Book Review

Satyagraha and Slaughter: Finkelstein’s Journey from Gandhi’s Remembrance to Gaza’s Reality

October 7 and Beyond: Norman Finkelstein's question - Why allowed to reach this point?

As I turned the last page of Norman Finkelstein’s GAZA: An Inquest into its Martyrdom, news poured in that Israel had bombed a Gaza food aid site where a crowd of thousands was waiting desperately for food assistance. 112 people were killed and 760 injured. 4 more kids also died of starvation and dehydration in the meantime. This fresh massacre helped breach the death toll mark of Gazans upwards of 30,000, taking the figure to 30,035 precisely. If the Gaza toll was listed on the stock market, the bulls would be raging ahead and the bears would be running for cover. Every single day.

But what has that got to do with the book in question you may ask?

Well, the book came out in 2018. It’s a 408-page tome on carnage after the carnage that Israel has perpetrated on Gazans throughout the last twenty years relentlessly. And every subsequent carnage was amped up to a degree that one would think was just not possible earlier. Finkelstein painstakingly documents how every Israeli operation, be it Operation Cast Lead (what a name to begin with) to the Mavi Marmara (Murder on High Seas) all the way to Operation Protective Edge and beyond, the Zionist talent for coldblooded butchery, subterfuge, Hasbara (the Hebrew word for propaganda), and ‘playing the victim’ taken collectively remains absolutely top-notch over the past 8 decades. You may find some country or the other excels in one or two attributes perhaps, but such astonishing versatility across all 4 disciplines would be well-nigh impossible to match.  

What we have witnessed over the past 5 months, is what they have prepared for since 2014. What the book also details very meticulously is the Israeli provocation at every single stage, right from the time Hamas was elected in a properly fought election that the Americans ruled not fixing. (Hillary Clinton was actually caught on audio regretting that they couldn’t ‘fix’ the election.) It is important to state that Hamas was never, NEVER, given a chance to prove its electoral creds from day 1. That’s because the West blatantly decided to subvert the people’s mandate by imposing an extremely harsh economic blockade which has continued to this day; a blockade which includes the ban on humanitarian goods, medical supplies and even chocolates and cookies at one point. In fact, according to Haaretz, the items banned in 2009 had stuff such as books, candles, crayons, clothing, cups, cutlery, crockery, refrigerators, washing machines, glasses, light bulbs, matches, musical instruments, needles, sheets, blankets, shoes, mattresses and even thread. 

Lest someone faint of heart and weak of mind think Mr. Finkelstein is an apologist for Hamas or violent resistance, perish the thought. The book opens with a quote from Gandhi on remembrance and ends with the idea of Satyagraha by the apostle of peace. But unlike most Israeli apologists and ‘neutral’ bystanders who baulk at the very word ‘Hamas’, the author is also a trained scholar and a historian who applies his mind to the nitty-gritty that the rest of the world conveniently likes to forget or ignore. He obsessively trawls through document after document of every respectable human rights organisation, be it U.N committee reports, Red Cross, Amnesty case studies or the ICJ and knows how to join the dots on legal as well as moral obligations by exposing the impunity with which this lawless entity called the state of Israel has functioned throughout its egregious existence. In the process, he also exposes the rot within the human rights organisations wherein quite a few under severe pressure from Israel wilted and started singing a different tune as the years went by.

If you are shocked about what you see happening in Rafah right now, you only need to search the name of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin whose capture by Hamas provoked this crazed occupier state to go on a mad killing spree that deliberately wanted to exterminate not just the soldier himself (which they did, under the murderous Hannibal Directive which so many have now been slowly made aware of), but large swathes of Rafah itself. After days of bombing in what has gone down in history as the ‘Black Friday’ incident, Israel besides killing Goldin himself destroyed 2600 homes with over 200 civilians. I know what you are thinking though. This is a small change compared to what we are witness to currently, and yet, it’s enough to give us a peek into this so-called ‘war’ where one party is an 800-pound Gorilla and another can at best be described as a wild mongrel hungry for revenge but without the wherewithal to inflict 1% of the damage that Israel has committed throughout its existence. 

norman finkelstein's book GAZA: An Inquest into its Martyrdom israel palestine
Norman Finkelstein

Where is the comparison? 

Let’s remind ourselves that it wasn’t a Palestinian who first said Gaza is the biggest Open Prison. That statement was made 13 years ago by British PM David Cameron. Perhaps he saw something the world has been missing ever since. As for ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’, good old Norman has devoted an entire chapter to this convenient self-attestation that has so far served as a most malignant cover to slaughter Palestinians by their thousands year after year, decade after decade; not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank where the Hamas writ is non-existent. If Hamas does not have the right to exist (and it shouldn’t), Israel lost that right by the same condition many moons ago, ten times over. So long as we keep pussyfooting around processing this basic piece of information, we are nothing but history-fudgers who cannot call the pot black while we go to great lengths to blame the darned kettle. 

Towards the end, the book devotes a fair amount of pages in its appendix to discussing how the civilised world successfully dealt with the challenges of apartheid in South Africa. This makes for fascinating reading because it enhances our understanding of the hypocritical West when it comes to the beleaguered Palestinians in ever more glaring detail. You just have to read the statements of world leaders from country after country now standing with the ‘Israel has a right to defend itself’ balderdash to understand that if the succession of Zionist leaders had been controlled by their US handlers ages ago, the tragedy of October 7 and its aftermath would perhaps never have come to pass.  

 As we sit here watching mutely the indiscriminate annihilation that continues to play out in the theatre called Gaza, we must ask ourselves not why October 7 happened but why it was allowed to come to this point in the first place. Why is it that even during so-called periods of peace Palestinians; men, women and children across Gaza and West Bank have continued to suffer daily humiliation, been jailed without major offences and even sporadically bumped off while a largely uncaring world wakes up only when an Israeli life is lost. Why is it that in news reports Palestinian babies and children just die as if by magic (and not by IDF bombs) while the other side’s casualties are ‘murdered’ by Hamas? Why is it that over so many decades Israel has been wilfully allowed to continuously expand its settlements with the worst sort of human scum being given citizenship overnight, while a resident Palestinian who has lived through generations does not enjoy the most basic right of free movement, or a right to legal recourse, or a right to basic supplies or a right to merely exist without constant humiliation even when he is in dire need of medical help? 

What exactly is antisemitic about accepting these facts?

This is a state which stands naked today in its abject hollowness on all counts. The mindset of a country which can bomb hungry, desperate people while they are waiting for food packets does not even need to be underlined anymore. There is something very repulsive and broken in that part of the world, and it starts with the Zionist state itself. Their crimes against humanity far outnumber anything that the opposite side has ever been capable of. No wonder young Jews around the world who are no longer being affected by Hasbara are horrified by what’s happening in Gaza. Since the Israeli mind is colonized irredeemably by hatred, the urgency of heroes such as Finkelstein and Gideon Levy is even more keenly felt today. They break the silence on what’s happening out there. 

 Finkelstein’s anger and outrage may not be shared by everyone but he shames us into understanding this story much better through his forensic extrication of chronological facts. This book is recommended reading for everyone who keeps crooning the global chartbuster ‘Hamas, Hamas’, without making the most basic effort to be empathetic or realistic about the average Palestinian’s multifarious living hells that were made possible by every Israeli Prime Minister who lived from the days of David Ben-Gurion.

Vistasp Hodiwala

a creative professional with over three decades of experience in building brands and services

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button