The inevitable CiF essay using nixed Gaza marathon as fodder to demonize Israel

The decision by UNRWA to cancel the upcoming Gaza marathon, due to Hamas’s refusal to allow women to run with men, inspired a ‘Comment is Free’ piece by Nabila Ramdani (a Paris-born journalist and academic of Algerian descent), titled ‘Hamas’s ban on women running Gaza marathon is a missed opportunity‘, March 6.


Sure enough Ramdani continues in the tried and true pattern of framing nearly any morally indefensible act by Palestinian leaders as problematic, not in itself, but due to the fact that it deflects attention from the Israeli “occupation”.  Typical of her polemical strategy is the following passage:

Hamas’s decision to ban women – 119 from abroad and 266 from Gaza itself – is wrong for all the most basic reasons. It is sexist, discriminatory and regressive, andcrucially – it wastes what should have been yet another huge blow against Israel’s illegal occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories.

So, evidently, Ramdani’s primary concern is that Hamas made a tactical mistake by forcing the cancellation of a charity marathon (raising money for Gaza’s children) which would have had the effect of exposing Israeli oppression.  Note also that Ramdani falsely characterizes Israel’s blockade as illegal when, in fact, the UN Palmer Report definitively concluded that the blockade was indeed legal under international law.

Further in the essay, Ramdani even manages to implicitly blame Israel for Hamas’s misogynistic and repressive policies against its own citizens.

War and occupation inevitably lead to authoritarian government, and Hamas is asserting its traditional conservatism in a manner that is of great concern to thousands of Palestinians.

To those under the ideological influence of such post-colonial inspired liberal racism, Palestinians are rarely fully responsible for their own actions. Of course, Ramdani doesn’t mention that Hamas won a plurality of votes in the 2006 Palestinian elections after Israel withdrew all of its citizens and soldiers from Gaza, and before there was a blockade.  Basic ’cause and effect’ is ignored.   

The political reality of Gaza since 2007 (the year of Hamas’s violent takeover of the strip) is consistent with the fact that Islamist doctrine, as codified in Hamas’s founding charter, inevitably leads to illiberal, authoritarian governance  – one which is intolerant towards women, gays, religious minorities and even (slightly less radical) Palestinian political opponents.

Ramdani continues:

This shortsighted ban comes as Israel introduces segregated buses travelling from the West Bank into Israel.

As we definitively argued yesterday, reports, in the Guardian and elsewhere, that Israel introduced ‘Palestinian-only’ buses are flatly untrue.

Again, Ramdani:

Israel maintains control of Gaza’s land and sea borders, its territorial waters, its natural resources, its airspace, its food and energy supplies, and its telecommunications network.

As even the Guardian readers’ editor acknowledged, following a CiF Watch complaint in Dec. 2011, regarding a similar claim by Sarah Irving, Israel does not control all of Gaza’s land borders.  As a simple map will demonstrate, Egypt maintains control over Gaza’s southern border.

Finally, here’s Ramdani’s conclusion.

Israel had no control whatsoever over the marathon, which was due to take place on 10 April, and the race was certain to draw attention to what is arguably the most pressing political problem in the Middle East, if not the world,

A more exquisite example of the extreme left’s obsession with Israel – one which is often completely unmoored from reason or moral common sense –  would be hard to find.

A look at the following numbers is instructive.  While there were 177 Palestinians killed in the November war in Gaza (the majority of which were terrorists), there are reportedly up to 70,000 dead in the Syrian civil war (including up to 1,000 Palestinians), and up to 1 million refugees – a bloody Arab on Arab conflict which has spread to Lebanon and even Iraq.

Further, Hamas’s tyrannical rule over Palestinians in Gaza represents but a small geographical element of a broader Islamist iron curtain which has spread to, or is ascendant in, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey – and, likely, after Assad falls, in Syria.

The notion that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict represents anything resembling the most pressing political problem in the Middle East (let alone in the entire world) represents a supreme abdication from political sobriety – one which continues to find currency within the reactionary ideological space occupied by the Guardian Left.

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