So many inevitable opinions about the current phase of the hundred-year-war of Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine suggest a certain caution in adding one more rant to the pack. Nevertheless, here I go. Those who want my detailed view on this issue can find it all in my fiction, from the multi-volumed BLOK SAGA to the Joe Dekel novels, THE DEATH OF MOISHE-GANEF and THE SILENCER. More has been added to the mount but yet unpublished… Silence however is not an option, even when so much argument, substantive or manic, courses over the “social media” and journalism – a verbal tsunami.

My background is available on this website. I came into Gaza with the Israel army as a 20 year-old in army service in June 1967. My role at the time was as a movie cameraman for the Army Spokesman unit. Gaza had been part of Egypt since 1948, and the war was fought against the Egyptian army, with the local population mostly passively watching events far beyond their control. Between then and now Israel fought (and almost lost) the next war against Egypt in 1973, as well as the Lebanon war of 1982, then a repeat battle against Hezbollah in south Lebanon in 2006, and the whole series of incursions into Gaza from 2009 to 2014.

It was the Lebanon war in 1982 that established the Israeli army’s current doctrine of mass bombing and reduction of civilian areas to flush out and engage guerrillas. That time they were the PLO fighters under Yasir Arafat. Today, Hamas. The doctrine has been hardened, and battlefield weapons have become even more deadly – and inaccurate, despite all the stuff about “smart” or “pinpoint” bombing. The toll to civilian populations is inevitable.

(A massive bombing of civilian targets occurred also in 1968-69 in the now largely forgotten “War of Attrition,” when Egyptian shelling of Israeli defences along the Suez Canal in Sinai prompted two years of bombardment that hit, among other targets, two Egyptian cities, Suez and Ismailia. The Egyptian casualty toll both of military and civilians was huge.)

After the Lebanon war, which ended in the grisly massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatila by the Lebanese fascist Phalange, enabled by then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, the Betrand Russell Peace Foundation (Spokesman Books) published in 1984 a 900 page book titled “Reason Not the Need,” chronicling Israel’s war in Lebanon, with detailed evidence on the mainly US weaponry intended for use against enemy armies, but used with deadly and horrendous effect against civilians. To read it is to understand the continuing use of battlefield ordnance against civilians that has characterised the massive Gaza incursions of 2009 and 2014.

There is no great mystery here. The lack of progress on Israel-Palestine peace, a just solution and an end to the hundred-year war, begets sudden bursts of violence, when the repressed find their tenuous survival as a quasi-colony no longer acceptable, and risings become inevitable, with whichever internal political movement that seizes the opportunity to demonstrate its “steadfastness” in the vanguard. One can argue the exact circumstance of each rising endlessly, for no purpose except to vent hot air. Even some of the top guardians of Israel’s own security services, the “Gatekeepers” interviewed in Dror Moreh’s 2012 documentary film of that title, realise and express their frustration at the politicians’ utter failure to grasp the fact that centuries of colonial occupation proved all over the world: subject peoples will not accept their subjugation. Sooner or later, they will rise.

The “parallel reality” vented in Israel, now brought to a psycopathic crescendo in the current phase of the conflict, is based on two principles: First – the idea of “sui generis,” i.e., that every burst of Palestinian rage and violence is irrational, since everything was quiet and peaceful until the terrorists – once the PLO, now Hamas – started to fire their rockets, or shoot, or cross the border to kill. There is no prior cause, as we, the Israelis, always offer peace and they, the “Arabs”, refuse it. Second – WE care about life, THEY don’t. There is no necessity to think that our policies of domination inevitably lead to loss of our life, as well as theirs. Therefore WE are wholly innocent, and merely defending ourselves. THEY are guilty, and murderously aggressive. When the outburst comes, internal information is rationed and distorted. Images of dead children are presented as false propaganda or “staged,” despite the prevalence now of social media and web sources. Lies become the public’s daily drug. Foreign correspondents and overseas protestors are castigated as dupes of enemy propaganda, or anti-semites. Internal dissenters are traitors or fools.

The same current fear and hatred of the Hamas movement were applied in the past to the PLO. The PLO, which in its time mounted lethal attacks on civilians and fired rockets across the Lebanese border, changed policy and ended up with a halfway house on the West Bank and Gaza, stuck in an endless round of “Peace Talks” inherited from the Rabin-Peres government in the Oslo process, and degraded by the successor governments of an increasingly right-wing and fanatic mode. The PLO (PNA – Palestine National Authority), are now the semi-good guys – as long as they remain impotent – but they were reviled in their time. They were terrorists, fanatics, murderers, bloodthirsty maniacs, anything you want. The next thing we knew, Prime Minister Rabin was shaking the hand of Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn. But P.M. Rabin was assassinated by a an ultra-right opponent of Oslo, and his successor, Peres, lost the next election to Binyamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud party.

Those who didn’t want to close the deal on peace with Yasir Arafat now have to deal with Hamas. I am not a fan of this movement. Hamas’s ideology remains stuck in the old Muslim Brotherhood blend of national liberation, religion, and a strong dose of anti-semitic ranting culled from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Their spate of suicide bus bombings in the 1990’s reached an unprecedented level of indiscriminate slaughter. But their predominance in Gaza was made inevitable when Ariel Sharon, as Prime Minister, devised the totally stupid idea of evacuating Gaza while refusing any negotiation with the PNA over its fate. (The aim being to rid Israel of the demographic problem of ruling over an extra one-and-a-half million Palestinians and spare the cost of running Gaza’s occupation regime). He was not the brightest spark in the Israeli engine. (Again and again, we ignore the stupidity of politicians and generals in favour of a well-spun conspiracy theory, the ubiquitous Plot…) I wish Hamas would disappear, but it will not. The more the Israelis kill Palestinians in the name of destroying Hamas the more the people will cleave to those in their midst, their own kin, who resist, even suicidally and at the cynical cost of civilian lives. Whether we can grab at straws, hoping that Hamas, bereft of allies, can morph into an expedient, nationalist movement that circumstances force towards reason, is an open question. As the old peace activist Uri Avnery often said, speaking of the pariah PLO: You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.

The Israeli side will continue to lose these internal wars, despite the “victories” of destroyed “terror tunnels,” dead enemies, mounds of rubble, “Hannibal options,” and thousands of dead civilians whose killing inevitably makes the State of Israel stink in the nostrils of the world. Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve better. But their own, small-scale but horrible conflict now burns within a regional fire-storm which neither the Israeli state nor its American protector – the latest declining empire in a long list of the once all-mighty powers of the world – can control or extinguish. The Middle East is burning from Gaza to Mosul.

So, Bibi, do you want the future to be ISIS? That may well be your legacy.

Reason Not the Need, indeed.

August 5, 2014