Opinion: Israel and Gaza- Hamas speaks horror to power 


Published: 10-14-2023 5:00 PM

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.

Some mornings, perhaps out of nostalgia, I reach into my kitchen cupboard and dig out a green-colored mug with which I drink my freshly brewed cardamom-flavored coffee. It has a small world map pictured on it next to three uppercase initials: NDI.

It was gifted to me in the mid-’00s by a loved one who volunteered with the NDI, National Democratic Institute, to help oversee elections in Palestine, elections forced upon Palestinians by a delusional Bush Administration eager to prove it had successfully embedded democracy in the Middle East.

Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, a position he’s yet to relinquish, and in 2006 Hamas’ electoral candidates won controlling authority in Gaza.

Today that mug is a totem, perhaps a cautionary tale, a reminder of the dangers of hubris and delusions — a reminder that there is no democracy in the Middle East; not in Israel, not in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, not in Turkey or Iraq, nowhere!

Today, my green mug reminds me of the dangers of listening, and solely acting upon, what Chimamanda Adichie calls a “single story.” The single story, she explains, “creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

And today only one story, repeated ad nauseam, is being told: a decontextualized, ahistorical narrative that elevates the humanity of one people above another.

And telling only one story, one narrative, is very dangerous.

Gaza, population 2,300,000, is among the world’s most densely populated communities and is the world’s largest open-air prison. At 140 square miles, it is just one-fifth the size of Rockingham County, where I live, and is almost fully dependent on Israel for electricity, fuel, food, potable water and travel.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a tale of competing narratives, not only between competing nations but within those peoples to see whose definition of nationhood, whose command of theology, should prevail.

One land, two peoples, which for 75 years have been struggling whether to idolize their own narrative at the exclusion of the other or to acknowledge the other’s legitimacy.

One land, two peoples, and today, as we mourn the senseless and barbaric slaughter of hundreds of innocent people by Hamas, humanity faces the possibility of a confrontation between two forces that threatens thousands of lives and Middle Eastern regional stability.

On one side stands one of the world’s most powerful militaries with a sophisticated armory and a blank check from America; on the other a technologically challenged opponent with a primitive arsenal with terrorism as its central component and supported by Iran.

Hamas came of age in the late-70s. Led by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin it was protected and assisted by the Israeli government, which imagined it as a challenger to the more secular Palestinian forces, Fatah, who were controlled by the Palestinian Authority from Ramallah.

As Avner Cohen, a former Israeli religious affairs official who worked in Gaza, told the Wall Street Journal in 2009, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.”

Peace isn’t something simply to be desired. It follows from justice. Without justice, there can be no peace. Without truth, there can be no justice, and today’s truth is that Netanyahu will try to cynically manipulate the aftermath of Hamas’ brutality and indiscriminate killing to try to derail Palestinian reconciliation and further his intention to further disenfranchise Palestinians and to annex all occupied Palestinian land into the state of Israel.

Indeed, just last month at the United Nations, Netanyahu made clear such intentions by showcasing a series of maps, including one that had erased the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza; it was all Israel, from the Jordan to the sea.

Be careful what you wish for.

As he prosecutes his war against the Palestinian people I believe Netanyahu would do well to recall the prophetic words of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader who wrote in 1923, “Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers. . . . That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel.’ ”

Be careful what you wish for.

Today, let’s be clear about Palestine. The Occupied Territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are a single legal entity. One may differ over the history that brought us to this day but every international institution, every nation including the United States, is in agreement: Israel, as the occupying power, has no sovereign rights in these territories.

While most Palestinians don’t support Hamas’ tactics, nearly all support Palestinian solidarity and resistance. The Palestinian despair that has grown over decades of oppression now fuels Hamas’ fires and today I believe that Israel’s promised Gaza offensive will breathe more life, more madness, into the resistance.

“Let us not today fling accusations at the murderers... ” Gen. Moshe Dayan said in 1956. “For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”

Hamas has committed unimaginable crimes on humanity, war crimes that must outrage all peoples without exception even as one might wage anti-colonial actions and struggles. There is no justification or excuse for Hamas’ barbaric and murderous acts; they are clear violations of international law and must be condemned.

However murderous Hamas’ acts, they neither justify Israel’s systemic violations of international law and conventions nor justify revenge or acts against humanity by invading and leveling Gaza for generations.

“When we close our hearts to one another’s anguish, we create a moral vacuum that only violent extremism can fill …” Rabbi Sharon Brous wrote this week. “What I am asking is for us to dare to hold the humanity, the heartache, and the need for security of the Jewish people while also holding the humanity, the dignity, the need for justice of the Palestinian people. For too long, these two have been set up as a false binary. In fact, the only liberation will be a shared liberation. The only justice is a justice for all.”

Palestinians experience only an un-liberated world.

They know Palestinians live in lands separated by an apartheid wall and checkpoints, lands controlled by Israelis and subject to inhumane provocations at any moment, a world where armed soldiers can storm the homes of the oppressed in the middle of the night; where women are stripped naked in front of their children, where homes are destroyed, where children are afraid to go to school and farmers are afraid to harvest their crops, where settlers are protected by police and soldiers as that commit pogroms on Palestinian villages and steal their land and produce.

They remember over 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948; remember they were promised a right of return and/or compensation after 1948.

They remember Ariel Sharon, accompanied by hundreds of Israeli riot police, storming The Dome of The Rock in 2000, remember hundreds of Israelis storming al-Aqsa just this month.

They remember massacres at Deir Yassin, Khan Yunis, Qibya, Lydda; remember recent pogroms in Huwara and other West Bank villages.

They know well how American Rachel Corrie was crushed by an IDF armored bulldozer while protesting Israeli demolitions in Gaza, remember the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old American journalist who was murdered while reporting on an Israeli raid in Jenin.

They remember all this. We know all this. Why, then, are we surprised when the cauldron blows?

This week Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, said on Democracy Now that “Colonial powers will no longer believe they can force people to live under the conditions Israel has subjected Palestinians to and expect no retaliation of the oppressed ... ‘That idea has exploded as a result of the horrific events over the past two-and-a-half days,’ says Khalidi, who calls the blockade of Gaza ‘a pressure cooker. It had to explode.’”

Today, Palestinians know well what Israel means when they hear its defense minister, Yoav Gallant, say “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip ... There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,”

“Human animals.”

They know he’s not speaking of Hamas but of all Palestinians. They know well this language of genocide, of ethnic cleansing, of racial exclusion. They know well Gallant is speaking the language of the colonizer toward the colonized.

In 1948, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said, “We might benefit from conquering Gaza. But it’s clear to me that Gaza won’t be in our hands even if we conquer it 1,000 times.”

Gaza, however occupied, oppressed, and punished, remains Palestinian and today, October 12, as I write, as I drink yet another cup of coffee from my green mug, I read a message a colleague has shared, received from a friend in Gaza:

“As for me and my family we have decided to stay in Gaza alive or dead, many others have reached this decision / There will be a day where we confront our oppressor and demand justice / Given humanity’s condition during these interesting times, this day will not be in this world / You do me a last favor by spreading my words of agony, the least we deserve is that humanity hears our cries of pain...”

Listen to the cries of pain. It’s the least we can do.