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Israel’s iron fist

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Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)

Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)

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

From Iron Dome to Iron Fist. This is how Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, defined Israel’s invasion of Gaza yesterday. Truth be known it was Iron Fist all along.

The difference between slow and quick death is important but death to the individual – and the collective – is defining. Israel has been killing Palestinians and Palestine since its inception. Israel’s original sin of ethnic cleansing in peace and war continues.

Contra Christian doctrine, there’s no way back from death. Life is what we have. With all the anxieties and difficulties involved, life beats the alternative. But where is life, or the opening to life, in Israel’s Iron Fist?

In the West, we ask where the politicians and the churches are. Fair question. A statement on the crisis issued by the United Church of Christ is a beginning. Though there are questionable equations of power and responsibility, the statement ends with an important recommendation:

Take action to end the violence – for today, and for the future. Let your senators and representative know that as a person of faith, respecting the dignity of every human being you call on them to:

Demand an immediate ceasefire by all parties.

Condemn all violence against civilians, both by Palestinians and by Israeli forces. It is clear that rockets from Gaza target civilian areas in Israel. In Gaza, civilians are often in harm’s way from Israeli fire, regardless of the intended target.

Insist on an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including full dismantlement of the barrier built on Palestinian land, and an end to the Gaza blockade.

Recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enable the occupation. The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

Condition military aid to Israel on its compliance with U.S. law and policy.

Strange to think politicians and churches without thinking about statements from mainstream Jewish organizations. Or have we long ago given up on any organized Jewish body speaking Jewish truth to Jewish power?

As of this writing J Street has yet to issue a statement beyond the one it issued on July 11th. Judging on this, expectations should be kept low when finally J Street finds their words.

As per J Street the July 11th statement contains an argument for both sides – the aspirations of Jews and Palestinians, their suffering etc. It is, more or less, balanced if skewing Israel with some concessions for Israel’s wrong doing is so defined. But the problem remains. J Street still doesn’t get the fact of the matter – Israel isn’t stopping and won’t abide a real Palestinian state. That’s the beginning of the road back to reality, a road J Street will never take.

When will a Jewish mainstream statement contain, for example, the last two points made by the UCC? After all, if US foreign policy has carrots and sticks, in the Middle East is will be taken seriously only if aid and compliance with US law and policy are enforced.

Of course, if the US abided by its own righteous declarations, it might be easier to demand others do so too.

Evading the issue of Israel’s foundation is critical. It is becoming more and more obvious. But no one on the moral ground of the West wants to go back to history – to 1948. Or thereafter. Or now. There are some who want Israel’s solution “autonomy” solution. Others want another way. But the fundamental agreement for Palestinians is a restricted autonomy that appears to be a state.

This latest invasion of Gaza is less about genocide, contra Ilan Pappe, though his points, as always, are well taken. Rather, the point of Israel’s invasion – like its continuing actions in the West Bank under Gaza’s cover – is to finalize what most of the world, including the Arab world, really wants. What the world wants is a policy that contains Palestinians and leaves the Middle East order, at least what’s left of it, in place.

If the policy of containment should be called genocide, so be it, but politically the strategy is a policy of managing a collective. Terminology like this might seem harsh. It is.

In the collective boardrooms of governing powers it sounds quite reasonable. And doable. That Palestinians have to give up their rights to freedom is considered, if at all, collateral damage.

Is that what Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are experiencing? Are they indeed defined as part of the superfluous people of the world Hannah Arendt wrote about so many years ago, even as she wrote about Israel’s destiny as a modern-day Sparta?

Superfluous populations. They’re all over the world – as defined by the powers-that-be.

Gazans are dying by the hundreds. Soon it may be more. The moral outrage heard around the world is the outrage of those who cry out that there are no superfluous people anywhere, especially in Gaza.

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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14 Responses

  1. justicewillprevail
    July 18, 2014, 12:50 pm

    “The purpose of Israel’s current offensive in the Gaza Strip is to protect the status quo – with itself in control of the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. In 2005, it carried out a unilateral disengagement from Gaza, but under international law it is still the occupying power because it controls access by land, sea and air. In 2007 Israel imposed an economic blockade, cutting the Gaza Strip off from the West Bank and from the rest of the world. A blockade is a form of collective punishment proscribed by international law.”

    Avi Shlaim on Ahron Begman’s new book on the history of Israel – a concise account of the corruption of Israel by the occupation

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/18/cursed-victory-history-israel-occupied-territories-ahron-bregman-review

  2. Giles
    July 18, 2014, 1:12 pm

    “Condemn all violence against civilians, both by Palestinians and by Israeli forces. It is clear that rockets from Gaza target civilian areas in Israel. In Gaza, civilians are often in harm’s way from Israeli fire, regardless of the intended target.

    Insist on an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including full dismantlement of the barrier built on Palestinian land, and an end to the Gaza blockade.

    Recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enable the occupation. The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

    Condition military aid to Israel on its compliance with U.S. law and policy.”

    Not even close to good enough. The Palestinians have every right under international law and morally as well to resist their occupation by any means. Further, to pretend that Israel does not purposefully target innocents is just a lie. As is equating what little damage Hamas does with the horrors the Israelis visit upon others.

    And the Hell with conditioning the aid to Israel on anything. End it. And demand repayment of all past gifts.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      July 18, 2014, 2:46 pm

      Absolutely.

      I thought the ‘start up nation’ economy was thriving? Isn’t that what they’re always telling us? If so, why the need for Yank charity? And wasn’t Israel meant to be all about Jews doing it for themselves? Why do they want to depend on Gentiles who, like all Gentiles, are really anti-semites just waiting to get out, however nice they may seem?

  3. Marnie
    July 18, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Naftali Bennett = Josef Goebbels

  4. can of worms
    July 18, 2014, 2:18 pm

    I don’t really get the author’s point: “This latest invasion of Gaza is less about genocide… [than about] finaliz[ing] what most of the world, including the Arab world, really wants [containment]”.

    Genocide is never really ‘about’ genocide, is it, it’s always about containment of a status quo and its material conditions?

    Also who is ‘the world’, when you say that this genocide/containment of Palestinians is ‘what most of the world wants’? Is ‘The World’ the U.S., and its bought puppets?

    The point should be the wide gap between corporate-owned-governments and people.

    Thirdly, it’s not that Palestinian lives are more ‘superfluous’ (they have multiple uses as scapegoats, punching bags, trading chips, lab mice and cheap labor) but that they are more exposed and have no protection. International law is an iron dome that protects the powerful and hurts the weak. It obviously can’t protect Palestinians.

  5. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    July 18, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I’m not sure Israel’s slaughter has a ‘purpose’, other of course than slaughter itself, and the all-important need for Bibi et al to show the dumb Israeli public how ‘tough’ they are.

    I suspect that Bibi didn’t envisage this ‘war’ going on for longer than a few days, maybe a week, and that they were hoping Hamas would accept the lousy ‘ceasefire’. I don’t think they have any plan. The IDF are too chicken to go futher than a few KM inside Gaza, and by their own admission they’ve already hit any ‘targets’ in the strip. So really, it’s now just slaughter for the hell of it. Probably plays well with brainwashed Israelis, but how will it end? The stated aim of ending the rocket fire will not be achieved, just as it wasn’t in the previous massacres. So has Bibi overreached himself?

  6. libra
    July 18, 2014, 5:00 pm

    Professor Ellis: What the world wants is a policy that contains Palestinians and leaves the Middle East order, at least what’s left of it, in place.

    Who’s to blame for the oppression of the Palestinians? “It’s the entire world.” announces Professor Ellis after an exhaustive investigation spanning Germany, the Vatican, and the rest of Europe; encompassing the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Catholics, and every other branch of Christianity; critically focussing on Martin Luther, the Pope and finally God himself. “Everywhere I looked there was someone to blame until it finally dawned on me it was everyone else’s fault”.

    Next week on Mondoweiss: “Did I overlook the Amish?” asks Professor Ellis. “Look at Pennsylvania. It used to be the Quaker State till these German-speaking zealots arrived in their buggies and drove them all out.”

    • Chu
      July 18, 2014, 6:28 pm

      Lol! Seriously on point, Libra! Thanks so much…

    • W.Jones
      July 19, 2014, 1:14 am

      Libra,

      The main thing is that Mondoweiss is about the IP conflict, and Ellis is not really a PEP about it. He is a pretty zealous advocate and obviously has his heart very strongly in it. He called out Michael Lerner for attacking Solidarity work off-stage, and he even called Atzmon prophetic in Ellis’ latest book. Personally I find Atzmon intentionally provokes, but Ellis’ comment reflects that Ellis is a radical thinker. I would not expect Ellis to write a diatribe against BDS or talk at length about how there is no Apartheid like You know who did recently.

      Chomsky does not really show much of an axe to grind about religious thinking, and Ellis is overfocused and sometimes intolerant and irrational when it comes to Christianity, unfortunately. This can be a serious handicap when the context is interfaith conflict, like what is happening in the Levant. However usually Ellis is progressive on IP.

  7. W.Jones
    July 18, 2014, 6:12 pm

    Contra Christian doctrine, there’s no way back from death.

    I am not really why you say this, Marc, as Judaism doesn’t differ from Christianity on that particular point. Maimonides and the Talmud both pointed to Isaiah 26 as the basis for their belief in resurrection.

    In the West, we ask where the politicians and the churches are. Fair question. A statement on the crisis issued by the United Church of Christ is a beginning. Sure, I sympathize.

  8. ivri
    July 19, 2014, 8:28 am

    Containment as goal of the “world`s management” is probably a correct stipulation. Given how complex globalization is, namely running the entire world within a common order (where before it was largely separate societies), it leaves little choice in that regard – otherwise there will be disorder and chaos. Whence the order of the day is clear: if you don`t play by the rules or don`t belong to the “modernity core” you are unwanted and won`t be supported. Indeed, gradually all are joining “the game” and play by its rules, even if they do it as competitors, as China, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil, Saudi-Arabia, Egypt (to name some new “big guys” in it). But some adamantly refuse and they indeed will be blocked. Hamas, which was used in the past to outpouring sympathy (and banked its strategy on that), is shocked to find out how isolated it now is (including in the Arab world).

    • Annie Robbins
      July 19, 2014, 8:55 am

      Saudi-Arabia, Egypt (to name some new “big guys” in it)…..Hamas, which was used in the past to outpouring sympathy (and banked its strategy on that), is shocked to find out how isolated it now is (including in the Arab world).

      don’t confuse the arab world with their dictators, or turkey with chopped liver.

      • just
        July 19, 2014, 9:17 am

        Great comment, Annie.

      • ivri
        July 19, 2014, 9:32 am

        I understand that, but the way things are run is that only rulers really count (indeed, even in a democracy it is the elite nowadays that calls the shots – the 1%). In the Arab world the Saudi princes are there since living memory and in Egypt the army is the only really trusted institution and ruled the country continuously in one form or another since the coup d`etat by Nasser half a century ago (Morsi was a short exception)

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