I called this post “Where Angels Fear to Tread” because I am firmly of the belief that we lose our humanity when we stay silent in the face of crimes against humanity, in this case, Israel’s genocide in the rubble-ridden, stinking-of-the-dead, open prison that is Gaza.
I’m wading into the Palestinian-Israeli situation because to stay on the sidelines and be silent is gutless and cowardly. I am also always cognisant of two saying which I consider my core beliefs in regard to justice for me:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of
thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. . . . ” – John Donne
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” – Martin Luther King
Given that if you speak up on behalf of Palestinians you’re likely to be labelled anti-semitic, you do tend to consider whether to comment or not. But to be appalled and disgusted by the carnage in Gaza and to speak up about it isn’t being anti-semitic, it’s being anti-Zionist. They are two completely different beings. I’ll condemn loudly anti-Jewish comments because I abhor anti-semitism. Anti-semitism enabled the functioning of the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and wherever it rears its ugly head today it needs to be smacked down. But anti-Zionism is to be against the way in which Israel carries out genocide against Palestinian people – not just today but since the founding of the state of Israel.
So I’ll nail my colours to the mast: I think the Palestinians have been the victims in the Palestine-Israel situation and deserted by world leaders, that Israel is a thuggish, nationalistic nation, committing war crimes with impunity because of backing from its main arms dealer, America, and Palestinians have a right to choose who represents them. Remember, Hamas was elected democratically in 2006 which is when Israel, with US backing, decided to impose a blockade on Gaza, turning it into a huge open prison/concentration camp. And Hamas arose – and has the backing of the Palestinian people – because of the suffering imposed by Zionist Israel.
But this was not always my attitude on Israel and Palestine.
When I lived on the kibbutz in Israel I would see numbers tattooed on the inside arms of some of the older kibbutzniks and know they were concentration camp survivors. One day we were in the middle of a meal in the communal dining room when a siren went off. At first I thought it was a fire siren as everyone stood up, but when no-one moved I asked the volunteer beside me what was going on. It turned out to be Holocaust Remembrance Day with people bowing their heads to honour and remember the five million-plus Jews who died in Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.
And when I was a kid, I came across a book which my parents had kept hidden due to the images and articles in it – about the concentration camps run by the Nazis in which, initially, German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals and physically and mentally handicapped people were incarcerated. Jewish people were then included on the Nazis hate list, millions were rounded up and transported to the killing fields of Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald, Theresienstadt, to name a few. These camps were where the infamous ovens existed where inmates were gassed to death. The image which remains engraved in my mind from that book of my parents is of an elderly Jew with a Star of David gouged out of his cheek – the Star of David being the yellow star which Jews were forced to wear wherever Hitler spread his evil empire.
I was told that my doctor in Ramsgate, Kent, UK, was one of the first medical staff to enter Bergen-Belsen, although – as far as I know – she never spoke publicly about this part of her life. It made the existence of these ghastly camps real for me.
I say this because I grew up in the post-war era when there was much discussion about concentration camps, torture, the perils of neo-Nazism, the way in which Nazis operated: you kill one of ours, we’ll kill a whole lot more of yours. I saw photos of concentration camps where people were just bags of bones, saw the piles of gold teeth taken from dead people, and I despise those nowadays who try to pretend that these barbaric camps were a piece of fiction.
So yes, I was a fervent supporter of Israel when I lived on Kibbutz Eilon in 1972. I had no idea about the history of Israel nor was I aware of any information about Palestinian people. As far as I was aware, Jewish people settled in Israel and rebuilt it from the shambolic state it was in when the primitive Arabs occupied it. The Arabs are cowards, murderers and were basically barbarians. Anything put out by Zionist Israel was the truth. Anything spoken by dirty Arabs was lies. Racism allowed the grotesque falsehood of making the victims the criminal, and the criminal the victim. That’s the way it was for years, until recently.
Things changed for me a lot earlier, two years after I arrived in Australia, when I joined the Australian Union of Students in 1974 as the Organiser for Western Australia. Suddenly I was meeting people who had a quite different view of Israel, its formation and its actions. I met and helped take around in Western Australia two Palestinian students, Eddie Zananiri and Samir Cheikh of the General Union of Palestinian Students. There was uproar over their presence in Australia and Zionist forces did their best to derail their tour, but they weren’t successful.
And so I was forced to reconsider my views because I was finding out facts from the other side – from the Palestinian side, from Palestinian sources – the voices of the hidden, the repressed, the dispossessed. I found out that Israel was founded on terrorism – by the Irgun, the Stern gang and Haganah; that Palestinians were massacred and forced to flee through more terrorist threats; that two British sergeants who were kidnapped and hanged by the Irgun terrorists were not summarily executed but were hanged with bailing wire so they suffocated slowly (courtesy of my late father-in-law who served in Palestine); that the British encouraged Zionist Jewish settlers in Palestine, not out of any sympathy for Jews, but to act as a buffer between the indigenous population and the British political system. Similarly the US supported the founding of Israel for it to serve as a policeman and look-out post or US interests and meddling in the Middle East.
I found out that tens of thousands of Palestinians were living in refugee camps that I never knew existed. I learned that so-called “terrorist” groups were resistance and freedom fighters who had come into existence because of the brutal repression of the Palestinian people. I came across reports that Israel actively colluded in the massacres by Lebanese Christian militia in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in which between 762 and 3,500 civilians were killed. This slaughter is considered a war crime but the “international community”, ie, US, UK and Europe, have done nothing at all about it. Indeed, Ariel Sharon, who presided over this genocide, ended up as the Prime Minister of Israel!
One thing I also discovered was the racism which coloured the whole Palestinian issue – that Palestine was a wasteland until the creative, skilled Zionists colonised the area; that Palestinians were illiterate, inveterate liars and nothing they said could be believed because only Israel spoke the truth. Well, ha-bloody-ha to that load of tripe. I know that once I’d opened my eyes to the truth, I was furious at being deceived by all the Zionist-US propaganda – the same propaganda that operates today when President Obama talks about how awful genocide by Islamic Nation is in Iraq, while signing orders for more weapons for the genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and not saying a word about the recent Israeli onslaught.
I think one of the saddest things about Zionist nationalist ideology is that it sets out to present Jewish people as “the chosen ones”, the ones with “the right of return to Israel” from anywhere in the world (which means “move over Palestinians, we want more of your land as Jewish people heed this call and move onto your land as settlers”). It is deeply racist and, to my mind, has made life more difficult for Jewish people living in other countries around the world. It has not only increased resentment against Jewish people because it’s so easy to tar them with Zionist ideology of the superior race – ironic when you consider that Nazis considered themselves the superior race and Jews the inferior Untermensch. It also increases anger against Jews in general among people who don’t know the background to Zionism that any criticism of Israel is automatically considered anti-semitic by Zionist forces, instead of having the guts to consider the criticism and ask why it has emerged.
At the same time, when you look at the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian deaths, nearly two thousand Palestinian dead (mainly civilians) and 67 Israeli deaths (mainly military), there is no doubt that Israel is exacting collective punishment upon the people of Gaza – you kill one of ours, we’ll kill nearly thirty of yours. And collective punishment was made a war crime because it was practised by the Nazis in World War 2 – you kill one of ours, we’ll kill ten, twenty… one hundreds of yours.
In Part Two, I intend to look at the different situation today with the rise of social media and the ability to circumvent the conventional media. In the current Gaza conflict, it has left the Israeli government wrong-footed as it has relied on its usual propaganda outlets without realising that pro-Palestinian forces and supporters are using social media to show the truth about the situation in the hell that is called Gaza.