By David McReynolds
Let me start this commentary with a note about an Israeli film which has opened in NYC – “The Gatekeepers.” This features six retired heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency. These men can hardly be considered voices from the Israeli left – but they are unanimous in their sense that the political scene in Israel is not good, and getting worse. I hope the film finds a wide audience.
Netanyahu is an Extreme Rightist
We should be reminded, in looking at anything involving Netanyahu, that we are not dealing with an “ordinary” head of state, but with a man of the far right. His late father was an open racist whose comments about the Palestinians are fully the equal of the Nazi views of the Jews, and was a follower of the Jabotinsky movement – the extreme right of the Zionist movement (Jabotinsky worked with Mussolini before WW II). The Israeli Prime Minister is truly his father’s son.
It is ironic that the recent violence in Gaza comes just after the U.S. election, in which Netanyahu all but openly enlisted as a supporter of Romney, so that Obama owes the Israeli Prime Minister no favors. (To rebut the charge that Jewish money buys American elections, Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire – with an estimated fortune of over 20 billion dollars – gave at least 30 million dollars to the Republican Party in an effort to defeat Obama!).
Risky Gamble Pays Off for Hamas
From the Israeli point of view, the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which not only resulted in a number of civilian deaths, but also involved a deliberate Israeli attack on a clearly marked media car (see “Using War As Cover to Target Journalists,” NY Times, November 26) which killed Palestinian reporters, was no more than a response to “terrorist” attacks by Hamas in Gaza. In fact, this was a military exchange which suited both Hamas and Israel. There was no special occasion for the Israeli air strikes except to provoke Hamas into sending vast numbers of rockets into Israel. Thus Israel was able to test its new “Iron Dome” defense against rockets – something that will come in handy in the event of war with Iran or a conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. A kind of test run, at little cost to Israel.
And Hamas scored a clear win by its risky gamble. In a situation where the Palestinians are divided between Prime Minister Abbas in the West Bank, the man who is nominally head of the Palestinian Authority, and the more militant Hamas, which had won elections in Gaza, it was Abbas who was sidelined, while Hamas won its gamble by forcing the Egyptians to deal with Hamas directly.
As others have observed, this was not only a victory for Hamas, but also for Israel, which achieved at one stroke a deep division between the two sides of the Palestinians. Abbas, who had accepted the right of Israel to exist, who had curbed any attacks on Israel from the West Bank, who had shown his willingness to pursue a peaceful path to a two state solution, is suddenly marginalized, and Israel can point to Hamas in Gaza as proof that there is no one with whom Israel can make peace.
Nonviolence is Best Hope for Palestinians
The U.S., having ignored the Palestinian issue for the last four years, came to the negotiations with Hamas, via Egypt. (And in the process strengthened the hand of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader of Egypt, who, as this is written, is trying to establish himself as a man with unlimited powers in Egypt – we will have to wait to see how that plays out).
Israel has no interest whatever in a peaceful settlement. By provoking the attacks from Gaza, it is able once more to claim that Israeli civilians are threatened by the terrorism of the Palestinians. A word on “terrorism”, which Israel and her American defenders use so lightly. If the Palestinians who fire rockets are terrorists, then so are the pilots of the Israeli jets which carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders. One cannot justify the violence of one side while terming the violence of those who
resist as being “terrorism”. On both moral and pragmatic grounds I believe the best hope for the Palestinians lies in the nonviolent movements that have emerged in the West Bank (and to which the American media have paid almost no attention). But the Israeli actions are so cynical, and so illegal under international law, that violent resistance is justified and Netanyahu can expect no sympathy from those of us outside of Israel.
If this recent bloody exchange, in which both Israel and Hamas were willing to lose some innocent civilians in order to score political points, proves anything it is that Americans need to focus attention on the only thing which might move Israel to negotiate, and that is to cut off all economic and military aid to Israel.
Those who ask me why I focus on Israel more than on, for example, China over the issue of Tibet, or Russia or the issue of Chechnya, it is because the US is not sending military and economic aid to China or Russia. It is because our tax money buys the military hardware for Israel, and because our political leadership, in fear of AIPAC, will not speak out for justice for the Palestinians. We must speak out for the Palestinians, and we can do so knowing that American Jews no longer see Israel in the same way it was seen ten and twenty years ago.
The issue of the Palestinian people can no longer be left to the Israelis and the Palestinians, nor can we assume that non-Jews have no moral obligation to speak out. All Americans share in the responsibility for the criminal actions of the State of Israel. The hope of Israel will not come from those who support it, but from those who demand that Israel be held to the standards of international law. Φ
David McReynolds was for nearly forty years a member of the staff of the War Resisters League, and was twice the Socialist Party’s candidate for President. He and the late Barbara Deming are the subjects of a dual biography, A Saving Remnant, by Martin Duberman, published by the New Press, and available in paperback. McReynolds retired in 1999, and lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his two cats. He can be reached at: email@example.com. His website is: EdgeLeft.org.