How Israel Covers Up Its Ugly Racial Holy War


As the incitement to violence by Israeli leaders ramped up, so did racist attacks by Israeli citizens.

The year 2014 will be remembered as a banner year for violence in Israel and Palestine; most of the casualties occurred in the Gaza Strip, and most of these were Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli army. Six months later, however, these tragic deaths are almost forgotten, chiefly because the powerful propaganda of the Israel lobby is able to explain them away with a well-rehearsed narrative: “Israel only wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but the Palestinians hope to kick us all out of the country, so we have no choice but to retaliate.” Zionist hasbara can be even further condensed, distilled down to just six words: “They hate us for our equality.”

Within Israel, however, the messages emanating from the government have been nothing if not the diametric opposite of these platitudes. Anti-Palestinian incitement has always existed in Israeli politics, but in 2014 this racist discourse took a sharp turn for the worse. When three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian militants in June, Israeli political leaders did not call for the criminals to be caught and convicted. Rather, they demanded that mutilation and mass murder be visited on the general Palestinian population.

Prime Minister Netanyahu called for vengeance, and his coalition partners called for ethnic cleansing and genocide. Government faction whip Ayelet Shaked wrote: “Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people… are all enemy combatants… this also includes the mothers,” while ruling party faction leader Moshe Feiglin wrote: “The civilian population will be concentrated” and “Gaza will become part of… Israel and will be populated by Jews.”

Other public figures were even more specific, calling for sexual violence. A top Israeli academic announced that terrorism could only be averted by threatening to rape the mothers and sister of Palestinian militants. The leader of the largest religious Jewish youth group in the world called for the Israeli army not only to kill at least 300 Palestinians, but to bring back their foreskins as war trophies. The Jerusalem councillor in charge of the city’s securityimplored Jewish youth to “commit acts of Phineas,” a coded call to kill Palestinians and the Jews who befriend them. (Phineas is a reference to the Biblical figure who is said to have murdered an interracial couple in the middle of love-making by skewering their intertwined genitals, some rabbis say.)

As the incitement to violence by top Israeli leaders ramped up, so did the racist attacks by regular Israeli citizens.  Vigilante assaults on Palestinians have been the most common type of attack. A third of all Palestinian bus drivers working in Jerusalem for Israel’s largest bus company Egged have left their jobs since the summer, because racist attacks on them have become a daily occurrence. Hardly any Palestinians venture into downtown Jerusalem at night anymore, for fear of being attacked by gangs of Jewish thugs who patrol the streets, looking for Arabs to assault. In July, Israelis kidnapped a Palestinian teenager, forced gasoline down his throat, and burned him to death from the inside out. The suspects later told police they were inspired by the acts of Phineas.

Another type of racist assault that has become increasingly common in Israel is attacks on Africans. Incitement against the 50,000 non-Jewish Africans who have sought asylum in Israel in recent years, including top government officialscomparing them to cancer and Ebola, has made them a popular target for racist ruffians in Tel Aviv. Locals report it is not uncommon for Israeli youths tothrow dog feces at African mothers nursing their babies. In January, an Israeli man stabbed a one-year-old African baby in the head and later explained to police that he did it because “they said that a black baby, blacks in general, are terrorists.”

A third type of racist assault that is occurring with increasing frequency in Israel is attacks on public spaces which are shared by Jews and non-Jews. There are fewer than 10 integrated schools in all of Israel in which Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking students learn together in the same classrooms, yet these have continuously been the targeted with Hebrew graffiti reading “End the miscegenation,” “There is no coexistence with cancer” and other racist messages. In November, Israelis vandalized the only mixed school in the Jerusalem area, torching schoolbooks and the first-grade classroom.

Increasingly, Jewish Israelis who protest the racist incitement and assaults are also subject to verbal and physical attacks on the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Although these pale in comparison to the threats against Palestinians, Africans and other non-Jewish groups, many of these liberal Israelis are now afraid to express themselves in public or even on the Internet, for fear of losing their friends, their jobs, or worse. Increasing numbers of Israelis are applying for second passports and job opportunities abroad, despairing over the direction the country is headed in and their inability to bring it back from the brink. Instead, they are seeking to save themselves and their families.

Despite painstaking efforts by mainstream media gatekeepers, word of Israeli incitement and racist attacks against non-Jews is finally starting to seep out. Outside observers who had previously assumed that Israel’s war with Palestinians is based on age-old enmity and an intractable battle over land are starting to wonder if a Zionist drive for ethno-religious purity might actually be a main cause of the conflict.

Last year, the European Union announced it would specifically label goods made in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, to distinguish them from other Israeli products. In recent months, one European parliament after another has voted in favor of officially recognizing the “State of Palestine”: Sweden, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In North America, progressive churches and labor unions have started supporting the BDS movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it treats all citizens equally, ends its military occupations, and solves the problem of Palestinian refugees. With anti-racist advocacy in the United States experiencing a resurgence, communities of color are re-establishing ties with global allies, including Palestinian activists.

The visions of average Americans for the future of Israel and Palestine are also starting to shift. A survey published earlier this month by The Brookings Institution found that a third of all Americans want Israel and Palestine to be a single state with equal rights for all, regardless of race or religion.

Asked which alternative would be preferable if the option of separate sovereign states of Israel and Palestine proves to be impossible, 71% of Americans surveyed (84% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans) said they would prefer that it become a single democratic state. Of the Jewish Americans and Jewish-Israeli Americans surveyed, 61% expressed the same preference; only 34% said they would rather Israel discriminate in favor of Jews and against non-Jews.

In recent years, fearful of losing these last bastions of unqualified international support, Israeli leaders turned to American marketing managers for guidance. The advice of these ad executives was to re-brand “crazy” Israel as “sexy” and “cool.”

To make Israel seem sexy instead of brutal, conventionally attractive Jewish Israeli women would be chosen to represent Israel, sometimes wearing elements of Israeli army uniforms, and often in various states of undress. To make Israel seem cool instead of racist, token Jewish African-Israeli success stories would be said to represent the rule in Israel, when they are only the few exceptions that prove the rule of state racism towards people of color.

I delineated these two tactics, called “sex-washing” and “black-washing,” respectively, in a series of lectures at Florida colleges in October. Israel’s strategic use of sex-washing and black-washing are misogynist and racist in and of themselves, to be sure, but they also harbor deep internal inconsistencies. The woman who best embodies the overlap between both campaigns, the first Black Miss Israel, perfectly illustrates this contradiction. During her hasbara tour of the United States in February, Yityish Aynaw used her limelight to defend Israel’s persecution of non-Jewish African refugees.

As the government rounds Africans, who have committed no crime except for requesting political asylum, off the streets of Tel Aviv into desert detention centers, Aynaw smeared them as rabid rapists, one of the oldest and most disgusting anti-black tropes. Israeli police statistics show that African crime rates, including for violent crimes, are far lower than those of native Israelis.

Likewise, just as Israel’s black-washing strategy contains the seeds of its own anti-blackness, its sex-washing strategy also contains the seeds of its own sexism. Top Israeli politicians smear all Palestinians and Africans as potential domestic abusers, while a long string of sex criminals and alleged sex criminals oozes out of their own ranks: multiple ministers, multiple directors of the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s driver and multiple candidates for president and the former president himself, among others.

Rampant rape culture is not confined to political elites in Israel. Studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 found that 20% of Israeli men admit to having forced a woman to have sex, and 61% of Israeli men do not consider forcing a woman to have sex constitutes rape—if she is a previous acquaintance.

The government makes no effort to combat this horrific phenomenon, for which it is at least partially culpable. Just the opposite: it multiplies the misogyny by promoting Jewish Israeli women as sex objects for its own political ends.

On one hand, the government markets the sexual availability of Jewish Israeli women in order to entice a male and mainly non-Jewish audience outside of Israel to support the state. On the other hand, inside the country, state-sponsored groups conduct witch-hunts against the few Jewish Israeli women that have the courage to date non-Jewish men, despite the avalanche of social pressure bearing down on these couples.

These developments may be disturbing, but sadly, they are not unique. In fact, sex-washing was used as a tactic by the official organizations of the Jewish settlement enterprise in Palestine even prior to Israel’s existence. As dramatized in the 2011 British mini-series The Promise, the Yishuv trained Jewish women to court the British soldiers stationed in the country and use their wiles to convince them of the merits of the Zionist idea to establish a Jewish state. At the same time, the Jewish leadership condemned those women who struck up real romantic relationships with non-Jews and ostracized them as race-traitors. Many of these women were threatened and physically attacked, and some were even murdered by anti-miscegenation syndicates.

With every passing day, far-right Members of Knesset are further emboldened, vying to enshrine state-sponsored discrimination in Israeli law, as it already is, de facto. With progressive parliamentarians only holding one-seventh of the seats of the nationalist camp—and this number likely to drop even further in the next Knesset—there seems to be no force in Israeli society that can hold back this frightening tide.

If a coalition of foreign forces finally musters up the courage to call out Israeli leaders on their rampant racism, it will require the ability to see through the state’s deceptive propaganda campaigns. Israel’s friends must realize that the government’s cynical use of Jewish women and people of color are not reasons to shield the regime from judgment, but rather to ramp up criticism of it and demand it end racist incitement and protect all populations, regardless of religion or gender.


The assault on Gaza: A historic crime

21 July 2014

At least 100 Palestinians were killed Sunday as Israel escalated its savage land, sea and air attack on Gaza. In a single neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City, Shejaiya, Israeli bombs and artillery shells killed at least 62 people and wounded nearly 300 others. Among the dead were 17 women, 14 children and four elderly people. The corpses of women and children lined the streets of Shejaiya as people fled on foot and in overloaded vehicles.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said more than 63,000 people had sought sanctuary in the 49 shelters it has set up in Gaza. “The number has tripled in the last three days,” UNRWA said, “reflecting the intensity of the conflict and the inordinate threats the fighting is posing to civilians.”

Hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed by the wounded and other civilians seeking sanctuary from the relentless bombardment. Supplies of bandages and basic medicines were running out. In large parts of the besieged territory, water and electricity were cut off.

The Israeli military defended its use of flechette shells against the Palestinian population, saying it was permitted under the laws of war. Flechette shells spray out thousands of tiny metal darts with sharpened tips, designed to shred human flesh.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based organization generally allied to the American political establishment, released a report indicting Israel for deliberately targeting civilian facilities. “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war,” the report stated.

The Israeli state is carrying out mass murder in Gaza. Its troops, tanks, war planes and gunboats are perpetrating a massacre of defenseless Palestinians trapped inside a tiny, impoverished and densely populated territory. No one really knows how many have been killed in the two weeks of Israeli bombing and shelling. But Palestinian hospital officials as of mid-day Sunday put the figure at 436, with more than 3,000 wounded. The dead include more than 100 children.

If this is not a war crime, then what is?

The lies given out by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to justify this atrocity are beneath contempt. People are told not to believe what they are seeing with their own eyes in news reports and videos, despite the grossly distorted, pro-Israeli coverage provided by most of the corporate-controlled media. Israeli officials have the temerity to claim that their actions are a defensive response to aggression from Hamas. But the facts speak for themselves: the civilian death toll is heading rapidly toward 1,000 on the Palestinian side, while only two Israeli civilians have died as a result of Hamas’ crude rockets.

The measures taken by Hamas are the defensive response of an isolated and besieged people to a savage onslaught, the culmination of decades of unrelenting and ever-escalating Israeli violence. Nearly fifty years after the Six Day War and seizure of the occupied territories, the Zionist regime has utterly failed to crush the resistance of the Palestinian masses. The current paroxysm of violence is an expression of desperation rather than confidence in the future. For all its cynicism and brutality, the Israeli government gives the impression of a regime that has lost its bearings.

In its long and bloody history, Israel in the past four days has crossed a fundamental line. Its actions in Gaza are those of a society in a state of political and moral disintegration—the result of the dead end of Zionism.

It is now clear that the murder two weeks ago of 16-year-old Muhammad Khdeir in East Jerusalem by Israeli fascists, who poured gasoline down the youth’s throat and set him on fire, was only the precursor to a far broader crime, carried out by the highest authorities of the Israeli state.

More and more, Israel is looked upon around the world as a pariah state run by a combination of fascists and lunatics. Outrage against it is mounting among working people and youth internationally.

Israel could not carry out such a naked crime without the support, political and material, of the imperialist powers and capitalist governments around the world. The world is witnessing a globally orchestrated war crime, carried out with the enthusiastic and open support of the international capitalist class.

First and foremost is the United States, which has supplied Israel with the bulk of the weapons it is using to murder Palestinians. Last Wednesday, on the eve of Israel’s ground invasion, President Barack Obama appeared before the press in the White House and gave Israel his full support for the impending bloodbath.

Obama did not even bother to mouth the usual clichés about “restraint” and “limiting casualties.” Instead, he repeated verbatim the lying Israeli line, declaring, “There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.” This was said as Israeli missiles and bombs were killing Palestinians every hour.

He then blamed Hamas for “prolonging the conflict” by refusing to accept a phony ceasefire that was, in fact, a demand for abject surrender made for the purpose of creating a pretext for launching a ground war.

Interviewed Sunday on ABC Television’s “This Week” program, US Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to respond to the statement by Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi that what was happening in Gaza was a “massacre” and “war crime.” Kerry dismissed the charge as Palestinian “rhetoric” and added cynically, “War is ugly and bad things are going to happen.”

Kerry knows full well that he is lying when he defends the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. His cynicism and duplicity were exposed on the “Fox News Sunday” interview program when the moderator played a clip of Kerry holding a cell phone conversation just before he went on air. Speaking of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, he said sarcastically, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation… We’ve got to get over there.”

Then there are the European powers, all of whom are giving Israel their full support. The Socialist Party government of France has gone so far as to ban demonstrations against the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and mobilize riot police to attack protesters in Paris with tear gas.

The United Nations, as always, has fallen into line with the wishes of the major imperialist powers, calling on “both sides” to refrain from violence, in what is a completely one-sided slaughter.

The Arab bourgeois regimes are either openly or tacitly collaborating with Israel in the attack on Gaza. The US-client regime headed by the military butcher El Sisi in Egypt has sealed the border to prevent Gazans from fleeing the Israeli military and finding sanctuary in Egypt. El Sisi brokered the bogus ceasefire proposal to provide a pretext for the Israeli ground assault.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas is doing the dirty work for the Zionist state and US imperialism, conspiring against Hamas while suppressing anti-Israeli protests on the West Bank.

There is nothing left of the myth of Arab nationalism and unity. All of the bourgeois regimes and parties have been exposed as petty agents of imperialism.

Hamas is exhibiting undoubted courage in seeking to resist the murderous Israeli offensive. But it does not have a viable political perspective. Based on nationalism, it seeks the support of Arab regimes that are completely subordinated to the imperialist powers, leaving the Palestinian masses isolated and virtually defenseless.

The homicidal violence in Gaza that is being aided and abetted by governments around the world is a warning to the working class of every country. It is proof of the complete ruthlessness of imperialism. It will not shrink from any crime to eliminate whatever gets in the way of its global economic and geo-political ambitions.

The defense of the Palestinian people is the task of the international working class. Israeli workers, in the first instance, must separate themselves from the criminals who run their country. Large sections of the Israeli people are being implicated in vile crimes. And there are voices within the Israeli establishment who are openly talking about the physical extermination of the Palestinian people—a Nazi-like “final solution.”

The Israeli workers must oppose the slaughter in Gaza. They must turn to their natural allies, the Arab workers and oppressed masses.

The American, European and international working class must give a lead to the widespread outrage and revulsion felt by millions over what is taking place in Gaza. It must demand an immediate halt to the carnage. Demonstrations of protest and solidarity with the Palestinians must be called in every country.

The demand must be raised to hold accountable the war criminals in Tel Aviv and their accomplices in Washington and every other capital around the world. The struggle must be directed not only against the Israeli government, but against the imperialist and capitalist governments that facilitate its crimes.

Patrick Martin and Barry Grey

Between selective sympathy and collective punishment

by Jerome Roos on July 5, 2014

Post image for Between selective sympathy and collective punishment

Rampant racism and strategic opportunism are driving Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians, who — as always — receive little sympathy.

This article was written for TeleSUR English, which will launch on July 24.

This week, Israel was shaken by the horrific discovery of the bodies of three young teenagers, buried under a shallow pile of rocks just north of the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Naftali (16), Gilad (16) and Edal (19) had been kidnapped near the Gush Etzion settlements on June 12 while hitchhiking home from their yeshivas, and it is suspected that they were fatally shot shortly thereafter. For days now, the country has been transfixed by a sense of collective mourning and shared sympathy for the boys’ families.

As was to be expected, Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately blamed Hamas for the killings and ordered a large-scale crackdown on the occupied territories, followed by the bombing of over 30 sites in Gaza just hours after the discovery of the boys’ bodies. Since the kidnapping on June 12, Israeli violence has left at least seven Palestinians dead, including 10-year-old Ali and 15-year-old Mohammed, and more than 400 arrested and thrown into administrative detention. On Wednesday, the body of another Palestinian boy was found dumped in the woods just hours after being abducted in East Jerusalem. It is suspected that 16-year-old Mohammed was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish extremists in revenge for the deaths of the Israeli teenagers. His body was so badly charred that investigators refused to let his father see it. Fierce riots broke out in East Jerusalem on Friday following Mohammed’s funeral.

Selective Sympathy

In recent weeks, the Israeli and international press have aggressively covered the disappearance of Naftali, Gilad and Edal — and rightly so. The deaths of the young Israelis undoubtedly warrants widespread media attention, while their mourning families deserve heartfelt sympathy. The moment we stop caring about the politically-motivated murder of innocent youths is the day we lose all claims to a human conscience. It is precisely for this reason that world leaders and the international media should now join their appropriate sense of disgust over the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers with unambiguous sympathy and unequivocal support for the families of the hundreds of young Palestinians who have fallen victim to lethal Israeli aggression over the years.

According to the Palestine branch of Defence for Children International, an independent NGO with branches in over 40 countries, more than 1.400 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since the start of the second intifada in 2000. While exceptional cases — like the “unlawful killing” of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers on Nakhba Day in May this year — do make it into the international headlines, the average Palestinian victim of lethal Israeli violence amounts to little more than a nameless statistic in the unread annual reports of a handful of human rights organizations. Other, less lethal and more structural forms of violence against Palestinians tend to go unreported altogether. In truth, few people in the West — let alone in Israel itself — really care for Palestinian suffering at all. That in itself is an affront to our common humanity.

Collective Punishment

But selective sympathy is hardly the only problem that the people of Palestine face today. In addition to an unjustifiable lack of international interest in the military, religious and structural violence they endure on a daily basis, the Palestinians are now suffering Israeli vengeance on a collective scale. For what it’s still worth, the Fourth Geneva Convention considers collective punishment to be a war crime — and for good reason. On its rampages through Europe in WWII, the Wehrmacht would often burn down homes and round up or execute random villagers in revenge for the deaths of German troops or the resistance put up by local populations. “Never again,” we used to say. Yet today, the Israeli government is resorting to similar tactics of collective punishment in the occupied territories, resorting to home raids and demolitions, mass arrests and aerial bombardments of densely-populated civilian areas to stamp out all resistance to the occupying forces — militant and non-violent alike.

And so the people of Palestine currently find themselves caught between selective sympathy from the international community and collective punishment at the hands of the Israeli military. At the same time, it is clear that neither occurs in a vacuum, and the latter in particular is undeniably driven by political opportunism on the part of the Israeli government. Local analysts claim that Netanyahu is not very keen on instigating a drawn-out conflict with Hamas, but there are at least two reasons why an escalation of armed conflict would be inevitable (and even desirable) for his government in the short-term. First, there is the need to stem or at least co-opt the embarrassing groundswell of overt racism in Israeli society. And then there is the unique opportunity to drive a wedge in the Fatah-Hamas unity government that was sworn in just a month ago, thereby continuing Netanyahu’s tested divide-and-rule diplomacy.

Rampant Racism

The first point is the most self-evident: Israel is simply frothing at the mouth with racist bigotry and anti-Arab sentiment right now. Earlier this week, groups of far-right extremists went on a rampage through Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs!” and looking for Arab Israeli civilians to beat up, while settlers have intensified their assaults on Palestinians in Hebron and elsewhere. Meanwhile, a Facebook group full of racist anti-Arab commentary called “the nation of Israel demands revenge” managed to gather 35.000 followers — many of them soldiers — in just two days, through explicit calls for vengeance against random Palestinians. An influential rabbi even urged the government to “turn the IDF into an army of avengers, ‘which will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins’.”

Since then, numerous Palestinian youths have faced brutal violence from Israeli soldiers and citizens alike: an angry mob of Jews was caught on camera assaulting a young Palestinian man on a public bus, and a 15-year-old Palestinian-American boy was severely lynched by Israeli police and is currently still held in prison without charge. In this context of rampant racism, Netanyahu’s firm response to the death of the three teenagers must be seen as first and foremost serving a domestic political purpose. A secular hardliner himself, Netanyahu can ill-afford to be seen to waver in the face of an overt “Palestinian provocation” (i.e., the kidnapping of the three teenagers), much less be outflanked on the right on issues of national security.

At the same time, the overt racism emanating from civil society poses a major challenge to Israeli officials, who are acutely aware of the fact that negative PR could further erode the support of Israel’s key allies in Europe and the US. Part of a longer-term development going back to the expulsion of 8.000 Israeli settlers during Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, and more recently finding its expression in a doubling of hate crimes and the rise of the so-called “Price Tag” movement of racist and religious vandalism, the rise of Jewish extremism goes hand-in-hand with growing anti-government sentiment among settlers and the ultra-orthodox — giving Netanyahu a double incentive to try to appease and co-opt the racist anger. By aligning himself with popular outrage over the kidnapping and channeling the country’s deep-seated hatred of everything Arab (or gentile, for that matter) into a violent crackdown on Hamas militants and ordinary Palestinians alike, Netanyahu may succeed in deflecting some of the far-right’s anti-government sentiment and overt racism, diverting it back into the slightly less embarrassing form of secular “Israeli nationalism” espoused by his Likud party and the army (which obviously serves the exact same purpose: to legitimate the occupation and the idea of the Jewish State).

Strategic Opportunism

Beyond these internal political motivations, however, there is another, more strategic concern that is likely to animate the government’s heavy-handed response to the killings. For years, Netanyahu’s policy towards the Palestinians has been driven by a carefully crafted divide-and-rule strategy that seeks to continually segment the Palestinian population between Christians and Muslims, between inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank, and between Arab Israelis and Palestinians living in PA-controlled territory — all while relentlessly prying apart the Palestinian leadership in order to undermine its bid for statehood at the United Nations. By skillfully keeping the militants from Hamas and the moderates from Fatah at loggerheads with one another, the Israelis have long prevented the emergence of a unified Palestinian front and thus kept their enemy internally divided. Stoking the flames of Palestinian extremism through economic sanctions and carefully targeted attacks on Hamas militants and officials has always been a core component of that approach. By continuously co-opting Fatah and using every opportunity imaginable to provoke Hamas, the chances of Palestinian unity were greatly diminished.

Some of that seemed to change in April this year, however, when Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact that eventually led to the swearing in of a unity government on June 2. Ever since, the Netanyahu government has been doing everything in its power to frustrate the proper functioning of the pact, even barring Ministers from Gaza from entering the West Bank for their swearing-in ceremony. As Sharif Nashashibi remarked for Al Jazeera last month, “Israel has made clear that it will do all it can to thwart Palestinian unity. It has imposed economic sanctions on the PA, refuses to negotiate with the new government, and has urged the international community not to recognise it.” In this context, the disappearance of the three Israeli teenagers on June 12 played right into the hands of the Israeli government: it gave Netanyahu the perfect justification for a renewed crackdown on Hamas and a political justification to drive a wedge in the fledgling Palestinian unity government.

Political Ploy

While some of its officials openly praised the kidnappings, Hamas neither confirmed nor denied any involvement — and while it is undoubtedly possible that its leader did indeed give the order for this heinous crime, it is equally possible that the suspected kidnappers acted independently of Hamas’ command structures. None of this, however, really matters to the Israeli government, for whom the triple kidnapping simply presented itself as a convenient opportunity to re-establish a nationalist pro-government discourse while furthering the strategic aims of the occupation. Within days, the Israeli military had moved in to detain hundreds of Hamas leaders while stepping up the pressure on the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The divide-and-rule strategy appears to be working. While Hamas has openly called for a third intifada in response to the Israeli crackdown, Abbas has roundly condemned the kidnappers and has pledged the continuation of Palestinian-Israeli security coordination and the prevention of another Palestinian uprising. The odds of the unity government surviving now appear increasingly dim.

And so, while the world rightly expresses shock and horror at the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers, it appears to have all but forgotten about the tragic ways in which Israel’s occupation and war crimes affect the lives of ordinary Palestinian citizens on a everyday basis. Caught between selective sympathy and collective punishment, it is once again the latter who bear the brunt of an utterly disproportionate Israeli crackdown and a military and civilian quest for vengeance driven by deep-seated racism and religious hatred. When will this bloody madness end?

Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at the European University Institute, and the founding editor of ROAR Magazine.

The Demonization of Hamas

What Destruction of Israel?



When, in response to the threat of potential Palestinian reconciliation and unity, the Israeli government suspended “negotiations” with the Palestine Liberation Organization on April 24 (five days before they were due to terminate in any event), Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office issued a statement asserting: “Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

In a series of related media appearances, Mr. Netanyahu hammered repeatedly on the “destruction of Israel” theme as a way of blaming Palestine for the predictable failure of the latest round of the seemingly perpetual “peace process”.

The extreme subjectivity of the epithet “terrorist” has been highlighted by two recent absurdities – the Egyptian military regime’s labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has won all Egyptian elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, as a “terrorist” organization and the labeling by the de facto Ukrainian authorities, who came to power through illegally occupying government buildings in Kiev, of those opposing them by illegally occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine as “terrorists”. In both cases, those who have overthrown democratically elected governments are labeling those who object to their coups as “terrorists”.

It is increasingly understood that the word “terrorist”, which has no agreed definition, is so subjective as to be devoid of any inherent meaning and that it is commonly abused by governments and others who apply it to whomever or whatever they hate in the hope of demonizing their adversaries, thereby discouraging and avoiding rational thought and discussion and, frequently, excusing their own illegal and immoral behavior.

Mr. Netanyahu’s assertion that Hamas “calls for the destruction of Israel” requires rational analysis as well.

He is not the only guilty party in this regard. The mainstream media in the West habitually attaches the phrase “pledged to the destruction of Israel” to each first mention of Hamas, almost as though it were part of Hamas’s name.

In the real world, what does the “destruction of Israel” actually mean? The land? The people? The ethno-religious-supremacist regime?

There can be no doubt that virtually all Palestinians – and probably still a significant number of Native Americans – wish that foreign colonists had never arrived in their homelands to ethnically cleanse them and take away their land and that some may even lay awake at night dreaming that they might, somehow, be able to turn back the clock or reverse history.

However, in the real world, Hamas is not remotely close to being in a position to cause Israel’s territory to sink beneath the Mediterranean or to wipe out its population or even to compel the Israeli regime to transform itself into a fully democratic state pledged to equal rights and dignity for all who live there. It is presumably the latter threat – the dreaded “bi-national state” – that Mr. Netanyahu has in mind when he speaks of the “destruction of Israel”.

For propaganda purposes, “destruction” sounds much less reasonable and desirable than “democracy” even when one is speaking about the same thing.

In the real world, Hamas has long made clear, notwithstanding its view that continuing negotiations within the framework of the American-monopolized “peace process” is pointless and a waste of time, that it does not object to the PLO’s trying to reach a two-state agreement with Israel; provided only that, to be accepted and respected by Hamas, any agreement reached would need to be submitted to and approved by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

In the real world, the Hamas vision (like the Fatah vision) of peaceful coexistence in Israel/Palestine is much closer to the “international consensus” on what a permanent peace should look like, as well as to international law and relevant UN resolutions, than the Israeli vision – to the extent that one can even discern the Israeli vision, since no Israeli government has ever seen fit to publicly reveal what its vision, if any exists beyond beyond maintaining and managing the status quo indefinitely, actually looks like.

As the Fatah and Hamas visions have converged in recent years, the principal divergence has become Hamas’s insistence (entirely consistent with international law and relevant UN resolutions) that Israel must withdraw from the entire territory of the State of Palestine, which is defined in the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29, 2012, recognizing Palestine’s state status as “the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967” (including, significantly, the definite article “the” missing from “withdraw from territories” in the arguably ambiguous UN Security Council Resolution 242), in contrast to Fatah’s more flexible willingness to consider agreed land swaps equal in size and value.

After winning the last Palestinian elections and after seven years of responsibility for governing Gaza under exceptionally difficult circumstances, Hamas has become a relatively “moderate” establishment party, struggling to rein in more radical groups and prevent them from firing artisanal rockets into southern Israel, a counterproductive symbolic gesture which Israeli governments publicly condemn but secretly welcome (and often seek to incite in response to their own more lethal violence) as evidence of Palestinian belligerence justifying their own intransigence.

Mr. Netanyahu’s “destruction of Israel” mantra should not be taken seriously, either by Western governments or by any thinking person. It is long overdue for the Western mainstream media to cease recycling mindless – and genuinely destructive – propaganda and to adapt their reporting to reality, and it is long overdue for Western governments to cease demonizing Hamas as an excuse for doing nothing constructive to end a brutal occupation which has now endured for almost 47 years.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.