Monday, December 29, 2008

Erasing the Past of Gaza: A Revised Reality

In a New York Times article regarding the Israeli assault on the Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza Strip we are regaled by some of the brutality committed by Hamas against Palestinians who Hamas considered to be collaborators with Israel and the United States. And indeed it is not pretty to read but as usual with the news media there is much that isn’t being said. In fact when one reads publications like the NYT it often seems that history has been erased as if nothing before today actually ever happened. Much of the reporting in the article merely repeats talking points or I should say propaganda mouthed by various politicians as if that is all that is needed to be said.

Most western leaders lay the blame for the violence directly at the feet of Hamas who as I have said I bear no great love for yet to lay the blame entirely on Hamas is just nonsense. One piece of history that is being ignored is that the election of Hamas was a direct result of the U.S.’ ignorant and ill-advised meddling with cultures that they neither understand nor wish to as if viewing the world through western eyes is all that is needed when involved in foreign affairs.


WASHINGTON — After making democracy a defining marker for American foreign policy, President Bush got a jolting message from Palestinian voters: Be careful what you wish for.
The United States promoted the democratic Palestinian election that now has produced an upset victory for the militant Islamic group Hamas. The election could install an organization the United States considers terrorist in place of a Palestinian leadership that, while weak, was pledged to work with Israel and with Washington.

The administration is caught between Bush's clarion rhetoric about spreading liberty even in unlikely places and the reality that self-determination can yield results that appear counter to U.S. interests. That's a challenge the United States may have to confront someday in other places as well, including Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, the Balkans and — closer to home — South America.

"We in the United States have got to get used to the idea that other countries are going to have changes, and they may not be ones that" traditional Western thinking can readily grasp, said Council on Foreign Relations Mideast expert Judith Kipper.

Despite all our blunderings in the past the accepted role of the U.S. as the “guiding light” of the world is accepted almost universally by American citizens but most especially by our politicos on both sides of the isle. Obama has made it one of the mainstays of his speeches that this will also be an American Century where the U.S. will act as world leader. And almost all politicians, not just Obama, believe this rhetoric completely despite the serious blowback of such world views and the human suffering it has caused.

Because the past is ignored readers of the NYT and other publications will go away believing that the root cause for the Israeli bombing of Gaza is due to the unreasonableness of Hamas but this is simply not true.

For more history on the violence occurring I would recommend you read a recent post by Dennis Perrin and you should follow the excellent links he provides which sheds a lot of light on the roles of the Israeli government and Hamas that is by and large completely ignored by our mainstream news media.


It's interesting to note how all the excuses for slaughtering Palestinians when the PLO was Hitler are now being used to tar Hamas. They reject compromise, are bottomless Jew haters, are addicted to death, want to drive Israel into the sea, etc. Naturally, being human beings, there are Palestinians who match these descriptions (just as there are Israelis who view Palestinians as dogs, pigs, insects, and cancers). But accurate labeling isn't the goal here; finding excuses to justify attacks that were pre-planned is the overall point. Again, this goes back to the PLO period, when Fatah offers of two-state negotiation, beginning in 1976, were not only rejected by Israel, but were often answered with air strikes. When the PLO kept offering to talk, Israel found ways to undermine Palestinian moderation, from helping anti-PLO Muslims gain political/military traction (which led to Hamas), to outright attempts at physical annihilation, like the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Now that Fatah has been reduced to Israeli-client status, the same bloody playbook is being used against Hamas, and will be used against whoever succeeds them.

Since most readers do not click on links here is an excerpt from the Richard Seymour post Dennis links.

The Qassam rockets were being used as one component of an array of military tactics deployed by Gazan groups before the pull-out, the Gush Katif colonies being the prominent target. This was a response to a wave of violence and expulsions in which, for example, 13,350 residents of Rafah had their homes and life belongings destroyed in the year preceding the withdrawal, courtesy of Israeli tanks and Caterpillar bulldozers. Parts of Gaza came to resemble Grozny. The Israelis frequently attacked ambulances, at one point using the argument that UNRWA had allowed Qassam rockets to be loaded on board one such vehicle (this turned out to be a lie, but it is still repeated on many a media outlet and website). The vast majority of casualties from their use date back to the period of formal colonialism. After the withdrawal, the rate at which these were used diminished dramatically. Their use has spiked in response to serial atrocities against Palestinians, such as the slaughter of the Ghaliya family on the Gaza beach, (in which Hamas broke an eighteen month unilateral ceasefire).

There were few such rockets fired during the six-month ceasefire, even though Israel didn't respect its terms, but their use was increased again as Israel broke the truce on November 4th (burn that date into your brain and remember it next time someone tells you that those nasty Hamas thugs wouldn't renew the ceasefire). Now, there are legitimate arguments about both the efficacy and ethics of using such weapons. To my mind, they have very little going for them as a tactic of resistance. But the apparently widespread belief that Qassam rockets are the vindictive and jubilant response of sneering Palestinian jihadists to Israeli mushiness is not justified by any evidence. In fact, if the aim were truly to end Qassam rocket fire, the logical option would to be engage in a unilateral ceasefire and invite Hamas to enter into a process of dialogue. But that brings us to another myth, the myth of Hamas rejectionism, which is for another post.

Also this.

Despite an international blockade and opprobrium from the Israeli leadership, Hamas repeatedly signalled its willigness to accept a two-state settlement. It imposed a unilateral ceasefire on its own cadre, refusing to be drawn by repeated Israeli provocations. A crippling blockade, habitual violence and naked attempts to destabilise the elected government did not deter Hamas from this course. Only this year, after a US-Israeli sponsored armed coup attempt in Gaza, a successful putsch in the West Bank, and repeated incursions by the IDF, Hamas offered Israel a ten year ceasefire if it could abide by the terms of a two-state settlement: this offer, just like every other peace overture, was contemptuously dismissed. And now, most recently, a ceasefire agreed on in June has been flagrantly overturned by Israel. No one noticed, at least no one who writes for a newspaper. The myth that Hamas ended the truce as just the latest example of its innate rejectionism now underwrites a depraved assault which has killed 300 people and is about to become a ground invasion. Israel's intransigence, brutality, recklessness, refusal to work with anyone or negotiate in any meaningful way, will continue to be projected onto its opponents for as long as Israel has the superior propaganda resources, and for as long as the colonial trope of 'native fanaticism' governs discursive responses to occupation and resistance.

But do go read Dennis Perrin’s post and the links he provides which I found very useful in understanding what is actually going down in this horrific assault against an essentially powerless group of people imprisoned in Gaza. It really is astonishing concerning the efficacy of the news media to turn reality upside down to the point where the brutal militaristic Israeli government is the victim when it has been Israel’s own desire to drive the Palestinians from their homes and lands to quench an unquenchable thirst for expansion by Israel through any means no matter how violent they might be that is the driving force for war between the Palestinians and Israel. Indeed the only peace that the Israeli government desires is a peace that requires the total eradication of the Palestinians from their land, or the peace of the dead.

And in the meantime we should all wonder what the future will bring from our own conceit manifested in the form of American Exceptionalism which will no doubt bear bitter fruit in who knows what kind of blowback at the U.S. support of Israel’s bloody and murderous military adventures. For the Arab world blames the U.S. as much as Israel and rightly so. For it is this monumental and unreasoning conceit that allows our politcos to continue to see the world as America’s playground to be used and abused, manipulated and coerced, into whatever vision our rather insane leaders wish to impose on the rest of the world in order to preserve those damnable “American interests.” Oddly it seems a bit unproductive to keep shooting ourselves in the foot as we continue to undermine any peace process that might have once been possible without our ignorant machinations.


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