One of the things that occurs to me as I watch the horror videos of Israeli airstrikes once again battering the 1.5 million defenseless people of the Gaza strip with U.S.-supplied rockets, bombs and god knows what else, is that though the Israeli military, with American help, has the capacity to kill all the Palestinians, it can’t quite bring itself to do it. This is not because its own public opinion would object. According to a report by Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada (electronicintifada.net), recent rallies by Israeli citizens and remarks by its public officials indicate that a large portion of Israelis would like nothing better. Gilad Sharon, the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, for example, recently said this:
We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire. (emphasis added by Abunimah)
No, it’s because, despite the wonderful example of the United States (which Israel could in fact follow exactly with its arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons), Israel fears the negative world opinion that might result. This is due to the fact that most Americans still believe Israeli propaganda—that it is this lonely democracy trying to defend itself from hordes of crazed Arabs and Muslims out to destroy it.
As to why Arabs and Muslims side with the Palestinians, neither Israel nor the United States media ever really addresses that. The “conflict” or “war” is always presented as if it just broke out spontaneously, usually when the Palestinians do something bad, and Israel has no choice but to “defend its people.” ‘They fired rockets at us. They have fired over a thousand rockets at us. They have even fired rockets as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem! And their rockets don’t try to avoid killing civilians, as ours do.’ As if the Palestinians, a refugee population under as severe a military blockade as has ever existed, could even get their hands on sophisticated rocket systems capable of precise targeting. And as if poor little Israel did nothing, has never done anything to incite that pathetic rocket fire.
The truth, though, is that both historically and proximally, Israel has been provoking and attacking and ethnically cleansing and starving the Palestinians for the better part of a century. Most recently, they shot and killed a mentally deficient boy who wandered too close to their security fence keeping Gazans in their open-air prison. And shortly after that, eviscerated another young boy playing soccer—apparently a suspect activity for Gazans. And shortly after that brought off one of their “targeted assassinations” by killing the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari and his son with a drone strike on his car. (Here again, the imitation of one nation’s tactics by another is haunting: after Israel’s success with these targeted killings—no arrest, no charges, no trial, just kill the bastard—the Obama administration has adopted this tactic as its favorite in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.) As to the history, a recent piece by renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reminds us of just how commonplace and enduring Israel’s attempt to get rid of the Palestinian people entirely has been. What Pappe reminds us—in a piece whose main burden is to show how even today, the ethnic cleansing operation known by Palestinians as the Nakba is continuing in the plan to forcefully remove 70,000 Beduoins from the Negev Desert, their home for millennia—is that the very term Nakba was first used by Israel’s military. Here is part of his discussion:
Long before the Palestinians themselves understood what was the essence of the Israeli master plan to expel them, and the far-reaching implications of the country’s ethnic cleansing, the perpetrators themselves found an adequate term in Arabic to describe it: Nakba (catastrophe)….The term was mentioned for the first time not in Arab or Palestinian sources but in Israeli military intelligence sources. It appeared in leaflets the Israeli air force distributed during those ten days in July on the eve of a very singular attack on a village or a town….The leaflets demanded in the main the “peaceful” eviction of the village and its surrounding areas. If not, the leaflets warned, the village would be severely punished. We do not have all the leaflets but here is the one rained on the huge and beautiful village of al-Tira near Haifa in the middle of July 1948:
“The sword will cut your throats without pity or compensation. If you insist and continue with your wrong doing … you should know that our airplanes, tanks and artillery will grind your village to dust, shell your houses, break your back, uproot you from your land … and your village will become a desert. Oh the people of al-Tira, if you wish to avoid a Nakba [sic] … surrender. The victorious Israeli army has already demolished the criminal hotbeds of Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias and Safad. It has occupied tens of villages in the south and the north, and this triumphant army will destroy you in several hours.” (Ilan Pappe, www.electronicintifada.net, 20 July 2012)
It is, of course, this very Nakba (a term recently proscribed by an Israeli law upheld by its courts; the authorities don’t like being reminded of the murderous theft their nation has engaged in any more than Americans like being reminded of ours) and its final solution that Palestinians have been fighting in any way they can. What else can a people like the Gazans, blockaded on land, sea and air, whose airport and most other infrastructure including potable water has been destroyed, whose fishermen cannot fish, whose economy—what was left of it—was destroyed in the 2008 Israeli invasion and who now, 80% of them, live on the relief food provided by UNRWA (with Israel fiendishly calculating how many calories a day will prevent Gazans from starving, but “keep them on a diet”)—what can such people do to salvage a sliver of dignity other than protest? Other than fight back against their occupier? Other than launch a stone or a curse or a rocket?
To be met, when they do so, by a mainstream media in the U.S. and Britain describing the resulting massacre as a “war.” A “rocket war.” As if there were two roughly equivalent nations engaged on a field of battle. As if a people with no protection whatever, no anti-aircraft system, no system of air-raid shelters, no air force, no artillery, no military equipment to speak of other than what can be smuggled in through tunnels, can be at war with one of the most modern, best-equipped, nuclear powers in the world. It’s an absurdity. There can be no war between two such antagonists. Which is really what frustrates the Israelis. If only they could go all out and flatten Gaza, as most Israelis seem to prefer. If only they could somehow magically “disappear” all of the Palestinians, not over time, not little by little as they have been doing, but instantly, quickly, with some sort of death ray that would leave no trace.
Fortunately, there is still an outside world, still world opinion, still a few people of conscience left in the world who can express their outrage, and more important, an elected government now in Egypt run by the elder brother of the Hamas regime in Gaza (the Muslim Brotherhood). This is why there is now talk of a cease-fire. This is why there is now a trip to the region by Hillary Clinton. This is why the Israeli army apparently won’t be unleashed for a second time in five years to go house to house on their killing spree. They know that “killing them all” would not play well on the nightly news, much less in an increasingly-inflamed Arab world. Even killing a dozen or so from one family is met with hand-wringing in the world press. So if ‘killing them all’ is to have any chance, it will probably have to be the slow holocaust that has been in progress now for over sixty years. And the world will have to go on lamenting the ‘stubborn’ nature of this ‘conflict,’ and American presidents will have to go on blessing poor Israel’s “right to defend itself” until, it hopes, as Israelis hope, there will one day be no more Palestinians to defend against.
But oh, how long that might take. And oh, wouldn’t it be so much cleaner and easier if killing them all were still an option.