Condemning Palestinians is contemptible

David Cronin

The Electronic Intifada  /  October 8, 2023

I learned the word “condemn” at an early age. It was used constantly on Irish news bulletins in the 1980s.

In theory, “condemn” is a verb that may be applied to any act that triggers feelings of strong disapproval. In practice, it is used more to oppose violence by the oppressed than the oppression which causes that violence.

The partition of both Ireland and Palestine was ushered in by Britain.

As well as carving up both countries, Britain pursued similar policies in both situations.

People of one ethnicity and religion were encouraged to discriminate – systematically – against people of another. In both cases, the discrimination took place in a context of settler-colonialism.

With that history having consequences that endures to this day, Britain ought to be condemned routinely by everyone who opposes injustice.

If the media actually did their job and exposed Britain’s crimes, then comments made over the past few days by James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, would have zero credibility.

According to Cleverly, Britain “unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians.” Britain, he added, “will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The “attacks” to which he alluded were actually a response to the brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people. Britain set that subjugation in motion as far back as 1917, when Arthur James Balfour, one of Cleverly’s predecessors as foreign secretary, signed his infamous declaration supporting the Zionist movement and its colonization project.

Right to defend ?

All talk about Israel’s “right to defend itself” is utter bollocks – if I may use a term with which Cleverly is undoubtedly familiar.

Israel – which has subjected Gaza to a total blockade since 2007 and bombarded its people with frightening regularity – does not have the right to defend itself. The truth is that Palestinains have a right – recognized by the United Nations General Assembly – to defend themselves against Israel’s military occupation and all its attendant aggression.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, tried to sound even angrier than Cleverly. She fulminated against “the attack carried out by Hamas terrorists,” labeling it “terrorism in its most despicable form.”

Needless to say, von der Leyen had nothing to say about how the European Union mollycoddles Israel – actively seeking closer relations with that state, even as its government assumes an overtly fascist character. Von der Leyen herself has implicitly endorsed the ethnic cleansing on which Israel was founded in 1948 by praising the Zionist dream of making “the desert bloom.”

With that record, it is not surprising that von der Leyen is selective in her outrage.

Ariel Kallner, a member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), reacted to the Hamas-led operation by calling for a new Nakba.

The Nakba – Arabic for catastrophe – involved the expulsion of approximately 800,000 Palestinians from their homes. Kallner advocated a “Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of ‘48,” contending “there is no other way.”

Kallner chairs a committee in the Knesset handling Israel’s relations with the EU. Yet his call did not elicit any comment from von der Leyen or other senior players in the Brussels bureaucracy.

Von der Leyen’s reticence is consistent. If she gave her blessing to the first Nakba, then why would she have any qualms about a new one?

Vile anti-Semitism

Her fellow German Katharina von Schnurbein – the EU’s coordinator for combating anti-Semitism – has expressed “full solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people” since the Hamas-led operation.

In circulating that message, von Schnurbein has committed an anti-Semitic act.

She tirelessly promotes the definition and accompanying “examples” of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – a lobby group made up of Israel and governments that support it.

One such example is “holding Jews collectively for actions of the state of Israel.”

By expressing solidarity in that way, von Schnurbein is claiming that Israel is now bombing residential towers in Gaza on behalf of Jews the world over. She should be formally censured for that vile anti-Semitism but we can be sure that she won’t be.

While the Hamas-led operation took everyone by surprise, the response from the US was entirely predictable. Joe Biden, the president, claimed that “Israel has the right to defend itself – full stop.”

With that “full stop,” it was clear that he was not going to start shedding tears for all the Palestinians now being killed with the US-made weapons in Israel’s arsenal.

Bernie Sanders – the senator who has previously argued that “Palestinian lives matter” – is not genuinely committed to Palestinian freedom.

Like so many other politicians, he rushed to condemn the Hamas-led operation, without saying a word about Israel’s relentless killings of Palestinians that this year had already exceeded last year’s dreadful total even before the most recent events.

The ritual condemnations I heard growing up in Ireland did not save a single life. It was only when a concerted effort was made to address the underlying injustices that a peace – albeit a flawed and fragile one – could be established.

The ritual condemnations of Palestinian resistance fighters over recent days will not save one life, either.

By flanking the condemnations with deceptive garbage about Israel’s “right to defend itself,” the West’s politicians are siding with the oppressor. They are giving Israel carte blanche to keep killing Palestinians.

Their chorus of condemnation deserves nothing but contempt.

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation.