Rationalizing Gaza

We all know the rationalization for Israel’s brutal invasion of the Gaza Strip. After all, it’s been reiterated endlessly over the airwaves by official and unofficial spokesmen for the Israeli government, on all channels, and with no rebuttal or skeptical perspective from Palestinians or, indeed, from anyone vaguely sympathetic to their plight. Their argument goes like this: if rockets were coming from Mexican territory and landing in San Diego, posing a threat to the life and safety of American citizens, we all know what would happen.

This is supposed to settle the question of the morality of the invasion, but it doesn’t. Because what we are seeing in this argument is a variation on the old cherry-picking technique of the neocons in the Bush administration, who utilized "talking points" that were very selective in their presentation of the facts to make the case for invading Iraq.

What the rationalizers leave out, of course, is the ongoing blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas took control in the wake of its overwhelming election victory – and an attempted (and partially successful) coup d’etat by the losers of that election, the Fatah organization of the late Yasser Arafat (now headed up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). The blockade itself was an act of war, by which the Israelis struck the first blow.

With this correction made, then, let’s revisit – and reverse – the Israeli argument, putting all the known facts in their proper context. If Mexico – in an attempt to regain its lost territory, the promised land of California – invaded California, drove the residents of San Diego from their city, cooped them up in, say, Death Valley, and wouldn’t let anything but a basic minimum of consumer goods and medical supplies either in or out, well, we all know what would happen.

I won’t waste your time or mine complaining about the brazenly Israeli-centric news coverage of the invasion by the English-speaking media. It’s a given, like the weather, or, more accurately, the phenomenon of global warming – a man-made disaster. In any case, what’s interesting is how Western perceptions of the Palestinian leadership have evolved over time, always in perfect accordance with the talking points put out by the Israeli embassy.

In the beginning there was Arafat, the first Palestinian leader to come to public prominence in the U.S. and Western Europe, who long embodied the Palestinian cause. Seen through the eyes of Israel’s amen corner, he was a perfect villain: a radical, a terrorist, and a vicious anti-Semite, whose name was generally associated with intransigence and violence. The Israelis drove him out of Palestine and pursued him into Lebanon and points beyond, yet he endured. Longevity elevated him to semi-statesman status, and his perseverance would have led to a two-state solution if the U.S. negotiating team hadn’t taken their instructions from Tel Aviv. He refused to relegate his people to a collection of defenseless bantustans. Be that as it may, in the end the Israelis besieged the ailing symbol of Palestinian resistance, then gloated that he had died of AIDS, rather than an Israeli bullet in the back of the head.

Fatah, traditionally afforded the same treatment as Arafat, has now been rehabilitated in the eyes of the Western media. In vivid contrast to Arafat’s day, today we are told that Fatah is the vessel of pro-Western moderation. Yesterday they were dangerous terrorists who could not be talked to, today they are the recipients of U.S. aid. Abbas has basically taken the position that Hamas provoked the attack by launching rocket attacks after the cease-fire ran out, a position that further erodes his tenuous support among the populace and gives Hamas plenty of ammunition for future political gains.

Hamas, like Fatah before it, is today depicted much as Fatah once was – an exemplar of violent intransigence, an enemy whose fanaticism precludes negotiations, the only difference being the religious element. Fatah was always secular, whereas Hamas wants to establish an Islamic state in what is now Israel and the West Bank. Like Hezbollah, Hamas runs a wide variety of social and humanitarian programs: compared to the notoriously corrupt Fatah, these guys seem like angels to the average Palestinian. When Fatah lost out to Hamas big-time – in elections touted by President Bush as a triumph of democracy – "President" Abbas simply annulled the results, expelled the elected Hamas representatives from the Palestinian parliament, and outlawed the organization. The Israelis took it from there, with the blockade.

The pattern here is clear enough: whenever someone is actually opposing Israeli military aggression, that person or group is automatically characterized as a villain, a fanatic, a terrorist whose existence cannot be tolerated. Having demonized Arafat and driven him to his death, now they push Fatah and go after Hamas. Whichever group is more effective in resisting the occupation is targeted for destruction.

The history of Hamas provides more than a few ironies: it was originally sponsored by the Israelis in the late 1970s as a way to undermine the Palestine Liberation Organization and Arafat’s personal leadership. Citing several former and current CIA officers, UPI’s Richard Sale reported the Israelis provided "direct aid," including funding, to Hamas at its inception.

Under the name Al-Mujamma al-Islami, Hamas was registered as a legal association in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "According to U.S. administration officials," reports Sales, "funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel." It soon branched out from propaganda and social work. Aside from splintering the Palestinian movement for national self-determination, Israeli support for Hamas was designed to keep tabs on militants considered dangerous by the Israelis. What happened, instead, was that spies and collaborators were caught and shot by the very effective Hamas counter-intelligence unit. This Frankenstein monster, rising to take the place of the PLO as the instrument of Palestinian rage, turned on its creator.

Hamas is the enemy Israel deserves, and nothing proves this more than the current bloody operation, which is inflicting heavy casualties on the Palestinians. A full 30 percent of the killed and injured are children.

The Israeli blitz demonstrates a new moral principle in action, one that stands the old Catholic just war theory on its head by establishing the concept of disproportionality. Whereas the old just war theorists insisted that responses to aggression must be proportionate to the provocation, this new theory – let’s call it the Luciferian theory – holds just the opposite: that an overreaction is mandated in order to strike fear and awe into the enemy. This will supposedly deter them from stepping out of line in the future.

We saw this Bizarro World morality applied in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel invaded the country, killed over 1,000, mostly civilians, and devastated civilian targets, including hospitals and water plants – all because Hezbollah had kidnapped a few of their soldiers. Now Israeli government officials are claiming that because the Palestinians insist on fighting back and firing missiles as deep into Israel as Beersheba, this places a million Israelis in mortal danger, and therefore anything and everything is justified in "self-defense."

This mutant morality was prefigured by the Bushian theory of preemption, which arrogates to the U.S. the right to attack any nation on earth, based on the possibility that someone somewhere is plotting to do us harm, and it will now be upheld (or, at least, not contested) by the Obama administration. This war is sending a message not only to the Palestinians, but to the Americans: the Israelis are telling us that they, too, claim the "right" to preemptively go after their avowed enemies, at least in their own regional sandbox, without having to justify it in a way any normal code of morality or international law would condone.

The two most destructive and objectively anti-American forces in the Middle East – al-Qaeda affiliates and the Israelis – benefit the most from this fresh outbreak of a festering conflict, and the losers are the Palestinians and the American people, with the former enduring the slaughter and the latter paying for it.

We will pay for it not only in billions of our tax dollars, but in terms of the hate-America factor, which will skyrocket on the Arab "street" and inspire many to take up arms against us. These are prime recruits for the jihadists such as bin Laden, whose ultimate target is the continental United States. At the rate we are going, we’ll have to close off the country entirely in order to keep out enemies both numerous and determined. In the end, however, nothing will protect us against the relatives and loved ones of the innocents Israel has slaughtered, with our help and full approval.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].