Friday, 16 November 2012

Eyeless in Gaza

Violence once more soars in and around Gaza.  This blog is not capable of offering sustained regular reporting or commentary on the situation, but I will put up some posts or links which I think will help people understand what is happening.

The first thing that needs to be said is that in a very real sense the Gaza Strip is constituted in violence: that is, violence is part of its structures.  By this I mean several things:

1) the great majority of the population of the Strip are refugees or the children and grandchildren of refugees of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians attendant on the creation of the State of Israel in 1947-49;

2) Gaza has long  been a site of Israeli punitive violence, for example the raid in 1955 which 'punished' Egypt for its alleged sponsorship of Palestinian 'infiltration' of southern Israel from the Strip;

3) Gaza was for a long time the site of the institutionalised and incremental violence embodied in illegal Israeli colonisation, land confiscation, settlement construction, and population-transfer;

4) Israel's unilateral withdrawal of its settlers has not, in fact, altered the juridical status of the Strip in international law, which is still held to be that of occupied territory, towards which (along with its denizens) Israel as the occupying power has a legal duty of care and protection.  Israel has built a 'fence' around its entire border of the territory, and illegally controls and seeks to exploit Gaza's maritime industries and potential hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean;

5) Gaza has been under continuous siege since the creation of its Hamas government: that government has no sovereignty over Gaza's borders, over its territorial waters or its airspace.  The territory is routinely subjected to Israeli shellfire, airstrikes and incursions, mostly carried out with impunity.  In 2011 alone, over 100 Gazans were killed in such interventions;

6) By controlling all trade, movement of persons and of goods and food, Israel has reduced most Gazans to the condition of what the renowned Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (who recently spoke at Trinity College Dublin) has termed 'bare life' - a largely inert, legally and discursively 'semi-human' population almost entirely without rights, deprived of basic human needs, and which it is possible to persecute, maim and slaughter with no serious risk of reprisal, either by Gazans or (even less) by the 'international community'.

It is within this barbaric framework that all that is currently happening in the Strip must be considered.

A great deal of discussion, even now as Israeli airstrikes shatter Palestinian lives and infrastructure, and as Palestinian rockets continue to be fired into southern Israel, turns and will continue to turn on the chronology of the breaking of the most recent ceasefire.  Adam Horowitz has published on the excellent Mondoweiss website information from the Institute for Middle East Understanding which clarifies this matter and which contextualises Israel's handling of ceasefires in the past:

Two new resources: Timeline of Israeli escalation in Gaza and Israel’s history of breaking ceasefires

I have invoked the name of John Mearsheimer, one of the most clear-eyed and brilliant contemporary American International Relations theorists, on this blog already.  In 2007, he and Stephen Walt authored a major study of the Israel lobby in the United States, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.  Mearsheimer and Walt underwent the usual barrage of criticism as anti-Semites for having had the temerity to challenge one of the most invidious and enduring pillars of American foreign policy.  Yet it should be stressed that Walt and Mearsheimer are not wild-eyed leftists; they are mainstream establishment academics.  Honorably and impressively, this has not prevented them describing the situation in the Middle East and its echoes inside the Beltway starkly and ruthlessly.  Mearsheimer has a short article on the current Gaza situation on the London Review of Books website:


John Mearsheimer: The War on Gaza



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