Thursday 12 October 2023

A United Front for Barbarity

When I was around the Workers' Power group many years ago, in discussions about Israel's occupation of Palestine one of their activists said this was an acid test for revolutionaries. Coming forward to the present, you can say the same thing in reverse. Buying the lies and the line of poor little Israel is the shit you have to eat to be considered an upstanding member of the political establishment.

Considering the outright falsehoods that circulate freely in politics and how that has been normalised over the last decade, looking at the coverage of Hamas's offensive against Israel and the massacre it was always going to become, the British media have ratcheted up the disinformation to the point where IDF press releases are regurgitated verbatim. Rumours of atrocities against Israelis are attributed without basic fact checking, and in some egregious cases, images of air strikes hitting Gaza City were portrayed as if they were attacks on Israel itself. You'd have to go back to the Iraq War to find such industrial levels of duplicity.

Except then there were famous outliers who stood against the war drive. This time, with one or two honourable exceptions among British columnists, there's a united front of barbarity. This stretches from the soft left who find daft Socialist Worker headlines more objectionable than bombs being dropped on a defenceless civilian population. Then there are the centrists who couldn't ditch their lip service to anti-racism quick enough. The hierarchy of racism among the "sensibles" is in full effect. Israeli deaths, bad. Palestinian deaths - they didn't even merit a meh. And then we have the right, with Suella Braverman agitating for the criminalisation of the Palestinian flag.

In this welter of abhorrence we have the response of the next government. Keir Starmer, the occasionally styled "human rights lawyer" (when it suits) and, equally, "Mr Rules" dumped all that flim flam in his now infamous spell on LBC. In his interview with Nick Ferrari, Starmer said it was perfectly fine for Israel to cut the water supplies and electricity to Gaza. A strategy that will undoubtedly call forth his condemnation when Russia resumes bombing Ukrainian infrastructure this winter. But it is interesting how halting Starmer's response was, almost as if he wasn't properly prepared for Ferrari to ask such an obvious question. Strange is the lawyer who can't think on their feet. But, as has been pointed out constantly online, what Starmer has endorsed is a war crime. In international law, a state it entitled to defend itself (indeed, populations have a legal right to resist occupation) but good luck arguing that firing missiles at civilian hospitals is protected by that definition. Though, of course, Starmer knows he'll never have to. Nor will Netanyahu, his coterie of fascist coalition partners, and those IDF personnel merrily, gleefully "carrying out orders". In geopolitics, might is right and international law is a dead letter. Which makes a mockery of those ex-leftwingers who argue the Hamas offensive is an attack on the rules-based global order.

The facts of Israel and Palestine are known and well understood by those, like Starmer, like the Tories, who are expressing solidarity with the commission of war crimes. Which is why, like Emily Thornberry, leading politicians in both main parties won't entertain acknowledging what they know to be true. They know Netanyahu is a corrupt gangster. They know his governments have encouraged the settler movement, orchestrated the proliferating regime of apartheid humiliations visited on the occupied territories, regularly bombs Gaza with impunity and have murdered Palestinians without redress. And underneath this, they perfectly understand the status quo can never lead to a two state solution. "Stabilisation" rests on the frequent employment of arms and the ongoing brutalisation of a subject population. So let's have no presumptions of the kind that frequently greets the Tories. The press and the politicians lie about the occupation and the realities of Israel's war because it is crucial to the West's collective security. Or, to be more accurate, it's a lynchpin of the system of alliances that keeps the United States at the top of the global pecking order and ensures its satraps enjoy the spoils of this hegemony.

The establishment in this country are blind to or don't care about the consequences their grotesque hypocrisies will have on domestic politics. There will be and has been the usual hand wringing about the apparent rise in antisemitic sentiments and vandalism, but what they should be worried about is how, once again, they are saying Muslim lives don't matter, that brown lives don't matter. In conjunction with the refusal to even consider treating Palestinians as human beings, how is that going to play out among racialised communities who will undoubtedly bear the brunt of the press and the Home Secretary's tub thumping? Sadly, we don't have to look too far into the past to find out.

Image Credit


Rodney said...

Very much agree with all of this.

One minor nitpick though, Starmer is absolutely still being a human rights lawyer when he does these awful things.

Oil companies employ large numbers of environmental lawyers, they need experts in it to undermine and circumvent it and to craft loopholes in future environmental legislation.

In the same way Starmer is and will continue to use his expertise to undermine, circumvent and to craft loopholes in future human rights legislation.

Ken said...

That’s any chance of a role in New, New Labour gone, that’s if you ever wanted that.

McIntosh said...

And what is astonishing is the inability of Labour politicians to avoid false dichotomies. It seems that you cannot question Israels approach without being called anti-Semitic. Hamas must always be called a genocidal, terrorist organisation or you are aa supporter. The BBC must be condemned for not using the desrpition terrorist and condemned for suggesting that Israel's attacks on Gaza are indiscriminate. Israel can equate the attack as a new holocaust but no one must equate Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto.
It seems that political expediency is the only princple that Labour has. It must pass the 'Mail' and 'Express' test of grown up, moderate, commonsense political action. Presumably if Israel decides to use 'tactical' nuclear weapons on Gaza then that will be supported since it has, we are told by sensible Emily, an absolute right to defend itself.

Dribbling Paul Mason said...

Paul Mason's been looking pretty chipper these last few days. Will he stand against Corbyn in Islington as the radical pro-genocide candidate?

Dialectician1 said...

One of the most tragic televised massacres of civilians you are ever going to see. Don't expect any compassion from these liberal adventurists, they've still got blood on their hands from the invasion of Iraq.

Donate to: Medical Aid For Palestine.

Anonymous said...

The low calibre of the politicians making a show of yelling at the BBC, for refusing to use the term "terrorists" to describe Hamas, makes me feel that the Beeb is doing the right thing.

I can say that Hamas are terrorist thugs, which they clearly are, but it's right that the BBC refuses to. Even more right that they stick two fingers up at spineless politicians.

As for the Palestinian genocide consent factory... it must have been only slightly less thoroughly prepped for this moment than the UK state mechanisms were prepped for dear old Liz's final breath. And now it's in lurid full swing. Let's hold out hope for many not to be fooled.

Anonymous said...

You complain that it's 'Israeli deaths - bad, Palestinian deaths - meh', but for you it's simply the same thing but the other way round. How many barbaric murders does Hamas get to commit before you'd accept that Israel has a right to defend itself?

Jenny said...

“Israel has a right to defend itself “. Sounds uncontestable. What does it include? Bombing a hospital? Starving 2 million people? Blowing up an apartment block? Forcing a million people out of their homes with no hope of return under threat? I think we should be told.

JN said...

"Israel has a right to defend itself"

True, but completely irrelevant because that is not what Israel is doing, any more than the USA was "defending itself" when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, or Russia is "defending itself" by invading Ukraine. If the goal of the Israeli government was genuinely to protect Israeli citizens, then perpetuating and escalating the violence doesn't seem the best way of achieving that, does it? What they want is quite clearly vengeance, but not necessarily against the people actually responsible - any Palestinian will do, and in addition why not take the opportunity to seize some more land? It's blatant collective punishment and 'ethnic cleansing'.

JN said...

Here in Britain we're treated to the spectacle of our politicians politely requesting that Israel doesn't break international law while Israel openly commits war-crimes on a vast scale, starting with collective punishment and 'ethnic cleansing'.

Of course, Israel is part of the club that is effectively immune to international law for as long as it's backed by the US and UK.

Graham said...

A minor, but telling, example of thia united front is the way in which the BBC and press are not reporting the numbers on the Palestine solidarity marches.Probably not the 100,000 claimed by the PSC but certainly by far the biggest demo I have seen in London for years

Zoltan Jorovic said...

Very well put, Phil. It's a subject that has been made more and more difficult to write about without being smeared as anti-semitic. Any sympathy for Palestinians is portrayed as such. We can express horror at the slaughter, destruction and terror, but only for those affected on one side. For the other side it is collateral damage. Of course, this works both ways, because the issue is so polarised that it can only be viewed through a mirror. We see the reflections of our own prejudice, not the reality for individuals affected.

What makes it so difficult is that nothing can be understood or explained without knowing the history and having a 360 degree perspective. To those solemnly urging on Israel's 'self defence' it is an understandable and justified response to an inexplicable act of violence which came out of nowhere. To those horrified at the destruction being inflicted on Gaza, it is a monstrous war crime. But both are true and also not true.

Hamas only exist because of how Israel has treated the population of Gaza. They are the product of thousands of acts of violence, oppression and injustice. They are an expression of resistance to these. But many of them are also violent, murderous individuals full of anger and hatred.

Israel has to react and to try to protect its citizens by attacking Hamas. Hamas is embedded within Gaza. This means that any attack on them is going to also be an attack on Gaza. But, as the occupier and controller of everything that goes in or out of Gaza, Israel has a responsibility for the safety of the people there. Israel also fails to recognise (or simply does not care) that more death and destruction perpetuates the cycle and pushes opposition to them to more extremes, while giving it more support and legitimacy among the population.

Who are the 'adults in the room'? Not the USA. Not our government. Not establishments across the 'West'. All these are simply urging and abetting a continuation of the hatred and violence. Nobody is pointing out that if the Israelis truly wanted peace, they would try to find a genuine accommodation that allowed the Palestinians a future and offered them hope, and that didn't involve oppressive restrictions, incursions, and the continuing theft of their lands.

mistah charley, sb, ma, phd, jsps said...

Unselfish love and mass murder are both characteristic of the human condition. There is no political solution to our troubled evolution.