HOME  UP 
  

  GAZA 2023 -2024

Alan Dent 

The security fences breached by Hamas  on 7th October 2023 were formidable barriers, built at significant expense and trusted by Israelis, particularly it may be assumed, those who lived close by. Some of those were offered incentives to live close to the Gaza border: reductions in income tax for example. There was always the risk of rocket attacks, but the Iron Dome system was well-tested and highly effective. There were watchtowers, remotely-controlled machine guns, patrols. The incursion should have been impossible, or at least so difficult its attempt would alert the ubiquitous IDF. According to Michael McCaul chair of the US House foreign affairs committee, Israel was warned three days prior by Egypt about the possibility of “something big”. 70% of Israel’s armed forces were busy in the West Bank, but that left something like 60,000 regular soldiers. (Guardian 12th Oct 2023). This was a monumental intelligence failure, on behalf of both the US and Israel. Some estimates suggest planning might have taken a year. Bulldozers were, it seems, parked on the Gaza side for a day or more before the assault. The IDF later admitted the failure, an unusual occurrence. Perhaps it was nothing more than arrogance, the belief that such a thing was simply unthinkable. On the other hand, perhaps someone didn’t care enough. In the closing days of October a row erupted between Netanyahu and Lapid after the PM posted a message blaming the Israeli security forces; an astonishing attribution given his position and responsibility. The leader withdrew his statement. This leaves begging the question of who was responsible. Netanyahu did not accept blame. Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s veteran man-in-the-Middle-East, pertinently pointed out that prior to 7th October Netanyahu was in serious trouble, facing not only the end of his political career, but a possible jail sentence. The war saved him, though it was clear within a fortnight that a substantial number of Israelis blamed him and wanted a ground invasion delayed until the hostages were safely home. Just how the failure happened may never be known, but one thing is clear: it wasn’t the fault of Hamas. They cruelly exploited Israeli laxness and their assault was a war crime, as well as simply morally despicable; but a State such as Israel, which had illegally occupied the West Bank for fifty-six years, imposed an equally illegal siege of Gaza for a decade and a half and relied on supreme vigilance to keep its citizens safe, could not afford the negligence which permitted hundreds of Hamas fighters to run amok in its border settlement.

Yasmin Porat, a 44 year-old mother of three was grazed on the left thigh by a bullet during the attack. She and her partner, Tal Katz, were at the rave, escaped to the Be’eri Kibbutz where they were kindly sheltered in the home of Adi and Hadas Dagan. Her first call to the police went unanswered. The time of that call is uncertain. Discovered by the fighters, they were taken to another house where there were eight captives and one dead victim. Ms Porat said she and her partner were treated “humanely”, though at one point she was used as a human shield by a Hamas commander who wanted to give himself up, stripped naked and held her in front of him as he approached the police who were on the house’s lawn. She called to the police not to shoot. The fighter released her a few metres from the police. According to her account her captors said, “…we’re not going to kill you. We want to take you to Gaza. So be calm, you’re not going to die.” They were waiting for the police to arrive, seemingly because they imagined they could conduct the matter of taking the hostages to Gaza under their supervision.

It was eight hours after the attack before the police arrived. Half an hour prior, Ms Porat had succeeded in contacting them by phone. An immediate gun fight broke out. In the crossfire, Ms Porat said, some Israelis were killed. Interviewed by Aryeh Golan on Israeli State Radio on 15th October at  5.49 a.m., Ms Porat claimed that “undoubtedly” Israelis were killed by their own side. Given the Israeli claims about the bloodthirsty nature of the attack and their initial tally of 1,400 dead, establishing how many were killed by the Israeli police is a crucial matter. Ms Porat’s testimony was quickly and easily available online, but the mainstream British media ignored it virtually entirely. She commented “For ten hours the kibbutz was abandoned.” She also recounted that two tanks shells were fired into a house occupied by Israeli residents. Hamas has no tanks.

Tuval Escapa, security co-ordinator at Kibbutz Be’eri commented, “Israeli commanders made difficult decisions, including shelling homes on their occupants in order to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages.” Danielle Rachiel was nearly killed by Israeli fire as she fled the Nova festival. The images of the Kibbutzim presented by Israel showed utter destruction. The Hamas fighters were armed with machine guns and grenades. Charred bodies dumped in a skip were Hamas fighters. Concrete structures had been destroyed. Maybe some of this was by grenades, but the extent of the destruction was consistent with shell fire. Israeli Apache helicopter pilots were hard pressed to distinguish Hamas fighters from Israeli civilians and at least some fleeing Israelis were taken for Hamas men. (Middle East Monitor 30th October 2023).

The immediate Israeli response to the attack was horror, dismay, the invocation of The Holocaust and avowal to hunt down and destroy Hamas, who were portrayed as monsters motivated by “pure evil” and an unmediated desire to exterminate Jews. Crucial to the story was the extreme violence of the attack and its sickening results. Of course, to admit that even one Israeli death was the result of Israeli fire would have been catastrophic. It had to be true that all fourteen hundred dead, who turned out to be twelve hundred, had been wickedly slaughtered by the morally bereft Hamas fighters. Yet if what is recounted above is even marginally true, it may be that dozens or even hundreds of Israelis were slain by their own side.

 Netanyahu made no apology for the security failure, if such it was. Political leaders in the “West” were quick to offer unconditional support to Israel reiterating at every opportunity the principle that Israel had the right to defend itself. No one in leadership questioned this principle, yet it holds only if the dehistoricization of the Hamas attack is assumed. It was some days before Antonio Guterres argued the event didn’t take place in a vacuum, a comment which caused Israel’s leaders to call for his resignation. Guterres was right and his point undermines the apparent principle: aggressors can’t cite resistance to their aggression as a justification for defence against that resistance, otherwise no aggression could ever be criticised. Who is the aggressor in Israel/Palestine? Going back only a far as 1967, it’s Israel. Casting back to the Jewish terrorism of Lehi, the Irgun and Hagana, and the ethnic cleansing of 1948, inculpates the violent Zionists (Zionism had a liberal wing which never envisioned a purely Jewish State)  and the Israelis even more definitively. This is not to excuse the Hamas attack, but it does permit it to be understood. How could the violence of the ANC be understood without the context of South African apartheid, or the violence of the IRA without that of partition and the gerrymandering of Ulster? To understand is not to condone, but to refuse to understand is the worst of all mistakes.

The response of the “Western” leadership was a wilful refusal of understanding. Everyone lamented the loss of Jewish lives, rightly of course, but no one argued the loss could have been avoided had the Palestinians been granted equal rights. On the contrary, Israeli leaders were permitted to call Palestinians “animals” without demur from leaders in the US, Europe and elsewhere. On 10th October Joe Biden gave a response which Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst, typified as a demonisation of the entire Palestinian people and a rehashing of Netanyahu’s customary rhetoric. The following day, Keir Starmer, interviewed on Radio 4, refused to say Israel must stay within the law, asserting rather it must do what was necessary. This remarkable valorisation of fascism (power not law) went uncommented in the mainstream media. On 19th October Biden made his opinion (and it was mere opinion rather than argument) clear: Israel must win for US security and world leadership. What Biden meant by “win” is anyone’s guess, but the frank cynicism of this remark illustrates the gross hypocrisy of US, and therefore European, foreign policy.

The initial responses were crucial. If the US was going to determine the course and outcome of the violence, which is what Biden meant, it needed to be ahead of the curve. Instead, by permitting its position to be defined by Israel, it found itself lagging and losing the capacity to direct. The USS Ford was sent to the Mediterranean on 10th October to be joined by the Eisenhower a few days later with the intention of deterring Iran and Hezbollah. Biden visited Israel on 18th during which he made a stunning speech. Beginning by saying to Israel “You are not alone”, he went on to speak of “rape, beheading, bodies burned alive” on 7th October. He did so because these were Israel’s claims, none verified by objective third parties. That this was irresponsible hardly embraces its recklessness. For the world to hear from its most powerful politician that beheadings had happened when no one had been able to confirm them was to valorise a response which dispassionate evidence might find hard to justify. Adding to his wayward claims, he said the “atrocities..recall the worst ravages of ISIS.” To assimilate Hamas to ISIS is much more than exaggeration: Hamas has no international reach. It is a nationalist organisation whose aim is limited: equal rights for the Palestinians. Further, it is a political body which won the elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, after which it made an offer to George W Bush: recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence in return for significant steps towards a two-States agreement. Bush’s response was typical of the US: silence. The EU withdrew its funding after the Hamas win,  Blair said they shouldn’t have been allowed to stand. Thus, the world’s democracies rebelled against democracy when it produced the wrong result.

Biden continued, “brutality..cuts deeper here in Israel.” This shocking attribution of greater worth to Israeli than other lives, and Biden didn’t simply reiterate the usual supremacist view that Israelis are superior to Palestinians, and Arabs in general, was another concession to Israel’s dubious contentions. It tallies with Biden’s evocation of “a millennia (sic) of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people”. Did he mean  the genocide has been going on for a thousand years? That the Jews have suffered prejudice, exclusion, hatred and the appalling madness of the Nazi genocide is beyond question, but there have been periods when Jewish culture has flourished. Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein argue that Jewish success in some economic and cultural areas was not because they were excluded from others, but because their independent learning and education after A.D. 70, gave them a comparative advantage. This is not to play down the suffering, but to recognise it hasn’t been uniform across the last two thousand years. Today, Jews are flourishing in Biden’s US. Some 60% have college degrees and about 28% post-graduate qualifications. Both religious and secular Jews have much higher educational attainment than average. 70% of Jews are married to non-Jews. Marrying outside the group is always a good indicator of success. According to the Pew Research Group at least 50% of Jews have an income of at least $100,000, much higher than the percentage of all US households at that level. There are nine Jewish senators and 26 in the House of Representatives, not bad given that about 2.4% of the total population is Jewish.

“The State of Israel,” he added, “was born to be a safe place for the Jewish people of the world.” The idea of a Jewish State was born for no such reason. Nor was the Balfour Declaration inspired by concern for Jewish safety. On the contrary, Balfour was a self-confessed Jew-hater who wanted them out of the UK as he felt they’d done enough damage. “If Israel didn’t exist,” Biden waxed, “it would be necessary to invent it.” Whether he’s read Voltaire is an open question, but that anyone today would dream of creating the State of Israel if it didn’t exist is about as sensible as suggesting if Ulster didn’t exist it would be a good idea to partition Ireland. “For decades,” he boasted, we’ve ensured Israel’s qualitative military edge”, apparently with no inkling this might be a substantial part of the problem. He confidently asserted the attack on the Al-Ahli hospital of 18th October was by “an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group”. Hananya Naftali, an IDF spokesman, posted this message shortly after the attack (6.59 p.m.): “Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas terrorist base inside a hospital in Gaza”.It was quickly deleted, perhaps because Mr Naftali was brought into the loop of the Israeli party line. Biden’s willingness to accept without third party confirmation, Israel’s account, is shocking. The concessions Biden made to the Palestinians were that Hamas and the people were not coterminous and that Israel had agreed to allow aid to move in from Egypt. There was , predictably, no mention of the occupation, ethnic cleansing or Israeli non-compliance with UN resolutions. Biden’s moral idiocy reached its peak when he claimed that like the US, Israel lives by the rule of law, as if invading Vietnam and Iraq and the occupation of the West Bank were legal actions. Biden was in full Angelic Nation mode, that delusion which permits the self-appointed global angels to colonise, exploit, murder and oppress at will because they are superior by nature. “Israel is a miracle,” he declared. Just what is miraculous about the terrorism of Lehi, the Irgun and Hagana, or the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians he didn’t bother to explain. Israel, he proposed, is a “nation of conscience” like the US. The genocide of the native Americans, slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the mass incarceration of coloured people and the extreme violence and cynicism of American foreign policy for decades are apparently matters of conscience. “You inspire hope and light for so many around the world.” Biden appeared to have no inkling of the attitude of the global south. Across the world for decades support for the Palestinian cause has been growing and with it, of course, severe criticism of the State of Israel. Somehow this has failed to register on Biden’s consciousness. The sheer cruelty of typifying  as a beacon of hope and light a State which has dehumanised an entire population for nearly a century suggests a radical dissociation in Biden’s mind. Finally, he told his fond, homely story of meeting Golda Meir as a young senator and recycled her remark about the Jews having nowhere else to go.  The Jews are welcome in most countries and flourish almost everywhere they settle. They are not today a persecuted minority.  It’s the Palestinians who have nowhere else to go. Biden might have mentioned Meir’s comment that Israel is not a line on a map; wherever there are Jews, that is Israel.

In March 2019 Netanyahu said: “Whoever opposes a Palestinian State must support delivery of funds to Gaza because maintaining separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State.” In 2019 Ehud Barak said of Netanyahu: “His strategy is to keep Hamas alive and kicking..even at the price of abandoning the citizens…in order to weaken the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.” Netanyahu declared war on Gaza on 8th October, hours after the assault. This was not an “operation” he said, not a “round” but war. At that point, he showed scant regard for the Israeli hostages, the very young and the very old among them. An all-for-all prisoner swap might have secured their release. It was at least worth a try. Qatar would almost certainly have been willing to broker negotiations. Further, a pause would have permitted reflection on the best way to proceed. If the aim was to remove Hamas as a military force, the crucial matter was to cut off its funding, but for years Natenyahu had been doing the opposite. He had ensured the money which paid for the weapons which killed Israeli citizens because their safety was less important to him than scuppering a two-State agreement. His rush to war was too eager.

On 8th October, Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief said: “Israel had no inkling what was going on…We didn’t know they had that quantity of missiles.” Blinken, asked about the shocking intelligence failure said, “There will be plenty of time to see what anyone missed.” (Voanews.com 8th October). Daniel Hagari commented “First we fight, then we investigate”, displaying his profound respect for due process.(APnews.com 13th October). Hamas had a dress rehearsal for the attack a video of which was posted on social media on 12th September.  During the previous year the group had posted more than a hundred videos of its preparations, all scrutinised by APnews. Bradley Bowman, an ex-US army officer was reported as saying: “There clearly were warnings and indications that should have been picked up…Or maybe they were picked up but they didn’t spark the necessary preparations.”(APnews). Bowman’s “maybe” is worth thinking about. If it was simple arrogant negligence, it was criminal. The world seems not yet to have considered the possibility it may have been worse.

According to the Israeli response to the Hamas attack, history began on 7th October, a position absorbed, at least in the first days, by Israel’s allies. If we take  for granted, as  in a way is wise, that all countries lie to protect their interests, that diplomacy is essentially high quality lying, and as Lord Salisbury would have contested, the morality which governs our life as individuals can’t apply to international relations, we can understand why Israel was blind to its responsibility. Yet this requires the assumption that our moral sentiments extend no further than our national borders, an essentially primitive view. It’s also naïve in its contention that our domestic morality is any better than our international. Israel was unable to reflect that its occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza might have played any part in the dreadful events of 7th October 2023 because it’s an Angelic Nation. Whatever it does is right because it’s serving “progress”. In his speech at the opening of the second session of the twenty-fifth Knesset on 16th October, Netanyahu said:

“This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle…They want to return the Middle East to the abyss of the barbaric fanaticism of the Middle Ages, whereas we want to take the Middle East forward to the height of progress of the 21st century.”

Such a Manichean view is bound to be wrong, because nothing ever divides so simply. What is shocking is the absolute assumption of virtue. It’s the mentality of James Hogg’s “justified sinner”. Once you are convinced of your perfection, no barbarity is beyond you. We don’t expect political rhetoric to be truthful, power and truth are sworn enemies, but the “barbaric fanaticism” Netanyahu evokes ignores that without Muslim learning and culture during the period, we might never have heard of Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates or Euclid. It requires the most profound ignorance to pretend the Muslim culture of the Middle Ages didn’t make enormous contributions to literature, chemistry, maths, astronomy, architecture and more. Netanyahu’s claim is pure supremacism, which was hardly nugatory as he was the man guiding the military response.

 

  

ALL-OUT ASSAULT

On the 12th October Reuters reported Israel had imposed a total blockade of Gaza. Article 3 of the first chapter of the Geneva Convention reads:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring on the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1)      Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanley, without any adverse distinction founded on race,colour, religion, faith, sex, birth or wealth or any similar criteria.

Clearly, the civilian population of Gaza was not taking an active part in the hostilities. The adjective is vital. Civilians can’t be targets because they hope their armed forces will prevail. Even providing support for active soldiers, food, shelter, hiding, would be moot. According to a Reuters report of 16th October, Hamas has some 40,000 fighters. To date, more than 11,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza. Had they all been Hamas fighters, its capacity would be severely damaged. Israel claims some 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed on 7th October, the number killed since is impossible to ascertain. There are no reports, Israel is not issuing figures. The media are full of images of devastation and death for civilians, the very people protected by the Geneva convention. Nothing about Hamas casualties.

The Israeli claim is that the fighters hide behind the population, but the topography of Gaza makes it impossible for them to distance themselves. The truth is, Israel has created, by its cruelty and intransigence, a nationalist force embedded in the “open air prison” in which it holds 2.3 million Palestinians. Its military operations have proven impotent to put an end to Hamas. It has had to secure itself behind a panoply of defences which no civilised, democratic culture could wish to have. Defeating Hamas, a nationalist idea and effort, through war is impossible. Hence, Israel’s unrestrained offensive against Gazan civilians.  

On 22nd October there were reports of increased attacks on the Israeli-Lebanon border with Hezbollah attacking the Shebaa Farms (an area on the Lebanon-Syria border in the Golan Heights which were seized by Israel in 1981). 24 Hezbollah fighters died. On the same day, there were pro-Palestinian demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, where a call was made for a boycott of products produced by Israel and those supporting its campaign, Canada, where 30 MPs called for a ceasefire, Washington and other places in the US. Two days earlier the release of two hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan was announced, but Hams claimed on 22nd that Israel was blocking further releases. Netanyahu’s rationale was both the destruction of Hamas and the release of the hostages, but his position was barely rational: if Hamas was destroyed, who would Israel negotiate with for the release? If the hostages were released, that implied sufficient restraint to prevent them dying through Israeli violence. If, as Netanyahu claimed, the release of the hostages was the first priority, the sensible strategy was to refrain from violence until they were home. Israel was not under threat of renewed attack. Its own logic was the 7th October was a colossal intelligence and strategy blunder. The possibility of another breaching of the fence and incursion was impossibly small. The goal of wiping out Hamas was undertaken with no thought for how it could be accomplished militarily or for what would follow the fighting. From the outset the hard-line Israelis were obviously intending to ethnically cleanse the entire Palestinian population.

On 9th October, Yoav Gallant, looking pale, gaunt, tense and displaying an absence of thought, declared Gaza would have no water, no food, no fuel. By 22nd the second convoy of trucks was admitted, seventeen in total. Martin Griffiths, UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, insisted more be permitted. While the essential supplies were reduced to a dribble, the Pentagon supplied more missiles. Two Palestinians were killed in an air strike in Jenin while in Tel Aviv people demonstrated for the release of the hostages. Rafah City was hit, Jabalia refugee camp was attacked, thirteen were killed, mostly children and twenty-seven injured. The Israelis hit an Egyptian position in what they claimed was an accidental strike. There were pro-Palestinian protests in Sarajevo. Meanwhile The Guardian sacked its long-time cartoonist, Steve Bell. Bell had produced a cartoon, inspired by David Levine’s 1966 image of Lyndon Johnson raising his shirt to reveal the Vietnam-shaped scar from his gall bladder removal; it showed a supine Netanyahu wearing boxing gloves, a scalpel in his right hand carving the shape of Gaza on his midriff. The newspaper’s asinine response was that it evoked Shylock and the pound of flesh, but as Bell retorted, there was nothing in the cartoon about The Merchant of Venice or Shakespeare. The clear meaning of the image is that a clumsy man is damaging himself. Netanyahu was slicing open his own abdomen by attacking Gaza. Behind the cartoon is the obvious knowledge that prior to 7th October, Netanyahu was in deep trouble, facing the end of his political career and a possible jain sentence. It is unreservedly anti-Netanyahu but not in the least Jew-hating. That it could be interpreted as such is a measure of the febrile, paranoid atmosphere generated by the long-standing malicious campaign to conflate all criticism of the State of Israel, however mild, with Jew-hating.

The Guardian’s illiterate view of Shakespeare is also interesting. The play is thought of as Jew-hating only by those who haven’t read it properly or have an axe to grind, like Harold Bloom, who dismisses Shakespeare’s defence of Shylock’s humanity as superficial. According to Bloom, it might have been a revelation in the 1590s that Jews shared their humanity with rest of us, but in the modern world only skinheads and psychopaths question it. On the contrary, Shakespeare’s evocation of a common humanity is not recognised by most of the world’s leaders. The USA engages in mass incarceration of coloured people because its mentality is supremacist. Change places and handy-dandy and the failure to recognise the Jews as human is exactly the fate of the Palestinians today. Members of the Israeli government have called them “animals”. “If you prick us do we not bleed” is Shakespeare telling us we have a given, shared human nature. That isn’t superficial and the ruling global doctrines, though they might pay lip service, don’t accept it.

That Bell could be sacked as a Jew-hater for a carton which evinced not a glimmer of Jew-hating echoes the madness which seized the Labour Party amdist the welter of unfounded claims of “institutional anti-Semitism” and led to thousands of people being expelled and denied any right to defend themselves, merely for being accused. Small wonder that in sich an atmosphere the slaughter of innocent Palestinains got under way quickly and with the full support of “the West”.

On 21st October Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza telling residents to move south and warning that anyone remaining in the north would be considered an ally of terrorists. On 22nd and 23rd, southern Gaza came under attack and people began to flee north.

Alog Cohen MK (Knesset Member) interviewed on Radio 4 claimed Israel would invade Gaza to destroy Hamas, cited the beheadings of 7th October as a cause and suggested annexing the West Bank. During the Israeli occupation of Gaza, he argued, there were no rockets fired at Israel. He likened Hamas to Isis, asked why Gazans were not going south as advised, and claimed there were no air strikes on the road south. Hamas, he asserted had started the conflict on 7th October.

Mazen Sinokrot, the Palestinian capitalist, argued that the twenty trucks so far admitted was nowhere near enough. He accused the US of a shameful failure of diplomacy, said fuel was needed as much as medicines and argued Egypt was right to refuse to accept the expulsion of Gazans to the Sinai. The solution, he said, was not the removal of the Gazans. They won’t leave their homeland.

In advance of the London demonstration on 21st, the Home Secretary, Braverman, met Sir Mark Rowley, Head of the Metropolitan Police. On the 30th she would call the protests “hate marches”. Ken McDonald, for Director of Public Prosecutions (fined a small amount when a student for sending cannabis in the post), interviewed on Radio 4 called for a balance between security and free speech. “Jihad” he pointed out had multiple meanings. The word “insult” he suggested might be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The police had to be operationally independent. It wasn’t right for the Home Secretary to make operational decisions.

Braverman was clearly playing politics. A typical sharp-elbowed greasy-pole climber, she was perfectly aware of the absurdity of her claims. What is most to note about her interventions, however, is how quick the right was to seize the opportunity to close down on protest. In France and Germany people were banned from the streets, though they still turned up in their thousands. Prohibitions of what people want to do out of principle or for their own satisfaction never work. It’s a measure of how the Israel lobby, through the misuse of the Nazi genocide, has engendered widespread paranoia that people chanting “from the river to the sea” were said to be dangerous because they want to wipe out Israel, while Israel remained secure and the Palestinians were being wiped out. Israel has become an iconic matter because it represents the right of rich, “progressive” States and movements to wipe out the “backward” the “barbarians”. This is the principle on which the world order rests. Everything else is flummery.

Two weeks into the assault, the Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Jalazone refugee camps were targeted. 95 were reported dead in the latter. Yoav Gallant predicted a three-month campaign, an indication of how difficult expected the urban fight to be. On 20th Judith and Natalie Raanan were released and on 23rd Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 and Nurit Cooper, 79, Qatar and Egypt being the mediators. Israel offered nothing in return. Hamas called those held “guests” and claimed they would be well-treated. In Karachi there was a protest calling for an end to diplomacy with Israel and in South Africa people took to the streets in support of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel struck 320 targets overnight including in southern Gaza where people had been warned to move. Hundreds were killed. Bombs fell in the vicinity of the Al Quds hospital. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said it was impossible to tell if Israel was observing international law, tantamount to saying it wasn’t. UNICEF warned that without fuel incubators for premature babies would cease to function. James Cleverly, Foreign Secretary, observed that it wasn’t simply up to Israel to ensure supplies got through. On the other hand, Finnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, said Israel was guilty of “profound violations of international law”. Her view seems to have been that the application of such law was ineffective and the terrorism of Israel’s attacks worse than the Hamas outrage of 7th October.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst, who proved to be one of the most astute commentators ,argued there should be a ceasefire to permit the release of the hostages. Biden insisted the hostages should be released first. This, however, was not an offer to impose a ceasefire if Hamas complied. The taking of civilian hostages was, of course, a morally despicable act and also outside of what the Gazans were permitted to engage in legally to lift the siege; but given the hostage were in their hands and Gaza was being pounded by Israel, what incentive was there for them to release, unless a serious reward was available.

A row broke out between Netanyahu and Gallant. The Prime Minister blamed the security forces for the debacle. Gallant, previously sacked by Netanyahu and reported to loathe him, fought back. This was the first sign of a crack in the Israeli war cabinet. Reports suggested Gallant saw Netanyahu as a lying populist concerned only for himself while the IDF had a concern for the well-being of the military.

An Israeli spokesman interviewed on Radio 4 and asked about the blockade responded: “Water, electricity, are you kidding me?” indicative of Israeli’s sense of entitlement. The 7th October had rocked its delusion that the Palestinians could be permanently contained and also sparked  the customary view of itself as under threat from bloodthirsty enemies, making any criticism or resistance an existential threat and also, crucially, reinforcing the view of Israel as an Angelic Nation.

On 24th October Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, condemned the 7th October attack and called for peace, pointing out that the “elephant in the room” was the occupation, the widening of the war was possible and a ceasefire was the way to avoid it. His warning was accompanied by Hezbollah’s attacks on southern Israel engaging some 100,000 IDF troops. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, said a ceasefire was an “absolute necessity” as was the lifting of the siege. The UAE’s representative to the UN also called for a ceasefire, dialogue, a just and lasting, comprehensive solution, the implementation of a 2-States agreement and the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. All relatively predictable but nevertheless a sign of Israel’s isolation in the region. Whatever the moral and legal objections to the Hamas assault, one thing was clear, it had shattered the Abraham Accords and scuppered Israel’s attempt to portray itself as Arab-friendly as a way of implying the problem in its relations with the Palestinians had nothing to do with its supremacism, but was the result of their intractable wickedness.

Sergey Lavrov put the Russian point of view: the US was sabotaging a solution and offering palliative measures only; the long encroachment of Israeli settlers in the West bank  was sure to lead to something like 7th October; either a two-States agreement must be accepted or a solution was impossible; the 1967 borders should be accepted; East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian State; a widening of the conflict had to be avoided; Russia could not accept a resolution which fell short of a complete ceasefire; Russia would advance such a resolution and seek co-sponsorship.

All this sounds very reasonable and high-minded, but it’s somewhat hard to swallow from a State waging war on a neighbour, however provoked Russia may have been. It could be argued there was symmetry between the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and Israel’s unrestrained assault on Gaza after 7th October. In both cases, a heavily armed, powerful State, believed violence was its best method. Neither stood back to contemplate a more sober response. There’s no doubt the Hamas attack, by killing and abducting civilians was legally and morally abhorrent, nor that NATO’s willingness to place weapons in Ukraine was a wayward provocation, but both Russia and Israel had many more possibilities than simply unleashing Armageddon. Such is the logic of massively over-armed States: don’t stop to think, just drop the bombs.

The Chinese also advanced rational arguments: a humanitarian catastrophe must be avoided; if the war were to spread it could consume the entire region; the aid getting through was a trickle; Israel must lift the siege and open the Rafah crossing; there must be no forced resettlement; the context mattered; two-States was the only way out. All perfectly sane, until you think about the Uighurs.

Japan called for a two-States agreement. Two Palestinian prisoners were killed in prison in the West Bank. The death toll in Gaza was reported to be 5,800. 1,300 Palestinians had been arrested in the West Bank.

Marwan Bishara agreed with Antonio Guterres that 7th October did not happen in a vacuum. 56 years of occupation was hardly nugatory. A ceasefire and sufficient humanitarian aid were essential. Israel had lost its mind. The killing was on an industrial scale, three times that of the 2021 war. It was simply murder. The UN was bickering while 2,400 children had lost their lives. This was the behaviour of psychopaths. Blinken was lying about the refusal of Arab States to condemn 7th October, the Cairo meeting of Arab leaders had done so explicitly. The US refused to condemn the murder in Gaza. It was sheltering Israel in every way and complicit in the debacle. Macron was engaging in the typical double-speak of the US and EU. To compare Hamas to ISIS was racist, farcical, Islamophobic nonsense.

This was available to UK viewers on Al Jazeera, but most people got there news elsewhere and those who relied on social media witnessed systematic dehumanisation of the Palestinians.

 

 

BLUNDER

On 25th October it was announced that Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner had to meet Labour’s Muslim MPs after the leader made an appalling gaffe during an interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari on 11th causing significant dismay among Labour’s Muslim supporters. Subsequent to asserting the usual principle that Israel had a right to defend itself (“herself” in Starmer’s words) he was asked whether a siege was appropriate, “cutting off power, cutting off water”. His response was worthy of a sixth-form debating society and revealed starkly just how out of his intellectual and moral depth he was. “I think Israel does have that right” he said. It was a blunder of enormous proportions followed immediately by the feeble declaration that Israel must act with the limits of international law. Here was a trained lawyer who had once headed the CPS granting to Israel a right which any barely legally literate undergraduate could have confirmed as a breach. In those few seconds, Starmer lost the Muslim vote. It wasn’t long before tens of Muslim Labour councillors had resigned. Leaving aside matters of principle and looking at the matter from the point of view of cynical expediency, exactly the position taken consistently by the so-called centrists (John McTernan being a seasoned exponent) Starmer alienated two million Muslim voters, 80% of whom were loyal to Labour. On the other hand, he had bent double backwards to placate the UK’s 300,000 Jews, 70% of whom vote Tory. There is a principle at work here: we back the rich and powerful in every situation, because that’s what unflinching support for the State of Israel is about.  It has been the US strategic asset since at least 1967 and Europe falls into line. Apply a little principle, however, say the principle upheld by international law, that States have no right to move their populations onto land seized in war, and Israel needs to be condemned out of hand.

Starmer had made apparent opposition to supremacism the heart of his bid for the Labour leadership. He would eliminate anti-Semitism. This was to drape himself in the flag of anti-supremacism, to lay claim to the high ground of equality, to have no truck with prejudice based on skin colour, religion or ethnic characteristics. At the first hurdle, he fell flat. The Israeli siege of Gaza, the denial of water, food and fuel was a war crime, but it was also clearly supremacist: there was no need to treat these people according to the rules because they were “animals”, the word used by an Israeli spokesperson. Starmer, the self-appointed noble enemy of prejudice and irrational hatred, embraced what he claimed to reject. Effectively, he declared his support for starving people to death as a valid weapon of war. That he displayed his moral idiocy while maintaining a statesmanlike demeanour, shone a bright light on his superficiality.

Nineteen Labour councillors resigned. One hundred and fifteen signed a letter of protest. Labour lost its majority on Oxford council. Thirty-seven Labour MPs supported a ceasfire.

Meanwhile, Sir Stephen O’Brien, ex-Tory MP and Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN, interviewed on Radio 4, said  Antonio Gutteres’ remark about 7th October not having taken place in a vacuum was “ill-judged”.  Hardly a surprise for a representative of a party which has made itself the USA’s lapdog. Israel refused a visa to the current Under Secretary, Martin Griffiths, who had the temerity to question whether slaughtering children was a sensible way to disable Hamas.

Benzi Sanders, a 2014 IDF War veteran, interviewed on Sky News on 26th October dispelled the lie that being Jewish and supporting the State of Israeli in all its actions are coterminous. “Axiomatic change” in Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians was necessary. In simple language, Sanders put the simple argument: if Hamas were to be defeated physically, the resistance to Israel’s occupation and siege would remain. Indeed, the present assault on Gaza was a recruiting sergeant for Hamas. The only way to defeat the ideology of resistance was to make resistance unnecessary: the Palestinians had to be granted autonomy and the rights which Israel’s cherished for themselves. These are not highly abstract arguments. They don’t require great learning or remarkable intellectual powers. They are easily accessible to all. Why then were they anathema to a majority of Israelis, the entire US Republican Party, and supposedly informed and civilised opinion in Europe, all of whom took the view on the day of Sanders’s interview, that there was no alternative to a brutal attack on Gaza? The answer is simple: the propaganda system teaches people to fear and hate. Hamas is not a resistance movement which will wither and die if the Palestinians gain freedom, but a manifestation of “pure evil”. Its demands can’t be met because they are those of “the devil”. Hamas operatives aren’t human beings but animals. They don’t want independence, but the annihilation of Israel, and indeed of all democracies (in spite of the fact that since the early 1970s Hamas has been willing to recognise Israel). They are like ISIS. All this is deliberate distortion and exaggeration. The people who peddle it know they are lying. Netanyahu knows Hamas will give up violence if the Palestinians gain independence; but this dishonesty, the dissemination of paranoia, are the means to hold onto power and wealth. That’s where the threads always lead back to.

Once it has been hammered into people’s heads that Hamas is a sub-human bunch of murderous psychopaths, it’s easy to get them to accept what they object to. It’s vile, but it has to be done. Of course, as we do it we regret it (shoot and cry). We are highly moral as we slaughter children because we do it to save them from “pure evil”. Millions, of course, saw through this. Sanders expressed the opinion of people across the globe who can see the wood for the trees. The crucial constituency, however, US politicians, was marinated in the propaganda.

It's worth observing that what’s going on here is the old ploy of accusing your enemy of what you’re guilty of. Hamas which had nowhere near the capacity to wipe Israel off the map was accused to intending to while Israel, one of the most powerful militaries in the world, was wiping Gaza off the map.

Qatar and Tunisia pushed for a political settlement. The former is a hereditary dictatorship which gained independence from the British only in 1971. Interesting that a State effectively under the rule of one man can show greater concern for peace than the so-called liberal, progressive democracies. Erdogan of Turkey declared Hamas not to be a terrorist organisation and called for an international conference. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Fidan, said it was necessary to act fast or there would be “dark days” ahead. Oxfam declared food was being used as a weapon on war, clearly a crime. Their estimate was that supplies were meeting about 2% of Gaza’s needs. Water was restricted to about three litres per person per day, well below the recommended UN minimum. Antonio Gutteres defended himself against the accusation he was justifying the Hamas attack by his remark that it didn’t occur in a vacuum. Clearly, he was explaining not justifying. That he was accused of the latter is a measure of the low intellectual level of debate and the maliciousness of the propaganda system.

Interviewed on Radio 4 on 25th October, retired British Army officer Rupert Jones pointed out that during urban warfare everything is accentuated. It took a hundred thousand troops nine months to clear Mosul. Daesh was prepared to fight to the death. Trying to clear every building meant getting nowhere fast. In Gaza there was the added difficulty of the tunnels. Fighting underground would be very tough and hostages might be held there. Though he reiterated the empty mantra that Israel had a right to defend itself, he argued the operation might take longer than the plans suggested.

Interesting that a military veteran could pour a fair dash of cold water on the IDF’s confident assertions. That he parroted the line about Israel’s self-defence is not surprising. It was a feeble argument because no one questioned what was meant by “Israel”. Were the proponents of this nostrum intending “Israel” as the illegal occupier of the West Bank or besieger of Gaza? If so, what right of defence existed? No State which illegally occupies territory has a right, legal or moral, to defend itself against resistance to that occupation. No aggressor has a right of defence against resistance to their aggression, otherwise every aggressor would be eternally justified. The essential point is very simple: violence is morally wrong. It is so even when used in defence, but what matters is who is the original aggressor. In Palestine, this is uncontroversial: first the Zionists then the State of Israel. Zionists were visiting terrorism on both the Palestinians and the British before any retail terrorism on the Palestinian side was thought of.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad met with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Qualandiya refugee camp in the West Bank was attacked by 30 IDF troops. One resident was arrested. A more or less typical raid this was indicative of Israel’s dishonesty: there were no Hamas fighters in Qualandiya. Eliajah Magnier, a veteran war reporter and analyst, speaking on Radio 4, argued that three out of nine Israeli divisions were engaged with Hezbollah on the border. What he wondered might be Hezbollah’s red lines? He gave expression to the anxiety of a widening of the war and questioned whether Israel could avoid a ground invasion.

On 25th October there was a strike very near  the Al-Wafa hospital, a regular target when Israel assaults Gaza. The UN Security Council voted against the Russian and US resolutions, the latter receiving ten votes out of fifteen, with Russia, China and the UAE voting against and Brazil and Mozambique abstaining. The resolution would have permitted humanitarian pauses but was otherwise a justification of Israel’s action. The right to veto of the five principal members showed itself, once more, to be outdated and a barrier to good decisions. Why should these five retain their special status after seventy-eight years, just because they were founders? As if the world hasn’t changed. In order to avoid these kinds of logjams the UN needs to move to consensual decision-making. Not a winner takes all system, but a requirement to work out a position acceptable to all in which, in all probability, no one gets all they want but no one gets nothing.

A world body in which one State has supremacy is a form of lunacy, and pre-eminence for five States is just as bad. The UN should be what it calls itself. All States should meet on an equal footing. Of course, the rich and powerful baulk at such an idea, however much they crow about their commitment to democracy.

Biden announced there could be no return to the status quo ante. There had to be a vision for the future and that must involve two-States. Settler violence was unacceptable. However, the timing of the ground invasion would be left to Israel. The problem with Biden from the outset was he seemed to be talking into a void. He said one thing, Netanyahu said and did the opposite and Biden lacked the resolve to tell Israel to comply. It was pitiful to watch the world’s self-appointed super-power following Netanyahu like a timid poodle. The Prime Minister declared “we have killed thousands of terrorists and this is only the start.” There was a nuance of difference in his rhetoric, however: releasing the hostage had become more crucial, no doubt a response to domestic and US pressure. His claim to have bagged a brace of terrorists wasn’t confirmed by any verifiable evidence. On the other hand, the evidence of civilian deaths was all too obvious.

Dan Gillerman, ex-Israeli Ambassador to the UN in an interview on Sky News on 26th October said, “I am very puzzled by the constant concern which the world is showing for the Palestinian people, and is actually showing for these horrible inhuman animals who have done the worst atrocities this century has seen, and the worst atrocities the Jews have suffered since the Holocaust.” He went on to establish equivalence between the Twin Towers attack and 7th October, to point out that Britain joined the US in the war on Iraq, that no one shed any tears for dead Iraqis and added that no one was worried about dead Russian soldiers in the Ukraine conflict. He was wrong on most points. That the Hamas fighters were not “inhuman animals” goes without saying. When the Irish resisted British occupation they were portrayed as less than human in the British media. This is the cliched stock-in-trade of oppressors and colonialists. The 7th October attack was nothing like the shock and awe visited on the Iraqis. According to the Watson Institute at Brown University at least 250,000 civilians died as result of the US-UK assault. The 7th October toll was 1,200 and some of those were almost certainly killed by Israeli fire.  Further, pending an independent investigation, no one has unequivocal evidence of what happened on 7th October. Claims of beheading haven’t been confirmed. As whatever crimes were committed took place on Israeli territory, it is their responsibility to ensure they are investigated properly, which means by objective agencies. People across the world responded to the deaths in Iraq and there has been plenty of criticism of Putin’s willingness to treat his soldiers as fodder. As for the worst atrocity since the Nazi genocide, some two and half thousand IDF soldiers died in the Yom Kippur War. The evocation of Nazism is standard Zionist fare: Israel is always facing a bloodthirsty enemy which is  about to wipe out all Jews, never resistance to its illegal occupation.

By the 25th October, thirty-five UNRWA staff had been killed. Jasmine El-Gamal, an ex-Pentagon adviser on the Middle East, interviewed on Al-Jazeera said Gazans were unable to move, aid needed to get through, Israel had complete control of the borders. Frances Leach of Action Aid raised concerns about over-crowded hospitals, babies in incubators whose energy supply might soon run dry and called for aid to be brought in through the Rafah crossing. Yasmin Querish, MP for Bolton East, called Israel’s action collective punishment and called for a ceasefire. Khalid Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, spoke for the twelve Muslim Labour MPs, saying they were united, not intimidated and were meeting on 26th. Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East declared Israel’s blockade of Gaza wrong in principle and called for a ceasefire. Shaista Aziz, Oxford City Councillor who resigned from Labour, interviewed on Newsnight linked the 7th October killings to Palestine’s colonial legacy, blamed the occupation and called for a ceasefire. On the other hand, that ubiquitous talking head, John McTernan, still dining out on having been Blair’s right-hand man, on the same programme argued both sides would have to stop fighting for a ceasefire to work, claimed Hamas would never agree and therefore those asking for a cessation of hostilities were effectively demanding Israel’s surrender. Hamas had started the conflict and, in any case, only the US had any influence over Israel. The UK is a tiny country with no influence. We are powerless and must simply fall in line with Israeli-US policy. The latter point was at least honest. The UK is the US’s lapdog. We do what the US wants in pursuit of its global dominance. The relationship is one-sided. The US has little if any concern for Europe, except in so far as it assists its aims. McTernan’s view, however, was cowardly and morally bankrupt, as you would expect from someone able to stomach a high-priest of expediency like Blair. The UK has significant influence by being a member of the UN Security Council. Voting for a ceasefire there would be more than symbolic, Further, the UK has a moral responsibility because of its historic role in Palestine. For the country which produced the Balfour Declaration to refuse support for Israel’s genocidal attack would hardly go unnoticed. McTernan declared Hamas a terrorist organisation, claimed that Corbyn had “poisoned” the Labour well and concluded Labour must support Israel.

McTernan expressed not only in his language, but in his tone and demeanour, the dismal vision of the UK’s political elite. That small countries can’t stand for what they consider morally right, but must prostrate themselves before the world’s super-power, is a very peculiar notion for anyone who has any faith in democracy. Perhaps the comment about Corbyn was the most telling. In the light of the devastation of Gaza, the concerted campaign to brand Corbyn a supremacist and therefore unfit to be Prime Minister, takes on a tragic hue. Were he leading the country now, can anyone doubt he would be calling for a ceasefire? For the US, that would be sacrilege. The UK’s role is to obey. McTernan’s talk of poison turned reality on its head: Corbyn expelled the poison of submission to wealth and power from the Labour Party, which is why so many rallied to him and the Establishment had to destroy him.

 

 

IRRESOLUTE RESOLUTION

Interviewed on Radio 4’s Today on 26th October, Andrew Fisher, former adviser to Corbyn, argued the reason Starmer hadn’t sacked Yasmin Qureshi for voting with the SNP call for a ceasefire was fear of a revolt. He pointed to the polling: 76% of the UK population in favour, rising to 89% among Labour voters. Justin Webb’s response was illustrative: that’s just because people want peace; they don’t understand the complexities. Fisher defended the public against the accusation of ignorance. Webb’s position is stunning: there’s something wrong with wanting peace. It’s a sign of mental simplicity, of not being sophisticated enough to understand the world. Perhaps unsurprising for a seasoned BBC journalist. Having to tack permanently to the Establishment view must result in a tendency to take it for the truth. The public’s desire for peace is sane. It’s the willingness of the rich and powerful to plunge the world into extreme violence time and again which is out-of-kilter. Fisher cited the councillors, Labour members and Shadow Cabinet members who wanted movement and were insistent war crimes were being committed by Israel. Starmer was weak on this. As Antonio Guterres had said, there needed to be proportion. There was much more at stake then merely Starmer’s skin in the next General Election: it was a life and death matter. Some principle needed to be shown. In any case, the Tories’ condition was terminal. There was no need to be cowed by electoral considerations.

Was the BBC showing its impartiality by permitting Fisher a chance to speak? Webb’s response hardly suggests so. This was a rarity. Debate ran between very narrow lines. Virtually no one was permitted to question the essential rightness of Israel’s response. No one argued the sensible response might have been to apologise to the Gazans for a decade and half of siege, invite the Palestinians to immediate negotiations about the creation of an independent society, commit to withdrawing the settlements from the West Bank and agree to abide by UN resolutions. Without exception, spokespeople supported Israel’s assault. Such is the reality of the world order. A people oppressed for seventy-five years fights back through violence and the official view is the oppression is not to be discussed.

Chris Gunnes, former spokesperson for UNRWA, said the Global South saw the struggle between Israel and Palestine as an anti-colonial struggle. Richard Falk, a professor at Princeton and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, called for a ceasefire and negotiations. The Jordanian Foreign Minister argued Israel appeared to be above the law. Lula da Silva bemoaned the weakness of the United Nations. Hamas asked the Arab States to cut ties with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel claimed two hundred and fifty strikes against Gaza in twelve hours. How many did anything to weaken Hamas? Demonstrators in Tel Aviv called for negotiations for the release of the hostages to continue. Biden declared he had no confidence in the Palestinian death count. Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank was increasing.

Professor Abdelhamid Siyam of Rutgers claimed the UN was paralysed. The Arab world was united but if their resolution passed in the General Assembly, it would have no legal power, in spite of its moral weight. Israel was behaving with its usual arrogance. The root causes needed to addressed. “Normalisation” was no solution. Popular pressure was driving in the right direction.

In Brussels there was hope of a humanitarian pause but the EU was divided. Germany, partly through its historical guilt, was uncritically with Israel. Pedro Sanchez of Spain, on the other hand, called for a ceasefire. In a UN Emergency Special Session, Jordan called for an immediate ceasefire, a somewhat futile effort given the veto. Riyad Al Maliki, Palestine’s Foreign Minister called for war crimes trials in The Hague. The ICC agreed to investigate violations by both Hamas and Israel. Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s Ambassador to the UN pleaded for the bombs to stop and lives to be saved. “Is this the war some of you are defending?” he asked. “These are crimes. This is barbarism.” Hospitals were being turned into morgues. Gaza had been devastated by five wars. Vengeance is a dead end. The only way forward was justice.

Unfortunately, it was the kind of barbarism the civilised “West” likes. It was clear from the start Israel was not engaging in a campaign to root out and kill or seize Hamas fighters but was using 7th October as an excuse to slaughter Gazan civilians, mostly women and children. What was to follow was fully approved by the US and most of the rest of the so-called advanced States, in spite of the views of their populations. Had democracy prevailed, including in the US, the war would have been stopped in days. The 66% percent of Americans who wanted a ceasefire weren’t supporters of Hamas, they were simply able to see the chopped logic: wholesale slaughter of civilians and physical devastation weren’t the way to deal with attacks like 7th October. The propaganda system might have convinced people Israel’s right to defend itself was beyond question, but it cracked over the extremity of the attack on Gaza. As time passed, as we shall see, the gap between the elite leadership and the people grew wider and the US became ever more isolated.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN claimed the organisation was burying its head in the sand regarding Hamas. 7th October had nothing to do with relations between Israel and Palestine. Israel was at war with a genocidal Hamas who are modern-day Nazis. Their one aim was to murder every Jew on the face of the earth, as expressed in their charter. The denial of history in this is remarkable, but was repeated over and over in the media and by spokespeople. The Hamas charter was written in 1988 and is the work of a handful of people. It was long ago repudiated by the Hamas leadership. After its election victory in 2006, Hamas approached G.W. Bush. They offered to recognise Israel, something the Palestinians had been putting forward since the early 1970s, and renounce violence in return for real moves towards a two-States agreement. Bush’s response was silence. The EUs response to Hamas’s democratic win was to withdraw funding from Palestine. Blair said they shouldn’t have been permitted to stand. Think also about Likud’s charter. Likud grew from Herut which in turn emerged from the Irgun. Its position has always been that the land of Israel, including Jordan, belongs exclusively to the Jews. Israel has spent the last twenty years fighting unity between Gaza and the West Bank. There was a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas in April 2014. That was a real problem for Israel. First of all, because Israel’s long-standing excuse for not negotiating is it has no one to talk to, the Palestinians being divided, but also because unity between Gaza and the West Bank is the first step towards an autonomous Palestinian society. Gaza faces  Europe across the Mediterranean. A unified Palestinian society with Gaza as the gateway to the outside world would be a disaster for Israel. Keeping Gaza and the West Bank separate is the way to imprison the latter. Erdan was also insinuating that anyone who didn’t support Israel was by definition a Hamas supporter. This distorted thinking was ubiquitous. Hamas is Hamas’s problem. The millions protesting on the streets across the world weren’t defending Hamas, they were opposing their governments in their vicious, murderous actions. Hamas is not the responsibility of people marching in London, Manchester, Paris, Washington, Colombo, Karachi, but the actions of their governments is. Erdan’s rank dishonesty and phoney logic were the essence of Israel’s position.

Nine hundred more US troops were sent to the region. Since 7th October, there had been one hundred and thirty-eight attacks by settlers in the West Bank. Prior to the Hamas attack, there was an average of three firearms incidents daily, now it was seven. The EU said its greatest concern was for the deteriorating humanitarian situation. There was a call for an international peace conference. Hamas announced fifty hostages had been killed by Israeli bombing. Twenty-four journalists had been killed by Israel. Twelve trucks of aid had passed the Rafah crossing. The Israeli war cabinet discussed pre-emptive strikes against Hezbollah. Marwan Bishara commented that Lebanon was, more or less, a failed State. The EU was a mess, bickering over semantics: a window or a pause. It was simply following its US master. (Al Jazeera) Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs said aid was barely trickling in.

Overnight from 26th to 27th October, the US attacked military targets in Syria. There were, apparently, two hundred UK citizens trapped in Gaza. Putin welcomed Hamas representatives to Moscow. According to Reuters, almost fifty per cent of Israelis wanted to hold off a ground invasion of Gaza, out of concern for the hostages. Important to recall Israel’s declared war aims: to eliminate Hamas (thought whether that meant its leadership, all its fighters and supporters and its ideology was never stated); to release all the hostages; and to ensure another attack from Gaza could never happen. It was clear all three were impossible though military means. In this regard, it was interesting that  on Radio 4 on 27th October, Jeremy Bowen argued that Netanyahu was trying to save his skin. Though the facts that without the war his political career would have ended and his time in prison probably be drawing nearer were alluded to now and again, no one in the media was joining the dots. No one knew how informed Netanyahu was about the warnings of an attack, but there was enough information to permit speculation and more, importantly, serious questions. Israeli spokespeople were given a relatively easy ride. No one asked how many Israelis were killed by Israel on 7th October. No one asked exactly who had seen the Jericho Wall document. No one asked how it could be that investors in the Tal Aviv stock market seemed to be forewarned but Netanyahu wasn’t. These were too near the knuckle. The story had to be that all the people killed on 7th October were slaughtered by Hamas and Israel was justified in its response.

Interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme, Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting and a doctor, called for a ceasefire. She agreed with Israel that the Hamas attack was a crime against humanity, but condemned the Israeli bombing as collective punishment of civilians. She cited her work as a doctor in Gaza for a period of thirteen years. There was no slack in the system for Palestinians. Justin Webb excelled himself once more, by claiming Hamas ruled Gaza and was therefore to blame for all its woes. This parroting of the Israeli line was typical of the British media. The idea that during the decade and half siege, Hamas made all the decisions is laughable. With the exception of the Rafah crossing, tightly monitored by Egypt,  all entry to and exit from Gaza was controlled by Israel, for people and everything else. The Gazans had no right to leave the Strip as they wished, to trade beyond it, and even trade within was limited by what Israel would permit. Most Gazans were refugees. Half of them were children, giving the lie to the notion the Gazan people had chosen Hamas. None of this is hard to discover, yet the BBC lets a veteran broadcaster promulgate the lie that Hamas was in control of Gaza.

Mediated by Qatar, negotiations regarding a ceasefire and prisoner release were under way. The case of Gilad Shalit was cited. For his return, Israel released a thousand Palestinian prisoners. To get the hostages home safely, something similar might be necessary. There were some six thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons, many under “administrative detention”, a euphemism for denial of all legal rights. No one in the British mainstream media commented that such practices might have contributed to the radicalisation of Hamas fighters, and help explain, though not justify 7th October. It was as if Palestinians simply had to live with such things. Such is the implicit racism of the British media.

Hamas’s position was, no release of hostages without peace, though it didn’t specify if that meant a truce or a permanent ceasefire. Marwan Bishara’s view was that  Israel might be ready to pay a big price in release of prisoners to get the hostages home, but he felt the US was concerned over such a release triggering a land invasion. Israeli public opinion was 69% in favour of a land invasion, a shift from the previous position. There were multiple fires on the Lebanon border. Israel targeted residential areas in Khan Younis. Muslims were prevented from attending Friday prayers by blockades in the West Bank.

Jeremy Bowen interviewed an Israeli, Roy, at Ashkelon police station: “The other side aren’t human. They are monsters. Gaza belongs to us.”

How did Roy arrive at his conclusions? Presumably, 7th October proved Hamas are less than human while the terrorist outrages of Lehi, the Irgun and Hagana are proof QED of the sweet gentleness and commitment to international law and human rights of the followers of Herzl. No doubt Gaza belongs to Israel because Israel decided to take it by force, provong the Israelis are marvellous, generous, folk dripping with the milk of human kindness. Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of too much of that. She understands that power requires all-round dehumanisation; but the powerful, of course, cover their tracks by invoking a phoney humanity. Power is morally vacuous which is why it has to consistently promote hysterical moralism.

Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan and the leader of Scottish Labour called for a ceasefire. That’s no small matter. The Mayors of a major European capital and an important UK city and the leader of Starmer’s party north of the border, were opposed to unconditional support for Israel. Yet the media made little of it. It was mentioned and passed over.

Marwan Bishara commented that Israeli fanatics wanted to retake Gaza and impose a military occupation. Israel felt invincible because of US and EU support and complicity. The invincibility Bishara invoked was a product of America’s protection racket. Israel looks after the US’s interests in the region and if there’s trouble, in come the thugs to sort it out. Of course, the thugs don’t need to turn up in person, which is part of the beauty of the arrangement; they send the weapons, supply the training and advice and convey the message: “Do what you like. We can take on anybody.” Israel is the little psychopath defended by the muscular bully. Trace back the threads and what do you find: the Monroe Doctrine and its interpretations which turned an ostensible defence against European colonialism into a  pretext for the US version; George Washington’s enlightened belief that the native Americans should accept the ways of the founding fathers or be “extirpated” as recalcitrant savages and the entire history of American supremacism, slavery, the Jim Crow Laws and the current mass incarceration of coloured people. What lies behind this is the pursuit of lucre. Making the accumulation of material wealth the central aim of life robs it of its moral character. Hence the high-sounding rhetoric of freedom, independence, democracy and human rights side by side with oppression, tyranny, exploitation and genocide.

UNRWA predicted the breakdown of civil society in Gaza, no doubt delighting Netanyahu and the fascists in his cabinet. Lazzarini, its Commissioner General, asked why there was no global will to stop the war. Amongst the common folk, there was but the world isn’t ruled by them. The corporates control and slaughtering Arabs is all right with them. Marwan Jilani of the Palestinian Red Crescent said no aid was getting to the north. Conveys were going to be hit. There were no safe places. The situation was impossible. The international community should stop the fighting at once. The technical aspects of the war were shocking. Who was speaking for the Palestinians? All communications in Gaza had been cut.

Meanwhile, at the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield whimpered that the resolution calling for a ceasefire didn’t mention Hamas or the hostages, who were innocent civilians. The only surprise is that she didn’t complain about it not mentioning Yasser Arafat’s birthday. On 27th October the General Assembly rejected proposal A/ES-10/L.26, eighty-eight votes for, fifty-five against and twenty-three abstentions and passed A/ES-10/L.25, one hundred and twenty for, forty-four against and forty-five abstentions. The former condemned the Hamas attacks, the latter called for humanitarian ceasefire and greater aid. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN responded by claiming the UN no longer had a shred of credibility. Something of an astonishing comment given the body’s historic record of vetoes of any resolution calling for restraint by Israel. Of course, this was the General Assembly. It’s the Security Council which matters and there America gets its own way. The UK is an obedient poodle, France makes no more than mild objections; if Russia and China see eye to eye the US still has a permanent guaranteed majority.

The UN Charter is clear: no State shall engage in aggression without the permission of the Security Council: more in the breach than the observance. The US has engaged in aggression in pursuit of its perceived interests over and over in blank defiance of the UN. As it operates, the UN is impotent to ensure the rule of international law. It needs radical reform. The only sensible outcome would be one State one vote and consensus decision-making. Winner takes all is always a bad idea. It’s the logic of the casino, not of serious diplomacy.

The appeal to the international community was, of course, baying at the moon. There is no such community. There is a global system run in the interests of the rich and appealing to that is like asking Harold Shipman to treat your sick grandma.

The World Food Programme reported only forty trucks had entered Gaza in the recent period. Only two bakeries were operating. Food was running short in the West Bank. Much more upscaling was needed. Joe Biden, however, saw fit at this juncture to question the figures for deaths provided by the Gazan Ministry. This deliberate insult to the Gazans, based on no evidence, was typical of the President’s pusillanimity and crass partiality. That the US backed Israel was taken for granted, but that Biden should descend to gratuitous sneering was an indication of the low moral tone of his administration. Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch said the organisation had been monitoring Gaza for three decades and the Gazan Health Ministry numbers were always reliable. In this case, they were in line with the intensity of the attack and the bodies were mounting up quickly. Exactly what Netanyahu wanted and Biden was willing to endorse.  

 

FRIEND OF HAMAS

Overnight from 27th to 28th October, four Palestinians were killed in Jenin in the West Bank. From the beginning, Netanyahu was intent on fighting on at least two fronts. There was no pretext for increased raids in the West Bank. Yet the pleas from Biden and the UK and elsewhere made  no difference. Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Guterres said “the world will judge us.” Unfortunately, the world’s judgement meant nothing to either the Israeli War Cabinet or Biden and his colleagues. What did Dujarric mean by “the world”? Presumably some fairly democratic entity in which people’s revulsion at wholesale slaughter, notwithstanding the Hamas attack, could sway policy. Hundreds of millions protested. There could be little doubt most of the world’s population would have been glad of a ceasefire, but power doesn’t lie with the people.

On 27th October the UN General Assembly passed resolution A/ES/10/L.25 by 121 votes for, 14 against and 45 abstentions. An amendment (L.26) condemning the Hamas attack the taking of hostages and calling for their immediate and unconditional release failed to attain the required two-thirds majority, the vote being 88 for, 55 against and 23 abstentions. The main problem with the amendment was its demand for an unconditional release of the hostages. That was to grant safety to the Israeli victims of 7th October with no reciprocal guarantee for the Palestinians. An all for all swop might have had more chance. Best of all would have been a ceasefire in return for the safe release of the hostages. To expect Hamas to give up its advantage, however questionably it might have been attained, and for the vicious assault on Gaza to continue unabated was unrealistic. That the US backed the amendment gave it the hue of a pro-Israeli move. Further, the condemnation of the Hamas attack was too crude. Occupied peoples have a legal right to armed resistance. A more subtle wording, granting Hamas the right of resistance but condemning those of its actions which fell outside the law might have been more sensible; but the US was intent on supporting Israel in spite of its blatant transgressions of law. The pattern for many decades. Israel’s war on Gaza was Biden’s war, the Democratic Party’s war, every death was on Biden’s conscience. Whatever he thinks of himself, to posterity he will be a mass murderer.

Brigadier General Pat Ryder presented the Pentagon’s view on Radio 4: the US would respond to Israel’s defence needs; it would work with “partners in the region”; it had the capability to protect its forces. The laws of war would be adhered to. Protecting civilians was essential. The US was not involved in Israel’s operation. The US had a long-term relationship with Israel, which was viciously attacked. Hamas was using the ISI playbook. What would you expect from a career militarist but apologetics for the US’s ally? However, Ryder’s comments go beyond that: assimilating Hamas to ISIS was pure propaganda. It picked up on Netanyahu’s line, a deliberate attempt to widen the conflict, to draw the US into the action. This was the Pentagon behaving as a political actor. The principle in democracies, of course, is supposed to be that politicians make the policy having been empowered to do so by the people, the armed forces carry it out.  It isn’t for the military to intervene politically. They may have to make difficult decisions in the heat of battle, but they remain, always, servants of the elected politicians. Who empowered Ryder to claim Hamas was behaving like ISIS? A minimal familiarity with the two outfits reveals serious differences. Hamas isn’t an international body. It’s a resistance movement with a nationalist aim. It hasn’t engaged in terrorism outside Palestine. It’s also a bona fide political organisation which won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, much to the consternation of the lovers of democracy in the US and Europe. Its offer to recognise Israel and renounce violence, made to George W Bush after that victory was met by silence. Democracy has to bring the “right” result. If people vote for Hamas or Jeremy Corbyn, democracy must be subverted. Ryder’s intervention ought to bring outrage among the people. They ought to push back behind the line he should observe; but this, in the current arrangements, is utopian. The Pentagon has power, the people can shut up.

Marwan Bishara commented that the US, Canada and Israel were operating in the theatre of the absurd. The US was engaged in thoroughgoing deception. Its presence in the region was a threat of wider war. Canada refused to condemn genocide. Do you think there is no hierarchy of death? Yes, there is. Palestinians are children of a lesser god. The UN resolution was symbolic but had no muscle. Israel’s position was that the world can say what it likes, we do what we want. If Israel does not accept UN resolutions is resorts to insulting the organisation. Should Israel be reprimanded, expelled? The question was purely rhetorical. Israel will simply defy.

In the wake of the resolution, Israel expanded its ground operation.  In Nablus, thousands rallied in protest. Drones dropped tear-gas on Hebron. There was an average of three settler attacks per day in the West Bank. The UN had voted, but the US and Europe had granted Israel a green light for massacre.

Mustafa Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian National Initiative and probably the wisest voice for Palestinian autonomy, accused the Israelis of refusing to listen. Barghouti is disliked by the US, Canada and the EU. When he stood for the leadership of the P.A., they worked diligently against him. He is a dangerous figure because he rejects violence and fundamentalism, both very useful for the Israelis and their backers. His logic is impeccable: violence and fundamentalism play into the hands of those who claim Israel is defending itself against irrational, unreasonable enemies. Commitment to non-violence and rejection of fundamentalism raise the Palestinian cause to a moral level which disturbs Israel. Barghouti’s family suffered under British rule, his grandfather and great-uncle having been imprisoned during the Mandate. He has been subject to physical attacks by the Israelis and his visa for a lecture tour to Canada was conveniently processed too late. He illustrates beautifully how the US requires hot-heads and gun-toters to justify its own addiction to aggression. Barghouti’s principled, disciplined stance is far and away the best strategy the Palestinians have. He spoke of a huge massacre. The aim of the ground operation was total destruction. Everything was being razed. Everyone killed. The bomb power so far unleashed was close to that visited on Hiroshima. As for Hamas, it was being used as pretext. The Israelis were going after the entire population. Ethnic cleansing was under way. Biden was lying about the casualties.

On 28th October a communications blackout was imposed on Gaza. Four hundred thousand civilians were still in the north. Women and children were among the many casualties. According to Medical Aid for Palestine more than three thousand children had died. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in his response to the previous day’s resolution claimed it had nothing to do with peace. Nor did 7th October have anything to do with the Palestinians or Israel-Palestine. Israel was at war with a genocidal Hamas who were modern day Nazis with one goal: to murder every Jew, as laid out in their charter. Even if you grant that Erdan is lying, this is hysterical. Hamas didn’t have the capacity to kill all the Jews in Tel Aviv let alone in the world. Israel is a big military power. Twenty percent of its arms funding comes from the US. It has nuclear weapons, and of course, it has the greatest, most grotesque military force the world has known on its side. That it could wipe out Israel is laughable. It managed to kill, with the assistance of the Israelis, slightly more that eleven hundred on 7th October. A tick bite on a herd of cattle in terms of scale, though, of course, devastating for the victims and their families. Israel responded with outlandish violence, not because there was any real fear of destruction or takeover, but because it had been itching for decades to find an excuse to obliterate the Palestinians.

Nine hundred more US troops were sent to the region on 26th, a clear sign of a desire to avoid escalation. Had Iran moved nine troops towards Israel, doubtless it would have been seen in Washington, London, Brussels and Tel Aviv as a shocking act of provocation. There is, of course, a principle at work here: power knows no limits. Its reach can never be broad and deep enough. It can never have sufficient control. The slightest deviance from its impositions is an existential threat. Power can’t be reasoned or negotiated with; that can be done only with those who accept others have interests and a case. The essence of power is that it alone is justified.

Settler attacks in the West Bank reached one hundred and thirty-eight, one third involving firearms. Prior to the assault on Gaza there were three attacks a day, now there were seven. On Radio 4’s Today programme on 28th October, Mishal Hussein pointed out that Israel claimed it had precise intelligence, sufficiently accurate for it to know  where Hamas’s tunnels were and what they were used for. In that case, she asked, how come its intelligence was so dismal on 7th October? She was interviewing Justin Cromp who styles himself a security and intelligence expert. He spent twenty years in the British military and has written about corporate security. In other words, his expertise is in defending the rich and powerful. He doesn’t appear to have written about how trade unions, pressure groups or anarchists can look after themselves. Hussein asked him if Israel’s key aims made sense. He responded that such aims weren’t rational in the fight against ISIS. Terrorism, he averred, can’t be beaten by violence. This might appear balanced, in fact it’s the usual propaganda tactic: what Israel is doing is justified, it’s just going about it the wrong way. There was no question of putting Israel’s essential position in question. Such interventions provide a useful appearance of democratic debate: should Israel decimate the Palestinians this way or that way; but that they shouldn’t is off the agenda. Meanwhile, Daniel Hagari, the IDF’s ghoulish spokesperson,  argued medical facilities were fair game, a claim greeted with resounding silence by the “West”. Geoffrey Nice, the veteran KC and judge explained that theoretically medical facilities can lose their protected status but a warning must be given; the aim of the attack must be justified and proportionate and must be to prevent risk to other lives. Brought before a court, the precise reasoning leading to the attack would be required. The ICC has jurisdiction in such matters. It was doubtful Israel could fulfil the requirements. The law employs the caveat of acts “harmful to the enemy” but doesn’t offer precise definition. Clearly, the Israeli claim from the start was that hospitals were being used as military bases, though no convincing evidence was adduced. Leaving aside the legal issue, however, from a moral point of view Israel’s assaults on medical facilities were despicable. They weren’t indiscriminate: they were intended to remove medical care for the wounded and sick; part of the Israeli effort to wipe out the Gazans.

Jeremey Hopkins of UNICEF said a million children were need of supplies. There were no communications. An immediate ceasefire was the best way to bring aid.

Jeremy Bowen reported on radio 4 that the IDF were hitting the north, though they weren’t saying much about their operations. The bombarments were very large. It was hard to get information. The UN was in contact with the south by satphone, otherwise communication was down. The IDF was trying to clear Hamas’s tunnels. They seemed to be trying to take Gaza slice by slice.

Mark Regev,  the robotic purveyor of the Israeli States mendacity, interviewed on Radio 4, said the pressure to destroy Hamas would increase. As for the four hundred thousand civilians still in the north, everything was being done to spare them (this with a straight face). The figure of three thousand dead children couldn’t be trusted because it came from Hamas. As for  Israel, it was unable to provide numbers. Pressed on how he could know the figures provided by Hamas were wrong given he could provide none of his own, he replied the military was not the right body to provide such statistics. Odd that the IDF was rather less reticent about assertions concerning precisely how Hamas was using hospitals. The problem of getting the hostages out alive, he claimed, was there was no good will from Hamas; as if the Israelis had always bent double to secure peace and understanding. Hamas was lying, he asserted about the hostages killed in Israeli attacks. Once again, curious that one minute the Israelis know nothing and the next they have secure data. Regev made a strange admission: Israel had failed. Its mistake was believing it could live with Hamas.

Regev’s capacity to lie is pathological. Netanyahu is on record as arguing in 2019 that anyone who wanted to isolate the Palestine Authority must support Hamas: “Whoever opposes a Palestinian State must support the delivery of funds to Gaza because maintaining separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State.” Hamas had no better friend in the world than Netanyahu. Funds to Gaza were funds to Hamas.  In May 2019 Mubarak remarked: “Netanyahu isn’t interested in a two-State solution. Rather, he wants to separate Gaza from the West bank, as he told me at the end of 2010.” In the same year, Ehud Barak remarked: “His strategy is to keep Hamas alive and kicking.. even at the price of abandoning the citizens..in order to weaken the Palestine Authority in Ramallah.” Netanyahu ensured funds kept flowing from Qatar and Iran to Hamas.

None of this is arcane. Yet Regev argues that Israel tried to “live with Hamas.” It was doing no such thing: it was consciously and deliberately supporting them. Living with them implies putting up with them in spite of being opposed. Netanyahu wasn’t opposed, he was enthusiastic: Hamas was his guarantee of a block on a Palestinian State. He wasn’t putting up with them, he was manipulating them. Regev’s comment leaves this out entirely. It implies Israel did nothing to help Hamas but tried merely to find a modus vivendi. That is thoroughly dishonest. Netanyahu was boosting an organisation which he defined as terrorist. He scuppered the 2017 peace plan between Fatah and Hamas, brokered by Egypt: it might facilitate two-States. In January 2022 Gadi Eisenkot, a senior IDF military figure, revealed that Netanyahu consistently overruled the National Security Council in its efforts to engage with the PA and establish two States. His strategy was to ostracise the PA and strengthen Hamas.

Angela Davies, the veteran US civil rights activist, argued on Al Jazeera that Palestinian and coloured liberation were intertwined. Palestine was a moral litmus test. The movement against racism was expanding. There was no abstract answer, things had to play out in practicality. The Israeli police and the IDF were all of a piece. There was a comparison with the US where Atlanta, for example was a “cop city”. The police were pushing for greater power. There were great corporate profits to be had from oppression. It was neceassry to talk about capitalism. Though it might be hard to see a way through, it was crucial not to give up. Hope is the condition of all struggles.

Davies was perhaps the sole, at least one of the very few, who raised the question of the US as a business-controlled society. In the mainstream, of course, the connection was never made. It was simply  a mad attack by Hamas that was the cause. That the US used Israel as a strategic asset, that Israel, like its master, was a business society marked by serious inequality, that the people to suffer in Israel were the poor, that the assault on Gaza was necessary for US domination and that was driven by the corporates and their divine right to profit, was completely suppressed. As ever, whatever the US did was justified. The US was always on the side of freedom and justice, even when it invaded South Vietnam or brough down Allende. The underlying assumption of indefeasible virtue which has turned the US into the biggest threat not only to peace but to the survival of humanity, was simply taken for granted. Davies’s remarks were relatively banal, yet the banality of the obvious had to be hidden from view. There was only one narrative: the US and Israel were defenders of peace, justice, humanity, the rule of law. Franz Kafka couldn’t have made it up.