Black, bloody Sabbath
by Jeremy Saltsent
31 December 2008, On Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath - the government of Israel killed nearly 300 Palestinians in Gaza. Its tools were pilots flying F-16 fighter jets provided by the US and munitions provided by the US. This is the biggest single-day death toll since the occupation of Gaza in 1967.
There is not a great deal left to say about the state of Israel. It was born in criminality and has lived in criminality since the day of its birth. It is a sociopathic, tribal state in a world of nation states, obeying no laws but its own, a state which lives in a state of cognitive dissonance, denial and self-delusion, a state which could not live without the arms, diplomatic protection and financial assistance of the United States.
Morally and ethically it is a failed state and through its violence and refusal to live within international law it is a rogue state. ‘Israel’ remains what it was six decades ago – occupied Palestine. No state that does not recognize the rights of people to whom it has done incredible damage has any right to claim recognition for itself.
There was no ‘war of independence’ in 1948. There was a war of conquest, to defeat and drive out the indigenous population. Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence was no different from the unilateral declaration of independence by the colonial-settler minority of Rhodesia in 1965 but not even Rhodesia or white minority South Africa did to the indigenous population what the Zionists have done to the Palestinians.
Not even the Algerian experience of the French begins to compare.
There is scarcely a foot of Palestinian land that does not belong to the Palestinians, individually and collectively. The citizens of Israel live in cities stolen from the Palestinians, in houses stolen from the Palestinians and in settlements built on Palestinian land and over the ruins of hundreds of villages.
Time does not efface the crime. Yet none of this counts with the Israelis. They are outraged not at what they have done and continue to do but at the Palestinian response, totally feeble in comparison to any of Israel’s actions.
They are outraged because after six decades of brutality and two years of a genocidal siege the Palestinians are still firing their home-made missiles at towns and settlements near the Gaza Strip. Firing them, it needs to be said, at the towns of Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, all of them built on the ruins of destroyed and ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages.
This is not a war in any sense of the word but yet another Israeli onslaught on a largely defenceless civilian population. It has numerous precedents going all the way back to 1948. Hosni Mubarak and Mahmud Abbas are actively complicit in the attack. So is the United States, condemning Hamas missile attacks which had killed two people by Monday but not the Israeli missile attacks which had killed 300 people by Monday.
Passively and duplicitously complicit, behind calls for Israeli restraint and an end to Hamas rocket strikes, is Britain and the European Union, which recently upgraded its relations with Israel in full knowledge of what it is doing to Gaza and the West Bank.
The Arab League, true to its abysmal form over many decades, has decided not to meet until Wednesday because of the prior commitments of some members. What could take priority over the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza is hard to imagine.
By Wednesday, of course, hundreds more will have been killed and – so Egypt and other Arab accomplices in this evil act hope – the Hamas government will have been finished off, a process that may include the assassination of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and senior members of his cabinet.
This is not just about ending Hamas rocket attacks. This is not just about bringing down the Hamas government or ‘changing the rules of the game on the ground’ as Tzipi Livni has said. This is about ending the ‘Palestinian question’ once and for all.
Mahmud Abbas is eating out of Israel’s hands but Hamas continues to hold up the banner of resistance in Gaza. So the time has come for it to be destroyed. If the ‘international community’ does not finally live up to its responsibility and compel Israel to live within the law, and after six decades of irresponsibility and cowardice there can be little hope that it will, this situation can have only two outcomes.
One is the final destruction of the Palestinian people as a presence in history. This is not likely to happen, despite the preening and self-congratulations of Livni, Olmert and Barak at the great success of their ‘defence forces’ in bombing civilians.
The other is war.
No one should delude themselves. Arab and Muslim anger is boiling over and under the continuing hammer blows of this violent state, the dam must eventually break. No Mubarak, or Abbas or Abdullah will be able to stem the torrent when it does.
Note: Jeremy Salt teaches in the Department of Political Science, Bilkent University, Ankara, and is the author of the recently published The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).