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Friday 18 July 2014

Another stunning sunset: Ilan Pappe: Israel's righteous fury and its victims in Gaza


Israelis sat on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip as smoke rose from the scene of an airstrike.

Israelis sit on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip as smoke rises from the scene of an airstrike: photo by Jim Hollander / EPA, 17 July 2014

My visit back home to the Galilee coincided with the genocidal Israeli attack on Gaza. The state, through its media and with the help of its academia, broadcast one unanimous voice -- even louder than the one heard during the criminal attack against Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Israel is engulfed once more with righteous fury that translates into destructive policies in the Gaza Strip. This appalling self-justification for the inhumanity and impunity is not just annoying, it is a subject worth dwelling on, if one wants to understand the international immunity for the massacre that rages on in Gaza.

It is based first and foremost on sheer lies transmitted with a newspeak reminiscent of darker days in 1930s Europe. Every half an hour a news bulletin on the radio and television describes the victims of Gaza as terrorists and Israel’s massive killings of them as an act of self-defense. Israel presents itself to its own people as the righteous victim that defends itself against a great evil. The academic world is recruited to explain how demonic and monstrous is the Palestinian struggle, if it is led by Hamas. These are the same scholars who demonized the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in an earlier era and delegitimized his Fatah movement during the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel announced Thursday it was launching a ground operation into Gaza after more than a week of airstrikes and rockets between it and Hamas. Pictured: Israeli tanks headed toward the Gaza border.

  Israeli tanks head toward the Gaza border as the IDF ground operation begins: photo by  EPA, 17 July 2014 
But the lies and distorted representations are not the worst part of it. It is the direct attack on the last vestiges of humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people that is most enraging. The Palestinians in Israel who have shown their solidarity with the people of Gaza and are now branded as a fifth column in the Jewish state; their right to remain in their homeland cast as doubtful given their lack of support for the Israeli aggression. 

Those among them who agree -- wrongly, in my opinion -- to appear in the local media are interrogated, and not interviewed, as if they were inmates in the Shin Bet’s prison. Their appearance is prefaced and followed by humiliating racist remarks and they are met with accusations of being a fifth column, an irrational and fanatical people. And yet this is not the basest practice. There are a few Palestinian children from the occupied territories treated for cancer in Israeli hospitals. God knows what price their families have paid for them to be admitted there. The Israel Radio daily goes to the hospital to demand the poor parents tell the Israeli audience how right Israel is in its attack and how evil is Hamas in its defense.

There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its “surgical” operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way of course, on the other.

Abdallah Abu Rahmeh lies in the road after he was purposefully hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler (pictured) during a peaceful protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza on Route 60 outside Ofra settlement: photo by Issam Rimawi / APA images, 19 November 2012

This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defense reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings. In his excellent book The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel, Gabi Piterberg explores the ideological origins and historical progression of this righteous fury. Today in Israel, from Left to Right, from Likud to Kadima, from the academia to the media, one can hear this righteous fury of a state that is more busy than any other state in the world in destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.

It is crucial to explore the ideological origins of this attitude and derive the necessary political conclusions from its prevalence. This righteous fury shields the society and politicians in Israel from any external rebuke or criticism. But far worse, it is translated always into destructive policies against the Palestinians. With no internal mechanism of criticism and no external pressure, every Palestinian becomes a potential target of this fury. Given the firepower of the Jewish state it can inevitably only end in more massive killings, massacres and ethnic cleansing.

Two Israeli flares loose their light power as two others light up the sky over the northern part of the Gaza Strip. (Jim Hollander/EPA)

Two I
sraeli flares lose their light power as two others light up the sky over the northern part of the Gaza Strip: photo by Jim Hollander / EPA, 17 July 2014

The self-righteousness is a powerful act of self-denial and justification. It explains why the Israeli Jewish society would not be moved by words of wisdom, logical persuasion or diplomatic dialogue. And if one does not want to endorse violence as the means of opposing it, there is only one way forward: challenging head-on this righteousness as an evil ideology meant to cover human atrocities. Another name for this ideology is Zionism and an international rebuke for Zionism, not just for particular Israeli policies, is the only way of countering this self-righteousness. We have to try and explain not only to the world, but also to the Israelis themselves, that Zionism is an ideology that endorses ethnic cleansing, occupation and now massive massacres. What is needed now is not just a condemnation of the present massacre but also delegitimization of the ideology that produced that policy and justifies it morally and politically. Let us hope that significant voices in the world will tell the Jewish state that this ideology and the overall conduct of the state are intolerable and unacceptable and as long as they persist, Israel will be boycotted and subject to sanctions.

(Amir Cohen/Reuters)

 Israeli rocket is fired into the Gaza Strip after Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the military to begin a ground offensive: photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters, 17 June 2014

But I am not naive. I know that even the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinians would not be enough to produce such a shift in the Western public opinion; it is even more unlikely that the crimes committed in Gaza would move the European governments to change their policy towards Palestine.

And yet, we cannot allow 2009 to be just another year, less significant than 2008, the commemorative year of the Nakba, that did not fulfill the great hopes we all had for its potential to dramatically transform the Western world’s attitude to Palestine and the Palestinians.

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA images, 19 November 2012

It seems that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system. In this new year, we have to try to realign the public opinion to the history of Palestine and to the evils of the Zionist ideology as the best means of both explaining genocidal operations such as the current one in Gaza and as a way of pre-empting worse things to come.

Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on a Palestinian house in al-Shojaya in the east of Gaza City: photo by Ashraf Amra / APA Images, 18 November 2012

Academically, this has already been done. Our main challenge is to find an efficient way to explain the connection between the Zionist ideology and the past policies of destruction, to the present crisis. It may be easier to do it while, under the most terrible circumstances, the world’s attention is directed to Palestine once more. It would be even more difficult at times when the situation seems to be “calmer” and less dramatic. In such “relaxed” moments, the short attention span of the Western media would marginalize once more the Palestinian tragedy and neglect it either because of horrific genocides in Africa or the economic crisis and ecological doomsday scenarios in the rest of the world. While the Western media is not likely to be interested in any historical stockpiling, it is only through a historical evaluation that the magnitude of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people throughout the past 60 years can be exposed. Therefore, it is the role of an activist academia and an alternative media to insist on this historical context. These agents should not scoff at the opportunity to educate the public opinion and hopefully even influence the more conscientious politicians to view events in a wider historical perspective.

A Palestinian inspects the damage to a football stadium after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City: photo by Ahmed Zakot / Reuters, 19 November 2012 

Similarly, we may be able to find the popular, as distinct from the high brow academic, way of explaining clearly that Israel’s policy -- in the last 60 years -- stems from a racist hegemonic ideology called Zionism, shielded by endless layers of righteous fury. Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism and what have you, it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by now familiar historical landmarks of the land: the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza. Very much as the Apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology -- in its most consensual and simplistic variety -- allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern that cannot only be discussed in the academic ivory towers, but has to be part of the political discourse on the contemporary reality in Palestine today.

(Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City
: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP, 17 July 2014

Some of us, namely those committed to justice and peace in Palestine, unwittingly evade this debate by focusing, and this is understandable, on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Struggling against the criminal policies there is an urgent mission. But this should not convey the message that the powers that be in the West adopted gladly by a cue from Israel, that Palestine is only in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that the Palestinians are only the people living in those territories. We should expand the representation of Palestine geographically and demographically by telling the historical narrative of the events in 1948 and ever since and demand equal human and civil rights to all the people who live, or used to live, in what today is Israel and the OPT.

Palestinians gather around a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip: photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters, 19 November 2012

By connecting the Zionist ideology and the policies of the past with the present atrocities, we will be able to provide a clear and logical explanation for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Challenging by nonviolent means a self-righteous ideological state that allows itself, aided by a mute world, to dispossess and destroy the indigenous people of Palestine, is a just and moral cause. It is also an effective way of galvanizing the public opinion not only against the present genocidal policies in Gaza, but hopefully one that would prevent future atrocities. But more importantly than anything else it will puncture the balloon of self-righteous fury that suffocates the Palestinians every times it inflates. It will help end the Western immunity to Israel’s impunity. Without that immunity, one hopes more and more people in Israel will begin to see the real nature of the crimes committed in their name and their fury would be directed against those who trapped them and the Palestinians in this unnecessary cycle of bloodshed and violence.

Ilan Pappe is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter

Israel’s righteous fury and its victims in Gaza: Ilan Pappe, from The Electronic Intifada, 2 January 2009

Israeli soldiers take part in a drill simulating a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip at a base south of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron: photo by Amir Cohen / Reuters, 17 November 2012


TC said...

Ilan Pappe's is a calm, historically informed and reasoned voice amid a swirl of calculated deception and casual misunderstanding.

Israeli Myths and Propaganda: An interview with Prof. Ilan Pappe, Haifa, 2010

Also highly recommended for those who value awareness of history as real life:

The Zionist Story (2011)

This self-financed independent film by Ronen Berelovich, veteran of the IDF occupying forces, uses archival footage to document the development and evolution of techniques of ethnic cleansing, colonization and apartheid employed to produce a demographically "purified" Jewish State.

Hazen said...

Tom, Thanks for bringing the truth to light, again and again. Pappe's indictment points to the ideological and historical basis for Israel’s policy of genocide. Berelovich has crafted an excellent documentary . . . two voices that need to be heard above the murderous violence and the justifications for it.

Carol Peters said...


We my sister Gretel, oh Gretel left our father’s house and scattered and lost did not stop at her old witch woman’s cottage candy hungry but kept on into the world, woods. We were set upon by rebels guerillas tribesmen revolutionaries who they raped cut off and stabbed left I my sister Gretel, Gretel for dead graves hands, for two days nearly to get we circled back; her cottage, burned ruin, hungry kept us alive. Then Gretel in the night died a creature something dragged her out and half-devoured her it. I filled my pockets I walked I Hansel out recognizing nothing birds circling above me I was a child who liked sweets this is my testimony what I broken know and don’t forget everything has to eat.

[from Kim Addonizio's Lucifer at the Starlite]

TC said...

Thanks for the company, Hazen and Carol.

Predictably, as the carnage expands, the coverage dwindles; mayfly news media are now fixated on the newest War of the Worlds, Hildebeest vs Putain, and Gaza is once again yesterday's news; in the US, private citizens may be outraged by the suffering systematically inflicted by Zionists in Gaza; but mainstream broadcast media continue to parrot the AIPAC party line -- defending the Zionists' "right to defend themselves". To attempt to maintain a career as a journalist, academic or "public" person of any kind one must check one's moral instincts at the gate -- on pain of being shipped off to Moscow. (See below.)

from Guardian: live blog 7/18/14:

CNN has removed correspondent Diana Magnay from covering Israel's Gaza offensive, after she tweeted that Israelis who had threatened her before an on-air report and were heard cheering the bombing of Gaza in the background, were "scum", the Huffington Post reports.

After her segment aired on CNN, Magnay tweeted: 'Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to 'destroy our car if I saw a word wrong'. Scum." The tweet was later removed.

"After being threatened and harassed before and during a liveshot, Diana reacted angrily on Twitter," a CNN spokeswoman told the Huffington Post. "She deeply regrets the language used ... She certainly meant no offense to anyone beyond that group, and she and CNN apologize for any offense that may have been taken." Magnay has been reassigned to Moscow.

The incident comes as NBC News is facing growing criticism for removing veteran foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin from Gaza, The Intercept reports. On Tuesday, Mohyeldin personally witnessed the killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys who had been playing football on a Gaza beach.

According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault ...

TC said...

Also from Guardian: Peter Beaumont in Gaza, 7/18/14:

The house of the Antez family in Sha'af looks undamaged from the outside. But the men milling around it have the dazed faces of grief that tell a different story.

Inside, the hole punched by the tank shell that hit the house, after clearing the retaining wall, is visible about 3m (10ft) off the ground.

It seems a small thing – a hole the size of a toaster. But the shell travelled through four walls, scattering pieces of shrapnel that have been gathered and placed to one side.

There were 60 people from three families sheltering inside, some under the stairs, some in a corridor leading to a half-finished room.

Following the shell's path through the house, three pools of blood punctuate where three people died – two of them children.

Salem Antez, 29, approached with a purple plastic bag and opened it, its contents terrible.

"This is my son," he said and nothing else, tears tracking down his face. Mohammad, another family member explained, was two. The other dead were Abed Ali, 24, and Mohammad Ibrahim, 13. Salem bent back to his task – his bag becoming a little heavier. "They hit us at 8.45pm," an uncle said. "We had just finished our Iftar meal and were gathered here for safety."

The morning after the night of the artillery barrage that launched Israel's ground offensive into Gaza drew back the veil on the consequences – a bleak procession of the dead and injured from the coastal enclave's south through its eastern border regions up to the north.

The deaths in the Antez family came as Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel poured ground forces into the densely-populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday night.

TC said...

Creative comment is often the most telling.

Here is Tom Raworth's pertinent variation on the "fish in a barrel" theme...

TC said...

Objective witnesses were not exactly thick on the ground to start with, and with every day, under pressure of the menace of isolation, the possibility of rational discourse, or even a conversation, dwindles.

But here are a few pieces turning up here and there, on blogs of course, far from CBS and BBC and Fox and the sly fox Rupert Murdoch.

Here is Juan Cole, writing yesterday (July 17): caught the Israeli shelling of children on the beach on film. Apparently some of the children had been playing soccer with the journalists before the barrages began! There was no warning (contrary to what Euronews suggested) and there were no military targets on the beach. There were just little boys who tried to run away and who appear to have been deliberately targeted for a second strike by an Israeli gunboat.

NBC journalists and editors appear to be angry about this incident, since, unusually for American television news, they dared be quite frank in their language about Israeli culpability. Veteran correspondent Richard Engels pointed out that despite Hamas’s largely ineffectual rockets, it is the Palestinians of Gaza who are bearing the brunt of Israeli bombardment, since they have no shelter and nowhere to go.

“It was broad daylight. There was no warning. It wasn’t the precision war Israel says it is fighting… Israel claimed that it was firing at Hamas militants at the port. But the dead were four young boys.” That is, NBC just called the Israeli military bald-faced liars, because there were no Hamas militants on that beach, just children playing.

What can we conclude from this sickening attack?

1. Israel actually has quite bad intelligence about Gaza. The Israeli navy thought it was bombarding militants when it was actually just shelling a civilian beach with little children running around on it.

2. Israel doesn’t know exactly what it is shelling. The Israelis clearly saw the four little boys running away, and deliberately fired another shell at them, killing them. The gunner surely thought he had Hamas in his sights. In fact, they were just little boys, deliberately targeted and killed as they were trying to get away.

3. Israel’s so-called warnings to Palestinians to leave are absurd, because the civilians have no place to go in tiny Gaza.

4. This is not a precision war on Israel’s part. The Israeli officers outside Gaza are just hitting any old target and then declaring it a Hamas depot.

5. Israel’s response to the incident, that it will conduct an investigation, is pure propaganda. The Israeli government almost never finds against itself. The passive aggressive phraseology is a dead giveaway.

The shelling of boys on a beach is symbolic of the aggressive paranoia of the Likud government.

Nin Andrews said...

In Maine and disconnected from the world mostly, I come back here first to get caught up on the events. Thanks, Tom for your powerful postings.

TC said...

Thank you, Nin, and there's nowhere I'd rather be at this moment than in Maine, disconnected from the world mostly. Here I remain perhaps equally disconnected, in the middle of the traffic, in a difficult spiritual time for many, hanging on amid the confusion as best I'm able to what seems right largely by virtue of inspiration from friends, like you.

Mose23 said...

Stick with it, Tom. We can hear you over here.

TC said...

Thanks Duncan.

They can snoop on me over here.

A few readers with a heart trump all the armies of the robo-monitors every time.

Those Sderot viewing-couches are being kept warm every sunset, now ... it's not only the light show but that heady aroma of victory that seems to linger after the explosions, I guess... but evidently there's a bit of a litter problem... who wants to bother cleaning up the empty beer bottles when there's always another brilliant explosion to watch (bigger and better every night), or a helpless female reporter to harass...