[News] The Historical Perspective of the 2014 Gaza Massacre

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 25 11:12:22 EDT 2014


  The Historical Perspective of the 2014 Gaza Massacre

By Ilan Pappé

21 August, 2014
*http://www.pipr.co.uk/all/the-historical-perspective-of-the-2014-gaza-massacre/*

People in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine feel disappointed at the lack 
of any significant international reaction to the carnage and destruction 
the Israeli assault has so far left behind it in the Strip. The 
inability, or unwillingness, to act seems to be first and foremost an 
acceptance of the Israeli narrative and argumentation for the crisis in 
Gaza. Israel has developed a very clear narrative about the present 
carnage in Gaza.

It is a tragedy caused by an unprovoked Hamas missile attack on the 
Jewish State, to which Israel had to react in self-defence. While 
mainstream western media, academia and politicians may have reservations 
about the proportionality of the force used by Israel, they accept the 
gist of this argument. This Israeli narrative is totally rejected in the 
world of cyber activism and alternative media. There it seems the 
condemnation of the Israeli action as a war crime is widespread and 
consensual.

The main difference between the two analyses from above and from below 
is the willingness of activists to study deeper and in a more profound 
way the ideological and historical context of the present Israeli action 
in Gaza. This tendency should be enhanced even further and this piece is 
just a modest attempt to contribute towards this direction.

AD HOC SLAUGHTER?

An historical evaluation and contextualization of the present Israeli 
assault on Gaza and that of the previous three ones since 2006 expose 
clearly the Israeli genocidal policy there. An incremental policy of 
massive killing that is less a product of a callous intention as it is 
the inevitable outcome of Israel's overall strategy towards Palestine in 
general and the areas it occupied in 1967, in particular.

This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda 
machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of 
context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction 
into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate 
slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.

The Israeli strategy of branding its brutal policies as an /ad 
hoc/ response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the 
Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a 
justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine 
that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians. The means for 
achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained 
the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish State might be, it can 
only materialize without any significant number of Palestinians in it. 
And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole 
of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live.

This vision ran into trouble once territorial greed led Israel to try 
and keep the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within its rule and control 
ever since June 1967. Israel searched for a way to keep the territories 
it occupied that year without incorporating their population into its 
rights-bearing citizenry. All the while it participated in a 'peace 
process' charade to cover up or buy time for its unilateral colonization 
policies on the ground.

With the decades, Israel differentiated between areas it wished to 
control directly and those it would manage indirectly, with the aim in 
the long run of downsizing the Palestinian population to a minimum with, 
among other means, ethnic cleansing and economic and geographic 
strangulation. Thus the West Bank was in effect divided into a 'Jewish' 
and a 'Palestinian' zones -- a reality most Israelis can live with 
provided the Palestinian Bantustans are content with their incarceration 
within these mega prisons. The geopolitical location of the West Bank 
creates the impression in Israel, at least, that it is possible to 
achieve this without anticipating a third uprising or too much 
international condemnation.

The Gaza Strip, due to its unique geopolitical location, did not lend 
itself that easily to such a strategy. Ever since 1994, and even more so 
when Ariel Sharon came to power as prime minister in the early 2000s, 
the strategy there was to ghettoize Gaza and somehow hope that the 
people there --- 1.8 million as of today --- would be dropped into 
eternal oblivion.

But the Ghetto proved to be rebellious and unwilling to live under 
conditions of strangulation, isolation, starvation and economic 
collapse. There was no way it would be annexed to Egypt, neither in 1948 
nor in 2014. In 1948, Israel pushed into the Gaza area (before it became 
a strip) hundreds of thousands of refugees it expelled from the northern 
Naqab and southern coast who, so they hoped, would move even farther 
away from Palestine.

For a while after 1967, it wanted to keep as a township which provided 
unskilled labour but without any human and civil rights. When the 
occupied people resisted the continued oppression in two intifadas, the 
West Bank was bisected into small Bantustans encircled by Jewish 
colonies, but it did not work in the too small and too dense Gaza Strip. 
The Israelis were unable to 'West Bank' the Strip, so to speak. So they 
cordoned it as a Ghetto and when it resisted the army was allowed to use 
its most formidable and lethal weapons to crash it. The inevitable 
result of an accumulative reaction of this kind was genocidal.

INCREMENTAL GENOCIDE

The killing of three Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, abducted in 
the occupied West Bank in June, which was mainly a reprisal for killings 
of Palestinian children in May, provided the pretext first and foremost 
for destroying the delicate unity Hamas and Fatah have formed in that 
month. A unity that followed a decision by the Palestinian Authority to 
forsake the 'peace process' and appeal to international organizations to 
judge Israel according to a human and civil rights' yardstick. Both 
developments were viewed as alarming in Israel.

The pretext determined the timing -- but the viciousness of the assault 
was the outcome of Israel's inability to formulate a clear policy 
towards the Strip it created in 1948. The only clear feature of that 
policy is the deep conviction that wiping out the Hamas from the Gaza 
Strip would domicile the Ghetto there.

Since 1994, even before the rise of Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip, 
the very particular geopolitical location of the Strip made it clear 
that any collective punitive action, such as the one inflicted now, 
could only be an operation of massive killings and destruction. In other 
words: an incremental genocide.

This recognition never inhibited the generals who give the orders to 
bomb the people from the air, the sea and the ground. Downsizing the 
number of Palestinians all over historic Palestine is still the Zionist 
vision; an ideal that requires the dehumanisation of the Palestinians. 
In Gaza, this attitude and vision takes its most inhuman form.

The particular timing of this wave is determined, as in the past, by 
additional considerations. The domestic social unrest of 2011 is still 
simmering and for a while there was a public demand to cut military 
expenditures and move money from the inflated 'defence' budget to social 
services. The army branded this possibility as suicidal. There is 
nothing like a military operation to stifle any voices calling on the 
government to cut its military expenses.

Typical hallmarks of the previous stages in this incremental genocide 
reappear in this wave as well. As in the first operation against Gaza, 
'First Rains' in 2006, and those which followed in 2009, 'Cast Lead', 
and 2012, 'Pillar of Smoke', one can witness again consensual Israeli 
Jewish support for the massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip, without 
one significant voice of dissent. The Academia, as always, becomes part 
of the machinery. Various universities offered the state its student 
bodies to help and battle for the Israeli narrative in the cyberspace 
and alternative media.

The Israeli media, as well, toed loyally the government's line, showing 
no pictures of the human catastrophe Israel has wreaked and informing 
its public that this time, 'the world understands us and is behind us'. 
That statement is valid to a point as the political elites in the West 
continue to provide the old immunity to the Jewish state. The recent 
appeal by Western governments to the prosecutor in the international 
court of Justice in The Hague not to look into Israel's crimes in Gaza 
is a case in point. Wide sections of the Western media followed suit and 
justified by and large Israel's actions.

This distorted coverage is also fed by a sense among Western journalist 
that what happens in Gaza pales in comparison to the atrocities in Iraq 
and Syria. Comparisons like this are usually provided without a wider 
historical perspective. A longer view on the history of the Palestinians 
would be a much more appropriate way to evaluate their suffering 
vis-à-vis the carnage elsewhere.

CONCLUSION: CONFRONTING DOUBLE-STANDARDS

But not only historical view is needed for a better understanding of the 
massacre in Gaza. A dialectical approach that identifies the connection 
between Israel's immunity and the horrific developments elsewhere is 
required as well. The dehumanization in Iraq and Syria is widespread and 
terrifying, as it is in Gaza. But there is one crucial difference 
between these cases and the Israeli brutality: the former are condemned 
as barbarous and inhuman worldwide, while those committed by Israel are 
still publicly licensed and approved by the president of the United 
States, the leaders of the EU and Israel's other friends in the world.

The only chance for a successful struggle against Zionism in Palestine 
is the one based on a human and civil rights agenda that does not 
differentiate between one violation and the other and yet identifies 
clearly the victim and the victimizers. Those who commit atrocities in 
the Arab world against oppressed minorities and helpless communities, as 
well as the Israelis who commit these crimes against the Palestinian 
people, should all be judged by the same moral and ethical standards. 
They are all war criminals, though in the case of Palestine they have 
been at work longer than anyone else. It does not really matter what the 
religious identity is of the people who commit the atrocities or in the 
name of which religion they purport to speak. Whether they call 
themselves jihadists, Judaists or Zionists, they should be treated in 
the same way.

A world that would stop employing double standards in its dealings with 
Israel is a world that could be far more effective in its response to 
war crimes elsewhere in the world. Cessation of the incremental genocide 
in Gaza and the restitution of the basic human and civil rights of 
Palestinians wherever they are, including the right of return, is the 
only way to open a new vista for a productive international intervention 
in the Middle East as a whole.

/Ilan Pappé is an Israeli historian at the University of Exeter, UK./ 
/His books include/ The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine /(2007) and/ The 
Idea of Israel/(2014)./

-- 
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