Monday, February 2, 2009

Reframing the Israeli- Arab conflict

When I read the news of the events in our region, I note that it is very easy to get carried away in the existential meaning of every occurrence. Every battle, attack, or diplomatic episode is seen as fateful, a victory or a loss, and in some way tipping the balance in favor of a resolution in some direction. At a psychological level, we all experience a gap between reality and what we wish would be. So we look for signs of that gap narrowing or widening, which in turn affects our anxieties. Yet we know that this conflict has been going on for almost 100 years, and it may go on for 100 more. Although this may be a painful reality, it is reality nonetheless. So not every blip on the screen has that much meaning in the scheme of things.

It is interesting to think about how insignificant this conflict would seem to the rest of the world, had it not been involving Jew and Arab. Arab- because he has oil. Without oil, the west wouldn't give a shit about what goes on here, and the Arabs would have zero influence. The Jew- because he is a Jew. The story of the Jewish people, from the Bible through the holocaust and creation of Israel, fascinates the Christian gentile world. The Bible is their narrative, too. They are intertwined with it, for good and bad. Note that for the Far East, Israel carries much less interest. The Jews are not part of their story, so they don't really care one way or another.

So every little event here is seen in cataclysmic terms.

But really, the earth couldn't care less. And evidently neither does god, who is claimed by both sides as their guide and inspiration.

4 comments:

Shalmo said...

Top 5 Lies about Israel's Assault on Gaza:

Lie #1: Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated pieces of property in the world. The presence of militants within a civilian population does not, under international law, deprive that population of their protected status, and hence any assault upon that population under the guise of targeting militants is, in fact, a war crime.

Moreover, the people Israel claims are legitimate targets are members of Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been responsible for firing rockets into Israel. These rockets are extremely inaccurate and thus, even if Hamas intended to hit military targets within Israel, are indiscriminate by nature. When rockets from Gaza kill Israeli civilians, it is a war crime.

Hamas has a military wing. However, it is not entirely a military organization, but a political one. Members of Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Dozens of these elected leaders have been kidnapped and held in Israeli prisons without charge. Others have been targeted for assassination, such as Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas official. To kill Rayan, Israel targeted a residential apartment building. The strike not only killed Rayan but two of his wives and four of his children, along with six others. There is no justification for such an attack under international law. This was a war crime.

Other of Israel’s bombardment with protected status under international law have included a mosque, a prison, police stations, and a university, in addition to residential buildings.

Moreover, Israel has long held Gaza under siege, allowing only the most minimal amounts of humanitarian supplies to enter. Israel is bombing and killing Palestinian civilians. Countless more have been wounded, and cannot receive medical attention. Hospitals running on generators have little or no fuel. Doctors have no proper equipment or medical supplies to treat the injured. These people, too, are the victims of Israeli policies targeted not at Hamas or legitimate military targets, but directly designed to punish the civilian population.

Lie #2) Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.

Israel never observed the cease-fire to begin with. From the beginning, it announced a “special security zone” within the Gaza Strip and announced that Palestinians who enter this zone will be fired upon. In other words, Israel announced its intention that Israeli soldiers would shoot at farmers and other individuals attempting to reach their own land in direct violation of not only the cease-fire but international law.

Despite shooting incidents, including ones resulting in Palestinians getting injured, Hamas still held to the cease-fire from the time it went into effect on June 19 until Israel effectively ended the truce on November 4 by launching an airstrike into Gaza that killed five and injured several others.

Israel’s violation of the cease-fire predictably resulted in retaliation from militants in Gaza who fired rockets into Israel in response. The increased barrage of rocket fire at the end of December is being used as justification for the continued Israeli bombardment, but is a direct response to the Israeli attacks.

Israel's actions, including its violation of the cease-fire, predictably resulted in an escalation of rocket attacks against its own population.

Lie #3) Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.

There has been no evidence that Hamas has used human shields. The fact is, as previously noted, Gaza is a small piece of property that is densely populated. Israel engages in indiscriminate warfare such as the assassination of Nizar Rayan, in which members of his family were also murdered. It is victims like his dead children that Israel defines as “human shields” in its propaganda. There is no legitimacy for this interpretation under international law. In circumstances such as these, Hamas is not using human shields, Israel is committing war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable international law.

Lie #4) Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.

The populations of those Arab countries are outraged at Israel’s actions and at their own governments for not condemning Israel’s assault and acting to end the violence. Simply stated, the Arab governments do not represent their respective Arab populations. The populations of the Arab nations have staged mass protests in opposition to not only Israel's actions but also the inaction of their own governments and what they view as either complacency or complicity in Israel's crimes.

Moreover, the refusal of Arab nations to take action to come to the aid of the Palestinians is not because they agree with Israel’s actions, but because they are submissive to the will of the US, which fully supports Israel. Egypt, for instance, which refused to open the border to allow Palestinians wounded in the attacks to get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, is heavily dependent upon US aid, and is being widely criticized within the population of the Arab countries for what is viewed as an absolute betrayal of the Gaza Palestinians.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been regarded as a traitor to his own people for blaming Hamas for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Palestinians are also well aware of Abbas' past perceived betrayals in conniving with Israel and the US to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government, culminating in a counter-coup by Hamas in which it expelled Fatah (the military wing of Abbas' Palestine Authority) from the Gaza Strip. While his apparent goal was to weaken Hamas and strengthen his own position, the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East are so outraged at Abbas that it is unlikely he will be able to govern effectively.

Lie #5) Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.

Israel claims it sent radio and telephone text messages to residents of Gaza warning them to flee from the coming bombardment. But the people of Gaza have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped within the Gaza Strip. It is by Israeli design that they cannot escape across the border. It is by Israeli design that they have no food, water, or fuel by which to survive. It is by Israeli design that hospitals in Gaza have no electricity and few medical supplies with which to treat the injured and save lives. And Israel has bombed vast areas of Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and other sites with protected status under international law. No place is safe within the Gaza Strip.

http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=14595

Shalmo said...

Gideon Levy / Everyone agrees: War in Gaza was a failure

03.12.2009 | Haaretz

By Gideon Levy

Suddenly we're all in consensus: The recent war in Gaza was a failure. The bon ton now is to list its flaws. Flip-floppers say its "achievements" were squandered; leftists say the war "should never have started" and rightists will say the war "should have lasted longer." But on this they all agree: It was a blunder.

Because we consider the war to have been almost cost-free, with just 13 Israeli dead, it will be the first in 36 years without a Commission of Inquiry formed in its wake.

Of course, the war's blunder was just as serious as its predecessors, but because we did more killing than being killed, because we caused more damage than we sustained, there's nothing deemed worthy of investigation.

It was all in vain: no progress made, no goal achieved, nothing. Deterrence wasn't reestablished, arms smuggling into Gaza was not stopped, Hamas was not weakened and abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was not freed. On these facts we all agree.

Moreover, we paid a huge price: Hamas is stronger, the hurt Palestinian people are even more hateful toward us, and Israel is viewed as a pariah in world public opinion, with rioting on a basketball court in Ankara where an Israeli team played and the banning of spectators from Israel's Davis Cup tennis encounter with Sweden in Malmo, as the last of the rogue states.

Nobody has to answer for all this, neither the politicians who launched this crazy war nor the army commanders who were their contractors. No one will be impeached, never mind tried in court. Israel's aggressive and violent war machine won't even suffer a tiny dent.

And what of the cheerleaders who sat on the sidelines of this hellish nightmare? Perhaps we should at least hold them accountable? They sat in their television studios and at their newspaper desks. Oh, how the commentators were excited and stirred excitement. They goaded and urged, pushed and applied pressure, begging for more and more war. For months they had been clamoring for their "wide-scale operation," their hearts' desire. When their wish came true they cheered in support and whistled in excitement.

Do not take their actions lightly. They could have had an immense influence over the feeble politicians and graying officers. "Strike out at them," their baritone voices echoed from one part of the country to the other. They asserted it was a just and successful war without peer. They covered the brilliant military maneuvers with gusto, iniquitously hid the horrors, presented an unrestrained offensive against a non-existent enemy as a two-sided war, described troops' unchallenged advances as real combat and a military maneuver carried out on the back of a helpless population as a success.

They appeared at their studios with their mouths still covered with foam left over from their previous successful horror show, the Second Lebanon War. The retired generals and Tarzan commentators, whose coverage of the war in Lebanon was an abominable failure, recycled the same cliches and propaganda dictates. No one considered replacing them after their previous failure. They learned nothing and forgot nothing, and the vast majority of us nodded thoughtlessly at their words, as though they came from above.

The deja vu is striking: Again, just like after the Second Lebanon War, they suddenly became the war's biggest critics, only after it already ended - a matter of timing.

Showing no remorse and much vanity, they now shamelessly admit that the war whose praises they sang has failed. Why did it fail? Because we didn't kill enough people, they explain. If we would have given it a little push and killed 200 more children or massacred 500 more women, then we would have achieved victory.

None of them are asked what would have happened had the war continued. Would Shalit have been freed? Would Hamas have waved the white flag? Would the Palestinian people have joined the Zionist movement?

Now, get ready for the next treat. They've already begun to clamor for a new war in Gaza or Lebanon, whichever comes first. When they get what they ask for they will return to their studios. In the beginning they will offer their support for the war, and then come out against it.

No one will hold them accountable for their vile acts, and there will be nothing new under the sun.

DrJ said...

Ever here of the 3 D's?
Deligitimization, Demonization, and Double Standards
These are the criteria for distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel's policies from anti-Semitism.

I would say that your diatribe meets these conditions.

You would deny the Jews the right to have their own state, therefore you deny them the right to defend it.

Shalmo said...

You didn't even respond to the articles and what material they present.

Now about what you said about Jews owning their own state.....History is not on the side of the Jewish people when it comes to who owns that territory (don't bother citing the Torah which you don't even believe)

Many Jews are descendants from later converts (ever wonder about all those blond haired Jews...). Jews had largely already left prior to any Muslims coming in there, and no, it wasn't because the Romans kicked them all out. That's a distortion of history, Jews had been leaving for other lands for some time, such as to Egypt (Alexandria) and other areas, not out of persecutions, but for the same reason so many people in the "third world" leave their homelands today, economic opportunities. Population estimates indicate that prior to the Roman sack, the majority of Jews were already living outside of Palestine. Even after the Roman sack of Jerusalem, there was still a Jewish presence in Palestine after that. How can the descendants (thousands of years later) of people who voluntarily left, or whose ancestors were never there in the first place, lay any claim to the land today?

And I am fully aware you will next accuse me of historical revisionism, which is why I am going to give you my citation for the above data; a source even you cannot deny

"Writing in 1971, Salo W. Baron estimated the Jewish population within the borders of the Roman empire at just under 7 million, with slightly more than a million others living outside its borders, mostly to the east; the Jewish population of Palestine he placed at not higher than 2.5 million (Encyclopaedia Judaica [New York: Macmillan, 1972], vol. 13, p. 871). Paul Johnson writes “Though it is impossible to present accurate figures, it is clear that by the time of Christ the diaspora Jews greatly outnumbered the settled Jews of Palestine: perhaps by as many as 4.5 million to 1” (A History of Christianity [New York: Athenaeum, 1976], p. 12). Subsequent estimates generally fall between these extremes. Thus, Wayne Meeks in The First Urban Christians (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983) estimates 1 million Jews in Palestine, 5 million to 6 million in the diaspora."

Encyclopaedia Judaica and Yale University Press


I await your response DrJ. Try to actually read this time.