It’s happening: we are at last seeing significant American mainstream dissent from the Israeli line during this conflict. There is growing space to voice criticism of our closest friend in the Middle East because of what is widely perceived to be a “disaster” unfolding in Gaza (to quote Ali Abunimah).
Friends and commenters call me optimistic/naive (as Michael Ratner does on Law and Disorder radio today) but in my list below is everything from John Kerry’s hot-mic moment expressing anger at the Israeli brutality– a moment Kerry has survived– to The New Yorker accusing Israel of a “war crime,” to TV reporters Richard Engel and Karl Penhaul describing the inhumane conditions in Gaza, to Anne Barnard of the New York Times explaining to Americans that Gaza is an open-air prison, to Lawrence Weschler’s outburst, that Israel has “rabies” and Gaza is “a concentration camp.”
I am saying that this brutal and pointless onslaught is operating on the US mainstream the way that the massacres of Cast Lead operated on the left five years ago: People are saying Enough! They see that Israel has no plan at all besides wrecking Palestinian lives. “The monstrosity that is Israel is naked, for all the world to see,” Scott Roth writes.
And look at this great tweet from James Fallows, accompanying a famous foto of US atrocities in Vietnam:
It is just a matter of time before some liberal Zionists (who are merely the most amenable voices inside a reactionary American support community) begin to jump off the Zionist tank. Today Haaretz reported the following, according to Americans for Peace Now:
J-Street pulls sponsorship from pro-Israel rally in Boston – The left-wing organization complained there was ‘no voice for our concerns about the loss of human life on both sides, or the acknowledgement of the conflict’s complexity.’ (Haaretz+)
So even J Street (actually a center-right organization; it supports endless military aide to support apartheid) senses a change in the US climate, and feels safe taking a baby step.
More on the shifting climate.
In Gaza, NBC’s Richard Engel retweeted this very sensible message from Jon Snow, a British TV announcer:
If you strangle a people, deny them supply, for years, extreme reaction is inevitable. the one begets the other.
Bernard Avishai had a piece at the New Yorker last week called “Watching Gaza” that said Israel is guilty of war crimes, killing civilians in an effort to discredit Hamas. And the endgame, Avishai says, is rightwing consolidation of greater Israel, and the Palestinians going to the international criminal court.
bombing these homes every few years—“mowing the lawn,” as one commander put it before earlier Gaza operations—demonstrates that Israel will not shrink from inflicting hundreds of random civilian casualties, through which it hopes to discredit Hamas. If you don’t think this is a war crime, talk to your Palestinian friends…
Israel’s problem is no longer just Ban Ki-moon and CNN. Since 2012, the streets of the West Bank have grown more volatile; a new generation, as distrustful of the two-state peace process as Israeli rightists, has come of age. Jerusalem is witnessing mob violence on both sides of its divide. Israel cannot bomb civilians and expect that students in Hebron and Ramallah will only vent their fury on Facebook. Bassem Khoury, a Palestinian entrepreneur and former economics minister, wrote to me this morning that the pressure on Abbas to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, pushing Israeli leaders toward facing the sanctions of international law, has become irresistible. Wherever Abbas goes, Khoury writes, “cries of ‘either sign or leave’ are being heard amongst the disgruntled, particularly the youth.”…In the absence of a credible peace process, which Netanyahu has preëmpted, the consequence of this war will be, in effect, the consolidation of a Jewish state in which the Arab minority will stop imagining a place for itself. And how long will Hezbollah stay out of the fray?
That consolidation of a racist state is why Andrew Sullivan now says the two-state solution is dead; so let’s move on to a struggle for equal rights within one country.
Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group had an excellent piece on the New York Times op-ed page on the “road to war,” saying that Israel chose this war as a means of blocking the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah.
the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June….
Thrall says in so many words that the siege of Gaza is immoral and has to be lifted.
For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay.
Many writers are citing J.J. Goldberg’s piece at the Forward, “How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza,” which says that Israel manipulated the teen killings in the West Bank to have a war with Hamas, and now Israel is going off a “cliff.” Goldberg is essentially conveying a portrait of an intolerant political culture that Max Blumenthal gave us in his 2013 book, Goliath, a place whipped by war fever and fear of Arabs.
Anne Barnard at the Times has a remarkably straightforward rendition of Palestinian conditions in Gaza.
Perhaps most important, the vast majority of Gazans cannot leave Gaza. They live under restrictions that make this narrow coastal strip, which the United Nations considers occupied by Israel, unlike anywhere else.Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain in 2010 called Gaza “an open-air prison,” drawing criticism from Israel. But in reality, the vast majority of Gazans are effectively trapped, unable to seek refugee status across an international border. (Most are already refugees, those who fled from what is now Israel and their descendants.)
So the people of Gaza are refugees–it’s about time that is brought home to Americans. Barnard’s report is similar to Karl Penhaul’s excellent report on CNN last night, about people running for their lives in Gaza. Penhaul quoted moving calm statements by Sameh Grega, who had to abandon his mother when he fled Shuha’iyeh, and at the end of the report, by a young man describing the killing of his mother and brother.
And Pat Lang agrees with me, that things are shifting. He adds a realist gloss to it:
As sad as it is to say, the main effects of this round of fighting in Gaza will be found; 1- in the worldwide political damage done to Israel for the callous massacre of civilians and 2- the impact on Israeli and more importantly American popular opinion of a high Israeli military body count. Throughout previous Israeli operations intended to “mow the grass,” in Gaza, the IDF has operated with impunity, able to continue from day to day without major fear of the likelihood of its own casualties in dead and wounded. If these present reports are correct, that has changed. The American people have many admirable characteristics but their inability to see virtue in “losers” is not one of them. An ability on the part of the Hamas/IJ fighters to inflict casualties on the IDF would raise the public image of the Palestinians in America. According to the Israel FB page, Hamas now says that it will equip large numbers of Gazan youth with grenades and send them against IDF forces in suicide attacks. The Israelis do not seem to understand how potent a weapon that would be.