'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


For some reason, it all seems so familiar to me. Leaflets dropped from the sky telling people to immediately leave the area or risk being killed or wounded, even though many have nowhere to go, the use of white phosphorus munitions, munitions known for inflicting severe burns, in highly populated civilian areas, airstrikes and shelling directed against suspected terrorists that indiscriminately kill and wound large numbers of people, attacks upon relief organizations attempting to provide medical and humanitarian assistance, and, of course, a complaisant news media that either declines to report on these atrocities, or, even worse, describes them as necessary to prevail in the war on terror.

And, then, I remember: Fallujah in the fall of 2004. In November, the US military launched an assault noted for many of the same characteristics associated with IDF operations in Gaza. 14% to 20% of the city's buildings were destroyed, with nearly 40% of the city's population becoming internally displaced people within Iraq. Unlike in Gaza, people with the physical ability and resources to do so, including al-Qaeda militants, were able to escape the city before US forces attacked. A Vatican official recently described conditions in Gaza as resembling a concentration camp. Perhaps, the Vatican should have been more circumspect, given the Church's indifference to the fate of Jews during the Holocaust, but the description is undoubtedly true, because how else could Israel have been so effective in denying the Palestinians in Gaza, food, water and medical supplies since the election of Hamas in 2006?

We should therefore not be surprised at the unanimity of the American political elite in supporting the shock and awe campaign of the IDF in Gaza. The IDF has adopted precisely the same approach that the US applied to Iraq, albeit over a much shorter period of time. Just as the US did in Iraq, the IDF first imposed a debilitating siege, creating a humanitarian crisis. As it has become evident that the siege was, if anything, increasing the appeal of Hamas, just as the sanctions imposed by the US through the UN reinforced the power of Saddam Hussein, the IDF has now invaded and destroyed what remains of Gaza's infrastructure, much like the US did in Iraq in 2003. The assault upon Fallujah in November of 2004 remains the most extreme manifestation of the use of force to quell subsequent Iraqi resistance to the occupation. Hence, any objection to the activities of the IDF in Gaza by an American political, military or foreign policy figure necessarily requires a repudiation of equally reprehensible US actions in Iraq. Any objection would require them to acknowledge that both the US and Israel seek to impose an imperial order upon the Middle East through the imposition of collective punishments whereby the deaths of an American or Israeli, or merely the threat of violence against an American or Israeli, justifies the indiscriminate killing of civilians as a perverse form of deterrence.

But the rest of us are not subject to any such constraint. We are free to speak candidly about what is transpiring in Gaza. The IDF seeks to shatter the willingness of the Palestinians to resist their dispossession by the Zionist project that required their expulsion to create Israel. Upon reading of notorious incidents such as the killing of 70 people within one family in a bombed out house after the IDF ordered them to congregate there, and the discovery of emaciated child survivors in decimated row houses after the IDF prevented Red Cross ambulances from reaching the site for four days, I recall the sadistic response of Southern slaveholders to rebellions. such as the killing of hundreds of slaves through the South after the suppression of Nat Turner's uprising. The horrors of the nakhba in 1948 are being recreated in Gaza by the IDF, and the US and Europe are again not only denying them, but rationalizing them.

Measured as a percentage of the population of Gaza, the number of Palestinian dead is already equal to over 60 9/11s. Israelis are unmoved, as the incipient fascism embedded within this society is rising to the surface. As'ad Abukhalil, the Angry Arab, recognizes that there is no limit to the violence inflicted upon Palestinians that Americans and Israelis will accept:

What is difficult about living in the US for Arabs and for those who care about Palestinian rights is that you realize that there is no threshold of murder, of terrorism, of killing, of massacres that would not be justified here in the US: by the white house, the congress, the media, and public opinion. Think about it: is there any threshold of the killing of children that would really change the perspectives of US mainstream media and culture? I think that American support for Israeli wars and terrorism is such that even the nuking of Gaza would find support among liberals and conservatives alike in the US, and I am sure that Obama would come out with statements of justification.

The consequences of the IDF assault upon Gaza are far more serious than US media accounts suggest. Let's walk through a few of them. First, the peace process initiated by the Oslo agreements is now finished. There is no way to revive it, no matter how much money the US and Europe funnel to Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza to create the simulacrum of a negotiating party for Israel. We are now back to the days before Madrid in 1991, when Israel and the Palestinians were in a state of global conflict with one another. The probability of a cease fire in Gaza is nil, and Hamas will continue to violently resist the Israeli presence there, so the death and destruction that we have seen in the last month will perpetually flare time and time again for the indefinite future.

Second, one cannot exclude the possibility that a global underground Palestinian movement of violent resistance will soon emerge, targeting not only Israeli targets, but potentially even US ones as well. Since the 1970s, the Palestinians have, by and large, scrupulously avoided attacking Americans, probably based upon the belief that attacks upon the US would result in their collective suicide. But, now that the US is revealing itself as willing to accept any degree of Israeli violence against them, the logic behind this restraint is less and less compelling, so much so that we should not be surprised when some Palestinian militants reject it.

Third, as already implied, the Palestinian struggle will become even more openly associated with resistance to the US throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. US tolerance of the Israeli attacks in Gaza will increase public support for violent Islamic political movements from Pakistan to Egypt, and perhaps beyond. Leaders known for their obsequious support of the US, such as Karzai in Afghanistan, Muburak in Egypt and the Saudi royal family, will find themselves in an even more insecure position. There is a very good chance that we will see the assassination of one or more of them in 2009. After all, there is a reason why public protests in support of the Palestinians are being suppressed in many of these countries.

Finally, the prospect of a more open minded, humane US foreign policy in the wake of Obama's election, as naive as it was, has been foreclosed. Even if he felt otherwise, which I personally doubt, Obama will have no choice but to go along with a maximalist, pro-Israel policy. In effect, Israel, and its evangelical and neoconservative supporters in the US, have effectively imposed not only the continuation, but the escalation, of Bush policies of military confrontation. Faced with increased resistance to the US abroad necessitating increased military expenditures as the US economy nosedives, is it any wonder that Obama was openly talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits the other day? Someone has to pay for the empire as it implodes.

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