Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jewish Voices of Dissent on Gaza

by César Chelala | Middle East Time, January 25, 2009

As the dust is settling on the barren Gazan landscape, it is appropriate to listen to the voices of Jewish intellectuals who have forcefully spoken against the Israeli government actions in Gaza. Their opinion helps bring a much needed perspective on the situation.

Uri Avnery, one of the most outspoken leaders in the Israeli human rights community, a former Israeli soldier and member of the Knesset writes, “In this war, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few thousand lightly-armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.”

“Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (”The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are retaliation for the siege that starves the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.”

The Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns were the excuse for the more than 1,400 people, many of them civilians, killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and for the thousands of maimed.

In a speech in the House of Commons on Jan. 15 MP Gerald Kaufman said, “My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home in Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed.”

“My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for the murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians don’t count.”

The IDF claim that maximum care had been taken to minimize civilians lost of lives. Sara Roy, a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, wrote recently in the Christian Science Monitor, “One Palestinian friend asked me, ‘Why did Israel attack when the children were leaving school and the women were in the markets’?”

“And what will happen to Jews as a people whether we live in Israel or not? Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them within our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.”

With the cease-fire now in effect, it is fair to ask what has been the result of this tragic war. Has it made Israel safer, has it destroyed Hamas, has it eliminated the threat of Hamas firing Qassam rockets into Israeli towns and cities? Has it made the population of Gaza more moderate? Let’s listen to Gideon Levy.

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz Levy states: “On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war has ended in utter failure for Israel…. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image…. The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot to international law.”

Or, as Sara Roy also states, “Israel’s victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust? As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered but also humane? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain? The answers will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.”

César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

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