I’ve always loved Israel but this brutality breaks my heart

August 23, 2014 11:40 am 26 comments Views: 15922

Were the world’s attention not overwhelmingly fixed on the fate of Flight MH17, it would have more to say about that of the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza. Bombed and battered by Israeli air and firepower, they are dying in scores, victims alike of their own leadership and Israeli ruthlessness.

Some of the dead are Hamas fighters. But many others are women, children, the helpless old. Israel is exacting vengeance at its usual tariff for Hamas rocketing, and the murder of three Israeli students by terrorists. For each Israeli killed, the lives of many times that number of Palestinians are forfeit.

Israel says: they started it; we have a right to retribution. But much of the world says: the Jewish people have been historic standard-bearers for civilisation. Does

Prime

 Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign in Gaza represent that — or instead barbarism?

A Palestinian man, in clothes stained with the blood of his father, who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling, mourns at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday as Israel's attack continued

A Palestinian man, in clothes stained with the blood of his father, who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling, mourns at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday as Israel’s attack continued

Israel’s tragedy is that the only democracy in the Middle East has fallen prey to a succession of Right-wing governments, which derive much of their electoral strength from Russian emigres and extremist religious parties.

  

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A historian friend, himself a Jew and an uncommonly astute observer of the world, said to me a while back: ‘Consciously or unconsciously, Israel has decided that it prefers a state of permanent war to making the concessions to the Palestinians that would be indispensable to any chance of peace.’

Israel has become more inward-looking, less receptive to foreign opinion, than at any time in its history. Its economy is booming. Tel Aviv boasts a thrillingly buzzy café culture. Barack Obama, the only recent U.S. president to try to persuade Jerusalem to moderate its policies, has been thwarted by Netanyahu and his friends in the U.S. Congress.

Few Israelis seem to show much concern for world discomfort about the bombardment of Gaza, and indeed about their policies towards the Palestinians.

Yet even so, many other Jews are deeply dismayed. Three years ago, a team of Israeli documentary-makers produced a brilliant film about the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank entitled The Gatekeepers. For this, they persuaded five former heads of the Shin Bet, the nation’s security service, to be interviewed on

camera

.

The outcome was fascinating, and devastating. Each chief in turn described the ruthless policies he had enforced to sustain Israeli dominance. Most agreed that repression had been counter-productive.

Part of the explanation, they said, was that since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish fanatic back in 1995, no Jerusalem government has pursued a serious political strategy for peace.

The security forces have simply been left to impose varying degrees of repression, while Jewish settlers grab ever-larger areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In a remarkable moment of frankness, one former Shin Bet chief said: ‘Occupation has made us a cruel people.’

Gaza hospital inundated after deadly coastal airstrikes

Israeli soldiers patrol an army deployment area near Israel's border with the besieged Gaza Strip

Israeli soldiers patrol an army deployment area near Israel’s border with the besieged Gaza Strip

An Israel gunner in an APC on patrol at an unspecified area in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip border

An Israel gunner in an APC on patrol at an unspecified area in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip border

An Israeli 155mm howitzer fires from a position at an unspecified location in southern Israeli into the Gaza Strip

An Israeli 155mm howitzer fires from a position at an unspecified location in southern Israeli into the Gaza Strip

In much the same spirit, Israeli academic Ahron Bregman recently published a history of the Occupied Territories.

He began by describing how he himself, as a boy of nine, was taken by his parents on a drive across the West Bank in the wake of their nation’s stunning victory over Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967.

After two decades in which Israelis had lived under siege from their neighbours, subject to spasmodic shelling in their homes and the fields of the kibbutzes in the lands beneath the Golan Heights, suddenly a whole new world was laid open to them.

Initially, Israel’s government had no policies for the Occupation, because it had never dreamed of achieving such conquests. Those in charge simply followed impulses.

The general in charge of former Jordanian east Jerusalem, for instance, ordered bulldozers to demolish 137 Arab homes, to clear a plaza in front of that sacred Jewish place, the Wailing Wall.

Israel’s justice minister told Teddy Kollek, mayor of West Jerusalem: ‘I don’t know what the legal status is. Do it quickly, and may the God of Israel be with you.’ Some elderly Arabs refused to leave their homes, and were crushed in the debris.

In those days I, as a passionate admirer of Israel, would have said: the Arabs caused this war. They gambled, and lost. Israel is entitled now to secure its future. Since the Arab nations refuse peace on any borders, why should not Israel’s soldiers set these where they have conquered?

A Palestinian medic carries a wounded boy to a treatment room of Nasser hospital, following an Israeli airstrike at their family house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday

A Palestinian medic carries a wounded boy to a treatment room of Nasser hospital, following an Israeli airstrike at their family house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday

A wounded Palestinian girl is checked for internal bleeding by a medic at a hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday after an Israeli military strike near her family home

A wounded Palestinian girl is checked for internal bleeding by a medic at a hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday after an Israeli military strike near her family home

I still felt the same in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War when Israel reeled before a devastating Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack. From amid the Israelis’ camp fires, as a correspondent I wrote expressing my admiration for the nation, for what it had created from a near-wasteland: ‘They are a very great people, who have come closer to destruction than blind Europe seems willing to recognise.’ The veteran journalist James Cameron, who had known Israel since its inception, wrote me a generous note after that piece was published, saying: ‘It is quite impossible to work in combat with the Israeli army without this response, if you have any sense of history and drama.’

But then he added reflectively: ‘I have sometimes wondered over the past few years whether this irresistible military mesmerism hasn’t clouded for us some of the political falsities.’

Some 40 years on, I have become sure that Jimmy Cameron was right. Too many of us allowed ourselves to become blinded by military success to the huge injustice done to the Palestinians.

Israelis, confident that they can defeat any Arab military threat, bolstered by almost unqualified U.S. support, assume that they can persist indefinitely with the creeping annexation of the West Bank, and the subjection of Gaza.

A Palestinian paramedics looks at the devastation wrought by Israeli air strikes and artillery during a search for survivors in the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, east Gaza City

A Palestinian paramedics looks at the devastation wrought by Israeli air strikes and artillery during a search for survivors in the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, east Gaza City

A Palestinian firefighter rests while searching for the dead and injured during a temporary ceasefire

A Palestinian firefighter rests while searching for the dead and injured during a temporary ceasefire

Uglinesses have mounted steadily since the early Seventies, when the Israeli Army merely demolished Palestinian orange groves to improve its fields of fire. Three Palestinians have been killed in reprisals for every Israeli killed by terrorism.

A few years ago, I revisited the West Bank and Gaza, and like most visitors recoiled from their squalor, the prevailing culture of rage and despair. It is true that the Palestinians, led by men skilled in guerrilla war but little else, speak a language of emotion and unreason.

But I have also watched the soldiers of the Israeli Army that I once loved disport themselves among the Palestinians like other arrogant occupiers through the ages, displaying at best casual rudeness, at worst murderous brutality.

Israel aspires to exploit its military dominance to create irreversible facts on the ground in the West Bank and Jerusalem, heedless of Palestinian rights.

Ahron Bregman, the Israeli whose history of the Occupation I mentioned above, now lives and works in London rather than in his homeland. He ends his book by saying that all successful imperialist powers have sought to persuade subject peoples to work with them, allowing them to gain some advantage despite being conquered.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a banner and shout slogans, in Paris, France, yesterday

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a banner and shout slogans, in Paris, France, yesterday

Israel has never felt a need to offer this, says the author. Instead, it treats the Palestinians merely as tiresome blots on a landscape that many Israelis believe is rightfully Jewish anyway. For those who loved what we thought Israel used to be, it is heartbreaking to see what it has become today.

That the current crisis is giving rise to some ugly displays of anti-semitism in parts of Europe is utterly contemptible.

But it is also contemptible that some apologists hurl charges of anti-semitism at all Israel’s critics — many of whom are admirers of so much that this great nation has achieved.

Most of us merely attack Israeli excesses as we do those of Russia, Burma, China, Syria, the U.S. or any other government that deploys disproportionate violence against those at its mercy.

Israel’s people deserve a less unworthy leader than Benjamin Netanyahu, and a higher vision than that of reducing Gaza to rubble. This can breed only a new generation of alienated, embittered Palestinian radicals, who will sustain their desperate struggle through decades to come.

 

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  • Ellis

    Why not show some more blood and gore to prove your point? Be consistent and go on to insist that Western powers have to come to civilised terms with ISIL. Let’s not see any of their blood spilled. And don’t ever mention the 1,000 or so civilians killed by NATO in the Serbia campaign, or the tens of thousands killed in Afghanistan. Please protest the monument being planned for Bomber Harris in Leicester. What crass hypocrisy!

  • Steven Raff

    Garbage article … I came to this conclusion after seeing the first picture … its already been established that the first picture is from a movie. Sorry, but no truth can be predicated upon a lie. This article is dismissed.

    • MN

      please, tell me which movie you are referring to

      • Steven Raff

        There was a detailed expose on this particular image several months ago. I think it was an Egyptian film. I can’t locate it at the moment but the article featured this photo from several angles, several poses, and even a wardrobe change for a second shoot. Happens all the time… Pallywood.

        • jaykayDX

          LOL – you’re full of sh*t …. and I’m pretty sure that The Holocaust is fake too … all the pics of dead bodies i camps are from Schindler’s List!!!

          • Steven Raff

            Nope. Its a fact. This is from a movie. If I were a nazi like you, i would hide behind a pseudonym as well. Typical keyboard terrorist. have fun 🙂

          • Steven Raff

            Hey… thanks for replying and thanks for bringing Nazis into this… although… you already brought nazi into this simply by default of you being one. I saw your other posts… so tell me more about the “joos” … silly bigot… you are exposed.

  • Tom

    Golda Meir said it best. “The killing will stop when they decide that they love their children more than they hate us.”

  • Will

    Israel must be defended!

    • Steven Raff

      Hamas first

  • Steven Raff

    Just noticed something else…. no author to this article…. gee … i wonder why.

    • jaykayDX

      From where I’m viewing the article, it clearly states it’s author is Max Hastings – go get some glasses … or a better web provider….

      • Steven Raff

        Sorry douchebag, an author’s name usually appears at the top of an article, not at the bottom. Beyond that , you ignorant and and arrogant dickhead, that first photograph is from a movie. Nice try, but just another typical pallywood style failure.

  • Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. Mahatma Gandhi

    “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Nelson Mandela

    the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history … not even in their own religion. Malcolm X

    “It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews…. Albert Einstein…….

    My message to Zionists, leave Palestine …go home…please

    • michel

      My message to Muslims, Leave the countries you invaded, go home, Please go back to Saudi Arabia

      • My message to zionists, we are home, just need Palestine back…

        • michel

          My message to Arabs go back to Arabia

      • ZKhan

        My message to Christians who moves to GCC Countries for earnings may go to their respective Country..No need to earn from Muslims Country..

        • michel

          Actually you can keep all these idiots as slaves that’s all they deserve.

        • dixi3150

          Tit for tat…..take your Muslim refugees that are now being cared for by CHRISTIANS (!) back to Muslim countries. At least the Christians come to WORK and then they LEAVE and go back home. When your Muslim brothers and sisters come to a Christian countries…..THEY NEVER WANT TO GO BACK AGAIN. Can you please explain that to me?

          • ZKhan

            You are too late to reply..Comments are Closed now.

    • Roger Mendoza

      History tells us that the Jews are the indigenous people of the Land of Israel. Booted out from their homeland by the Romans and after 1900 years begun to come back and rebuilt. Arabs are nomadic coming from Saudi Arabia then Egypt. From the mouth of Gaza Interior Minister and Hamas senior official: Palestinians are half Saudi Arabians and half Egyptians, so why are they not helping out their feollow brothers against Israel occupation?

      The UN Resolution 181 Partition Plan partitioning the land between ARAB and JEWISH STATE. The arabs turned it down and declared war and after 3 unsuccessful war to annihilate the jews (in their own slogans), begun the campaign to use ARABS settlers in the land (they came to the land hundreds of years after the Jews were scattered by the Romans) calling them “Palestinians”, which ironically comes from the name “Palaestina” that the Romans named it after crushing the Jewish revolt! The Quran by itself stated the land is given to Jacob’s descendants the Israelites as inheritance.

      The G-d of Israel is a Zionist, giving the land to the descendants of Israel. In fact, the Bible speaks of the land of Israel as G-d’s inheritance to His people. It is the same place where the King of Kings will sit and rule with an iron scepter and the land is where His people will live as a holy nation.

    • dixi3150

      I’m afraid England and France no longer belong to the English or French. There are many countries around the world that are “occupied” Why concentrate on Palestine? Do the others not matter” For instance, Germany is still occupied by USA as there never was a peace agreement signed by these 2 countries. German gov. does exactly what their masters tell them to do.

      • I will tell you why…..because there are no German or English people living in refugee camps….holding the keys from their houses hoping of returning back to their homes soon….

  • Augustat D’Aravela

    Everybody knows that
    Jews avoid killing terrorists and instead just massacre civilians. And they prefer
    killing children, to mix their blood in matzoh dough.

  • Harold

    What about all of the rockets etc. that the arabs have been throwing at Israel for years?