Gaza and the Power of Narratives

The current slaughter meted out on innocents in Gaza, fully supported Western Governments, is founded upon a bed of lies. It is said that the truth is the first casualty of war, yet in this war the truth is not hidden –the decapitated bodies, crushed skulls, emaciated children, the callous shelling of hungry souls as they clamour for flour – all of this is known to the world and there remains little doubt that what we are witnessing is truly horrific.

Yet the Israeli counter-narrative looks to subvert this truth; these images they claim, however regrettable, are the result of such a heinous crime that they are necessary for rooting out the evil. The Gazan women and children are no more than collateral damage. I have argued that what the hypocritical West fails to see is that for every soul whose death they manufacture, the very edifice upon which they claim a moral high ground is crumbling.

My guest today, Ahmed Paul Keeler argues in a provocative and beautifully written piece that narratives matter. This is why millions are spent on spinning a story about the state of Israel and the traducing the claims of Palestinians. We take a forensic look at these narratives. His powerful article is available on Jalal's newsletter

Gaza and The Power of Narratives
By Ahmed Paul Keeler

The Slaying of the Innocents

The slaying of the innocents by King Herod is a narrative that has depicted for Christians a crime of supreme horror.

The Magi had told King Herod that a child destined to become King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. King Herod told the Magi when they found the child to return to Jerusalem and inform him so that he could join them in worshipping him. The Magi were led to the presence of the child Jesus, and in a dream were warned not to return to King Herod.

The narrative continues in the Gospel of St Matthew:

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceedingly wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

The slaying of the innocents has been vividly brought to life by European painters, who depicted the horror as little children were torn from their mothers and butchered by the soldiers.


On Monday the 26th of April 1937 the Basque town of Guernica was bombed. Guernica was a Republican stronghold, and General Franco had engaged the German Luftwaffe to undertake the mission. Monday was market day. Most of the men were away fighting. In a two hour raid the centre of the town, including the market square, was destroyed. Hundreds of civilians were killed, others were caught under the rubble dying slowly, many were injured and many were maimed for life.

“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso

The bombing of the town of Guernica ushered in a new form of industrialised killing. The full horror of the event was brilliantly captured by the artist Pablo Picasso. The lamentation of the mother holding her dead baby, the severed limbs, and the animal parts scattered about sear our imaginations and horrified the world when the painting was unveiled at the 1937 Paris International Exposition.

This painting followed the tradition of the slaying of the innocents, with one chilling difference; there were no soldiers present, just total chaos, destruction and death that descended from the sky.

World War II

As WWII began and it became clear that Germany would unleash its blitz upon London, the idea that children would be caught up in the bombing was too terrible to contemplate. The docks and factories in East London were seen as the prime targets for the Luftwaffe, and 800,000 children in their vicinity were evacuated to the countryside, so that they were protected from the carnage that would follow.

The war ended with the merciless carpet bombing of German cities and the total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During the Vietnam War, the term collateral damage was introduced to justify the killing of civilians.


One of the last acts in managing an indigenous people who are being replaced by a settler colony is to pen them up in a reservation or concentration camp. Imprisoned within secure boundaries they are left to look after themselves, whilst their gaolers control the exit and entry points and what goes in and out of the reservation.

This has been the state of Gaza since 2007. However, the Palestinians continued to resist peacefully and forcefully the illegal occupation of what remained of their land.

In an attempt to crush the continuing resistance of the Palestinians, the Israelis instituted a programme of periodic devastation upon the Gazan population, with bombing raids that killed thousands and injured and maimed many more thousands. These bombing raids were called by the Israelis ‘mowing the grass’. They realized they were not able to extinguish the resistance, but these periodic demonstration of terror from the sky, kept things quiet for a time, whilst the Gazans recovered and rebuilt their infrastructure.

The 7th of October marked, for the Israelis, the beginning of the final stage in dealing with the problem of the Gazans. As I write, it is day 155 of the genocide that has been unleashed upon Gaza. I need not attempt to describe what has taken place. We have all been the spectators of what has happened. Every atrocity has been meticulously recorded.

The suffering of the children is beyond words. Two questions scream out to be answered:

How could a people do this upon another people,

And how could the Western powers allow this to happen?

The Israeli Narrative

There are several parts that make up the narrative that Israeli children are taught from an early age. They are told about the pioneers who came to a land without people for a people without land, and how they entered a wasteland and made the desert bloom. How the Arabs have always hated the Jews and have since the founding of the State of Israel gone to war against them to drive them into the sea, and how the heroes of the Israeli Defence Force drove back the invaders. That there are no such thing as Palestinians, just wandering Arabs that can be at home in any Arab country. And then there is the religious narrative that relates how Israel is the land promised by God to the Jews, and with their returning to their homeland, they are ushering in the coming of the Messiah.

Finally, there is the Holocaust. The supreme horror of the attempt to extinguish their people is imprinted on their young imaginations, and they are taught that they must be ever vigilant lest it happen again.

Israel has become a fortress with a high wall sealing the Israelis off from a threatening world beyond. The growing child has no contact with Palestinians either within the fortress or in the lands occupied since the 1967 war, until as a young man or woman he or she joins the IDF, and is engaged in policing the Palestinian territories.

On the 7th October Fortress Israel was breached by Hamas. Before this happened the secular and religious Zionists were descending into civil war. The horror of the breach traumatized the nation, and brought them together to combat the enemy. This enemy was evil incarnate, worse than ISIS, worse even than the Nazis. If they were not totally destroyed, having dealt with the Israelis they would threaten the Jews everywhere. They were a murderous cult that existed only to kill Jews.

They were animals. The story of Amalek was invoked, their entire world was evil, men, women, children, their animals and their homes and their farms and orchards, all must be destroyed.

In a frenzy of killing the IDF set about its task, cheered on by the citizens of Israel and supported by the USA, the UK, Germany and other Western governments.

The Palestinian Narrative

The Palestinian Narrative differs little from the other narratives of devastation visited upon the indigenous worlds destroyed by European settler colonies. Few escaped their fate and were either eradicated or live on in reservations, underclasses or have been assimilated. Libya and Algeria are exceptions; the Italians killed a third of the Libyan population in their grandiose scheme to reestablish their Roman Empire, and were thwarted in their endeavour by their defeat in WWII. Algeria was invaded by the French, who for more than a hundred years claimed the country as a French province and settled a million French citizens who took the best land and turned the Algerians into an underclass, forcing them to speak French. But the Algerians rose up against their oppressors and the French were defeated. The war lasted eight years and cost the lives of a million Algerians.

Palestine, before the coming of the Zionists, was a beautiful land with fertile valleys, mountains, deserts, rivers, and a coastline onto the Mediterranean Sea. The Palestinians were farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and craftswomen, merchants, administrators and scholars; Bedouins with their flocks inhabited the deserts; they were Muslims, Christians and Jews, living in peaceful coexistence. The Palestinians were an ancient people, who were joined together through their deep attachment to the land, and their sharing of the Arabic language and culture. With Jerusalem, they took care of the Holy sites of the three religions and were hosts to the pilgrims that came from all over the world.

The European settler colonists had to destroy the worlds they were replacing. There is nothing more terrible than the destruction of a culture, a society, a humanity. A living organism is torn apart, dismembered, traumatized and destroyed. Its social order, economy, structures, heritage and future terminated.

The horrors that indigenous people have suffered at the hands of the Europeans and Americans is unimaginable. The suffering of the Palestinians continues, for, the settler colony of Israel has been supported by the most powerful forces on earth. First the British and then the Americans; and now, Germany is attempting to atone its guilt for the Holocaust with its total support of Israel’s attempt to finally eradicate the Palestinians.

The Western Narrative

The Western narrative has followed the usual trajectory of European settler colonization, with the addition of certain sub-narratives that specifically relate to the Zionist State. The Balfour Declaration was supported by British politicians who were Christian Zionists, believing that the Jews had to return to the Holy Land for the Second coming of Jesus Christ to take place. The Holocaust made a homeland for the Jews a just cause that could not be questioned. However, in essence, the State of Israel remains just another European Settler State.

The European Settler Narrative passes through three stages. The first stage is the conquest of the Indigenous people on the basis that the conqueror is bringing civilization to a savage or backward world. This was clearly enunciated by Churchill in reference to the Palestinians:

I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.

In the second phase, the Settler Colony claims legal ownership and any opposition by the indigenous people is called terrorism. The great warrior Sitting Bull, Chief of the Dakota tribes said to his conquerors, “When you win a battle you call it a victory, when we win you call it a massacre”.

The final stage is that the indigenous people are either evicted from the territory, become an underclass in the society or die. The Palestinians are now experiencing the full force of this final phase.

Palestine was conquered by the British who then nurtured the Zionist state, protecting its development. The Americans then forced, through the newly formed United Nations, its legal status. Western governments can remain with their Settler Colony narrative and believe terrorists are threatening the existence of Israel, however, the rest of the world can see clearly what is actually happening.

Lord Montagu’s Warning

Lord Montagu was the only Jew in the British Cabinet at the time of the Balfour Declaration, when the British Government pledged its support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. He vehemently opposed the Declaration, and believed that it would turn out to be a deeply antisemitic act, and he cited what were the mainstream Orthodox Jewish objections to Zionism.

Below are extracts from his prescient memorandum:

Memorandum of Edwin Montagu on the Anti-Semitism of the Present (British) Government – Submitted to the British Cabinet, August, 1917

“I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic and in result will prove a rallying ground for Anti-Semites in every country in the world.

Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed,

I certainly do not dissent from the view, commonly held, as I have always understood, by the Jews before Zionism was invented, that to bring the Jews back to form a nation in the country from which they were dispersed would require Divine leadership. I have never heard it suggested, even by their most fervent admirers, that either Mr. Balfour or Lord Rothschild would prove to be the Messiah.

I assert that there is not a Jewish nation. The members of my family, for instance, who have been in this country for generations, have no sort or kind of community of view or of desire with any Jewish family in any other country beyond the fact that they profess to a greater or less degree the same religion. It is no more true to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation:

I deny that Palestine is today associated with the Jews or properly to be regarded as a fit place for them to live in. It is quite true that Palestine plays a large part in Jewish history, but so it does in Mohammadan history, and, after the time of the Jews, surely it plays a larger part than any other country in Christian history...

It seems to be inconceivable that Zionism should be officially recognised by the British Government, and that Mr. Balfour should be authorized to say that Palestine was to be reconstituted as the “national home of the Jewish people”. I do not know what this involves, but I assume that it means that

Mahommedans and Christians are to make way for the Jews

When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home... you will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants, taking all the best in the country.”

The catastrophe we are now witnessing was clearly envisaged, more than a hundred years ago, as Zionism set out on its journey under the protection of Great Britain.

Ahmed Paul Keeler Cambridge, March 2024

( Source: The Thinking Muslim by Muhammad Jalal )

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