It would be an undeserved compliment in my view to describe Avi Shlaim as a revisionist historian. His writings usually make me think more of Francis M Cornford’s definition of propaganda: “[t]hat branch of the art of lying which consists in very nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies”. Certainly, it doesn’t take much effort to see through the rather ridiculous plethora of distortions obviously concocted to suit a political agenda in Shlaim’s recent Guardian article. Unless, apparently, one happens to be a Guardian commissioning editor.
“The savage attack Israel unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead.”
Of course anyone with a grain of objectivity about them would know –and mention – that Israel sustained eight years of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza before the commencement of Operation Cast Lead and that civilian anger at the Israeli government’s lack of effective response to these attacks was at boiling point. Equally, any objective analysis would also conclude that the previous 96 months of Hamas use of force against Israeli civilians, including suicide bombings, could also be deemed immoral and certainly did not result from a lack of political alternative.
“In June 2008, Egypt had brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to observe the ceasefire.”
Contrary to Shlaim’s claims, the actual number of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza during the ‘ceasefire’ was as follows: June -235, July -20, August -8, September – 2, October -2, November -193, December (up to 27/12/08) – 370. Indeed to claim that the average number of rockets fired per month dropped to three, and yet call this a ‘success’ requires the type of intellectual and moral contortion at which Shlaim excels. On November 4th 2008, Israel acted against Hamas operatives tunneling under the border with the intent of kidnapping more Israeli soldiers. Even before this, the ceasefire had effectively been broken by Hamas when an operative was arrested on September 28th also whilst attempting to bring about the abduction of members of the IDF. Despite these incidents, Israel expressed a wish to continue the ceasefire after its December 19th expiry date, but Hamas refused to consider this option.
Next, Shlaim even trumps Goldstone when, appointing himself both judge and jury, he states “[w]ar crimes were committed and possibly even crimes against humanity, documented in horrific detail in Judge Richard Goldstone’s report for the UN human rights council.” He then throws in a bit of old fashioned conspiracy theory for good measure:
“The British government did not take part in the vote on the report, sending a signal to the hawks in Israel that they can continue to disregard the laws of war. Gordon Brown’s 2007 appointment as a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK presumably played a part in the adoption of this pusillanimous position.”
As is to be expected, Shlaim manages to delete from history the cause and context of the 2006 Lebanon war, as well as its consequences for those on the Israeli side of the border: “In July 2006, at the height of the savage Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, Blair opposed a security council resolution for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire: he wanted to give Israel an opportunity to destroy Hezbollah, the radical Shi’ite religious-political movement.” He then goes on to criticise Tony Blair: “As envoy, Blair has been inside Gaza only twice”. Not very surprising when one considers the threats made on Mr. Blair’s life.
Shlaim also conveniently does not allow PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s famous Bar Ilan speech to get in his way when he claims that “There is international consensus for a two-state solution, but Israel rejects it and Blair has been unable or unwilling to use the Quartet to enforce it.”. Shlaim and his fellow travelers are obviously having comprehension difficulties; as PM Netanyahu said perfectly clearly “In my vision of peace, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government.” Shlaim also accuses Israel of sabotaging the Roadmap; obviously he willfully ignores the very first clause of that agreement which clearly states that “In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence according to the steps outlined below”.
Whoever commissioned this ridiculous piece of propaganda must have known very well that it would be lapped up like ice cream on a hot day by CiF’s below the line commentators, and indeed it is interesting to see the sort of opinions held by those who praise Shlaim’s words.
3 Feb 2010, 10:01AM
Excellent piece, all the more commendable given the opprobrium you will no doubt face from zionist fundamentalists (of testaments both old and new.)
On the subject of which, an article about Blair’s betrayal of Gazans might benefit from a mention of the betrayer’s own psychotic religious bent?
3 Feb 2010, 10:23AM
A great article –
One day the pro-zionists will be shown the death and destruction Israel has caused in their name, that i have no doubt. Whether it will be before or after the total annihilation of the Palestinian People, is the question.
3 Feb 2010, 8:25PM
zacharyesterson, Avi Shlaim is an actual Israeli historian and an extremely eminent one at that. I can heartily recommend “The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World” and I’m currently reading his collection “Israel & Palestine”. Whilst you can argue with Shlaim and sometimes I feel myself wishing to do so, he is so well sourced and argued that it would probably take a fool to even try.
Another clear theme in the comments to this article was the denial of Israel’s right to self defence.
3 Feb 2010, 6:33PM
Israel is a violent, evil and annexationist state and its massacre in Gaza served not to make its border cities safer but an act of aggression to create deterrence and derail any peace initiatives that may have gained traction. That objective has been repeated by Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and others. Livni for instance stated in a TV Interview “it is not in the strategic interest of Israel to agree to a continued ceasefire”.
Israel may today be asking for peace talks, but such a renegade and duplicitous regime must be judged purely by its actions and objective analysis quickly reveals unilateral undertakings to void the prospect of a viable and co-existent Palestinian time. A fraudulent settlement freeze has appeased an impotent US administration hell-bent on repeating the same mistakes of previous US administration: blind support of Israel with rhetorical admonishment (at worst).
The 2 state is solution is dead, and as such cannot be rehabilitated, hence the reason the US and Israel are so keen to pursue something which from the beginning is beyond negotiation.
3 Feb 2010, 5:57PM
Only recently, while I was walking the dog, somebody threw a small stone at me.
My revenge was swift: I doused the man in petrol and burnt him alive. I then doused his house in petrol and set that alight, burning his entire family.
I got the idea from watching the way the Israel government treats the Palestinians.
3 Feb 2010, 11:43AM
Why are the Israeli’s so cruel? Even the majority of their civilian population are complicit in the awful oppression of the Palestinians. A brutal and psychotic society. How hellish and hopeless it must feel to be under their cosh.
3 Feb 2010, 9:08AM
Self-defence is moral – but the invasion of Gaza is not in self-defence and is therefore very immoral.
To stop the missiles – simple, just end the occupation. If you occupy even a square inch of my country, I have the right to fire missiles at you. It is called self -defence.
Yet another popular theme was the condoning of terror.
3 Feb 2010, 9:54AM
I ask, what would Britain do if our homes and families were bombed by rockets that were fired from a near by country?
It’d be one thing if that nearby country gratuitously fired rockets apropos nothing in particular.
It’d be another thing if Britain had occupied that nearby country for decades, conducted ethnic cleansing, politicide, ongoing ‘targeted assassinations’, land theft, refusal of right of return for refugees, mass imprisonment of its people, and exacted a 100:1 kill ratio by way of reprisals etc etc – and that’s before we even get into international law, UN resolutions, and the murderous activities of its agents abroad.
repeating outright lies does not make them true.
3 Feb 2010, 10:11AM
Make no mistake that Israel won’t be happy until the people in Gaza either become subservient to the state of Israel or simply no longer exist. How else do you explain their policy stance?
Continually building settlement after settlement. Dispropotionate use of force to “defend” itself. Using phospherous bombs to kill mainly civilians. Shooting children. Bulldozing homes with families inside them. Denying aid, fuel and the materials that the people of Gaza need to become self-sufficient. This all amounts to squeezing 1.5 million people into a smaller and smaller space by prodding them with a big deadly stick.
Isn’t it weird how any supporter of the Israeli cause never mentions these things or even seems to consider them serious or even true?!
The EU need to take strong economic sanctions against Israel until they relinquish their stranglehold on Gaza and at least start treating its innocent civilians as human beings with rights.
I don’t agree with Hamas attitude or policy on Israel. I deplore any violence directed at innocent people of any race, colour or creed. But unless Israel begin to be more tolerant and try and aid the people of Gaza and relieve their suffering then desperation/frustration/outrage will be the fuel that keeps the rockets coming.
But the tit for tat “oh they did it first therefore we are defending ourselves” comments will not do anything to help the peace process.
3 Feb 2010, 10:22AM
The misery of Gaza is self inflicted and could be resolved tomorrow if the Gazans wanted it resolved.
That’s nonsense. I think both sides are at fault.
Terrorism: the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature… through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear.
the israeli state is a terrorist state, as is the british and US.
although the US adminstration under Reagan changed their definition of terrorism because they were having problems with the actual real one.
3 Feb 2010, 10:27AM
I ask, what would Britain do if our homes and families were bombed by rockets that were fired from a near by country?
And I ask what would Britain do if large swathes of our land was occupied by a foreign power, if we had to negotiate numerous checkpoints to travel around in our own land, if land we had farmed for generations were suddenly to be made inaccessible, if we were evicted from property we had lived in for generations, if we were denied access to a clean water supply, if going about our daily business we were abused, threatened and spat at by illegal settlers in our own land and if we had no redress through the courts or the police, if we were denied the right to freely trade with the outside world and the right to operate our own airports or seaports? All of these things, these injustices, and many more are suffered daily by the Palestinian people. Now tell me about a few homemade rockets.
3 Feb 2010, 10:31AM
If the gazans wanted the situation resolved, would that stop israel stealing their land and water.
your shiny american helicopters are surely nicer to use than a suicide bomb or home-made rocket but the result is the same.
3 Feb 2010, 10:54AM
I was in Beersheva in December-January of 2008/2009, visiting relatives. The Palestinians shelled Beersheva with rockets trying to kill me, in particular. And I am not even an Israeli. I think if Britain was attacked this way by, say, Ireland, there would be no Ireland now. And please, don’t start telling me about IRA. Those guys were much more civilized.
You don’t see the irony in you being able to waltz into a land the indigenous people were forcibly removed from and still aren’t allowed anywhere near?
They (were) firing rockets at where they used to live.
If anyone reduced me and my people’s lives to a living hell, I think I’d be firing rockets as well.
There were also the ever-present promoters of BDS, one-staters and makers of apartheid analogies; far too many in fact to bring to you here, but some comments a little outside the usual repertoire which caught my eye were the following. Firstly some conspiracy theory coupled with accusations of Jewish dual loyalty.
3 Feb 2010, 10:07AM
Gordon Brown’s 2007 appointment as a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK presumably played a part in the adoption of this pusillanimous position
add to that the Miliband brothers and you get British “impartiality” in I/P issues
3 Feb 2010, 11:00AM
Yet, under US supervision and with the help of US army engineers, Egypt is building an 18-metre-deep underground steel wall to disrupt the tunnels and tighten the blockade.
cruel, heartless bastards…..as if any more evidence was needed of continued US support for the Israelis & these disgraceful Egyptian puppets. The more I think about it, the Iranians are correct. You can’t negotiate with any Zionist regime. You might as well attempt to reason with an anaconda gradually constricting you to death.
3 Feb 2010, 10:40PM
It is amazing to see that a British institution like the Gurdian is showing the Isreali attack on Gaza and Palestine for what it is , a disgusting massacre of thousnds of people and i applaud your courage for standing up against Israel as many of the leaders of the west have ignored the illegal actions of Israel and the US still continue to pump aid into this country when there are millions of people around the world that require this money to live. Israel are illegaly killing and occupying Palestinian land and it needs to be stopped. Finally have the facts been put right more rockets are fired from Israels side of the wall than from inside, the now virtual prison, Gaza and small land masses once Palestine.
Indeed, that last comment just about sums up the situation; would any respectable newspaper commission such an outright torrent of distortions and lies from a propaganda merchant such as Shlaim and then proceed to bask in the warm glow of approval from below the line posters comprising conspiracy theorists, excusers of terror, users of Nazi analogies and downright antisemites? I think not.