Exile and the prophetic: Is Israel going Gaza Rogue?

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

From the ‘Magnes Zionist’ (aka Jeremiah Haber) blog, some thoughts on our modern Sparta apropos of the Gaza escalation.  The piece is titled ‘Israel’s Post-Election War.’

Haber’s thoughts ring true to the militarism that has come to characterize Jewish life since the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel.   This militarism is increasingly unreflective. 

Ethics doesn’t enter the equation.  Perhaps it was a Jewish illusion that ethics ever entered the equation.  Illusion or not, things are getting worse.  Notice the cynicism Haber identifies:   

All military actions, indeed, all actions having to do with Gaza, have one goal in mind: the subjugation of the Palestinian people there with minimum cost to Israel. In hasbara speak this is called  ”protecting Israelis,” “defeating terror,” “defending national security,” even “protecting national honor,” but it boils down to the same thing — Israel cannot be secure if the Palestinians have real independence. That is why Israelis are divided into those who want to subjugate Palestinians by giving them no self-determination and those who want to subjugate them by giving them quasi self-determination in a quasi-state.  

I spoke with an expert on the Israeli military shortly after “Operation Cast Lead,” and when I told him that many argued that the operation was a reaction to Hamas rocket-fire, he laughed. He said that Hamas rocket-fire was deliberately provoked when Israel broke the cease-fire so that Israel could do a little “spring cleaning,” deplete Hamas’s arsenal of weapons. 

Haber continues:

He told me that this happens every few years, and that I should expect it to happen in another few years. Israel will assassinate a Hamas leader, Hamas will have to respond (wouldn’t Israel, under those circumstances?) and Israel will perform a “clean up” operation. If Hamas is smart and doesn’t play into Israel’s hands, then Israel will also come out ahead, because it will be weakened in the eyes of the Palestinian public. It’s win-win for Israel. That’s what having control means.

Fascinating (un)news but nonetheless worth repeating.  It is often reported that the Israeli public is divided on peace, roughly half for it and half against.  Haber adds a twist.  Israel is indeed divided – into how best to subjugate the Palestinian people. 

Likewise the double-speak is important.  Israel protects everything good and valuable – Jewish – and defeats everything that isn’t – Palestinian. ‘Clean-up operations’ – the language is hair-raising. 

Haber’s conclusion about what needs to be done is interesting.  Unfortunately it is also naive: 

The only thing that will restrain Israel is world-wide, and especially US and European, condemnation. As always, the only way to advance the cause of peace and justice in this region is through holding Israel to the standards of a decent state, not the rogue state it has long become.

Israel isn’t going to be restrained.  For all we know Washington has given Israel a green light on invading Gaza.  After all, from the American and European perspective, if Israel has to let off steam, invading Gaza is far better than bombing Iran.

Gaza is a ploy.  A trick with a purpose.  The purpose?  Deflection, elections, toying with lives and histories. 

Talk about cynicism.  Can you imagine green lighting Gaza as the preferred option to green lighting Iran?  Add place to test weapons.  Include Sara Roy’s understanding of de-developing Palestinian society.

By the way, if you remember the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and the lecturing of the Palestinian speaker who emphasized ‘sociocide’ over apartheid, with targeted assassinations add ‘politicide’ as well.  Another invasion of Gaza will reinforce all three.  If we analyze Israel’s overall policies, apartheid is one of the control factors regarding Palestinians.

I partly agree with Haber about the decent/rogue state dichotomy.  The issue remains as to definitions.  Define a decent state.  Now define a rogue state. Just examine two principal involved onlookers, America and Egypt.  They’re both involved with happens in Gaza.  Decent states or rogue states?

Shouldn’t I cite America and Egypt as paragons of virtue simply to cultivate their hoped-for stand against Israel’s actions in Gaza?  As possible counterweights, I do support them.  But whatever their rhetoric, are they counterweights or states that simply want to contain the damage?

I say ‘even’ because without both nations Gaza would be freer, if not free altogether.

So in the midst of yet another Gaza escalation, I continue to ask the question about America and Egypt – decent or rogue states?

In the end, though, it’s the cynicism that’s so striking.  The cynicism regarding Palestinian life is the most obvious.  Gaza has become an experimental field of controlled violence – blockade – that every so many years is ratcheted up a notch – invasion.  Afterwards the Israeli army charts its progress and notes its errors. 

If we just think about the loss of Jewish life that has occurred already and will escalate if Israel invades Gaza, the cynicism about Jewish life is likewise striking.  Does any political figure in Israel honestly think that pummeling Gaza once more will rid Israel of the ‘threat’ Gaza poses?

Of course, we know the true storyline since it has happened over and over again. 

And please hold back the worthy sentiment that Israel has gone over the top and that the international community will stop Israel and force it to reverse course on Palestinian freedom.  We know the true storyline there, too.

Israel’s escalating violence in Gaza is not an example of Israel going rogue.  It’s the new/old normal that the international community allows and in some quarters may even encourage.

 

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

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12 Responses

  1. Avi_G.
    November 17, 2012, 1:58 pm

    Imposed by Germany, the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in WWII lasted a little over 2 years. The aim was to starve the population to death. All told, about a million Russians died until the siege was broken.

    Israel has — in the words of one Israeli official — “Put Palestinians on a diet”.

    The siege of Gaza has entered its 6th year.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    November 17, 2012, 9:04 pm

    ● RE: “Haber’s thoughts ring true to the militarism that has come to characterize Jewish life since the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. This militarism is increasingly unreflective. Ethics doesn’t enter the equation.” ~ Marc Ellis

    ● ONE (THERE ARE A NUMBER OF OTHERS) OF THE REASONS I BECAME INTERESTED IN THE ISRAEL/PALESTINE ISSUE:
    I remember one particular Six Day War joke that was told by a classmate of mine (not one of my Jewish friends, who were much less chauvinistic) during my senior year of high school here in Atlanta (the year following the Six Day War). Actually, to be more accurate, I only remember the gist of the joke at this point.
    As I recall the joke (told by a female), there was a busload of Egyptian children somewhere in the Sinai. The punchline was that the mighty Israeli military virtually vaporized the entire bus full of Egyptian children. [Riotous laughter here, excepting me.] There wasn’t a single survivor! ["Ha, ha, ha" (excepting me) ! ! ! ]

    ● P.S. Another reason I began paying close attention the Israel/Palestine issue was because Israel’s actions/behavior seemed so very much unlike the actions/behavior of my Jewish friends. Consequently, I have spent decades trying to understand the incongruity.

    ● P.P.S. I am feeling so darn good about having voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party rather than “O’bomber” who obviously signed off on Israel’s current “Pillar of Cloud” assault on Gaza. I guess I should thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in a “swing state” where I might have been tempted to vote for Obama/O’bomber as the (not very) “lesser evil”!
    Israel is the “little sadist”, but the United States is the “Big (Global) Sadist” ! ! !

    Jill Stein - link to jillstein.org

    The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) - link to gp.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 17, 2012, 9:19 pm

      ● P.S. ALSO RE: “Haber’s thoughts ring true to the militarism that has come to characterize Jewish life since the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. This militarism is increasingly unreflective. Ethics doesn’t enter the equation.” ~ Marc Ellis

      ● SEE: “Another Superfluous War”, By Uri Avnery, OpEdNews, 11/16/2012

      [EXCERPTS] . . . One of the more miserable sights of the last few days has been the TV appearances of Shelly Yachimovich and Ya’ir Lapid. The two shining new stars in Israel’s political firmament looked like petty politicians, parroting Netanyahu’s propaganda, approving everything done.
      Both had hitched their wagons to the social protest, expecting that social issues would displace subjects like war, occupation and settlements from the agenda. When the public is occupied with the price of cottage cheese, who cares about national policy?
      I said at the time that one whiff of military action would blow away all economic and social issues as frivolous and irrelevant. This has happened now.
      Netanyahu and Barak appear many times a day on the screen. They look responsible, sober, determined, experienced. Real he-men, commanding troops, shaping events, saving the nation, routing the enemies of Israel and the entire Jewish people. . .
      . . . But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO — i.e. Mahmoud Abbas — that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.
      Without it, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.
      Peace is the answer. But when visibility is obscured by pillars of cloud, who can see that?

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to opednews.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 17, 2012, 9:24 pm

      ● ALSO RE: “Haber’s thoughts ring true to the militarism that has come to characterize Jewish life since the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. This militarism is increasingly unreflective. Ethics doesn’t enter the equation.” ~ Marc Ellis

      ● SEE: “Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths”, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

      [EXCERPT] . . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
      But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
      Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org

      ● P.P.S. ALSO SEE – “Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons”, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
      LINK – link to tikkun.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 17, 2012, 9:35 pm

      ● AND ALSO RE: “Haber’s thoughts ring true to the militarism that has come to characterize Jewish life since the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel. This militarism is increasingly unreflective. Ethics doesn’t enter the equation.” ~ Marc Ellis

      ● THE WORDS OF A FORMER ISRAELI BACK DURING ISRAEL’S ATTACK ON GAZA IN 2009 DURING “OPERATION CAST LEAD”: “The only thing that could unite people [in Israel] and temporarily brought out more kindness and a sense of cooperation was a feeling of being under collective threat, and in particular a ‘good wholesome war’ . . .” ~ Avigail Abarbanel

      ● SEE: “Israel’s Trauma Psychology and the Attack on Gaza”, By Avigail Abarbanel, Sunday 4th January 2009

      [EXCERPT] One of the things that is not being discussed much in the media is how much talk there is in Israel about attacking Iran. Word on the (Israeli) street is that an air attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors is imminent. Israel has been itching for a ‘good war’ for a while now. The botched attack on Lebanon in 2006 was a psychological disappointment that did not fulfil its purpose, and only led to a deepening chasm between the political and military arms in Israel. An Israeli friend told me in disgust the other day, that there is an atmosphere of ‘national orgasm’ in Israel about the prospect of attacking Iran. While people are being bombed in Gaza, all Israelis can talk about is the coming attack on Iran. But there is a link between the two.
      Israel’s social problems have grown exponentially over the past 15 years. It’s a very different Israel now than the one I grew up in. There is more violent and organised crime than ever before, and more domestic violence and abuse of children than ever. There are more drugs and drug use, and they have drink-driving, something I have never encountered while I was still living there. This is reflected in official reports as well as in the daily newspapers. My brother who lives in Israel described to me how soldiers who spend their military service in the Occupied Palestinian territories implementing Israel’s brutal occupation, come home on weekends only to get involved in drunken armed brawls and murders. This was unheard of in my time.
      Israelis have never been particularly kind to each other. It’s one of the reasons I left actually. In my late twenties I started to grow weary of the unkind, harsh and unforgiving atmosphere around me. It was a tough place to live in not because of our ‘enemies’ but because of how people treated one another. You would believe that we were all enemies rather than people who have some kind of a shared heritage. The only thing that could unite people and temporarily brought out more kindness and a sense of cooperation was a feeling of being under collective threat, and in particular a ‘good wholesome war’ . . .

      SOURCE – link to avigailabarbanel.me.uk

      AVIGAIL ABARBANEL’S SITE - link to avigailabarbanel.me.uk

  3. jimmy
    November 17, 2012, 9:14 pm

    the New Israelis along with its twin the members of the US congress …are in a word

    bullies

    • pabelmont
      November 18, 2012, 8:57 am

      Better: The Israeli and the USA governments are “serial killers.” “Bullies” is too anodyne. This death and destruction is enormous and needs to be called by BIG words of condemnation.

      The death and destruction of global warming (recall the fires in the American west this summer, hurricane “Sandy” recently, and much more to come) is being brought to us by the same governments which are driven by big-money single-issue (mostly corporation) machers who have short-term time-lines and no interest in humanity whatsoever. If we took big-money out of American politics, big-ZION would soon disappear and American could rein-in Israel.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    November 17, 2012, 9:15 pm

    ● RE: “All military actions, indeed, all actions having to do with Gaza, have one goal in mind: the subjugation of the Palestinian people there . . . ” ~ Haber

    ● MY COMMENT: The Likud-run government of Israel has fully adopted Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s concept of the “Iron Wall”: an approach that in essence calls for beating the Palestinians into submission. Hence Ariel Sharon’s dictum: that force is the only thing the Arabs understand. And the only alternative to force is more force. [ David Bromwich, Mondoweiss, 9/04/09 ]

    Another famous statement by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in March 2002 signifies Israel’s official and reductionist view of the enemy: “The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful: we must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price”. [ Report of the UN Secretary-General regarding Jenin ]

    And former Israeli president Moshe Katsav is on record as having said: “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies -not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” [ The Jerusalem Post ~ May 10, 2001 ].

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 17, 2012, 9:30 pm

      ● P.S. RE: “The Likud-run government of Israel has fully adopted Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s concept of the ‘Iron Wall’: an approach that in essence calls for beating the Palestinians into submission. Hence Ariel Sharon’s dictum: that force is the only thing the Arabs understand. And the only alternative to force is more force. [ David Bromwich, Mondoweiss, 9/04/09 ]” ~ me (above)

      ● SEE: “A Pillar Built on Sand”, By John Mearsheimer, London Review of Books, 11/16/12

      [EXCERPT] . . . Israel’s leaders have a two-prong strategy for dealing with their Palestinian problem. First, they rely on the United States to provide diplomatic cover, especially in the United Nations. The key to keeping Washington on board is the Israel lobby, which pressures American leaders to side with Israel against the Palestinians and do hardly anything to stop the colonisation of the Occupied Territories.
      The second prong is Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s concept of the ‘Iron Wall’: an approach that in essence calls for beating the Palestinians into submission. Jabotinsky understood that the Palestinians would resist the Zionists’ efforts to colonise their land and subjugate them in the process. Nonetheless, he maintained that the Zionists, and eventually Israel, could punish the Palestinians so severely that they would recognise that further resistance was futile.
      Israel has employed this strategy since its founding in 1948, and both Cast Lead and Pillar of Defence are examples of it at work. In other words, Israel’s aim in bombing Gaza is not to topple Hamas or eliminate its rockets, both of which are unrealisable goals. Instead, the ongoing attacks in Gaza are part of a long-term strategy to coerce the Palestinians into giving up their pursuit of self-determination and submitting to Israeli rule in an apartheid state.
      Israel’s commitment to the Iron Wall is reflected in the fact that its leaders have said many times since Cast Lead ended in January 2009 that the IDF would eventually have to return to Gaza and inflict another beating on the Palestinians. The Israelis were under no illusion that the 2008-9 conflict had defanged Hamas. The only question for them was when the next punishment campaign would start.
      The timing of the present operation is easy to explain. For starters, President Obama has just won a second term despite Netanyahu’s transparent attempt to help Mitt Romney win the election. The prime minister’s mistake is likely to have hurt his personal relations with the president and might even threaten America’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel. A war in Gaza, however, is a good antidote for that problem, because Obama, who faces daunting economic and political challenges in the months ahead, has little choice but to back Israel to the hilt and blame the Palestinians.
      The Israeli prime minter faces an election of his own in January and as Mitchell Plitnick writes, ‘Netanyahu’s gambit of forming a joint ticket with the fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party has not yielded anything close to the polling results he had hoped for.’ A war over Gaza not only allows Netanyahu to show how tough he is when Israel’s security is at stake, but it is also likely to have a ‘rally round the flag’ effect, improving his chances of being re-elected. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to lrb.co.uk

  5. seafoid
    November 18, 2012, 6:20 am

    What will judaism as represented by zionism do when gaza becomes unliveable, assuming Moshiach hasn’t turned up? I am guessing that by then the palestinians will still hate their children. Can erez Israel only become hashlemah via mass murder?

  6. seafoid
    November 18, 2012, 6:53 am

    “Talk about cynicism. Can you imagine green lighting Gaza as the preferred option to green lighting Iran? Add place to test weapons. Include Sara Roy’s understanding of de-developing Palestinian society’

    It’s worse then cynicism. It’s nihilism.
    And the problem with nihilism is that you can’t leave it behind in the office.
    It has to be taught in the schools. There have to be songs in the culture. You have to cut off the danger that ordinary schmucks will look at the whole system and ask questions.

    There is not a day where you can say “enough!” and manage the nihilism at a preordained level.

    It rots your society from the inside in.

    Jewish democracy will be gone shortly and after this who knows what will be lost?

  7. Mondowise
    November 18, 2012, 8:35 am

    thank you much for this article Mark Ellis, i always enjoy reading them. of particular interest is what you’ve shared from Haber:

    “He said that Hamas rocket-fire was deliberately provoked when Israel broke the cease-fire so that Israel could do a little ‘spring cleaning,’ deplete Hamas’s arsenal of weapons.” …and… “He told me that this happens every few years, and that I should expect it to happen in another few years.”

    this is nothing short of solid evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. i’m sure Pals will find this VERY useful when they gain statehood and head to the ICC.

    so, BRAVO! to you Mr. Ellis for sharing it, BRAVO!!!

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