The war on the ground in Gaza is one of blood and fire. The war we see here from the comfort of our living-rooms is one of propaganda and lies. The contrast is indeed stark and yet they are equally a part of the same war, and one cannot go on without the other.
If we are going to stop the war on the ground, the great task before us comfortable onlookers is to dismantle the edifice of lies that sustains public support for the slaughter. I’ve included below two good examples of anti-propaganda warfare.
The first is a video that shows the senior Israeli propaganda spokesperson, Mark Regev, doing what he does best – defending the indefensible by blaming the victims. Subtitles have been added to translate Regev’s obfuscation into something more resembling the truth.
The second is an article from Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi – a leading figure in Palestinian civil society and a long-time advocate for the non-violent Palestinian protest movement. It speaks for itself.
Debunked: The Mendacious Propaganda Israel is Pushing to Justify Its War On Gaza
by Mustafa Barghouthi
It is time to clarify the real facts on the aggression the Israelis started on the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Israeli narrative has dominated in the global media. It’s very important to uncover the Israeli narrative and bring facts to the public’s attention. The world needs to differentiate between myths and truth.
The first and very important point is that it was Israel which initiated this war and not the Palestinians.
This is very different from what is presented in most of the media and it’s completely wrong to accept the Israeli narrative here. Israelis claim that Israel was subjected to rocket shooting from Gaza to which Israel responded by airstrikes. This is not true. The reality is that Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza, several times, and assassinated people in Gaza, trying to provoke a reaction until they got rockets being shot at Israel. And then, it was spun in the media as Israel defending itself.
The second point is that this war started not in Gaza but in the West Bank, when the Israeli army, without providing a single proof that Palestinians were responsible for the disappearance and subsequent death of three settlers, started a collective punishment campaign all over the West Bank. One of the results of that campaign was the arrest of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including huge numbers of Palestinian members of Parliament, bringing the number of Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails to 34. During that campaign moreover, Israel invaded more than 3,000 houses, destroyed many of them, stole money from people and destroyed furniture. Israeli forces initiated wide-ranging violence against Palestinians and started using high-velocity bullets and gun shots against peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the kidnapping of Muhammad Abu Khdeir who was tortured and burned alive by Israeli settlers. This led to a very serious escalation all over the West Bank.
The third point is that this war in not on Hamas only, it is a war on all Palestinians. It is a war on Palestinians in Gaza, it is a war on Palestinians in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and on the Palestinians in general. It is very important to mention that most of the people who suffer from the Israeli aggressions are civilians. At the time of writing this article, on the 26th of July, at least 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, 90% of whom were civilians. Among them, are more than 208 children. Over 6000 people have been injured, 31% of whom were children. Whole families have been eliminated. Just this morning, 20 members from the same family, including 11 children, were killed in their sleep as the building they had found refuge in only the day before was leveled. We are talking about more than 30 families that have been scratched out of the civil record because the whole extended family was eliminated, the father, the mother, the grand-parents, the grand-children, everybody. This kind of extermination of people, this level of attack is nothing less than a massacre, a genocide that is conducted by Israel.
To add insult to injury, Israel has forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, forcing them to leave by bombarding them. No less than 13,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed, thousands of people have lost everything, their clothes, a lifetime of belongings and memories and now, hundreds of thousands of people are refugees once more, many living in schools, with nothing. If the war ends, when they come back, they will come back to nothing, only rubble. Entire neighborhoods like Shujaeya were completely eliminated within 24 hours. Even hospitals were attacked. So far, the Israeli army has attacked seven hospitals, 13 ambulances and two Medical Relief centers, among other clinics. In several cases, they have injured and killed medical workers and/or patients. They also attacked a care facility for disabled people, killing two disabled women in the process. On another occasion, a disabled young man, deaf and unable to speak, did not understand what was going on until he was directly hit and paralyzed from the waist down, adding yet another disability to his life. The most touching and heart-wrenching words I have heard were those of a man who was speaking to two of his children in the hospital, killed by Israeli airstrike: “Forgive me my children, I could not protect you.”
This feeling of helplessness is overwhelming because thousands and thousands of people today in Gaza, thousands of mothers and fathers are unable to protect their children. Many have seen their children killed; some have seen their children decapitated by Israeli shrapnel.
The next point I want to make is related to the claim that Israel has the right to defend itself. The most insulting thing here is that many of the world’s leaders like Angela Merkel of Germany and Barack Obama of the United States are speaking of Israel’s right to defend itself, while no single word is said of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves, although the Palestinians are the oppressed ones, the underdogs in this struggle. The Palestinians are the ones whose land has been occupied for 47 years, who have been forced into displacement and refugee status since 1948, who are suffering from a system of apartheid, discrimination and segregation created by the Israeli occupation. Yet, not a single word has been uttered about our right to defend ourselves.
In reality, what we see from the Israeli narrative is nothing but a consistent effort to dehumanize Palestinians, as if Palestinians are not equal human beings, as if Palestinian life is not important, as if Palestinian life is worth nothing, as if it is okay that over 1,000 Palestinians are killed and 6000 are injured. Meanwhile, all anybody is talking about is the psychological impact on the Israeli population of the fear, although so far projectiles fired out of Gaza have killed just two civilians. Up until now, 42 Israelis were killed, 40 of whom were soldiers. These are soldiers who were killed inside Gaza while they were invading Gaza and attacking people in an act of aggression. We don’t want anybody to die, whether Israeli or Palestinian. But to say that Palestinians are the aggressors in this situation is very wrong and totally unacceptable.
The asymmetry in the current situation is also a very important point to clarify. We are talking here about the Israeli army which is probably the fourth most powerful army in the world, attacking civilians in one of the most crowded areas of the world, with 1.8 million people living in less than 140 square miles, about 12,000 people per square mile on “normal” days, but nearly double that number these days, as Israel has declared 44% of Gaza unsafe and hammered in the message by bombings homes. These 1.8 million people have been attacked by a powerful air force, very powerful ships, and artillery, while these people have only very primitive means to defend themselves. Even the rockets that were thrown at Israel – and we don’t want these rockets to be thrown – are almost invariably nothing but a psychological instrument. This has been frightening Israelis, it is true, but these projectiles have caused harm exceedingly rarely. The harm is happening almost entirely on one side, the Palestinian side. There is no way anyone can compare the two, this sophisticated army and the Palestinian people. The asymmetry is clear and yet, Israeli forces are consistently using indiscriminate and disproportional force against the Palestinian population.
One element that is almost always ignored is the issue of the siege of Gaza. The siege on Gaza has been ongoing for eight years and it has caused the most dramatic humanitarian crisis not only in this region but probably worldwide. We are talking about 1.8 million people besieged by sea, by air and by land. Israel is controlling all passages, it is controlling the sky and it is controlling the sea. Fishermen are not allowed to fish deeper than three miles into the sea; they haven’t been allowed to sail at all for the past three weeks. Almost nobody can get in or out, even to go to the hospital or receive medical treatment. The one entrance to Egypt is also closed from the Egyptian side. This siege has caused very serious problems. Gaza lacks construction materials. Gaza does not have access to clean water; 90% of the water in Gaza is not fit for drinking because it is either salinated or polluted. More than 300,000 people have lost all water supply because the water pipes were destroyed by Israeli shelling and when workers tried to repair them, they were shot at by the Israeli military.
Electricity is an enormous problem in Gaza too. Most of the time, most people do not have electricity for more than six to eight hours a day. Today, more than one third of the population does not have any electricity at all because Israel bombarded the only electricity plant in Gaza. Because of the siege, 90% of educated young people are unemployed. Because of the siege, the level of poverty is very high in Gaza, a fact compounded by the high prices of basic products which have to come from Israel. This is an unacceptable situation. A siege like that is considered an act of aggression. It is very important to remind world politicians of the fact that, in 1967, Israel declared that it had the right to attack Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian people and occupy all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the whole of Sinai just because the Egyptian army closed the passage to Eilat, a small port in the southern part of Israel. Israel still had full access to the Mediterranean Sea, yet they considered this an act of aggression that gave them the right to conduct one of the worst wars in the Middle East. That is why we say that a ceasefire is not enough; it is very important to also lift the siege on Gaza, because the siege itself is an act of aggression.
Today the Palestinians have been demanding to have a ceasefire. But Israel is refusing. Three or four efforts were made to have at least a humanitarian ceasefire, so that the Palestinians could take out all the bodies of those who were killed and who are buried under the rubble in Shujaeya and other places like Khuzaa. It is heartbreaking to note that there are many injured people there probably, who still cannot get access to medical care and who will die, bleeding out slowly or from their wounds, because no full ceasefire was allowed to take place and no medical teams were allowed to reach them. As a matter of fact, Israel has attacked not only hospitals, schools, mosques and houses, but also attacked first aid teams and ambulances as well as killing three first responders. They burned down two ambulances trying to reach injured people in Shujaeya. They destroyed many clinics and many first aid providers were shot and injured. This is an act of ethnic cleansing, an act of genocide and a massive act of terror against the Palestinian population.
Dehumanizing Palestinians will never negate the facts. And it is important to clarify all of them. This war was started by Israel. It is even debatable whether it can be called a war, as a war suggests a fight between two equal sides. In reality it is not a war, it is an act of aggression from an occupying power which is trying to solve the problem of occupation by increasing the occupation. In this attack, Israel was the initiator and the victims are mainly the Palestinians.
Now the killing has extended again to the West Bank, where Israel has resumed shooting peaceful demonstrators with high-velocity bullets. For years, the world has been urging us to organize big peaceful marches with thousands of people. This is exactly what we did in Ramallah on the 24th of July when more than 25,000 marched peacefully to Jerusalem protesting the massacre in Gaza, demanding the end of aggression and demanding access to Jerusalem to go pray in Al Aqsa on the holiest of all nights for Muslim Palestinians. Before we reached the checkpoint, which was heavily manned, the Israeli army started to shoot people. Snipers shot demonstrators with high-velocity bullets in a scene reminiscent of what the apartheid police did to the peaceful protestors in Soweto in the 1970s. During the night, 211 Palestinians were shot with high-velocity bullets. During the course of four hours, six of them lost an eye, six others were injured critically and one lost his life. The very next day, the Israeli army, using live fire, killed nine Palestinians who were demonstrating peacefully in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin. Approximately 60 people were injured. The list goes on.
The people who are being killed in the West Bank are not Hamas and are not in Gaza. They are not shooting rockets at Israel, they do not have any weapons to defend themselves. Yet they are killed repeatedly by an Israeli army which considers itself above international law thanks to the silence and complicity of many Western leaders. UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, does not have the courage to hold Israel accountable, even when a UN school serving as a shelter in Beit Hanoun is attacked by the Israeli army, killing 16 women and children and injuring 200 others.
Finally, one has to remember that this stage of terrible violence has repeatedly happened over the last 66 years. The root of the problem is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, settlement building and the forcing of hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes. This is the longest occupation in modern history and has endured for 47 years. This is an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid and discrimination. Without solving this, without ending the occupation and the apartheid system, there will be no peace, let alone stability or normal life. When we struggle as Palestinians for our freedom, it is not only about our future, but also about the future of Israelis. Because Israelis will never be free themselves as long as we are not free. It is time to see that extremists in Israel, who have benefited from all these wars, are using Palestinian lives and neighbourhoods as a testing area for their weapons, so that Israel can still continue selling weapons worldwide, becoming the third largest military exporter in the world. This has to stop.
Occupation must stop and this asymmetry must be addressed; impunity and reality must be exposed. It is time to tell Israel “enough is enough”; it is time to say to the world “please see the reality, look at the facts.” Citizens from all the countries in the world, be it the United States, Germany, or France are entitled to know the truth and your media are not telling you the truth. Your media, for the most part, are overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative. This has to be corrected.
This latest move by the Knesset, initiated by coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin, appears to be an attempt to divide the Palestinian population!
The actual changes enacted by the new law are only minor but their ramifications could be huge. The law increases Christian representation on the advisory committee appointed under the ‘Equal Employment Opportunities Law’ from five to ten persons. The new law thus seems inoffensive in itself, but critics see it as part of a larger strategy to integrate Christians more into Israeli society and so divide them from their Arab sisters and brothers.
Levin more or less confirmed that this was his aim in an interview with Israeli newspaper Maariv. “This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians”, he said, “and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs.” He added that Christians “are our natural allies, a counter-balance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.”
The truth is, of course, that Christian Arabs are Arabs, and Christian Palestinians have suffered alongside their Islamic Palestinian sisters and brothers since ‘Al Nakba’ of 1948.
From my perspective, Levin’s new law might be trying to accomplish more than simply ‘divide and conquer’. It may also be an attempt to win back diminishing support from Christians in the West, particularly from the USA where right-wing Evangelicals have always been amongst the Jewish state’s most unquestioning supporters.
Whatever the grand plan, it is quite possible that it could all backfire. What if Palestinian Christians unite in their opposition to the new law – refusing to accept any special privileges above Muslim Palestinians? This could be a powerful witness for the church in Israel/Palestine as well as a serious setback for the Zionist agenda!
Divide and Conquer: New Israel Legislation
by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
On Monday, February 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset enacted a new law that recognizes Muslim and Christian Arab communities as separate identities, giving them their own representation in an employment commission. The law passed by a margin of 31 to 6.
The new law passed by the Knesset favoring Christians is, to say the least, a deceitful political stunt by Likud-Beiteinu members aimed at sowing seeds of division among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.
For the last sixty-five years, the government of Israel has not shown favoritism or bias towards the Christian community of the land, so why now?
During the Nakba of 1948, the Christians, like the Muslims, were dispossessed by the Zionists and were forced out of their homeland. Furthermore, during the military rule imposed by Israel on all Palestinians who stayed inside the Israeli state (1948-1966), Israel did not show favoritism to Christians over Muslims. Both were discriminated against and both were treated as unwanted aliens in their own land. There is a plethora of documentation to substantiate the history of that period. The problem for Israel in those days was not the Palestinians’ religious affiliation but their Palestinian national identity.
I believe that the new law reflects the moral bankruptcy of the government of Israel. Indeed, it must be in trouble to allow itself to stoop so low as to blatantly use this tactic to attempt to win the support of some Christians abroad, and, at the same time, sow dissent among Christians and Muslims. It is the old adage of “divide and rule.” This law is sinister in that it exploits the sensitive tensions among the religious communities of the Middle East, especially in light of what has been happening in Egypt and now is happening in Syria.
I am certain that the Palestinian community is mature enough not to fall into such a despicable religious trap.
There is another dishonest and hidden angle to this law. Jewish religious tradition has always considered Christianity, not Islam, as the mortal enemy of Jews and Judaism. This is due to the fact that the Christian faith came out of the same foundation as the Jewish faith, namely, the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Christian Old Testament. I still remember the Israeli religious establishment discouraging Jewish students from visiting Christian churches while encouraging them to visit Muslim mosques. The advisory pointed out that there was greater affinity between Judaism and Islam, while the gap was quite wide between Judaism and Christianity.
What has caused this sudden infatuation with Palestinian Christians to merit new legislation? Or is it just an ugly political stunt? What favors can the right-wing Israeli government give the Palestinian Arab Christians who are Israeli citizens? Will it restore their confiscated land to them? Will it grant them equality with their fellow Jewish citizens? Or are we witnessing another divisive Israeli ploy similar to when Israel set the Druze community apart from its Arab base?
It is worth mentioning that over sixty years ago, Israel managed to make the Druze religion a separate ethnic entity, thus separating them from their Arab roots. Through this new legislation, Israel wants to make the Christian religion a separate ethnic identity in order to separate them from their Arab Palestinian roots. But in spite of what Israel has done to the Druze community, an increasing number of young Druze men have been resisting imposed Israeli military service.
Israel has been very shrewd in concocting devious ways and means to impose its will on the Palestinians and keep them weak and divided. It continues to connive ways to limit and even deprive them of their rights to the land so they will give up and leave.
I am certain that the Christian community in Israel will see through this new Israeli legislation, will expose its sinister nature, and reject it. It is my hope also that our people’s resilience and maturity will foil the Israeli government’s insidious objectives. This we can do through our unity and solidarity, as well as through our determination to continue to work for a just peace, inclusive democracy, and human dignity for all the people of our land.
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arabic: نعيم عتيق, Na’īm ’Ateeq) (born in the Palestinian village of Beisan in 1937) is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology. The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.