Intifada! Intifada!

Image of a map with Gaza.


Motivated by the Zionist spokesperson on CNN—who declared that anyone attending a pro-Palestinian march, following the sudden, spectacular resurgence of the Intifada, would be standing with the Hamas terrorists—I took the subway to Cambridge City Hall Monday, to attend a spirited rally and march. On Tuesday I attended a solemn candlelight vigil on the Tufts campus, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine. On campuses around the country, Palestinian students and their allies rallied, once again, in defense of the resistance movement, the Intifada, the movement to “shake off” the oppressive settler-state built on their suffering.

The news media that continues to shape public awareness of the relevant issues (Hamas’ strikes inside of Israel, the display of Zionist vulnerability, charges of Iranian involvement, implications for the de facto emergent Israeli-Saudi alliance, etc.) by reports, utterly innocent of basic historical consciousness, of savage and inexplicable actions by Hamas fighters. They begin the narrative in the middle, and the premise that “nothing can justify” such inexplicable actions, when in fact those actions can only be explained as the result of rage based on abuses the media can’t cover. The mere exposure of daily apartheid conditions in Israel, to say nothing of a thorough critique of Zionism as a racist ideology, results in charges of antisemitism—from these conscious proponents of historical falsification.

I’m talking about those who say that 700,000 Palestinians were NOT forced out by Zionist terror in 1948, creating an ongoing catastrophe for the Palestinian people; who say that 200 villagers were NOT slaughtered indiscriminately by Zionist Irgun terrorists on April 2, 1948 in Deir Yassin overlooking Jerusalem; or that massacres of civilians did NOT occur in Ilabun, Sa’as’a, Dawaymiya, and Safsaf. Or that the refugees now in the millions do NOT have the right to return to their homeland; or that Zionism is NOT a form of racism, but merely an inoffensive “Jewish nationalism.”

Or that Israel is NOT a settler-state, whose existence was midwifed by Anglo-U.S. imperialism, but a homecoming of a people so tragically scattered in the ancient Diaspora, and abused wherever they roamed for 2000 years that they (1) simply had, after the Holocaust, to have a state of their own; (2) had to settle in Palestine, supposing it to be their biblical-ancestral homeland; and (3) were entitled to live in Palestine because of their religious claim. (The latter of course involves a supreme being, Yahweh, who aside from creating all that exists, favors the descendants of a legendary figure named Abraham more than other humans, and has granted them, in perpetuity, the land of Israel, such that no further discussion of the matter is necessary. This religious claim, fortunately for the Zionists, has a huge Christian following in this country.) This is more than falsification; it’s falsification that claims immunity from challenge, precisely because it’s religious: I have the right to believe God gave the land to the Jews.

(Yes. And the Arabs have the right to believe that Zionists from Europe took it from their grandparents. Between equal rights force decides. But as the showdown progresses, we can at least try to clarify its historical roots.)

For many knee-jerk, habitual Israel supporters, if there is to be discussion, it must focus on the Bible, central source of all truth, which very plainly gives God’s Chosen People the right to commit mass slaughter as directed by Him. The Israelite conquest of Canaan, as recorded in the Bible, is regarded as largely fantasy by serious scholars. But it is taken seriously by many religious believers. What did Yahweh command the Israelites, as they set about seizing lands he’s assigned to them? “In the cities of the nations your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 20:16). In the Book of Joshua, Yahweh causes the walls of Jericho to collapse, and then Joshua’s forces attack, enforcing “the curse of destruction on everyone in the city: men and women, young and old, including the oxen, the sheep and the donkeys, slaughtering them all” (Joshua 6:21). This Hebrew term herem (“the curse of destruction”) meant killing all enemy human beings (and animals) in the course of war. Should the Israelis nuke Gaza, it could thus be justified religiously, at least to the satisfaction of some vile people.

The Bible also has Yahweh tell Abraham, progenitor of the Jewish people: “I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you; I will make your name great,  and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:23). That was good enough to determine Sarah Palin’s stance on Israel.

It also seems to provide the most irreligious of cable news directors their cue as they assiduously avoid identifying the roots of the Palestinian problem. The U.S. supports Israel, and always has, and always will, not because it fears God’s curse for doing otherwise, but because of …shared values! That would mean “Judeo-Christian values” that somehow are supposed to have been in Jefferson’s head when he authored the Declaration of Independence. Anyway since U.S. democracy must be influenced somehow by the Bible, one can always argue that there’s a special affinity between democratic Americans and democratic Israelis. And when a TV anchor reminds the audience “Israel is one of America’s closest allies” most are likely to tuck away the datum without asking why or even if this is so. For the U.S. news media to do otherwise would mean, if not incurring the bogus curse, questioning the moral authority of the Jewish state—indeed, exposing it as vicious.

They know what the “human rights situation” looks like in Palestine. They know the Israelis treat Gaza like the Spartans did the helots; every so often they bomb Gaza, a vast outdoor concentration camp, as though for sport. The U.S. mainstream media timidly questions, sometimes, the Israel use of “disproportionate force.” But that is the Israelis’ forte—they use it as a rule, to better terrify.

They know the Israelis always plead victimization, and that it’s official U.S. doctrine to present them as victims, while depicting the Palestinians as driven by inexplicable hate. They don’t see it as their task to actually explain and put that hatred and rage into context.

I watched a full hour of CNN yesterday, just to see how the station apportioned Jake Tapper’s time. Five minutes on the bombardment of Ashkelon, with no context. Five more on the plight of the people in Gaza; Tapper, stern and sour-faced as usual, interviewed a Palestinian U.S. national trying to leave her current hell under Israeli bombardment and return to the U.S. with three children. Tapper, seeming to recognize some injustice here, vows to “do everything possible” to help her get the attention of the U.S. State Department. So much for balance, and I’ve seen nothing similar since. Then a segment on Israeli forces’ “efforts to retake towns” around Gaza, and another on the hostages, and then an analyst tells us this is the worst day for Israel since the Holocaust (expect to hear this more). The hour was up. That was the news.

The syrupy sentimentalism with which cable news wraps all this stuff (endless airspace devoted to emoting relatives, telling us how terrified they are, telling us how they’re desperate for news, how they just don’t see how this can be happening, how people can be so cruel— telling us nothing about why this is happening) reminds me of the days after 9-11. What’s being called “Israel’s 9-11” allows for a replay of that time here too, a time in which somber music and shattering images, and animated ambient U.S. flags, produced a national climate of outraged injury and willful historical denial, justifying a response to al-Qaeda attacks by murderous wars on the Afghan and Iraqi peoples. Everything so neat and clear. Good versus equal. You’re for us or against us! barked Bush, echoing Jesus (Matt 12;30) while concocting lies to justify the “Shock and Awe” bombing that began the Iraq War. Remember? That war of U.S. imperialism cheered on by Israel, that killed half a million men, women, children, babies…

We’re hearing a variation of the Manichean theme now; the media is telling us the entire civilized world—the world that abhors the slaughter of babies—is with Israel, and that to do otherwise is to stand with “the terrorists.” How many viewers believe it’s that simple? I fear too many. A good reason to march.

The Palestinian forces involved here acted in extraordinary secrecy. That fact itself throws the U.S.-Israeli intelligence agencies into consternation. The “terrorist” enemy is more capable than they imagined. Land, air and sea attacks simultaneously!. ( Likely Iranian expertise here somewhere, but given the secrecy, hard to pin down. And even if you do, how embarrassing is it, to the U.S. and Israel, if the Shiite Iranians are effectively working with these Sunni Palestinians, whose cause is so dear to the Arab and Muslim worlds? How will the murderous Saudi regime, pressed by the U.S. to more openly embrace his Israeli friends—while simultaneously pushed by China towards rapprochement with Iran—cope with the mass enthusiasm for the Hamas achievement in the kingdom? The situation has changed. Everyone’s saying: “Israel will never be the same.” Nor will Palestine.

Lives there who loves his pain.

Who would not, finding way, break loose from hell,

Though thither doomed?

An old Palestinian man was the last to take the mike in front of Cambridge City Hall. He declared Monday the “greatest day in Palestinian history.” This met with a more restrained response than you’d expect; there’s much that has happened one doesn’t want to cheer, and it’s sobering to think that where we find hope, most of those around us are trained to see terror. But it’s true. Things can’t go back to normal—that old bizarre, impossible normal. Netanyahu says he will crush Hamas, which (this time) means he intends to crush the resistance of the Palestinian people, which means he’ll likely indulge in such overt acts of undeniable genocide that the entire Muslim world responds, at the demand of its masses, with a truly united front against Israel and its ever-better exposed apartheid system.

The Zionists, accustomed to the role of prison-guards, now find the prisoners are holding Israeli nationals, who they have likely taken to Gaza and distributed through its tunnels. Hostage-taking is a weapon of the weak, easily denounced in toto, in principle (especially if you’re equipped with armored tanks and jet fighters that can get the same job done). But given that the Israelis may wish to invade the prison camp using the weapons of the strong, the hostages may serve as a deterrent. (You keep bombing our people, we kill one of yours.) What a savage abuse of innocent civilians would such a usage be, in the logic of CNN!

What would these talking heads, experts, ex-government officials, house academics, consultants etc., have the Palestinian people do? Work through peaceful democratic channels to get the Israel state to withdraw its settlements, and to allow those driven out by terror to return? Work with Binyamin Netanyahu, that vicious, amoral, Judeo-fascist thug? They have no solution other than to insist that a “two-state solution” is possible (or the only way out) even as the Israeli ruling class effectively rules this out. All they can say now is that they hope when Israel “inevitably” brutalizes Gaza more than ever before, the civilian casualties are not so immense as to decisively weaken global support for it. For the people in Gaza they can propose no solution, certainly not one that goes through peaceful channels.

So about 300 of us Monday marched around Cambridge, chanting Long Live the Intifada! Intifada! Intifada!, to Central Square where an Israeli arms firm has its offices.

Intifada! Intifada!

How can you say this now, you ask, when Hamas terrorists have reportedly beheaded babies and murdered grandmothers, posting images on Facebook? Because the world did not begin just now. There is such a thing as history. You can’t choose the history you want, although you can make stuff up, about yourself or your tribe or your imagined community. In the real world, in the real story of what happened, Israel was established in 1948 through the suffering of the indigenous (Palestinian) people who were expelled to make it possible, and barred from reentry in order to ensure a Jewish majority in the present settler state.

Israel was expanded in 1967 to include the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza at Palestinians’ expense. Racist settlers on the West Bank, convinced of Jewish superiority, have long abused Palestinian neighbors with impunity. There is every reason to seethe with indignation at this human suffering and those inflicting it. It has to be shaken off. That’s why we chant Intifada! Intifada!

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: