Sunday 4 January 2009

Gaza and the Fog of War

The global demonstrations against Israel's assault on Gaza have been a magnificent display of solidarity with the Palestinians. I wasn't there but a comrade on the march estimates some 50,000 demonstrated in London yesterday - and that wasn't even a national demonstration (that, according to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is pencilled in for next Saturday). Thousands also demonstrated in Manchester and Preston, and many more protests were scheduled throughout the country over the weekend. Many, many more made their opposition felt with demonstrations tens of thousands strong across Europe and the Islamic world. The Israeli government knew it could rely on their allies to equivocate or back it, but the numbers on the streets show it's losing the media front.

Truth, as the old adage goes, is the first casualty of war. It's no less true in this case. Since the ground invasion began yesterday, the pro-Hamas English language news source, the
Palestinian Information Centre at the time of writing claims to have killed 13 Israeli soldiers, captured two (including a high-ranking officer) and destroyed seven tanks. For its part, the Israeli army army confirms one dead and 30 injured. On top of all this, a group of Norwegian doctors claim to have recovered traces of depleted uranium from the bodies of several Palestinians. How to separate what is true from what is propaganda?

Media organisations aren't helping matters. In the West, they mostly rely on Israeli state sources, and have their own blind spots and ideological biases. The
BBC have been doing a fine job of letting the official Israeli narrative go unchallenged - that the blitz and invasion of Gaza is morally justified after Israel has "lost patience" with completely unprovoked rocket attacks by Hamas militants. The main criticism of Israel that does appear is the disproportionality argument, which, of course, does little to challenge the official grounds of the invasion itself. Surprise, surprise, Fox has been the Israeli state's vocal friend in the US media, saying it has the "moral high ground" and that Hamas could easily end the bloodshed ... by surrendering. Other satellite news sources, namely Al-Jazeera and the Iranian-sponsored Press TV offer takes unencumbered by pro-Israel bias, but that isn't to say they do not have their own agendas. Press TV, reflecting Iran's geopolitical strategy, gives Hamas the kind of free-run Israel gets from Western news outlets.

What the media confusion attempts to do is extend the fog of war back before the conflict began. In an
excellent post at Lenin's Tomb explains, Hamas is not an organisation committed to permanent war with Israel. It has hinted at peace deals, offered cease fires, observed unilateral cease fires, and so on. And at every stage, Israel have interfered in internal Palestinian affairs, abducted activists, carried out assassinations, and turned Gaza into an open air internment camp. The rockets Hamas have launched against Israel prior to the present war did not happen without reason. There are material reasons for everything, and in this case, it's in the years of low-level warfare Israel has subjected Gaza to. This is why, much to the exasperation of the Israeli state and its apologists, tens of thousand have marched, and millions across the world are turning against it.Socialist Struggle Movement (Tnu`at Maavak Sotzyalisti/Harakat Nidal Eshteraki – CWI in Israel) statement here.Socialist Party statement here.


Vicky said...

Manchester was a good demonstration, with a far bigger turn out than I expected, around 3000. It's also the only Palestine demo of any size that I've been on where there has been no counter protest, or visible opposition of any kind.

ModernityBlog said...

whatever we think of the events in Gaza there is NO need to white wash Hamas via this simplistic rendering of "Hamas is not an organisation committed to permanent war with Israel. It has hinted at peace deals, offered cease fires, observed unilateral cease fires, and so on."

no, it is committed to a Jew free Palestine, see their charter

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised."

"With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests."

[Protocols of the Elders of Zion stuff]

Anonymous said...

For a relatively brief post, it is packed and really hits the target. Many thanks for this. About the comment above this one, none of the passages quoted there suggest a permanent war against Israel. I don't think that our problem is the whitewashing of Hamas, but rather the incessant demonization of it in the MSM, much of which tilts toward Israel. Israel demands acceptance of its right to exist -- and in return it needs to make some pretty fundamental acts of recognition itself, especially when Israelis freshly arrived from New York and Kiev pose as eternal natives, on land that was taken from someone else. It's deeply unfair, wrong, and injustice that no human being would suffer without response. Demanding Palestinian surrender is merely a pretext for genocide, because you are demanding what is humanly impossible.

Anonymous said...

There's a chance we hit 50,000, yes. We filled the whole of the square and overflowed.

Phil said...

Mod, if memory serves the German SPD was, until the late 1950s, formally a Marxist party with the stated desire to overthrow capitalism and usher in the socialist age. That didn't stop them from bailing out German capitalism after the first world war and helping reconstruct it after the second.

Organisations, even deeply unpleasant fundamentalist ones like Hamas, are always evolving. It's not enough to seize hold of their founding documents or theological proclamations and classify them as irredeemably rejectionist for all time. You have to look at their history, their actions and the context they operate in. That's not whitewashing, that's the abc of the materialist method.

Adam Marks said...

Let's not forget that Hamas was originally established with Israeli government collusion:

The government originally concieved it as a useful rival to Fatah. Hamas has its origins, but it is also a different beast now compared to 20 years ago. Useful myths about its intransigence are just that, useful myths.

ModernityBlog said...

Phil BC wrote:

"Organisations, even deeply unpleasant fundamentalist ones like Hamas, are always evolving."

I think that is more wishful thinking than reality in THIS case, but let's apply that "abc of the materialist method."

Phil, please tell me, what have Hamas done for the Gazans in the past 6 months?

has it built or improved hospitals?

has it enhanced civil facilities in Gaza?

apart from scabbing on the Gazan's teachers strike, has Hamas done anything good to schools?

or has it spent precious money on the research and development of building better rockets, to fire at Israeli civilians ?

which is it??

Adam Marks said...

"or has it spent precious money on the research and development of building better rockets, to fire at Israeli civilians?"

Well, I'm no military expert but I would have thought that, given the military state of siege enforced on the Gazans, there'd be some kind of military imperitive. It's not as if, given the siege (aided and abetted by the west), that there can be much in the way of hospitals and schools and nicethingwhichdecentpeopleapproveof... despite that there still are hospitals and schools and even a university, which was bombed a few days ago.

How much precious money does the Israeli state spend on weaponry?

Phil said...

Mod, the peace offerings and peace noises by Hamas are a matter of record. I didn't make them up! I don't want to sound like a patronising arse, but you've got to deal with things how they are, not how you would like them to be. And with Hamas, there is a disjunction between their rejectionist "theory" and practice. Seems to me the Israeli state and its supporters don't want to acknowledge this, all the easier to demonise Hamas, impose collective punishment on Gaza, and firmly establish its right to intervene in the Palestinian territories whenever it wishes.

I'm not a Hamas defencist by any means. But they do have genuine mass support in Gaza. And they have built up that support through a combination of resistance to the Israeli occupation, and setting up welfare institutions outside of the framework of the stunted semi-state as was under Fatah. Plus they won a general election, giving them an added layer of legitimacy. The idea bombing Gazans is going to drive a wedge between them and Hamas is fanciful.

ModernityBlog said...

"the peace offerings and peace noises by Hamas are a matter of record. I didn't make them up! "

yeah, Phil, been following them for years, but and this is a BIG but, that largely assumes that these "peace" overtures are genuine?

Having read the Hamas Charter and the racist pronunciations of Hamas leaders, do you honestly, and critically believe that they wish to live in peace beside the Israelis?

Or could it be just a ruse to gain time and develop better weaponry?

Which is more likely? critically speaking?

let me stress, Phil, I am NOT asking you to accept ANYTHING Israel does

but please separate out that and look objectively at Hamas, what its aims are? what it does? how does it exercise power**? that's all

** remember their coup d'etat? might that explain part of their support? cos they murder their opponents ?

Anonymous said...

hi all
150-200 at a protest in coventry tonight initiated at a days notice by the socialist party and its cllrs dave nellist and rob windsor


Phil said...

I do know Mod that as an aspirant proto-bourgeoisie, Hamas leaders would be quite happy to put their ideologies aside, as has been the fate of so many bourgeois and petit-bourgeois movements before them.

Whether their peace initiatives were genuine or not, I don't know. They were never taken up so we never got the chance to find out.

Look Mod, I have no illusions about Hamas. I know about the comrades they've killed and "disappeared" in the past. But their actions are, as far as I and the majority of the left are concerned, being used as an excuse by the Israeli state for its war. Don't think for a second that if a secular, socialist movement was in control of Palestine that the Israeli government wouldn't behave any differently.

Frank Partisan said...

Nobody supports Hamas here.

When Fatah was leftist, Israel subsidized Hamas as an alternative.

I agree with Phil about the current role of Hamas.

The best scenario is socialism in Egypt.

Adam Marks said...

"remember their coup d'etat?"

This is what severely annoys me about pro-israeli argument. It can barely be described as orbiting the truth. There was a coup in the PA. It's just it was carried out by Fatah at America's behest.

ModernityBlog said...

Coup? the coup d'etat where Hamas started throwing people off of building

that Coup

"Mohammed Suewherekey, a 28-year-old newlywed, became a casualty of the fighting. He worked as a cook and supply clerk with Force 17, an elite unit controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader.

Suewherekey was kidnapped by Hamas militants while delivering food to soldiers Sunday evening as new factional clashes erupted. Around dusk, Hamas gunmen took him to the roof of an 18-floor abandoned high-rise in central Gaza City and pushed him off.

"Mohammed's legs had been tied together with his own belt. His hands also had been tied, and they threw him off the roof," said Rami Suewherekey, Mohammed's brother.

Sitting under a blue plastic tarp at the mourning tent for his brother's funeral, Rami said Hamas officials who witnessed the murder kept phoning the family, telling them Mohammed was sipping tea with his captives and would soon be released."

Adam Marks said...

Did I mention, addicted to irrelevance as well. True or not (it sounds a lot like Kuwaiti babies in incubators), 18th floor or not, what happened in the PA in 2007 was a coup by Fatah. Saying otherwise is counterfactual.