Mehmet A. Kanci
Since May 6, Israel has not used only weapons to attack the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories. This new wave of attacks is aimed at the international community’s consciousness and memory.
The Palestinian people are fighting a common narrative that is widely used by so many, from US administration spokespeople to the representatives of the Israeli state. This language from Washington and Tel Aviv is intended to persuade the world that the Palestinian issue is all about “Israeli civilians being targeted with rockets fired by Hamas, and thus the state of Israel exercising its right to defend itself.”
The US approach, which is deliberately to the detriment of the Palestinian people, is consistent with their attitude towards Turkey regarding the events of 1915. In both cases, their goal has been to separate the core issue from its historical context, and from all cause-and-effect relationships, and to somehow make the whole world buy into a reality that they have manufactured by conveniently cherry-picking parts of history that serve their interests.
“Truth” being remanufactured by Washington and Tel Aviv
The latest process of remanufacturing the truth about Palestine began on May 12. The resistance groups in Gaza were labeled as “aggressors” when they resorted to the only means at their disposal in order to protect the Palestinians harassed in their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, respond to Israeli security forces attacking the Muslims praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and protect the Israeli-citizen Arabs whose homes and shops were being pillaged, and who also became victims of lynching attempts in the streets of Lod.
All provocative, abusive and aggressive acts committed by far-right Israelis in East Jerusalem, which had intensified in April, were suddenly forgotten when rockets began to be fired from the Gaza strip.
All members of the US-Israel “choir”, particularly White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who were tasked with remanufacturing the truth, began to speak of Israel’s right to self-defense in response to the rockets fired from Gaza.
But what about the Palestinians whose homes have been raided in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for over a month now, or those who were attacked in the Al-Aqsa Mosque at iftar time, or the Arabs who were victims of lynching attempts in Israeli cities? According to the White House and the Israeli administration, these people clearly do not have the right to self-defense.
“Legitimate self-defense” (!)
The trajectory of Israel’s latest operation against the Gaza Strip reveals that the operation’s goals go beyond simply destroying the military capabilities of the resistance groups. In the Israeli attacks that started on May 13, buildings that, if destroyed, would isolate the people of Gaza from the international community on an informational and financial level were targeted.
The fact that the buildings that were targeted and destroyed first were the Ministry of Finance and various bank buildings indicates that the people of the region are facing a different threat this time around. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin joined the “taskforce” of remanufacturing the truth on the ground, and in a statement about his conversation with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, he emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense and condemned Hamas’ targeting of civilians. As of May 15, the day Austin made this statement, 41 children and 23 women had died in Gaza alone in the previous five days.
It was on the same day that Israel realized it needed to make a radical move in order to isolate Gaza from the international community. At midnight on May 14, Israeli planes bombed a building in the Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza. Abu Yousef Abu Hatab, a Hamas commander, was the target. Abu Hatab was not at home, but eight civilians, six of whom were children, were killed in the attack.
When the images of the dead bodies extracted from under the rubble outraged the international public, the media began to be targeted this time. On May 15, the building that housed the offices of the American Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera was destroyed. AP employees were not even given enough time to evacuate their equipment. The employees raced against the clock to salvage whatever equipment they could. In order to cut off Gaza’s communication with the rest of the world, Israel’s next target was a multi-story building that housed internet service providers. This building was also bombed and destroyed in a matter of seconds by Israeli jets.
An academic who shed light on Israel’s world of disinformation
Helga Baumgarten, a professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, provided one of the most accurate diagnoses of the dangers of the Joe Biden-Benjamin Netanyahu duo’s approach to the Palestinian issue, which reduces it to the threat posed by the rockets fired from Gaza. Baumgarten, 73, who has lived in Jerusalem since 1993, appeared live on the German channel ZDF for the noon news bulletin on May 12 and reminded the international public of the issues being overlooked in the Palestinian struggle.
Calling attention to the fact that the Palestinians have been under occupation for half a century, the German academic emphasized that no other society or individual could withstand the constant violence perpetrated against the Palestinians by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers. Baumgarten pointed out that the Palestinians in their daily lives face unpredictable violent repression and that Israeli army checkpoints have become a source of terror for Palestinian society.
The German academic stated that a society faced with economic violence and constant threats of eviction could not possibly remain unresponsive, and that the Netanyahu government’s meaningless and deviant policies should be called into question. Particularly emphasizing that the purpose behind the Israeli security forces’ encircling of the Palestinians who had gathered at the Damascus Gate for iftar in Ramadan or the violent raid of Haram al-Sharif with a large police force must be questioned without fail, Baumgarten said that the Palestinian society was being compelled to use its right to self-defense against a state that has been attacking it to death. It should not be too difficult to imagine how discomforting this program on ZDF must have been for the far right in Israel and how far the smear campaigns against Birzeit University’s academic, now dubbed “Hamas-Helga”, have gone.
Following the four-hour meeting of the Israeli security cabinet on Sunday, it was announced that there would be no ceasefire and that the attacks on Gaza would continue. At the time of this announcement, the number of children killed in Gaza was 58 and the number of women killed was 34. It will not be surprising if the international press in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is targeted again following this decision, which is clearly a declaration that Israel will not be taking any calls from the United Nations (UN) into consideration. The steps that the Netanyahu government will take to completely isolate the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world by cutting off its internet connection should come as no surprise.
Are the attacks targeting the media a preparation for a total occupation of Gaza?
The international community, which Turkey is trying to mobilize, must now focus its efforts on preventing more dangerous Israeli attempts, rather than simply establishing a ceasefire in Gaza. After Israel effectively incarcerated Gaza’s population in an open-air prison with the wall it built around the occupied city, resistance groups have been devising relief methods, and digging tunnels to that end since 2005.
While these tunnels kept the resistance against Israel alive, they also played a vital role in meeting the people’s essential needs in Gaza. In 2017, Israel took action to cut off these people’s lifelines by initiating the construction of a second security wall. The wall, which cost an estimated $900 million and is equipped with sensors, was completed two months ago and is said to go 100 meters below the earth.
Experts who follow the region closely argue that, rather than simply blocking the tunnels used for smuggling, this wall will play an important role in a prospective Israeli ground operation against Gaza when the “time comes”. In the event a plan like the “Deal of the Century”, which was conceived during former US President Donald Trump’s term and envisaged the annexation of Palestinian lands, is devised an implemented, Israel’s displacement of all Palestinians in Gaza to settle them in a city to be built in the Sinai Peninsula with an agreement with Egypt will no longer be a distant possibility.
The developments indicate that those in the international community who have preserved their conscience must strengthen their cooperation with the Palestinian government on diplomacy, economy, media, health and education in order to counter the plans of Netanyahu, who is benefiting from the instability and the rise of the far-right in his country. Furthermore, the only way to protect the Middle East from facing a greater turmoil seems to be for the Arab monarchies in the Gulf, whose hands, as we can see now, were tied with the Abraham Accords, to also take initiatives that would open doors to constructing a coercive diplomatic strategy against Israel, following the social reactions in their streets.
*The writer is a seasoned journalist who writes analyses on Turkish foreign policy
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of TheAsiaLive.