In a comment on my post on Friedman and Goldberg’s call for murder of civilians, commenter Americanthinker asks two excellent questions:
2. Is it morally acceptable for an attacking force to mount attacks from locations overwhelming occupied by civilians? Doesn’t this invite the very risk to Gazan civilians to which you object?
3. Hamas does not distinguish between the Israeli military and the people of Israel (presumably on the basis that the Israeli people elect and support their government) and feels completely justified in firing rockets into Israeli civilian populations. Hamas quite honestly says that it wants no peace with Israel. What, if anything, would induce Hamas to agree to stop firing rockets at Israel? If your answer is that, in the minds of the Hamas leadership, resistance is always justified, then aren’t they condemning Gazan civilians to Israeli military responses? What do you think the results of a referendum would be if Gazans were asked if they wanted the rocket fire from Gaza to continue if the price would be repeated Israeli military responses? The Gazans voted for Hamas; did they also vote for war?
These questions are built on the conventional view of the conflict, which goes thus:
1- Hamas fires rockets at Israeli civilians
2- Israel attempts to retaliate to defend its civilians
3- Hamas hides among civilians
4- Civilians die
If this bore any tenuous link to reality, it could be compelling. But, unfortunately, this line of thinking is as wrong-headed as believing that cancer causes smoking. There are several clear and incontrovertible facts that do not fit with this narrative, and these are:
1- The occupation:
Israel has been occupying the Gaza Strip, and has the final sovereign rule over all its inhabitants, since 1967. Israel’s claims to have ended the occupation of Gaza in 2005 are nonsense, because since 2005 Israel has controlled Gaza from land, air and sea. It controls all access of civilians, goods, food, water, fuel and medicine. Israel controls Gaza in the same way that the US controls its Federal prisons.
2- The siege:
Since 2006 (and well before) Israel has imposed a draconian and inhuman siege against the people of Gaza. It denies them entry of food, medicine, fuel and water. Infants have died in hospital incubators as power was cut, as Israeli occupation officials prevented fuel from coming into Gaza.
3- Israeli murder:
Israel continued to attack, bomb, invade and devastate Gaza since 1967, and did not stop since 2005. These attacks started way before Hamas even existed, and are far more devastating than anything Hamas has ever mustered.
4- The cease-fire:
Even if one were to ignore all that and assume that the world started in June 2008, one would still have to place the blame for this mess on Israel, for the very simple reason that Israel was the one that violated this current cease-fire. From June onwards, Hamas did not fire any rockets at Israel, while Israel continues to starve the Palestinians. This in itself is an act of aggression that makes Israel the aggressor, but even if we ignored that, it was still Israel who violated this cease-fire in November.
These facts then turn your story on its head. Once you take them into account, believing that Hamas is the cause of this, or that the people of Gaza brought this fate onto themselves, becomes as perverse as believing that The Black Panthers were the cause of slavery and segregation.
The reality is that Israel has, for the past 42 years (fully funded and supported by America) launched an unrelenting war of aggression, murder, land-theft, siege, destruction and starvation on the Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians have had two clear choices all along:
1- Do nothing, in which case you will be starved to death or bombed to death and have your land stolen for religiously exclusive colonies while the world watches and does nothing.
2- Attempt to fight back, in which case Israel, through its hacks like Friedman and Goldberg, will portray that as a naked unprovoked act of aggression that justifies more bombing and death.
In both cases, Israel is attacking and killing Palestinians. Under the cease-fire, when Hamas wasn’t firing rockets, Israel still besieged and starved Gaza. Israel then violated the cease-fire and used Hamas’s retaliation as a pretext for further murder and starvation and sieges.
Hamas reacting by rockets is wrong, unacceptable and unjustifiable. I condemn it unequivocally and wish they would stop it. But to look at that as if it is the root of this crisis is just plain wrong. Israel has been attacking, murdering, occupying, starving and controlling the Gazans since 1967. That is the real problem. That is the real terrorism. That is what you should be angry about. And more importantly, that is what you should get your country to stop supporting.
The pathetic rockets of Hamas are nothing but a reaction to the real problem, which is Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
If you claim to be concerned about civilians and their well-being, then it strikes me as very odd that you would:
1- Ignore the occupation
2- Ignore the siege
3- Ignore Israel’s inhuman, indiscriminate and devastating carpet-bombing of Gaza
4- Ignore the fact that it was Israel that violated this cease-fire
5- Concentrate on the pathetic rockets Hamas fires, which are themselves the result of the acts of aggression by the Israeli government against the Palestinians.
Which brings me to another problematic story that America’s media has not stopped repeating: the idea that any of this is justifiable because “Hamas does not want peace.” This is a very perverse, wrong-headed and racist idea. Israel already has destroyed Palestine. Israel is the aggressor and occupier here. Israel is the result of a Zionist project whose stated aim is to destroy the livelihood of Palestinians who do not belong to the Jewish religion. Israel has ethnically cleansed more than a million Palestinians from their homes over the years, murdered tens of thousands, and made freedom and self-determination impossible for all Palestinians everywhere. Israel continues to colonize Palestinian land, occupy all of Palestinians’ lands and control all their lives. In the face of all this, I find it mind-boggling that adults will still look at this and think that the problem is what Hamas says about recognizing Israel’s “right to exist” (whatever the hell that means).
Hamas is a political resistance movement that has announced that it will accept a two-state solution over the West Bank and Gaza. The idea of Hamas “recognizing” Israel’s “right to exist” before any negotiations can start is as nonsensical as asking the NY Yankees to recognize Tanzania’s right to exist: there is absolutely no meaning to a non-state actor “recognizing” a state.
Most importantly, Israel is the one that is actually and physically destroying Palestine. Everything you accuse Hamas of wanting to do, Israel is actually doing. The problem with the American discourse on this topic is that it is not concerned at all with Israel doing all of this, but is horrified at exaggerated media reports that claim that Hamas wants to do these things.
This would be laughable—were it not so tragic. It is precisely because Americans believe this wrongheaded story that the American government supports Israel politically, economically, militarily and diplomatically. It is because of this support that Israel can do these things.