Despite the avalanche of propaganda from Western media outlets, not least the disgraceful coverage by our own BBC, attempts to paint Palestinians on the Gaza strip as aggressors and terrorists are failing. Instead, growing revulsion at Israel’s continuing bombardment of the most densely-populated area on earth is almost palpable. Good and long overdue. However, an insidious and dangerous alternative philosophy is emerging, one that, in its own way, is just as damaging to the besieged and beleaguered Palestinians as the unashamed brutality and war crimes of the rogue terrorist state of Israel.
Liberal pacifists are the new enemy of Palestine. Those who, while opposing Israel’s state terror, are just as quick to apportion equal blame to the Palestinian cause. “Oh, both sides should stop the violence,” these worthies cry. On the hard left, too, there are those who say Hamas are terrorists and that socialists should have no truck with ‘clerical fascists.’
Such views are unacceptable and unwittingly or not, place the supporters of such sentiments firmly in the imperialist camp and render them apologists for continuing Zionist slaughter.
Violence does not exist in a vacuum. It is not an abstract, moral question. One should not allow pro-Israeli propaganda to neuter our critical faculties and turn us into political Quakers. The fact is that violence is neither objectively good nor bad; as with most things in life, context is everything. So let’s look at that context…
The occupants of the Gaza strip exist in a precarious world of poverty and squalor. As previously mentioned, it is the most densely-populated region on the face of the planet. Food and adequate medical provision is in dangerously short supply and in every way the contrast between Gaza and its ‘neighbour,’ Israel, could not be more stark.
Israel, by contrast, has one of the strongest economies in the region and affords its citizens the highest average standard of living to be found anywhere in the Middle East. Its continuing control of the Palestinian borders and air space, an arrangement that denies the Palestinians even the most basic provisions for a minimum standard of dignified living, means this disparity will only increase and, of course, with it growing anger and opposition toward Israel.
In terms of Hamas’ legitimacy, here Western hypocrisy is clearly visible. At the last election, Hamas won seventy-two of the available 132 seats. Over 44% of the total. And on a turnout of 75%. By any criteria that is a mandate and a half and one that would have Western leaders weeping with gratitude should they ever be the recipients of such electoral largesse. Contrast that with Cameron’s 32% share of the vote, on a 65% turnout and his insistence that Hamas is illegitimate and will not be recognised by the UK is hypocrisy of the rankest kind.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should morph into uncritical cheer-leaders for Hamas but, and it’s a huge but, the arrogant Western mindset that says we know best and we can and should dictate how other nations run their affairs comes to the fore and is evident in the criticism many level at Hamas. The fact remains; Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinians. Get used to it.
Regarding violence, the question is so simple that one wonders how so many can fail to draw the correct conclusions. There is the violence of the oppressor and there is the violence of the oppressed. The former is immoral and illegitimate while the latter is not only moral and legitimate but unavoidable and necessary. Self-defence is never an offence. Unless, that is, we are to see an entire region of people ethnically cleansed because, and make no mistake, that is the only conclusion if the occupants of Gaza lay down what paltry arms they have and submit to Israel.
The huge arsenal and troops that Israel has its disposal, and the pitiful, largely homemade, ordnance available to the Palestinians render the balance of forces grotesquely unequal. As the latest death-toll makes clear: 690 dead Palestinians, the majority of whom are civilians, including many children, compared to 32 dead Israeli soldiers and 3 civilian casualties. Add to that the support, arms and funding Israel receives from Washington, London and elsewhere, and one can only feel humbled at the continuing resistance of the Palestinian people.
We should not need to spell out the respective moral justifications for each side’s actions. There can be no question that Israel has neither moral right nor even bourgeois international law on its side. It continues to operate with arrogance and impunity, ignoring, to date, 62 UN resolutions (compare that with Iraq’s flouting of just 2 and look what happened there…) and, ignoring borders, the law, the sovereignty of other nations and all accepted norms of diplomacy, it dispatches its intelligence operatives to anywhere it damn well pleases to murder and assassinate at will. How dare anyone decry reactive, defensive Palestinian violence and hold it the equal of Israel’s?
Even a ceasefire offers the Palestinians little hope. A cease-fire means only a Palestinian ceasefire while Israel returns to the day-to-day business of illegal occupation, beating, shooting and illegally imprisoning defenceless Palestinians. While the so-called international community looks the other way.
The residents, or rather prisoners, of the Gaza strip are waging a life and death struggle that transcends even national liberation; they are concerned with simply survival. In such a case there is no ‘plague on both your houses’ option available. There is no moral equivalency between the world's 4th most-mighty military power invading and then subjugating a poverty-stricken oppressed people who are desperately fighting for their lives and the very existence of the miserable 32-mile strip of open-air prison they call home.
There is no quandary, no grey area and no ambiguity; Israel is the aggressor. The Palestinians are the victims. We should unconditionally, unquestioningly and unequivocally support their resistance and right to defend themselves in any fashion they see fit. Rockets into Israel are the legitimate and just resistance of a desperate people. Israeli airstrikes are the brutality of the invader and, quite probably, war crimes.
We are told Hamas uses human shields and hides its weaponry in schools, hospitals and the like. If true, and only the most foolish should accept unquestioningly that it is true, such sanctimonious outrage ignores two crucial facts: firstly, given the enormous population-density of Gaza, virtually anywhere Hamas hide their rockets is technically a civilian area. There is no space, no room for it be otherwise. Secondly, such biased reporting ignores the huge popular support Hamas enjoys on the ground, with many civilians eager to lend assistance to its Al-Qassam Brigades. As well they might. Who else speaks for the Palestinians? What other nations stand with the oppressed of Gaza? Which world superpower bankrolls and arms their fighters as the US does for Israel?
If ever a cause was noble, just and heroic, it is that of the Palestinians.