Massacre in Gaza: Who’s To Blame?

In both the mainstream media and alternative sources there is much discussion regarding where the blame lies for the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip. I would like to suggest that as so often the roll call of those who are in some sense “to blame” is pretty lengthy – the responsibility of Israel is clear and transparent – as is the responsibility of those states who have armed and provided diplomatic cover for the relentlessly brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – from it’s inception up to the latest outrages. Other actors who are to blame are the media themselves who have so successfully distorted the reality of the conflict that they have managed to present the struggle between a high-tech, imperialist, racist, first-world state and a weak, divided, impoverished and militarily insignificant opponent as an equal fight. We can also consider the apathetic willfully ignorant sectors of the populations of the western powers; educated privileged people who could if they so chose learn about the conflict and move to do something about it, but who choose to remain in their ignorance – at monstrous cost to the Palestinians, (and also I would argue to Israelis in the long term). However I would like instead to consider another group who are significantly to blame – a group I’ll call “the people like me group”…

I was involved in consciousness raising activities around the Israel-Palestine issue whilst I was at University – some four years ago now. I helped to organise various events; guest speakers, video showings, building for demonstrations as well as writing for the student press on the topic. And in 2004 I briefly visited the occupied West Bank. While there I saw the infrastructure of the occupation – the tanks, the soldiers, the settlements, the settler only roads, the machine gun nests, and so on. I saw the inside of an Israeli settlement and watched as Israeli settlers sunned themselves next to the communal swimming pool – while literally a couple of hundred yards away were living Palestinians who have to conserve every drop of water that the Israeli’s will allow them. I visited refugee camps and saw the squalid conditions that the refugees have to endure. I met a family of eight whose house had been demolished and were now living in a tent next to a rubbish dump. I saw the scars of one of the members of that family who had stood in front of the bulldozer and slashed at himself repeatedly with a knife in a desperate attempt to stop the demolition. I met a mother in Nazareth whose son had been shot dead by IDF soldiers at the start of the Intifada. I met a family who were living next to an Israeli settlement and endured constant harassment from the settlers and had seen part of their house demolished. The eldest of the family – a man of about seventy was crying as he was explaining the situation to me and the rest of our group. I met a family in Hebron – the mother of the family explained to us the psychological problems her son had developed as a result of living near the stone throwing, M16 wielding religious-fanatic settlers who have turned the centre of Hebron into a ghost town.

I explain all these details to make it understood that the reality of the suffering that the population of the occupied territories was enduring was crystal clear to me . And yet despite that clarity after I left university – aside from attending a couple of demonstrations – I did virtually nothing regarding the conflict. To a degree that reflected a shift in focus as I decided to put my effort into working to build an alternative media project. However that project has not taken up anything like all of my time – and I could if I had wanted remained active in the Palestine solidarity movement. How one chooses where to put one’s effort in a world of myriad problems and struggles is not easy but I was educated about the conflict, relatively articulate and someone who had seen directly the reality of the occupation, and yet I chose to do nothing. As to why I slipped away from useful action – that’s hard to say definitively but I would say that essentially on a daily basis I chose to put my own often minor problems and my desires for comfort above more worthy concerns. Today, as the Palestinian death toll exceeds one thousand people, I feel guilt and complicity in the nightmare that the population in Gaza is enduring. And there are I suspect many others like me who could have done much more but chose not to.

The academic and activist Robert Jensen says that we can roughly divide the United States population (and the same is no doubt true for the UK) into roughly three groups. One third are arrogant – those who are so colonized by the mainstream narratives of the western powers that they look upon the crushing of those who resist imperial designs with much satisfaction. The second third are ignorant – the willfully uninterested people who I already mentioned – those who take a conscious decision not to know; perhaps akin to the “good Germans” living happily under the Nazi regime who expressed mock-surprise and bewilderment at the depredations of the Third Reich after its defeat. The last group are the cowardly – those who know all too well about the reality of the criminal cruelty of the imperial states and the monstrous suffering of their primary victims but who despite that knowledge do all too little to alleviate that suffering. I count myself as residing squarely in the latter camp. So we can if we want to focus on Israel, or the United states, or the UK, or Egypt, or AIPAC but as so often responsibility also lies closer to home.

Alex Doherty has written for ZNet, Counterpunch, and the New Standard. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Alex, or visit Alex's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 17th, 2009 at 9:32am #

    but the latest final solution, this one in gaza, had failed. so, off go israeli to draw a plan for yet another final solution.
    we can recall that UK and socalled zionists have planned and executed the first final solution, the one of the balfour shame and terror of ‘4o-46.
    it turned out it wasn’t their real intent. they wanted more solutions. have carried out many.
    but, but, from where is stand, israel can’t win. thnx

  2. eileen fleming said on January 17th, 2009 at 12:12pm #

    Those that KNOW are Responsible.
    Silence is Complicity and No option when innocents are terrorized and traumatized by USA Made weapons and $7-10 MILLION USA Tax Dollars a day go to support the brutal occupation.

    My first of 6 trips to Israel and Occupied Palestine in June 2005 irrevocably changed my life.

    I gave ‘birth’ to WAWA 3 weeks later. I made a promise to a little boy of Bethlehem-George whose face adorns the banner of my website.

    I vowed i would devote the rest of my life to Doing Something to HELP end the occupation which dehumanizes both sides.

    I suppose it a matter of compassion-feeling the pain of the other so deeply that one is impelled, compelled, propelled to DO Something to try to help.

    I know each time BEFORE i go,
    i will absorb intense pain
    to inflame me
    to rise up/intifada
    against the apathy
    will fill ignorance
    hearts of stone
    and blind allegiance to the status quo.

    Eileen Fleming, Author, Founder WAWA:
    Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”

  3. Brian Koontz said on January 18th, 2009 at 8:13pm #

    I question your use of “cowardice” here.

    Noone can be a one-man army. Other countries have strong populist groups not because their citizens are braver than those in the US, but because more people there are willing to fight, because they are lower on the global economic totem pole.

    A riot of 10 people is crushed. A riot of 100 people is crushed. But 10,000 and success can happen. We in the US need warm bodies to fight. We need an army. Anything less and we’re just putting our heads on the chopping block.

    More people than the left ever acknowledges are waiting for critical mass to be reached to take action. This waiting is not in many cases a form of cowardice, but a tactical decision based on a desire to avoid suicide.

    It’s all too easy to scream out, Braveheart style, and romantically throw one’s life away. We must beware becoming a martyr in our own mind – that is quickly followed up by becoming dead in the world.

  4. Alex Doherty said on January 19th, 2009 at 7:03am #

    Brian you write:

    “This waiting is not in many cases a form of cowardice, but a tactical decision based on a desire to avoid suicide.”

    1. I’m not advocating rioting or any other form of violence – tactics which are usually morally untenable and tactically stupid.

    2. There are many many useful things people can do that do not entail physical risk. The options are not a) riot b) do nothing.


  5. bozh said on January 19th, 2009 at 11:18am #

    bears repeating,
    once we make their army, cia, fbi, police, educators, et al, ours to a degree can we contemplate violence against the oppressors.
    we need mns of people not thousands. thn

  6. Phil said on January 19th, 2009 at 11:27am #

    There are many many useful things people can do that do not entail physical risk.

    I noticed these weren’t mentioned in the column. Would you elaborate?

  7. Alex Doherty said on January 19th, 2009 at 11:56am #

    Well one area of work is mentioned in the article – that of consciousness raising – spreading information, organising events, even visiting the terrritories themselves and recounting that reality to people back home, lobbying politicians, pressing the media to give a more accurate picture of the conflicts, working to stop arms exports to Israel, developing a boycott and divestment campaign. There are endless things people can do – and these activities have real world effects – I can’t speak for the United States but in the UK crititicsm of Israel’s actions in the media has become much more substantial – in part this reflects the brutality of the Israeli operation but it also has occurred because of the slow painstaking work of thousands of people who have helped to get the truth out. Also the EU was about to upgrade their ties with Israel – they have backed off from this because of public protest – that’s an important real world effect . Of course there is an alternative to getting involved in real political struggle in the real world – one can instead sit back and day dream about co-opting the CIA and the FBI and starting “violence against the oppressors”..

    Meanwhile people are dying of course.

  8. Al Harli said on January 19th, 2009 at 9:15pm #

    Do we need another Iran or another Syria or another Hamas to make the world a better place to live?
    Shooting at your neighbour is a declaration of war,getting happy for the killing of 3000 people on 9/11 get devastation. This violence is against people who love war and preparing vastly for it but when getting it they
    cry oppressors….