The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t about land anymore. It is about who is human, and who is not: who is a lord, and who is a helot. It is about power and domination, and the Israelis, by means of their much-vaunted "unilateral withdrawal" from parts of the occupied territories, have set up a theater in which their ideology of domination can be acted out indefinitely. Of course, they need a "reason" – which can be provoked or manufactured, as the case may be – but in reality they can invade at will, for any and no reason, and this ability to dominate is the payoff, the orgasmic climax the Israeli leadership is seeking.
The buzzing of Bashar al-Assad’s summer residence, the mass arrest of democratically elected Palestinian lawmakers and ministers, the targeting of infrastructure in violation of the Geneva accords and the commonly held concept of human decency – the Israelis do it simply because they can. This isn’t "colonialism" – it’s sadism.
Israel’s amen corner is constantly reiterating two themes that supposedly justify whatever horrific tactic the IDF employs: (1) The other side targets innocent civilians, and (2) Israel has the right to defend itself. The evil suicide bombings in pizza parlors and night clubs have – rightly – turned public opinion in the West against the perpetrators and lessened support for the Palestinian cause. Yet the tables are turning: Israel is now openly targeting the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. "Retaliation" for the kidnapping of a soldier and a Jewish settler on occupied lands is clearly not at all defensive: soldiers, after all, are fair game in wartime, and the settlers are clearly involved in an act of aggression, i.e., dispossessing Palestinians of their land.
Everything the Israelis do, according to them, is " retaliation," and dutifully reported as such in our hopelessly biased media. The clear implication of much of Western coverage of the current crisis is that this is the culmination of another one of those inexplicable bursts of Palestinian rage that bubbles up to the surface, seemingly, just in time to nix other, more positive developments – such as the moderate-radical split in Hamas, or recent indications that the newly elected Palestinian leadership may be willing to recognize the Jewish state.
Professor Juan Cole, of the University of Michigan, takes the media to task for dropping the context of the escalating conflict:
"The U.S. press has, as far as I can see, been irresponsible in not broadcasting much about the prologue to the present violence, the Israeli military’s bombing of civilians on a Gaza beach earlier in the month. This atrocity was on the front page of every Arabic language newspaper every day for a while earlier this month. We cannot understand the region if we cannot understand how outraged they are, and the source of the outrage."
The source he speaks about – a day at the beach.
On June 9, Israeli gunboats opened fire on beach-goers in Gaza, killing eight, including most of an entire family. The lone survivor of the Ghalia family, 10-year-old Huda, screaming in existential agony as she rolls around on the bloodstained sand and pounds it with her little fists, is bound to go down in history as an emblematic image of the Palestinian struggle for statehood – and for the full humanity of an entire people. Do you want to understand why the medievalist ideologues of Hamas have come to power in Palestine? Then just look at this video one more time, particularly the first part, and then tell me you just don’t understand.
The Israeli response has been outright denial. This denialism is expressed in terms that recall the fanatic illogic of the Holocaust-deniers, who focus on weird out-of-context details (there were no gas chambers, and the gas couldn’t have killed anyway, besides which the order for the Holocaust was never signed by Hitler, etc., ad nauseam). They exclude all evidence – like, say, those piles of bodies we’ve all seen, and the testimony of the survivors – that doesn’t fit their denialist paradigm, and deride the killing of millions as a " Holo-hoax." The parallels with Israeli denialism in the face of the IDF’s murderous brutality are eerily similar, as this Human Rights Watch analysis shows:
"The IDF’s conclusion that it was not responsible for the deaths on the beach was based exclusively on information gathered by the IDF and excluded all evidence gathered by other sources. Its investigation centered on mathematical models said to show a ‘statistical impossibility’ that a shell fired by IDF artillery was responsible for killing the civilians. The reliability of such a conclusion should be evaluated by independent experts with access to the underlying data."
"An investigation that refuses to look at contradictory evidence can hardly be considered credible," says the senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, Marc Garlasco – but not according to the mindset of nationalist fanatics, who see reality through ethnic-tinted lenses. Major-General Meir Kalifi, who oversaw the Israeli "internal investigation," avers that Palestinian witnesses are to be discounted because they "have no problem lying." Therefore, any and all evidence submitted by Palestinian officials was thrown in the trash, including "155mm shrapnel, both new and old, and dirt from the beach and crater." This interdict also includes evidence offered by Westerners who don’t toe the Israeli line, including Human Rights Watch researchers who offered the general proof of Israeli culpability and were similarly rebuffed.
The IDF claims the murdered beach-goers and over 40 wounded were hit after 4:50 p.m. on June 9, when the Israeli shelling had ceased. However, independent sources document that the killings occurred well within range of the shelling period:
"Computerized hospital records that show children injured at the beach were treated by 5:12 p.m., and handwritten hospital records that show they were admitted at 5:05 p.m. In light of the 20-minute round trip drive between the hospital and the beach, this evidence suggests that the blast that caused the family’s death occurred during the time of the IDF shelling."
The Israeli response to this mountain of evidence is… more classic denialist drivel. Shrapnel removed from the bodies of the murdered is dismissed by Gen. Kalifi: Anyone, he avers, can dip shrapnel in blood! The official Israeli line on the Gaza Beach Massacre is that a gigantic conspiracy was instantly created by Palestinian groups and their Western accomplices to frame the IDF and Israel for the senseless murders, and that the members of this conspiracy were instantly mobilized, moving within moments of the shelling to pull off a gigantic hoax.
Again, this limns the mindset of the Holocaust-deniers, who portray a huge, all-powerful "Zionist conspiracy" that systematically fakes evidence, suppresses the "truth," and falsifies history. Jewish critics of the "Holo-hoax" mythos rightly deride the fantastic conspiracy theories of the denialists as being so outlandish as to be laughable as well as sinister. Human Rights Watch spokesman Garlasco takes a similar approach to the Israeli denialists and their conspiracy theories:
"’If the Israeli allegations of tampered evidence are to be believed, many Palestinians would have to have engaged in a massive and immediate conspiracy to falsify the data,’ said Garlasco. ‘The conspirators – witnesses, victims, medical personnel, and bomb disposal staff – would have had to falsify their testimony, amend digital and handwritten records, and dip shrapnel into a victim’s blood. It beggars belief that such a huge conspiracy could be orchestrated so quickly.’"
It beggars belief – unless you’ll believe anything that fits your ideological preconceptions. In which case, anything goes, and it is possible to dismiss the evidence provided by your lying eyes – the shattered bodies of Palestinian children, for instance, who a moment ago were cavorting happily on a beach.
The Israeli blitz is clearly a response, not to the pinpricks of the mostly ineffective assaults on outlying Israeli suburbs, nor even to the electoral triumph of Hamas, but to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. With the resources and attention of enemy regimes and guerrilla groups diverted away from Palestine and toward Iraq, the pressure is off the Israelis, and they are free to ride roughshod over the occupied territories, absorbing what they need (and can get away with) and discarding the useless bits. Israel is preparing to unilaterally "settle" the Palestinian question by establishing its own borders and crouching behind the " security fence" that accidentally-on-purpose annexes many acres of valuable farmland.
As John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt put it in their recent Harvard University study, " The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," the main purpose of the invasion and occupation of Iraq was to further Tel Aviv’s military position and security interests. As the Israelis roll over the Palestinians in this latest series of attacks, we can see how that purpose has been very well served.