Starting points and the attack on Gaza
The general portrayal in the media, and some of the blogs, is that Hamas broke the ceasefire through launching amateur rockets and Israel had no choice and so they Israel had to lead this brutal attack…
From watching the media portrayal of what is happening in Gaza, this is the dominant narrative, though even the media can’t stop how disproportionate and brutal the US backed Israeli use of force is (the English tabloid, the Sun, is doing its very best in highlighting the threats from Palestinians or Hamas with some highly peculiar stories, from apparent threats to Apprentice star Alan Sugar to tunnels of terror in Gaza where the inhabitants will pop up and shock the tanks – another day). It is worth questioning this narrative and asking a few why questions.
Why begin with Hamas breaking the ceasefire? Why not go back a little further? Why not suggest that the Israel broke the ceasefire in November in one raid that killed six or later in November in another attack that killed four? November is another place we could start the narrative and certainly the narrative about the broken ceasefire.
Why not begin the narrative with the Israeli blockade of vital resources? That seems one reason why Hamas might react. To do this blockade in such a densely populated area like Gaza is deeply dangerous. Moreover, Avi Shlaim points out:
During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.
Do we begin the narrative at the blockade then?
Or could we look at longer term issues? Some of the rockets were fired at Ashkelon. This was one of the areas where Palestinians were dispossessed in 1948 and moved on to Gaza. As Robert Fisk put it in the Independent, ‘They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.’
Or why not go back to the origins of Hamas? In the 80s, Israel nurtured Hamas to function as an opponent against the secular nationalists/Fatah, a decision that has now come back to haunt them (very similar to US policy towards violent Islam previous decades which came back to haunt them). Of course Fatah, for some (e.g. Bush) are now the good guys.
We could look for more starting points on the (US and) Israeli government side (e.g. issues of cheap labour, general issue of settlements, water resources, various acts of state violence and so on) but it should be clear that it is nowhere near as simple as Muslim fundamentalists firing these amateur rockets therefore Israel had no choice but to engage in this brutal massacre. It is horrific that Israeli lives have been lost now and over the years in the regions near Gaza and beyond but then many, many more Palestinian lives have been lost in Gaza alone. Like any other state, Israel deserves safety and security but so does Gaza (and the West Bank). The way that the US and Israeli governments and certain figures in the media have portrayed the background to the destruction of Gaza strongly suggests (and this is a wider pattern in ‘western’ media) that Palestinians lives are not worth as much as lives of other human beings. They are presumably sub-human.
This is a crazy attack for several reasons. I don’t like to predict things but how such brutal killing of Palestinians is going to bring peace seems unlikely I do not know. It certainly has the potential to lead to suicide bombings and a recruiting sergeant for violence. This would hardly be good news for Israel. The US government are doing themselves, or perhaps their people, no favours by their actions/non-actions with the UN. Of course, one group of people this attack will please, no doubt, is the arms industry but if we stick to most human beings and citizens this is a disaster.
As for starting points, why is one being so heavily pushed?