A Question of Violence by Harry Paterson

Despite the avalanche of propaganda from Western media outlets, not least the disgraceful coverage by our own BBC, attempts to paint Palestinians on the Gaza strip as aggressors and terrorists are failing. Instead, growing revulsion at Israel’s continuing bombardment of the most densely populated area on earth is almost palpable. Good and long overdue. However, an insidious and dangerous alternative philosophy is emerging, one that, in its own way, is just as damaging to the besieged and beleaguered Palestinians as the unashamed brutality and war crimes of the rogue terrorist state of Israel.                                                                                     

Liberal pacifists are the new enemy of Palestine. Guardianistas who, while opposing Israel’s state terror, are just as quick to apportion equal blame to the Palestinian cause. “Oh, both sides should stop the violence,” these worthies cry. On the hard left, too, these views are heard: “Hamas are terrorists and socialists should have no truck with clerical fascists,” they exclaim.                                                          

Such views are unacceptable and betray an inability to apply dialectical analysis to the conflict. More than that, they, unwittingly or not, place the supporters of such sentiments firmly in the imperialist camp and render them apologists for continuing Zionist slaughter.                                    

Violence does not exist in a vacuum. It is not an abstract, moral question. We should not allow pro-Israeli propaganda to neuter our critical faculties and turn us into political Quakers. The fact is that violence is neither objectively good nor bad; as with most things in life, context is everything. So, firstly, let’s look at that context… The occupants on the Gaza strip exist in a precarious world of extreme poverty and squalor. As previously mentioned, it is the most densely populated region on the face of the planet. Food and adequate medical provision is in dangerously short supply and in every way the contrast between Gaza and its ‘neighbour,’ Israel, could not be starker.                                                             

Israel, by contrast, has one of the strongest economies in the region and affords its citizens the highest average standard of living to be found anywhere in the Middle East. Its continuing control of the Palestinian borders and air space, an arrangement that denies the Palestinians even the most basic provisions for a minimum standard of humane living, means this disparity will only increase and, of course, with it growing anger and opposition toward Israel.           

In terms of Hamas’ legitimacy, here Western hypocrisy is clearly visible. The fact remains Hamas won over two thirds of all seats in the last election, roughly 64% of the total. By any criteria that is a mandate and a half and one that would have Western leaders weeping with gratitude should they ever be the recipients of such a landslide. Contrast that with Cameron’s share of the vote and his insistence that Hamas is a terrorist organisation and will not be recognised by the UK is hypocrisy of the rankest kind. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should morph into uncritical cheer-leaders of Hamas and for many on the left its suppression of basic trade union rights, for example, should be a cause for concern but, and it’s a huge but, the arrogant Western mindset that says we know best and we can and should dictate how other nations run their affairs comes to the fore and is evident in the criticism many on the left level at Hamas. The fact remains; Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinians and one elected by a huge majority. Get used to it!                                                                                                                          

Regarding violence, the question is so simple that one wonders how so many can fail to draw the correct conclusions. Basically, there is the violence of the oppressor and there is the violence of the oppressed. The former is immoral and illegitimate while the latter is not only moral and legitimate but unavoidable and necessary. Unless, that is, we are to see an entire region of people ethnically cleansed because, and make no mistake, that is the only conclusion if the occupants of Gaza lay down what paltry arms they have and submit to Israel.                                          

The huge arsenal and troops that Israel has at its disposal and the pitiful, largely homemade, ordnance available to the Palestinians render the balance of forces even more outrageously unequal. Add to that the uncritical support, arms and funding Israel receives from Washington, London and elsewhere, and one can only feel humbled at the continuing resistance of the Palestinian people. 

Finally, we should not need to spell out the respective moral justifications for each side’s actions. There can be no question that Israel has neither moral right nor even bourgeois international law on its side. It continues to operate with arrogance and impunity, ignoring, to date, 62 UN resolutions (compare that with Iraq’s flouting of just 2 and look what happened to them…?) and, ignoring borders, the law, the sovereignty of other nations and all accepted norms of diplomacy, it dispatches its intelligence operatives to anywhere it damn well pleases to murder and assassinate at will. How dare anyone decry reactive, defensive Palestinian violence and hold it the equal of Israel’s!                                                                                                                       

The residents, or rather prisoners, more like, of the Gaza strip are waging a life and death struggle that transcends even national liberation; they are concerned with simply survival. In such a case there is no ‘plague on both your houses’ option available here. One is either for the self-defence, liberation and freedom of the Palestinian people or one is for the continuing aggression of Israel’s US-backed terrorist rogue state. 

Which side are you on?

Harry Paterson