This essay was first published in the Palestine Chronicle 2009 01 08.
Response to “Wartime in Gaza: The worst anti-Israel charges you'll hear”, Bradley Burston, Haaretz, December 29, 2008.
The following “leftist” arguments were presented for denial by Mr. Burston, a Haaretz correspondent who is obviously educated in the Israel as victim line of thinking. Some element of truth may be squeezed out of some of his counter arguments, but most are argued well out of the overall historical context, leaving the arguments as essentially more Israeli/U.S. jingoism and rhetoric. I tried to find the second five “rightist” arguments from on the web but a quick search provided no results. It would seem though that Burston is trying to position himself as the intelligent rationale centrist when all about him are losing their minds.
Leftist 1: Israel's true motive in bombing Gaza, is genocide against the Palestinian people and extermination of their right to statehood.
Burston argues that the real goal for both sides is to “Forcing a cease-fire on better terms than the one just ended.” That is highly unlikely as an immediate goal as the Israeli government has indicated its intentions to eradicate all Hamas influence. While that would certainly lead to a ‘cease-fire’ it would be an imposed cease-fire on a population even further constrained within a smaller perimeter and still with no rights at all – simply a smaller open air prison.
In the larger context, the ideals of Zionist policy since its original conception in the mid 1800s have been to ethnically cleanse all of Eretz Israel of any indigenous population. The process has been long and slow, but it remains one of the underlying motives of actions against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.
Leftist 2: The Palestinians have no recourse but to defend themselves, and the makeshift rockets they fire are nothing compared to the world's most advanced warplanes and munitions, which the IDF is using against them.
Yes, the use of Qassam rockets does go against international law as presented by Burston. It is not the Gazans only recourse, but one of frustration and hopelessness against a far superior military force that controls all aspects of life in Gaza – borders, waterways, airspace, water, resources, airports, and on – all in defiance of international laws of occupation. International law also recognizes the right of an occupied country to defend itself against the occupiers. Israel continually uses U.S. made weapons and their own high tech weapons to control the populations of the West Bank and Gaza. The hundreds of villages and towns cleansed by the Israeli forces in Palestine stand in contrast to the few that the Israelis withdrew from in Gaza an omission of context that nullifies Burstons "insult" by the Palestinians.
Leftist 3: All that Hamas is asking, is recognition as the democratically elected government of Gaza, and an end to the Israeli economic embargo. Were they to attain these goals, there would be calm on both sides of the border.
Looking at short term as compared to long-term goals, yes, this would probably be true. Whether it would remain that way for the long term is open to discussion, depending on whether Israel can practice “restraint” or would continue as it always has with sniper fire, rocket attacks, blockades, house destruction, infrastructure destruction, all contrary to international laws of the Geneva Conventions. Hamas has proven flexible and adaptive in its relationship with Fatah and Israel, much more so than the Israeli ability to accept a democratic state of all peoples in its supposedly god-given land.
And yes, Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. It was denied by the U.S., Canada, and European countries even though the elections were considered to be the fairest ever seen in that sector of the world. To deny that democracy flies in the face of the rhetoric and jingoism of both Israel and the U.S. and their cronies in other countries. It would have made a much more peaceful situation if the election had been supported, and rather than further alienating a radical group, to draw it into the mainstream and give it the responsibility it earned at the polls. It has worked in Northern Ireland and South Africa.
Leftist 4: The Israeli blockade against Hamas is state terrorism and any means to fight it are legitimate.
For Burston to argue against Israeli state terrorism on the idea that it is Hamas collecting taxes on smuggled goods and not Israel collecting taxes on overland trade goods is totally spurious and makes no logical sense. Yes, it is state terrorism andt no, not all means are “legitimate”, but what is “legitimate” when one is contained within a bantustan style prison camp that is completely controlled from outside?
Leftist 5: The world overwhelmingly sympathizes with the Palestinians against Israel, and unreservedly backs their struggle for independence.
This is one of those arguments that makes statements in absolutes, and absolutes are seldom true as there are many qualifiers to all situations. Is support for Palestine overwhelming? So far, no one has been overwhelmed – while the majority of the world may support the Palestinians, the elites that are in control in western countries and in several important Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan) do not want to allow that democratic majority to have any say in matters. Money and power flow to the elite and they want to keep it that way. Oil flows to the west.
Burston uses the old tired rhetoric of Israeli self-defence against Hamas atrocities. Again the overall context is missing, that of an occupying force using a far superior military to control a population confined within an open air prison, now looking much more like the Warsaw ghetto than anything else. If a global opinion poll were to be taken, then we would know whether there is “overwhelming” and “unreserved” support for Palestine. Unless that poll is taken, absolutist statements cannot effectively be argued.
Superficially and without much knowledge of the background history and cultural geography of the area on the reader's part, Burston's arguments may seem rational. But placing them in the broader context shows them to be just another pro-Israel line of rhetoric. While trying to place himself in the rationale center, he only demonstrates irrational rhetoric.