Israel's cheer squad (Part 3): Richard Kemp as Israel’s frontman

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When controversial Israeli apologist, Colonel Richard Kemp, was asked to speak at Sydney University, students protested. Kemp is a godsend for the propaganda and public relations machine for a country increasingly facing global disgust, writes Dr Evan Jones.

Read Part One and Part Two

Richard Kemp as Israel’s frontman

Richard Kemp is a godsend (Old Testament) for the propaganda and public relations machine of a country increasingly facing global disgust and recriminations for its actions. Kemp believes (June 2011) that these critics and doubters are the perpetrators and victims of “the conspiracy to delegitimize Israel”. Israel is doing a very good job all by itself, with no need of conspirators.

Kemp would know that the most committed and informed “conspirators” are of Jewish ethnicity (including Israelis, most courageously, Haaretz journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy) — individuals and groups who despair that their ethnicity is appropriated and abused to whitewash criminality. 

Representative of this despair is a comment on a recent hysterical article in Haaretz (‘Israel has abandoned young U.S. Jews in fight against BDS’, 14 May 2015) which claims that American campus BDS supporters constitute a dangerous threat to Jewish students (and of course to Israel):

‘Israel has not only abandoned and betrayed young people; it has abandoned older Jews like myself. In fact, it has betrayed all Jews with a conscience. Since when do Jews support running people out of their homes and off their land in order to take possession of their property. When did Jews start approving of confining people to virtual prisons in which they have no rights or voice? That''s what Nazi''s did, and Jews with moral principles and a conscience would never support this. And they wouldn''t allow this to be done in their name. Israel has shamed all Jews.’

The moral corruption involved in Israel’s attempt to appropriate Jewish identity is encapsulated in this single paragraph. But, by definition, these traitors to the tribe are condemned as “self-loathing”, etc.

Kemp’s personal involvement in attempting to “delegitimize” Richard Goldstone as head of the UN Operation Cast Lead investigation is beneath contempt. The experienced, principled and courageous Goldstone was subject to a show trial by the Israel fan club. Goldstone succumbed, but the condemnatory report of his team remains intact.

One notes in passing that Kemp’s attack on Goldstone also constitutes an attack on the competence and integrity of the other three irreproachable members of the UN investigative committee — Hila Jilani (Pakistani), Christine Chinkin (British) and Desmond Travers (Irish, and an army veteran whose subsequent service has been in genuine peace-keeping missions).

Kemp continues (June 2011):

‘The most powerful weapons in this conspiracy are legal, diplomatic and media. Fundamentally, we are talking about a war of words, words that are given unprecedented potency by the internet, by the globalization of the 21st century. If this is a war of words, we must also use words to counter attack.’

Quite. Which is why Kemp is in Australia. Kemp is involved in not merely a war of words but a war on words.

‘The conspiracy seeks to undermine the right of Israel to exist as an entity. And it is this that we must stand up against. As we would stand up vigorously against any movement that seriously sought to undermine the existence of any legitimate, democratic state.’

The issue with the critics is what kind of “entity”. In the first instance, they are preoccupied with the self-assumed right of Israel to flout international law. The critics would no doubt be happy to ‘stand up vigorously against any movement that seriously sought to undermine the existence of any legitimate, democratic state’, but Israel is neither democratic nor legitimate.

Israel is an ethnocracy, an apartheid state — period. Uri Davis’ Apartheid Israel provides insight into the subtle and secretive means by which apartheid has been structured into the Israeli state and its institutions. How can its ruling elites and its spokespersons and supporters celebrate and further this essential character (to its supporters) and simultaneously deny it (to its detractors)?

As for Israel’s legitimacy, the (Jewish) philosopher Michael Neumann has well laid out, in his The Case Against Israel, the distinction between Israel’s de facto right to exist, essentially because it exists (it is the country of those born Israeli), and any legitimacy — which is absent. It doesn’t help that Israeli citizens (Jews and non-Jews alike) are denied the powerful culturally unifying mechanism of Israeli “nationality” — a vehicle for the state to maintain the structural privileges of Israeli (and non-Israeli) Jews.

Kemp’s professional life has been as a functionary for British imperial adventurism abroad. This era gloriously blossomed in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 (a short-term victory) and the disastrous invasion of Egypt in 1956. In the context of British loss of Empire and decline, ongoing sorties have shown a mark of desperation, increasingly tied to U.S. imperatives. British overseas interventions then and since have been steeped in illegitimacy (vide Mark Curtis’ Web of Deceit), yet Kemp elects to lecture us on legitimacy.

Any potential analytical and moral qualms are readily resolved by the construction of a simple and purist dichotomy. We are the good guys (driven by civilising and humanitarian motives, etc.) and our designated enemies are the bad guys. Terrorists exist only amongst “the other”. So here is Mr Kemp, engaged as part of an army of occupation (in conjunction with the installation of a succession of local quislings) of a round of countries, of which myriad inhabitants, under occupation and unthankful, are naturally designated as the bad guys.

This in spite of the fact that some of these recently enumerated bad guys were previously good guys, product of “our” side’s own Machiavellian nurturing for use in combat against a previously designated set of bad guys — vide Mark Curtis’ Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.

Kemp and Gaza

For Kemp, the problem for Israel, in particular, is essentially Hamas and lesser jihadis. Terrorists all. Kemp ignores that Hamas is a product of the Occupation (initially fostered by Israel itself) — it is born and remains an organisation of resistance to Occupation.

More, the prospect of Hamas providing leadership for Palestinian aspirations through “legitimate” political channels has been consistently denied and repressed by Israel. Note that the trigger for Israel’s yet another onslaught on Gaza in mid-2014 was the agreement between Fatah and Hamas in late April to enhance the force and legitimacy of the ongoing “negotiations” with Israel.

How could Kemp ignore the obvious? Because Kemp misses the Occupation itself. Processes of ongoing ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Negev are ruled out of existence by construction. Hamas is of marginal significance here (its political leaders in Israeli prisons as political prisoners) so it can hardly be used as the fall guy.

When journalist and author Robert Fisk began writing about the Armenian genocide in 1993 he was met with a tidal wave of personal condemnation and harassment of his editors. He noted (in The Great War for Civilisation):

‘This flood of mail was performing something very disturbing: it was turning the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide into the victims and the victims into murderers and liars.’

In the context of the issue under consideration, ditto.

And Gaza itself? Kemp again (February 2015):

‘As the Gaza Strip is effectively a separate state, outside of Israeli control, these actions [Hamas resistance to the bombardment and invasion in mid-2014] amounted to an attack by a foreign country against Israeli territory.’

Hello? Outside of Israeli control? See B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, on this matter. And where are all the conventional appurtenances of statehood in Gaza? Buried under the rubble.

Those people out there under the condemnatory designation of “holocaust deniers” are selective of, distortive with the facts. They are the subject of near universal moral opprobrium. Mr Kemp shows himself, with respect to Israel, selective of, distortive with the facts. For one contrived opinion, revulsion; for another, admiration. With a different set of victims. How so?

Being good non-Empiricists, we are aware that “the facts” must be critically interrogated and that they are open to a variety of interpretations and validation in a larger story which offers a modicum of coherence. The facts can thus be massaged, but they can’t be massacred beyond recognition.

Mr Kemp’s construction strives for that desired coherence, yet its ambitions for credulity fail the test by a country mile. It is a fairy tale to comfort the true believers and provide fodder for the mainstream media. The facts and Kemp’s narrative are strictly incompatible. Gaza, the largest concentration camp in the world, lies utterly devastated (Israel and Egypt, with acquiescence of the PA President Abbas, still denying access of essential reconstruction materials) while Mr Kemp lavishes unstinting praise on the “most moral army in the world”.

Exhibit A – the children murdered on the Gaza beach, 16 July 2014. Not a Hamas terrorist in sight, grabbing children willy nilly for use as “human shields”. The IDF not merely the most moral, but also evidently very bad shots. And those Gaza fishermen, desperate to feed their families? Fish in a barrel. Like the whole of Gaza itself. The Occupied Territories not much better. This is sadism on a grand scale.

Channel 4 News EXPOSES Israel murdering Palestinian children LIVE ON AIR 

Alas, it appears that it would have been better for all of us, Palestinians foremost, if Mr Kemp had spent less time with military strategist comrades and more time in the library.

Blasting holes in Kemp’s narrative

It is serendipitous that a report from Breaking the Silence, a dissident Israeli army veterans’ organisation, has exposed the brutal strategy behind the Gaza attack: ‘Anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDF had occupied, was not a civilian.’ The IDF defines who is a combatant (i.e. the dead) and who is a civilian. As the Haaretz account is behind a wall, a representative segment from the sample of soldier interviews is reproduced:

An infantry soldier recalled an incident in which a force identified two suspicious figures walking in an orchard, only a few hundred meters away. The lookouts couldn’t immediately identify them, so a drone was sent up to take a look. It was two women walking through the orchard, talking on cell phones. “The aircraft took aim at these women and killed them,” he said. A tank company commander who arrived afterward to check the area found the bodies of the two women, who were both over 30 and unarmed.

According to the soldier, the fact that the women were carrying only cell phones was reported to the battalion commander. Despite this, in the reports written afterward, the women were classified as “terrorists” – lookouts who were operating in the area. “[The tank commander] left and we moved on. They were counted as terrorists. They were shot, so it’s clear they were terrorists,” he said.

There were several other reports of shooting at civilians. A woman who was clearly unstable and no threat was reportedly ordered by the battalion commander to walk westward, toward an area where tanks were stationed. When the woman approached the tank force, she was machine-gunned to death. (This is apparently one of the incidents being investigated by the Military Police.)

This mentality is not new. With Israel having displaced Palestinian populations during the Nakba, it faced periodical attacks from Palestinian resisters. The vengeful response (not unlike that of a certain mid-20th Century European military power, now universally despised) has consistently diverged from Mr Kemp’s farcical criteria of “necessity, proportionality and discrimination”.

Colonel Richard Kemp explains the Israel "disproportionate response" in Gaza


In 1978, the then Israeli Chief of Staff Modechai Gur outlined the rule after the invasion of Lebanon, as summarised by military analyst Ze’ev Schiff (reproduced in Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle):

‘In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it … the importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously … the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets … [but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck.’

The principle remains rock solid. Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon (current ardent exponent of the Yinon plan), reiterated the longstanding strategy at a Shurat HaDin conference (as noted above), 5 May:

‘Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon on Tuesday said Israel would attack entire civilian neighborhoods during any future assault on Gaza or Lebanon. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, Yaalon threatened that “we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.” The Israeli official also appeared to threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, although he said “we are not there yet.”’

Mr Kemp has persistently claimed that the IDF exercised enormous restraint in its “Operation Protective Edge” operation and that the civilian to combatant death ratio was totally acceptable because below conventional civilian/combatant death ratios.

It appears unlikely that the consistent evidence contrary to Mr Kemp’s stance will have any effect on that stance, or on Mr Kemp’s supporters, including that from the true believers in academia. 

This is Part 3 of a 4-Part essay on the attempt to denounce "free speech" about Israel''s gross violations of human rights as "anti-semitism".

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