Friday, 7 December 2012

Gaza Through Israeli Eyes

by Nina Butler, The Jacobin

Israel’s largest circulation English newspapers, the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz,have constructed an alarmingly patchy impression of the aerial bombardment of Gaza the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) waged last week.

Take Ha’aretz, lauded as the most left-leaning Israeli publication, with sophisticated and provocative “opinionistas” that routinely criticise the conservative, trigger-happy seats of power.

Their headlines would suggest something different: “Israel’s Pillar of Defenseachieved its goals”; “The worst campaign for tourism to Israel ever”; “Entering Israel – Mexican tourist busted with drone parts in luggage”; “Israeli PR asks Germans what if your city were under fire”; “Israel’s arms industry hoping success of Iron Dome will bring it sales”; and my favorite, “In line of fire, Ashkelon hotel finds quirky new guests.”

The Jerusalem Post — which was ironically called the Palestine Post prior to 1948 — has a more mainstream readership. Its headlines read: “Schoolsremain closed in South despite night of quiet”; “IDF arrest 55 terror suspects in the West Bank”; “Military op ends, election campaign begins.”

A few days ago, they were running a story that covered the trauma cats and dogs belonging to Israeli families were undergoing due to bomb sirens.

In both headline reels there is not a single mention of the Palestinian death toll, or the fact that a family of 10 was massacred amid Israel’s recent round of “surgical strikes,” that journalists have been killed, and residential areastargeted. The revolving photo albums for Operation Pillar of Defence show images exclusively from Israel and diplomatic boardrooms.
The only one taken in Gaza is of a rocket launch.

That is Gaza for most Israelis.

Then click on a headline article in the Jerusalem Post from 21 November: “Truce distant possibility after Rishon Lezion strike.” Published to highlight the effects of an airstrike on the Tel Aviv area in which “six people were lightly wounded,” residents speak out regarding their sentiments on a cease fire: “Our neighbours in the region are watching us, and they see this as a sign of weakness.” Instead of peace they want to simply cripple Palestinians: “We have to do and go into Gaza like we did in the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield [in 2002], until the problem is solved.”

After give reasons why a ceasefire is not desirable a resident concludes: “They only understand force.”

The hypocrisy in this goes undetected by the Jerusalem Post writer who focuses on drawing out Israeli discomfort and duress in this time of war. Another resident is quoted: “of course we’re worried about the soldiers, but we have to take care of this problem.”

“This problem” is 11 million indigenous Palestinians, displaced, devastated, and occupied during the creation and expansion of the settler state.

As is characteristic of colonial settler communities, the indigenous population is either entirely ignored, or viewed through supremacist prisms.

Driving through the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, one sees the racist remarks spray-painted on mosques, and the crossing out of the names of Arab villages on road-signs — if there are road signs at all.

One only has to stand at any of the checkpoints across Israel to see Palestinians being herded, spat upon, ordered, and shoved through chutes like cattle. One only has to read the statements from the article on Tel Aviv residents above to see that even in Israel’s most “progressive” and purportedly multicultural city — one that is almost entirely free of Palestinians — the complete destruction of all of Gaza’s functionality is desired in order to alleviate “the problem.”

It’s a mentality fostered complete separation of living space and the confinement of Palestinians to Gaza and the West Bank, or residential segregation in Israel proper.
Through an advanced system of pass laws and checkpoints Israel ensures that most Palestinians never travel into Israel. As a result, most Israelis’ ideas of Palestinians are based upon the misimpressions created by the media and popular culture in Israel. Many have never even met a Palestinian.

This is not so different from the lives of white South Africans living in privileged suburbs of Johannesburg and Cape Town today. Although we are in a “post”-apartheid era and the socio-spatial divisions of race are blurring, they are not blurring too much.

To be wealthy and white still means that you never travel to squatter camps on the fringes of city space, and you certainly would never invite an impoverished black South African to a braai (barbecue) behind the barbed-wire walls of your Johannesburg home.

However, those people who roam on the fringes of shopping malls and palm-lined boulevards are increasingly adopting non-violent popular struggle strategies and starting to break down the barriers that keep them outside.

In a telepathic multinational display of solidarity with Gaza, there have beenprotests in the past week from London, to Indonesia, and Amsterdam, and to universities in the United States, to Karachi, and Kashmir, to Delhi, South Africa, Chile, and peace activist gatherings in Tel Aviv.
This outpour and sympathy and outrage is in spite of the unreasonably biasedglobal media coverage and on-going portrayal of Palestinians as “terrorists.”

But solidarity is on the rise. Palestinian flags are now common at progressive protests, graffiti across Kashmir reads “We are Palestinians too”; the chants in Tahrir Square called for the liberation of Palestine, in Greece many see their plight as an extension of the Palestinians’ struggle against colonial hegemony, Spanish students don kufiyyat as they shout for change, Palestinians occupy Wall Street, and London rioters mobilize behind the BDS movement.
A ceasefire is reached between Hamas and Israel. But the struggle is not over. Support actions must not fade away. The occupation of Palestine is more than apartheid walls, check-points, pass laws and blockades, it is a thoroughgoing system of dehumanization and exclusion. It continues amid the disregard and contempt of voyeurs sitting in their living rooms cheering on war crimes.
And it will not stop until we make it stop.