Gaza’s War of Lies

Gaza’s War of Lies
(and what you can do about it)
by Father Dave

The assault on Gaza was not started because of the rocket fire of Hamas and it will not end when and if rockets stop being fired … Most likely it will only end when the Israeli government perceives that its warring activities are becoming unpopular, either to their own electorate or to the overseas countries that they depend on for support, and this is where we come in, for we have the power to sway the opinion of those supporting countries.

In the 18th Century Jonathon Swift spoke of “a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by Words multiplied for their Pleasure, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves.” (Gulliver’s Travels, Part IV, Chapter 5).

Swift was speaking of lawyers, but if he were writing today he would no doubt note that journalists,TV presenters and other purveyors of the mass media have subsequently joined this devilish‘society of truth-twisters’ and have indeed become so proficient in their art that they can make even the most horrendous act of violence, such as Israel’s unrelenting massacre of the civilian population of Gaza, appear as a righteous act of self-defence!

Propaganda, of course, would not have been unknown in Swift’s day. Military enterprises have always been multi-layered affairs. The men and women on the front line make up the first layer. The military and political strategists – hidden far from the field of war – make up the second. The propaganda machine is the third layer – serving to justify the brutal activities of their side’s war machine while simultaneously vilifying the enemy.

But in times passed the bulk of a nation’s military effort would be devoted to the front-line. The king led his troops from the front. He bore whatever risks to life and limb his men bore, and he generally left the moral judgement of his cause to posterity. Nowadays the reverse is true. While not minimising the efforts of those who give their bodies as weapons of war, the real effort in modern warfare, and the key to success, lies in the effectiveness of the propaganda machine that moulds public opinion in support of its warlike purposes. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in Israel’s current war on Gaza.

The whole military assault has been built upon a series of media-propagated lies, and if the military machine is to be slowed it will require people around the world to see through these lies. For just as the front line troops will not stop their killing before they get their orders from the layer above them, so the war-mongering generals and politicians will not stop until public opinion turns against their violent designs.

Here are four of the most fundamental lies upon which this latest assault on Palestine has been built:

  • That the assault on Gaza took place because Hamas broke a ceasefire.
  • That this unprovoked aggression left Israel with no choice but to attack.
  • That Israel has no desire to kill civilians, but that Hamas is hiding amongst the civilian population, making civilian casualties inevitable.
  • That the assault will stop as soon as Hamas stops firing rockets.

This list is by no means exhaustive of course, but these are certainly four key lies by which the Israeli government has tried to gain the moral high-ground over her victims. Yet they are easily dismissed.

Lie #1: That the on Gaza took place because Hamas broke a ceasefire.

The Israeli government has claimed that Hamas started the latest outbreak of violence by firing rockets into Israeli cities. The truth is that the rocket attacks were themselves a response to an Israeli military incursion into Gaza that took place a month earlier.

There should be no debate about this. It is a matter of public record. In November 2008 Israeli forces entered Gaza and killed a number of Hamas personnel who were supposedly engaged in building a tunnel out of Gaza. This was the immediate precursor to Hamas’ rocket attacks.

Having said that, I don’t believe that Israel thereby broke the ceasefire, for, in truth, Israel never bought into the ceasefire in the first place. It was always a one-sided ceasefire, upheld by Hamas only, as the Israeli army never lifted its siege upon Gaza, which was a condition of the cease-fire.

For those who have forgotten what is (again) entirely a matter of public record, in 2005 Israel closed off the two border crossings between Gaza and Israel and then severely limited traffic across the third border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. After the election of Hamas to government in 2006, Israel further tightened its grip. For the last 18 months an average of only 70 truckloads of goods per day have been allowed into Gaza. International agencies have estimated that Gaza needs roughly 450 truckloads of supplies each day in order to survive!

The rationale, according to the Prime Minister’s office, was to put the Palestinians “on a diet”. The result of course was widespread suffering across the civilian population. Then, on June 28th 2006, Israel then bombed Gaza’s only civilian power plant, making the population entirely dependant on Israel for power, and hence for fresh water, which is pumped into Gaza via electrically-powered pumps. In September of 2006, John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories declared “Gaza is a prison, and Israel seems to have thrown away the key”.

In the two years since Dugard’s made his analysis, things have deteriorated a great deal further. Unemployment has risen above 50% (the highest in the world). Both food and fresh water have become increasingly difficult to find. Disease has been breaking out everywhere, as the sewerage system is massively overloaded, and the hospitals have neither the necessary power nor medical supplies to give effective care to the sick and dying.

The lifting of the siege was supposed to be Israel’s first contribution to the cease-fire. It never happened. The ceasefire was always a sham.

I imagine two children warring in the playground, both claiming to have stopped fighting. The big child though still has a tight hold on the smaller child’s throat, yet is claiming, “I’m not hitting him any more”. Then he sneaks in another punch, after which the little guy takes a swing, at which point the bully claims the moral right to pulverise his opponent.

Lie #2 That Hamas’ aggression left Israel with no choice but to attack.

This is pure garbage. There were lots of choices.

The most obvious option (and the one most likely to lead to real peace) would have been to try genuinely entering into a ceasefire by lifting the siege. It is simply insulting to suggest that all other avenues had been exhausted when at no point since the sealing off of the city in 2005 has the government of Israel halted this collective punishment of the inhabitants of Gaza!

On an entirely different track, another option would have been to allow an International peace-keeping force to enter the region. Palestine has in fact been begging the International community to introduce a real presence into the Occupied Territories for 30 years now. Israel has always refused, but if the real goal had been peace it would have surely been tried.

A third and also very obvious option would have been to enter into open dialogue with the Hamas government. Israel has stubbornly refused to do this, following the Bush government’s line of refusing to dialogue with persons you don’t already agree with – a strange political maxim indeed for anyone who seriously wants to put an end to war.

Lie #3 That Israel has no desire to kill civilians.

The idea that Hamas is to blame for civilian deaths is sinister. The Israeli claim is that Hamas militants are ‘hiding’ amongst the civilian population. The truth is of course that Hamas are a part of the civilian population.

Hamas, you will remember, before being labelled a ‘terrorist organisation’, was a political movement, democratically elected to govern the people of Gaza and the West Bank. Many of the photos of uniformed dead bodies, seen amongst the first records of Israel’s initial action against Gaza, were pictures not of soldiers but of dead policemen, serving the Hamas government in areas such as traffic control.

Yes, Hamas has an armed wing that the population now see as their only defence against the brutal Israeli occupation, but Hamas is not fundamentally an army. It is a political movement made up of the citizens from amongst the Palestinian people. These people don’t hide amongst the civilians. They are the civilians, and the police, and the government.

To borrow an analogy from the great Israeli peace activist, Uri Avnery, to depict Hamas as hiding amongst the civilians of Gaza is akin to speaking of the way Churchill and his cabinet hid amongst the population of London during the attempted German invasion of Britain in 1940, thus leaving the poor Luftwaffe with no choice but to try to level London in bombing raids – the civilian casualties being no more than an unnecessary tragedy for which the British parliament was solely to blame.

Perhaps that is how the history books would have been written had Germany won the war.

Lie #4 That the attack will stop as soon as Hamas stops firing rockets.

This particular lie is not even being consistently maintained by the political arm of the propaganda machine. Indeed, the designated acting Prime Minister of Israel, Tzipi Livni, stated quite plainly that the true aim of the assault was “to liquidate Hamas rule in Gaza!”

The assault on Gaza was not started because of the rocket fire of Hamas and it will not end when and if rockets stop being fired. It may end if Tzipi Livni comes to believe that Hamas has been‘liquidated’ (which is not likely to happen) and it may end when the Israeli cabinet feels that Gaza has been sufficiently punished. Most likely though it will only end when the Israeli government perceives that its warring activities are becoming unpopular, either to their own electorate or to the overseas countries that they depend on for support, and this is where we come in, for we have the power to sway the opinion of those supporting countries.

And while it may be true that the mass media is almost entirely controlled by members of Swift’s‘society of truth-twisters’, there remains yet one avenue of mass communication where ordinary guys and girls like us can still make a noise and be heard – the Internet!

So will you join me, virtual warriors, and publish the facts – in your blogs and amongst your networks and to your mailing lists – and let’s do our best to confront this murderous propaganda machine with words of truth.

The window of free speech that the Internet allows us will not remain open forever but it is open now, and this gives us ordinary people who have seen through the lies propagated by the mass media one last great chance to change world history and to stop the needless sacrifice of the men, women and children to political avarice and a racist ideology.

For God’s sake join me in publishing the truth, and for the sake of the children of Gaza.

January 2009

Rev. David B. Smith

Parish priest, community worker,
martial arts master, pro boxer,
author, father of four.

About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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