I$raHell’s iron fist

Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)

Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

From Iron Dome to Iron Fist. This is how Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, defined Israel’s invasion of Gaza yesterday. Truth be known it was Iron Fist all along.

The difference between slow and quick death is important but death to the individual – and the collective – is defining. Israel has been killing Palestinians and Palestine since its inception. Israel’s original sin of ethnic cleansing in peace and war continues.

Contra Christian doctrine, there’s no way back from death. Life is what we have. With all the anxieties and difficulties involved, life beats the alternative. But where is life, or the opening to life, in Israel’s Iron Fist?

In the West, we ask where the politicians and the churches are. Fair question. Astatement on the crisis issued by the United Church of Christ is a beginning. Though there are questionable equations of power and responsibility, the statement ends with an important recommendation:

Take action to end the violence – for today, and for the future. Let your senators and representative know that as a person of faith, respecting the dignity of every human being you call on them to:

Demand an immediate ceasefire by all parties.

Condemn all violence against civilians, both by Palestinians and by Israeli forces. It is clear that rockets from Gaza target civilian areas in Israel. In Gaza, civilians are often in harm’s way from Israeli fire, regardless of the intended target.

Insist on an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including full dismantlement of the barrier built on Palestinian land, and an end to the Gaza blockade.

Recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enable the occupation. The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

Condition military aid to Israel on its compliance with U.S. law and policy.

Strange to think politicians and churches without thinking about statements from mainstream Jewish organizations. Or have we long ago given up on any organized Jewish body speaking Jewish truth to Jewish power?

As of this writing J Street has yet to issue a statement beyond the one it issued on July 11th. Judging on this, expectations should be kept low when finally J Street finds their words.

As per J Street the July 11th statement contains an argument for both sides – the aspirations of Jews and Palestinians, their suffering etc. It is, more or less, balanced if skewing Israel with some concessions for Israel’s wrong doing is so defined. But the problem remains. J Street still doesn’t get the fact of the matter – Israel isn’t stopping and won’t abide a real Palestinian state. That’s the beginning of the road back to reality, a road J Street will never take.

When will a Jewish mainstream statement contain, for example, the last two points made by the UCC? After all, if US foreign policy has carrots and sticks, in the Middle East is will be taken seriously only if aid and compliance with US law and policy are enforced.

Of course, if the US abided by its own righteous declarations, it might be easier to demand others do so too.

Evading the issue of Israel’s foundation is critical. It is becoming more and more obvious. But no one on the moral ground of the West wants to go back to history – to 1948. Or thereafter. Or now. There are some who want Israel’s solution “autonomy” solution. Others want another way. But the fundamental agreement for Palestinians is a restricted autonomy that appears to be a state.

This latest invasion of Gaza is less about genocide, contra Ilan Pappe, though his points, as always, are well taken. Rather, the point of Israel’s invasion – like its continuing actions in the West Bank under Gaza’s cover – is to finalize what most of the world, including the Arab world, really wants. What the world wants is a policy that contains Palestinians and leaves the Middle East order, at least what’s left of it, in place.

If the policy of containment should be called genocide, so be it, but politically the strategy is a policy of managing a collective. Terminology like this might seem harsh. It is.

In the collective boardrooms of governing powers it sounds quite reasonable. And doable. That Palestinians have to give up their rights to freedom is considered, if at all, collateral damage.

Is that what Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are experiencing? Are they indeed defined as part of the superfluous people of the world Hannah Arendt wrote about so many years ago, even as she wrote about Israel’s destiny as a modern-day Sparta?

Superfluous populations. They’re all over the world – as defined by the powers-that-be.

Gazans are dying by the hundreds. Soon it may be more. The moral outrage heard around the world is the outrage of those who cry out that there are no superfluous people anywhere, especially in Gaza.

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