There are many possible responses I could make regarding the utterly disproportionate and indiscriminate reaction that the Israeli government are meting out on the Palestinians. However, it has to be said that we’ve got so used to it, that it’s difficult to be shocked by it any more.
But what has stood out for me isn’t just the violence. Nor the blatant hypocrisy where the stated excuse was the murder of three Israeli teens that had nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas, but where the real reason was Israel’s fear that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah had developed so far that there might no longer be any excuses for such behaviour in the future. Nor is it the way in which the United States forever stands by the State of Israel however outrageously it behaves. There are good electoral reasons for this in a nation which is captive to the vociferousness of powerful lobbies and is barely a properly functioning democracy any longer.
What I find most worthy of comment is outlined in this interesting article in the New York Review of Books. This is written by an Israeli professor who I guess could not be described as anti-Israeli and who has faith in his country’s future. He is viewing the conflict from the inside and what I found interesting in his article was just the extent to which anti-Palestinian sentiment has become so entrenched, so every-day and so ugly. Palestinians who are a long way from the West Bank and Gaza and may well be citizens of the Republic of Israel are routinely discriminated against.
He doesn’t draw parallels with other societies that have practiced discrimination of one kind or another against people whose ethnicity and race offends the ruling party, although the list is very long and, historically, includes the United States, South Africa and Tsarist Russia. And, indeed, includes countries more closely neighbouring the Middle East such as Iraq under Nouri Al-Maliki and Bahrain.
But the article makes me understand better the frequent assertions by Western Correspondents of the overwhelming support the Israeli Defence Force enjoys for its actions from the Israeli population and the bizarre footage of weeping and wailing Israelis for the relatively minor crime of kidnap over the much greater crime of murdering hundreds of defenceless children. And the rage against a few impotent missiles lobbed over the border to land nowhere in particular as against targeted drone strikes and aerial bombardment.
And in all this, is there much freedom of speech?
Theoretically, there’s probably a huge amount of license to say and publish as you please, but as we know from the UK and the United States, the power of the press is very much in the hands of the establishment and dissenting voices are soon silenced in an atmosphere of fear and hatred and the need to get on with one’s neighbours.