Resistance is justified when Gaza is occupied
July 29, 2014
As the world reels in horror at mounting Palestinian deaths in Gaza, the Israeli propaganda machine and its willing accomplices in the U.S. mainstream media have issued their customary reply: Blame Hamas.
Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed all responsibility for Palestinian deaths on Hamas:
We’re sad for every civilian casualty. They’re not intended. This is the difference between us. The Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians. They embed their rocketeers, their rocket caches, their other weaponry which they use to fire on us in civilian areas.
What choice do we have? We have to protect ourselves. So we try to target the rocketeers. We do. And all civilian casualties are unintended by us, but intended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can…They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.
Netanyahu presents Israel as innocently defending itself—and Hamas as inviting Palestinian deaths for propaganda purposes. He then goes on to call Hamas “genocidal terrorists,” stating that they “call for the destruction of Israel, and they call for the killing of every Jew wherever they can find them.”
Thane Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at NYU School of Law, went even further in his July 21 Wall Street Journal op-ed article. Rosenbaum explained that it’s impossible to kill “innocent civilians” in Gaza…because all of Gaza is guilty:
[In 2006], the people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives…Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos. Life expectancy would be miserably low; children would be without a future. Staying alive would be a challenge, if staying alive even mattered anymore…
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point, you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
This reasoning isn’t confined to avowedly conservative publications like the Journal. Bob Dreyfuss, writing for The Nation, made the liberal version of the argument in an article titled “The Palestinians Must Put an End to Suicidal Hamas.” He directs his outrage not at Israel for its genocidal actions, but at Hamas’ “idiotic decision to fight Israel by firing useless missiles against unseen Israeli targets.”
Those who stand for self-determination for the Palestinian people shouldn’t help Israel make its case for shedding Palestinian blood. We should be challenging Israel’s various alibis for its killing fields in Gaza—and that means setting the record straight about Hamas.
Israel claims that if only Hamas were to stop firing rockets, accept a ceasefire and recognize Israel, it would stop bombing Gaza.
But Hamas did precisely that in the year and a half following the November 2012 ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Cloud, as Israel dubbed its last rampage through Gaza. In 2013, “Israel had one of the quietest years, if not the quietest year, it had had since rockets started coming from Gaza, which, by the way, began before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the fall of 2005,” Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Democracy Now!
Between November 2012 and today, it was Israel, not Hamas, that more frequently—and far more lethally—violated the terms of the ceasefire, as an infographic at ElectronicIntifada.net shows. During this time, Israel continued to carry out air strikes against whatever targets it deemed legitimate, and Israeli snipers fired on—and killed—farmers if they strayed too close to the Israeli-designated “buffer zone” along the Gaza-Israel border. The terms of the ceasefire also stipulated that Israel would lift its blockade of Gaza—which instead intensified, especially after the Egyptian military took over power after toppling Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi a year ago.
So why don’t the Palestinians employ nonviolent resistance, as so many liberal commentators implore?
The answer is that they do—but Israel, the media and the rest of the world routinely ignore these popular struggles. As Patrick O’Connor explained at ElectronicIntifada.net:
The fact that thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis are together employing nonviolent tactics similar to those of the U.S. civil rights movement and the South African anti-apartheid movement would come as surprising and welcome news to most Americans. Americans are largely unaware of the struggling but vibrant grassroots nonviolent movement in Palestine, because the U.S. corporate media prefers a simple, flawed story of Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli retaliation.
Similarly to U.S. civil rights activists, Palestinians must face tear gas, stun grenades and even live ammunition to take part in such resistance, but still they courageously do.
The nonviolent movement is based in the West Bank because that’s where it’s possible to employ such tactics in confrontations with Israeli security forces. In Gaza, which is hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world by Israel’s total control over all air and sea access—and by Egypt’s collaboration with Israel to keep Gaza’s borders closed—there is no way to engage Israel by nonviolent means. Gaza is an open-air prison, and getting too close to the bars means death by an unseen sniper, a navy boat or a drone.