Saturday, January 17, 2009

What's Going on in Gaza?

What's going on? In a sense, nothing new; what the state of Israel is doing in front of the unsleeping eye of the world's media has already been done by other states--including the United States--on a much larger scale. Seeing the bitter conflict in Gaza up close, as it were, enables us to reflect and perhaps even to learn something.

It seems to me at least two things are going on.

(1)Shock the people.
The state of Israel seems to be applying the "shock doctrine" to Gaza, and not in the anodyne sense of trying to "shock and awe" them with a violent spectacle. The idea is--it seems to me--to create a general population overwhelmed by disaster, a people unable for the time being to function normally in carrying on with what they had previously taken to be ordinary life.

Thus, it is not enough for the IDF to narrowly target actual combatants and leave as much of the fabric of everyday life intact as possible; the entire population must come to fear for its life and property. In this, they seem to me to have succeeded: no question. Why? Other avenues, other options were available different from those the state of Israel has taken if that state had wanted other things, but it seems to be Israel recognizes

(a) the people of Gaza support Hamas,

and so

(b) any democratic settlement in Gaza will in the near term at least be led by hamas or the equivalent.

What the shock doctrine aims to do is cow the democratic will of the people, to put the people in a state of numbness, so that they will accept or succumb to otherwise unpalatable programs that they would actively resist if they could. In a state of enforced numbness, where survival is in question and one is reeling from mental and emotional trauma, effective resistance is much harder to mobilize.

What programs? Here I am unsure about specifics, but in general, programs favorable to the prosperity of Israel, including favorable access to large natural gas reserves off the Gaza strip, and submission to policies that will keep an educated Gazan middle class from developing--an educated middle class has much more virulent radical potential than a half-starved semi-proletariat.

Beret tip to Naomi Klein. Pace well-meaning observers like Colonel Lang, targeting children isn't an act (from Haaretz!) lacking a serious point. But we should really take this a step further:

(2) Creation of the Muselman
Gaza has been turned into a space where anything is possible, where one is permitted to slaughter Palestinians on a whim without fear of legal repercussions, domestic or international.

Of course Gaza is not the first such space, and Israel is not the first state to create such spaces (think of the history of the US and Native Americans). But what we witness today in Gaza is evidence that states have learned how to create such spaces as a matter of course. Beware: Gaza may possibly become the standard by which other peoples in other places will be measured, as the US decided to employ "the Salvador option" in Iraq.

The upshot of repeated exposure to Gaza-type situations is the creation of a kind of person called the Muselman--a term taken by Agamben now to have general application, inasmuch as the kind of space needed to create such persons can be readily created by states across the globe. I won't dwell on the awful irony (it literally means "the Muslim") of the term.

The Muselman is beaten down: starved and emaciated, weak and indifferent to more abuse, the Muselman staggers around in a daze barely able to function, if able to carry on with ordinary tasks at all. He does not care to struggle for food, to defend himself, to find a latrine in order to defecate--he just cannot care anymore. Nobody wants him; what remains for him is just to die.

The Muselman on a mass scale in Gaza would be an effective counterpart to the operation of the shock doctrine. A population too apathetic to voice its political will is one unable to resist, unable to mount retaliatory strikes or maintain its own cultural identity as Palestinian. Pace Klein, the Muselman would be Cameron's "blank slate" on which a new personality and new culture--one more favorable to the state of Israels' interests--could be inscribed.

Having said all this, the problem for the state is that the shock/Muselman strategy is unrelable. In this case, the invasion is winding down and the Palestinians are not cowed; if in shock, they do not appear to have been reduced to "blank-slate" status. If (1) and (2) were aims, it seems they have not been achieved. With this sort of thing--it is worth contemplating--one is either all in, or out. One might well infer part way in does not count.

And that is terrifying. It seems to me a Christian--indeed any decent human being--should have (as much as possible) nothing to do with such state strategies. Indeed, here--if needed--is an impetus to rethink the flag in the sanctuary, to rethink the Anglican tendency to erastianism, to rethink and appreciate our tradition of being apart from the world, though in it.


At 5:13 PM, Blogger Perpetua said...

Hi Anglican Scotist,

The big problem I have with this hypothesis is that it ignores the actions of Hamas:
1)shooting rockets at Israeli civilian targets,
2) endangering the Palestinian civilian population by shooting rockets from residential areas, and
3) storing weapons in mosques and schools.

So it seems like a lot of the devastation is the "natural consequences" of Hamas tactics. It seems like Hamas has so embedded its weaponry throughout the buildings of Gaza, that retaliation necessarily leads to destruction of civilian life.

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamas, with the rockets, is playing a card - to harass Israel so that it can make a deal. Rockets stop if acts of war stop... those being the siege and the hunting expeditions, the invasions of airspace. Israel, however, refuses this, claiming to be sovereign over Gaza, claiming the people of Gaza to be theirs to abuse or dispose of at their will. This is the problem here. Hamas says that in a bid to end the siege, to end the hunting expeditions, the risk of Israeli reprisals is worth it - and when you consider Gaza being starved to death and subject to endless terror, trying to establish some kind of security through a non-aggression agreement is a worthwhile aim...

The West however wants no mutual security - it wants more siege, slow death for Gaza, terror for its people and believe Gaza people as all Palestinians belong to Israel to abuse at its whim. They believe in Moshe Dayan's promise made in 1967, that "The situation today resembles the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and a girl he kidnaps against her will. You Palestinians as a nation don't want us today, but we'll change your attitude by forcing our presence on you. You will live like dogs and whoever will leave will leave."

At 1:27 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Good; I'd be willing to say "let it be" except for three points:

(1)the state of Israel broke the prior cease-fire by bombing smuggling tunnels, and Hamas responded with its idiotic and immoral missile strikes; one would suppose the cease fire was broken with a cost/benefit analysis in mind, no?

(2)more importantly, if there is such a thing as a just war (I don't have a settled opinion), the response has to be proportinal and civilians should not have been targeted; that implies Gaza should not be under a state of seige where food and medical supplies are left in such short supply.

In Israel's defense one might say "just" and "unjust" only tendentiously apply to states on the Realist point of view, which is dominant in international theory.

(3)most importantly, this particular incursion seems to have been largely in vain; more such incursions can be expected in the future. The state of Israel apparently has no answer; it keeps returning to failed courses of action.

That is a matter of grave concern to the U.S--I should think.

At 1:38 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Gazans have been living in a world of deprivation and brutality for quite some time; Hamas will reflect that. Remember, states sometimes begin with acts of atrocity: consider the King David Hotel bombing & the Irgun--a terrorist organization with a leader, Begin, who would go on to great things. Such is the way of the world in Israel--and in Gaza: no double standards.

Moshe Dayan sounds like a monster, a psychopath, in that quote. It is incredible. Do you think it is representative?

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Perpetua said...

Hi Anglican Scotist,

What I think is that the individual Palestinians should be paid restitution by Israel for the the taking of their lands in exchange for a quit claim. And that Palestinians should be able to use that money to begin new lives in neighboring Arab states. Or in Iran as the Iranians seem to care about their situation so much.

Why are those countries so willing to provide weapons and not to re-settle the refugees?

If the refugees came with money to buy homes and start businesses or attend schools, would they be welcomed?

Or is destroying Israel the only acceptable outcome?

At 7:36 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the current situation is untenable, and if I were an Israeli, I would think of this invasion and the prior invasion of Lebanon as potential disasters that could embolden the worst and most virulent Palestinian factions.

Why? It is apparent now to anyone who wants to see that the situation in Gaza and Lebanon is to a large extent outside state control, and no new approaches are on the table. Israel has lost momentum.

Sure, arms dealing nations are happy to sell Israel--and Arab nations--weapons and co-operate with this whole self-defeating scheme of half-axxed incursions. Or: the US is doing no favor to Israel by lending them all this rope.

But look at South Africa, look at Northern Ireland: there is a way forward. It may take some time, but if Israel could reconcile itself to granting Arab Israelis full rights and separating synagogue from state--effectively ceasing to be officially Jewish--coexistence would be possible.

I suspect there is no practical way that the Israeli state will become secular.

Just my opinion .

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Perpetua said...

Well, there was an IMRA survey from November 30, 2004 that showed that 70% of Palestinians would be willing to leave if they could have houses and/or jobs or both in a new location.

"In answer to the question "What would induce you to emigrate permanently,
only 15% stated that nothing would induce them. Over 70% (71%)specified one
or more material factors that would induce to emigrate permanently them such
as substantial financial compensation; guarantee of a good job abroad; a
good level of housing."

At 9:00 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Maybe we should remember Gaza shares a border with Egypt--and the entire Israeli operation took place with Egyptian permission.

The Palestinians--say 2/3--might well wish to leave, but they are unwanted, even among their fellow Arabs.

It seems that conundrum has something to do with the fact Egypt is an authoritarian state trying to keep a lid on radicalism, no?

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Perpetua said...

Maybe it would be self-selecting. The 70% who are willing to move for a house or a job are not the radicals.

I think it would be appropriate to have them sign quitclaim deeds to show they were accepting the restitution and relocation in good faith.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Here is a link to a fairly reliable--even conservative--military analyst on the subject that you, and anyone else following this, might find interesting:

It seems to me the broad outline of the piece is on target.


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