For Gaza, again

ronit-at-gaza-demoOn 9 August I spoke at the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign National demonstration for Palestine. As an Israeli Jew, born in Palestine prior to the birth of the State of Israel, I am aching for Gaza and for the ease with which many Israelis and their supporters throughout the world excuse the killing of so many Gazans. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, over 2,100 people were killed, while the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem had put the figure at 1,767, of whom 431 are minors and 200 women. Both agree that 70-80 per cent of the killed are non-combatants, all in full view of the world.

I made three points in my speech. Firstly, the impetus for the massacre was not Hamas’s tunnels or rockets, but rather the eliminatory logic that aims to kill as many Palestinians as possible, gaining as much land as possible. It was horrible to hear Israeli member of Knesset Ayelet Shaked advocating the killing of all Palestinian mothers, and Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin proposing the killing all Hamas fighters and their supporters, and deporting all ‘hostile Palestinian families’ after first concentrating them in tent encampments near the Egyptian border.

The massacre also aimed to support Israel’s armament industry. Think of it, after each assault on Gaza, every two years, potential buyers are told about the effectiveness of the weapons, be it house smashing robots or the ‘Iron Dome’, in killing humans: children, women, elders, men. According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Israel is the fourth largest arms producer, with 150 companies employing 150,000 workers. In 2012 Israel’s armament exports were worth 7.37 billion dollars, exporting mainly to the US, Europe, Latin America and India. However, using humans as guinea pigs is morally unacceptable.

israel-right-wing-thugsMy second point was that this latest round of Gaza atrocities signals a turning point in Israeli society, which is becoming increasingly fascist, according to Israeli world authority on European fascism Professor Ze’ev Sternhell. During what was euphemistically called Operation Protective Edge, gangs of right wing thugs have been roaming the streets and beating anti war demonstrators. People who criticise Israel or express sympathy with the Gazans – like the brave journalist Gideon Levy of Haaretz and many others – were afraid to leave their houses because of death threats. Several Israeli Palestinian citizens were fired because of Facebook posts, and 350 Palestinian citizens were arrested during recent anti war protests. Worst of all – most Israeli intellectuals, including the world famous author Amoz Oz, supported the massacre, or at best remained silent. The few who did speak up were threatened and ostracised. So remember, the culprit is no longer just Netanyahu’s right-wing government, it is also Israeli society, 87-95 % of whom supported the massacre and opposed a ceasefire. And the few academics who expressed sympathy with the dead of Gaza were threatened with losing their jobs.

This brings me to my third point: fully complicit with the occupation, Israeli universities develop sophisticated weaponry such as drones, robots, iron domes, new types of bullets. Israeli universities train military personnel, while postmodern Israeli social scientists invent new warfare strategies, as the Israeli architect Eyal eizman documented. In Gaza the Israeli military demolished schools and bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, while attacks on West Bank universities and academics are commonplace.

The worrying thing is that Irish and European universities collaborate with Israeli universities on 257 EU-funded projects. Trinity College, for instance, collaborates with Israel’s International Security and Counter-Terrorism Academy (no prizes for guessing what this is about), and with its nuclear programme. This is why – in addition to boycotting Israeli goods – we must also boycott Israel’s academic institutions. So far 200 Irish academics have signed Academics for Palestine’s boycott pledge – not against individual Israeli academics, but against academic institutions, an effective non-violent way of expressing our solidarity with the Palestinians.