Israel and Gaza, truth and untruth

It is not just the Iron Dome which prevents free thought. All belief systems and ideologies do that, whether they be Zionism, nationalism, ethno-centrism, racism, religion, sectarianism, Communism, Fascism or any “ism” whatsoever. To their credit, a few Israeli journalists have exposed Israeli atrocities and lies, at the risk of being labelled traitors by their country.

 (Daily Times, 7 August 2014)

I never thought that one day I would write to defend the Islamic Brotherhood or Hamas, but such has been the turn of events lately that I am constrained to do so. I long ago shed the ideological straitjacket which I always found rather suffocating even as I proclaimed the glorious truth of my chosen ideology.

It amazes me that so many people continue to view the world through rigid ideological prisms till death does them part. Human nature and human history – indeed, the universe as a whole in all its complexities – are far too complicated to fit any ideological paradigm or belief system, whether religious or secular.

Even as I write, the Middle East’s strongest military power, Israel, employing the full might of the huge arsenal and latest military technology provided by the United States, is reducing to rubble an enclave 41 km long and 6-12 km wide, inhabited by 1.8 million men, women and children.

So far, 1,865 Palestinians have been killed (including nearly 300 children), about 9,000 wounded, over 3,000 homes destroyed and a quarter of the population turned into refugees (some for the second, third or fourth time). Israel has destroyed or damaged 136 schools, some of which were being used as shelters, 24 hospitals and clinics and 25 ambulances. The Hamas rockets – the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which provided the pretext for the invasion – killed three Israeli civilians. Combat with Hamas cost the lives of 64 Israeli soldiers.

Two Norwegian doctors, Prof. Mads Gilbert and Prof. Erik Fosse, who have worked in Gaza hospitals during the previous Israeli invasion (2112) as well as the current one, have categorically repudiated Israeli allegations that Hamas has been using civilians as “human shield” and storing weapons in hospitals and mosques.

Both foreign doctors say they haven’t seen a single armed man or any Hamas leaders at the Shifa hospital as alleged by Israel. Gilbert reckons that 90% of those killed are civilians, higher than the UN estimate of at least 70%.

To their credit, a few Israeli journalists have exposed Israeli atrocities and lies, at the risk of being labelled traitors by their country. Gideon Levy writes in the Haaretz (“It’s all Hamas’ fault, right Israel?” 31 July):

“It’s so easy to be an Israeli; your tender conscience is pure as the driven snow: Everything is Hamas’ fault. The rockets are the fault of Hamas; that can be taken for granted. Hamas started the war, for no reason; that, too, ‘goes without saying.’ Hamas is a vicious terrorist organization, beasts in human form, born to kill, fundamentalists – and apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? . . .

“It has reached the dimensions of a real massacre. But Israelis’ hands are clean and their consciences are quiet – so quiet you could cry. It’s Hamas’ fault. . . . But even through the malignant cloud of denial, even understanding how easy it is to blame everything on Hamas – Israel has never had such a convenient enemy, which can be framed for all its sins – we must ask whether everything really is the fault of Hamas. Is Israel genuinely completely innocent? In the face of bleeding, ruined Gaza, the work of Israeli hands, such denial is incomprehensible.

Uri Misgav writes, also in the Haaretz (“The Iron Dome over our consciences”, 11 July): “The casualty numbers will continue to rise. But Israelis will continue to wallow in their exclusive misery and self-pity. It doesn’t appear in the technical specifications, but Iron Dome does not intercept only missiles. Apparently it intercepts free thought as well. It dooms its users to blindness, deafness and dementia. Has anyone asked himself how and why the “present round of escalation” began? Who escalated it? Whom and what does it serve?”

And how can I leave out the peerless 90 year-old Uri Avnery, who writes (“Meeting in a tunnel”, “For viewers of the Israeli media, Hamas is the incarnation of evil. We are fighting ‘terrorists’. We are bombing ‘terror targets’. Hamas fighters never withdraw, they ‘escape’. Their leaders are not commanding from underground command posts, they are ‘hiding’. They are storing their arms in mosques, schools and hospitals (as we did during British times). Tunnels are ‘terror tunnels’. Hamas is cynically using the civilian population as ‘human shields’ (as Winston Churchill used the London population). Gaza schools and hospitals are not hit by Israeli bombs, God forbid, but by Hamas rockets (which mysteriously lose their way) and so on.”

The practice of dehumanizing one’s enemy is age-old. We all know that the terms ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘terrorist’, ‘patriot’ and ‘traitor’ are interchangeable. Menachem Begin, who as leader of Irgun ordered the bombing of King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, which killed 91 persons, including 17 Jews, went on to become the prime minister of Israel (1977-83).

In complete disregard of international and humanitarian laws, Israel has kidnapped a whistle-blower from Italy (Mordechai Vanunu, 1986), poisoned a Hamas leader in Jordan (Khaled Mashal, 1997), killed a 67-year year old wheel chair-bound, quadriplegic, nearly blind Hamas ideologue with a hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter (Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 2004), assassinated a Hamas leader in Dubai using foreign passports (Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, 2010) and bombed UN-designated safe havens, hospitals and children playing on a beach in Gaza, which it has invaded three times since turning the tiny enclave into an open-air prison in 2007.

Complicit in the Israeli atrocities against the people of Gaza are Egypt, which enforces the blockade along its own border with Gaza, and the United States, which, at the same time as it calls some Israeli actions “indefensible and unacceptable”, announces that it will immediately replenish Israel’s spent ammunition and authorizes a further $220 million to reinforce its Iron Dome.

Apparently it is not just the Iron Dome which prevents free thought. All belief systems and ideologies do that, whether they be Zionism, nationalism, ethno-centrism, racism, religion, sectarianism, Communism, Fascism or any “ism” whatsoever.

Perhaps those of us who find the Israeli propaganda against the Palestinians and Hamas despicable should ponder our own certainties on issues within the country and in the region. Our ability to be deluded and to be delusional is immense, like that of the Israeli public. There is nothing more wrong than self-righteousness and nothing less respectable than self-pity.

By Razi Azmi

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9 Responses to Israel and Gaza, truth and untruth

  1. Shakil Chaudhary says:

    My compliments on writing such a thought-provoking article.

  2. Nazar Naqvi says:

    Dr. Azmi has analyzed the situation very logically and his article is thought provoking. Israel is doing all this cruelty which can’t be justified by any parameters. Its true that there is nothing more wrong than self-righteousness and nothing less respectable than self-pity.

  3. Tony says:

    Razi amongst all the “isms’ which you mentioned in your penultimate paragraph was one made significant by its absence. I don’t mean Humanism, socialism or nationalism. I am of course referring to “Islamic fundamentalism” which you must have overlooked. Funny that.

    There is no point in discussing the rights and wrongs of the Israeli Military action or the policies of the Israeli government. Nor is there any point in trying to decide whether the killing of thousands of Palestinians can somehow make Hamas into a legitimate organisation.

    The struggle between Israel and its neighbours has been going on, in one form or another, for over half a century and the latest manifestation, like all the others, will peter out with nothing being resolved.

    Israel is stronger now than it has ever been and will not compromise. Instead it is shamelessly annexing additional Arab land and the farmers who have had their land stolen are powerless to stop this. Western journalists and commentators such as your good self might deprecate the Israeli atrocities but what good will that do?

    Hamas has a blind insensate hatred of Israel and will do whatever it can to destroy it. It is that hatred which enables the democratically elected Israeli Government to do what it does in the Gaza Strip. The Arabs are incapable of destroying or even defeating Israel and equally incapable of negotiating a peace which is mutually acceptable and so the stalemate goes on from decade to decade with more and more Palestinian peasants being forced off their land while the population of Israel increases and grows more contemptuous of their Arab neighbours.

    All that has changed in the last thirty years is that there has been a greater recognition in the West of the rights of the Palestinians and some mild criticism of Israel. Three decades is a long time. How many more generations will this status quo continue for?

    It will do not the slightest bit of good to take sides in this struggle. Bagging Israel or Hamas will merely help to prolong the fight as any criticism of Israel is not going to change their attitude any more than proscribing Hamas will persuade its leaders to recognise the error of their ways.

    A lasting peace between Hamas and Israel can never be negotiated. It must be imposed. Hamas cannot be defeated and will not make peace with the “Zionists”. The whole world can see that the Palestinians are steadily losing this struggle while Israel gains something from every outbreak of renewed conflict. So why should Israel make any concessions?

    The question then becomes how does the world impose a peace upon the two belligerents? The stumbling to a global response to the Palestinian question is that Russia and China will not act in concert with the other members of the UN security council to devise a set of terms which both the Israelis and the Palestinians must accept. Both Russia and China would probably support a return to something like the 1967 border should give even Hamas all that it wants. In exchange Israel gets a guarantee of UN protection.

    Israel will not accept this but should be made to recognise that while it can thumb its nose at a Palestinian rabble it cannot do so when Russia, China, India, the EU and the USA all act in concert.

    It is in the interests of both the Russians and the Chinese to support such a course of action as their own Muslim minorities will continue to identify with an oppressed Palestinian Islamic group who will inspire Muslims around the world to see all Kaffirs as enemies.

    The only solution to the Palestinian question is to be found in Washington, Moscow, Beijing and Brussells. So stop bagging Israel. It will do no good. Somehow a way must be found to reinvigorate the UN and get China and Russia to recognise that they are part of a community of nations.

    • Razi Azmi says:

      Tony, funny that you blame me for overlooking ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ from my list of ‘isms’, although I would have thought that it is included under the term ‘religion’, which I mention. Also funny, but not unexpected in the light of your past comments, that you should mention only ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ but not, say, ‘Hindu fundamentalism’, ‘Christian fundamentalism’, ‘Buddhist fundamentalism’ or ‘Jewish fundamentalism’, all of which are the cause of much trouble, even violence in the world.

      You say ‘three decades is a long time’. Well, it may be a long time in politics, but it is a very, very short time in history. It took the indigenous people of Australia and America, as well as the blacks of the United States, two hundred years or so to win their basic rights.

      And just because Israel is by far the more powerful of the two protagonists in the Middle East, you recommend that journalists and commentators should cease ‘taking sides in the struggle’ and commenting on the rights and wrongs of the situation or condemning atrocities or defending justice. You might as well suggest that the Palestinians cease all resistance and just give up.

  4. Tony says:

    Razi, that is a most unfair reading of my argument. Saying that the Palestinian resistance is totally unproductive does not mean that they should “give up”. My point was quite simply that, after the 1967 war the West laughed at the hapless Arabs and admired the heroic stand of little Israel against the might of the Arab world. In the half century that has ensued all that has happened is that the situation of the Palestinians has steadily deteriorated while Israel has become stronger. The Arab world is hopelessly divided and plucky, resourceful Israel is slowly turning into the denial of all that the state originally stood for.

    Just as China started out on a wave of idealism and turned into a corrupt totalitarian tyranny so Israel is steadily losing the virtues that the West admired 50 years ago. The Palestinians are pathetic in the literal and the colloquial sense and their struggle produces nothing but corpses and copy for journalists uttering the same pious and ineffective homilies again and again and again.

    To say all Palestinians good, all Zionists bad ( or to say the opposite) accomplishes nothing but the perpetuation of this struggle. My point was that instead of merely “condemning atrocities”, and there are plenty of those on both sides, it is up to the UN to knock both heads together. The solution to this problem does not lie in Tel Aviv or the leadership of Hamas. And the duty of all members of the fourth estate is to recognise that a solution must be imposed not negotiated.
    A solution must lie in the great powers actually doing something in concert.

    What’s your solution? Make Israel see the error of its ways? I don’t think that is any more likely than Hamas suddenly realising that killing Jews isn’t a good basis for political solutions.

  5. Shakil Chaudhary says:

    While criticizing Israel’s actions, it is hard to ignore the fact that Hamas remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel. We have no hard evidence to suggest that it has really distanced itself from its charter of 1988. It says: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.” It also calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel.

    Hamas will have to be realistic−if it wants peace. Even Prof. Edward Said, one of the biggest champions of the Palestinian cause, accepted the political legitimacy and philosophical authenticity of the Zionist claims. If Hamas leaders were clever−instead of seeking Israel’s destruction−they would have been demanding a one-state solution. A state with equal rights for all its citizens would have served the Palestinians better.

    One wonders why the Hamas charter is silent on Jordan. Are the Hamas leaders and ideologues not aware of the fact that Jordan was founded on 79% of the Palestinian land in 1921. And it was done by the British.

    Prof. Azmi has done well by citing Gideon Levy’s Haaretz article.( I think it is a good example Israelis’ capacity for self-criticism. I wish there were journalists like Gideon Levy and newspapers such as Haaretz in Gaza and the Arab world. I doubt if any Arab−or even Muslim−country would tolerate this kind of self-criticism and dissent.

  6. Naheed says:

    Very well articulated, insightful article. Unfortunately it stands true to this day. It may be a different year today but the situation and plight of palestinians still remains a sight of grief and horror for those with even an ounce of compassion in their hearts. In the last 11 days the sight of war, rockets, destruction and children dead or wailing has taken over my thoughts. I see the faces of my own children in those dead , scared beautiful faces; scared for life ..

  7. Razi, Though I’ve found your writings for decades to be among the most provocative and informative among the volumes I regularly digest, and certainly love and respect your travel posts and books, I’m not following your rationale here. I think, however, the responses from Tony & Shakil suffice for reasoned counters. I would add that the Iron Dome analogy, though certainly creative, is problematic on several fronts. Likewise the modern comparison of some “fundamentalist” groups seems rather unequal when considering Oct 7, which you really don’t cite in your numbers, nor 9/11. A litany of others (though smaller) could be listed (from radicals from both sides), whether the Sarona Market in 2016 (I happened to a few blocks away returning to my hotel) to the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994. In this light, can you show any concerted mainstream political or religious ideology that calls for the extermination of all Palestinians? That would be the counter to Hamas’s inhumane mission. Those I know and have worked with from both sides have friends on both sides of the Shawshank Redemption-esque fences. I agree that the civilian deaths are horrific casualties. But on one side of the proverbial fence they are being targeted and slaughtered (Oct 7 @ 9/11). On the other, unless its total misinformation and fake AI imagery, they are trying to minimize civilian casualties. I hope readers realize you’ve wrestled with this issue for years, are brilliant, and aren’t simply vying for media clicks. That’s not you. Nonetheless, I hope they come to a different conclusion. The greater the mind the chance for the greater error, and I’m afraid that appears to be what’s happened here. Equating all Palestinians with Hamas and v versa has also clouded this discussion (esp on US campuses). There’s a reason why the Christian population in Bethlehem has decreased from 84% in 1922 to 12% in 2007 (Pew) and to around 10% or less today, and only 1,000 or so in Gaza. Our recent book, The New Book of Christian Martyrs (Tyndale House), shows the arduous journey of Christians, often at the hands of other Christians (The publisher cut around 100K words.). At other times, persecution was especially at the hands of Muslim expansion. We have also highlighted the modern plight of the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government (see our TBN documentary on this book, “Heroes of the Faith” w Erick Stakelbeck, 2023, now on YouTube). Thus, I conclude that inhumane treatment of any group needs exposed and addressed. I’m just not finding your assessment of Hamas acceptable given what played out Oct 7, and the continual flow of information. I am curious of your response to Leo Dee’s 12/21/23 column at Jerusalem Post, “Christians Everywhere Should Protest Persecution….” I respect your inclusion of varying positions.

    • Razi Azmi says:

      My nearly month-long delay in approving Jerry Pattengale’s above critical and scholarly comment was solely on account of my month-long travel overseas during which I did not access or view my blog. As to the substance of his comments, I suppose it is futile and pointless to argue. If the genocidal verbosity from the highest echelons of the Israeli government, including the prime minister, finance minister and security minister, the human tragedy inflicted on the over two million Palestinians of Gaza over the last three months, and the opinions expressed by such prominent Jews as Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein (to mention a few) are not enough to persuade Dr Pattengale about the criminal intent of Israeli Zionists with regard to Palestinians (whose existence they mostly deny), then obviously there is no merit in my even trying.

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