Shameless in Gaza
I think it was Arundhati Roy who said if she sounded shrill it was only because the human situations she described were shrill. Any ‘objective’, ‘balanced’ or ‘neutral’ description would be a lie. Today, it is difficult to find words to describe the crime, the horror, the tragedy, the outrage and the evil perpetrated by Israel and the US in Gaza. Facts, figures and reports can only reveal so much. They hide more than they reveal.
The utter impunity of Israel appalls. The utter immunity provided to Israel by the US is even more appalling. And the fact that we rely so completely on the tolerance and goodwill of the US is still more appalling in these circumstances.
Well, what can we do? We cannot take on the sole superpower. We have our own problems. Our hearts bleed for our dying and bleeding brethren, even though they never spent much time worrying about us, or our causes. We have already done as much as our pathetic capacities would warrant.
Our ferocious jihadis have sought to persuade Malala to go and die in Gaza. Of course, doing so themselves has not occurred to them. Like our uncles in the region they do not have much sympathy for the Palestinians. For one, too many of them seem to be secular. For another, although the Sunni Hamas generally have beards they are politically close to heretical Iran.
Moreover, Israel and our munificent uncles share unspoken but critical understandings about upholding the regional status quo. In this scenario, Iran and its cohorts, including the Palestinians, are disturbers of the peace – the bad guys. How does the new Islamic State fit into all this? It doesn’t. Meanwhile Washington and Tel Aviv wonder if they cannot defeat Hamas, can the caliphate?
The US deplores the loss of life, casualties and destruction to property in Gaza. Accordingly, it has decided to provide an additional $430 million to Israel to continue its good work to safeguard its existence from firecrackers and tunnels to bust an illegal and inhumane blockade. Not so long ago it was similarly threatened by the unpleasant words of a former Iranian president.
The implied message is clear: no conceivable Israeli crime against ‘non-people’ such as Arabs and Muslims will ever be effectively opposed by the US. Every US president has made this commitment to Israel. Israel has been given the status of an extension of the US itself. Noam Chomsky described it as the main US aircraft carrier in the Middle East. We can call it USS Israel!
Like the US, Israel cannot commit crimes or perpetrate terror no matter what the bloody reality in Gaza shows. It can only commit forgivable errors out of a zealous desire to rightfully defend its existence. Three hundred dead Gazan children are testimony to this understandable Israeli zeal.
The entire record of crimes perpetrated by the US and Israel is consigned to the ‘black hole’ of history. No memory of them should escape into the media universe and legitimate discourse. If any does it can only be due to anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism both of which are grievous moral failures. Orwell was an innocent when he wrote his masterpiece: 1984.
The BBC, Fox News, CNN, NBC, ABC, Sky News, Reuters, AFP, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, LA Times, etc and the emerging universe of social media – with notable exceptions – compete fiercely to ensure that only filtered and processed news is able to manufacture opinion and consent. This, of course, is part of The US One Percent’s Global Corporate War on Humanity and Civilisation. This war is fought under a range of code-words such as ‘the war on terror’, ‘counter-terror’, ‘democracy building’, ‘promoting stability’, ‘taking out the bad guys’, ‘making the world safe’, ‘the right to protect’, ‘humanitarian intervention’, ‘kinetic diplomacy’, etc.
Hence all the manufactured myths about Israel’s right to defend itself, the existential threat posed by firecrackers and tunnels, Hamas imposed human shields and its calculated slaughter of its own people to blame innocent Israel. These myths are designed to cover Israeli crimes of collective punishment, militarily disproportionate responses, targeting homes, schools, hospitals, UN shelters, playgrounds, beaches, market places, mosques, etc. Where can Gazans go when the entire territory is a free firing zone? As one Gazan father said, pointing to the grave in which he was burying his child, “this is our only safe haven.”
The blood of Gazan women and children can only scream so much. Gazan mothers beside themselves with grief for their slaughtered children need to understand this. Or else they can be considered legitimate targets for existentially threatened Israelis. Some Israeli female politicians have called for the killing of Gazan mothers whose wailings are undignified, bothersome, even threatening!
Leave alone war crimes or crimes against humanity, the west wrestles with the question whether the holocaust in Gaza qualifies as a humanitarian crisis. Have enough civilians been killed? Maybe Hamas needs to be replaced by more dependable Palestinians. Who would they be? Mahmud Abbas? He has signed a unity agreement with Hamas. Maybe he can discard it.
Hamas has every legal right to resist illegal occupation and blockade including through the use of armed force. Its demands that the blockade be lifted, essential provisions and materials allowed in, reconstruction of homes and offices begun, prisoners released, and the right to work, export and receive pledged assistance and remittances respected, are all perfectly legal. Indeed they are the only path towards beginning a peace process. But they are rejected by Israel and the US as irrelevant, obstructionist and provocative. Why? Because peace is the last thing they want in the Middle East.
Hamas won a perfectly credible and legitimate election seven years ago. The Gazans were immediately illegally and inhumanly punished for having voted the wrong way. That punishment has continued without pause to this day. Israeli military assaults grab the headlines. But it is the ‘normal’ inter-assault periods in which Israel backed by the US has systematically violated every single human and humanitarian right of the Gazans that is the greater tragedy.
The US and Israel have made a mockery of the 1980 UN Security Council Resolution 465 which stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons is applicable to Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. An illegal blockade, economic strangulation and military assaults are all acts of war and occupation.
The Israelis have in fact given the Gazans a clear choice: either die peacefully of progressive strangulation, or die resisting along with your families. In Tampa, Florida students asked Obama about the plight of the Gazans. He stuttered and answered by saying US support for Israel was non-negotiable. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate!
We have our responsibilities towards our people. We need not seek confrontation or jeopardise bilateral cooperation with the US. But the US should at least be made to pay a diplomatic price for its unconscionable support for Israeli crimes. That may entail a larger price for us. But it will be part of the price for good governance including an independent foreign policy, not to speak of the respect of our own people. Ultimately, the cost/benefit ratio will more than justify any price. But I guess I am losing the plot again. Back to ‘balanced’ commentary!
The writer is a former envoy to the US and India.