Tuesday 19 December 2023

This Is Not a War Against Hamas


From Jeremy Scahill, probably one of my most admired, most repected journalists:

THE EVENTS OF the past week should obliterate any doubt that the war against the Palestinians of Gaza is a joint U.S.–Israeli operation. On Friday, as the Biden administration stood alone among the nations of the world in vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was busy circumventing congressional review to ram through approval of an “emergency” sale of 13,000 tank rounds to Israel. For weeks, Blinken has been zipping across the Middle East and appearing on scores of television networks in a PR tour aimed at selling the world the notion that the White House is deeply concerned about the fate of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents. “Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them,” Blinken declared on November 10. A month later, with the death toll skyrocketing and calls for a ceasefire mounting, Blinken assured the world Israel was implementing new measures to protect civilians and that the U.S. was doing everything it could to encourage Israel to employ a tiny bit more moderation in its widespread killing campaign. Friday’s events decisively flushed those platitudes into a swirling pool of blood.

Over the past two months, Benjamin Netanyahu has argued, including on U.S. news channels, “Our war is your war.” In retrospect, this wasn’t a plea to the White House. Netanyahu was stating a fact. From the moment President Joe Biden spoke to his “great, great friend” Netanyahu on October 7, in the immediate aftermath of the deadly Hamas-led raids into Israel, the U.S. has not just supplied Israel with additional weapons and intelligence support, it has also offered crucial political cover for the scorched-earth campaign to annihilate Gaza as a Palestinian territory. It is irrelevant what words of concern and caution have flowed from the mouths of administration officials when all of their actions have been aimed at increasing the death and destruction.

The propaganda from the Biden administration has been so extreme at times that even the Israeli military has suggested they tone it down a notch or two. Biden falsely claimed to see images of “terrorists beheading children” and then knowingly relayed that unverified allegation as fact — including over the objections of his advisers — and publicly questioned the death toll of Palestinian civilians. None of this is by accident, nor can it be attributed to the president’s propensity to exaggerate or stumble into gaffes.

Everything we know about Biden’s 50-year history of supporting and facilitating Israel’s worst crimes and abuses leads to one conclusion: Biden wants Israel’s destruction of Gaza — with more than 7,000 children dead — to unfold as it has.

It has become indisputably clear over these past two months that there are not actually two sides to this horror show. Without question, the perpetrators who meted out the horrors against Israeli civilians on October 7 should be held accountable. But that is not what this collective killing operation is about. And journalists should stop pretending it is.

Any analysis of the Israeli state’s terror campaign against the people of Gaza cannot begin with the events of October 7. An honest examination of the current situation must view October 7 in the context of Israel’s 75-year war against the Palestinians and the past two decades of transforming Gaza first into an open-air prison and now into a killing cage. Under threat of being labeled antisemitic, Israel and its defenders demand acceptance of Israel’s official rationale for its irrational actions as legitimate, even if they are demonstrably false or they seek to justify war crimes. “You look at Israel today. It’s a state that has reached such a degree of irrational, rabid lunacy that its government routinely accuses its closest allies of supporting terrorism,” the Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani recently told Intercepted. “It is a state that has become thoroughly incapable of any form of inhibition.”

Israel has imposed, by lethal force, a rule that Palestinians have no legitimate rights of any form of resistance. When they have organized nonviolent demonstrations, they have been attacked and killed. That was the case in 2018-2019 when Israeli forces opened fire on unarmed protesters during the Great March of Return, killing 223 and wounding more than 8,000 others. Israeli snipers later boasted about shooting dozens of protesters in the knee during the weekly Friday demonstrations. When Palestinians fight back against apartheid soldiers, they are killed or sent into military tribunals. Children who throw rocks at tanks or soldiers are labeled terrorists and subjected to abuse and violations of basic rights — that is, if they are not summarily shot dead. Palestinians live their lives stripped of any context or any recourse to address the grave injustices imposed on them.

You cannot discuss the crimes of Hamas or Islamic jihad or any other armed resistance factions without first addressing the question of why these groups exist and have support. One aspect of this should certainly probe Netanyahu’s own role — extending back to at least 2012 — in propping up Hamas and facilitating the flow of money to the group. “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” Netanyahu told his Likud comrades in 2019.

But in the broader sense, a sincere examination of why a group such as Hamas gained popularity among Palestinians or why people in Gaza turn to armed struggle must focus on how the oppressed, when stripped of all forms of legitimate resistance, respond to the oppressor. It should be focused on the rights of people living under occupation to assert and defend their self-determination. It should allow Palestinians to have their struggle placed in the context of other historical battles for liberation and independence and not relegated to racist polemics about how all Palestinian acts of resistance constitute terrorism and there are not really any innocents in Gaza. Israel’s president said as much on October 13. “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Isaac Herzog declared. “It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”

The notion that the Palestinians of Gaza could end all of their suffering by overthrowing Hamas is just as ahistorical and false as the oft-repeated claims that the war against Gaza would end if Hamas surrendered and released all Israeli hostages. “Look, this could be over tomorrow,” Blinken said December 10. “If Hamas got out of the way of civilians instead of hiding behind them, if it put down its weapons, if it surrendered.” That, of course, is a crass lie. With or without Hamas, Israel’s war against the Palestinians would endure precisely because of Blinken and his ilk in elite bipartisan U.S. foreign policy circles.

Throughout the years of U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid regime, it has consistently facilitated Israel’s “mowing the grass” in Gaza. This is not a series of periodic assaults on Hamas — it is a cyclical campaign of terror bombings largely aimed at civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Biden administration is not — and Biden personally has never been — an outside observer or a friend encouraging moderation during an otherwise righteous crusade. None of this slaughter would be occurring if Biden valued Palestinian lives over Israel’s false narratives and its bloody ethnonationalist wars of annihilation repackaged as self-defense. We should end the charade that this is an Israeli war against Hamas. We should call it what it is: a joint U.S.–Israeli war against the people of Gaza.

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