Netanyahu’s cries for revenge

Oct 13, 2023
Close up Map of the middle east Countries with smoke, Israel–Palestine crisis, 3d rendering,

Terrible violence and massive loss of life in this latest Palestine/Israel conflict is tragic and regrettable, but commentary from western politicians and their media backers is also tragic. The US rush to generate sympathy for Israel, and with scant regard for the traumatised citizens of Gaza, repeats years of thoughtless commentary that depicts the more powerful nation, Israel, as always, the victim and a people under siege as terrorists.

Identifying robotic repeats of the claim that Israel has a right to defend itself does not lessen, not for a minute, a concern for the fear and suffering currently experienced by Israelis, but official spokespeople and those offering automatic support of Israel must ask at least one searching question: what circumstances have led to Hamas’s invasion of Israel? Why has this occurred?

Instead of showing glimmers of understanding of the powerlessness and oppression of Palestinians, the western world is conditioned to waving Israeli flags or draping famous buildings in Israeli colours. Such jingoistic initiatives are no substitute for asking what provoked this invasion of Israel, why the needless slaughter of hundreds of Israelis and accompanying threats to eliminate the people of Gaza.

Acknowledgement of the current devastation in Israel should be coupled with reminders of numerous Israeli attacks on Gaza and those occasions when many thousands of Palestinians were killed. Who cared? No Western leaders decorated public buildings in Palestinian colours.

If a student writing about a conflict anywhere in the world had focussed only on the violence of Hamas, I’d have to say, ‘There’s so little analysis, you’ll have to do this again, and in your next submission please try to identify the underlying conditions of conflict. Pay attention to questions about freedom, inequality, security, housing, health and basic human rights.’

Unless those ‘why’ questions are asked about this latest conflict, the people of Israel and Palestine must expect only a repeat of the Netanyahu and Hamas swagger that more violence will solve the problem.

Western leaders in the US, the EU and Australia have based their foreign policy support for Israel on the assumption that: ‘Even if the Palestinian people are occupied, their lands stolen, their homes and hospitals bombarded, millions placed under siege in prison-like conditions, they should admit their shortcomings, be grateful for cruelty and humiliation and promise to behave better in future?’ This sort of foreign policy has conjured a destructive, psychological nonsense, yet it persists.

Despite the dangers of conflict spreading across the Middle East, there’s no sign of changes in western perspectives. Instead, the public is fed repeats of that easily digested narrative that the invasion of Israel was unprovoked, that any country must defend itself, that Hamas is evil incarnate. Ever since the election of the extremist, apartheid Netanyahu government, Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed, pogroms pursued, homes torched or stolen. Protected by Israeli police, violent settlers have had Netanyahu’s support to do what they like. In those conditions, Palestinians are not even entitled to fight back.

The failure to ask why Hamas would be so provoked is compounded by Netanyahu’s promise to reduce Gaza to ashes, as though he has not done so many times before. So used to dominance of the Netanyahu’s machismo, violent narrative, respectable western countries seem unable to discourage the prospect of unending savagery inflicted upon two and a half million Gazans.

Revenge is Netanyahu’s war cry, as though he and his violent government have not already ruled the West Bank by encouraging or turning a blind eye to settler hatred and capricious violence. Ethnic cleansing has served the double purpose of killing Palestinians and achieving war-like identity for a Prime Minister otherwise threatened by protesting Israelis.

In seeking to explain the Hamas uprising, another persistent stupidity is easily forgotten. Once the US had labelled this Islamist-based government ‘terrorist’, communication with them was officially forbidden. Who in Washington, London, Brussels or Canberra had the foresight to challenge that labelling and instead insist ‘we have to talk, there has to be dialogue about justice.’

Divisive decoration of public buildings in Israeli colours should be replaced with energetic dialogue about peace with justice, a goal easily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s principle: ‘it’s easy to have a conversation with your friends, the real test comes in conversation with your enemies.’

Apportioning blame to Hamas or years of Israeli occupation, and its taste for pulverising Gaza, ignores the long-term cancerous consequences of unending conflict. In the short term, killing must cease, hostages rescued and we’ll no doubt hear unconvincing promises to rebuild Gaza.

The long-term panacea is not difficult to find, but it means asking ‘why?’ and from the answer, building a dignified, human rights policy to flood not only analysis of Israeli and Hamas violence but also the mind sets of politicians and diplomats who say they’d like to end cruelty and take human survival seriously.

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