Friday, 9 January 2009

Regev and Israeli victimhood

Mark Regev, Israeli chief propagandist, has been working hard these past days. The wanton attack on a UN school at Jabaliya, killing over 40 civilians, the shelling of Oxfam ambulance drivers and wounded Palestinians, and the discovery of destitute Palestinian children scavenging beside their dead parents has prompted the UN and Red Cross to issue unprecedented condemnations of Israel. Another investigation has been demanded by the UN after Israel shelled a house known to contain over 100 Palestinian evacuees. 30 people died.

Regev is in a spin, trying to counter the damning charges from these organisations that his country is in gross violation of the Geneva Convention and multiple other international laws.

The defensive line has been predictable, with variations on: 'there's a difficult combat situation'; 'it's the fog of war'; 'we want to work with the Red Cross'; 'we do recognise our international obligations'; 'let's wait and see what comes from our investigations'; 'you can't trust Hamas sources', and so on. The lies, evasion and dissembling are all criminally obvious to any reasonable observer.

Yet, beneath Regev's verbal acrobatics lies a much deeper message of Israel's inhuman intent. S
tanding before the cameras in his privileged suit, Regev's clipped, precise voice is really telling the world that Israel will not be deterred by anyone from murdering Palestinians. This message comes with all the arrogance of the mighty. And it permeates the minds of Israeli soldiers, seemingly oblivious to the carnage they're creating:
"“For us, being cautious means being aggressive,” one told the Haaretz newspaper. “From the minute we entered, we’ve acted like we’re at war. That creates enormous damage on the ground.”...Another soldier, identified as Lt Col Amir, told Israeli TV on Wednesday: “We are very violent. We are not shying away from any method of preventing casualties among our troops.”"
There comes a point where the dominant no longer feel the need to live only by the credo of defensive victimhood. They still espouse it as an emotional device. But the cry of 'the victim' becomes subsumed to a more confident feeling of supremacy, a national articulation of specialness, which, through material advancement and military prowess, bestows on them, so they come to believe, the self-aggrandising power to inflict mass violence on others. They have no regard for international opinion. Their only motivation is self-interest. In short, they don't care.

The official responses and mitigations have to be issued. The 'PR' job has to be done. But Regev's task masks a more disturbing truth: that this state is not fundamentally worried about protecting its 'good image'. On the contrary, it's more concerned that the Palestinians and, indeed, the wider world know that it has the capacity and willingness to mete out mass terror.

Thus, the bombing of schools and hospitals is never a mistake. It's part of a calculated strategy to terrify and break a population. And, as countless attacks on children even before this gruesome episode shows, the murder of innocents is intended as a chilling reminder that 'we don't need the right, when we have the might' to do so.

The Israeli historian Avi Shlaim offers keen insights on this dual malady of Israeli victimhood and promiscuous terrorist.

“As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".”

“This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination.”
Shlaim's depiction of Israel's default victim-pose and rogue state actions suggests the kind of psychosis underlying Regev's defensive and offensive messages.

His efforts in deflecting demands for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes comes with brazen inversions of the truth. Thus, Regev had the audacity to claim that it was Hamas who had committed a 'war crime' by placing its fighters in the bombed UN school. Not even the comprehensive exposure of this lie elicited a retraction.

Presumably also lost on Regev is Shlaim's other excellent point that Palestinian democracy, resulting in Hamas's election, is actually a rarity in the Middle East - and that consistent Israeli and Western efforts to suffocate it never receive the slightest attention by the BBC and other servile media.

Regev's more frivolous demonisation of Hamas posits Israel acting as a righteous, liberating force:
"Free Gaza is a cool idea, but free them from what? If they want to free Gaza they should take out women who fear for their lives, Christians and gays. We want to free Gaza from this terrible Taliban regime. This terrible Taliban regime is oppressing women, Christians and gays."
Praise be that we still have the moral voice of true Jewish humanitarians to refute these kind of cheap distortions. As Pilger ever-assuringly repeats, Israeli intervention has always, without exception, been about naked self-advancement, a home truth nobly repeated by courageous Jewish voices:
"Every subsequent “war” Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Schlaim, Noam Chomsky, the late Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Yuri Avnery, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finklestein have dispatched this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called zionism. “It seems,” wrote the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on 2 January, “that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as desperate events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system... Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government , this ideology – in its most consensual and simplistic variety – has allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide].” "
Speaking up for those who suffer, the true victims, the Palestinians, the broken of Gaza, is a moral imperative. Regev, in stark contrast, speaks a language of cold, hateful indifference to their pain. He is nothing short of a war criminal.

But, speaking on behalf of the victims is never enough. It must be accompanied by practical, concentrated action, perhaps most immediately through a
boycott, divestment and sanction campaign akin to South Africa. As Naomi Klein reaffirms:
"Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity."
With Obama's silence, the Senate vote of support for Israel and Washington's Security Council abstention all giving the green light to more Israeli terror, there's never been a more pressing time to actualise the BDS strategy in active, emergency support of Gaza.


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