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[Arava Institute] Gaza: Facts on the Ground / By Uri Gordon

Dr Uri Gordon teaches Environmental Ethics, Social analysis of the environment, and Environmental Politics at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (Affiliated with Ben-Gurion University).




 Sunday, February 8th, 2009

The watchword on the streets was: “The landlord’s gone crazy”. The goal of the operation: “To fuck their mothers’ mother”. Calls to erase Gaza rode lightly off people’s lips. Hamas are armed and dangerous. Destroy their buildings, their personnel. Anyone around them is as good as dead.

Since the end of the 2006 Lebanon War, the expectation of a future “big operation in Gaza” that would restore the muddied honor of the Israeli army has been periodically floated in the media, and normalized in Israelis’ consciousness. On the day after the US elections, Israel was the first to break the elapsed ceasefire with Hamas, which in response renewed its own rocket attacks. In truth, Israel had never kept its side of the Egyptian-brokered bargain over the ceasefire, in failing to end the harsh economic blockade.

A Russian joke: “They told me, ‘Relax, it could be worse’. So I relaxed, and indeed it got worse.”

As Qassam attacks by Hamas or some other Gazan militia inevitably continue throughout the aerial bombardment, the army moves to Stage Two. A column cuts through the middle of the Gaza Strip. Advance positions are taken. Yet the opponent fails to come out fighting. And so the living city is rent asunder, in a war-game with no strategic objective, only to spend ammunition looking for the enemy with zero casualties. As they tunnel their way through living-room walls into Gaza City, Israeli conscripts throw explosives ahead to protect themselves from possible ambushes and mines. Hamas store weapons in mosques and apartment buildings and carry out dozens of punishment beatings on alleged collaborators. Most of the dead are civilians, maybe a third are children. Thousands of homes are destroyed. Ambulances and hospitals are fired upon.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the 10 metre-high walls that surround Gaza, Israeli war-resisters meet a brick wall everywhere they turn. Jewish Israelis have a knee-jerk nationalist loyalty when they perceive Israel is being attacked.

The response is essentially: What do these bleeding-heart peaceniks expect us to do when we are attacked? They didn’t protest Hamas’s rockets which have been pounding Israel for the past 8 years whilst the children in Sderot wet their beds in fear (Sderot is the Israeli town next to Gaza which has suffered most from Hamas rocket attacks). What do these Europeans know? They just hate Israel and Israelis and don’t think our lives are worth anything. All the hatred in demonstrations against Israel across Europe, with calls to kill the Jews, just shows me that, if we don’t protect ourselves no one else will come to Israel’s defense.

The fears of annihilation, fed by well-fanned collective trauma, are close to the surface and easily manipulated by politicians and pundits. Dehumanization of the enemy helps explains the simple indifference to the shameless attacks on Palestinians in Gaza by all three major candidates currently competing in coming elections.

In the name of the Jews, the Israeli state drives Palestinians from their lands, imprisons them and punishes them with blundering brutality. The Revisionist policy dreamed up by early fascist Zionists of “Facts on the Ground” is a total success – Israel’s perceived choice today is between Apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The Israeli elections are seeing the meteoric rise of Avigdor Leiberman whose party, Israel Beitenu, promises to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel and Leftists of their citizenship if they fail tests of loyalty to the state. This isn’t swear-word fascism – this is the real thing. Still on the table is Kadima’s “realignment” plan to withdraw Israeli settlers from the “Palestinian” side of the segregation barrier. This is a de-facto annexation of 6 per-cent of West Bank territory which, crucially, would leave the in two landlocked islands, an internal enemy non-state which can now be disciplined on the same terms as Gaza.

The last six decades have seen the (at least) fifth ethnic cleansing event to take place on this soil. But so far it has been ethnic cleansing with somewhere to run. In Gaza it was verging on something different. The Gaza war was an intentional threat to commit ethnic cleansing with nowhere to run. The Israeli state was threatening to commit genocide and everybody knew it.

As if anyone still needed proof that an unspeakable blasphemy is being acted out without restraint in the Middle East. A twisted logic allows the Holocaust to become not a warning-post against brutal authority, but the relevant upper limit for the defensible actions of the state that alleges to act on behalf of its victims. And even if you convinced Israelis to see through all that, they would still have no framework for taking action.

No, that’s not true. There are some things we can do – go to demonstrations (but you have to have some courage, as you get heckled and eggs and water thrown at you. When anarchists did a vigil in Tel Aviv, even firemen stopped to turn a hose on them). Or take symbolic direct action (21 arrested and held on “secret intelligence” that their lawyer was not allowed to see). Take blankets to the Red Crescent (the convoy of 10 truckloads of emergency supplies sent by Israeli citizens to Gaza was turned back. The radio falsely reported that the aid was let through. Even this most humane action elicits angry cries of one-sidedness– and what about the kids in Sderot?

Sadly, Israelis show little interest in noting that not all the kids in Sderot are willing to be their excuse. There is a project in Sderot called Kol Akher (another voice). For the past year, the members have been in telephone contact with residents of Gaza, trying to make a personal connection between them and the residents of Sderot. Even during the war, the contact was not broken. They believe that, if the residents of Gaza and Sderot can put a human face to the enemy, it will be more difficult for the leaders in the region to choose the path of violence.

These are the only victories, really. Not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine but pro-a just and lasting peace based on the principles of co-operation and friendship between the peoples that live in these lands. We have to defy our corrupt leaders and the narratives that they want us to believe, and show another way is possible and that the hatred and endless violence cannot continue…We just wish there were more of us.

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