Yet more tragic loss of life, this time in Eilat and Gaza, and yet again Israel “responds” with “full force”; the bombs dropped on overcrowded Gaza City, and the resultant deaths, are testimony to that. However, this is nothing new for the Palestinians. The violence being unleashed on them by Israel now is not a response to what happened in Eilat, nor was the attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians in Eilat “the trigger”, as the BBC has claimed, for Israel’s disproportionate “response”. It’s just Israel being even more violent than usual. Let’s face it, Israel is an aggressive, occupying (and nuclear-armed) power which doesn’t respond to violence, it foments violence.
In the week prior to the attack in Eilat, Israel killed two Palestinians, including a mentally disabled young man whose only crime was to wander too close to the border; trigger-happy Israeli soldiers shot him ten times, mainly in the head. Four Palestinians were wounded by Israel in the days pre-Eilat, including a child; a number of civilian targets were bombed and Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza were attacked by Israeli gunboats, leaving one injured. This brief summary of Israel’s violence “pre-response” doesn’t take into account the ongoing Israeli oppression of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where the occupation authorities have approved thousands of new housing units for illegal settlers in the past few week and are threatening to deport prominent Palestinians from their own city.
The world is driven by concern for Israel’s security, which takes precedence over all other aspects of Middle East affairs. The Arab spring? How will it affect Israel? Palestinian reconciliation? How will it affect Israel? This Western fetish for Israel’s security is the reason why the Zionist state can, and does, act with impunity. Of course, any state has the right to defend its people from outside attack, but doesn’t that right also extend to Palestinians living under occupation and siege? Are they not also entitled to act in self-defence when Israeli soldiers enter Gaza at will, or shoot a mentally-unstable boy for wandering, in his own country, too close to the border with the Zionist state? Isn’t that “response” from Israeli soldiers probably not much older or wiser than the 17-year old victim the sort of thing which was condemned when East German border guards shot people who got too close to the Berlin Wall? The downfall of that wall has been commemorated in recent days; the Israel version continues to be built but nobody in Washington or European capitals cares. It’s Israel, after all, and Israeli security comes top of the list of concerns, especially for the many US Senators and Congressmen and women who take summer breaks in Israel, all expenses paid.
Few journalists, and even fewer politicians, seem willing to look at the situation in the Holy Land objectively so that the general public have a more balanced understanding of events. Instead, we always hear about “Israel’s response” to this Palestinian rocket or that attempted incursion by terrorists. Few delve deeper behind the headlines to ask why Palestinians fire rockets into Israel, or why the resistance groups try to live up to their name and resist. Few point out that Palestinians are resisting the Israeli occupation of their land, and are entitled by international law to do so with whatever means are at their disposal. It is telling that they have been labelled as “terrorists” by the people running Israel who are adept at flouting international law, to the extent that many Israeli politicians and military officers will not travel abroad for fear of being arrested on war crimes charges.
Who are the real “terrorists”, the occupiers or the occupied? This is an important question, so important in fact, that politicians and the media are afraid to answer it. But when my wife’s friend and her mother email us to say that they were “hiding under the bed trying to shut out the terrifying noise of the bombs”, it is a question to which we are entitled to expect an honest answer.
The laws of cause and effect are really quite simple in this situation, despite attempts in the media and Israeli propaganda to convince us otherwise: Israel was founded in 1948 on Palestinian land following a UN Partition Plan passed by the General Assembly as Resolution 181 (virtually the only UN resolution Israelis have ever stood by, even though it was not mandatory). The people who drafted that plan did not consult the Palestinians on what they thought about giving up more than half of their country to provide a home for Jewish immigrants from Europe. It was thus the Palestinians who paid the price for European anti-Semitism and were the victims of a campaign of brutal ethnic cleansing at the hands of Jewish militias which saw the nascent Israeli state establish itself on more land than the UN ever envisaged or sanctioned. Likewise, in June 1967 Israel kicked-off a war and took even more of historic Palestine, occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip which, since 1948, had been administered by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The Zionist state has been colonising the West Bank in defiance of international law ever since. Ergo, Palestinians resist the theft and occupation of their land. Which European or American citizen, supporter of Israel or not, could say with hand on heart that they would not resist the occupation of their own country if that ever took place? End the occupation and the need for resistance will also end. It’s not rocket science.
But Zionist Israel is different, quite probably due in part to the American politicians who holiday at the state’s expense. They’ve been bought, and have been for many years, by the powerful Israel Lobby in Washington. That Lobby is now very influential in Britain and the rest of Europe.
What do the Lobbyists make, though, of the claim made by journalist Harriet Sherwood that “an Israeli official told the Guardian: ‘We knew they were out there’, suggesting intelligence had picked up the possibility of an attack” on Eilat? If Israel’s intelligence was so certain, to the degree that Prime Minister Netanyahu could tell the world just hours later that “the people who gave the order” for the attack “are no longer amongst the living”, it also suggests that the Israelis could have prevented it. The Gaza Strip is more than 200 kilometres away from Eilat; if the Israelis “knew they were out there”, why didn’t they intercept the people who carried out the attack on Eilat before it could take place? Since when has Israel been shy of pre-emptive strikes and why was it decided not to make one on this occasion?
I am thinking the unthinkable. Did the Israeli government decide to allow the attack, despite the potential cost in Israeli lives, to go ahead in order to have an excuse – as if it ever needs an excuse – to launch another assault on Gaza and divert attention from its domestic problems in the process? The cancellation of large-scale protests in Israel over the weekend seems to tick at least one of those boxes. Politics is a dirty business, especially in the Middle East, so I wouldn’t rule anything out. Perhaps the families of those Israelis killed in Eilat could ask their government for an answer.
I was brought up by my parents on Tyneside to be honest and stand up for what is just and right. Those core British values of my youth have stayed with me to this day. That’s why I don’t understand why our Prime Minister and senior politicians, backed by an all too compliant media, abandon those core values, which they otherwise espouse so passionately, when the issue in question is the Israel-Palestine conflict. They dance to the Israel Lobby’s tune ever so willingly and call for “restraint” from both parties, as if there is some degree of parity between the military capabilities of Israelis and Palestinians. This is a conflict between a heavily-armed occupier and an almost 100% civilian population under occupation, not a clash of equals, but that simple fact appears to have passed them by.
South Africa’s Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Silence is not an option when faced with Israeli injustice in occupied Palestine. When will we have politicians and a media who understand this and side with the oppressed for a change?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.