When we talk about alleged supporters of Israel in Australia, they are typically referred to as Zionists. Sometimes modifiers are used – “liberal” Zionists, for example, but typically, even these distinctions aren’t made. This is because they don’t think any modifiers are needed – they will support any Israeli government, right or left, Likud or Labour. In my view, there is a correct modifier for this type of “Zionism” – Stalinism.
It is not that these people are nostalgic for Stalin. It is that their style of worship of the state is reminiscent of supporters of Stalin. They display the same intellectual styles. They worship the state, and serve it loyally. And when people criticise their holy state, the response is lies, vilification, and whatever other means can be used to suppress criticism.
The other obvious characteristic of Stalinists was their intellectual dishonesty: a simple and unbending refusal to admit obvious facts about what was being done in the land they publicly described as a paradise to which the rest of the world should aspire.
George Orwell recognised this as a characteristic of nationalists: “Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.”
Let us start by considering some of the basic facts about Israel’s attack on Gaza since July. It is beyond the dispute of reasonable people that Israel caused immense destruction in Gaza. Let us just consider the Israeli press. On July 26 – well before the attack ended – Amos Harel reported in Ha’aretz that “The scope of destruction and suffering in the Gaza Strip is unfathomable.”
At that point, nearly 900 had been killed. In YNet, one of Israel’s most widely read publications, which is politically centrist, one reads:
The month-long war – the most destructive since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 – has left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, as well as 64 IDF soldiers and three civilians in Israel.
Beyond the loss of life, major elements of Gaza's infrastructure have been crippled, including its only power station, its water treatment center and agricultural lands.
Some estimates suggest it could cost up to $10 billion to rebuild all the homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure that has been wrecked. Krahenbuhl said it was clearly in the billions, but said his first priority was taking care of the displaced, with an estimated 425,000 of Gaza's 1.8 million people without a home and in need of shelter and other aid.
The New York Times reported on August 1 that Israel has “pummeled neighborhoods with heavy artillery”. Strangely, “Those tactics have also drawn international condemnation for devastating civilian homes and infrastructure, and taking so many lives”.
Ha’aretz reported a few days ago that Israel has fired 30,000 shells into Gaza, “many of them into densely populated areas.” The article noted further that “Artillery fire used to extract combatants was used on several occasions. Military sources admit that since artillery fire is inaccurate, large numbers of Palestinian civilians may have been killed in these incidents.”
This is no secret. An Israeli army source admitted in one case that as soldiers found themselves in a difficult situation with Palestinian fighters, they faced the possibility of getting “600 body bags back”. To prevent this, the Artillery Corps Support Unit took “drastic action”: after “20 minutes of shelling, silence ensued”.
A United Nations official complained of the “unprecedented destruction” in Gaza, and that the required reconstruction will be about three times greater than the attack on Gaza in 2008-9.
The Red Cross seeks above all to preserve its political neutrality. But it expressed shock and dismay at the destruction in Gaza:
What happens to those left behind who cannot flee? Where should they go? To overcrowded centres that may be bombed? To hospitals or medical emergency services that are not spared by either of the warring parties? To destroyed neighbourhoods where even Palestine Red Crescent ambulances are shot at? How many more Shujaiyas – a sea of rubble, previously home to almost 100,000 people – does it take before everybody opens their eyes to the gravity of the situation?
They concluded that this wasn’t about blaming one party or the other. It was “about stopping the inhumanity of this war. It’s about doing the right thing.” Jacques de Maio invoked “the humanitarian imperative – stop the killing, stop the destruction.”
On August 2, the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNRWA, and the World Health Organisation together released a statement on the situation in Gaza. They warned: “A health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding in the Gaza Strip as a direct result of the ongoing conflict.”
James Rawley warned: “We are now looking at a health and humanitarian disaster… the fighting must stop immediately”. The medical facilities were “on the verge of collapse”, 460,000 people were displaced, there was “inadequate water and sanitation”, which posed “serious risks of outbreak of water-borne and communicable diseases”.
The latest OCHA report shows systematic destruction and damaging of water wells, water tanks, desalination units, “in addition to 29 kilometres of the water network completely destroyed and 17 kilometres partially destroyed.”
In total, 1976 Palestinians have been killed so far, and only 230 of them have been identified as members of armed groups.
OCHA also reports that Israel has damaged 230 schools, 41 mosques, 15 hospitals, 18 clinics, 14 UNRWA installations, 18 ambulances. OCHA has produced maps showing the destruction to agricultural land, or the destruction throughout.
OCHA has an atlas on the destruction throughout Gaza, section by section. It has a map on how the destruction of Gaza’s only power plant affects different areas of Gaza, and an infographic on how the destruction to Gaza’s water infrastructure meant that everyone in Gaza by July 29 had access to “very limited or no water”.
It has posted interactive before and after images, where visitors can see the systematic flattening of various areas in Gaza.
Really, virtually any picture you look at in Gaza tells the tale of devastation – the British Telegraph has a ‘360’ picture, where, standing from one spot in Gaza, one can look at destruction in every direction.
Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem posted some pictures from Beit Hanoun.
These are simply the facts. No reasonable person can dispute that there is immense destruction in Gaza. It was all caused by Israel, and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, its water supplies, its homes, its electricity – it all means that the people of Gaza , all of them, will suffer, even when Israel stops bombing (hard as it is to believe, at the time of writing, it looks as though Israel may renew its attack on Gaza).
What defence can there be for this kind of destruction? One pretext is the tunnels Hamas built which extend beyond Gaza into Israel. However, an Israel intelligence source was reported as expressing the view that “Hamas, which appears to be striving to emulate Hezbollah in all elements of its combat doctrine, seeks a soldier and not a random civilian” in its tunnel attacks. Which may surprise some, who imagine that Hezbollah is simply another terrorist group that solely targets Israeli civilians.
The point that they are intended to target Israeli soldiers has been more widely conceded. The Forward reported that Israel already knew about the tunnels “long before this operation”, though it lied about this knowledge to justify its attack. And this is to put aside the obvious point: the Egyptian government destroyed at least 1,000 tunnels between itself and Gaza without killing anyone, and it is “not known for its regard for human life”. Why couldn’t Israel do the same?
Even those who feel that Israel had a right to use force against Gaza should feel uneasy at all the death and destruction Israel has inflicted on Gaza – misery that will continue as the blockade prevents reconstruction of Gaza’s homes and infrastructure.
Consider the case of Leon Wieseltier, usually one of the most reliably shameless defenders of everything Israel does. In 2006, Tony Judt wrote of “the convoluted, sophistic defence by Leon Wieseltier… of the killing of Arab children in Qana (‘These are not tender times’)”. Even Wieseltier wrote of this attack: “I do not regard myself as a turncoat or a pawn. It is not sickening that Israel is defending itself — it is, by the standard of Jewish historical experience, exhilarating; but some of what Israel is doing to defend itself is sickening. Is our identity so infirm that such complication cannot be introduced?”
He noted, with dismay: “Only 4 per cent of Jewish Israelis believe that the Israeli military has used excessive force. This makes me queasy. Unanimity, or close to it, is no guarantee of truth. No excessive force, anywhere?”
Then there are the rockets. To my knowledge, no one disputes that they are indiscriminate. However, the extent of their damage can easily be overstated.
This story by Times of Israel provides a picture of destruction caused in a road caused by a rocket.
It is slightly different in scale to the damage caused by Israeli bombardment: something to be remembered when calls for “balance” and “even-handedness” are expressed at those concerned at the destruction of Gaza.
Though they are primitive and mostly ineffectual, Israelis rightly believe that they have a right to defend themselves from the rockets. However, the best way that they have to do so is to ensure that their government and army adheres to its ceasefires with Hamas.
The record shows that Israel violates ceasefires to a greater extent than Hamas does, which largely honours them. During ceasefires, Israel launches incursions, kills and injures Palestinians, and hasn’t eased the blockade – the last one was negotiated in November 2012.
This was in response to the murder of three Israelis, blamed on Hamas without evidence. Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza, and after killing six Hamas members on July 6, Hamas retaliated with rocket fire.
Then Israel launched its massive bombardment. This should all be uncontroversial. According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, whose reports are featured on Israeli government websites, “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire”. They concede that Hamas had not fired rockets since November 2012.
They provide graphs showing the generally low number of rockets being fired into Israel, during ceasefires, and in the months leading up to the attack on Gaza.
It is true that some rockets were being fired into Israel, but Hamas did a pretty good job preventing such rocket fire, especially when one remembers Israel’s constant ceasefire violations, and the ongoing siege.
Netanyahu conceded that “Last year, the number of rockets fired from Gaza was the lowest in a decade”.
The Times of Israel openly reported on June 30 that “Hamas hasn’t fired rockets into Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in November 2012”.
It further reported that “officials have said that smaller groups, such as Islamic Jihad, are usually behind the rocket attacks, while Hamas squads generally attempt to thwart the rocket fire.”
The fact that Hamas makes good faith efforts to prevent rockets being fired into Israel is apparently considered impolitic to admit in Australia, though it’s basically widely acknowledged in Israel.
It is amusing to remember an argument I had with AIJAC back in 2012. I wrote at the time that it was “hard to imagine” why the Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza would deny responsibility for an attack on Israelis, if it really was responsible for the attack.
AIJAC replied that there were “ample reasons” why they might not take credit for such attacks, providing a quote from Time by a PRC spokesman: “You have to understand, the government in Gaza, they do not wish to see another war, and they will prevent giving Israel an excuse for one at any price. They will allow retaliation but not initiating.”
So two years ago, AIJAC complained that my “arguments are as flimsy as a house of cards”, “conspiracy theories masquerading as analysis”, showing the dangers when “prejudice is allowed to crowd out information-gathering, reason” and so on. As demonstrated, for example, by AIJAC’s far greater faith in Hamas’s earnest commitment “at any price” to preventing other groups in Gaza from initiating an attack on Israel (though it may allow retaliation). I will spare you, dear reader, the latest defence of Israeli attacks on Gaza.
How are such performances possible? How can “supporters” of Israel one day declare that Hamas prevents attacks on Israel during its ceasefires, and then pretend ceasefires with Hamas are worthless and Israel must defend itself with force?
The answer is simple: this is not Zionism, it is Stalinism. Stalinists loyally serve the interests of the foreign state, and the factual record is an irrelevant distraction. The abuse and vilification are easily recognised in the constant accusations of anti-Semitism against anyone who criticises the Israeli government, such as the silly editorial by the Australian Jewish News denouncing Mike Carlton.
Aeyal Gross asked in Ha’aretz: “Why was there so much public support for a pointless war that could have been prevented, and that exacted a heavy price in human lives, both from us and from the Palestinians?” This question should seem obvious – especially to “supporters” of Israel. For some, the only question is how best to serve the Israeli government, no matter what it does.
It should be obvious that the attack has done nothing to protect Israel. The Israeli army estimated that it would take five years of military operations, and hundreds of Israeli soldiers dead, to completely defeat Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli government has simply decided that it does not want, or is not able, to incur these costs in fighting Hamas. If it is not going to crush Hamas, the only alternative is a ceasefire with Hamas.
So why not negotiate a ceasefire instead of launching the attack in the first place, causing all the death and destruction? And if Israel is willing to negotiate with Hamas over a ceasefire – which is what it has been doing – why doesn’t it negotiate with Hamas on other issues?
There are reports that Israel and the US have agreed to end the blockade on Gaza, to allow the transfer of salaries to Hamas workers in Gaza, and to rebuild Gaza with international assistance (a galling proposition: Israel is the party that destroyed it).
Israel gave ground – it has decided not to pursue in the short term the disarmament of Hamas. Hamas made some concessions, like on demanding the release of Palestinians kidnapped by Israel in June. The parties were reportedly reasonably close to an agreement, though Israel is apparently not willing to agree to Hamas demands for an airport and seaport.
It is sad to think that people are willing to support the systematic destruction of Gaza, in order to ensure that Israel doesn’t have to make meagre concessions to Palestinians that would alleviate their tremendous suffering. Concessions that history has shown Israel refuses to make when Palestinians use non-violent resistance against it.
Gross asked “how is it possible to justify the years-long blockade of Gaza, which included elements that have no relationship to security, like the ban on importing chocolate and coriander (which continued until the botched raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza in 2010)?”
Why would anyone defend the ban on coriander in Gaza? Because that’s what the Israeli government said was necessary. When the blockade is loosened or tightened, that is what’s best, because the Israeli government says so.
If the blockade were ended tomorrow, this would be hailed by Stalinist Zionists, who would not admit the previous policy was wrong. If the blockade continued, that would also be defended.
There is no shame. There are no moral principles. It is just an endless moral vacuum, defending the indefensible, ignoring the factual record, and praising the Holy State.
This is not being a friend, this is being an enabler. It means supporting the destruction of Gaza, even as the destruction results in massive rocket fire into Israel. And when a ceasefire is reached, it will be celebrated, according to the requirements of the Israeli government. When the ceasefire breaks down, they will wait to hear their new opinions from the Israeli government.
There was a terrific satire by the Onion, where it decided to “firmly and categorically urge both Israelis and Palestinians to stand tall and steadfastly refuse to give up so much as a single inch during the negotiations.” The Onion advised that:
compromise is for the weak. True bravery means never giving in, never backing down, and never, ever shying away from your principles. Mere words will not end this war. We call on Jews and Arabs alike to stand your ground and show you are willing to die for your cause. Only then will your enemy back down. The Onion can guarantee you that.
The joke is that this kind of recommendation simply encourages more war and more fighting. The unfunny part is that Stalinist Zionists, who pose as “supporters” of Israel, are actually encouraging war, destruction, ongoing conflict, the continued oppression of Palestinians, which means the continued insecurity of Israelis.
Many Stalinists recanted. When Khrushchev denounced Stalin, when the USSR invaded Hungary or Czechoslovakia, communists, who still had some ideals, abandoned their holy state.
The question remains: what it will take for Israel to alienate its own Stalinist “supporters”?