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West’s failure to act will be cause of the next Gaza massacre

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The contrasting images coming out of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on Monday could not have been starker – or more disturbing.

Faced with protests at the perimeter fence in Gaza, Israeli snipers killed dozens of unarmed Palestinians and wounded more than 2,000 others, including children, women, journalists and paramedics, in a hail of live fire. Amnesty, the international human rights organisation, rightly called it a “horror show”.

Such horror is now so routine that TV anchors could only headline the news as the worst day of bloodshed in Gazain four years, when Israel massacred civilians in its last major military assault.

Already gasping from the chokehold of Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza, local hospitals are now collapsing from the weight of casualties.

A few kilometres away, meanwhile, Israelis were partying.

So-called “liberal” Tel Aviv was busy “chicken dancing” with Netta, who had just won the Eurovision Song Contest and gave a free open-air performance to celebrate.

And in Jerusalem, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was glad-handing a bevy of US officials, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and policy adviser. They were there to beam for the cameras as the US opened its embassy in the occupied city.

The move pre-empts negotiations over the city’s fate and sabotages Palestinian ambitions for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s grin said it all. As he mouthed platitudes about “Middle Eastern peace”, he finally had Washington’s blessing for all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And next year Europe will give its implicit blessing too by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest there.

But amid the euphoria, a few Israeli commentators understood that politics is about more than power – it’s about imagery too. The champagne-quaffing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while Gaza drowned in blood left a profoundly sour taste in the mouth.

There was more than a whiff of hypocrisy too in statements about “defending borders” from a state that has refused to declare its borders since its creation exactly 70 years ago – as well as from a Netanyahu government currently trying to establish a Greater Israel over the Palestinian territories.

But the hypocrisy was not restricted to Israel and Washington, which parroted Mr Netanyahu’s talking points.

There was an ugly equivocation from other western leaders. They spoke of “regret”, “tragedy” and “concern at the loss of life”, as though an act of God had struck Gaza, not an order from Israeli commanders to quell the Palestinian urge for freedom with live ammunition.

Equally dishonest was talk of the “need for restraint from both sides” and “clashes”, as though the protesters had been tussling with Israeli soldiers in hand-to-hand combat rather than being coldly picked off through telescopic sights.

Israeli politicians and media have desperately searched for a moral justification for these executions. They have talked of “kite terrorism” and a supposed stone-throwing threat to soldiers positioned hundreds of yards away.

While thousands of Palestinians have been executed or maimed, how many Israelis have been harmed in the past six weeks of Gaza’s protests? Precisely none.

This is a strange kind of terror.

The reality is that tiny Gaza is becoming rapidly uninhabitable, as the United Nations has repeatedly warned. For more than a decade Israel has blockaded it from land, air and sea, while intermittently pummelling the enclave with missiles and military invasions.

A senior New York Times correspondent tweeted on Monday that Gaza’s Palestinians looked as though they had a “death wish”. But two million Palestinians – a population rapidly growing – are inmates in what is effectively a shrinking prison, whose store rooms are almost bare.

Tens of thousands of them have shown they are prepared to risk their lives not for some death cult but to win freedom, the most precious human impulse of all.

And they have preferred confrontational, non-violent resistance as a way to shame Israel and the world into recognising their plight.

And yet instead, Israel has stripped them of all agency by falsely claiming that they are pawns in a game by Hamas to pressure Israel.

But in so far as Hamas is trying to influence Israel, what is its aim?

Last week, a gloating Israeli media reported that Hamas was quietly appealing for a long-term truce with Israel, effectively renouncing the Palestinians’ right to violently resist Israel’s occupation.

It would not be the first time. But whereas once Hamas sought a truce in return for a two-state solution, now it is said to have requested simply an end to the blockade and a chance to rebuild Gaza.

Even this minimal concession is rejected by Israel. Instead an Israeli minister responded to Monday’s slaughter by proposing that Israel assassinate the Hamas leadership.

Israel may be without remorse, but are western leaders feeling shamed?

Apart from South Africa and Turkey, none has so far withdrawn an ambassador. There are no calls for embargos on sales of arms, no demands for war crimes investigations, no threats of trade sanctions.

And no plans, of course, for the kind of “humanitarian intervention” western governments have keenly promoted in other parts of the Middle East where civilians are under threat.

For seven decades, the west has pampered Israel at every turn. The lack of any meaningful punishment for violating Palestinian rights led directly to Monday’s massacre.

And the failure to inflict a price on Israel for this massacre – in fact, the reverse: visible rewards with a relocated US embassy and the chance to host the Eurovision Song Contest – will lead to the next massacre, and the one after.

Handwringing is not enough. It is time for anyone with a conscience to act.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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12 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan
    May 16, 2018, 11:40 am

    I don’t think the embassy changes anything. The biggest dynamic in the next decade of Israel/Palestine will be the collapse of Gaza. And that will destroy Israeli smugness and projections of indefinite calm. It will throw the IDF into ongoing panic. Israel will have no hasbara to fight with. Gaza is like a sewage tank hanging in the sky over Tel Aviv. The next stage of the conflict will be the purest chaos. Israel has spent the last 50 years saying Smoch alai- trust me.

    There is a price for overdoing it. And US Jews will not hang around either. Israel is a Zionist Hebrew clusterfuck. Israelis will become untouchable in Europe. Nobody will take any refugees either. Pottery Barn rules to apply.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    May 16, 2018, 11:53 am

    RE: “Handwringing is not enough. It is time for anyone with a conscience to act.” ~ J Cook

    A conscience? What the hell is that?

    • JLewisDickerson
      May 16, 2018, 12:13 pm

      10 Traits of a Psychopath
      Published on Aug 24, 2016
      Superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy.

  3. John O
    May 16, 2018, 11:56 am

    A former colleague of mine posted this on Facebook today – Irish TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, blasting the Israeli ambassador to Ireland in 2014. I’d not seen it before. The ambassador’s response reminds me so much of what white South African politicians used to do – they were great at dividing people up into ethnic groups; lousy at considering them as human beings.

    • Marnie
      May 16, 2018, 12:57 pm

      “The time for treating you as a normal state is over, because you’re not behaving like a normal state”.

      Awesome and thanks for posting this – Mr. Barrett is a joy to behold.

  4. Citizen
    May 16, 2018, 11:58 am

    “It is time for anyone with a conscience to act.”

    Please suggest how, beyond spreading the word on social media & contacting our congress folks. I’m sure I am not the only one here who has been doing those things for years, with no effective results, usually no or barely any acknowledgement. Responses from my congress critters are especially insulting in that they just give me boilerplate hasbara.

    • inbound39
      May 16, 2018, 6:11 pm

      Citizen…….the answer lies in history. I am 64 and a Vietnam vet that served in the Australian Navy. The Vietnam War was stopped largely by the Protest Movement that spread Globally much like BDS is doing now. People Power stopped reinforcements being sent to replace or strengthen troop numbers in Vietnam. As a serving member I watched troops ground to a halt by not having the manpower to defend the positions they were instructed to hold. The sheer volume and size and number of protesters hitting the streets to oppose the War caused Politicians to act. The same has to happen with Israel. The hard part in this case is the stranglehold Zionism has on the US and European Governments by infiltrating them. First target should be Friends of Israel Groups that are agents solely for the Zionist Regime of Israel and included should be ADL,AIPAC and JDL. People Power is our only effective method. Vietnam Protest groups used Stop Work to Stop the War which encompassed rolling Stop Work Strikes. The Governments had no choice but to withdraw from Vietnam when troops were deserting in droves and tax money dwindled due to businesses not producing enough money to pay tax. Politicians lose power when their pockets get hit.

      • Citizen
        May 17, 2018, 9:18 am

        Not relevant because, mainly 1.) There is no US military draft; 2) SCOTUS has totally legitimatized the current US campaign finance system, of which the Israel Lobby takes full advantage; 3) Since Bobby Kennedy tried, nobody influential has even tried to make AIPAC register under FARA. 4) US main tv news media is now totally in corporate America’s pocket & US government is too on all things regarding foreign policy re Israel.
        PS I am a Vietnam Era veteran; I served in US Army combat engineers.

    • echinococcus
      May 18, 2018, 12:39 am

      Not possible within the US system.
      We have to experience defeat and bankruptcy first, as a world power.
      We can help by effectively supporting any resistance to US imperialism.
      One way to start it is to help Palestinian resistance get rid of its Quislings, to finally start hurting the occupier again after all these years.
      No one can guess how it will end but the history of 20th century decolonization and resistance to fascism gives a little hope. It certainly is better than today’s masochist whining.

  5. Keith
    May 16, 2018, 8:34 pm

    JONATHAN COOK- “Israel may be without remorse, but are western leaders feeling shamed?”

    Surely you jest. US/Israel made an example of Gaza to show that there will be no mercy anywhere. No compromise, no concessions. The empire is on a rampage which will likely intensify in the near future. Endless war everywhere. Hegemony or death.

    “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now.” (Richard Perle)

  6. Boomer
    May 17, 2018, 9:03 am

    Thanks, Mr. Cook, for an excellent essay and heartfelt, if futile, plea for action.

    Each morning I check the generic Google News front page (not tailored to my interests) to see what Google is highlighting. Today there was nothing about Gaza. So I clicked on “more world news” for a longer list of headlines. Still no Gaza. Of course, one can do a search on Gaza, and I found lots of hits that way.

    At CNN, Thane Rosenbaum tells us why “Gaza is not Selma”:

    At WaPo, Loveday and Eglash consider whether Israel used excessive force, or justified “mob control”

    There are many more, of course. On the whole, however, I infer that it’s no longer frontpage news, and not much has changed in the U.S. media and political worlds.

  7. Citizen
    May 17, 2018, 9:21 am

    Why Bibi Netanyahu embraces anti-Semites and ignores the Palestinians: via @slate (He likes the status quo as it secures #Israel, not necessarily world jewry)

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