Today is Tuesday November 20th. Hillary Clinton has left an official US tour of Asia in order to attempt to broker a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, which continues unabated after the deaths of (currently) 113 Palestinians in a week of bloodshed.
The use of the word ‘war’ (I draw on today’s Guardian here) is interesting for its tacit editorialising. A war suggests an equivalence of engagement: equal violence, equal blame; a military thing between armed forces. Even this single syllable, ‘war’, apparently can’t escape the pernicious normativity that has taken residence in our supposedly objective media. The siege guns pounding out the lifeblood of Gaza are engaged in no war; what we are witnessing is a broken population whose livid, exhausted acts of resistance have been lit upon as justification for the very assault that elicited them.
In a suitably ragged analogy, plucked from our own colonial history, the situation in Gaza today might as well be Croke Park in Dublin, 1920, where the British forces have locked the doors, trained their rifles on the stands from atop the stadium walls, and shot dead fourteen people. It is a prison, albeit one of greater permanence and misery than the one in which the Irish massacre took place.
Gilad Sharon, the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote two days ago in the Jerusalem Post that Israel should “flatten all of Gaza.” The least you can say of Sharon is that he is not guilty of the prevarication that afflicts ‘moderate’ opinion in the West. Whether naive, wilfully obtuse or peddling simple lies, commentators in our media, with honourable exception, fall over themselves to denounce the rockets fired by Hamas, call for a ceasefire, and, further down the line, a two-state solution – the possibility of which has long since evaporated.
Calls for a ceasefire are likely made in good faith – the death toll should not be allowed to rise over a contested point of blame – but just as words like ‘war’ can be loaded with meaning, so have words like ‘ceasefire’ been hollowed out. A ceasefire predicated on a belief that no more people should be killed is infinitely preferable; infinitely more likely to endure and prosper into peace, than one borne of violence. No-one who wishes to see an end to conflict could wish for the same ceasefire sought by Gilad Sharon, who, in his Jerusalem Post op-ed wrote:
There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire … We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.
We must be sure never to de-contextualise the present. The state or condition of ‘peace’ has a history and a trajectory; it has a context and a quality. We ignore these things at our peril.
With this in mind, Pluto has put together a list of six key titles – there are obviously many more – on Israel and Palestine, for anyone looking to increase their understanding of what’s happening in Gaza today:
Building on rigorous research by the world-renowned Glasgow University Media Group, More Bad News From Israel (Pluto, 2011) examines media coverage of the current conflict in the Middle East and the impact it has on public opinion.
The book brings together senior journalists and ordinary viewers to examine how audiences understand the news and how their views are shaped by media reporting. In the largest study ever undertaken in this area, the authors focus on television news. They illustrate major differences in the way Israelis and Palestinians are represented, including how casualties are shown and the presentation of the motives and rationales of both sides. They combine this with extensive audience research involving hundreds of participants from the USA, Britain and Germany. It shows extraordinary differences in levels of knowledge and understanding, especially amongst young people from these countries.
The Israeli offensive in Gaza in 2008-09 was described by Amnesty international as ’22 days of death and destruction’. Sharyn Lock’s eyewitness account brings home the horror of life in Gaza beneath the bombs.
Sharyn went to the Gaza strip with the Free Gaza Movement, thinking the greatest danger she faced was making it past the Israeli sea blockade in a fishing boat, but soon after her arrival Israel attacked Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants by land, air and sea. With others from the International Solidarity Movement, Sharyn volunteered with Palestinian ambulances, assisting them as they faced overwhelming civilian casualties. Her candid and dramatic blogs from Gaza gave the world an insight into the conflict that the mainstream media – unable to enter Gaza – couldn’t provide.
Gaza: Beneath the Bombs (Pluto, 2010) provides a view of Gaza difficult to glimpse from outside – of a people who face their oppression not only with courage but with humour.
Gaza is the frontline in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and rarely out of the news. My Father Was a Freedom Fighter (Pluto, 2009) explores the daily lives of the people in the region, giving us an insight into what is at risk in each round of violence.
Ramzy Baroud tells his father’s fascinating story. Driven out of his village to a refugee camp, he took up arms and fought the occupation at the same time raising a family and trying to do the best for his children. Baroud’s vivid and honest account reveals the complex human beings; revolutionaries, great moms and dads, lovers, and comedians that make Gaza so much more than just a disputed territory.
Indispensable for the Palestinian solidarity movement, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto, 2009) distils the work of academics and experts into a highly readable introduction. This is the book to read if you want to understand the root of the conflict and how apartheid applies to the situation in Palestine.
Ben White begins by succinctly explaining the origins of Zionist colonisation and the crucial events of 1948. He then proceeds to examine the current structure of Israeli apartheid.
Packed with absorbing content, the book is rooted in the author’s extensive on-the-ground experience in the region. It also includes short testimonies by Palestinians about how Israeli apartheid affects their daily lives, as well as a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section.
Since its original publication in 1983, Fateful Triangle (Pluto, 1999) has become a classic in the fields of political science and Middle East affairs. This new edition features new chapters and a new introduction by Noam Chomsky and a foreword by Edward Said.
Examining America’s search for a ‘reliable ally’ in the Middle East, Chomsky untangles the intricacies of the US-Israeli-Palestinian relationship and lays bare the contortions, lies and misinformation that have been used over the years to obscure the real agenda. In the process he reveals the extent to which modern nation-states make claims for peace while actively pursuing very different objectives. In three new chapters Chomsky examines the Palestinian Uprising, the ‘Limited War’ in Lebanon and the Israeli-PLO Accords after the Oslo signings. This is a timely and much-needed corrective to the mythmaking that has obscured the real history of peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Beyond Occupation (Pluto, 2012) looks at three contentious terms that regularly arise in contemporary arguments about Israel’s practices towards Palestinians in the occupied territories – occupation, colonialism and apartheid – and considers whether their meanings in international law truly apply to Israel’s policies.
This analysis is timely and urgent – colonialism and apartheid are serious breaches of human rights law and apartheid is a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The contributors present conclusive evidence that Israel’s administration of the Palestinian territories is consistent with colonialism and apartheid, as these regimes are defined in human rights law. Their analysis further shows that these practices are deliberate Israeli state policies, imposed on the Palestinian civilian population under military occupation.
These findings raise serious implications for the legality and legitimacy of Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the responsibility of the entire international community to challenge practices considered contrary to fundamental values of the international legal order.