Exile and the prophetic: Is Israel going Gaza Rogue?

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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 The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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