Friday, November 16, 2012

Eamon Gilmore blames the victims - once again.

At midday on 15th November, as Israel’s latest offensive against the imprisoned people of Gaza got into full swing, I telephoned the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and asked if the Minister – Mr Eamon Gilmore of the Labour Party, who is also the Tánaiste (vice prime minister) – had issued or was about to issue a statement on the matter. When I eventually got through to the Middle East Desk, I spoke to a secretary who informed me that no such statement had been made as yet, but that she would let me know if one was eventually issued. Subsequently, a number of people who made similar inquiries were informed that “a statement was being drafted and would be placed on the Minister’s desk”, to be issued or not as he, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit. Clearly, there was no perception that the matter entailed any urgency.

The Department’s website drew my attention to a euphoric statement made by the Tánaiste on 12th November concerning Ireland’s election to the UN Human Rights Council. Apparently this vote “testifies to the strong reputation we have built up in the area of international human rights advocacy.  More widely, it reflects the esteem in which Ireland is held as a UN member and as a fearless champion of the values which underpin the UN.” I had, therefore, high hopes that if and when Mr Gilmore issued a statement, ghost-written or otherwise, it would be trenchant and fully expressive of the Irish people’s abhorrence of the use of force against a protected people.

When a statement eventually emerged (naturally, no secretary rang me to inform me), it punctured these hopes. Here it is:

‘The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D., has condemned the escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza that is putting the lives of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians at risk.  The Tánaiste said:
“This latest round of violence, which was triggered by sustained rocket attacks on towns in Israel and has escalated with the targeted killing of a senior Hamas leader, could lead to the further death and suffering of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians.  The risks from an escalation of violence on either side are all too apparent.    I urge both sides to immediately cease these attacks and remove the threat they pose to the lives and safety of innocent people”.

Rather less than inspired by this piece of pedestrian prose, I fired off the following message:

Dear Minister Gilmore -

Your long-awaited statement on Israel's latest assault on the besieged Gaza Strip is an outrage, and will only serve to deepen the disappointment in the Irish government felt by so many in the Middle East, who mistakenly believed that Ireland was some kind of ally.

At all times your statement puts Israel first: "the escalation of violence in southern Israel..."; "innocent Israeli...civilians..."; "triggered by sustained rocket attacks on towns in Israel..."; "innocent Israeli... civilians..."(again!). It should be remembered that the fundamental circumstance behind the current outbreak of violence is the inherent violence of the ongoing Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestinian Territory, and Israel's illegal siege of the Gaza Strip and the embargo that constitutes the use of starvation as a weapon of war, in violation of international humanitarian law. This alongside the fact that the current round of violence was in fact initiated by Israel, contrary to the implications of your words.

The delay in issuance of this pathetic statement suggests that the DFA first of all consulted with its "EU partners", and perhaps with Washington and indeed with the Israeli Embassy in order to ascertain what would be "acceptable" to them. The result caricatures Israel's interminable belligerent occupation of the Palestinian Territory as a war between equals, in which "both sides" must be admonished to avoid escalation while simultaneously the aggressor - Israel - is rewarded and treated as a "strategic ally". This is constitutes a shameful degradation of Irish foreign policy, and turns this country into a mere mouthpiece for Western supremacism.

Yours sincerely -
Raymond Deane

I believe that Mr. Gilmore’s mealy-mouthed statement is incompatible with his proud claim that, on the UN Human Rights Council, Ireland will be a “fearless champion of the values which underpin the UN”. Instead, it testifies to the sorry likelihood that Ireland’s role on the UNHRC will be that of a mere mouthpiece for empire, i.e. for the pro-Israeli policies of the USA and EU. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gaza Action Ireland - Statement on "Operation Pillar of Cloud"

PRESS RELEASE, 10am, 15/11/12
Gaza Action Ireland condemns the ongoing assault on Palestine by Israeli forces that has so far resulted in several deaths and many injuries. Israel has threatened to continue its vicious attack on the Gaza Strip for some time.
Commenting on the Israeli onslaught, Mags O’Brien, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said: “This is an unbearable situation for the Palestinian people and the international community cannot stand by and watch it worsen. How many people have to die before common sense prevails and sanctions are brought against Israel? These murderous attacks must cease and pressure must be brought to bear on Israel to end its illegal blockade of Gaza.”
Ms O’Brien continued: “The Irish government must lead the demand for economic and political sanctions against Israel. Minister Gilmore needs to be proactive and should move beyond words to action. Strong words are not enough unless they are backed by strong action.”
Gaza Action Ireland are also calling on people to support the various demonstrations and vigils being organised across Ireland this evening and tomorrow in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza. In particular, they are asking people to support tonight’s 5:30pm demonstration at the Israeli embassy in Dublin which is organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


(I wish to thank Conor McCarthy for drawing my attention to the Bromwich article which is my final link)

Issue 175 of the journal Radical Philosophy (September/October 2012) includes a review by Luis A. Fernandez of a book called Anti-Security, edited by Mark Neocleous and George S. Rigakos. Although I have not yet read the book, Fernandez’s account suggests that its first two chapters, Security as Pacification by Neocleous and To Extend the Scope of Productive Labour: Pacification as a Police Project by Rigakos, might inspire a productive reframing of one aspect of the Israel/Palestine imbroglio: the conventional discourse around “peace”.

Fernandez paraphrases Neocleous as claiming “that the capitalist state constantly and intentionally (re)produces insecurity and instability. In turn, this instability gives rise to the politics of security, as the state uses this to gain legitimacy.” Rigakos elaborates: “security, expressed through the police, involves the ‘manifestation of brute force both legislatively and through what we would call pacification.’” Neocleous clarifies that this “refers to a broader set of practices aimed at inducing submission while establishing ‘peace’ and ‘tranquillity’ in a given territory… Neocleous finds that pacification first appears under colonialism to keep colonial subjects under control through the ‘centralization of violence and bureaucratization and discipline of standing armies.’”

Bells will be ringing for all those who have any involvement with the Palestine issue. In the light of the above, reread ICAHD activist Jeff Halper’s famous framing of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinian people as a “matrix of control”, involving “the use of violence to maintain control over the matrix -- the military occupation itself, including massive imprisonment and torture; the extensive use of collaborators to control the local population; pressures exerted on families to sell their lands; the undemocratic, arbitrary and violent rule of the Military Commander of the West Bank and the Civil Administration. What Israelis know of this system they justify in terms of ‘security.’”

The security in question, as we know, is always Israel’s security – when did you last hear a mainstream American or European politician refer to the security needs of the Palestinians, although under international humanitarian law they are a “protected people”? Within Israel itself, of course, the primary insecurity is a function not of Palestinian “terror” (as is conventionally claimed) but of the rampant neo-liberalism to which all mainstream political parties are addicted. Last summer’s “occupation” of Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and the race riots against migrants in the same city may be traced back to this source.

“Pacification”, however, is reserved for the Palestinians. In one obvious sense, it would be quite easy to read the above Halper quotation as describing a “matrix of pacification”. However, I think it is more interesting – and this is the reframing I’m driving at – to see the standard Israeli (ab)use of the word “peace” as merely a euphemism for pacification in the sense defined by Neocleous and Rigakos.

Thus the calamitous (for the Palestinians) “peace process” ushered in by the Oslo Accords could be redefined as a “pacification process”. Ultimately, the Zionist vision of a conclusion to this process is a helpless “demilitarised Palestinian state” with purely cosmetic “trappings of sovereignty” and without territorial contiguity, side by side with a US/EU-backed hegemonic Israel, bristling with arms, and arrogating to itself the right to pounce on its helpless neighbour whenever it decides to feel threatened.

Here is Maj-General Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former chief of Israel’s military intelligence, on the “demilitarisation” of the proposed Palestinian state (or Bantustan):

The State of Israel’s requirement that a prospective Palestinian state be demilitarized has been in effect since the 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP), which served as the basis
for the Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). However,
the term “demilitarization,” as it is commonly understood (i.e., a limitation on war materials),is too narrowly defined and does not sufficiently cover the full range of Israel’s security needs. The broader concept includes preventing the development of symmetrical and asymmetrical military threats against Israel – including conventional warfare, terrorism and guerilla warfare – from and via the territory of the PA and a perspective Palestinian state. Demilitarization, then, is a means to safeguarding Israel’s security, not an end in itself.
Under these conditions, it is clear that the “Palestinian state” will be insecure but pacified, while the state of Israel will be secure and at peace (internal upheavals excepted).
A liberal Zionist organisation like Peace Now could be re-baptised Pacification Now, while those whom ultra-Zionists like Alan Dershowitz defame as “enemies of peace” could be more accurately called “enemies of pacification”, an entirely honourable description.
The state of Israel, resolutely backed by its US and EU allies, seeks to “create a desolation and call it peace” (in the Roman historian Tactitus’s resounding phrase). Let us henceforth call this desolation by its proper name: pacification. True peace is the opposite, entailing justice and an attention to the legitimate security needs of all – without discrimination.