Posts Tagged ‘Israel/Palestine’


“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.


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.


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.


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]


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 ?


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.


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.


Israel, Palestine and Gaza: Part IV

January 16, 2009

All the usual caveats apply, needless to say.  Comments are welcome, if non-abusive.

IV The global coalition against Israel

The current war in Gaza has witnessed a huge surge in anti-Israeli sentiment world wide. Animus toward Israel has been steadily growing for many years, and even prior to the launch of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ had achieved a level of cultural embedment that in many respects is both baffling and disconcerting. It has been particularly alarming to see how, over the past few years, the decades-long aversion to anti-Semitism has broken down over much of the western world, and classic Jew-hatred has unmistakeably re-surfaced as part of the anti-Israel discourse.

I say baffling and disconcerting because, on any objective measure, Israel hardly rates at all on the index of pure evil. During the period that Israel has been in existence, the world has witnessed nations conducting themselves in ways that completely eclipse the worst that can be said of Israel: the Soviet Union, the PRC and Cambodia, to name three.

In today’s world, atrocities by the governments of Burma, Uganda, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Congo, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Syria should totally overshadow the crimes alleged against Israel. Some of these the world has largely ignored; some it has deplored – often quite gently. But none of them have attracted the avalanche of fury that has been directed, with steadily increasing intensity, against the lonely Jewish state lodged precariously on the eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea.

Some context

Israel has done much that can be disagreed with or even vehemently opposed. Its carrying of the war against PLO terrorists to the streets of Europe was probably unwise, and it made bad mistakes, such as when its intelligence services executed the wrong man in Oslo in 1973 (they mis-identified a Moroccan waiter as Ali Hassan Sulameh, mastermind of the Munich Olympics massacre).

Targeted assassinations are a repugnant instrument for a democracy to employ even against its deadliest enemies, although I can see the rationale and – almost – the need. The establishment of settlements in territories occupied as a result of war was wrong – at least morally, although many sympathisers argue that it was not technically illegal. But Israel has demonstrated that it is prepared to regard the settlements as negotiable: those in the Sinai and Gaza have been dismantled and the territories returned to Egyptian and Palestinian sovereignty. Recently Prime Minister Olmert urged the West Bank settlers to psychologically prepare themselves for the day they must return to Israel proper.

Israel has fought many wars, all of which – perhaps with the exception of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon – were forced upon it by its enemies. Three times Israel has fought off and defeated the combined armies of the neighbouring Arab states, whose war purpose was to annihilate Israel and kill or expel its citizens. No war can be conducted without major mistakes or blemishes, but Israel has committed remarkably few.

Its greatest was the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in December 1982. Although the Phalangist militia were responsible for the atrocities, the IDF commanders should have recognised the potential for such actions and guarded against them – as Israel acknowledged, through the findings of the Kahan commission. Ariel Sharon was found to bear personal responsibility and was forced to resign as Defence Minister. The number of victims at Sabra and Shatila is uncertain, but the best estimates appear to be around 500.

World public opinion has never forgiven Israel for Sabra and Shatila, but it has completely forgotten, if it ever really knew, that President al-Assad of Syria, in February that same year, massacred between 20,000 and 40,000 of his own citizens in the city of Hama in reprisal for an attempted coup. Similarly, at around the same time, the number of political prisoners estimated to have been executed by the Khomeinist regime in Tehran ran into tens of thousands. The world paid no mind. I recall Israeli diplomats bitterly remarking, even then, on the double standards that applied to Israel.

The most common charge against Israel is that it is an occupying power, which it has been since 1967 when it captured the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the Six Day War. It appears little known that Israel offered the territories back in exchange for peace almost before the echoes of gunfire had faded. The Arab answer, delivered at the Arab League’s September 1967 summit in Khartoum, was: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

Many anti-Israel bloggers and commentators commonly assert that these territories are Palestinian by right or by nature, and that in occupying them Israel is somehow preventing the state of Palestine from constituting itself. Yet during the period that Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip (1948-1967) there was never any question that a state of Palestine should be created there. Both territories were used as platforms to launch terrorist attacks on Israel, both by fedayeen supplied, armed and trained by Jordan and Egypt, and by military units of both nations. Dozens of attacks were launched in the four months prior to the June 1967 war alone. Given that, and in light of the ‘three noes’ of Khartoum, Israel could hardly be expected to return to the status quo ante.

Serious talk of a ‘two state solution’ only emerged after Israel defeated yet another annihilating invasion by Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1973, and it became clear that the Arab states could not destroy Israel by military force, which they had been determined to do since 1948.

It is a historical fact beyond any serious dispute that the Arabs could have created a state of Palestine in 1937, when the Peel Royal Commission recommended it; in 1947, when the UN voted for it; at any time between 1948 and 1967, when the Arabs occupied Gaza and the West Bank; at any time, provided that the terms did not pose an existential threat to Israel, between 1967 and 1977, when the Likud won its first electoral victory, and Israeli irredentism got the upper hand; and in 2000, when Barak offered it.

Each time, the Arabs refused.

The other major charge against Israel is that it is responsible for the current plight of the Palestinians who fled (most) or were expelled (a comparative few) from what became Israel in 1948, who along with their descendants are still maintained in refugee camps as persons of no nationality. Very few people are aware that Israel offered to take back 100,000 refugees after the War of Independence, and that the Arab states refused to allow them to do so. They would only return, the Arabs said, in the wake of victorious Arab armies.

Meanwhile, the Arab states did not allow the Palestinians to settle or gain citizenship within their borders. Instead, the UN’s Work and Relief Agency was set up to fund and run the camps, making the Palestinians refugees in perpetuity. In post-WWII world that witnessed the transfer, often forced, of millions of people – Hindus to India, Muslims to Pakistan, ethnic Germans from a re-constituted Poland, Jews from Arab lands to Israel – only the Palestinians were never permitted to settle and establish themselves in lands of refuge. The Arab states and the UN were determined that the Palestinians should remain unsettled, often in squalid conditions, as a constant weapon and reproach against Israel.

Against that backdrop, it is difficult to understand why international support for Israel (other than in the US) seems to have collapsed so comprehensively. The settlements apart, the most that can be said against Israel, it seems to me, is that it has acted on occasion with unnecessary brutality in executing reprisal raids for terrorist incursions or rocket barrages, and that its religious extremists are a pretty bad lot who hold disproportionate power in the Knesset, thanks to Israel’s foundational mistake in opting for proportional representation as its electoral system.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Anti-Israel protest in San Francisco, Jan 10th

January 13, 2009

From zombie.

Truly weird.

Hey, this guy could be me.  But he’s not typical.  So very singularly untypical, in fact, that the police moved him on for his own safety.