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A view of Gaza

February 9, 2009

From Michael J Totten.

As always, indispensable.

“It’s not just a question of targeting the schools,” Colonel Eisen said. “It’s also about the hour. When kids are out and about all over the city, when parents are taking them to school. If we educate the population on how to live within this kind of environment, we can radically reduce the number of casualties. For the people of Sderot it’s the most obvious. They’re not the ones who stand outside and look at the rockets. They hear the alert, and they run into the shelter. They have ten to fifteen seconds, and they know that. They’ve kept themselves alive here. Sderot doesn’t really have casualties now.”

“The explosion on impact is lethal,” she continued, “and the explosion goes up, so all the instructions in Israel are for you to lay down flat and put your hands over your head. But if it lands right next to you, it doesn’t leave you a lot of room. A woman protected her son in Beersheva a few days ago. They got out of the car, they lay down, she was laying over him, and he got a fragment in his head. He’s been in critical condition ever since.”

She showed us a house across the street from a school. A rocket exploded in the front yard the day before. The family was watching TV in the living room and ran for shelter as soon as they heard the “incoming” alarm. They would have been killed if they hadn’t because shrapnel from the explosion tore apart their living space. Their outdoor furniture at ground level caught on fire and the exterior walls were pocked with shrapnel holes that looked almost like bullet holes. The windows were, of course, broken. The house looked as though somebody had parked in front and assaulted their home with automatic weapons fire and a grenade launcher.

Life can and does go on under the circumstances, but would it be possible for an entire country to endure these kinds of attacks? Perhaps that’s the wrong question. What country in the world would tolerate these kinds of attacks? Almost certainly none. They are only tolerable if a small percentage of a country’s population is exposed, and they’re only barely just tolerable for a while.

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“One-Eyed in Gaza”

February 5, 2009

Norm Geras posts an excellent piece. I agree with nearly everything he says here, except that, on the evidence so far available, I do not accept that Israel is guilty of war crimes.

Norm writes:

This is a post about war crimes in Gaza and the widespread public outrage over them directed at Israel. Since it is a long post, I begin by providing a brief map of what is to follow.

In Part 1 I present a sample of the angry public reaction to Israel’s alleged war crimes in Gaza, as gathered mostly from the British liberal press. In Part 2 I consider the source of this anger, pointing to what may be thought to be the most likely one – the great and visible suffering caused by Israel’s recent military action. I argue that the hypothesis that this was the cause of outrage against Israel is not decisively rebutted by a standard argumentative move made by Israel’s defenders: namely, that if Israel was guilty of war crimes, then so too was Hamas, for sending rockets against Sderot and other civilian centres. In Part 3 I go on to show that the claim that anger at Israel was due, or mainly due, to the suffering caused by its military action is open to question nonetheless. If we are examining this issue under the rubric of responsibility for war crimes, then public outrage about them is skewed when directed, as it widely has been, exclusively at Israel. In Part 4 I draw three conclusions from what has gone before. The first of these concerns the implication of the attitudes explored here for the future progress of international law. The second bears on the present condition of the Western liberal-left. And the third is about the alarming worldwide growth of anti-Semitism.

He concludes:

In the outpouring of hatred towards Israel today, it scarcely matters what part of it is impelled by a pre-existing hostility towards Jews as such and what part by a groundless feeling that the Jewish state is especially vicious among the nations of the world and to be obsessed about accordingly. Both are forms of anti-Semitism. The old poison is once again among us.

Read the whole thing.

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Khaled Abu Toameh on Gaza, Israel, the Middle East, etc…

February 2, 2009

Via Michael J Totten.

The veteran Palestinian journalist, long an indispensable source on the Israel/Palestine conflict through his reporting for the Jerusalem Post, shares his thoughts in a long address followed by a searching Q&A session.

Read it, read it, read it! Well, read it, anyway. I’ll try to cherry-pick some bits, but really you have to read the whole thing.

A taste:

And where are we standing today? I told you before that I’m one of those people who support a two-state solution. I think it’s a wonderful solution. But in the end we’re getting a different kind of two-state solution. We have two separate entities. One in Gaza, and one in the West Bank.

The one in Gaza is an Islamic state run by Hamas and supported by Ahmadinejad, Syria, Hezbollah, and some people say Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a very dangerous situation, and as a moderate Muslim that’s the last place I want to live on this earth.

What we have in the West Bank is the secular, corrupt, powerless regime of the PLO. Abu Mazen, Abu Shmazen, all these Abus. The Arafat cronies who failed their people over the past fifteen years. Who lost the election in January 2006 because of the corruption. Who were kicked out of Gaza because they failed. Who have lost control over half the Palestinians who live in this part of the world. And they are sitting in Ramallah. These people are in power only thanks to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. If the Israeli army were to leave the West Bank tomorrow morning these PLO people would collapse in five minutes and Hamas would take over.

The question we should ask ourselves in the wake of this scenario is whether or not there is really a partner on the Palestinian side for any deal, let alone a peace agreement. Any kind of deal. Is there really a partner on the Palestinian side? And the answer is simple. No.

Hamas is not a partner for any peace agreement because Hamas is not going to change. All these people who believe that Hamas will one day change its ideology, that pragmatic leaders will emerge in Hamas, these people are living under illusions. Hamas is not going to change. To their credit we must say that their message has been very clear. It’s the same message in Arabic and in English. They’re being very honest about it. They’re saying “Folks, we will never recognize Israel. We will never change. We will not abandon the path of the resistance.” They’re very clear about it.

After they won the election, by the way, the international community went to Hamas and said “Listen. If you want us to deal with you, accept Israel and everything will be okay.” And Hamas was very honest. They said “No. We are not going to renounce terrorism. We are not going to recognize previous agreements between Palestinians and Israel. And we are not going to recognize Israel’s right to exist.” They were very clear about it. And they say the same thing today.

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Shimon says: “The choice of Israel is peace”

February 2, 2009

Shimon Peres, Israel’s current president, has been at the heart of everything major that has happened in the Middle East for fifty years. He probably knows the conflict better than anyone else still alive.

Here the old man of Israeli politics speaks with great force at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in response to Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan (who walked out following Peres’ speech).

A lot of fire, a lot of passion, a bit of anger. I agreed with every word.

And we never gave up, all my life as you said, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate it, I am fighting for peace, what we did is not…the thing that we wanted to do… It’s not our choice, our choice is peace. What we did is because the lack of a choice, we were threatened with a choice. Would you vote for such a convention, to kill the Jews? OK, those are words, but to kill the Jews and send rockets to kill them. What you want us to do?

I created the Peres Center, all the money we have collected went to the cure of children. Palestinian children. They didn’t have insurance, they didn’t have hospitals, in five years we have brought to Israel 5500 Palestinian children and their mothers to be cured. By the way, there is no hospital today in Israel that does not have Arab doctors, so the children can communicate with the doctors in the Israeli hospitals. That is our choice, to touch a child. But if you put a child, if you put bombs in the kindergarten, and if you hide yourselves behind innocent families, and before we shell, we, before we try to shell anybody, we try and telephone the people, we say, please leave the place. We don’t want to hurt you. We made during those twenty days, 250,000 telephone calls before we shoot. What could we do, what was our choice? And what would any government do?

Thanks to Elder of Ziyon for the transcript, but you really have to watch it, and hear it. Not the best English, perhaps, but this is real eloquence: unforced, from the heart.

Skip forward to the 39th minute.

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Favourite classical recordings

January 30, 2009

At Commentary, Terry Teachout lists his top 25. I don’t know any of them!

I’m going to do my own list.

(And my top 25 films, TV shows, blogs, conspiracy theories….)

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An Open Letter to a Citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

January 30, 2009

Via Yael (fave Israeli blogger). I found this moving and apposite, and its conclusions absolutely correct.

An Open Letter to A citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)
[Originally published in Hebrew in Maariv]

Hello,

While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

Read the rest of this entry »

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From Gaza: epilogue, or epitaph?

January 30, 2009

Michael J Totten, the world’s best photo-journalist (and deserved winner of the 2008 Best Middle East of Africa Blog – congratulations, Michael), has penned a sobering assessment of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the wake of the recent war in Gaza.

He writes:

A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but that’s not an option. Most Arab governments at least implicitly say they will recognize Israel’s right to exist inside its pre-1967 borders, but far too many Palestinians still won’t recognize Israel’s right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist inside any borders at all.

And:

Far too many Westerners make the mistake of projecting their own views onto Palestinians without really understanding the Palestinian narrative. The “occupation” doesn’t refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The “occupation” refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is “occupied Palestine” according to most. “It makes no sense to a Palestinian to think about a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Martin Kramer from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem said to me a few days ago. “From the Palestinian perspective, Israel will always exist inside Palestine.”

Michael characterises the conflict as unsolvable, intractable. For that reality to change, the Middle East itself must change.

It’s hard to disagree. I can’t see anything material changing unless a genuinely moderate leadership emerges on the Palestinian side.

But why should it? Why risk the bullet and the bomb from the assassins’ camp, which have killed so many Palestinian moderates or potential moderates over the decades? Why forego the limitless assistance available from Iran and Syria, who will only support terror, and the power and cachet that goes with it? Why forego Europe’s billions, for which peace was never a pre-condition? Above all, why pursue an objective that no-one in the region really wants, or has ever wanted from the very beginning – except the Jews of Israel?

Peace won’t even be possible for at least a generation.

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