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Gazafying Dissent

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haneen.zoabi_Israel does not want you to talk about the children it kills in Gaza.  And neither does your government.

Western politicians and media have a long history of ignoring the horrific conditions under which Palestinians live under Israeli Occupation while paying universal homage to Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

This mythology has now exploded.  As Paul Mason has pointed out, since Israel began its July 8th attack on Gaza, there has been a “massive change in the balance of power between social media and the old hierarchical media channels we used to rely on to understand wars.”

For the first time, the world has access to real-time images, voices and narratives of the people of Gaza themselves.  Deepa Kumar correctly surmised that this has led to a “crumbling” of Israel’s propaganda war, and even Israel stalwarts like the New York Times have been forced to report the catastrophic effects on Palestinians produced by Israel’s massacre.

Even on the military front, questions are being asked about the assumed invincibility of Israel’s might.  Hamas has proven again that it is not a pushover and is prepared to withstand Israel’s far advanced weaponry and manpower.

Thus, despite the killing and destruction Israel has inflicted in Gaza, the Israeli state is not emerging as the victorious ‘white knight’ of democracy whose image for many was once invincible.

The question arises, then: what is a state to do in the face of a widening gap between its previous status as an icon of ‘democratic exceptionalism’, and its new role as global bully?  What, in short, to do when facing a real crisis of ‘legitimation’?

Fortunately, Israel has friends in high places.

As the death toll rises in Gaza, and anger mounts around the world, Israel and its allies have adopted a new tactic.

They have largely abandoned attempts to recover Israel’s democratic legitimacy.  They have resorted instead to the outright criminalization of all dissent.  And even to kill for it.

—In the West Bank, Israel shot dead more than ten protesters against the massacre in neighboring Gaza.  At a July 12 anti-war rally in Israel, police stood by as fascist thugs attacked non-violent protesters. Palestinian Member of the Israeli Knesset, Haneen Zoabi, pictured above, has been banned from all parliamentary activity, except for voting, for six months. Netanyahu has called for all pro-Palestine protests to be banned across Europe.

—France has criminalized pro-Palestinian protests.   1,500 French riot police were deployed against a pro-Palestine protest in Paris on July 26th.

—In Calcutta, India, Special Branch forces (India’s equivalent of the FBI) demanded the cell phone number of Kunal Chattopadhyay, a professor, at a public meeting in support of BDS. In New Delhi, pro-Palestine protestors at the Israeli Embassy were viciously attacked by local police.

—In London, Ontario, Canada, protesters wanting to talk to the Tory MP Susan Truppe, were removed by police.

—In Manchester, England, a pro-Palestine protester was hurled to the ground by metropolitan police during an apparent arrest.

-In Los Angeles, prominent Palestinian journalist, activist and the founding editor of Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah, was brutally assaulted by the LAPD for filming a pro-Israeli protest. 

—In New York, long-time Israel critic Norman Finkelstein was arrested for peaceful disobedience by NYPD, perpetrators of the notorious Stop and Frisk racial profiling program and spying programs against Muslims.

—In Chicago, the authors were part of a protest during which Chicago police put snipers on rooftops.  Kirsten, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, was injured by police at an action on July 17th.  She told us she “was not participating in… civil disobedience” but was “live-tweeting and photographing the arrest of my partner, when an office pushed me from the curb, causing me to roll and badly injure my ankle.”

Also in Chicago, pro-Palestinian activists Rima Kapitan and Faten Dabis were at a counter-protest at the Israeli Consulate in Chicago on July 22nd.  Here is Ms. Dabis’s account of the incident:

During the protest, we crossed the street and distributed fliers against the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip….while we were across the street, I participated in a chant with the counter-protesters.  Upon hearing me, Sergeant Shoshi (badge #1460), admonished me loudly, telling me to go across the street.  In response, Ms. Kapitan asked him what I was doing wrong.  He said I was chanting, and she replied that I was…exercising my First Amendment right.  Sergeant Shoshi then grabbed Ms. Kapitan’s arm, leading her to the side of the building, telling her that she could be fined for distributing fliers illegally.

—In Indianapolis, Sireen Zayed, a Palestinian student, was denied entry and escorted out of the Jewish Community Center by security when she peacefully tried to enter to hear a presentation by the Israeli Midwest Ambassador. JCC representatives said Zayed was on “private property” and security forces told her “your kind is not wanted here.”

—The International Cricket Council has banned Moeen Ali, the English cricketer, from wearing his ‘Free Gaza’ wrist band during the test match with India;

It is clear that Israel, and the governments that back it, have a two-pronged strategy:

(a)  In Palestine, Palestinians have to abandon all attempts at self-defense and accept gratefully the murderous occupation of their land and the illegal siege of Gaza.  This is Israel’s idea of  “truce”.

(b)  For the rest of us, we have to lay down our placards, silence our voices and close our eyes as Israel kills children in their sleep.  If not, elected democratic governments are prepared to send in the police to attack us or silence us.

Even if we leave aside Israel, which has never been a democratic society for anyone of non-Jewish descent, why has the butchering of democratic expression in other parts of the world become so commonplace?

Because Israel’s crisis of legitimacy is not a crisis for Israel alone, but for the entire edifice of Empire, whose architects live in places like Washington, London and Paris.

There is much at stake for our world leaders if the global protests for Palestine continue to grow. What if they spark a third Intifada in Palestine? What if they spark a new Arab Spring­—after all, if you start to withstand truncheons for opposing Benjamin Netanyahu, why not Abdel el-Sisi or Bashar al-Assad? What if the cry of “Free Free Palestine” is echoed in New Delhi as “Free Free Kashmir”? or the voices demanding to pull down the Apartheid Wall in Palestine are joined by the voices wanting to pull down the border fence between US and Mexico? What if gaining confidence by the protests against Boeing and Caterpillar’s role in funding Israel, workers at these companies start demanding their rightful wages and pension?

Palestine today lies at the heart of humanity’s universal sense of justice.  This is why leaders across the world want to stamp out all talk of Palestine.

And this is precisely why we cannot put down our Free Palestine placards.  Instead, we should start taking them everywhere—in to our communities, workplaces and schools.

Tithi Bhattacharya is a Professor of South Asian History at Purdue University, a long time activist for Palestinian justice and on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review.

Bill V. Mullen is a Professor of American Studies at Purdue University. He is the author of many books and on the national steering committee for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

Tithi Bhattacharya

Tithi Bhattacharya is a professor of South Asian History at Purdue University, a long time activist for Palestinian justice and on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review.

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21 Responses

  1. Citizen on July 31, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Kill the messenger.
    Nobody I know gives a crap.

    • chinese box on July 31, 2014, 9:00 pm

      “Nobody I know gives a crap.”

      Unfortunately I agree…where I am I haven’t heard a single person talking about Gaza (either among friends, or overheard conversations among strangers) over the last two weeks. The only time it has been discussed is when I deliberately brought the subject up. Sadly, based on my experience, among the general population most people are either indifferent, completely ignorant of the situation, or still reflexively take Israel’s side because someone else told them they should. Maybe it’s different in larger metro areas or different parts of the country, though.

      Having said all that, these latest atrocities MAY change the opinion of some media elites, and/or opinion shapers. Whether that translates into any change in US policy is a long shot, though.

  2. Donald on July 31, 2014, 3:53 pm

    I think the idea of the NY protest by Finkelstein and others was to be arrested. They blocked part of a street. Some of the other stuff is pretty shocking, but if you want to talk about the NYPD, there is that guy who was killed recently by the police using a chokehold even when he said repeatedly “I can’t breathe”. That had nothing to do with the I/P conflict–he was a large overweight black man and so in the minds of the cops at the scene deserved to be taken down by a banned technique, banned because it often results in death.

  3. seafoid on July 31, 2014, 3:54 pm

    The longer the butchery continues for the harder it will be for governmen ts to control protests . Gaza is not going to go back tothe status quo and Israel Is not going to abandon nihilism . Nobody actually needs Zionism . Finally the mask is off.

  4. stephenesherman on July 31, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Re: NYPD.

    I was at the July 24 “Support Gaza” Rally that started at Foley Square. The NYPD were there, were friendly, and kept order. Frankly, I felt like they were protecting ME from potential Zionist extremists. Without getting into “Stop & Frisk,” and other matters, the NYPD’s only interest in any public rallies, whatever the cause, is to ensure a peaceful environment for the attendees to ‘do their thing.’

    Of course, as a previous commenter noted, Finkelstein & the others wanted to get arrested. That’s a deliberate civil disobedience tactic, but is unrelated to how the NYPD handles rallies.

    I understand & agree with the general point of your article. Also, I cannot speak to what is happening in other cities. But right now, in New York, the NYPD are the best friends that pro-Palestinian marchers could have.

  5. Laurent Weppe on July 31, 2014, 4:43 pm

    France has criminalized pro-Palestinian protests.   1,500 French riot police were deployed against a pro-Palestine protest in Paris on July 26th.

    Huh, no, France has not criminalized Pro-Palestinian protests: some protests were not allowed because many of the Pro-Palestinian associations which organized the rallies simply lacked the muscle to stop violent thugs from worming themselves in the march.
    In fact, the larger Pro-Palestinian protest so far in Paris which happened July 23th was not only permitted, but ended without violence because instead of the tiny and inexperienced Pro-Palestinian organizations, security was provided by the CGT, France’s largest labor union, whose own security is well versed in keeping rallies from degenerating (spending 120 years organizing massive rallies which often break the million participants mark tends to give some expertise).
    And outside of Paris, several peaceful pro-palestinian rallies happened in large provincial cities like Nice, Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux…

    In fact, if the french government is trying to censor anyone right now, it’s the local chapter of the Jewish Defense League, since contrary to what some may believe, the french authorities are no dupes regarding this fascistic militia.

    • Walid on July 31, 2014, 9:55 pm

      ” the french authorities are no dupes regarding this fascistic militia.”

      Laurent, it’s not a question of them being dupes. The JDL and similar groupuscules have a history of cooperation and collusion with the French Interior Ministry, the last time being at the Paris synagogue incident of 2 or 3 Sundays back after the Gaza demo when police were filmed telling the JDL thugs to stand behind police lines and only stepped-in when the thugs were about to get a beating from the pro-Gaza group. It was the synagogue’s rabbi that first alerted the police about the presence of the JDL thugs outside his synagogue and asked that they be removed because he knew they represented trouble. It was after this incident that the JDL and Crif said they petition the French government to ban future pro-Palestinian rallies and they succeeded.

      Those multiple rallies held that you mentioned were tolerated by the police because they avoided going into potentially hostile neighbourhoods although they were still officially banned as the ban is still in effect but you are right that this article here erred in saying that protests were criminalized; they were not.

      Getting back to the cozy relationship between Jewish militant groups, it was only a few months back that it was reported the French Ministry of the Interior leased or allowed the use of one of its Paris buildings to the Jewish militants for training sessions in the Israeli martial arts of Krav Maga given by people from the IDF.

      On March 7, 1986, Le Monde quoted Françoise Castro, the wife of the then Jewish Prime Minister Laurent Fabius giving the good news:

      ” Something extraordinarily new on the political horizon, the Left has allowed Jewish militias to get installed not only in neighbourhoods of Paris but also in Toulouse, Marseille and Strasbourg and to have regular contacts with the Ministry of the Interior.”

      It’s doubtful the French government would do anything drastic to disband the JDL.

  6. American on July 31, 2014, 4:47 pm

    I actually wish Obama and congress’s zio paymaster would make them institute laws against protest against Israel or fines and jail for anti Israeli statements—-it would help heat things up against them in the US.

  7. Kay24 on July 31, 2014, 4:49 pm

    There is nothing so powerful as the words of victims. No one can dispute the videos, the carnage after relentless Israeli bombing, the sight of the dead and injured in the hospitals.
    “For the first time, the world has access to real-time images, voices and narratives of the people of Gaza themselves. Deepa Kumar correctly surmised that this has led to a “crumbling” of Israel’s propaganda war, and even Israel stalwarts like the New York Times have been forced to report the catastrophic effects on Palestinians produced by Israel’s massacre.”

    The writers are absolutely right, this time the coverage is different, some media being forced to cover this bloody massacre. CNN is doing a fair job, playing videos of the murder scenes often, and interviewing Palestinians too. Blitzer is struggling to do the right thing, hard though it may be with his loyalties to the war criminals. Perhaps the sight of Israel’s cruelty is getting more obvious as children keep dying on a daily basis.
    MSNBC ignores the plight of the Palestinian people, the war, and their journalists keep talking about the GOP and how Obama suffers with them. Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews (new zionist) never cover this massacre. Chris Hayes does a decent job of it.

    Jake Tapper had top zionist Dore Gold a few minutes ago, and tried hard to make him admit that the numbers show a large proportion of those killed in Gaza are civilians, the snake could not even admit to it, trying to cast doubt on the exact number killed, he simply could not do the decent thing and admit there are civilians being killed by the large numbers. These liars belong in hell.

  8. John O on July 31, 2014, 5:03 pm

    “The International Cricket Council has banned Moeen Ali, the English cricketer, from wearing his ‘Free Gaza’ wrist band during the test match with India”

    On the plus side, this got wide publicity in the UK and, more importantly, Moeen is a hero in England today, as his bowling (for baseball fans = pitching) won the game for England today, ending a long series of defeats.

  9. Castellio on July 31, 2014, 6:33 pm

    This is perhaps the most important post among many important posts.

    Zionism has become a wedge issue, leading the fight to legitimize extreme right wing racism. What were once “mainstream” parties are buying into it: it is simpler to abdicate morality than to struggle against the Israeli public relations juggernaut.

    • Mooser on July 31, 2014, 9:38 pm

      “Zionism has become a wedge issue, leading the fight to legitimize extreme right wing racism.”

      This what I’ve been afraid of.

  10. Graber on July 31, 2014, 6:39 pm

    You’ve overlooked two countries in Africa that I know of that have murdered people for protesting in solidarity with Palestine: Egypt and Nigeria. Which seems like a huge oversight, considering the United States’ support for these governments.

    According to the FB page Shimaa from Tahrir Square:

    “After Eid prayers Egyptians across the country marched in solidarity with Gaza making a statement against the complicity of the US funded Zionist Egyptian regime.

    I didn’t see anything firsthand because I reside in a predominately military supportive neighborhood in Cairo. Protests are no longer allowed in this part of Cairo since last summer and showing any signs of solidarity to Palestine or against the coup is suicide.

    Nonetheless, Egyptians from all over who don’t live in any better environments defied all that and marched for Gaza. The US funded junta security forces opened fire on them, 5 protesters were killed and many were injured.

    As much as everyone is angry at Egypt, nobody wants to recognize the existence of these people. I will collect pictures and posts from Egypt in this post that I kindly ask you to share so that anti-coup pro-Palestine Egyptians are seen and heard like everyone else in the world. #Gaza #Palestine #Egypt #AntiCoup”
    The link – with several comments and pictures of martyrs and protests – is:

    – On Friday, July 25, Nigerian military forces murdered thirty-three protesters in a pro-Palestine demonstration, which was held on Al Quds Day. Among those killed was 18-year-old Syed Mahmud Ibrahim Zakzaky, a son of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, which had called for the rally. He is a critic of political corruption and Boko Haram.

    While the world was in an uproar about the kidnapping of hundreds of women by Boko Haram, there’s been very little concern about the murder of Muslims who criticize them.

    In London, there was a demonstration held in solidarity with those murdered by the Nigerian military. Video:

    More on the Nigerian military’s massacre of protesters:

    • just on July 31, 2014, 7:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing that important info, Matthew.

    • annie on July 31, 2014, 8:40 pm

      thanks for bringing this news matthew. we were just discussing the topic earlier today in another thread.

  11. can of worms on July 31, 2014, 7:06 pm

    “They have resorted instead to the outright criminalization of all dissent.”

    The author has left out the police brutality in recent nonviolent protests in Haifa and Nazareth, where the brutality against protesters (by police and fascist civilians) was not ever seen before inside israel at these levels.

  12. Bandolero on July 31, 2014, 8:19 pm


    If you haven’t noticed this before I want to ask readers and editors of MW to pay attention to – what I think – is an interesting exchange between Huffpos David Hearst and the Saudi envoy in Britain Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud – a dramatic piece in three acts, so far:

    1. David Hearst: Attack on Gaza by Saudi Royal Appointment
    2. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud: In response to David Hearst
    3. David Hearst: Saudi Crocodile Tears Over Gaza

  13. MHughes976 on August 1, 2014, 5:25 am

    One way and another the story of Zionism has been, on one side, of increasing determination and readiness to support utterly drastic means to the desired achievement and on the other side – or what was originally ‘the’ other side – of increasing, bitter division, recrimination, cries of treachery, alienation and despair. These lines of division seem multiple and criss-crossing, so that there’s no single process of reform or negotiation that would solve the problem. So our long road gets longer.

  14. Marnie on August 1, 2014, 9:08 am

    “Netanyahu has called for all pro-Palestine protests to be banned across Europe”.

    This SOB needs a reality check immediately. The world does not rotate according to his will. The US and the rest of the “western” civilizations have allowed this thug to threaten, bribe, and manipulate his way into the private chambers of non-3rd world powers and as a result of his being coddled, believes he is king of the world. He’s been at the tit for way too long. What will it take to bring him to his knees?

  15. SQ Debris on August 1, 2014, 2:56 pm

    The pigs can attack us in the streets. Whatever. We’ll “take our fair share of abuse,” patch up, and come back out. We Americans are individually and collectively complicit in the slaughter. We have an inescapable moral obligation to stop it. “The truth makes you a soldier.” Ghandi

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