Targeted killings. Ground operations. No option off the table. Once again, Israel is using the technocratic vocabulary of twenty-first-century warfare to obscure its colonization of Palestine, and, once again, the Western media is collaborating in the grand deception.
It was predictable, sadly, that Israel would move onto an aggressive war footing when, in June, three Jewish teenagers disappeared in the West Bank and later were found dead. Not because military retaliation was the just response or the surest means of guaranteeing the safety of Israeli citizens, but because only thus can Israel retain the upper hand in its twin quests to divide and dispossess the Palestinian people and to conceal that goal from world opinion.
Consider the incident that precipitated June’s sallies into “Area A” (the Palestinian Authority-controlled splotches of the West Bank) and the July assault upon Gaza (with a vigilante immolation of a Palestinian boy in between). One of the murdered Jewish youths, it has emerged, called the Israeli police immediately after he was abducted. The police heard gunshots on the other end of the line. Officers concluded the episode was over: They would be looking for corpses, not live hostages. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the pretext of rescue to order a massive incursion replete with curfews, home demolitions and arbitrary detentions, not limited to the Hebron area where the teens vanished, but reaching far to the north, east and south.
Clearly, as our contributing editor Mouin Rabbani wrote on June 28 for the al-Shabaka website, Netanyahu saw an opportunity to deal a blow to the Palestinian organizations that are resisting occupation, primarily, today, Hamas. His premise was that Hamas members kidnapped and killed the teens — the Islamist movement denies responsibility — but his aim was political. Israel has been waiting to drive a wedge between Hamas and the rump PA presidency of Mahmoud ‘Abbas ever since the two agreed to reconcile in April. With PA “security cooperation” in rounding up Hamas cadres in the West Bank, Israel induces the erosion of the Palestinian bargain on the Ramallah end. With non-stop pounding of Gaza, already besieged and deprived, Israel incites Hamas to fight fire with fire, however low theirs may burn in comparison to Israel’s incendiary belligerence.
The other arena of combat, once again, is the media. There, Israel has been watching warily as parallels are drawn between Palestine and apartheid South Africa. With global attention focused on Iraq, and the World Cup, Israel spied another big chance. As Rabbani put it, “Changing the narrative from colonialism to terrorism has obvious advantages.”
Fear instantly grips the Israeli Jewish public at the invocation of “terror,” and any dissent becomes hopeless naïvete, if not treason. Perhaps more to the point, for Israeli purposes, the White House reliably defers to Israel’s framing of the issue, telling even an unarmed Palestinian-American teen beaten unconscious by Israeli police that Israel has “a right to defend itself.” The American media parrots the nonsense, giving more time to air raid sirens in Tel Aviv than to air raids in Gaza, and burying Palestinian civilian deaths six paragraphs below the prospect of bodily harm to Israeli soldiers. Bombardment of residential buildings is excused with mention of an admonitory phone call from the Israeli army and even a “warning rocket” that rattles the rafters to portend the arrival of destruction.
And all for what? To restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity”? No. The Israeli offensives are intended to shore up Netanyahu’s right-far right coalition, to split the Palestinian national movement, to scatter Palestinian civil resistance and, perhaps above all, to keep the world talking about “cycles of violence” rather than a settler-colonial project based on Jewish racial privilege.
If there is to be an end to Palestinian suffering, and a comprehensive peace, the narrative must bear much closer relation to reality. Things, that is, must be called by their names. The narrative will not change, however, until the gross imbalance of forces on the ground is set aright. And the summer of 2014 has proven, once again, that no state, no self-appointed sponsor of diplomacy, is at all interested in taking up that task.