Historical perspective of the 2014 Gaza massacre
Ilan Pappe Correspondent
PEOPLE in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine feel disappointed at the lack of any significant international reaction to the carnage and destruction the Israeli assault has so far left behind it in the Strip.The inability, or unwillingness, to act seems to be first and foremost an acceptance of the Israeli narrative and argumentation for the crisis in Gaza. Israel has developed a very clear narrative about the present carnage in Gaza.
It is a tragedy caused by an unprovoked Hamas missile attack on the Jewish state, to which Israel had to react in self-defence. While mainstream Western media, academia and politicians may have reservations about the proportionality of the force used by Israel, they accept the gist of this argument.
This Israeli narrative is totally rejected in the world of cyber activism and alternative media. There it seems the condemnation of the Israeli action as a war crime is widespread and consensual.
Ad Hoc Slaughter?
An historical evaluation and contextualization of the present Israeli assault on Gaza and that of the previous three ones since 2006 expose clearly the Israeli genocidal policy there. An incremental policy of massive killing that is less a product of a callous intention as it is the inevitable outcome of Israel’s overall strategy towards Palestine in general and the areas it occupied in 1967, in particular.
This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.
The Israeli strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians.
The means for achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish state might be, it can only materialise without any significant number of Palestinians in it. And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live.
With the decades, Israel differentiated between areas it wished to control directly and those it would manage indirectly, with the aim in the long run of downsizing the Palestinian population to a minimum with, among other means, ethnic cleansing and economic and geographic strangulation.
Thus the West Bank was in effect divided into a “Jewish” and a “Palestinian” zones – a reality most Israelis can live with provided the Palestinian Bantustans are content with their incarceration within these mega prisons. The geopolitical location of the West Bank creates the impression in Israel, at least, that it is possible to achieve this without anticipating a third uprising or too much international condemnation.
The killing of three Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, abducted in the occupied West Bank in June, which was mainly a reprisal for killings of Palestinian children in May, provided the pretext first and foremost for destroying the delicate unity Hamas and Fatah have formed in that month. A unity that followed a decision by the Palestinian Authority to forsake the “peace process” and appeal to international organizations to judge Israel according to a human and civil rights’ yardstick. Both developments were viewed as alarming in Israel.
The pretext determined the timing – but the viciousness of the assault was the outcome of Israel’s inability to formulate a clear policy towards the Strip it created in 1948. The only clear feature of that policy is the deep conviction that wiping out the Hamas from the Gaza Strip would domicile the Ghetto there.
Since 1994, even before the rise of Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip, the very particular geopolitical location of the Strip made it clear that any collective punitive action, such as the one inflicted now, could only be an operation of massive killings and destruction. In other words: an incremental genocide.
Conclusion: Confronting Double Standards
But not only historical view is needed for a better understanding of the massacre in Gaza. A dialectical approach that identifies the connection between Israel’s immunity and the horrific developments elsewhere is required as well. The dehumanization in Iraq and Syria is widespread and terrifying, as it is in Gaza.
But there is one crucial difference between these cases and the Israeli brutality: the former are condemned as barbarous and inhuman worldwide, while those committed by Israel are still publicly licensed and approved by the president of the United States, the leaders of the EU and Israel’s other friends in the world.
The only chance for a successful struggle against Zionism in Palestine is the one based on a human and civil rights agenda that does not differentiate between one violation and the other and yet identifies clearly the victim and the victimisers.
Those who commit atrocities in the Arab world against oppressed minorities and helpless communities, as well as the Israelis who commit these crimes against the Palestinian people, should all be judged by the same moral and ethical standards. They are all war criminals, though in the case of Palestine they have been at work longer than anyone else.
It does not really matter what the religious identity is of the people who commit the atrocities or in the name of which religion they purport to speak. Whether they call themselves jihadists, Judaists or Zionists, they should be treated in the same way.
A world that would stop employing double standards in its dealings with Israel is a world that could be far more effective in its response to war crimes elsewhere in the world.
Cessation of the incremental genocide in Gaza and the restitution of the basic human and civil rights of Palestinians wherever they are, including the right of return, is the only way to open a new vista for a productive international intervention in the Middle East as a whole.
Ilan Pappé is an Israeli historian at the University of Exeter, UK. His books include “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” (2007) and “The Idea of Israel”(2014). This article is reproduced from Counterpunch.