Reports in The Times of Israel and Haaretz have once again covered the narrative relating to Operation Protective Edge, this time by US Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Speaking at a forum organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dempsey reiterated Israel’s propaganda disseminated tirelessly by the mainstream media.
“I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties,” said Dempsey. “In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticised for civilian casualties.” A report on Reuters also stated that Israel’s methods of allegedly “protecting civilians” were the subject of a visit by a US team organised by the Pentagon, “to see what lessons could be learned from the operation.”
While the rhetoric is by no means innovative, the language used provides insights into the expansion of colonial and imperialist dominance through applying a constant reinvention of fabricated enmity attributed to nations and people who resist against the theft of their land. Apart from strengthening the hegemonic narrative, the strategy also attempts to placate passive disagreement with the violence and aggression carried out by Israel reminiscent of the manner in which international institutions and governments worldwide sought to enforce alienation during the colonial massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Dempsey’s discourse exhibits the process of alienation that is disseminated at a global level through various sources, in particular through statements that should be subjected to scrutiny against historical facts rather than left to interpretation. “The IDF is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re interested in stopping the shooting of rockets and missiles out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel.”
The statement reflects not only the narrative exhausted by Israel and its allies, but also the impressions disseminated by the mainstream media in the quest to influence and manipulate public opinion by playing upon displaced sentiment and vestiges of patriotism. Within the context of Protective Edge, both sentiment and patriotism were applied by the IDF through visual propaganda that attempted to project its alleged defensive nature simulated within popular geographical locations, irrespective of both the unique oppression characterising Gaza as well as the reality of colonial expansion. Far from the fictional deterrence promoted by Israel and its allies, including Dempsey, Protective Edge was an exercise in dehumanisation and extermination, exacerbated by the willingness of the compromised international community and the UN to uphold Israel’s “right to defend itself”.
Primarily, the rhetoric is characterised by the absence of historical and current context. Throughout the massacre, the prevailing trend was to enforce permanent disassociation from Israel’s colonisation process in Palestine, resulting in further isolation of Gaza as the enclave struggled with immense destruction and premeditated massacres. Hence, Dempsey’s claim that the IDF is not interested in creating civilian casualties was reduced to a temporary phenomenon that reinforced two particular manipulations of facts: the continuation of the Nakba as a process of violent colonisation, as well as the necessity of accelerating the slow extermination of Palestinians in Gaza as the means of reinforcing Israel’s colonial presence.
References to intimidating tactics such as “roof-knocking” and the dropping of leaflets asking Palestinians to evacuate their houses prior to aerial bombardment were listed by Dempsey as attempts to “protect civilians”, allegedly and presumably valid enough reasons for the Pentagon to send a delegation tasked with learning, including “the measures [the IDF] took to prevent civilian casualties and what they did with tunnelling.” Rather than military rhetoric, the statement is a recapitulation of what was asserted regularly through media outlets in order to consolidate alienation from the reality of colonial atrocities.
It is through such statements that interpretation is encouraged to replace rigorous analysis, in order to eliminate one important factor through the reinforcement of contradictions. Implicit within the statement is a declaration of perpetual aggression on behalf of the US and Israel within the context of imperial domination in the Middle East. The concept of Greater Israel is thus eliminated, divesting Zionism of its ultimate aim of implementing its ideological concepts, a process which is facilitated through the subjugation of Palestinian leaders. The initial resistance, articulated through the formal charters of Palestinian factions, insisted upon the liberation of Palestine from defined aggressors, thus conceptualising a coherent perspective of oppression from various sources contributing to the strength of colonial and imperial dominance. This stance has mellowed throughout the decades into a general acceptance of diplomatic concessions that fragmented Palestine beyond recognition.
In the absence of Palestinian resistance strategy, Dempsey’s comments, as well as the narrative endorsed by international organisations such as the UN, will continue to hold sway within political discourse. While human rights organisations like Amnesty International have criticised Israel’s allegedly humanitarian tactics, implications with regard to the human rights agenda as an inherent component in imperialism can render objections into a collaborative effort in strengthening Palestinian oblivion. Human rights groups have also relied upon neutrality as the foundation upon which findings are later discussed, thus providing a false premise that equates the oppressor with the oppressed, a characteristic of imperialist discourse and one that was evident in reports that attempted to portray Palestinian armed struggle as an aggression that justified Israel’s colonial massacre “in self-defence”.
Within a wider context, therefore, Dempsey’s comments add to the enforced oblivion as a process that impacts on Palestinians negatively, especially considering the fact that their leaders have assimilated to the hegemonic narrative. As the distinction between the colonised and the coloniser becomes even more blurred, the concept of human rights violations within the international framework is rendered obsolete, with those entities which, allegedly, support investigations into atrocities blatantly pledging their allegiance to the perpetrators, in accord with the dominant imperialist interpretation of international law. For Palestine, the consequences are colossal, with the retention of memory being challenged geo-physically by settler-colonial expansion supported by Zionist and imperialist influence. The established contradiction influencing human rights violations, namely the entrusting of responsibility with regard to human rights to confirmed perpetrators establishes a dynamic that ultimately requires the absolute relinquishing of Palestinian armed resistance.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.