When a Zionist projects Israel's unattractive traits on Hamas
An editorial appeared in our local paper this week, purporting to “dispel myths” about Gaza that had been presented in recent events in our town. The article was actually an attempt to dispel truths about Israel by redirecting attention at Hamas. When attacks like this surface, we know we’ve exposed a crack in the facade of Israeli innocence.
Rather than send a rebuttal to the newspaper for a handful of local people to read, I thought it would be instructive to discuss a few points with Palestine advocates who follow us. That way, you’ll be prepared when (not if) a similar opportunity comes along.
It would be great if the author of the op-ed and other local folks who have written similar pieces defaming Palestinians will read this and see the error of their ways, but I’m not holding my breath. Not surprisingly, they tend to attack and avoid. The cognitive dissonance associated with knowing these truths causes a lot of discomfort.
The author - we’ll call her Hannah - attacked the idea that the people of Gaza are suffering due to a 50-year illegal occupation and 12-year illegal blockade by Israel. She tried to pin the blame for Gaza’s woes on Hamas, the elected leadership of the people.
If you don’t know the facts, Hannah’s argument may be compelling, built as it is on familiar stereotypes. We’re comfortable with what we know, whether it’s true or not. But Palestinians are not their stereotypes, just as Jews are not theirs. What we must grapple with is facts.
Hannah said: "Israel doesn’t “control” Gaza. In 2005, Israel completely disengaged."
This is a patently false statement that is repeated ad nauseam. In fact, I spoke at great length in my presentation about this (Hannah did not attend. I described how Israel controls land borders (think: snipers at the Great March of Return) and maritime borders (illegally imposing fishing limits, and shooting even at fishermen who are inside those boundaries); Israel controls the airspace (using surveillance drones and frequent F-16 flyovers); Israel even manages under the ground. Israel decides what goes into Gaza and what comes out.
Clearly, Israel does control Gaza. Clearly Israel did not completely disengage from Gaza, but merely relocated its troops to the other side of the border.
Hannah said: "Hamas routinely arrests, detains and conveniently has opposition leaders ‘disappear.’ It has even arrested members of Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes “their authorities have established machineries of repression to crush dissent, including through the use of torture.”"
There is some truth to this: Hamas is not a benevolent regime. But this was not a wise direction for Hannah to take: arrest, detention, torture, and assassination are not topics that place Israel in a flattering light. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, the Jewish State has detained 800,000 Palestinians (roughly 40% of the total male population in the occupied territories), assassinated hundreds, and arrested 50,000 children. The Israeli Supreme Court endorses the torture (“enhanced interrogation”) of Palestinians.
As for the accusation that Hamas arrests members of human rights groups, again let’s review Israel’s record. Just last month, Israel deported a worker for Human Rights Watch. Israel has totally banned many human rights orgs from entering the country, and kicked out UN-designated international observers in Hebron, whose job it was to record Israeli human rights abuses.
If Hamas is to be held accountable for its actions vis-a-vis detention and the like, the same must be done for Israel.
Hannah said: "According to HRW, [Hamas] security forces arrest residents for nonviolent speech acts."
Again, this may be true. And again, Israel is likewise guilty: groups that try to inform the public about Israel’s brutality (for example, Breaking the Silence) and that support boycott have been silenced or outlawed; Israel forbids Palestinians to gather in groups larger than nine to talk about politics; Israel won't let Palestinians wave a flag; Israel shoots or imprisons journalists, and even arrests people for Facebook posts.
Hannah said: "Gaza receives significant amounts of foreign aid. In recent years, Qatar has given over $1 billion to Gaza."
$1 billion, spread out over several years, is "significant"? Israel receives $3.8 billion every year - just from the US, and just in military aid.
Hannah said: "Despite what others would have you believe, Gaza’s leaders are the real source of the people’s woes."
Gaza's leaders are fighting an illegal occupation. The OCCUPATION is the source of the people's woes. Gaza's leaders are a real piece of work, but they are not the real problem.
And finally, Hannah stated that Hamas' suppression of free speech is "in violation of international human rights law."
Yet again, if we would judge Hamas for violation of international law, we must apply the same standard to Israel. The 50-year occupation of Palestinian territories is in breach;Israel’s transfer of population (600,000 settlers) into occupied land is in breach; detention, torture, and assassination are in breach - as are snipers shooting at unarmed civilians, including healthcare workers, ambulances, and journalists - sometimes with exploding bullets. That's not all, but it's enough for now.
I’ve pressed Hannah before, asking for a response to facts like these. Each time, she had no answer except to say, "that's not a productive conversation.” I think what she means is, “the facts are irrelevant to my position on Israel’s innocence and Hamas’ guilt.”
Each time Israel partisans knowingly project the transgressions of Israel onto others, they are participants in a double complicity: holding Palestinians accountable for a relatively small evil, and not holding Israel accountable for a large travesty of justice.
And as long as Israel’s actions go unchecked, Hannah and others like her are - let’s call it what it is - enabling the killing of innocent people.
(Hannah, I hope you read this and feel deeply uncomfortable. On some level, you know that you are on the wrong side of justice. Jump ship.)