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No, escalations do not begin with rockets on Israel

Israel might have the power to tell itself and the rest of the world a story of victimhood. In reality, it has been abusing two million besieged Gazans for over a decade.

Palestinian walk through the wreckage of a building damaged by Israeli air strikes, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, May 5, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian walk through the wreckage of a building damaged by Israeli air strikes, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, May 5, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

As the number of casualties on both sides of the Gaza border continues to climb, Israeli politicians are busy having their age-old argument: should we destroy Gaza? Erase it? Or should we send it back to the Stone Age? I propose we draw a different lesson from the horrific violence that, as of this time, has already taken the life of 16 Palestinians and four Israelis: we Israelis need to learn Arabic.

I am aware that my proposal is far less attractive to most Israelis than a “solution” that includes more violence and bloodletting, but in the long run it may just be the most effective. Learning Arabic, after all, is the only way to overcome our ignorance regarding what is happening on the other side in between rounds of “escalation,” which according to Israel always begins with the first Israeli casualty.

The first thing one learns in every introductory history course is that history is written by the victors. That may be true, but it does not erase the role of the vanquished. Perhaps history is written by the winners, but it is created by all actors involved.

Israel can tell both itself and the world any story it wants. It can talk about “escalation” only when rockets fall on the south or about terrorism only when its citizens pay the price. It can erase the barbaric blockade on Gaza, the endless starvation of its population, the snipers who kill unarmed protesters, the shooting at fishermen, the lack of potable water, the electricity, the infrastructure, the economy and the unemployment.



Yet none of these will cease being part of the history in the making of occupation and violence. With all due respect, a narrative cannot replace reality, and in reality, Israel has been abusing two million besieged Gazans for over a decade. What did we think would happen? That because the strong have the power to tell the story the weak would simply vanish?

Those who follow Arabic-language media outlets in between rocket attacks on southern Israel will discover a parallel universe that the Hebrew media hardly cares about. For them, “escalation” is not equivalent to rocket fire on the south — it is a constant feature of life. And not only in Gaza, of course. Open up any Palestinian news site during these so-called periods of “quiet” and you’ll find that the war never truly ends. Palestinian children continue to face arrests, Palestinian homes continue be demolished, and Palestinians continue facing expulsion from their land.

It is impossible to understand our reality without understanding theirs. If not out of basic humanity, then at least out of an understanding that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are also part of our history in the making. No amount of Israeli propaganda can change that.

Mourners seen at the funeral of Moshe Agadi, who was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza that struck his home in Ashdod, southern Israel, May 5, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Mourners seen at the funeral of Moshe Agadi, who was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza that struck his home in Ashdod, southern Israel, May 5, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A similar kind of ignorance plagues the public discourse vis-a-vis the residents of Israel’s south, who have been consistently hit by rockets over the past decade and a half. The condescension and Schadenfreude (“They voted Netanyahu? They deserve rockets”) isn’t even the issue: the main problem is that this kind of thinking reduces their experiences to being targets. To being victims.

This attitude toward the residents of what is commonly referred to as “the periphery” arises not only in the context of rocket attacks — it characterizes mainstream Israel’s understanding of everything that is not part of the Tel Aviv area. The role of the periphery in the Israeli political discourse is that of victim. After all, Tel Aviv has also been previously hit with rockets from Gaza, yet no one ever expects its residents to adjust the way they vote to their new status. Suffice it to say that this would not have happen even had Tel Aviv residents continued to be bombarded.

Personally, I believe that anyone who votes for Netanyahu is making not only an immoral decision — they are voting against their personal interests as a citizen of this state. I also understand that in the eyes of his voters, this is no mere whim. The prime minister offers his supporters the promise of continued, violent rule over Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, all while deepening Jewish supremacy inside Israel. One cannot ignore the logic of these priorities, regardless of how immoral they are.

Residents of southern Israel who voted for Netanyahu did not do so because of the role that mainstream Israel has carved out for the “poor residents of a periphery under rocket fire.” They do so because they are Jewish citizens in a Jewish supremacist state.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Jane

      Funny that Gideon Levy doesn’t speak Arabic! What of the Palestinians being oppressed by Hamas??? Your attitude to the citizens of the South who vote right for various reasons – not least their treatment by the left in the past – is patronising

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Yes, Netanyahu must be sh%^ting in his pants.
        His confidence was certainly shattered by him winning the recent elections.
        Hah ah ha

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          I think real Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Muslim solidarity building does terrify Netanyahu (especially since pleasing the extreme right now is his only possible ticket to protecting himself from prosecution).

          At the same time he is terrified of what boots-on-the ground Gaza takeover the lunatic fringe in his new government might force on him if things get out of hand.

          And more prosaically probably terrified of spoiling the hasbaratic opera of Eurovision.

          But, as Chemi Shalev notes, Netanyau’s greatest fear is that if and when Hamas is defeated, Europe and the Arab world will press Israel to hand Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, thus thwarting Netanyahu’s grand plan of dividing Palestinians in order to scuttle their claim for statehood. About Bibi and Hamas, Gershon Hacohen speaks the truth.

          What truly does not terrify Netanyahu is the unoriginal, plodding “Bibi-lite,” Benny Gantz, who ran a campaign boasting of how many Arabs he killed; refused to partner with Arab parties, and whose only response to the latest crisis is more of the same “bomb the hell out of them, I’m tougher than Bibi, I’m Yvette Liberman too” strategy. Gantz just said that “Hamas is setting the agenda. It is Israel that must dictate the agenda. Force must be met with greater force in order to ensure calm.” Oh ok, Benny. Sure, that’ll work. That’s so original and imaginative. Why didn’t Bibi think of that? General Hacohen explains why not.

          Reply to Comment
      • itshak Gordine

        Ben, you really seem to live in an imaginary world. Hamas, like Fatah, are money-hungry mafia gangs. The vast majority of Israelis have only contempt for this organization as for Fatah. Israel does not annihilate Hamas because it would be of service to Fatah, which subsidizes those who engage in terrorism. Stop dreaming and go down to earth.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ray

          Wow, so THAT’S why you don’t just go in and get rid of Hamas! Just to tweak Fatah’s nose. Batman’s reason for never killing the Joker seems comparatively LESS stupid.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          And yet Gordine (Halevy) would have us place his faith in the guy (the Prime Minister!) who lined his and his family’s pockets with German-Egyptian submarine graft for German subs for an enemy power, Egypt, all the while keeping it a secret from his own military and security establishment (it was too “sensitive”!)–undermining his own county’s security (as he is also doing with his covert alliance with Hamas). You can’t make this stuff up. You just can’t.

          I’ll tell you what is a “dream,” Halevy–it’s the Disneyland-Holyland kitsch fed “Birthright” American Jews. They are waking up. They can only take so much cynical, sneering, patronizing contempt and so much manipulation and being used!

          Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Do you know what is the presumption of innocence well known in the democratic countries? As you are a very important man, you must be in possession of information that ordinary people do not have ..

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’m all for the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and other American principles. As you know, Halevy. So when is the trial? So we can hash out innocence versus guilt and justice can be properly served, Halevy? Or are we instead going to have Bezalel Smotrich ram through a gangster’s immunity law for Bibi in exchange for the Justice Minister (!!!) post?

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            You are I think in the USA, far from Israel. So let Israeli justice and knesseth do their work. You have focused on Israel for a reason (probably unworthy) that I do not know. Your incessant diatribes from abroad seem unclear.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I could be your next door neighbor, Halevy. You have no idea. Or I could be a person who visits both Israel and America regularly. That’s all you’ve got? To try to insinuate that I have unworthy intentions? The old ploy? That’s all you’ve got? You, whose intentions in my view are, not at the end of any chain of snide insinuation but on the face of it, offensive and unworthy? Not gonna fly, Halevy.

            “So let Israeli justice and knesseth do their work.”

            Spoken like a smirking gangster who knows what “justice” and “work” here mean and do not mean. That’s what gangsters and other abusers do: “Leave us alone, let us do our ‘work,’ what business is it of yours?, we can handle this.”

            We are not going to leave you alone, Halevy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And to clarify one more thing that you want to be an unspoken and unexamined premise but we shall name it and examine it and refute it:

            What goes on in the occupied territories, and what therefore goes on in the entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies (these things are not separable), is NOT Israel’s internal affair, it is external and internal-external and properly is the business of everyone, not just Israelis.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            We are not going to let you continue to tighten the screws while you say, in this Netanyahu-context and generally, “let Israeli justice and knesseth do their work.”

            The Israeli Occupation Is a System Meant to Tighten the Screws on Palestinians
            A reminder that while there are different actors implementing the occupation, their strategy is one

            ‪Please read the f*cked up, downright evil things Hass details the IDF and civil administration does to Palestinian farmers by using military orders actually meant to stop settlers but applied not to settlers but to Palestinians, of course, and by misusing kafkaesque entry permits for their agricultural lands. It’s evil, Halevy. If you can’t admit that then there’s nothing to talk about. ‬

            Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen: “I have to say the truth: Netanyahu’s strategy is preventing the 2-state solution, and so he turned Hamas (the PA’s rival) into his closest partner. Outwardly, Hamas is the enemy, covertly it’s an ally.”

      Edo Konrad: Everything you’re told about Israel’s relationship with Hamas is wrong.

      Chemi Shalev: Gaza Flare-up Imperils Netanyahu’s Cynical Policy of Cohabitation With Hamas
      The prime minister’s ‘contain, maintain and complain’ approach is meant to undercut Palestinian statehood, even at the expense of Israeli security
      May 05, 2019 7:03 PM

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kathy S

      This article is total bullshit. There would be no blockade if Hamas stopped smuggling Arms and rockets. The electrical grid was partially destroyed in the last war, which Hamas started. People would have clean water, jobs and an infrastructure if Hamas didn’t spend all of the money they have received on rockets, terror tunnels and enriching themselves. All they would have to do is disarm, recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and agree to live in peace. Instead, they have chosen terror, so instead of being like Switzerland, it is like Hell. Karma sucks, terrorists!

      Reply to Comment
      • Tom

        If pigs could fly…
        There would be no hammas, if Gaza was not a nightmare
        There would be no nightmare if Gaza was not overpopulated, with 75% refugees descendant, in a narrow strip
        There would be no refugees descendant if there were no deportation during the war
        There would be no hammas, if Israel did not support them when they occupied Gaza strip, to stop the fatah

        In the end, you can re-do the past, but If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

        After 12 years of illegal blockade, Does Hammas has desapeared ? Despite incrising hatred, the tears and the humanitarian situation, the Hammas is still there, powerfull, and not ready to give up the fight,with now the Islamic Jihad… Do you think this strategy is a success ? When a strategy completely fails maybe it’s a good time to change it

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Tom, Singapore has a population density that is almost twice as high as that of Gaza Strip.
          Yet Singapore is the wealthiest country in Asia.

          I wonder what would happen if Singaporeans accused Malaysia (which surrounds them) of stealing their lands ?

          They could dig terror tunnels, fire rockets, release incendiary balloons and try to mass-storm the Malaysian border. I reckon fairly quickly, Singpaore would run out of water, lose their airport, experience a brain drain and turn into a cesspit.
          You see – it is easily done !

          Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            really, I don’t understand the link… yes Singapour is a very hight density small country but Malaysia did not deport the Singapour inhabitant from their original land, the same Israel did during the independance war. AGAIN, 75% of Gaza are refugee descendants !

            And you seems to forget the israeli-egyptian blockade, a very small difference,but how can you build a strong economy when you live in a prison ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Malaysians did not deport Singaporeans because Singaporeans did not declare a war against Malaysia. Thus, your example is irrelevant.

            Please try to keep up, Tom.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            I’ll tell you what: if you love Singapore so much, why not focus on trying to make ISRAEL more like it (given how authoritarian the ruling clique of Singapore is, that probably sweetens the deal for you and your countrymen). In other words, physician, heal thyself first.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Kathy S. provides a typical Israeli “I see nothing, I hear nothing, and I don’t want to know nothing” response here, in my view. Her view completely ignores the truth stated by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen:

        “I have to say the truth: Netanyahu’s strategy is preventing the 2-state solution, and so he turned Hamas (the PA’s rival) into his closest partner. Outwardly, Hamas is the enemy, covertly it’s an ally.”

        Besides that, while we are on the subject, as Kathy is, of calling out terrorists, if we turn our attention eastward to the West Bank, and realize first of all that Sharon disengaged from Gaza precisely in order to tighten Israel’s grip on the lands of the West Bank, the hard truth is that there, and in Gaza, Israel is a terrorist. The settlers are terrorists. The Yesha Council is a terrorist organization. The Israeli army protects terrorists and engages in terror. Incessant Israeli hasbara, and idiotic American complicity, has made it seem scandalous to state this grim, basic truth: Israel, Decrier in Chief of Terror, is a terrorist.

        Israel Is the Terrorist
        Ilana Hammerman

        Reply to Comment
    4. itshak Gordine

      Hamas and Fatah are two rival mafia gangs. They do not care about the “Palestinian” population. What is important to Hamas is to receive the tens of millions of dollars offered by Qatar and others that serve essentially to feed the lifestyle of the leaders of this criminal organization and produce weapons that will be used to attack the Israeli population. As for Fatah, it’s exactly the same thing. Its leaders own villas, Mercedes, etc. .. It must be remembered that the “wife” of Yasser Arafat lives in Paris where she frequents luxury shops, has many properties and has a fortune of 900 million dollars. Hamas and Fatah are two big criminal mafia rival societies whose leaders should be tried for war crimes.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        The Long History Of Corruption In Israel…The most recent report of the corruption watchdog organization Transparency International gave Israel a 61 out of 100 — 34th place in the world, but dropping each of the past two years. (The United States scored 22nd with a score of 71.)


        The issue of corrupt politicians is different from the issue of political rights. Fatah and Hamas can be corrupt as they want, it has nothing to do with the fact that Palestinians live under a brutal military occupation.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Terry

      Another tragic example of the poisonous us-vs-them mentality, which we see over and over again through the centuries. It feeds on ignorance and fear and seems unquenchable.

      Reply to Comment
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