Open Letter on Gaza
April 6, 2015
This was written in August 2014 and published in The Telegram in response to an opinion piece by Telegram editor Brian Jones.
Reading Brian Jones’ opinion piece “Love your children, don’t condemn them to perpetual war” in The Telegram left me feeling a sense of absolute despair about the level of discourse and analysis of the situation in Gaza within local St. John’s media.
From his accusations of anti-semitism to his non-sequitur invocation of Pride Week, the piece reflected both a complete absence of human empathy as well as a dire lack of understanding of both the political and historical dimensions of the Israel-Palestine conflict and a willingness to try to pull other struggles into his analysis as a rhetorical trump card of sorts.
First and foremost, the accusation of anti-semitism is a longstanding tradition for those who wish to cleanse the Palestinian blood from the hands of Israel and its Western supporters. In a 2003 essay in the London Review of Books, philosopher Judith Butler, herself a Jew, unpacks the charge thoroughly:
In holding out for a distinction to be made between Israel and Jews, I am calling for a space for dissent for Jews, and non-Jews, who have criticisms of Israel to articulate; but I am also opposing anti-semitic reductions of Jewishness to Israeli interests. The ‘Jew’ is no more defined by Israel than by anti-semitism...Once the distinction is made, discussion of both Zionism and anti-semitism can begin, since it will be as important to understand the legacy of Zionism and to debate its future as to oppose anti-semitism wherever we find it.
To be sure, those who stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and against the actions of the Israeli government must be cognizant of anti-semitism and reject it wholly. This charge, however, only serves to discredit those who are expressing very serious and important outrage against the slaughter of over 1400 residents of Gaza so far.
Jones goes out of his way to let us know that Hamas is a violent terrorist regime, locating the persistence of the conflict in Hamas’ refusal to recognize the state of Israel’s right to exist, going so far to blame the people of Gaza for daring to freely elect Hamas in 2006. This, of course, is misleading at best.
In a recent interview with Democracy Now, Rabbi Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress andthe Synagogue Council of America, spoke of conversations with Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, in which Mashaal when asked about whether he would be part of a government that recognized the state of Israel, said that, “Yes…provided that the Palestinian public approves that policy.”
Furthermore, Siegman goes on to note the double standard at play here: Israel is never asked to recognize a Palestinian state. In fact, the head of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the ruling Likud Party, Moshe Feiglin, recently penned an op-ed for the Israel National News calling for the outright ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
Jones insists that the Palestinians could have had their own independent state several times, most recently as part of the Oslo Accords. Of course the Oslo Accords didn’t address any of the root causes of the conflict: Jerusalem, right of return for Palestinian refugees, illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, or the borders between Israel and Palestine. They did not even, in fact, offer an independent Palestinian state. Noted Palestinian intellectual Edward Said wrote in the London Review of Books that it was “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles” and the proceeds to elaborate on why the Oslo Accords were untenable to the Palestinian people. Furthermore, in a 2013 piece in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free blog, Avi Shlaim discusses the ways in which Israeli “bad faith” was the undoing of the Oslo Accords, not the Palestinian Intifada.
Jones ends his piece with a quote from Golda Meir: “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Israel violates more ceasefire agreements, has deadlier results in its ceasefire violations, continues to maintain an occupation of Gaza, and continues to slaughter the people with Western backed military might. It is not the Palestinians who do not love their children.