Response to the War in Gaza – Eric Hobsbawm (2009)

Eric Hobsbawm

Responses to the War in Gaza

Eric Hobsbawm

For three weeks barbarism has been on show before a universal public, which has watched, judged and with few exceptions rejected Israel’s use of armed terror against the one and a half million inhabitants blockaded since 2006 in the Gaza Strip. Never have the official justifications for invasion been more patently refuted by the combination of camera and arithmetic; or the newspeak of ‘military targets’ by the images of bloodstained children and burning schools. Thirteen dead on one side, 1360 on the other: it isn’t hard to work out which side is the victim. There is not much more to be said about Israel’s appalling operation in Gaza.

Except for those of us who are Jews. In a long and insecure history as a people in diaspora, our natural reaction to public events has inevitably included the question: ‘Is it good or bad for the Jews?’ In this instance the answer is unequivocally: ‘Bad for the Jews’.

It is patently bad for the five and a half million Jews who live in Israel and the occupied territories of 1967, whose security is jeopardised by the military actions that Israeli governments take in Gaza and in Lebanon; actions which demonstrate their inability to achieve their declared aims and which perpetuate and intensify Israel’s isolation in a hostile Middle East. Since genocide or the mass expulsion of Palestinians from what remains of their native land is no more on the practical agenda than the destruction of the state of Israel, only negotiated coexistence on equal terms between the two groups can provide a stable future. Each new military adventure, like the ones in Gaza and Lebanon, will make such a solution more difficult and will strengthen the hand of the Israeli right wing and the West Bank settlers who do not want it in the first place.

Like the war in Lebanon in 2006, Gaza has darkened the outlook for the future of Israel. It has also darkened the outlook for the nine million Jews who live in the diaspora. Let me not beat about the bush: criticism of Israel does not imply anti-semitism, but the actions of the government of Israel occasion shame among Jews and, more than anything else, they give rise to anti-semitism today. Since 1945 the Jews, inside and outside Israel, have enormously benefited from the bad conscience of a Western world that had refused Jewish immigration in the 1930s before committing or failing to resist genocide. How much of that bad conscience, which virtually eliminated anti-semitism in the West for sixty years and produced a golden era for its diaspora, is left today?

Israel in action in Gaza is not the victim people of history, nor even the ‘brave little Israel’ of 1948-67 mythology, a David defeating all its surrounding Goliaths. Israel is losing goodwill as rapidly as the US did under George W. Bush, and for similar reasons: nationalist blindness and the megalomania of military power. What is good for Israel and what is good for the Jews as a people are evidently linked, but, until there is a just answer to the Palestinian question, they are not and cannot be identical. And it is essential for Jews to say so.


Explore posts in the same categories: Έρικ Χόμπσμπαουμ, Κόσμος


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