Israel, you’ve gone too far

My latest article for New Matilda is about Israel’s lies in Gaza:

The international Jewish community is divided over the latest offensive in Gaza, writes Antony Loewenstein

When the fighting eventually ends between Israel and Hamas, what will remain of the Gaza Strip and its people?

One local Zionist leader will have us believe that Hamas is a Nazi-like organization that only understands the language of force. A moral and just war is therefore being waged against them.

A columnist in the Jerusalem Post worries that, “while the world is being fed dramatic pictures from Gaza, there are few dramatic pictures from Israel, and gaping holes in apartment buildings hit by Grad rockets can’t compete with footage from Gaza of crying children splattered in blood.”

Israeli Government sources told Haaretz this week that their ultimate goal after the current operation is to install “moderate, pragmatic officials” in Gaza. Major General Tal Russo, head of the General Staff’s Operations Directorate, acknowledged however that, “it’s doubtful if it is possible to bring about regime change in the Gaza Strip solely by force.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recently commented that “there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce”.

Welcome to Israel’s surprisingly effective spin campaign. The reality on the ground sits in stark contrast to it.

A Norwegian volunteer doctor sent a desperate text message to his friends this week which revealed the chaos caused by Israel’s destruction: “We are wading in death, blood, and amputees. Many children. A pregnant woman. I have never experienced anything so terrible. Now we hear tanks. Pass it on, send it around, shout it out. Anything. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE! We are living in a history book now, all of us.”

Eyewitness accounts are flooding out of Gaza. With most foreign media banned from the area… — because, in the words of Israel’s Government press office, Western journalists are “unprofessional” and take “questionable reports at face value without checking” — we are forced to rely on Palestinian bloggers, human rights workers, Twitter, text messages and al-Jazeera.

Documenting all Israeli atrocities is a necessary act at this time, although close to impossible in the circumstances. Equally important is challenging the widespread Zionist belief that Hamas poses an existential threat to Israel and even the US (a point soundly refuted by Salon‘s Glen Greenwald on one of America’s leading conservative talk-shows). Despite all its obvious failings, Hamas is a democratically elected party of the Palestinian people.

The Damascus leader of the group, Khalid Mish’al, wrote this week in the Guardian that it was absurd to expect his organisation to cease resistance to occupation. He was defiant: “Israel and its American and European sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in silence we will not.”

According to much of the media, Hamas is the aggressor. Israel remains in a never-ending defensive crouch, despite fighting an enemy without a state, air-force or fully-functioning civil institutions. Western journalistic and political parlance excuses all manner of Israeli attacks on Palestine but any challenge to the F-16s bombing Gazan refugee camps is denounced as terrorism.

A convincing thesis to explain the current onslaught is that Israel wants to kill dead in its tracks any prospects for even entering peace negotiations with the Palestinians — such as removal of settlements, reduction of checkpoints and restoring freedom of movement — and re-establish Fatah-led rule in Gaza. This is a classic colonial divide and rule mentality, supported by the vast majority of the Western powers, including Australia.

The deadly silence of President-elect Obama — and his recent appointment of arch Zionist and failed negotiator Dennis Ross as Middle East envoy — suggests that America will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel after his 20 January inauguration. It is wishful thinking to believe otherwise.

One of the more interesting elements of this conflict has been the response of the mainstream Jewish community. Aside from my own efforts — Independent Australian Jewish Voices continues to generate support and media coverage — moderate Zionist groups in America have been mercilessly attacked by hardline Jews for daring to question the validity of the Gaza war.

Cracks are appearing in the Jewish community and not just on the fringes. This is counter-insurgency on a major scale. The group J Street is the latest to argue against the onslaught.

One leading moderate Jew, Daniel Levy, claimed this week that the Zionist lobby is “driving Israel toward national suicide”. Such debates, at a time when the same lobby are baying for Palestinian blood and as much of it as possible, are essential. Many of us feel a deep shame over Israeli crimes.

I have long believed that the political realities in the Middle East will not change until there is a serious reckoning of the damage wrought by the fundamentalist Zionism movement on public policy and debate. From the Iraq war to threatening strikes against Iran, neo-conservative values have infected the body politic and too few Jews are speaking out against it. Neo-conservatism may have comprehensively failed as an ideology, but the loudest Jewish voices still represent the most extreme militant positions.

A rare exception, as expressed by Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, is an alternative Judaism that is not bound by every Israeli military action as if it was deigned by God himself. “Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination”, he writes. Nothing has changed since 1948.

It would be wise for Israelis and those cheering their destruction to read a recent essay by Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset. He writes that, “It is no longer possible to annihilate nations or at least suppress their aspirations of independence”. Israel has fundamentally ignored this advice during its current futile war.

The only outcome of this war will be increased terrorism against Jews and the state of Israel.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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