Israel and Gaza on a Summer Mind
I think I can safely credit Israeli foreign policy with ruining my summer. If you're the empathic type - it's hard to go to the beach and swim in the sun while, several thousand miles beneath your feet, people are being killed en masse by people who should know better about how not to treat people - based on their own historical experience.
Israel violated a ceasefire and launched a sustained assault on Gaza last Boxing Day while many of us were on our bach couches, sailing our boats, and favoring a stretched stomach.
1,400 people died from planes, tanks, bombs, missiles, and small arms.
You can reread that last line again if you need to.
These are events. And they happened.
At the time, if any of us looked at the daily newspaper about the events then our own vague take-home from reading would be that the events were a religious squabble, fueled by some Islamic splinter group hell bent on global dominance.
As in the past, the events would be explained to you minus any historical context and the conflict timeline would begin with some random act of Palestinian aggression – such as kidnapping a couple of soldiers or some loose use of ordinance. This aggression would be treated as discrete - almost as if it came from out of nowhere, unprovoked and unconnected to anything that had gone before.
If you had read your newspaper at the time of the events, then you might have glanced at an advertisement from a group encouraging you to think of any media outlet that criticizes Israeli foreign policy as 'unbalanced' - before you flipped to the sports section to load up on info to exchange with your friends over a beer at today's bar-bee.
If, at the time, you were only watching the news on TV then there's every chance that you could have missed the events completely, as the state and standards of local television news broadcasting have never been worse.
If you were watching news coming from England and America on the internet, then you would have understood (even perhaps agreed with) the wisdom of bombing densely populated urban areas in response to such acts of aggression.
If, however, you were watching news coming from other parts of the world on the internet - then you would have noticed something else entirely.
You would have noticed news footage of chemical weapons being used on suburbs, cell phone videos of human body parts scattered along city streets as bombs fell, interviews with physicians discussing bizarre never-before-seen war wounds, and dead kids. Lots and lots of pictures of dead kids.
Had you read some of the endless commentary and analysis available, you would have discovered that Israel was founded as a "Jewish state" in 1948 through the ethnic cleansing of Palestine's non-Jewish majority Arab population.
You would have also learned that Israel has been maintained in existence only through Western support and constant use of violence to prevent the surviving indigenous population from exercising political rights within the country, or returning from forced exile.
Assuming, of course, that you give a damn. If you were raised by racists, then these events probably won't bother you. Feel free to flip on to the next article - we probably don't have much to say to each other anyway.
But if you weren't raised by racists and if you were following the events on the internet - then you would have seen global outrage over these events on a far wider scale than previously seen (even when Israel bombed Lebanon in 2006).
What also emerged were new levels of dialogue regarding Israel's behavior on the world.
For instance: In the many comments sections of the blogosphere, I witnessed the age old charge of anti Semitism shot down in flames and exposed as a red-herring act of misdirection as it seems that most Semitic people speak Arabic.
In reading these spirited arguments and debates, I came to understand how geographically localized and racist perspectives can wither and die in the crushing grip of global human common sense - when the excuses used to justify such murderous behavior, are picked apart and disassembled by wider groups.
I also noticed an intense and ineffective propaganda effort designed to help me blame Islam for this bloodbath.
I don’t really think that religion is very central to this dispute.
I think it has more to do with 'who gets to live where'. About who owns and distributes the resources. About who drinks the rivers.
Instead of being a behavioral motivator, Islam is more an unfortunate flag of solidarity against continuous western territorial encroachment and political dominance in the South West Asian region. But try telling that to someone who knows only what they are shown on FOX, CNN, and the BBC.
The root cause of the conflict between the Zionists and the Palestinians is as follows.
Palestinian House Demolitions + Israeli Settler Colonies = Israeli Border Expansion.
The unfortunate concentration of ownership of commercial news media outlets and the self censorship of the people within those organizations means that consumers of western press are more likely to believe that Hamas & Islam are directly to blame for the conflict.
Thanks to the lack of historical context provided, shooting rockets at Israel is not widely understood as a potential downstream effect of occupation and abuse of dominance.
Israel's "war" was not about rockets.
They served the same role in its narrative as the non-existent weapons of mass destruction did as the pretext for the American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq (and I'm still waiting to be carefully led through a clear explanation for that one).
Gaza does not exist and act in isolation. Israel never stopped occupying Gaza even though it recently made a show of doing so. This is because Israel thoroughly controls the borders of Gaza through force – turning the area into one giant open air concentration camp. If you don't believe me, then try reaching Gaza by boat. See how far you get.
This border control severely limits the flow of life giving resources to the people living there. And those people exist with the daily choice dealt to them by an Israeli foreign policy of "let us take your land and your life or we'll shoot you". Try to imagine how you and members of your family would react when faced with such impossible options.
And in the case of this recent and sustained attack on Gaza, Israel has once again demonstrated that it possesses the power and the lack of moral restraint necessary to commit atrocities against a population of destitute refugees it has caged and starved.
The dehumanization and demonization of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims has escalated to the point where Israel can bomb their homes, places of worship, schools, universities, factories, fishing boats, police stations - in short everything that sustains civilized and orderly life - and claim it is conducting a war against terrorism.
Heavily armed and left to its own devices Israel will certainly keep trying - as it has for sixty years - to massacre Palestinians into submission.
It is not widely known that there are very vocal and active Israelis that are furious at the actions of their government, just as there are Americans that are furious at US policies.
Personally, I restrict my disgust to the Israeli government for the same reason I've never held America and Americans all liable for the foreign policies of the Bush administration.
Israel's recent achievement in Gaza has been to make South Africa's apartheid leaders look wise, restrained and humane by comparison.
One of the factors that helped bring an end to the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa was international pressure for economic, sporting and cultural boycotts. Israel is starting to feel similar pressure from world opinion, and its true nature as a failed and brutal colonial project has been laid bare with its genocide upon Gaza (and yes, killing 1,400 people with military weapons is indeed genocide – don’t try and tell me that it isn’t).
It is time that Israeli and American foreign policy makers rejoin the international community - instead of cynically pretending that they represent it.
These events in Gaza will also likely be seen as the turning point when Israeli propaganda lost its power to mystify, silence and intimidate as it has for so long. Even the Nazi Holocaust, long deployed by Zionists to silence Israel's critics, is becoming a liability - now that once unimaginable behavioral comparisons are now routinely heard.
I'd rather not care about this. I have better things to do with my time than research racism and murder. Better things to do than fielding playground-type abuse and threats from aggressive and poorly informed Israeli supremacists (many of which seem to be suffering from an unrealistic kind of hubris).
But, if genocidal behavior like the events in Gaza and Ossetia becomes normalized – then none of us are safe. And everything New Zealand soldiers fought and were killed for in the past was for nothing.
If my country was being overrun and bombed by some oppressive force bent on occupation, then I would sure as hell want someone else on the other side of the world to give a damn. Just like we did with Kuwait in the early nineties, remember?
Israel is expanding - and has done so ever since it forced itself on the region in 1948.
This is the root cause of the conflict.
Many in the west are unable or unwilling to consider this slow Israeli border expansion as a possible factor in the Palestinian rocket attacks.
If the democratically elected Hamas is to recognize Israel as a precondition for peace - then which Israel is it supposed to recognize? 1967 Israel? 1982 Israel? 2009 Israel?
Can someone point me in the direction of a map with fixed borders?
Thanks - and have a great winter.