Last night on Newsnight the phrase ‘deterrent’ was used by the Israeli ambassador to the UK to explain why his country was killing so many Palestinian civilians. Paxman, whose famously assertive style of interrogation is based on trying to find out ‘why this lying bastard is lying to me’, had asked what Israel had hoped to achieve by their attacks in the Gaza Strip.
‘So, it’s a deterrent’ repeated Paxman, ending the interview. Today it seems that they now plan to rout Hamas completely, not only to the point that this democractically elected government are incapable of governing (by destroying the entire infrastructure of civil society) but by wiping them out and anything else that happens to be between them and Israeli guns.
John Berger has already observed: “One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.” This is the Israeli’s racist understanding of a deterrent. It is only through the twisting of language that they can justify their actions.
Israel’s cruelty — manifested through its use (or rather abuse) of language, and creative “strategy” of “re-branding” its continuous assaults on the Palestinians as a war of defense, using their tautological logic to justify the extermination of an “entity” which they designate as “hostile” — should be interpreted in the spirit of Giorgio Agamben. The influential Italian philosopher argued in relation to the Nazi death camps that the “correct question to pose concerning the horrors committed in the camps is, therefore, not the hypocritical one of how crimes of such atrocity could be committed against human beings” but what were “the juridical procedures and deployments of power by which human beings could be so completely deprived of their rights and prerogatives that no act committed against them could appear any longer as a crime.”
We may well ask the same question today when listening to Israel’s blonde bombshells explain the bombs tearing apart the people of Gaza.
This is the concluding section of a suitably angry and brilliant piece in Electronic Intifada by Yosefa Loshitzky. The blond bombshell in question is Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister and it seems, ‘a natural blonde’. So much more appealing to a Western TV audience, one imagines:
Israel’s oiled propaganda-machine was further lubricated by its self-acknowledged decision to select women as their masbirim (misinformation spokespersons) so as “to project a feminine and softer image.”
In response to calls for a truce on humanitarian grounds she said: “There is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.”
The only way there could not be a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is if Palestinians are less than human. The universal values of humanity rely on equality. One to 500 is not exactly equal. But there is another reason why she is denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis. To admit to that would only encourage the world to try and make them stop. Neve Gordon, writing in the Nation, has been watching Israeli television:
My mother and I–like other Israeli viewers–learned that 170 trucks supplied with basic foodstuff donated by the Turkish government entered Gaza through the Carmi crossing. That the report had nothing to say about the context of this food shipment did not surprise me. Nor was I surprised that no mention was made of the fact that 80 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unable to support themselves and are therefore dependent on humanitarian assistance–and this figure is increasing daily. Indeed, nothing was said about the severe food crisis in Gaza, which manifests itself in shortages of flour, rice, sugar, dairy products, milk and canned foods, or about the total lack of fuel for heating houses and buildings during these cold winter months, the absence of cooking gas, and the shortage of running water. The viewer has no way of knowing that the Palestinian health system is barely functioning or that some 250,000 people in central and northern Gaza are now living without any electricity at all due to the damage caused by the air strikes.
While the fact that this information was missing from the report did not surprise me, I found myself completely taken aback by the way in which the reporter justified the convoy’s entrance into Gaza. Explaining to those viewers who might be wondering why Israel allows humanitarian assistance to the other side during times of war, he declared that if a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe were to explode among the Palestinian civilian population, the international community would pressure Israel to stop the assault.
According to this Norwegian doctor in Gaza who since New Year’s day has only treated one Hamas solider, the Israeli army is deliberately attacking the population.
Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz over the weekend refers to a story about a Mathematics professor who sets his students a task. They must design a pipe line which would be used to transfer blood from one part of the country to another. The students use all their skill and ingenuity to design one, taking into account potential pitfalls to ensure that the blood flows smoothly from one destination to another. When they presented the design the professor tells them they have failed. Not one of them asked why there would be a need to transfer the blood in the first place.
This is Levy’s conclusion to that piece:
It is doubtful whether Hamas will be cut down to size as a result of this wretched war. Yet, the face of the state has been cut down to size, as have civilian elites who are apathetic and scared. The “peace camp,” if it ever existed, has been cut down to size. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz authorized the Ghayan killing, regardless of the cost. Haim Oron, the leader of the “new left-wing movement,” supported the launch of this foolish war.
Nobody is coming to the rescue - of Gaza or even of the remnants of humanity and Israeli democracy. The statesmen, the jurists, the poets, the authors, academe, and the news media - pitch black over the abyss. When the time comes for reckoning, we will need to remember the damage this war did to Israel: The blood pipeline it laid has been completed.