Haim Bresheeth, The Electronic Intifada, 31 December 2008
|The victims of Israel’s latest attempt to empty and depopulate historic Palestine. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|
As the death toll in Gaza rises by the hour, and the few civic buildings still left are collapsing under the combined firepower of the Israeli air force, with its up-to-the-minute bombers and destructive armaments, we are again facing an incredible political phenomenon — the foretold disaster which surprises all political leaders as if they, unlike the rest of us, never see a newspaper or watch the television news channels.
In Summer 2006, after months of Israeli hints that it was going to move into Lebanon and “finish off” Hizballah, world leaders were also too busy and quite shocked; to be precise, they were “shocked” for a whole month, a month of wanton destruction and killing, exactly until Israel needed a ceasefire urgently, as things were not going according to plan.
Then, all of a sudden, western nations moved overnight to impose a cease-fire. Even so, they failed to help Israel in its mission of destroying Hizballah. So, while only people with no easy access to their moral fiber can go on claiming that Israel is right in its murderous, barbaric and illogical revenge mission to hell, the real question is, how are they allowed to do it, and always get away with it?
After 40 years of brutal occupation, with every item of countless UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions violated, with tens of thousands dead in countries surrounding Palestine, not to mention in Palestine itself, after numerous peace agreements, initiatives, drives, road maps and Nobel Prizes, we are still where we were 40 years ago, but in a much worse scenario.
Surely this could not be happening, yet it is, and it will continue to happen, dragging more and more of world politics into the quagmire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has now turned into the World vs. Palestine conflict, it seems. Now this could never happen, unless world leaders were closing their eyes to it — staunchly, continuously, devotedly and methodically, and for decades.
So what are they doing now, when Israel moves, again, against one and a half million Palestinians, after having starved them for almost two months? After having denied them any chance of work, food, medicine, fuel, electricity or water? What are the leaders of the “democratic world,” Bush, Brown, Berlusconi or Sarkozy — all sworn supporters of Israel — doing now? What have they learned from the last hundred or so Israeli incursions into Gaza? From the continued cyclical destruction of Lebanon, every time an Israeli prime minister feels he needs to boost his standing?
One might well ask, when thinking about those leaders of the Free World, what they have learnt from Vietnam, or Nicaragua, or Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan conflicts, in which they were involved, ever-so-carefully? The truth is that the west has never managed to learn from either its colonial and imperial past, or from its ongoing blunders and war crimes in the present. The only variable seems to be the amount of force — one always can resolve the conflict, it is just a matter of applying enough force, isn’t it?
The Soviets also believed that given enough force, they could defeat Afghanistan, and so do some western politicians, though it seems that many are now wise to the fact that it is not going very well recently. Israel has been using this retarded policy for six decades — if you fight everyone around, and make sure you are the strongest military force in the Middle East, then you can do what you wish; this was supposed to lead somehow to peace and quiet, yet it always fails. Yes, Israel can destroy the whole Middle East and much more, but, and this is curious, it cannot have peace of any kind with the Palestinians. How are we to understand this contradiction?
Well, to begin with, Israel has never looked for peace with the Palestinians; it only looked for means to depopulate and empty the country, ever since its founding in May 1948. It exiled 750,000 Palestinians from their land, made them refugees, and then systematically refused them and their descendants entry despite UN resolutions, while destroying their villages and towns, or building Israeli Jewish towns on top of them. Since 1967 it has done all any country could do, to make a political solution impossible, by illegally settling in the occupied territories, and by refusing to go back to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, by building the Apartheid wall, and by generally making life impossible for most Palestinians. This is not an effort for peace — more likely, this is an effort for continuous and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
So, if peace is a problem, as it will by definition mean losing the mini-empire built by Israel, then one does what one can to avoid it, even it is offered on a plate, like in the Saudi Peace Initiative, which Israel’s leaders, supposedly in waiting for exactly such an offer, scorned and refused. This denial of the potential for peace has been going on for so long, most Israelis have failed to notice it as it turned into second nature.
But the more terrifying reason why no peace initiative has ever had the slightest chance has indeed to do with us in the west. Israel has been supported by the western democracies as their bulwark in the Arab East, more dependable than client regimes such as the Saudis or Iraq’s Saddam until 1990. As a strong proponent of the Huntingtonian thesis of the Clash of Civilizations, Israel is still, on a covert if not an overt level, the bastion of the Judeo-Christian world against the Arabs and Islam. This was true some decades ago, but has never been truer than in the last decade, with the New World Order of continued crisis, of the Shock Doctrine, of Shock and Awe, of repeated storms in the deserts of Asia, always Islamic.
Israel, not Iran, possesses nuclear weapons, and is also capable of using them, and threatens to do so, yet it is Iran who is the culprit. The proponents of attacking that country are the same merchants of doom who have sold us the war in Iraq. Imagine for a moment what a Muslim in Britain might feel, if he stopped to think about a world in which the main culprits, “terrorists,” extremists and insurgents are always said to be Muslims, and are everywhere being hunted by the great forces of international “law and order,” mainly led by the so-called Free World? Is it so surprising that a tiny number of British born and bred Muslims found it acceptable to explode bombs in the capital? Is the solution to this loaded and explosive situation to kill more Muslims, to alienate more Muslims?
One thousand years after the beginning of the Crusades, one is tempted to ask if it is not time to close the book, to call it a day, to bury the hatchet and start talking? And, to be sure, there can be no talking as long as the Free World sticks with the Israeli method of conflict resolution — bomb them to smithereens, then you don’t need to talk to them, and if you need to talk to them, they will talk differently when bombed out of existence.
How long will we support destruction as a platform for dialogue? Has it ever worked anywhere?
Prof. Haim Bresheeth is Chair of Media Studies at the University of East London, and the co-editor of The Gulf War and the New World Order.