The horror of Hamas’s invasion of Israel and the deaths inflicted cannot be minimised or supported. It must be condemned. But neither can the Palestinian suffering inflicted by Israel for decades be ignored. While these facts and the balance of horror in this conflict are readily available to the mainstream media, most editors choose to ignore them. How long before the battle will give place to justice and shared development in the 21st century.
Who will lead the Palestinians to the promised land? The one they can only partially occupy now, 2.3 million people held in a concentration camp on the shores of the Mediterranean by the New Israelites whose own holocaust is so burned into their collective memory that they cannot feel the pain of their neighbours. And the West Bank now criss-crossed by walls and pock-marked by illegal Israeli settlements.
Forty years of wandering in the desert 34 centuries ago, and almost everyone who was aged 20 or more had died before they beheld the Promised Land, so we are told on a contemporary Christian website.
How long before the battle of mythologies will give place to Justice and shared development in the 21st Century AD? How long before that great Pharaoh across the Atlantic will stop their automatic bank-rolling of an apartheid state that is a democratic sore on the face of the planet long after apartheid ended in South Africa?
In 2019 the US sent $3.8 billion of which a mere 0.2% was for development, and 98.8% was military aid, and this has been going on year after year with precious little attempt to rein in the Israeli State’s occupation and illegal settlement of Palestinian land on the West Bank.
And the Arab governments – as distinct from their peoples – who only show an interest when there is political capital to be made? Or as now when the situation has become so desperate that they worry that war could touch them directly, or provoke a conflict with Iran, their powerful non-Arab neighbour in the battle for status in the Muslim world.
I don’t wish to minimize the horror of Hamas’s invasion of Israel and the deaths inflicted, but there is plenty to read on that in the mainstream press, and precious little on the hard data of Palestinian suffering inflicted by Israel over decades, although that data is readily available to journalists, whose editors mostly choose to ignore it. There are few exceptions, like this on CNN recently, and many films have been made as this Brazilian website has catalogued.
Let’s take a look at the figures – the balance of horror in these conflicts between Palestinians and their powerful neighbour who has to use all means necessary to defend itself because as Netanyahu was fond of saying, “we live in a rough neighbourhood”, as if he was talking about Brooklyn.
In 2009, after Operation Cast Lead 1400 Palestinians died compared with 6 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians.
In the first Intifada which lasted from Dec 1987 to September 2000 1,386 Palestinians were killed compared to 94 Israelis according to the Israeli anti-war organization B’Tselem. In the second Intifada (2000 – 2005) 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis are estimated to have died.
And according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6,407 Palestinians have been killed since 2008 in the Occupied Territories and Israel, compared to 308 Israelis.
This time 900 Israelis have been killed so far and over 700 Palestinians, so if Israel is planning to match their earlier kill ratios many thousands more Palestinians will die, in a holocaust that perhaps even the so-called international ‘community’ will not tolerate, assuming that a wider war has not by then developed.
And what about compensation – how much is the value of a Palestinian life compared to an Israeli one? Well, before a Palestinian can even get to court their family must deposit a large amount of money and apply for a permit to visit Israel, along with other procedural difficulties along with the law that makes compensation almost impossible to get for what are designated as ‘combat activities’. As a result the number of cases filed dropped dramatically as did the compensation paid out according to a 2017 report by B’TSelem.
In this context it came as a surprise in 2022 when the death of an elderly Palestinian man due to an ‘overtight blindfold and psychological stress’ led to $140,000 compensation – check the link and spot the difference, and weep tears of rage for the routine tortures and killings of Palestinians, to say nothing of the psychological terror of living under one of Israel’s bombardments. In contrast ‘a whole host’ of compensation schemes exist for Israelis injured or killed as victims of terrorism.
Clearly a turning point in Wesstern Asia has come, and a time when some statesman-like vision is required – so what do we hear from the West? The White House and 10 Downing Street illuminated in the colours of the Israeli flag, while Rishi Sunak visits a synagogue in North London and claims that the whole British people are united in their support for Israel – that was a quick poll he did, and rather like the ones that communist countries used to achieve in electing their presidents with 99% in favour.
But still, “I am unequivocal”, he said, “there are not two sides to these events…. The United Kingdom stands with Israel”. A conflict with only one side, has he discovered a new social phenomenon – or more likely is this what someone whose nearest brush with ‘reality’ is the rabid dogs in the Conservative Party urging him to more and yet more repressive laws says in a panic, to keep his audience smiling. And our glorious Labour Party, what of them, now so confident of victory in the next election?
This is a story that has been cooking for a while going back to Jeremy Corbyn’s expulsion, and Starmer’s efforts to neutralize political debate recently included barring the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ from the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s stall at the current Labour Party conference. Even though organizations including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say that the legal threshold has been passed, and a retired Israeli general recently described the situation in the West Bank as ‘total apartheid’.
Starmer of course used to be the Director of Public Prosecutions and in those days he took human rights seriously, although also showing signs of his later shift.
I sometimes wonder how long it will be before a journalist asks him a question and he says: “Sorry, I don’t get involved in politics”. Mr. Bland Jobsworth keeping calm and carrying on while life (and death) goes on all around him. It was Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt who coined the term ‘the banality of evil’, but maybe there is also the evil of banality?
We could run through a list of political hypocrisies, that decide when the struggle for freedom is ‘really’ just terrorism, or when a country is a threat to world peace when it hasn’t got any weapons of mass destruction.
And the latest to wave the Israeli flag is President Zelensky perhaps fearful of losing US approval and seeing a chance to prove that being Jewish he can’t be a Nazi, even though the war has forced him into bed with a small number of people with those sympathies.
And President Putin is keen to stir up ancient hatreds going back to WW2 and before. Just like in Israel, mythology melds with history and takes what is useful, while journalism struggles against it, or should do.
But as Bismarck said long ago, ‘It’s not a question of right but of might’, when illegally occupied territories have continued since 1967 and illegal settlements continue being built on them.
And now Sunak is sending Navy ships to ‘support Israel’ while it continues its siege and massive bombardment of civilian areas in Gaza and is now ordering over a million people to move on bombed roads in 24 hours, while Hamas tells them to stay put. These are war crimes against civilians, and the UK government is complicit. As a journalist points out, the rules of war are being eroded rapidly, including by the so-called enlightened West.
‘What rough beast, it’s time come round at last is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born?’ – W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming.
(Photos Pixabay, by Hosnysalah, Palestinian photographer currently living in Palestine Gaza Strip.)