I am not often shy about offering an opinion, today I really don’t want to and I don’t want to count how many friends this post will lose me. Thomas Piketty, in Capital in the 21st Century, does not just discuss inequality within nations, but between them. He states that the inequality that defines relationships between nations is almost impossible to sustain without a colonial type of political domination. He is also clear, as if any of us didn’t know by now, that a process of convergence between the poorest nations and those who had previously dominated is occurring. The hegemony of the dominant power of the post war period is weakening, if we didn’t know this with the Arab Spring, the financial crisis, austerity, and the implosion of our media, or the wall we hit with Syria, the latest bloodshed in Gaza brings it right home.
When inequality is at the heart of political and economic debate, what we are always discussing is power and its abuse. Gaza is a contained and impoverished slip of land, with few friends, no army, and they have been under a blockade designed to weaken them with poverty for several years. Gaza has an extraordinarily young population. Given an approximation of statehood in 2012, they are barely recognised as existing by the dominant powers, and as such can be easily abused and treated as if they don’t.
Israel, a nation born in blood and as a result of hate and genocide in Europe, has been exempt from international law since the start and no one can or will impose boundaries on them. International law does not apply to Israel. The international legal frameworks and the bodies that enforce what we understand as ‘international law’, established following World War 2, were not for justice. These are the institutions designed to uphold hegemony for our dominant power. Any attempt to bring Israel into line, meets a veto from that dominant power.
The reason international law does not apply to Israel, is that it cannot. It was a nation given to a people who had been rejected, abused throughout history, whose extermination was attempted. Noone wanted the Jews in Europe, no one wanted to discuss their role in allowing genocide. In our haste to outsource our shame, we established a nation in an area where we needed someone we could use, with neighbours who wanted them wiped out, and planted them on top of a people we could not even see.
Frightened nationalism and the survival of the Jewish people became intertwined. Their increasingly extreme nationalism and expansionism ensured this threat grew and they have always needed the West’s protection to survive. This situation can only go on for as long as unquestioned US hegemony lasts and that day appears to be past.
No boundaries, and inequality of that magnitude, guarantee abusive behaviour that will never cease and has not. In the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel this week, there has been out and out incitement to genocide, and it would appear that the warfare pounding down in that contained strip of land the world knows as Gaza, is an attempt at it.
I am told that recognition of this, is me denying Israel’s right to exist, I am told it is anti-semitic to recognise a genocide being threatened and taking place. History tells me it is not. What I know is that there are about 4 million Palestinians and 7 million Israelis, and they all exist in flesh and blood and communities and families.
Any argument over which side has the right to exist is a toss up about which genocide is preferable, and anyone outside Israel and Gaza, who thinks that argument is worth having should be locked up for their own good till this is over. Or they need to explain what they think should be done with that many million bodies. Israelis and Palestinians may argue over the right of each other to exist, but for the rest of us they just do.
History repeats itself unless lessons are learned.
In the weeks since the latest war broke out, justified by the murder of 3 boys, it has become apparent that social media has changed the state of play. People’s reliance on the BBC and mainstream media comment, made portraying the situation in Gaza as an even sided conflict easy. That is clearly over. From the tweets of teenagers living through their third war in their short lives, to the immediate access to pictures on the ground, and the open coverage of what is happening in Gaza by Channel 4, Israel’s assault on Gaza could not be hidden this time. The world saw.
Massive protests all over the world, and an extraordinary level of surprised outrage, are currently bringing home to the US that this situation cannot continue. Relations between the US and Israel have been very strained since Obama took power, and Israel s refusal to understand that they must at least appear to operate under the same rules as everyone else, is bringing this to a head.
What social media has also revealed is human nature’s tendency to tribal conflict, propagandists are no longer required, people will quite happily throw fallacious soundbites at each other to escalate this conflict from outside the region. Social media users suddenly shocked by the revelation of what has been happening in Gaza for a long time, have gone into overdrive. Watching three minute videos that explain the whole thing then sharing pictures of dying children, with no way to check whether mothers of those children object. A tide of self- righteousness has infected online activists who were prone to delusional behaviour anyway. Without context, activists demand genocide for 7 million people without the faintest comprehension of what is hidden by their twee slogans.
Comforted by a peculiar western delusion that if you figure out who the bad guy is, you just tell them off and it is all over, activists demand war and escalation of conflict and swap pictures of dead babies to justify their demands for escalation hidden under words like peace.
Conflation of the Palestinian people and the aims of Hamas, who in turn were more or less brought into being by Israel, ignores the cries from youths like Gaza Youth Breakout, about violence and exploitation of their vulnerability. Concerned lefties show dead babies with self righteous anger, as they explain that yes Hamas and the desire to wipe Israel off the map is the only possible just outcome. No concern for the child, their parent, or what it means to share a picture they forget within seconds as they start tweeting about something else. No suggestion of what they think should be done with the 7 million bodies. Anti-semitism rears its head, as activists clueless about the issue they are discussing march down streets with signs calling Jews Nazis, which indirectly demand another holocaust.
Social media zionists demand we ignore what is happening in Gaza, comparing rockets fired off by a Hamas Israel created, to the military might pouring down onto a people contained with nowhere to run. It is anti-semitic to learn lessons from history and stand up and say genocide is not an answer. Israel hide abusive behaviour under the pretext of conflict and social media on both sides is doing everything it can to assist.
The question of Israel and Gaza has to be addressed with the weakening of US hegemony. There is no way to avoid it. This is a question that could unravel the entire global political economy, and one that could very well lead to lines being drawn for a much wider scale conflict.
The biggest threat to Israel right now, is not the rockets fired by Hamas. It is their refusal to acknowledge they are obliged to live by the same rules as other people and their belief in their right to perpetuate a cycle of a abuse. That refusal puts us all at risk.
I don’t know how this plays out. I wish I did. I wish I knew enough to see what mechanisms could be brought into play to prevent a genocide, or a world war, but all I see is history repeating and every day I learn more about why that happens.
While a generation of social media users too young to know what genocide looks like, and too distant to have ever experienced war, abuse the power they have to change the way debate around this is structured, and demonstrate why that change may never happen.