Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Brother's Keeper II

It's now a year since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli blitzkrieg of Gaza. Uri Avnery has a good retrospective on it at Counterpunch, showing that it was at best an ambiguous victory for Israel. The siege of Gaza goes on, however, with the US Army Corps of Engineers working with Israel to maintain it. A large protest, the Gaza Freedom March, is simmering in Cairo, to the great discomfort of the Egyptian government; the participation of Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor from St. Louis, adds to the bad PR for both Israel and Egypt.

But I want to write about a startling post on the Israel-Palestine conflict by Stephen Vizinczey on his blog. It's hard to believe this was actually written by Vizinczey, who wrote some insightful analysis of Soviet and American imperialism in the past. But, it seems, like many people his insight breaks down where Israel is concerned. He wrote:
The recent condemnation of Israel is a fine example of the selective outrage that ensures that there will never be peace on Earth. “We rain rockets on the Israelis, on their farms, on their nurseries, their schools. We explode bombs in their restaurants, in their supermarkets – we are going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth! But they are so evil, they want to live, they get angry, they hit back, they try to defend themselves! Condemn them!
This makes no sense on any level. To begin at the surface, who is supposed to be speaking in his imagined quotation? Since it purports to be a "we" who "rain rockets on the Israelis," it would have to be Hamas, or since Hamas stopped firing rockets into Israel, various small independent Palestinian factions. (The bit about wiping Israel off the face of the Earth is a giveaway too.) According to Avnery, though, "The Qassams have stopped almost completely. Hamas has even imposed its authority on the small, extreme factions, which wanted to continue." Of course such groups would condemn Israel, and there's nothing "selective" about it. (Does Vizinczey expect the Palestinians to "rain rockets" on North Korea? The US?)

But Vizinczey isn't just angry at the Gazans; it seems that he's blaming everyone in the world who condemned Operation Cast Lead, none of whom rained rockets on the Israelis. Perhaps he means that Archbishop Tutu, Israeli combat veterans, Jimmy Carter (though he has recently recanted, or at least backtracked), and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd all figuratively rained rockets on Israel, or figuratively cheered on the rockets. It would have to be figuratively, or literally in the sense of figuratively, because virtually all the critics of the attack on Gaza were scrupulous in condemning rocket attacks on Israel.

As Vizinczey must know, the reason for the widespread condemnation of Operation Cast Lead, as of the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, was not that the Israelis were defending themselves, but that they were going so far beyond defense. Israeli casualties during Operation Cast Lead were one percent of Palestinian casualties; a similar disproportion has characterized most Israeli violence against the Palestinians. Indeed, many of the charges made against Hizbollah in Lebanon and against Hamas in Gaza turn out to be true of Israel instead: breaking ceasefires, for example, or using civilians as human shields.

The Stephen Vizinczey who dissected American justifications of its massive violence in Vietnam would have recognized this. The Stephen Vizinczey who jeered at white attempts to demonize slave resistance would have recognized this. The Stephen Vizinczey who fought in the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union would have recognized this. But today's Stephen Vizinczey joins the Israelis raining missiles on Lebanon; no doubt he would have joined the schoolgirls who signed their names on missiles waiting to be fired. This Stephen Vizinczey joins the Hasidim placidly watching the smoke rising above Gaza from a nearby hilltop. The Palestinians are so evil, they want to live, they get angry, they hit back, they try to defend themselves! Condemn them! Yes, there is selective outrage here, but it isn't the critics of Israel who are guilty of it.