Gianluca Solera - 29/07/2014
It is difficult to add other things on what happens in Gaza these days, which has already raised the frustration and the disgust of thousands of squares around the world. The same movie is screened: Israeli massive military intervention against Palestinian rocket rainfall on the one hand, and large-scale destruction with numerous casualties in the Strip on the other hand. In 2009, during the Cast Lead Operation, the Palestinian casualties were around 1,400, and the Israeli ones 14, most of them soldiers. With the Protective Edge Operation, as of today, Palestinian casualties are 1,095 and the Israeli ones 48, most of them soldiers. Even if the casualty ratio has approached by four (four Israeli casualties per one hundred Palestinian ones), even if the loss of Israeli citizens is always lived with pain and consideration in the country, the reaction of the Israeli authorities seems showing their readiness to pay for the price. Unfortunately, Palestinian losses have on the contrary always been valued for much less by the rest of the world, and their political weight is less decisive than the one of the Israelis…
Let me recall how things have started: last April, the American-sponsored peace talks collapsed; last June 2, Fatah and Hamas formed a consensus government, ending a division which has ruined national interests for years; ten days later, three Israeli teenagers from a settlement near Hebron were kidnapped and murdered, Netanyahu blamed Hamas, but Hamas leaders denied their involvement; in the following days, Israel's military killed five to ten Palestinians in clashes, and arrested more than 1,000 Palestinians, including nearly all of Hamas' West Bank leaders; on July 6, an Israeli strike killed seven Hamas militants, and Hamas' militants increased rocket attacks on Israel; then, while Palestinian rocket rainfall intensified - reaching Ben Gurion airport surroundings - the hell in Gaza begun, targeting civilian non-combatants and civilian infrastructure, and Hamas urged Israel to end all attacks on Gaza, release those re-arrested during the crackdown in the West Bank, lift the blockade on Gaza and return to the ceasefire conditions of 2012 as conditions for a ceasefire. Conditions that were not met. For Netanyahu, the kidnapping accident was a succulent opportunity for sabotaging anything political was left between his establishment and the Palestinians, and keep feeding this insatiable appetite for Palestinian land and continued expansion of the settlements, which is at the roots of all disputes. I entered Gaza three weeks after the end of the Cast Lead Operation, and I saw what destruction is. In November 2012, I was in Tel Aviv when sirens warning of incoming rockets rang out, and I experienced how that affects the spirit of people and spreads fears. All of that, rockets rainfall, military punitive expeditions, targeted killings, large-scale arrests or massive bombings, is unacceptable and delivers further escalation. That, however, is not the point. The point is that Palestinians are left alone and the modern response to unsolved struggles for self-determination, freedom and national dignity is fascism. And when I look at the matter from that angle, then I see how much similar is the fate of Syrians: they are left alone in facing fascism. Probably, the only relevant difference in the two destinies is that information is easily reaching us from Gaza or Tel Aviv and that area is always in the limelight, while this is not the case for Syria.
On July 17, after that the local council of the liberated Alep was re-elected for another six-month mandate, the regime’s aviation bombed the council headquarters to indicate that no different view is admitted. It was again another barrel-bomb which was dropped among international indifference. I got the news from Syrian friends of the 2011 revolution. International indifference is the best fertile soil for fascism. I was shocked when I heard that my country, Italy, abstained on July 23 during the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council’s voting to launch an inquiry into the ongoing Israeli offensive's alleged violations of international laws, although the resolution was condemning all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, and it was calling to an end to attacks against all civilians, including Israeli civilians. Other European countries abstained, and that is certainly not a good news. The other weapon that paves the way to fascism is impunity. That reminded me of the negotiations Western countries at some point undertook to offer international immunity to Bashar al-Asad and other Syrian regime’s figures in exchange for facilitating a power transition process. Everybody knows which outcomes that country has ended in.
Some of the same players involved in “helping” Gaza are also involved in Syria. “Different proposals, never-ending talks and negotiations. The end of the matter is that regional interests trump the Syrian interest for most of these countries” have highlighted correctly Aziz Abu Sarah and Marc Gopin . Palestinians have paid the price for the Arab and Muslim geopolitical infighting for years, the Syrians are now paying the same price, and this infighting for geopolitical supremacy is gradually affecting Western powers and world powers in general. The time for international solidarity, the time for international law is over, and war crimes or repression of legitimate popular claims receive a blatantly different response according to the national interests at stake. This is, again, a good news for emerging fascisms, who can deal with one or the other regional power according to their strategic needs.
Quite peculiar are the similarities in the fate of radical Islamism when in the range of influence of regimes struggling to preserve their supremacy. Hamas expansion was welcomed by Israeli authorities to weaken the Palestinian secular nationalist movement. Several Syrian activists have reported that the Syrian regime’s army has not been bombing the areas under the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’s control, but those liberated by the secular Free Syrian Army only. Radical enemies can be part of the power game, and religion-based politics can help undermining people’s resistance to injustice, oppression and corruption, and manipulating their honest demands. At the end of the day, you have now ISIL controlling large portions of Iraq and starting having a presence in Gaza. Nobody should express his surprise if Islamist fundamentalisms will soon try to take power from Hamas. Fascist ideologies need to build upon the construction of an enemy, an uncontrollable, irrational and radically different enemy to gain support. Reuven Rivlin, who has sworn as new Israeli president last June 10, publicly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, differently from his predecessor Shimon Peres: what best fuel for radical confrontation?
Fascism exalts nation and often race above the individual and stands for a centralized government suppressing opposition, limiting freedoms, and severing economic and social regimentation. A state defining itself according to racial lines like Israel does, or suppressing any form of political freedom like Syria does cannot be democratic; it can only look the more and more authoritarian. Also social justice is at stake. If economic affairs are mainly piloted by the regime’s circle in Syria, eighteen Israeli families control 60% of the value of all Israeli companies, which include the military and security apparatus. The way the propaganda works, the security and the military operate, the way nationalism and identity are exalted make Syrian and Israeli establishments look the more and more similar. The aggressive bravery of their leaders a dangerous model. This model is embodied by someone we could name Bashar al-Netanyahu.
Only civil society can challenge these slippery developments, only a transnational civil society can shake international indifference and unmask inconsistent geopolitical interests. Civil society exists. It is suffering, but it does exist. Initiatives of self-governance have proliferated , evolving from coordination committees into city councils with various degrees of complexity and organization, even in the rebel-held towns of the Damascus province after the chemical attacks of last summer. Local initiatives of mutual support are multiplying in Gaza, and inhabitants do their best to prevent the collapse of the social structure. On July 21, a group of Israeli citizens have made public a call to the EU institutions requesting them to push the Israeli State to accept the Palestinian conditions for a ceasefire, and anti-war marches start to make noise also in Tel Aviv, despite the intolerant climate. A Facebook campaign named Jews & Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies is doing the tour of the world, surprising even the Arab circles traditionally supporting the Palestinian cause.
The 2011 Arab revolutions gathered millions of people in the street around their national flags. Those flags were not symbolizing their own country only, be Egypt or Tunisia or any else, but the need to regain possession by the people of their own country’s institutions and spaces, often confiscated by authoritarian regimes. The message expressed by those young people was not a message of cynic nationalism, but the one of rights and justice for everybody. That was the best contribution to the idea of a modern and democratic nation state. The idea of nation state which is defended in Jerusalem or in Damascus right now, instead, is a return to an anti-modern idea of national identity and loyalty to the regime. All of us must be aware of that.
July 29, 2014
1 - Aziz Abu Sarah and Dr. Marc Gopin, “Gaza becomes Syria: Middle East geopolitics 2.0”, in +972, July 28, 2014.
2- “The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation”, interview of Paul Jay to the economist Shir Hever, in TheRealNews.com, 6 July 2012.