Sunday, September 19, 2010
Attack on Gaza by Haggai Ram
On 27 December 2008, long after I submitted the final proofs of this book [ Iranophobia; The Logic Of An Israeli Obsession], Israel launched a devastating military campaign on Gaza. Codenamed “Operation Cast Lead,” this campaign was officially intended to put an end to Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israel ( by “teaching Hamas a lesson”) and at the same time to recover Israel's deterrence, which allegedly had suffered a severe blow in the 2006 Lebanon debacle. It has also been hinted – even by senior Israeli government officials – that the operation was aimed at eliminating Hamas rule in Gaza altogether.
When three weeks later, on 17 January, Israel announced a 'unilateral ceasefire,” Gaza was in rubble with the number of Palestinian deaths exceeding 1,300, 670 of them unarmed and helpless civilians (mainly children and women). This was by far the most brutal and devastating Israeli attack on Gaza since the 1967 war. President Shimon Peres, appearing on Israeli television urging cheering Israeli reserve soldiers to go into battle, attested: “You, the IDF, have achieved in 16 days what many states taken together have not been able to achieve in 16 years.”
This was like deja vu, all over again: the printed and electronic media lining up behind the government and competing against each other in disseminating the official account of the unfolding events as impartial news; and the public succumbing to the great and terrible conflagration that consumed any remnant of critical and dispassionate appraisal of this account: “fall[ing] prey to the wretched wave that has inundated, stupefied, blinded and brainwashed us.” [ Gideon Levy, “An Open Response to A.B. Yehoshua,” Ha'aretz, 18 Jan. 2009]
Never has the chorus been so loud and uniform, never has the public been so indifferent and impervious to the misery and pain of other peoples.
To get to the bottom of this contemptuous attitude, so vast and profound, towards the lives of human beings, it is necessary to turn to the rhetorical ways by means of which the Israeli government has placed its post-9/11 “wars of no choice” against the Arab vicinity within the discourse of the “war on terror”, as discussed in Chapter 3 [of my book]. Indeed, a decisive majority of Israeli did in fact accept and support the Gaza attack in the name of the “War on Terrorism,” a collectively manufactured Orwellian term that stripped the attack from its enduring contexts of occupation and dispossession, thus rendering Palestinians into an undifferentiated mass of terrorists whose humanity is seriously wanting. Israel's ultra-right-wing Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman provided a terrifying expression of this sentiment when he candidly called upon the Israeli military to “continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japaneses in World War II .”[ Jerusalem Post, 13 January, 2009].
The inverse of such a radical deflation of the lives and humanity of Palestinians was, of course, the act of investing the Jewish state with the role of vanguard on whose performance in the war the destiny of Western civilization depends. As Netanyahu told foreign reporters in the midst of the Gaza attack, “If we don't put an end to missile attacks on (our) citizens right away, they will spread. This will be bad for everyone (worldwide).” [www.netanyahu.org..etc, 13 January, 2009]
That European leaders, too, have uncritically upheld the notion that the Israeli attack on Gaza was, in fact, an impediment to such a spillover effect is attested by their impressive show of support for it. Many such leaders – including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlesconi – while voicing concern for the increasing death toll of Palestinian civilians nonetheless arrived in Israel on Sunday, 18 January, to demonstrate their support for the Israeli cause. “Watching missiles directed against residential homes in Israel,” as Berlesconi explained why he undertook the trip to Jerusalem, ' we too felt that our homes were in danger. This is a real threat to the West.” [Ynet, 18 January 2009]
To relocate Palestine into the matrix of 'world terrorism' Israel has treated post -9/11 Palestinian realities as a puppet show in which the Iranian regime was pulling the strings. The entire phenomena of Hamas was said to be an Iranian creation, aimed exclusively at advancing Iran's objective of having the Jewish state “wiped off the map.”* It is therefore not at all surprising that when Olmert appeared on Israeli national television, on 17 January to announce his cabinet's decision to end the campaign, he devoted a good part of his speech to the truism that “Hamas...was established as a power base of Iran...Pursuing regional hegemony, Iran has tried to replicate its methods of dealing with Hezbollah in the Gaza Strip.” [“The Complete Speech”, Ynet, 18 January 2009]
Even if the recent war on Gaza has proved that only poor quality, rudimentary weapons passed through the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt, the fact remains that Iran has provided moral and logistical support for Hamas. Yet, as shown in this book, by invariably overstating the extent and volume of this support, Israel has, in fact, been able to induce a radical amnesia among the public as to the continuing apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories and the Palestinian plight in general. Consequently, these and other pressing issues have been pushed to the margins. When asked in the wake of the ceasefire, “What (do) you think is the first most strategic threat to Israel,” Avigdor Lieberman stated unequivocally:
“Iran, Iran Iran.... If we were a normal state, we would top quarreling about the Palestinian issue and the Golan Heights and focus on Iran. A day after a new government will be elected (9 February, 2009) it should tell the international community that from now on we will talk neither with the Syrians nor with the Palestinians. All of you can simply fuck off. As long as there's no solution to the Iranian problem we will not deal with the settlements or the settlers – in fact, we will not deal with anything. Only after we will have taken care of the source of the problem – Iran- it will become impossible to talk about...the problem in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights” [ Ari Shavit, “Avigdor Lieberman: Missiles Will be Launched at Tel-Aviv within One Year”, Ha'aretz, 20 January,2009]
It has been argued that ' the war on terrorism' is itself a supreme act of terrorism, a...pseudonym for U.S. Imperial designs for the globe.” [ Hamid Dabashi, Islamic Liberation Theology: Resisting the Empire, London, 2008).** Whether you accept this insight (and I do accept it), Israel, as I've demonstrated in this book, has repeatedly taken advantage of Bush's anti-terrorism agenda with the view of facilitating and covering up its belligerent policies in the region. One should only hope that, with Barack Obama assuming the presidency of the United States, the Gaza attack will prove to be one of the last dying gasps of this agenda, allowing for a new, sanguine era of global politics to emerge.
*“wiped off the map.” Again, while not denying anti-semitic elements in Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, or dismissing his Holocaust denying conference in Tehran as 'irrelevant'( though largely unpopular moves by the Iranian President in Iran itself) Ram treats this as a mistranslation of Ahmadinejad's actual words.
“The myth that Iran is the new Nazi Germany and its president the new Hitler has been endlessly recycled since a translating error that was made of a 2005 speech by Ahmadinejad (has) converged with the international uproar against Iran's nuclear build-up. As we have seen, this erroneous translation has survived and prospered because Israel (and her supporters in the United States) has exploited it for its own objectives of the 'war on terrorism'....
"similarly another fictitious report originating in the Canadian National Post that the regime in Iran would henceforth require Iranian Jews to wear a yellow armband ( May, 2006), though immediately proven false, was widely accepted in Israel as a fact of life and undisputable proof that 'We are confronting a man ( Ahmadinejad) who is the Hitler of the twenty-first century,' as Labor Party's Offir Pinnnes-Paz charged. Neither a single paper ( with the notable exception of Ha'aretz nor a single expert was found to set the record straight in public.” ( pages 111-12)
**“U.S. Imperial designs for the world”.[When individuals like Newt Gingrich off-handedly accuse Barack Obama of harboring a world view tantamount to “Kenyan anti-colonialism”, this adds a good deal of credence to Mr. Dabashi's hypothesis. What would be wrong about Kenyans wanting to throw off the yoke of their colonial masters? Or that the struggle for independence in Kenya amounted to nothing more than excuse for the “primitive” (supposedly 'non-western) excesses of the Mau-Mau rebels? Nevertheless, I find the notion that the U.S. Government or “power elites' have explicitly imperial designs on the whole world ( which Chomsky, for instance, often seems at least to imply, for example) a bit hard to swallow. Despite the remarks of Mr. Gingrich, the logic of the 'the war on terrorism', the moral panics engendered by the attacks of 9/11, the general ignorance of U.S. Representatives and their political cowardice makes it seem not that far off the mark. Like many Israelis, many Americans are extremely reluctant to view their own pronouncements and the policies of their governments as others might see them. “ Dominating the world” seems to them to be an innocent business decision.]