Friday, January 16, 2009

Gaza Disaster

It's been months since I've posted anything, mostly due to personal troubles and the struggle to collect my thoughts. I've finally decided to make this post about the unfolding disaster in Gaza. One of the key misconceptions of this incident in particular and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general has been the whole "human shield" myth. Uri Avnery wrote about this (beginning of the article) and how this whole perception of Hamas as "hiding" among civilians is the wrong paradigm with which to see the events on the ground. Hamas is the duly elected and generally supported government of Gaza and as such they are the ones who are supposed to defend the territory of Gaza in the case of military attack. Whatever one may feel about Hamas's political views, they are as much the government of Gaza as George W. Bush and his team still are, and Hopey McChangington will soon be, of the U.S. and so should be described as such rather than as some foreign force holding Gaza hostage.

In fact, if anyone is holding Gaza hostage it is Israel. The IDF maintains checkpoints and restricts travel for Palestinians throughout Gaza and the West Bank. These checkpoints and other draconian measures have been criticized throughout the world, even in Israel. The IDF attack on Gaza has just been a more nakedly aggressive action that what the Israelis had already been doing. Israel rules over Gaza and the West Bank for intents and purposes as the authority of the Palestinian governments is limited. All the necessities of life for Gazans and most of the functions of a sovereign government are in the realm of the Israeli government to provide. What's worse is that this recent IDF attack on Gaza was planned even before the last ceasefire went into effect.

Clearly this conflict is more than just the evil, would-be Holocaust-repeating-Nazi-esque Arabs versus the plucky democratic Israelis struggling just to exist as a nation and a people. Analysis of the situation by someone other than an Israeli propagandist would conclude that the reality is practically the opposite. Gazans, despite all efforts at resistance (to the dismay of the IDF), are more or less defenseless from the attacks of the Israelis and cannot force the Israelis out through military means, much less annihilate Israel. Much of this problem relates to another issue: all criticism of Israel is regarded as antisemitic. One might not always be specifically called a Nazi or the like for criticizing Israel and specific conduct of IDF may be critiqued, but calling into question the basic premises of the Israeli government is seen as racist. More often than not it's either expressed as "Well that might not have been the best move for Israel to have done, but to harp on it means that guy is fixated on Israelis and how evil they are" or "Sure it might be bad, but what about the other terrible actions by soldiers throughout the world you have said nothing about. Since you didn't mention those you're holding Israelis to a higher standard because you think the Jews are evil and the Holocaust wasn't such a bad idea after all".

Again, this paradigm of viewing criticism of Israel is flawed as well. While one can find many who are antisemitic that oppose Israel, the reality of the situation is that the Israelis are the dominant force in Gaza and the West Bank and brutally occupy those lands. In the end, the vision of Israel as plucky democracy against the Brown Peril of Palestinian hordes is fantasy and in total conflict with reality. However, unless and until the political classes of the U.S. finally accept this or at least act as if this should change, Israeli oppression will continue.

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