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Reformatting Palestine

Max Ajl

Once again, Israel is carrying out a brutal counter-insurgency campaign against the Gaza Strip and its people. This is according to the government’s description of its own actions. In the words of Minister of Home Front Defense Avi Dichter, “there is no other choice, Israel must carry out a formatting action in Gaza, actually format the system and clean it out.”

Dichter continues, writing that the current IOF operation in the Gaza Strip ought to echo “the way we did in Judea and Samaria during Operation Defensive Shield.”

During Defensive Shield, hundreds of resistance fighters and civilians were murdered by Israel in the process of “formatting the system” in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority version 2.0, the neoliberal autocratic elite to which Israel subcontracts domestic repression, is more pliable than PA version 1.0. With the system “formatted” properly in the West Bank with the capitulation of the PA to Israeli colonialism, over the last half-decade Israeli social engineers have been turning their attention to the Gaza Strip.

What is called “formatting” becomes sanitized in English as “retaliation,” part of preparing “international public opinion for an Israeli operation in Gaza,” as the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office explained the pre-attack propaganda blitz.

Here’s how it works.

First, they find a pretext.

In this case, that was an anti-tank rocket fired from the Palestinian resistance at an Israeli jeep on November 10, which Israel and its apologists in the US media described as the initial provocation in the latest round of hostilities.

We know, for three reasons, that this is a lie.

The first is because we read the news. We know that the occupying forces encircling the Gaza Strip murdered a mentally unfit man approaching the border fence on November 4. They called upon him to stop, and when he did not heed their calls, they shot him down and then prevented Palestinian medics from reaching him for hours, causing him to die from what were thought to be treatable injuries. And we know that on November 8 Israeli forces shot at Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa, who was playing soccer with his friends 1500 meters from an Israeli military post when a gunman put a bullet through his abdomen. He died soon after. Ahmed was thirteen.

The second reason we know that this is a lie is because the assault occurred after a 24-hour lull in the violence, induced by an Egyptian-brokered truce. Benny Begin, a senior Israeli official, admitted that “This round of firing appears to have ended and things must be looked at soberly without illusions for both sides.” Israel apparently took that opportunity and destroyed it, shattering the truce with the November 14 assassination of senior Hamas military leader Ahmed Jubari, continuing a long-standing Israeli pattern of deploying targeted killings — the US and Israel’s preferred euphemism for assassinations — to break cease-fires and ramp up the cycle of violence at strategically opportune junctures.

The third reason any explanation involving the word “retaliation” is a lie is because the category of Israeli “retaliation” does not exist. The occupation is constant terror, and it is what breeds the Palestinian violence Israeli leaders can adduce as a retroactive justification for the policies they pursue in purported pursuit of the chimera of “security.”

The Israeli intelligentsia doesn’t even bother to pay lip-service to its lies in its internal propaganda — that directed towards its people. They openly admit that the Palestinian attacks and the subsequent rockets were just a pretext for the latest assault.

Ron Ben Yishai, an Israeli columnist, explains that the assault “was planned a long time ago, but it was postponed due to the election campaign.” That the strategic decapitations were long-planned is certainly true. Why they are taking place now one can only speculate, but in a country in which leaderships compete for votes and symbolic capital through one-upmanship in racist rhetoric, slamming the enemy into the ground is a good way to get an electoral boost.

So we know — and the Israeli leadership knows — that when it discusses Israeli violence as “retaliation,” it is lying. Israel is forced to conduct constant counter-insurgency operations to restore its “deterrence” because it is unwilling to recognize the legitimacy and primacy of Palestinian claims to the land. Thus it has chosen the path of perpetual violence to quash the resistance which arises to defend those claims.

This practice has nothing to do with irredentist Likud governments, or the “failure” of the peace camp. Violence is the truest testament to the Israeli peace camp’s historical success in selling war as peace and state-guided capitalism as “socialism,” a practice perfected in Israel well before it became a mainstay of European social democratic parties. The Zionist “peace” camp has been the party of generals, and generals seldom make peace. Especially in Israel, they directly profit off its absence, and this violence is constitutive of Israeli history. It is perfectly rational, a necessary component of displacing a society and building a new one in its place.

That process is far from over, and the bodies filling the morgues of Al-Shifa Hospital this week and the desperate rockets Israel uses to justify its crimes are further reminders of what happens when eliminationist settler-colonialism hits the will of a people which refuse to die.