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We need to talk about Gaza

This is a cross-post from Marc’s Words

I gave this post the same name that Dorky Mum gave hers.

She wrote her post during the most recent round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza, I am writing this response a couple of weeks later when it feels as if those hostilities have already been forgotten. Dorky Mum has already written other posts, no one is hanging around outside the Israeli embassy in London any more and I still live here.

Dorky Mum really says a great deal during her post but one phrase really stuck with me;

“I believe the biggest injustice – and the reason I feel so incredibly upset and angry about what is happening to the people of Gaza – is the inequality. This is not a fair fight between equals. It is a David and Goliath situation.”

I think that this is indicative of the temptation is to see what we want to see rather than what there is (on both sides).

For the record, this isn’t a conflict between David and Goliath it is between Israel and Hamas. I can hear you all at home collectively scratching your head right now and saying “well duh!” But bear in mind that Dorky Mum’s post doesn’t actually mention Hamas once. Think about that, in a post about the conflict between Israel and Hamas with details written about such things as international law and relevant UN resolutions you would think that they might be worthy of a mention.

Since this is a conflict between Israel and Hamas it is worth looking at what the 2 sides are actually saying and what they actually want. Arguments with regards to UN resolutions and the minutiae of international law are all well and good but they should come after stating just who is actually doing the fighting.

I am guessing that Dorky Mum’s assessment of the situation is pretty similar to the observations that many people in the UK make, I’m not going to go through point by point mainly because there are plenty of comments on her blog that do that and also because I think it would seem to be overly pedantic, so I will address just a couple of things that really hit me.

“International law states that if a country is being occupied, then it has the right to resist that occupation. So here is the question. If we cannot accept rockets being fired at southern cities in Israel – and we can’t – then what are the other means of resistance available to Palestinians in Gaza? How can they work productively to change their situation, and how can we help them?”

Palestinians and Hamas seem to have become inter-changeable in this piece, the reason for that is because for people all around the world they are. This is a fundamental error of conception, Palestinians do not equal Hamas nor is vice versa accurate.

Dorkey Mum you asked this question;

If we cannot accept rockets being fired at southern cities in Israel – and we can’t – then what are the other means of resistance available to Palestinians in Gaza?

It’s a sad question to ask and one the presumes resistance to be the way forward. It also misses the extent to which the failure of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to bring about peace utterly shattered, downright tore apart the Israeli peace movement and how it is that time and again since 1990 Hamas has managed to destroy the Israeli Left wing. In fact it was Hamas suicide bombings during the election campaign in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin that gave Bibi his first stint as Prime Minister.

Israelis are now living with Bibi Netanyahu specifically because of Hamas launched rockets coming out of the Strip. The way forward is not to promote Palestinian. meaning Hamas ‘resistance’ against Israel as the way forward towards a better world. The way to move forward is to get on the road to a negotiated peace, but alas that is a direct contradiction to Hamas’ stated position. I’ll say that again, peace is a direct contradiction to Hamas’ stated position, their position is that Israel must cease to exist.

I feel that people are so busy rationalising the situation over here that they have stopped looking at what it is that Hamas are actually saying and who they are. As I write this Hamas are celebrating their 25th birthday, here is a link to the charter written at the time of their founding. It is quite long so if you would prefer do a ctrl F search for the word Jew, it crops up 12 times in their founding document as Jew or Jewish. Take a look at how the word is used.

Israelis have been telling people the world over what Hamas are for a long time but no one wants to actually listen. I think I understand why, the narrative of plucky little David versus Goliath makes a lot more sense, it fits into the oppressors and oppressed narrative very easily and then the whole conflict makes a lot of sense. if only those Israelis would leave the Palestinians alone everything would be fine. This rationale only makes sense if you utterly ignore the Hamas side of the equation, but you have to make an almost conscious effort to ignore the words that they are actually saying to the world in order for it to make sense, not just in their own charter but every time their leaders open their mouths. In other words there is an instinctive assumption as to who Hamas are that belies even what they say about themselves.

During the al Aqsa Intifada Hamas and other terror groups conducted attacks against civilian targets in Israeli cities. People around the world shrugged their shoulders, displaying this exact same type of instinctive assumption as to the motivation of suicide bombers and terrorists, Cherie Blair said at the time;

“As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress.” 

When I heard that I got the impression that many intelligent people in the UK agreed with her, despite the fact that Hamas themselves state their reasons very differently. Ask yourself what you would do if you had several kilos of explosive, would your first thought would be to strap it onto yourself and blow up a bus of civilians? Perhaps you might think to lay it next to a road and blow up a military vehicle actually engaged in occupying your people instead. The difference is the ideology of Hamas.

Dorky Mum you watched Hamas launch rockets at the occupied West Bank where they are far more likely to hit Palestinians than Israelis and still talk about the Palestinian right to resist.

This isn’t resistance.

If you let go of the David and Goliath analogy you’re left with something far closer to the truth and far more devoid of hope. This is an ugly world with ugly people in it, the fighters of Hamas are not knights fighting a chivalrous battle for freedom. They are running around killing fellow Palestinians most of the time and occasionally firing a Qassam rocket at an Israeli civilian target. They are doing it because they are the worst of Palestinian society not the best, they are the thugs and murderers given a gun and a uniform and given license to bully and abuse. They were democratically elected, but try demonstrating against them and see how long you last, Gaza is far from a free society.

Dorky Mum, when Israel withdrew from Gaza it was supposed to be a wonderful first step, a big landmark event that showed the extent to which peace was coming closer to the Israeli Palestinian conflict and yet the opposite happened. It happened when Hamas seized control from the PA.

There are cheerleaders for Israel and for Palestine outside of Israel who tend to go head to head constantly in their arguments as to Israel’s heroism or evil depending on who you are talking to, I find their efforts to be utterly irrelevant, I care about the actual level of violence.

I feel that much of what you say is based on your own common sense approach to the Middle East conflict and I admire that, I also feel that your intuitive feelings on the conflict are incorrect, that looking at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a concerned British citizen you have pretty much zero chance of being able to see things as they are. I feel this goes for Jews and Palestinians who grew up in the UK also. There were so many things about this conflict that knocked me for six when I first arrived that I had to unlearn everything that seemed to me to be common sense in order to come to some kind of understanding of what on earth is going on over here.

But please don’t make the mistake of seeing David and Goliath.