As the humanitarian pause took effect in Gaza, footage of the massive destruction in the northern part of the enclave has started to trickle in.
Seeing these images of devastation, one cannot but think of Thomas Friedman’s reference to what he calls the “Hama rules” in an article he published with The New York Times on October 14.
A neologism he coined many years ago, it refers to then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad’s violent razing of the city of Hama in 1982 that killed more than 20,000 Syrians. Friedman argues that brute force commands legitimacy in the Middle East. This idea is deeply problematic, but the scale of destruction in Gaza suggests that the Israeli government and the military have embraced it.
Indeed, Israel’s war on Gaza bears striking similarities to events in Syria. But we need not go as far back as the 1980s to find those parallels.
In 2011, when Hafez’s son, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, faced a nationwide uprising against his rule, he unleashed a violent campaign against the protesters that soon turned into a civil war.
The tactics of collective punishment he used, aided and abetted by the systematic dehumanisation of the opposition by some parts of Syrian society, are similar to what we are seeing in Gaza today.
In the earliest stages of the conflict, Israel justified a complete siege on Gaza, cutting off the supply of food, water, electricity and fuel, through systematic dehumanisation of its residents. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called the Palestinians “human animals”, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of a “struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness”. Such language used by Israeli officials appeared to make the use of starvation as a weapon of war acceptable. [Continue reading…]