Pilger on GAZA massacre
Published 08 January 2009
Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people and theft of more land. But why are we in the west silent on this truth?
Palestinians mourn their dead in the wake of the Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza
"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.
They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".
The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."
Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."
In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."
In describing a "holocaust-in-the making", Falk was alluding to the Nazis. establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today.s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion.s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb "smart" GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking "aid", give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia.s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings "Think", her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama.s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: "Gaza!"
The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.
Why are the academics and teachers silent? Are British universities now no more than "intellectual Tescos"?
In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.
Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Leba non in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."
In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".
When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."
Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."
Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.
Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than "intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries"?
Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabo kov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."
If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.
*** COMMENTS ***
08 January 2009 at 12:13
Foreign Secretary Milliband on the BBC1 TV 10pm News for 7th January stated that the conflict all started with Hamas firing rockets into Israel. How wet behind the ears is it possible to be? Like ometepe08, I am no friend of Islam, or indeed of any religion, but I have taken the trouble to learn the history of the Israelis-Palestine saga. When the Israeli propaganda machine refers to Hamas as "terrorists" it conveniently forgets the atrocities of the Stern Gang - the original Jewish terrorists.
Pilger is correct: we are fed a highly partisan account of the Middle East. Blair 's remedy is to stop the trafficking of arms across the Egyptian-Gaza border but these are mere peashooters compared with the military hardware lavished on Israel by the USA, about which he makes not a murmur.
If there is to be a "two state solution" then there must be extensive restitution of land to the Arabs or permanent peace will be an illusion. However, as in the partition of India, a 2-state solution would be an admission that the bigotries founded of religious differences have triumphed, and the festering wound will never heal completely.
If there is to be any hope for our species, humans have to learn just that; we all belong to a single species. The only truly successful end to this war would be the creation of a single secular state with equal rights and obligations for all citizens.
08 January 2009 at 12:17
To call the Hamas government 'democratic' in this context means simply that it was democratically elected. Pilger makes this perfectly clear. You can acknowledge that without condoning what it does -- the world is full of democratically-elected governments that do not behave democratically once they take power - unless you are wilfully blind to it.
Hamas's victory was validated by election monitors and was considerably more solid and transparent than both of George Bush's, for instance.
Of course you are not alone in this deliberate oversight. Pilger is right that the bulk of reporting and commentary that does the same is seriously misrepresenting the position.
08 January 2009 at 12:33
can anyone explain to me, since there are no rockets being launched and NO sucide bombers, why Israel has not left the West Bank? A world without Zionism - what a wonderful world indeed!!
08 January 2009 at 12:46
Claddach - how can you be so completely upside down in your judgement? It is the Israeli policy of genocide; well documented albeit supressed which is the Nazism here. John Pilger does not 'take the Palestinian side' as you dishonestly claim - he merely does what he has always done - speak out for the poor and helpless when they are being oppressed and murdered by the brutality of the Military/Propaganda machines of the Powerful. I can guarantee you, that if what is happening in Gaza were happening to a Jewish community somewhere in the world, Pilger would be the first to condemn it and reveal the historical truths censored by our media. If you truly want examples of facism, you need look no further than US foreign policy and Israeli policy towards Palestine. Contrary to your unqualified assertion, this is not a war. It is an organised and gradual genocide by the 4th biggest military power on the planet backed by the largest, against one of the poorest societies in the world. Or perhaps you are choosing to be wilfully ignorant in believing the US/Israeli/UK propaganda which far outweighs anything Hamas can manage and which follows a simple rule: Their violence: 'Terrorism' Our violence: 'Defending Democracy' Read George Orwell's 1984 and this will become evident.
08 January 2009 at 15:39
At last John Pilger puts down in words exactly what all right thinking people know to be true. I can't believe that Israel is still getting away with this. What will it take for our Governments to do the right thing?
08 January 2009 at 15:56
I suppose it is to be expected that anything Pilger writes will be targetted by pro-Zionists. The article is very timely and a much needed summary of the events that have led up to this latest round of Israeli murder in Palestine - especially given that the narrative is so frequently dated from a point well beyond the genesis of the problem. Thus, the alleged breaking of the ceasefire by Hamas rockets conveniently ignores that it was Israel who broke it first of all on the 4th of November. Ditto with its attack on Lebanon. Israel first kidnapped civilians but when IDF soldiers were kidnapped in response, it howled in outrage and the world media followed suit. Thus the Israelis were 'detaining' while the Lebanese were 'kidnapping'. See how it goes?
08 January 2009 at 16:15
Gerry Myer accurately said,
.The only truly successful end to this war would be the creation of a single secular state with equal rights and obligations for all citizens..
Jackasses led by jackals (and vice versa), the Israeli democracy repeatedly sabotages any chance of a two state solution, leaving the one state solution as the final default. A tragedy of idiocy, the Jewish Nation is surely the epitome of cruel stupidity.
08 January 2009 at 16:20
There's not just a 'war' going on in Gaza, though an attack on this scale by state with a massive and sophisticated military machine, a real army, navy and airforce, against a lightly armed militia, which is more of less defenceless, can hardly be described as a war or even a battle in the conventional sense.
What this crime resembles, is the vicious attack by the ruthles and well-armed, SS and regular German Army on the corageous Jewish resistance forces inside the Warsaw Ghetto, and it'¨ll probably have the same historic and symbolic significance. Gaza may be flattened and Hamas destroyed, but Israel will lose morally. It's like the 300 Spartans fighting against the Persian host. They lost, but they still won and their sacrifice is still remembered, turning into an history and legend.
Eventually, maybe not right now, but eventually the corrupt kings and generals that we support in the Arab world will be thrown out by their own people, one way or another, and the slaughter in Gaza will be remembered.
Then Israel will only have two friends in the whole world, the United States and it's massive nuclear arsenal. That's the future for Israel. It's creating and nuturing a tidal wave of hatred, which is only kept in check by a handful of crooks in the Arab countries who've sold out their own people for gold and power.
If Israel's leaders were intelligent they'ed make a peace deal with the Arabs now, before the tide of hatred becomes totally uncontrolable and sets the entire region on fire. Israel's military supremacy won't last for ever, so it's stupid to rely on it for security. War won't make Israel secure, only peace will.
The logic of Israel's policies are leading towards Israel eventually being 'forced' to use it's nuclear weapons in a bitter and terrible war of survival. The thought of Israel, of all people, wiping Arab cities off the map, unleashing a holocaust, slaughtering milllions, is just too perverse and horrible to imagine.
08 January 2009 at 16:43
Thank you Mr John Pilger,
I was suffering for days trying to express my feelings when I watch TV.I wish I could write and be honest as good as you SIR
08 January 2009 at 18:09
Gerry Meyer "Blair 's remedy is to stop the trafficking of arms across the Egyptian-Gaza border but these are mere peashooters compared with the military hardware lavished on Israel by the USA, about which he makes not a murmur" :
The tunnels into Gaza are reminiscent of the tunnel that formed Sarajevo's only lifeline while under siege from Serbian forces. This tunnel was tiny (i know, iv walked down what's left of it), Bosnians were forced to haul any food supplies they could through this, with very little oxygen/ light.
If people are sceptical as to whether these tunnels are providing Palestinians with food, heres and extract from an email i recieved from a journo. working in Gaza, dated 17/12/2008:
"[...]when you consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1000 tunnels running from Egypt to Rafah in the South. On average 1-2 people die every week in the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education, see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Others are reportedly big enough to drive through" Ewa Jasiewicz
If these tunnels are closed, then the Palestinians will loose the only routes into their homes that dont have the Israeli military in the way.
The mere fact that Tony Blair is a peace envoy to the Middle-East after what he did in Iraq is sickening.
08 January 2009 at 18:20
God bless the courageous Jews who cry out against cruel Zionistic violence and sophistry (even here in America-- to some extent). Why are there not more of them? And God bless John Pilger and his intellectual and moral clarity. (As an agnostic, I concede the "God bless" is strictly figurative ... but it conveys my feeling.)
08 January 2009 at 18:46
Here is an account of Norwegian doctor in Gaza.
Israel intentionally targeting civilians.
"I've seen one military person among the tens -- I mean, hundreds -- we have seen and treated. So, anybody who tries to claim this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying"
08 January 2009 at 20:22
I totally endorse the sentiment expressed by Pugnax; right now, Jews who have the courage to stand up and speak out at what is being done in their name are at the top of the moral totem pole in my opinion. For me, only the courage of Jews with a determination to shatter the lies and carnage perpetuated in their name,can help counteract the outrageously lible of anti-semitism that is cynically used to respress critcism of Israel within the western media. Imagine the enormous impact someone like Stephen Speilberg could have on shattering public perception in the US if he had the courage to take the initial venom that would be flung at him. I suspect there are many liberal-leaning Jews in the US who are uncomfortable at what is going on but frankly, to call a spade a spade, with genocide taking place in their name, they need to do more than just wring their hands in silent protest.
Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people and theft of more land. But why are we in the west silent on this truth?
John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."