"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -Abraham Lincoln
It will be called “the Passover Gaza Massacre”, and rightly so. Shocking events in Gaza deserve a better and more honest context than has been given in the U.S. media. Passover is the Jewish holiday that ritualizes a legend of liberation of enslaved Jews from the state oppression from a brutal ruler. Pharaoh only grants freedom to his enslaved minority when he is forced by God-imposed adversity on his person, his people, and his army. The wretched Jewish slaves pry freedom away from cruel state power, and are released to return to their lands of origin.
The Jewish spring ritual is the inescapably political holiday that celebrates liberation itself. It uses symbolic foods and ritual music to re-sensitize us to the righteousness of fighting oppression everywhere, and does so in a family setting, as opposed to the synagogue. By commanding us to be compassionate and empathic with all human suffering at the hands of illegitimate power (Pharoah), we renew the universal Jewish ethos, or at least what we have been told is the Jewish ethos. By rejoicing in resistance to oppression we renew our sense of human worth and dignity, and that of all humans, especially the stranger. This sacred imperative of re-sensitization to suffering and liberation is considered one of the most central Jewish holidays.
The country of Israel marked the holiday by playing the role of Pharoah, not as a mythical drama, but in real life using deadly live ammunition against innocent people, the most downtrodden of people, who were peacefully beseeching Israeli power, and the world, to be released from their bondage and to return to their own lands, from which Israel had expelled them in 1948 and 1967.
In an article called “The Israel Massacre Forces” in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the courageous Gideon Levy writes, “By nightfall the body count had reached at least 15, all of them by live fire, with more than 750 wounded. Tanks and sharpshooters against unarmed civilians. That’s called a massacre. There’s no other word for it.” – Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Israeli Daily.
The death toll is now 31, with over 1.000 civilians wounded.
There could be no more clear repudiation and betrayal of the essence of Passover than the Israeli actions, and their arrogant and desensitized rationalizations of it. Defense Minister Lieberman pronounced “there are no innocent people in Gaza.”
In shooting down Gazans in cold blood and in broad daylight, the Israeli government, supported by the vast majority of its people, made it clear that they have traded any trace of Jewish values that are humane and universal for the wielding of very illegitimate power over defenseless oppressed people.
In shooting down Gazans in cold blood and in broad daylight, the Israeli government, supported by the vast majority of its people, made it clear that they have traded any trace of Jewish values that are humane and universal for the wielding of very illegitimate power over defenseless oppressed people. It was as if they wanted to make clear their repudiation of what we in the United States understand to be the Jewish ethos. Gideon Levy continued, “If there was any concern, it was because soldiers couldn’t celebrate the [Passover] Seder”.
By holding specifically non-violent mass protests, Palestinians displayed true and recognizable heroism in the face of deployed Israeli armed forces. Shades of Hungary 1956, and of Tienamen Square. This is not at all the atypical of Palestinian resistance, but getting coverage of it is atypical. This time the crowds were more massive and couldn’t be ignored by the world, even though the mainstream media did their best to distort the horror. Gazans were delivering the most profoundly human plea to their oppressors and to the world; “set us free!”, as plainly as Moses does in the Passover ritual.
Again, Levy; “Sharpshooters fired at hundreds of civilians but two Palestinians who dared return fire at the soldiers who were massacring them are “terrorists,” their actions labeled “terror attacks” and their sentence – death. The lack of self-awareness has never sunk to such depths in the IDF.”
All human groups have ancient freedom traditions. We all have the sacred imperative, whether religious or not, for “self-awareness”. To do that we must release ourselves from de-sensitization, open our eyes to oppression, which includes being able to look at our own faith and ethnic groups and hold them to an ethical standard. In this case that means to see Gazans not for who Israeli state propaganda and a compliant American media falsely say they are, which is inherently violent trouble-makers, but for who they really are: our brethren.
That self-awareness that is sorely lacking in American media and the mainline Amerian Jewish organizations, both of which hewed to Israeli propaganda’s two-pronged to attempt to smear the demonstrations; first, by alleging that Israeli occupation forces were fired on by the crowd on March 31, for which no evidence was ever produced, and secondly, more broadly, by falsely claiming the demonstrations were led by Hamas. In the first case even the usually pro-Israel New York Times had to turn around after a week and a half. In its editorial on April 11th they expressed their outrage that a well known reporter, Yasser Murtaja, who was wearing a vest with “Press” emblazoned in large letters, was killed by an Israeli sniper.
That impelled the editorial to condemn the entire week of targeted assassinations conducted by Israel, while smearing Gazans in the process, as we shall see. In the second case, the seemingly obligatory smearing of Palestinian resistance is pernicious because it was easy to ascertain before the incidents that this was not a Hamas led demonstration. It was widely known if sparsely reported on, that the demonstrations were organized independently from Hamas specifically to include all political factions in Gaza; the PLO, Islamic Jihad, and others including Hamas. On the ground witnesses by (through an Israeli interlocutor speaking directly to Gazans who were present at the demonstrations) that there were no Hamas or other factional flags flying at the March 31st demonstration, only the Palestinian flags.
Israel has in the past been safe to assume that the routine labeling of the demonstrations as “Hamas led” by its government outlets and a culled U.S. press, would lend momentary credence to whatever counter-factual stories Israel wanted to confect, such as that the crowds were armed or contained Hamas armed forces within them. This time it didn’t fly. The Israelis couldn’t produce any evidence to contradict the many videos showing unarmed civilians being shot from long range; people simply walking along, people retreating from the armed barrier, people praying, etc. In this instance at least, the ubiquity of cel phones defeated state disinformation. On April 11, the NYT had to admit that in print.
It is important to point out the specific element of unethical propaganda at work in the habitual dishonest conflation of Israeli propaganda so dutifully reproduced in U.S. mainstream corporate media; the repetition of the Israeli mantra when referring to Hamas.
It is important to point out the specific element of unethical propaganda at work in the habitual dishonest conflation of Israeli propaganda so dutifully reproduced in U.S. mainstream corporate media; the repetition of the Israeli mantra when referring to Hamas. Any mention of Hamas must always carry an obligatory phrase such as “labeled as a terrorist group by the United States and the E.U.”, as if those two entities, particularly the first, are not responsible for more deliberate disinformation leading to mass death and destruction than anyone else in recent Middle East history.
In the longer form it is added, “Hamas, which took power (or “took over”) in Gaza in 2006”, blithely elides the fact that it “took power” by a free and fair election, pronounced so by Jimmy Carter and other international observers. That is a huge difference, and any journalist who knows even the outlines of that history knows it, and it is a key instance in which U.S. journalism consistently gives way to deliberate disinformation right out of the Israeli playbook.
In the April 11, 2018 NYT editorial, this meme is subtly blended into their objection to Israel’s murder of Palestinian reporter Yasser Murtaja, who “lived in Gaza, the enclave of nearly two million Palestinians ruled by ruthless Hamas militants that have been devastated by an 11-year blockade by Israel and Egypt and three wars between Israel and Hamas that have killed thousands of Palestinians and about 100 Israelis.”
This is an object lesson on how the U.S. media, eve liberal media, distorts facts with well crafted prose towards a specific agenda. First, as we’ve said, to the extent that Hamas rules Gaza, there is no mention that Hamas was fairly elected to rule Gaza. Second, “rules Gaza” is misleading: there is an Israeli fortified wall around all of Gaza, except where the Israeli navy belligerently patrols the sea, (and a small Egyptian piece of wall.) which give the lie to the whole idea that Hamas “rules Gaza”. It does dispense perks and organize Gaza politically, but has no sovereignty since it does not control what comes in and out of Gaza. It is the elected government inside a concentration camp, if we are being very accurate.
According to international law, Israel still occupies and therefore rules Gaza, and its border is an arbitrary internal one holding 2 million people prisoners simply by virtue of their nationality being Arabs and non-Jews. The Jewish settlers left, as was politically expedient, leaving 2 million people who are not allowed to leave. Then comes the linguistic coup d’grace; “three wars between Israel and Hamas”. The “wars” mentioned in the Times editorial were not “wars”; these were massacres. Using the term “wars” here is another term of art…and deception.
Leaving out the other two other major Israeli attacks since it imposed the illegal siege eleven years ago, in 2014 alone Israel launched a 51-day assault, involving a full bore attack by the world’s fourth largest air force, the massive Israeli army using the most sophisticated artillery and ground assault weapons, and Israel navy warships. All this was arrayed against a militia with hand held weapons, along with some pre-World War Two so-called un-guided missiles that killed seven people in close to two months. Israel rained down 20,000 tons of explosives; four times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb, on a basically defenseless population. That attack killed over 2,300 people, including over 500 children. That is a massacre, not a war. Israel lost seven civilians, and under 100 military fatalities in the course of invading the territory. Whole neighborhoods were carpet bombed and over 18,000 Gazan homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, most of which Israel will not allowed to be rebuilt.
In order to have a “war” you need at least two armies…there was only one. The courage of Gazans has given us a much clearer picture of the tragic human consequences that the deadly impunity our press and government has handed to Israel. Will it stir us to fight for freedom?
Lest I forget: Happy Passover.