At the time of writing, 15 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed as Hamas and other militias fire missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel and the IDF shells and bombs densely packed Gaza City.
I have to be careful here. I was churlish enough earlier to suggest on Twitter that a hashtag that had been trending for a number of hours -#HamasBumperStickers – in which users employed various degrees of bilious stereotypes to gloat at the fact that a Hamas military commander had been killed in an Israeli missile strike late Wednesday was a racist and apologist belittling of the deaths of civilians that had occurred. It was not, as some suggested, due to my being a terrorist apologist, a liberal lunatic or a self-righteous asshole, that I didn’t find this funny.
It wasn’t funny when we knew that several innocent children had already been killed by Israeli airstrikes on one of the most densely populated civilian areas on earth, including the 11 month-old son of a BBC Arabic journalist. It wasn’t funny when three Israeli civilians – including an infant – were killed in a rocket strike on the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi. And when senior Israeli military officials jumped on board at the same time as its jets were wounding more than 100 Palestinian civilians the hashtag began to look positively macabre.
And so before we get to some of the typical tweets following the #HamasBumperStickers hashtag, a few points to those reasonable people who responded disagreeing with me – there is no point arguing with many unreasonable individuals who see sense of humor breakdowns as civilians die on both sides as a product of Al-Qaeda/Hamas/Hitler getting into our brains.
First – and I would have hoped that this would go without saying, but that clearly hasn’t turned out to be the case – to condemn one side for killing civilians (and children) does not mean condoning the other. Both Hamas and the IDF are nothing other than morally wrong here. They are both perpetuating the crisis at the expense of their peoples and both don’t seem to care, so long as the conflict is painted or justified in terms of struggle, a sophisticated race against a usurper, or any other of the crazy excuses offered from both sides to validate the annihilation of the other.
Second – As has been pointed out, a Gaza rocket has killed Israeli children. This is obviously a tragic development and should be deplored in the highest terms, but when this happens the cry is terrorism. When Israel does it to Palestinians, we get a “humorous” hashtag. There is the criticism out there that people calling Israeli terrorists for killing civilians is myopic and unfair – even if accompanied by likewise criticism of Hamas – since Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into Israel and therefore the civilian deaths it inflicts are somehow morally inferior to those meted out by Israel. It’s not the same thing, we are told. They are terrorists; we are defending ourselves. That we defend ourselves by carpet bombing Gaza and south Beirut, inflicting thousands of civilian deaths, and by using white phosphorous in another contravention of international law, still doesn’t equate to the terrorist inhumanity of a militant groups that are woefully outmatched and outgunned randomly firing missiles on us. This argument is a result of prejudice, not logic or fairness. Yes, both sides commit atrocities. Does that mean we are not allowed – obligated even – to criticise whenever a government decides to mete out revenge in the most horrific and least proportionate manner? It does not.
If the logic of those seeking to justify Israel’s actions goes as such: Hamas is terrorist because it attacks civilians – and if Israel attacks civilians…well, it doesn’t require a degree in deductive logic to work out where that leaves you. If you insist on the terrorist moniker that is your prerogative. But at least recognise then, in the interest of balance, that terrorists sometimes have F-16s and billion-dollar war chests, too.
Third – Balance is not the same as fairness. And while it is up to the respective administrations in Gaza and Tel Aviv whether or not they will to perpetuate this bloodshed, this does not mean that this is or ever has been a fair fight. There is much talk of retaliation. There are Israelis and supporters of Israel that say it has a right to defend itself. There are equally Palestinians and Hamas members who say the same about Gaza. Both are true. But let’s not pretend that all strikes on civilian populations can or should be explained away and justified as self-defence.
It’s been said to me that the Israeli government and the IDF is less “killer” than Hamas. Aside from the fact that the figures simply don’t back that up (during Cast Lead, Israeli killed 926 civilians, significantly more than all Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, ever), there is little point in such moral relativism when such a conflict is going on. If we were to compare figures, rest assured Israel would not come out as the least “deadly” party.
Fourth – It is racist to gloat over an attack by one people on another people as long as the target is hit indiscriminately. Not everyone in Gaza is a Hamas member or even a Hamas partisan. That hasn’t stopped them being killed by Israel. On the other side of the coin, not all Israelis support Netanyahu or his military, or advocate attacks on Gaza. But gloating and perpetuating backward and bigoted stereotypes – even if in jest – is a manifestation of an indiscriminate superiority over people belonging to a country or state that is not yours. Where I come from, we call that racist.
I am aware that Hamas isn’t a race. But the paroxysm of sadistic delight that was expressed through this hashtag took place (still is) when civilians are dying. The same lazy and backward parodies of Palestinians expressed through the #HamasBumperStickers meme demonstrates the exact same lack of differentiation displayed when jets of a sovereign state bomb civilian areas, no matter the political flavor of the administration that controls such an area. It was interesting to see how much the “racism” allegation was ferociously denied; it appears being accused of advocating child murder sits far more easily.
There has regrettably been a response to the #HamasBumperStickers theme, #IDFBumperStickers, which has predictably ranged from the criticism of the IDF’s military policies to the questioning of Israel’s existence, which again displays the same lack of differentiation between the weaponized activities of an administration and the multi-faceted and nuanced activities and views of the people it governs. I find this equally unfunny, even if it was a direct response to a racist and bigoted initiative in the first place.
Both sides are in the wrong and we reserve the right to call them both out. The people who have died since Wednesday in Gaza and Israel deserve more respect than reducing them to a hashtag.
“Shiite happens” might sound like a hilarious play on words until you actually take the time to read something – anything – about Hamas, or Palestine, and the ideologies of the government and many of the population who align themselves with the mantra of muqawama – or resistance – to Israeli aggression and illegal occupation espoused by Hezbollah, a Shiite political organisation in Lebanon.
“Thank you for your support-we shall behead you last” I don’t know where to begin with this one. For people enjoying this hashtag, it doesn’t matter. For them, Hamas = Al-Qaeda = any Muslim ideologue. This is designed to demonstrate the savageness of violent jihad – the whiff of collectivisation here stinks. It is: “I don’t care what kind of group you are, if you’re Muslim political group, you’re a medieval savage.”
“Goats make better lovers” Again, a clear reference to Muslims in general here, not Hamas or even just Palestinians. This is a variation on the “Muslims are all camel fuckers riff” that racists like to use to suggest that western violence – including UK-accompanied invasion of Iraq and US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan – is legitimate against Muslim communities because they are poorly evolved and all indulge in bestiality.
“who are we kidding.. they cant afford bumper stickers much less cars!!” There really should be a question mark in there somewhere, but I guess if you’ve bile to spew you don’t need petty things likes facts and grammar getting in your way. This is a suggestion that Hamas members are all imporverished and parochial – an extension of the fundamentally racist misconception that all Palestinians are broke-ass ignorant peasants. That’s not true, in spite of Israel’s very best efforts to try and keep them that way.
“The only State I have is my state of mind” (can’t find a link to this, I guess the tweet was deleted) This is a reference to the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to get Palestine observer status at the United Nations. That’s the PA, not Hamas. FYI, they don’t exactly get along. What you mean here is that “I can’t waste my time actually reading about the Palestinian realpolitick, but Hamas is Palestinian and therefore all Palestinians are stateless hobos.” To gloat about which, you know, is racist.
“Bringing back the dark ages, one weak mind at a time.” Had to check this, but judging by the user’s other hashtag foibles, it was meant in a derogatory manner. Ironic in that he doesn’t know how true it is and how he himself is guilty in turning the Israeli-Arab debate back to the Dark Ages. I would point out that during the dark ages, it was Caucasian Europeans who were hacking each other to death in forests and burning people at the stake when the Arabs were doing cool and enlightened things like medicine and geometry, but I don’t want to send him cross-eyed.
“Swine is Divine” (This is far from a one off tweet; many users felt this was amusing enough to post). This is meant ironically. Muslim orthodoxy teaches that pork is forbidden for human consumption. That’s Muslim, mind you, not Hamas. I don’t think a Hamas official has ever bothered mentioning that which is not taken as remotely problematic to the Umma. Also, Muslims do not eat pork not because it was considered at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that pigs were unclean. They are not “divine” – not considered transcendent or holy such as cows are by Hindus, Jains and Zoroastrians. But we are splitting hairs here – they’re all brown people right? For emphasis, the meaning here: “Hamas = Muslims. Let’s gloat that they are getting killed.”
“honk if you love Halal” Another variation on the above theme.
“My other “car” is a camel” To demonstrate this Islamophobic fixation with supposed Muslim bestiality is far, very far, from a one off.
“same shrapnel, different day” The clearest example yet of a direct gloat over the fact that an 11 month-old boy (mentioned above) was killed by shrapnel from an Israeli shell. Again, I am not sure what this terrible story and personal tragedy has to do with Hamas. This is nasty, vile stuff.
“Shrapnel: It isn’t just for breakfast anymore.” This tweet has the unenviable mixture of making fun of the poor dead child AND the fact that Palestinians are generally poor – through no fault of their own, as if that needs pointing out – a multiple whammy of racism, bullying, elitism and hatred.