Collective punishment, selective truth, and slow genocide

Oct 23, 2023
Israeli and Palestinian flags on a brick wall with blood splatters.

Facts about the Israel/Palestine conflict have always been hard to come by. Some Israeli leaders are now telling more lies than many of their citizens, and former friends of Israel, can swallow. Yet Western governments still do.

Inexact figures of dead, injured, and held hostage leave no doubt that in October, Israel intended its revenge attacks on Gaza to exceed the ferocity with which the new settlers wiped out their Palestinian neighbours in the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948 and established the State of Israel. Then and since, many more Palestinians than Israelis have died. The proportion is about 40:1, says former British ambassador Craig Murray. He points out that those who now invoke Israel’s right of self-defence denied the same right to the Palestinians for decades.

Since 2007, the year after Hamas came to power in Gaza, Israel has imposed an air, land and sea blockade on the territory, claiming it was necessary to prevent Hamas attacks. The UN and international human rights groups have condemned the blockade, describing Gaza as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’. Residents of Gaza are surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire fences, unable to leave without Israeli-approved permits.

Hamas’ current assault is the long-awaited response of the oppressed against their oppressors. That is typical of terrorism, which is asymmetric warfare. Israel justifies its collective punishment of Palestinians by labelling Hamas ‘terrorists’, although terror is the aim of its own repeated acts. As Israelis would know from their history, confining, humiliating, and vilifying a people can lead to genocide. But they won’t admit it. The Ambassador of Israel to the UN calls Hamas ‘animal-like’. Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, says Hamas are ‘beastly people’: ‘We are putting a complete siege on Gaza. … No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed’.

Israeli leaders have practice in being selective with the truth. Some friends of Israel who gave them the benefit of the doubt, don’t now. One is former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who worked with and had high regard for Israeli intelligence people, one of whom reminded him that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion said that if he were an Arab, he would never sign an agreement with Israelis, who had stolen Palestinians’ land.

Israel’s response to the Hamas attack changed Ritter for good. A targeted Palestinian assault on militarised sites was turned into ‘a narrative of uncontrolled bloodlust which was then fed to an unquestioning western audience by a compliant mass media’. The fiction of 40 beheaded Israeli babies was propagated round the world, while silence reigned over the real deaths of nearly 400 Palestinian children murdered by Israeli air attacks. (Ritter doesn’t mention mass killings of Israeli civilians by Hamas at a music festival).

Other lies followed. The Al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza could not have been destroyed by any errant, under-powered, Palestinian or ISIS missile. An Israeli video showing such rockets striking the hospital was taken 40 minutes afterwards. Hananya Naftali, staff member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, posted on X: “Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas terrorist base inside a hospital in Gaza.” The post was quickly deleted. (Chris Hedges P&I 20 October).

On 15 October, former Israeli Mossad chief Danny Yatom claimed the Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip is a human shield for the Palestinian Resistance leadership and should be destroyed. In an interview he said the IDF should continue digging down with bombs, to crush the leadership of the Resistance.

When news that St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza, the third oldest church in the world, was bombed and destroyed was circulated last week, it was dismissed as fake news, as were fears of multiple casualties of people sheltering there. It has now been confirmed by Church authorities.

American journalist Chris Hedges, who has long experience in Israel, says Israel was founded on lies and is sustained by them. Repeated investigations are ‘a sham’ and are rarely impartial. As well, Israel has a record of attacking hospitals, ambulances, and medical people. These are routinely diluted by a ‘torrent of lies’, in which most of the corporate media collude, along with Republican and Democratic politicians.

That brings us to US lies, which under Donald Trump reached record numbers per day. His successor is keeping up the tradition. Biden tells the world that America will stand with Israel as it works to ‘defend its people’. The US is on ‘the same team’, and ‘has their back’, as if it’s a gridiron game. He claims credit for arranging aid shipments from the Rafah crossing. If any of this gets through has still to be seen, as it’s conditional on Hamas’ release of Israeli hostages.

How many people still believe the US President’s simplistically credulous account of events in Gaza? US intelligence says Israel was not responsible for the hospital bombing, blaming it on ‘an armed Palestinian group’, but doesn’t mention multiple claims to the contrary.

Hamas may have chosen this time for its attack to frustrate American-brokered negotiations to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, following the 2020 Abraham Accords through which the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan recognised Israel. Those states may now recoil at Israel’s vengeful attack on the Palestinians.

There’s a great gulf between what American and Israeli leaders and their allies say has happened, and what people in the Arab world understand to be the facts. The same gulf is perpetuated in much of the Western media, where the record of US lies beginning with, say, Pearl Harbour, and continuing through Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, is well known but rarely mentioned.

Israel may be the latest of the US lies, but it will spill just as much innocent blood.

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