Cheerleaders Abroad, Gaza And Israel

I was composing, in my head, some reflections on Gaza’s past eight or so days, but Jonathan Freedland seems to have beat me to it.

I think the cheerleaders abroad sentiment, is something we should dwell on.

How is it that many in the West take up the pose of football supporters?

Cheering on their team irrespective of the murders, the rockets and the crippling inhumanity of prolonged low-level warfare. It is a form of intellectual hooliganism, desensitizing, brutalizing and demeaning.

You might not unreasonably expect that some of these cheerleaders would show a degree of sensitivity or reflection, once in a while. However, that doesn’t happen and having encountered both sides in the West I find their entrenched attitudes revolting, almost incomprehensible.

Anyone that has genuinely studied the Middle East would know there is no military solution to the conflicts in Israel, in Gaza and the West Bank, and those that cheer on from the sidelines have either lost their humanity or common sense, but Jonathan Freedland expresses it far better than I ever could:

“And through it all is the weariness: of those living – and dying – in the conflict most of all, but also of those drawn into it somehow. I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides and, sometimes especially, with their cheerleaders abroad.

So yes, I’m weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria. An estimated 800 died under Assad during the same eight days of what Israel called Operation Pillar of Defence. But, for some reason, the loss of those lives failed to touch the activists who so rapidly organised the demos and student sit-ins against Israel. You might have heard me make this point before, and you might be weary of it. Well, so am I. I’m tired, too, of the argument that “We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard”, because I see only a fraction of the outrage that’s directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for its drone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.

I’m tired of those who like to pretend that Israel attacked unprovoked, as if there had been no rockets fired from Gaza, as if Hamas was peacefully minding its own business, a Mediterranean Sweden, until Israel randomly lashed out. I’m tired of having to ask whether any government anywhere would really let one million of its citizens be confined to bomb shelters while missiles rained down. I’m weary of having to point out that, yes, occupied peoples do have a right to resist, but that right does not extend to taking deliberate aim at civilian targets – schools and villages – which is where all but a handful of Gaza’s rockets were directed.

And I’m especially tired that so many otherwise smart, sophisticated people apparently struggle to talk about Israel-Palestine without reaching, even unwittingly, for the dog-eared lexicon of anti-Jewish cliche, casting Israeli leaders as supremacists driven by a (misunderstood) notion of Jews as “chosen people” or, hoarier still, as international puppet-masters. It pains me that too many fail to realise that while, of course, there is a clear line that separates hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews, that border is porous. Traffic moves across it both ways. Witness the Lazio thugs who bombarded Spurs fans with anti-Jewish chants – “Juden Tottenham” among them – during their match on Thursday night, but also brandished a Free Palestine banner, deployed not to declare solidarity with Gaza but to taunt a club with large Jewish support. “

Operation Pillar of Defense Rolling Thread

I imagine that Operation Pillar of Defense will go on for a while so I am having a rolling thread with anything I read, hear or think relevant.

Firstly, John Cook at Gawker puts his foot in it with Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians.

The Tablet takes him down a peg or two:

“But don’t tell that to John Cook. Writing at Gawker in a post subtly titled “Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians,” Cook—who admits he does not know Hebrew (let alone, one can safely assume, midrash)—lists a few Googled biblical verses in which the pillar of cloud appears…”

Over at Foreign Policy the depressing, Israel Defense Forces live blogs Gaza offensive.

Aluf Benn has a piece entitled, Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza, which even I found to be incredibly cynical, but on reflection I think he might have a point.

This is a backgrounder by B’Tselem on Gaza.

Reuters explains what it sees:

Hussien Ibish presents a different perspective:

“During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed — largely due to internal transformations within the group itself.

The internal dynamic of Hamas has traditionally been that leaders in its Politburo, which is based almost entirely in neighboring Arab countries, were more militant than their compatriots inside Gaza. It was the leaders in exile who maintained close relations with the radical regimes in Iran and Syria, while the Hamas government in Gaza was more restrained because it had more to lose from violence with Israel.

That calculation has been inverted in recent months as Hamas’s foreign alliances have undergone a dramatic transformation and its domestic wing has made a bold attempt to assert its primacy. Hamas’s relationship with Damascus completely collapsed when the group came out in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Politburo had to abandon its Damascus headquarters, and is now scattered in capitals throughout the Arab world. This has also created enormous strains with Iran, which is apparently supplying much less funding and material to Hamas than before.

Hamas leaders in Gaza, meanwhile, have increasingly been making the case that the Politburo does not represent the organization’s paramount leadership — but rather its diplomatic wing, whose main role is to secure aid and support from foreign governments. It is the Hamas government and paramilitary force in Gaza, they argue, that are in the driver’s seat, because they are actually involved in fighting Israel. “

Emily L. Hauser’s contribution, I have one question about Israel and Gaza.

One noticeable characteristic of this conflict is how it has ignited passions not seen in the past 18 months. By that I mean, the likes of the Stop the War Coalition are organising a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London, yet for the last 18 months they have been almost silent concerning Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians.

That’s worthwhile comparing and contrasting when it comes to Western attitudes to people in the Middle East.

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian touches upon a real danger, the longer term consequences of this conflict:

“Ironically, Netanyahu’s uncontrollable new Gaza war could also tip the scales in an internal power struggle within Hamas, strengthening the faction gathered around Gaza political chief Ismail Haniyeh at the expense of those Hamas leaders in exile who hope to succeed Khaled Meshaal. Netanyahu’s war may actually end up bolstering Hamas in Gaza, or alternatively cause it to splinter and lose ground to more violently confrontationalist jihadi groups. Neither outcome would serve the all but forgotten cause of peaceful co-existence. “

Brent E. Sasley is astute:

“Given the emphasis on short-term tactical goals, it’s more likely the military operation won’t end neatly, which will in turn cause considerable electoral problems for Netanyahu and Likud-Beiteinu—who are otherwise persistently polling at less seats than they currently have. If this happens, perhaps Kadima—whose otherwise tired image doesn’t bode well for it in January—will have been proven prescient after all: that Bibi really is bad for Israel. In this case, the bad decision-making will become the politics. “

The Daily Kos (which is excellent for US election coverage) has a speculative report, which is based on the word of one individual, Israeli newspaper: Israel attacked Gaza knowing truce was in the works.

According to an informed journalist, Hamas have access to some serious hardware including the Fajr-5 rocket. It is over six metres in length and has a potential destructive distance of about 70 kilometres. What a terrible waste of human resources, building armaments the fire at Israeli civilians.
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Hamas And Likud Meant For Each Other

As Palestinians hide in their homes and Israelis stay in their bomb shelters we could almost be forgiven for thinking that these sorry and terrible events were unforeseeable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hamas since taking power in a coup d’etat have slowly built up their military capacity and spent $10,000s on equipping their internal security services.

Across the border Likud presides over a motley coalition of rightwing politicians and those far more interested in lining their pockets than finding peace in the Middle East.

In many respects, Hamas and Likud are meant for each other.

Neither of them really wants to go the extra mile, to recognize the reality of the necessary coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Both are prisoners of their own rhetoric and incapable of moving beyond their own limited mindsets.

The current terrible events, where hundreds of rockets and projectiles had deliberately been targeted at Israeli civilians in the past week, was entirely predictable.

Hamas know that they don’t have the military force to defeat the IDF, so allow Islamic Jihad or their own members to let off steam by targeting Israeli civilians. They do it partly to prove their radicalism and stay in power, and knowing how the Israeli government will respond they garner international support as the IDF’s actions kill Palestinian civilians.

It is a convenient and dismal game that Hamas and Likud play. Hamas provokes the Israeli government, who in turn must be seen to be protecting Israeli civilians, even though this and past incursions into Gaza have not actually stop the rockets and missiles.

Hamas and Likud are more concerned with staying in power and short-term goals than any long-term solution to this conflict.

And that is the problem.

Until the leaders are capable and willing to take the bold steps towards final status negotiations then rockets will rain down on Israelis and the IAF will bomb Gaza every few months.

My analysis might seem cynical, but years of watching the respective parties do little but stay in power or enhance their own prestige makes me pessimistic about the future.

As an antidote to my cynicism I recommend readers follow Hussein Ibish on Twitter. He’s smart, clear headed and attacked from both sides, which is not a bad sign!

This is one of his latest columns (written prior to the current conflict), MB and Salafists: the Closest of Frienemies is worth a read.

Ibish’s Hamas Rising? from October 2012 was prescient.

Hamas And Jews

Anyone ignorant of Hamas’s ingrained hatred for Jews would probably be surprised by Hamas latest outburst as reported in Reuters.

We shouldn’t be, it is plain enough in their Charter.

Even Khalid Mashaal couldn’t miss out on a bit of Holocaust revisionism in 2008 when being interviewed by Sky News:

“We don’t deny the holocaust.

But, we believe the Zionists have exaggerated the numbers to get sympathy from other nations.”

AP reports a Hamas official as saying the Holocaust “is a big lie.”

Whilst Reuters’ coverage is softer it conveys a similar message:

“(Reuters) – The Hamas Islamist group in charge of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday denounced a Palestinian official’s visit to the site of a Nazi death camp in Poland, and called the Holocaust in which 6 million European Jews perished an “alleged tragedy.”

Ziad al-Bandak, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who governs in the occupied West Bank, had made a rare visit by a Palestinian official to the site of the Auschwitz death camp late last month.

“It was an unjustified and unhelpful visit that served only the Zionist occupation,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas. Hamas rejects Israel’s existence and interim peace accords reached by Abbas’ more moderate Fatah group with Israel.

Barhoum further called Bandak’s visit to Auschwitz, a camp where the Nazis killed 1.5 million people, most of them Jews but also other Polish citizens, during World War Two, as “a marketing of a false Zionist alleged tragedy.”

He said he saw this as coming “at the expense of a real Palestinian tragedy,” alluding to Israel’s control over territory where Palestinians live and seek to establish a state.

Israel was founded as a Jewish state in 1948, several years after the wartime genocide occurred.

Islamist extremists have taken to denying the Holocaust happened as part of a narrative rejecting Israel’s existence, often at the encouragement of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the genocide “a myth.” “

(H/T: Thanks to Jeremy Moodey for pointing me to this story).

Update 1: Jeremy has asked me to clarify the racism in Hamas’s Charter I am happy to oblige.

This handy ADL guide brings out some of the Charter’s low points:

Adopted in August 1988, the Hamas Charter openly embraces the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” holding it up as evidence that Jews are innately greedy, manipulative and conniving, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  The charter adopts classical anti-Semitic canards: Jews as plotting to control the world, Jews acquiring wealth by stealing, and Jews controlling the levers of power in media, government and finance.  Such stereotypical anti-Semitic canards have been used through the centuries to defame and demonize Jews, leading to violence, pogroms and, ultimately, the Holocaust.


“The Hamas credo is not just anti-Israel, but profoundly anti-Semitic with racism at its core,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The Hamas Charter reads like a modern-day ‘Mein Kampf.’


“Any discussion about whether Western governments should or shouldn’t deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian government must not ignore the Jew hatred that is at the core of their belief system, and that none of their leaders has renounced.  Hamas wants to present a moderate face to the West, when in fact they are anything but moderate,” added Mr. Foxman.


Aside from its embrace of virulently anti-Semitic myths, the Hamas Charter is replete with conspiracy theories about Jews through history.  The Charter blames “world Zionism” for the French and Communist Revolutions, World War I, and the establishment of the United Nations, which it claims was created by Jews “in order to rule the world by their intermediary.”


Selected Excerpts: The Hamas Charter


•”The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him…”


•”The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone.  They make war against people’s livelihood, plunder their moneys and threaten their honor … They took advantage of key elements in unfolding events, and accumulated a huge and influential material wealth which they put to the service of implementing their dream ….”


•(Jews) control of the world media (and use their) wealth to stir revolutions … They stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions.”


•”There was no war that broke out anywhere without their (Jews’) fingerprints on it.”

” [My emphasis.]

Also see Hamas in their own words.

The Guardian’s Soft Racism and Deborah Orr

The Guardian newspaper is considered to be one of the quality periodicals in Britain, yet if you ever wanted to find the tell-tale smell of anti-Jewish racism then look no further.

Comment is Free, the Guardian’s on-line presence, is stuffed full of snide articles and remarks in the comments boxes that would not seem out of place in Far Right forums.

Even the home coming of Gilad Shalit was seen as another vehicle for expressing contempt for Jews, evidenced by Deborah Orr’s article with its disdainful conclusion.

Eve Garrard, over at Engage, pulls it apart with commendable logic:

“Things are different now, and this trope has been resurrected for the same old use: to denigrate Jews and stir up dislike, or worse, against them. In fact it’s very effective for that purpose: most people (very understandably) dislike anyone who claims to be inherently superior to everyone else; and so to attribute such a claim to Jews is a very economical way of making people dislike and distrust them. By referring to the Chosen People you can, without saying another word, tell your listener that Jews are an arrogant supercilious bunch who despise the rest of the human race, and that you yourself don’t much like that kind of thing; and indeed your listener (or reader, as the case may be) probably doesn’t much like that kind of thing either, being a decent honest person; and so you and she together can enjoyably agree that there’s something pretty obnoxious about Jews, or they wouldn’t be claiming to be ‘chosen’, would they, or insisting that one Jew is worth 1,000 other people, which of course they must believe, since Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, and there’s no other possible explanation of that ratio, is there, eh?

All that hostile implication from just two well-chosen (so to speak) words, or even in Orr’s case one word alone – she writes with casual familiarity about ‘the chosen’, apparently assuming that her Guardian readers use the term so readily that no misunderstanding can arise from the informal contraction. This is indeed real economy of effort in the business of producing Jew-hatred. Orr herself may not, of course, have intended to stir up dislike of Jews; but the language which she chose to use did all the work that was needed for that unlovely task. “