Monday, March 03, 2008

"Gaza Violence"

This is the first chance I've had to access the internet while in Rome and all you get from BBC World is the strip headline "Gaza Violence" and vague, airy explanations about "fighting that left up to 100 dead" followed by a courteous interview with the Israeli propaganda minister. It turns out that what they were actually reporting on was an Israeli massacre. "Fighting". "Violence". This massacre has produced solidarity protests in the West Bank, and so undermined Abbas that even he had to withdraw cooperation with the Israelis. He, the disgusting shit who said that the last attacks were the fault of Hamas. The BBC is, of course, the organisation that knows exactly how many Israelis have been killed by rocket fire (thirteen since 2000, as if that was at all relevant), but doesn't know how many Palestinians have died in the same period.

They're talking of a withdrawal on the news, as if it's all over now. But it isn't all over. Israeli leaders are seriously discussing the prospect of open and deliberate mass violence against civilians. Not the usual unreported low-level daily violence against civilians; not the normal sadistic terrorising of civilian populations; not the run of the mill bombing raids that 'accidentally' wipe out civilians. This would be more explicit than the attacks in 2002, with the widespread use of the bulldozer as well as helicopter gunships. This would be an attempt to destroy a substantial part of the Palestinian population. Unlike Saddam's violence against the Kurds, it would be determined as much by ideological as functional purposes. We've had several threats of genocidal violence now, with an accompanying barrage of dehumanising imagery and rhetoric. And the UN general secretary is talking of "disproportionate" violence and Israel's "right to self-defense". What a propaganda coup - how successfully they've mobilised Holocaust memory, when you have routine threats of genocidal violence from the Israeli government, and people are still talking about proportional responses and a right to "self-defence".

One of the most disgusting aspects of this whole affair has been the way in which Israel's propagandists have been mirrored by the Western media, highlighting the claim that many if not most of the dead are "militants". Well, that is probably untrue, and effacing the distinction between combatant and non-combatant is an important first step in the process of genocide - successfully depicting the entire population as itself a mortal threat is the penultimate solution. However, so what if it is true? Hamas is a mass movement, and also the legitimate elected governing party of Palestine. It is a movement of resistance to the occupation and Zionism, and commands mass support. Killing Hamas members and calling them "terrorists" or "militants" is not better than killing civilians, particularly when the attacks are largely unprovoked. (Sderot? Give me a fucking break.) And particularly when there are, as there have always been, other options. Gazans, having been "put on a diet" and subject to repeated incursions, are now the object of planned extermination. The streets of London and every capital and major city in the world should resound in protest.