Saturday, June 05, 2010
Chutzpah and hasbara posted by Richard SeymourYou know how it is. For days, it's been impossible to log on to Twitter without some frantic Israeli apologists urgently messaging you to say - no, look, it's really clear, these so-called 'humanitarians' attacked Israeli soldiers who merely responded, yadda yadda yadda. They lynched those servicemen... Or, better still - peace activists don't carry weapons, they were there to get themselves killed... Rarely has such a toxic mixture of the desperate, the cowardly and the callous been compressed into 140 characters or less, and almost all of it is directly inspired by the carefully crafted tweets of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Anyone who doubts the Israeli government's online virtuosity should check out what they can do with Flickr).
Israel, as noted before, never has any agency in any of this. Not one of Israel's apologists can contemplate for a second that the IDF, and the commando outfit Unit 13 that perpetrated the massacres, made a choice at every step leading to the murder of those aid workers - each of whom was deliberately executed with several bullets from close range. Their solidarity with the murderers is complete: "We are all Unit 13", as the Israeli protesters have reportedly taken to chanting. This is a pretty pathetic position to be in. Just as well Max Blumenthal has taken the trouble of trawling through the Israeli media's build-up to the attack, and documented that the attack was planned down to every detail, and that the use of lethal force was planned on the pretext that the flotilla's occupants were "terrorists".
Now, the 'Rachel Corrie' has also been hijacked, though as yet the Israelis haven't got round to murdering anyone on board. Predictably, it has been vilified as a jihadi vessel with links to global terrorism. The hasbara merchants have been out in force again, demanding to know why the aid workers didn't accept Israel's "offer" to dock at Ashdod port. Well, as before, it's very simple. The Israeli blockade has wilfully destroyed the Gazan economy. Destroying the power generation systems, and the sewage and other vital infrastructure that depended on it, the blockade has resulted in a process of de-development. The blockade, restricting Gaza's ships to operation within three nautical miles, has also destroyed the fishing industry. It has put almost half of agricultural land out of productive use. Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described how Gaza's "whole civilisation has been destroyed" by the blockade, though in fact Gazans are more resilient than this diagnosis would allow. But people are dying in large numbers. Poor nutrition, hardly any medicines, and lack of sewage processing means that Gazans are dying from preventable and treatable diseases. Diarrhoea alone is responsible for 12% of young deaths.
And here's the punchline. The blockade has left most Gazans wholly or partially dependent on food aid. However, the blockade has also placed a stranglehold on the amount of aid actually getting to Gaza. The amount entering Gaza in mid-2009 was 25% of that entering in 2007. This has resulted in nine out of ten residents living below the poverty line of a dollar a day. Even such aid as is devoted to Gaza can't be spent because of the blockade, according to Amnesty and the ICRC. Israel has consistently blocked food shipments, only allowing them through when it became an embarrassing political incident. It has held up medicines until they have expired. 80% of all imports to Gaza come through the tunnels. Israel has deliberately turned Gaza into a ghettoised economy, dependent on smuggling from outside fences, walls, and boundaries enforced by military violence. The tunnels, of course, are routinely attacked by aerial bombardment, on the pretext that they are being used to smuggle weapons - because Gaza, this tiny land mass with no navy or standing army, might get a few guns to defend itself the next time Israel decides to invade.
So, going through Israel is not an option. Attempting to get aid through the port at Ashdod means that little if any of the aid will reach the intended recipients. Israel has proved this time and again. The blockade is a premeditated act of savagery and sadism, and Israel does not intend to allow international aid to disrupt its calculated cruelty. Israel insists on its 'right' to hijack vessels in international waters that might actually disrupt this barbarism-by-design. Now it insists that if activists resist such hijack efforts, even with the most elementary, non-lethal weapons, as is their right, it can murder them with impunity. The Israeli state has thus proven, not only in its actions, but in the audacious, brazen propaganda campaign it has since initiated (a truly disgusting example of which), that it is not susceptible to reasoning or moral pleading. In addition to this, Israel's pied-noirs broadly approve of these colonial atrocities, differing only with the far right foreign affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman on the precise method for maintaining the stranglehold. So, relying on persuasion and heartfelt humanitarian appeals with a population that has been complicit in the colonial project from the start, and is displaying signs of rapid moral and political degeneration, is a complete waste of time. There is no alternative but to forcibly break the blockade. Israel's apologists bleat about a few knives and sticks found aboard the hijacked vessels, but if it were not tactically suicidal, it would be perfectly reasonable and appropriate for any future flotilla to proceed fully armed.