupation.

In the course of the last three weeks, I've encountered more and more 
people who only a year ago had little to say about Palestine now 
describing Gaza as the largest open-air prison in the world, or citing 
the fact that our taxes subsidize Israel's garrison state to the tune of 
6 million dollars a day, and that U.S. aid to Israel since 1949 has 
exceeded 121 billion dollars. They also know that the U.S. has 
consistently vetoed U.N. resolutions condemning Israel's abuses of human 
rights. The most sophisticated readers understand that the wars in Gaza, 
not to mention IDF attacks and home demolitions in the West Bank, 
violate our own Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of U.S. 
weapons and military aid against civilians, particularly in occupied 

The growing number of "heartbroken" Americans among us are beginning to 
read /Ma'an News, The Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya, 
Counterpunch, The Middle East Monitor, The Link/, download reports from 
the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), listen to Democracy 
Now!, follow the tweets of Gaza journalists such as Mohammed Omer, or 
simply take notice of the steadfast activism of Jewish Voice for Peace, 
International Solidarity Movement (Palestine), Students for Justice in 
Palestine, Codepink, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, 
USACBI, to name but a few. The latest carnage in Gaza is the turning 
point, we are told; the age-old knee-jerk charges of anti-Semitism no 
longer work to stifle criticism of Israel. (Though apparently no one has 
told the Congressional Black Caucus---with the possible exception of 
Keith Ellison---or so-called African American leaders or their 
self-appointed punditocracy, whose cowardly silence on Palestine has 
become commonplace.)

And best of all, fewer critics are framing Palestinian oppression in 
terms of alleged ancient Jewish-Arab hostilities or even an 
Israeli-Palestinian "conflict," but rather as a colonial occupation and 
violation of international law and human rights, subsidized by the 
United States.

Besides the news that Spain had imposed an arms embargo on Israel, and 
Latin American nations have severed diplomatic ties in response to the 
attack on Gaza, the increase in Americans critical of Israel may be the 
only silver lining in this horrific episode. And still, I worry. We've 
been here before. During Operation Cast Lead when Israeli forces were 
shelling hospitals, mosques, schools, businesses, infrastructure, and 
U.N. facilities, and children were blown to bits, the world---including 
many Americans---were rightfully outraged.

When the smoke cleared, 1,419 Palestinians were dead (82.2% civilians), 
at least 5,300 were injured, and large swaths of Gaza lay in near ruins. 
Protests swelled, petitions circulated, and poets turned despair into 
resistance. The Goldstone Report appeared soon thereafter, exposing a 
litany of war crimes and violations of international law and human 
rights.The Palestinian Center for Human Rights filed 490 separate 
criminal complaints to Israeli authorities on behalf of 1,046 victims 
<http://www.globalresearch.ca/gaza-remembering-operation-cast-lead/28382> demanding 
prosecution and redress for what were clearly documented war crimes, but 
these were ignored. Instead,the Israeli military conducted its own 
internal investigation, exonerating itself 
"[T]hroughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with 
international law.

The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an 
enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover 
amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human 
shields." Eventually mass indignation receded, leaving only the die-hard 
activists and the Palestinian people as a whole faced with the prospect 
of dying a slow death under occupation and systematic strangulation.

Action in support of Gaza, and Palestine more generally, tends to rise 
in proportion to spectacular violence. The IDF attack on the Gaza 
flotilla in 2010---the infamous assault on the MV Marvi 
Marmara---generated a surge of international condemnation. Two years 
later, when Israeli air strikes resumed under "Operation Returning 
protests broke out everywhere fearing a repeat of 2008-2009. The latest 
criminal war on Gaza has thus far produced the most casualties, the most 
material damage, and the greatest moral outrage. Images of infant 
corpses, young men succumbing to sniper bullets, and entire families 
being pulled from the rubble generate feelings of anger and sympathy, 
while propaganda efforts to portray Israelis as vulnerable, terrified 
victims of Hamas rockets have largely backfired.

Spectacular violence in Gaza and the West Bank has certainly swelled the 
ranks of the BDS movement, but in the lull between well-publicized 
crises, the struggle for Palestinian justice tends to be difficult and 
isolating. Less than a year ago, theAmerican Studies Association faced 
relentless attacks for passing a fairly mild resolution respecting the 
boycott of Israeli academic institutions 
The backlash culminated in an open, acrimonious attack on the BDS 
movement by nearly every major university president across the country.

And apparently the backlash within American academe continues, as 
evidenced by the recent efforts bythe AMCHA Initiative to fire 
/*Professor Rabab Abdulhadi*/ 
(above) from her post at San Francisco State University for leading a 
delegation of scholars to Palestine, and the decision by University of 
Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Chancellor, Phyllis Wise, tofire Professor 
Steven Salaita for his searing critiques of Israel on twitter 
And lest we forget,the defenders of Alicia Keys were declaring victory 
over BDS "bullies" 
<http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/16/empire-state-of-mind/> because 
she decided that performing in Tel Aviv, normalizing and legitimizing 
the regime while it waged its own war of attrition against Palestinians 
in Gaza and the West Bank, was perfectly consistent with her 
humanitarian aims of promoting global children's health.

The ranks of BDS supporters continue to grow, due largely to tireless 
organizing and partly to Israel's attacks on Gaza and dramatic stories 
of violence and dispossession in the West Bank. My point is that 
reacting to spectacular violence cannot sustain a movement, especially 
if the sole objective is the cessation of hostilities. Peace is 
impossible without justice.

The brilliant Egyptian writer,Adhaf Soueif, said it best in a recent 
"The world treated Gaza as a humanitarian case, as if what the 
Palestinians needed was aid. What Gaza needs is freedom."

Freedom means much more than ending the blockade. Freedom means, at 
minimum, ending the occupation, dismantling apartheid, eradicating 
racism, and ensuring the right of Palestinians to return to their native 
land. These are not abstract, pie-in-the-sky demands, but constitute the 
necessary conditions for a Palestinian future and a stable and secure 

As I write these words, Israel has rejected the ceasefire agreement 
proposed by Palestinian representatives. Not surprisingly, the U.S. and 
Israeli press are spinning the story as if Hamas rejected Israel's 
generous terms for a ceasefire.What the Palestinians proposed is quite 
they are asking for the cessation of violence, including Israeli 
incursions, assassinations, infiltrations; ending the siege and opening 
borders for the movement of people and goods; permission for Palestinian 
fishermen to fish; reopening of the Gaza airport and the establishment 
of a marine port; exonerating the West Bank protesters who were or 
currently are detained since June 12; and launching reconstruction 
efforts in Gaza headed by the national unity government with assistance 
from the United Nations.

Israel's unilateral rejection opens the door for more bloodshed. Even if 
Israel had agreed to the terms laid out by the Palestinians, it would 
not end the occupation. It would have provided much needed relief to the 
embattled, but it would have also been something akin to a pyrrhic 
victory at best, a far cry from the ultimate objective: a Free 
Palestine. And Israel understands this, which is why its pundits, 
politicians, and military strategists are already preparing for the next 
war on Gaza.

Determining next steps requires that we go back many steps -- before the 
siege, before the election of Hamas, before the withdrawal of Jewish 
settlements in Gaza, before the Oslo Accords, even before the strip came 
under Israeli occupation in 1967. Often described as "the largest 
open-air prison in the world," Gaza is much closer to a concentration 
camp than a prison. And despite a rich and ancient history, its peculiar 
condition can be traced to the Nakba generated by Israel's creation in 1948.

The 1.8 million currently locked inside Gaza are not there because they 
were charged with a crime; on the contrary, they are crime victims. Most 
Gazans are descendants of families driven from their homes during 
Israel's colonial/territorial wars of 1948 and 1967. They have not 
received compensation for the unlawful seizure of their property. They 
are there because they were in the way of Israeli settlement 
policy---much like the Poles and the Czechs and the Russians and all 
European Jews who got in the way of German designs for lebensraum 
(living space). And like the victims of German aggression, Gazans are 
subject to bombing raids on civilians, chemical warfare, deliberate 
starvation and other unspeakable war crimes---and for a much longer 
period of time.

But unlike concentration camp inmates who resisted German occupation, 
Gazans who resist are not portrayed as heroes in the media or even in 
the most liberal, "sympathetic" accounts. Those who fire hundreds of 
ineffectual rockets or throw thousands of ineffectual rocks are rendered 
the aggressor, the source of the conflict, the terrorist.

If we recognize as the U.N. does, the illegal blockade and war on Gaza, 
it is not unreasonable to imagine a U.N. "peace keeping" force 
dispatched to suppress the violence and break the blockade. Of course, 
when it comes to the "defense" of Israel, law and reason yield to 
American power and its blind allegiance. A few rungs down the ladder of 
appropriate, reasonable responses are international sanctions, boycott 
and divestment. Yet, even some of the staunchest critics of the 
occupation take issue with BDS, notably the movement's fourth demand: 
that Israel grants all Palestinians the right to return as stipulated by 
UN Resolution 194. Leftists and Progressives have largely embraced the 
other three demands: end the occupation and the blockade of Gaza; 
dismantle the apartheid wall; recognize the fundamental rights of all 
Palestinian-Arab/ & Bedouin citizens of Israel for full equality. But 
once you open a path to return, to restore stolen property, to repair 
nearly seventy years of dispossession, Israel as it is currently 
constituted is unsustainable.

I do not believe this is merely a matter of living in denial that the 
two-state solution is dead. It also has to do with the inability on the 
part of a segment of the Left to see Israel as a colonial project, 
specifically a settler colonial state founded on the subjugation of 
indigenous people (Palestinians--Muslim and Christian; Bedouin; Mizrahi 
Jews; and imported racialized labor) but with the backing of 
international law.


For one thing, part of the answer lay in the unique historical context 
for Israel's founding, as well as the power of its founding myths. There 
is the convergence between Israel's Zionist roots -- a nationalist 
ideology generated partly in opposition to racist/ethnic/religious 
oppression, but also motivated by an imperative to bring modernization 
to a so-called backward Arab world---and the post-Ottoman colonial 
domination of the region by Britain and France. By colonial subjects I 
mean an indigenous people (inhabitants of the Mandate known as 
Palestine---Muslims, Christians, Mizrahim or Sephardic Jews) under 
British rule, alongside European Jewish settlers after the Balfour 
Declaration of 1917. Ultimately, this convergence put Jewish settlers in 
conflict with British imperialism.

Second, the Holocaust was critical, not just for the obvious reasons 
that the genocide generated global indignation and sympathy for the 
plight of Jews and justified Zionist arguments for a homeland, but 
because, as Aime Cesaire argued in Discourse on Colonialism (1950) 
(before Hannah Arendt), the Holocaust itself was a manifestation of 
colonial violence. Therefore, in 1948, Israel comes into being as a 
nation identified as victims of colonial/racist violence, through armed 
insurrection against British imperialism. It is a narrative that renders 
invisible the core violence of ethnic cleansing, the Nakba, resulting in 
the destruction of some 380 Palestinian towns and villages, producing 
the massive refugee population that settles in the Gaza strip.

The myth of Israel's heroic war of liberation against the British 
convinced even the most anti-colonial intellectuals to link Israel's 
independence with African independence and Third World liberation (and 
at some point, even Israel's ruling labor party pursued alliances with 
newly independent African nations under the guise that they, too, were 
part of the non-aligned movement). This began to change in the early 
1960s, when Israel had become cozy allies with apartheid South Africa 
under Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd--who observed in 1961, 
that,"Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state." 
Verwoerd was right. After the Nakba expelled about 700,000 Palestinians, 
Israel passed The Absentees' Property Law (1950), effectively 
transferring all property owned or used by Palestinian refugees to the 
state, and then denied their right to return or reclaim their losses. 
The land grab continued after the 1967 war and military occupation of 
Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

Israel's right to exist may be inscribed in law, but it functions as a 
rogue state, one of the last nakedly colonial outposts operating above 
the protocols of international law and human rights. Its lawlessness is 
enabled by the United States. A complete end to the blockade is but one 
small step in a protracted struggle to bring Israel into 
compliance---and that is still not the entire task before us. Even after 
the bombing stops and the smoke clears, we must continue to build the 
BDS campaign; ramp up our opposition to racism (including the assault on 
African immigrants and asylum seekers in Israel); support an embattled 
Israeli and Palestinian Left; demand that Israel's war crimes be 
prosecuted and U.S. complicity in such crimes rendered visible; fight 
for an arms embargo on Israel; oppose the ongoing dispossession and home 
demolitions in the West Bank, the use of administrative detention, 
jailing of minors, and political repression; and demand the right of 
return and for just compensation for one of the great colonial crimes of 
the last half century.

To fight for a truly democratic, nonracist, humane, sustainable, 
economically viable, safe and secure world for the people of 
Palestine/Israel is merely to demand what we have been struggling to 
achieve in this country for decades. As long as the lives ofSalem 
Khaleel Shamaly 
andEric Garner <http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/what-killed-eric-garner> and 
countless others can be snuffed out by the state or vigilantes for 
merely being rendered a criminal threat, then none of us are really free.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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