Behind the war on Gaza – how Israel profits globally from repression

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Israeli military targeting of Gaza's hospitals, health workers, journalists and babies
Israeli military targeting of Gaza's hospitals, health workers and journalists among the more than 14,800 Palestinians killed with a threat to the life of newborn babies needing incubators have stirred global outrage (8 died). Image: TRT World News screenshot APR

REVIEW: David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

Just months before the outbreak of the genocidal Israeli war on Gaza after the deadly assault on southern Israel by Hamas resistance fighters, Australian investigative journalist and researcher Antony Loewenstein published an extraordinarily timely book, The Palestine Laboratory.

In it he warned that a worst-case scenario — “long feared but never realised, is ethnic cleansing against occupied Palestinians or population transfer, forcible expulsion under the guise of national security”.

Or the claimed fig leaf of “self defence”, the obscene justification offered by beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his two-month war of vengeance, death and destruction unleashed upon the people of Palestine, both in the Gaza Strip and the Occupied West Bank that has killed at least 14,850 Gazans — the majority of them women and children — and more than 218 West Bank Palestinians.

As Loewenstein had warned in his 265-page exposé on the Israeli armaments and surveillance industry and how the Zionist nation “exports the technology of occupation around the world”, a catastrophic war could trigger an overwhelming argument within Israel that Palestinians were “undermining the state’s integrity”.

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That catastrophe has indeed arrived. But in the process as part of growing worldwide protests in support of an immediate ceasefire and calls for a “free Palestine” long-term solution, Israel has exposed itself as a cruel, ruthless and morally corrupt state prepared to slaughter women and children, attack hospital and medical workers, kill journalists and shun international norms of military conflict to achieve its goal of destroying Hamas, the elected government of Gaza.

Author Antony Loewenstein
Author Antony Loewenstein . . . Gaza is the most most devastating conflict in eight decades since the Second World War. Image: AJ screenshot APR

Interviewed by Al Jazeera on Friday after a four-day temporary truce between Israel and Hamas took effect, author Loewenstein described the conflict as “apocalyptic” and the most devastating in almost 80 years since the Second World War.

He also blamed the death and destruction on Western countries that had allowed the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to “get away with things that no other country could because of total global impunity”.

‘Genocide Joe’
The United States, led by a feeble and increasingly lame duck President Joe Biden“genocide Joe”, as some US protesters have branded him — and several Western countries have lost credibility over any debate about global human rights.

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says, the US and the West have enabled the ethnic cleansing and displayed a double standard by condemning Hamas for its atrocities on October 7 while giving Israel a blank cheque for its crimes against humanity and war crimes in both Gaza and the Occupied West Bank.

The Israeli-Palestinian captives exchange deal
The Israeli-Palestinian captives exchange deal mediated by Qatar. Image: AJ screenshot APR

In fact, as Erdoğan has increasingly condemned the Zionists, he has branded Israel as a “terror state” and says that Israeli leaders should be tried for war crimes at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

It has also been disturbing that President Biden has publicly repeated Israeli lies in the conflict and Western media has often disseminated these falsehoods.

Media analysts say there is systemic “bias in favour of Israel” which is “irreparably damaging” the credibility of some news agencies and outlets considered “mainstream” in the eyes of Arabs and others.

Loewenstein, who was awarded Australia’s 2023 Walkley Award in the journalism book category on Friday night,  warned in The Palestine Laboratory that “an Israeli operation might be undertaken to ensure a mass exodus, with the prospect of Palestinians returning to their homes a remote possibility” (p. 211).

Many critics fear the bottom line for Israel’s war on Palestine, is not just the elimination of Hamas — which was elected the government of Gaza in 2006 — but the destruction of the enclave’s infrastructure, hence the savage assault on 25 of the Strip’s 32 hospitals (including the Indonesian Hospital) and bombing of 49 percent of the housing for 2.3 million people.

Loewenstein reports:

“In a 2016 poll conducted by [the] Pew Research Centre, nearly half of Israeli Jews supported the transfer or expulsion of Arabs. And some 60 percent of Israeli Jews backed complete separation from Arabs, according to a study in 2022 by the Israeli Democracy Institute. The majority of Israeli Jews polled online in 2022 supported the expulsion of people accused of disloyalty to the state, a policy advocated by popular far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir (p. 211).

Dangerous escalation
Loewenstein saw the reelection in November 2022 of Netanyahu as Prime Minister and as head of the most right-wing coalition in the Israel’s history as ushering in a dangerous escalation of existential threats facing Palestinians.

The author, who is himself of Jewish origin, cites liberal Israeli columnist and journalist Gideon Levy in Haaretz reminding his readers of “an uncomfortable truth” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Levy wrote that the long-held Israeli belief that military power “was all that matters to stay alive , was a lie” (p. 206). Levy wrote”

“The lesson Israel should be learning from Ukraine is the opposite. Military power is not enough, it is impossible to survive alone, we need true international support, which can’t be bought just be developing drones and drop bombs.”

Levy argued that the “age of the Jewish state paralysing the world when it cries “anti-semitism” was coming to a close.

The daily television scenes — especially on Al Jazeera and TRT World News, arguably offering the most balanced, comprehensive and nuanced coverage of the massacres (in contrast to such media as BBC and CNN with journalists embedded with the Israeli Defence Force — have borne witness to the rogue status of Israel.

Nizar Sadawi of Turkey's TRT World News
Nizar Sadawi of Turkey’s TRT World News, one of the few Arabic speaking and courageous journalists working at great risk for a world news service. Image: TRT screenshot APR

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has been one of the strongest critics of Netanyahu’s war machine, warning that Israel’s leaders will be made accountable for their war crimes.

His condemnation has been paralleled by multiple petitions and actions seeking International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions against Israeli leaders, including an arrest warrant for Netanyahu himself.

Toxic laboratory
According to Loewenstein, Israel’s “Palestine laboratory” and its toxic ideology thrives on global disruption and violence. As he says:

“The worsening climate crisis will benefit Israel’s defence sector in a future where nation-states do not respond with active measures to reduce the impacts of surging temperatures but instead ghetto-ise themselves, Israeli-style. What this means in practice is higher walls and tighter borders, greater surveillance of refugees, facial recognition, drones, smart fences, and biometric databases (p. 207).”

By 2025, Loewenstein points out, the border surveillance industrial complex is estimated to become worth US$68 billion, and Israeli companies such as Elbeit Systems are “guaranteed to be among the main beneficiaries.”

Three years ago Israel spent $US22 billion on its military and was is 12th biggest military supplier in the world with sales of more than $US345 million.

The potency of Palestine as a laboratory for methods of controlling “unwanted people” and a separation of populations is the primary focus of Loewenstein’s book. The many case studies of Israeli apartheid with corporations showcasing and profiting from the suppression and persecution of Palestinians are featured.

The book is divided into seven chapters, with a conclusion, headed “Selling weapons to anybody who wants them,” “September 11 was good for business,” “Preventing an outbreak of peace,” “Selling Israeli occupation to the world,” “The enduring appeal of Israeli domination,” “Israel mass surveillance in the brain of your phone,” and “Social media companies don’t like Palestinians.”

How Israel has such influence over Silicon Valley — along with many Western governments — is “both obvious and ominous for the future of marginalised groups, because it is not just the Jewish state that has discovered the Achilles heel of big tech”.

‘Real harm’ against minorities
Examples cited by Loewenstein include India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully demanding that Facebook remove posts critical of his government’s handling of the covid pandemic of 2020, and evidence of Facebook posts causing “real harm against minorities” in Myanmar and Russia as well as India and Palestine.

The company’s global policy team argued that they risked having the platform shutdown completely if they did not comply with government requests. Profits before human rights.

Loewenstein refers to social media calls for genocide against the Muslim minority having “moved from the fringes to the mainstream”. Condemning this, Loewenstein remarks: “Leaving these comments up, which routinely happens, is deeply irresponsible” (p. 197).

He argues that his book is a warning that “despotism has never been so easily shareable with compact technology”. He explains:

“The ethnonationalist ideas behind it are appealing to millions of people because democratic leaders have failed to deliver. A Pew Research Centre survey across 34 countries in 2020 found only 44 percent of those polled were content with democracy, while 52 percent were not. Ethnonationalist ideology grows when accountable democracy withers, Israel is the ultimate model and goal” (p. 16).

The September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington “turbocharged Israel’s defence sector and internationalised the war on terror that the Jewish state had been fighting for decades” (p. 49).

Grief for one of the 48 journalists killed by Israel
Grief for one of the 48 journalists killed by Israel during the seven weeks of bombardment. Image: RSF screenshot

War against journalists
Along with health workers (200 killed and the total climbing), journalists have suffering a heavy price for reporting Israel’s relentless bombardment with at least 48 dead (including media workers in Lebanon, the death toll has topped 60).

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders has accused Israel of seeking to “eradicate journalism in Gaza” by refusing to heed calls to protect media workers.

“The situation is dire for Palestinian journalists trapped in the enclave, where ten have been killed in the past three days, bringing the total media death toll in Gaza since the start of the war to 48. The past weekend was the deadliest for the media since the war between Israel and Hamas began.”

RSF also said Gaza from north to south had “become a cemetery for journalists”.

Of the 10 journalists killed between November 18-20, at least three were killed in the course of their work or because of it. They were: Hassouna Sleem, director of the Palestinian online news agency Quds News, and freelance photo-journalist Sary Mansour who were killed during an Israeli assault on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on November 18.

According to RSF, they had received an online death threat in connection with their work 24 hours prior to them being killed.

Journalist Bilal Jadallah was killed by an Israeli strike that hit his car directly as he was trying to evacuate from Gaza City via the district of Zeitoun on the morning of November 19.

He was a prominent figure within the Palestinian media community and held several positions including chair of the board of Press House-Palestine, an organisation supporting independent media and journalists in Gaza.

Global protests have been growing with demands in many countries for a complete Gaza ceasefire
Global protests have been growing with demands in many countries for a complete ceasefire to the attack on Gaza. Image: TRT screenshot APR

Killed with family members
Most of the journalists were killed with family members when Israeli strikes hit their homes, reports RSF.

It is offensive that British and US news media should refer to Hamas “terrorists” in their news bulletins, regardless of the fact that the US and UK governments have declared them as such.

As a former journalist with British and French news agencies for several years, I wonder what has happened to the maxim that had applied since the post-Second World War anticolonialism struggles — one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Thus “neutral” descriptions were generally used.

As President Erdoğan, has already pointed out, Hamas are nationalists fighting against 75 years of Zionist Israeli colonialism and apartheid. Palestine is the occupied territory; Israel is the illegal occupier.

Loewenstein argues in his book that Israel has sold so much defence equipment and surveillance technologies, such as the phone-hacking tool Pegasus, that it had hoped to “insulate itself” from any political backlash to its endless occupation.

However, the tide has turned with several countries such as South Africa and Turkey closing Israeli embassies and recalling their diplomats and as demonstrated by the UN General Assembly’s overwhelming vote last month for an immediate humanitarian truce.

There is a shift in global opinion in response to the massive price that the Palestinian people have been paying for Israeli apartheid and repression for 75 years. While Iran has long been portrayed by the West as a threat to regional peace, the relentless and ruthless bombardment of the Gaza Strip for seven weeks has demonstrated to the world that Israel is actually the threat.

However, Israel is on the wrong side of history. Whatever it does, the Palestinians will remain defiant and resilient.

Palestine will become a free, sovereign state. It is essential that international community pressure ensures that this happens for a just and lasting peace.

The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel exports the technology of occupation around the world, by Antony Loewenstein. Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2023. Reviewer Dr David Robie is editor and publisher of Asia Pacific Report.

23 COMMENTS

      • Please explain which of the 5 acts you think the Ottoman Empire did not commit in the Balkans? Please explain the concept of jihad and the concept of land once ruled by Islam. Do you think Muslims are happy to renounce al Andalus to Spanish Christian rule?

        • Jihad meaning: Literally means striving or doing ones utmost, you see words do matter.

          Once you understand how Governments and bad actors use language to control the narrative you will finally be free.

    • No wonder you are so ignorant if you refuse to consider all the evidence. While it has been many decades since I was in school the aim in education then was to consider all the evidence or relevant laws/information for technical, science, math subjects and arrive at a correct answer. The idea that someone would say “I read the first sentence but don’t agree” would not be considered something to boast about and would be considered by most as a sign of failure.
      While you might be happy to change the definition of words in the English language you are only fooling yourself and the inevitable few who missed out on the logical thinking gene.

      • You have of course noted how readily Erdogan takes advantage of Middle Eastern wars to bomb the Kurds into oblivion eh Bonnie?

    • I’ll go with Dr David Robbie and you can fuck off jack.
      Dictionary
      Definitions from Oxford Languages ·
      fuck off
      phrasal verb of fuck
      vulgar slang
      1.
      go away (used to angrily dismiss someone).
      2.
      British
      make someone angry.

    • @Jack. There must be forums/blogs which support genocide out there- if you look a bit harder you’ll find a home soon.

    • Dictionary definition of Genocide for lazy people like Hasbara jack.
      “The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group”.

  1. “The potency of Palestine as a laboratory for methods of controlling unwanted people”

    A lot of interesting points to talk about but the above resonates with me the most, in as much as the malicious destruction of Gaza and its people is a potential prelude of what may befall us all. Think about it. We have politicians who condemn the actions of one side, but then they turn a blind eye to the actions of the other side, basically enabling genocide to take place. We have a media that acts similarly. Thus, we have two pillars of democracy that have shown themselves to be supporters of “controlling unwanted people”.

    Now, how easy, or how long (or short) will it be before we all potentially become candidates of the “unwanted”. The control mechanisms are largely already there, helped along by the “Palestinian lab’. The pollies and the media have shown that they have few qualms in controlling the unwanted.

    We have also had a recent global crisis where by a small segment of society quickly become a minority – a part of the unwanted, and with an even bigger crisis looming large over us all, how many more people will soon qualify, therefore swell the ranks of the unwanted?

    “The Palestine Laboratory”, this effin tragedy, as we can clearly see, it really is a warning for us all.

    • Can we apply the “proven intent” retrospectively do you think Geoff? To the Armenian genocide which Turkey refuses to acknowledge? Or do we apply it only since 1948 and only to Israel?

      • The classic Hasbara of “look over there” nothing to see. The reality is you cannot claim protected status because of the Holocaust whilst committing war crimes, its repugnant to all victims and the height of hypocrisy.

  2. Ummmm so what has happened to the billions in aid and support that has been fed to the Palestinians over the past few years? Surely the Hamas government has spend that on it’s people and infrastructure or do the leaders only spend it on their Qatari lifestyle?

    • So you think it would be better to spend the aid through Israel so they can take most of it instead? Do you not know that corruption is endemic throughout most of the world so there is not usually a graft-free way to help others?

  3. TBF Reuters did try…
    Reuters knows that the hostages being released by Hamas aren’t soldiers (neither are the terrorists Hamas is getting), but they casually drop the term into their headline to fundamentally alter your perception of what is happening. A POW exchange is a lot different than the negotiated release of people held hostage for 50 days–women and children who have nothing to do with the war except by being victims of evil terrorists.

    Using “soldiers” was a conscious choice. Reuters knew who was being released, knew their circumstances, knew how they were captured, and knew that they weren’t “released” but ransomed. They framed the story to manipulate the audience.

    People weren’t fooled, except those who wanted to be. They received so much criticism that they deleted the headline and issued a non-apology apology, but this was not a mistake made in the fog of war. All the facts are established and well-understood. Reuters just chose to lie.

  4. When a parrot says hasbara. The parrot trainer is imposing their explaining is losing narrative.

    So the parrot is saying loser. It is that sophisticated. That many think it is clever to be a parrot.

  5. The marginalisation of the left and the ethnic cleansing of the left was not just the McCarthyism era, it is still going on. It is a global operation

    The obsession with this international issue is like the apartheid one of the 70’s and the anti-nuclear one of the 1980’s, it serves as a distraction from the suppression of the economic and political left.

    Most involved have missed the development of the surveillance state and a growing capability derived from technological advances to engage in psychological warfare operations against the domestic population.

  6. Dr. Gabor Mate is such an amazing human being.

    I don’t think I have heard anyone speak with such empathy, knowledge, humanity and clarity about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

    In it, he outlines the historical conflict. That in itself is worth a listen.

    Gabor Mate is a holocaust survivor, who once was a Zionist, but who now supports the Palestinian people’s right for their own land.

    There are lessons for Aotearoa New Zealand here as well, especially with the direction of the new government. Gabor Mate lives in Canada and we should listen to his thoughts there. Many people here, like many Israelis, have little knowledge, understanding or lived experience of the oppressed and colonised people.

    He references the Hungarian experience of 1956 and the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

    This video is worth of a post in its own right.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph9XF39yjgU&t=868s

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