The Hypocrisy of Netanyahu

The sloppy Israeli propaganda effort against the Free Gaza humanitarian flotilla has been so bad that the pictures released by the Israeli army have been tagged by alert bloggers as forgeries, some of them having been on the Web for years. This site alleges that many of the pictures put out by Israel purporting to show arms on the aid ship still contained internal tags allowing them to be identified as old photos from years ago. Even if the charges of forgery are false, the photos show chains, sticks, an axe– things that would be on any ship.

The defiant speech on Wednesday of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defending the Israeli boarding of an aid flotilla headed for Gaza, and his insisting that the blockade of Gaza would continue displayed all the problems with hyper-nationalist Israeli discourse, of inappropriate analogies, factual errors, propaganda, and magical thinking. These fallacies have dominated the narrative presented by members of the Netanyahu government and those who support it.

The first fallacy is to identify all the people of Gaza with the Hamas party-militia, dismissing them all as “terrorists.” But over half of the 1.5 million people of Gaza is children, who can hardly be terrorists. And if Palestine Authority elections had been held in both the West Bank and Gaza this spring, likely Fatah (which recognizes Israel and has agreed to peace talks) would win, not Hamas, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. (The news is even worse for Hamas: nearly a third of Palestinians want to throw in the towel and seek Israeli citizenship. Oh, yeah, Palestinian nationalism is such a threat to Israel; geez, this is like a third of Americans in the 1950s announcing that what they really wanted was Soviet citizenship).

So collectively punishing all the people of Gaza, as Israel does, is just wrong. It necessitates half-starving little children, since they are so much of the population. And the Israeli perpetrators of the blockade assume that they are punishing Gaza supporters of Hamas when it is clear that a majority of Palestinians would not vote for Hamas at this point.

The Israeli hyper-nationalists argue from contiguity, from things being next to each other, demonizing entire groups and peoples rather than considering their actions in the real world. Thus, IHH, the fundamentalist Turkish charity that sponsored the lead ship in the aid convoy, sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The ship was then branded a “Hamas” vessel. But none of the passengers is known ever to have actually engaged in anything like terrorism and the Turkish government would not allow it to operate if it were actually considered radical (look at the way Turkish security tracks down the Turkish Hizbullah).

And, since Iran sympathizes with Hamas, as well, and since IHH is a known sympathizer with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, actually the ship is not just a Hamas ship but is an Iranian one. Even though Iran had nothing to do with it and even though it had no weapons aboard. All of Gaza is transformed by this way of thinking (if you are sympathetic with a group, you are identical to that group and they are identical to you) into an “Iranian port on the Mediterranean.” In fact, of course, the Israelis do not allow the Gazans to have a port at all, much less an Iranian one. And, if that were the danger, then surely Tyre (in Lebanese Hizbullah territory) is already an ‘Iranian port on the Mediterranean,’ since Iran is a patron of Hizbullah. But wait, that situation already exists. And no one in Europe has been menaced by Tyre, of which most of them have not heard. Imaginary dangers in the future can always be dressed up as more menacing than mundane existing situations.

The fallacies of guilt by association, appeals to emotion, poisoning the well, etc., etc. reach such a crescendo in this Israeli discourse that the IHH charity is simultaneously accused of being a stalking horse for Shiite Iran and for Shiite-killing hyper-Sunni al-Qaeda. The absurdity of a whole host of European parliamentarians, former US diplomats, Nobel prize winners, and a Swedish novelist, being fronts for ‘al-Qaeda’ is so profound that it is like a Monty Python skit. ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!’

Netanyahu also presents Gaza not as a territory conquered and occupied by Israel, but as an independent Hamas “regime” with which Israel is actively at war– a war that would justify a military blockade that must be honored by other nations. But Gaza isn’t an independent ‘regime’. It is not a state at all. It has no army or navy. It is the height of cruelty for Netanyahu to deny the Palestinians statehood but then to declare that he may half-starve them because he is at war with a Palestinian state! Gaza is a territory occupied by Israel, which controls its borders, air space and seas, and even whether its children may have chocolate and nutmegs (the answer is no, and I can’t help hearing in my mind a version of the line from Seinfeld about the cranky soup chef: ‘No nutmeg for you!’)

So the entire ‘blockade of an enemy state during war’ analogy to World War II trotted out by Netanyahu and his minions is mind-bogglingly stupid.

Since in the real world Israel is the Occupying power in Gaza, it is responsible under the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 for the welfare of its residents. Israel may not alter their lifeways, may not engage in collective punishment, and may not arbitrarily “put them on a diet” as a Likud spokesman observed was the real motive of the blockade when it was first tried out.

And since there is no Gazan state with which Israel can be at war, but only a squalid slum under the Israeli jackboot, it is not in fact legal for Israel to rampage about attacking civilian aid ships in international waters, summarily murdering the humanitarian workers aboard them.

After all those imbecilic World War II analogies that the Neoconservatives tried to sell us about Iraq, the idea that Netanyahu is yet again just doing his bit to defeat Adolph Hitler by shooting down humanitarian volunteers rings hollow indeed. It isn’t always 1938 or 1942, folks. Get over it.

In reality, the poor Israelis have gradually become one of the last colonial regimes in the world, and they are acting the way the French did in Algeria or the British did in 1950s Kenya before decolonization. The Israelis have the same chance of ultimate success that the British and French empires had once local people began mobilizing socially and politically, which is to say, none. The French polished off several hundred thousand people during their futile resistance to Algerian independence, and that seems to be where Israel is now headed. Except that France was large, populous and could retreat across the Mediterranean, whereas Israel is small, lacking in manpower, and stuck with defending a postage stamp territory from 300 million Middle Easterners almost all of whom deeply sympathize with the people of Gaza. Netanyahuism can hasten the end of this story, to Israel’s detriment, but can do nothing to stop the rest of the Middle East from getting wealthier, better educated and more militarily sophisticated over the next decade.

Not to mention that several of the nationals the Israel troops murdered were Turks, whose state is already in the G20 and who already possess a formidable military capacity within a NATO context (which Israel lacks).

All this does not end well for Netanyahuism, which, moreover, is itself bankrupt and hypocritical. Israel, which keeps screaming about nuclear proliferation, has as many nuclear warheads as the UK. Netanyahu, who says ‘terrorist’ as often as other people say the word ‘the’ openly celebrates the Zionist terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel late in the British Mandate, which infuriates the British. Netanyahu had a prominent Hamas leader actually poisoned nearly to death in the late 1990s, and the Clinton administration made him produce an antidote because they wanted to negotiate with him. Khaled Mashaal, Netanyahu’s intended murder victim, recently declared that if the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza ended, so would the resistance to it. That’s as close as you will get to a peace offering from Hamas; it couldn’t have been made if Netanyahu had succeeded in his bungling attempt to lift the plot of some old Agathie Christie murder mystery.

Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, may be the most corrupt and thuggish politician now serving in elective office anywhere in the world. A former member of the racist Kach party, Lieberman has a thing about wanting to drown people, whether it be prisoners or the entire Egyptian nation. Why it is acceptable to fete Netanyahu and Lieberman in Washington but not to so much as negotiate with Hamas is incomprehensible. And these Israeli thugs get to shoot down innocent aid volunteers in international waters with impunity.

But, well, reality cannot be postponed forever. There will be unpleasant consequences for Israelis of their inhumane and illegal blockade of Gaza. Already, a plurality of Norwegians is eager to boycott Israeli products over what they see as Israel’s Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians. If Netanyahu and his successors go on like this, that sentiment is sure to grow throughout the European Union. Israel deeply depends on trade and technology transfers with Europe, and if those dry up in the next decade, it will limit Israel’s growth and even military strength.

According to the Bible, the ancient Israelis once had a prophet, who dared instruct Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” The Israelis have fallen into a shameful role for Jews, playing Pharaoh, denying Palestinians not only food, medicine and cement but the very right of citizenship in a state, which is the basis for all civil and human rights. They have to let those people go. We know what happened to Pharaoh when he refused.

36 Responses

  1. Now this is great stuff! Obvious of course, but great just the same, when other Americans are by and large admiring the emperor’s new clothes.

    Of course with the American propensity to mass murder, torture, and all the rest, always comfortable with brutal dictatorships all over the world, unconditional support for this horrible regime is in character, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out.

  2. The Irish flagged ship, MV Rachel Corrie is sailing to Gaza right now.

    Rachel Corrie was the American young woman killed by a bulldozer in Israel.

    Robert Naiman asks “Will Obama Let Israel Attack?”

    Now a couple of ships are challenging the blockade and Israel says that the attack this time will be more fierce. Someone with a lot of money should set up a live feed from the ship that cannot be blocked out by Isreal when they board the ship.

    Can someone who knows more about technology answer the following question: Can the Israeli commandos shut down all external communication from the ship by surrounding it by some jamming system?

    I have heard that the ship, and another delayed vessel, will arrive about June 10 in Gaza. These two ships should be given world wide attention. On the Irish ship is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

    What if another winner, Obama, was riding on the ship? Would Israel even go so far as to attack the ship?

    • Unfortunately, outside of some US military communications sets the Israelis would have a hard time jamming, everything off-the-shelf commercial they’ll have no problem knocking out.

  3. “And since there is no Gazan state with which Israel can be at war, but only a squalid slum under the Israeli jackboot, it is not in fact legal for Israel to rampage about …..the idea that Netanyahu is yet again just doing his bit to defeat Adolph Hitler …. rings hollow indeed. It isn’t always 1938 or 1942, folks”

    It rather reminds me now of these times indeed – of how the Nazi regime went about their dealing with the Warsaw ghetto. They didn´t say publicly “we want to kill all of them and get over with it”, it was rather a process of slow dehumanization. Any time, the desperate people in the ghetto fought back, a public (German) media outcy followed: “see how dangerous they are! See how dirty, lawless, aggressive they are! Daaaaanger to you! Danger to us all!” The sad thing is, this way to defame people works like no other kind of propaganda.
    … if you don´t want someone to fight like a cornered rat you shouldn´t corner him in the first place, but the deep dislike for “cornered rats” is rooted somewhere deep down in the gut, leaves you prone to manipulation …. we should all think about it from time to time.

  4. Thank you Dr. Cole, this post is absolutely brilliant.

    In the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the mountain of lies in all forms has been generated. There are, however, stars in the firmament that provide excellent guidance. Robert Fisk, Prof. Noam Chomsky, and Prof. Norman G. Finkelstein have provided works that taken separately or together act as filters for the never ending lies issuing from the Tel Aviv-Washington D.C. axis of evil (Read “Lies in a Mirror, An Essay on Evil and Deceit” by Peter Charleton ISBN 1-84218-101-7. Written by an Irish Barrister from personal experiences; e.g. “There is a lie behind every crime”). To that eminent constellation, the name Prof. Juan Cole needs be added. For all too long, the body politic has been exposed to deceit and deception. The ship of the Republic has been holed, is taking on sea, and is in danger of founder; the language has turned to babel, no one hears or understands the requirements or directions to save the ship in the roaring gales of lies. Here lies a safe harbour.

  5. “…postage stamp territory from 300 million Middle Easterners almost all of whom deeply sympathize with the people of Gaza and despise Israel…”

  6. today’s commentary’s outstanding — every time i have an itch to contribute to the tip jar, paypal makes me hesitate — is there some other way to do it? — a check would be ideal — thank you

    • thanks! The office address is 1029 Tisch Hall, History Dept., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003

  7. This is useful in so many ways. I wonder what would happen if Israel and all of the Arab states surrounding Israel offered the Palestinians a path to citizenship. I suppose that would kill the two-state solution, which, for some reason, all of the actors appear to want to keep alive. Thank you for one of your best articles.

  8. Thank you for your clear, explanatory writing which I have just come to by way of another admired author reccommending your book “Napolean’s Egypt” which was an enjoyably educational read.

  9. Your analyses are breezes of fresh air in a suffocating media landscape of lies and more lies. Keep up the great work. From a reader in Stockholm.

  10. Dear Professor Cole:

    Thank you for your coverage of the latest Israeli offense against International Law and morality. Israel has now become a Rogue regime whose actions must be stopped and they must be held accountable.

  11. I am writing this to thank you for showing that there is an ounce of sanity left in the US. I have just come away from the NYT truly sickened by the op-eds and the letters about the Israeli attack on the flotilla which appear to suggest that the peace activists were a bunch of terrorists. Their ignorance of the true roles of Hamas and the Israelis is so profound as to lead me to despair and this from apparently intelligent people. Until the people of US are given the truth, or more likely the American Empire disappears (how long can an empire persist on such lies). we can expect no improvement in the Middle East.

    For your readers who are willing to open their minds, let me suggest the following websites, none of which are particularly anti-Israeli. Indeed the first is from that staunch supporter of Israel, the Murdoch Press.

    link to timesonline.co.uk

    link to sabbah.biz

    link to vanityfair.com

  12. Mr. Cole, of all the remarks you made in this post concerning the subject matter, this one most struck me;
    “several of the nationals the Israel troops murdered were Turks, whose state is already in the G20 and who already possess a formidable military capacity within a NATO context (which Israel lacks).”

    Hmmm I thought, Turkey IS a member of NATO. Israel is not. Now what is NATO?

    From wikipedia,: “the organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.”

    So technically, since Israel committed an act of war against Turkey, which it did by attacking a Turkish flagged vessel in international waters, Turkey has the right to declare war on Israel, invoke the NATO treaty, which would technically result in all of its member nations having to come to Turkeys aid. And of course, the US is one of the primary members of NATO.

    Interesting. I wonder if Turkey, or anyone else, has thought of this.

    Major wars have been started over less.

    • I gather you are talking about the same spineless Obama would capitulated on the settlement issue when Netanyahoo igonred his call and Israel-firsters called his bluff. Is this the same Obama who thinks it is okay for the CIA to assassinate American-born citizens?

    • ….. yes, it is the same Obama that has refused to prosecute war criminals Bush/Cheney and others (which according to reputed international law experts makes him prosecutable under war crimes laws), the same Obama who has given telecom companies immunity against prosecution for illegally spying on Americans, the same Obama who is killing innocent civilian Afghans with drone attacks, the same Obama who has refused to condemn Israels for war crimes in Gaza….

      Are you surprised? You should not be, because Americans progressives have elected him and the Nobel Committee have given him the Peace Prize.

  13. The Israelis have the same chance of ultimate success that the British and French empires had once local people began mobilizing socially and politically, which is to say, none. The French polished off several hundred thousand people during their futile resistance to Algerian independence,

    But therein lies your problem. French control of Algeria ended not with the FLN successfully breaking the back of french control, seeing as how the French government was able to brutally suppress the group. It ended when the French themselves were no longer willing to push for it, and allowed Algeria to have a referendum on independence.

    Do you see that happening with Israel any time soon? Support for the Gaza Blockade, and restrictions like the Wall in the West Bank, is high in Israel.

    Khaled Mashaal, Netanyahu’s intended murder victim, recently declared that if the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza ended, so would the resistance to it.

    Not exactly. They say things like “If you withdraw from the Occupied Territories and allow all of the descendants of the original 1948 refugees to immigrate to Israel proper, we’ll strongly consider doing a ten-year truce afterwards.” That is not helpful.

    Already, a plurality of Norwegians is eager to boycott Israeli products over what they see as Israel’s Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians.

    True, but Norwegians already had less positive views of Israel than much of western Europe due to that unpleasant fiasco of an assassination in Lillehammer.

    • “But therein lies your problem. French control of Algeria ended not with the FLN successfully breaking the back of french control, seeing as how the French government was able to brutally suppress the group. It ended when the French themselves were no longer willing to push for it, and allowed Algeria to have a referendum on independence. ”

      Holy crap! That’s a stupid comment.

  14. Juan reminds us that it is not 1942, but in a sense it is. Israel has decided to become a “District 9″ society, both in Gaza and much of the West Bank. Gaza is a land only nominally “outside” or separate from Israeli control. It is being isolated and controlled, even though the Israeli military does not routinely patrol its streets. Compare the Bantustans under apartheid South Africa or the way the US used Indian reservations in the 19th Century. And, yes, compare the ghettos of Poland in World War II. Differences in the degree of control and suffering? Yes, and that does matter. But this is the model, the framework, the starting point for realistic discussion of the situation.

  15. Irony alert:
    Apr 29, 2010: Laptops for Gaza refugees
    “GAZA CITY – THE UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Thursday launched a campaign to distribute some 200,000 laptops to schoolchildren in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a spokesman said. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) plans to distribute half a million devices to refugees across the Middle East by the end of 2012, spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said.”

    link to straitstimes.com

    How does one term this: The Laptop in a Tent Program? What is the nutritional value of a laptop? Israel will now be forced to condemn the UN for supplying devices that may be used as military communication systems.

  16. Would like to suggest that personal possessions being kept by IDF are for storage and use by them in future operations either to intentionally discredit a given individual or organization (like those darned Humanitarians!) or simply in other operations where they are trying not to leave any Israeli fingerprints.

    Best way to prevent them from being able to use those items nefariously in the future is for the people to carefully document right away everything that was taken from them and store that information in unimpeachable locations (like claims for reimbursements filed through legal channels) – so that if any such thing shows up down the road it will not only thwart a false-flag or frame-up, but track right back to the IDF (or any of their sister agencies).
    Hope this helps avoid future activities based in dishonesty.

  17. If Israel wasn’t so certain that the US would always be there to defend its thuggishness and clean up its messes, maybe it wouldn’t continue to act that way. Continued US coddling of the Apartheid state virtually assures its continued criminal behavior.

    • I completely agree Tridant. The US’s role is crucial. We have news today of a US citizen having been killed by the I.D.F. and the Obama administration like others before it is the in bizarre position of being silent about this death, except I suppose when they’re forced to say they “regret it” by some reporters. Take a look at the behavior of the British govt. toward its citizens, Turkey, Ireland and you’ll see how outlandish is the U.S. role. Increasingly, the U.S. is going to be isolated vis a vis Israel. But AIPAC and its subsidiaries will only be increasingly determined if not happy about this isolation, because they would take the U.S. to hell and back for the defense of Israel. Edward Said is right. Until this version of American Zionism is defeated here on our soil, the U.S. and that means all of us will be dragged again and again into Israel’s muck.

      And it will get worse. Wait and see.

  18. A minor correction – that is not an axe, it is a roofing hatchet, which is obvious from the notch on the bottom of the blade for pulling nails. It is the same size as a framing hammer, and has a hammer head on the back side which is hidden in the photo. It is a very useful tool for survival carpentry, as well as the standard tool for installing wood shingles and roofing.

  19. See today’s Tom Friedman column:
    link to mercurynews.com
    Particularly the quote at the end:
    “The strategic situation has never been more opportune — the Arabs are scared of the Iranians, the Saudi peace plan is still on the table, and the Palestinians are beginning to act rationally. But we [Israel] lack the leadership to help us make a real change.”

  20. When the attack first took place the people on the boats were described as “humanitarians”, a word Americans associate with peaceful fols doing good stuff. More recently on CNN and other stations they have become “activists”, i.e., pushy people inserting themselves in the business of others. Small change of a word but it alters the tone and raises the smear that they are pushing themselves into Israeli business and, by extension, got what is coming to them.

  21. There is a comment on the second link that was added just a minute ago that explains that the dates on the images cannot be correct. Paraphrasing the commenter: Camera was not released until after the dates shown. However, if the camera internal battery goes dead, the internal clock is reset to an earlier date. The camera was probably not used for a while.

    In any case, these images can hardly be described as weapons, except when there is nothing else at hand to defend yourself.

  22. I feel like I’m watching The History Channel here, re-enacting oldies but goodies from history. First Israel decides to re-enact the Warsaw Ghetto, with Palestinians playing the role of the Jews and Israelis playing the role of the Germans. Then they decide to re-enact the Exodus 1947, with civilian activists playing the role of the Jews and the IDF playing the role of the British. Do they no longer study history in Israel? Does Nuttinyahoo understand just what role Israel is cast in with these re-enactments? Hint — the Germans in 1940 and the British in 1947 were the bad guys in this drama!

    But hey, Israel is being kept safe from the Coriander of Mass Destruction, Chickens of Biological Warfare, and Canned Fruit of Genocide (three of the items embargoed – coriander, live chickens, and canned fruit), so I suppose that justifies it all. Alrighty, then!

  23. [...] Israel has not only successfully transformed itself into an apartheid state, but also into a state of insane conduct in the face of the global community. With America’s patronage, it has gotten to the the point where its excuses are laughable to the fifth grader. [...]

  24. More deja-vu History Channel:
    Lebensraum Settlements
    Cockroaches & Vermin Palestinians

    In 2025 will the name Bibi be as rare as is now Adolf?

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