Israel and the language of genocide
By: Chris Doyle
A deputy speaker of a parliament writes to his prime minister and party leader and publicly proposes what I see as a plan for genocide. This project involves turning a piece of occupied territory with 1.8 million people into a city of his own country, for his own people. Those who “insist” on staying, he argues, will be asked to sign an oath of loyalty to their new masters.
Well, this happened just last week. Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, proposed just this: “To turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.” It would involve shelling Gaza and cutting off “the supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas.” Palestinian civilians would be put in tented communities in the Sinai, where they would be “concentrated.”
Underpinning Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, in my view, is an unprecedented level of hate, bigotry and even genocidal language
Ah, I can hear the hasbaristas scream this man is just an extremist – he does not represent Israel. No he does not speak for all, but a more than healthy number support the plan. Just his Facebook post of August 1, where he outlined his blueprint, has got around 2500 shares and more than 8200 likes. Has there been any serious call to remove him from his position, expel him from the Likud party or heaven forbid, prosecute him?
Catastrophic attacks on Gaza
It seems that Israeli politicians have frequently called for catastrophic attacks on Gaza. In 2012, the Israeli interior minister, Eli Yishai, wanted Israel “to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Israel’s transport minister presented his plan for Israel to cut off all its supply of civilian goods to Gaza. Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, makes a similar case, collectively blaming Palestinians for electing Hamas. His argument, effectively, is that this vote makes all Palestinians a legitimate target.
Ze’ev Elkin, the chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, asked Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu about cutting off water and electricity to the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu did not reply by saying this would be morally wrong, a collective punishment of 1.8 million people, but merely that “legal advisers will not allow that.” Incredibly, it sounds to me like he asked them the question. Yet only a few days later, Israel bombs Gaza’s sole power station as it did in 2006 and in 2009. The United Nations reports that Palestinians in Gaza have roughly two hours of electricity a day now. So, whilst Moshe Feiglin may not get his wish in full, the scale and destructive power of Israel’s onslaught shows just why such a perceivably racist discourse is so dangerous. Sixty years ago, Israelis such as Golda Meir were claiming Palestinians did not exist, now, Feiglin and others are in effect planning to make that a reality.
Hamas has been rightly castigated for its stated aim of destroying Israel and its virulently anti-Jewish statements. But it is Israel that is destroying Gaza in reality. It is making it unliveable. Israel has the means, whereas Hamas thankfully does not.
Underpinning Israel’s onslaught on Gaza
Underpinning Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, in my view, is an unprecedented level of hate, bigotry and even genocidal language that urges ever yet more lethal and devastating bloodshed. At one far right demonstration in Jerusalem, Israeli protesters were chanting “Tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.” At another, Israeli youths sing, “Gaza is a graveyard,” A settler rabbi from issued a religious ruling that “The defense minister may even order the destruction of Gaza.” Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party, a party in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, advocated the killing of mothers of Hamas members: “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.”
Israeli peace activists and human rights groups have reportedly been threatened. The website of B’tselem, the Israeli human rights group, was reportedly hacked. Broadcasting the names of 150 Palestinian children killed in Gaza in an advert “The children of Gaza have a name” was banned by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, forcing the group to go to the High Court.
This is a deliberate approach to depict Palestinians as targets not humans, not victims in my view. For those who do not get the chance to bomb Gaza and kill Palestinian women and children in reality, Google Play and Facebook hosted charming games such as “Bomb Gaza,” “Whack Hamas” and “Gaza Assault,” some, but not all, of which have now been removed.
The lack of a critical reasoned debate perhaps explains in part why 95 per of Israeli Jewish citizens support the war on Gaza. Of course, Hamas rockets have served to produce much of this outrage but politicians have been only too keen to exaggerate the scale of the threat and the lack of any option but the military one. Is there no questioning of what is going on? Is there any reflection on whether repeating the same old failed military strategy is wise? Apparently, very little. Then again, so much of the Israeli media coverage has focused solely on the threat to Israel and not on the impact of the bombing of Gaza and Palestinian civilians. There is precious little explanation of why Palestinians are so angry, frustrated and determined to be rid of a 47-year-old occupation.
Hopefully, a lasting ceasefire will be enacted. However, in addition to all the vital steps to be taken – including the ending of occupation and blockade and thorough investigation of what has happened with full accountability – there should also be a fully-fledged program to address the issue of hate speech. This time it must not focus solely on Palestinians. Incitement, racism and hate is rife within Israel and its leaders must address this rather than stoking it up as they have been.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.