Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

The long odds against Israel-Palestine peace

August 9, 2014

The Israeli novelist Amos Oz is an example of a sincere Zionist who sincerely wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  He favors lifting the blockade against Gaza and recognition of a truly independent Palestinian Arab state.

But in regard the Israeli army’s attack on Gaza, he posed the following questions:

Amos Oz

Amos Oz

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

via Deutsche Welle

I might say that if my neighbor had been the original occupant of my house, that if I’d kicked him out, and that if I had a record of killing my neighbor’s relatives, regardless of age, he would be exceedingly foolish to expect me to be deterred from anything by a child on his lap.

But this is not a meaningful answer to Oz’s argument, which is that Israel should try to make peace, including lifting the blockade on Gaza, but that so long as Hamas militants attack Israel, Israel has no realistic choice but to respond and retailiate.

Jewish peace advocates say Israel should negotiate a truce, end the blockade and freeze the settlements (or, which is highly unlikely, shut them down).   They are right in saying that so long as Israel bombs and blockades the people of Gaza, and expands settlements on the West Bank, there is no possibility of peace.

But if bombing, blockade and settlements ceased, the Palestinian Arabs would not necessarily be content to let bygones be bygones, and to sit in peace on the 22 percent of the original Palestine remaining to them.

In the one case, peace is impossible; in the other, peace is unlikely.

I don’t say this in any gloating spirit.  The government of my own country, the United States, has done a global basis what the Israeli government has done locally.   Both countries have operated like the Michael Corleone character in Godfather II—seeking safety by trying to kill all their enemies.

But perfect safety is an illusion, the number of potential enemies is unlimited and there comes a time when it is too late to escape the consequences of past actions.   I hope it is not too late for Israel.  I hope it is not too late for us Americans.


Read and listen to some other Jewish voices below.


Be careful what you wish for

August 1, 2014

“If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse,” [Army Lt. General Michael] Flynn [outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency] said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado [last week].

“A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS,” he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an “Islamic caliphate” in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

via Reuters.

Israel reportedly supported Hamas in the 1980s as a counterweight to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israel from underdog to top dog

August 1, 2014


I am not Jewish.  I am not a Zionist.  I think of Israel as I think of Britain or France—as a foreign country whose people I wish well, but whose interests are not necessarily those of my own country.

But there was a time when I had considerable sympathy for the State of Israel.  The map above shows why.  The nations in green are members of the Arab League, whose 1967 Khartoum resolution reaffirmed a long-standing policy of no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.  The countries marked in dark green show the countries that went to war with Israel at one time or another.

As long as Israel was surrounded by larger and more populous countries dedicated to its destruction, I thought of Israel as the underdog.   Their situations were not comparable.

 There was never any possibility that Israel could threaten the existence of Egypt, Syria, Iraq or the other Arab nations.  But there was a very real possibility that the Arab nations together could wipe Israel from the map of history.

I argued that the Jewish people had as much right to create a new nation as the Germans or Italians in an earlier era.  I would argue that people who are in peril cannot be expected to follow moral rules.

I argued that if the Soviet Union was providing unlimited armaments to Egypt and Syria to destroy Israel, it was only right that the USA provide military aid to Israel.  I argued—I think that 40 or so years ago, this argument was plausible—that more Arab civilians, even more Palestinian civilians had been killed by Arab governments during Israel’s existence than had been killed by Israelis.

Nowadays I no longer make these arguments because I no longer see Israel as the underdog.  The map below shows why.

No Arab government threatens to attack Israel.  Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties.  Israel has committed acts of war against Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with impunity.

Their only enemies are the powerless, miserable Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank.  All the arguments I made in justification of Israel could now be made in justification of Hamas and Fatah.

The Palestinians have as much right to constitute themselves as a nation as the Israelis did.   People who are being killed indiscriminately have the right to fight back by any means necessary, especially against a nation being given virtually unlimited aid by the USA, the world’s largest military superpower.

There is no possibility that the Palestinians can threaten the existence of Israel.  But there is a very real possibility that Israel can eliminate the Palestinian presence in Gaza and the West Bank.



A Jewish critique of Israel’s policies

August 1, 2014

Rabbi Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Council and of the Synagogue Council of America, in interviews on Democracy Now, calls for the Israeli government to cease its attacks on Gaza and to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian Arabs.  The interview is a excellent, objective summary of the situation.

I think Rabbi Siegman is representative of what is best in the Jewish tradition, which is older and much richer than Zionism.  I think he is right in advocating real self-determination for the Palestinians, as opposed to the fake self-determination they have now.

I would like to think that true self-determination would open a path to peace.  Peace is impossible otherwise.  But I fear Israel may have passed the point of no return.  Rabbi Siegman said in the interview that part of the purpose of the attacks on Gaza is to destroy the possibility of an independent Palestine and of peace talks that might lead to an independent Palestine.  That purpose may have been accomplished.

I recall a story about an American officer offering compensation to an Iraqi family for the killing of the father.  The eldest son said it wasn’t enough.  The American asked how much compensation would be enough.  The son replied, “Ten dead Americans.”

But I don’t want to write anything that, in however tiny a way, would diminish the chances for peace, however small they may be.  Age-old enemies have made peace in the past, as in Ireland.  It is up to Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, not to me, to say whether peace is possible.


Israel Provoked This War: It’s up to President Obama to end it by Henry Siegman for Politico.

The Liberal Zionists by Jonathan Freedland for the New York Review of Books.

I thank Jack Clontz for calling my attention to the Democracy Now interview.  It is well worth viewing in its entirety.

War and peace: Links & comments 7/22/14

July 22, 2014

Lessons from America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich for Notre Dame magazine.

Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations, retired career Army officer and self-described conservative Catholic, talks as much good sense about American military and foreign policy as anybody I know about.

In this article, he traces American policy toward the Middle East from the 1980 Carter Doctrine, which stated that the U.S. would use force to protect access to the oil of the Persian Gulf, down to the present day.  He sees more continuity than differences between the Democratic and Republican administrations.

The policy is based on the hope that, by the application of force, the United States can counter tendencies in the Islamic war that threaten American interests.  The result has been death and destruction, with the result that the people of the Middle East see the United States as the main threat to their freedom and well-being.

Bacevich says its time to stop ignoring reality and attempting the impossible.

Ukraine Open Thread (and Links) on Naked Capitalism.

Fact-Free Zone by Dmitry Orlov on ClubOrlov.

‘It was Putin’s missile’ by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

I don’t know who shot down the MH-17 airliner over Ukraine.  I agree with President Obama that a thorough and complete investigation is needed to determine the facts.  Why, then, is he ramping up a cold war against Russia, as if all the facts were known?

Israel mows the lawn by Mouin Rabbani for the London Review of Books

The author says the policy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to prevent, by any means necessary, the emergence of a Palestinian state that is independent in fact and not just in name.  The last thing Netanyahu wants is a peace process.

Reflections on an Unforgiving Day

July 18, 2014

The following is part of an entry in the Stratfor Geopolitical Diary.

What ties Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Gaza together is that they are all fighting for their lives, or interests that are so fundamentally important to them that they cannot live without them.

They are fighting for their nation and for that nation’s safety in a world where unspeakable things happen and where the only ones who will defend you are your family, friends and countrymen, and where all the well-wishers and advice-givers will quietly take their leave if dangers arise.

There is nothing easier and cheaper than advising others to get along. 

These conflicts are rooted in fear, and fear is always a legitimate emotion.

Others would have approached today by saying that the Russians are evil or the Ukrainians really the oppressors, the Israelis killers or the Gazans monsters.

We are sure we will hear from many condemning our moral equivalency, by which they will claim that the only truly moral position is theirs.

But this is not a moral equivalency that argues that Ukrainians and Russians, Israelis and Palestinians should therefore sit down and recognize that they really haven’t got anything to fight over.

This is a moral equivalency that says these people have a great deal to fight over, but that it is their fight, and that — as when the Romans began wiping out Europe’s Celts — it will be settled by steel and not by kindly advice or understanding.

The problem between these people is not that they don’t understand each other. 

The problem is that they do.

Click on Reflections on an Unforgiving Day to read the whole article.

Reprinted with permission of Stratfor Global Intelligence.   Hat tip to Naked Capitalism.


The passing scene: Links & comments 7/16/14

July 16, 2014

The case for shutting down Stuyvesant High School, the best public high school in New York by Reihan Salam for Slate.

Stuyvesant High School in New York City is a highly selective public school which admits fewer than 1 in 100 applicants, based solely on test scores.  The newest class is 71 percent of Asian origin and less than 3 percent black and Latino, even though blacks and Latinos are the overwhelming majority of New York City’s eighth graders.

Reihan Salam, a graduate of Stuyvesant, does not believe that blacks and Latinos will be helped by changing admissions policies.  Even in its glory days, he said, not every Stuyvesant student flourished in its highly competitive, sink-or-swim environment.

Because of differences in background, gifted black and Latino students are likely to need more backup and support from the school system than gifted Asia students did, Salam wrote.  He said the best thing would be to have a diverse range of high schools that serve the differing needs of students.

Piketty is the Anti-Marx by Noah Millman for The American Conservative.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century deals with the same subject as Karl Marx’s Capital more than a century before, but his approach and conclusions are the opposite.

Marx wrote about how capitalism was revolutionizing everything, and concluded that humanity was on the verge of a new stage of development.  Piketty wrote about how, despite revolutionary changes, the concentration of wealth and income remains the same.

Marx was a revolutionary.  Piketty wants the minimum change necessary.  Marx was a bold and original theorist.  Piketty is a cautious researcher, whose great merits are his compilation of new data and his reluctance to go beyond what the data show.

Israel’s bombing of Gaza is morally justified—and eminently stupid by Damon Linker for The Week.

Gaza War: Tunnels, Targets and Rockets | IJ Strategy and Tactics by Ahmed Hadi for Al Akhbar English.   Hat tip to Informed Comment.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not threaten Israeli power.  All they do is provoke retaliation.   The Israeli bombardment of Gaza does not threaten the power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  Their leaders are hidden in underground tunnels.  Nothing will change except that many civilians will be dead and peace will be even more unlikely.


“This is Israel winning…”

November 21, 2012

Jim Henley wrote a couple of posts for his Unqualified Offerings web log some two and a half years ago about the situation in Gaza which are, unfortunately, just as relevant now as when they were written.

He thinks that the Israeli government’s goal is to achieve the war aims of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, which is to make the boundaries of Israel the boundaries of the old Palestine Mandate, and to make conditions on the West Bank and Gaza so intolerable that the Palestinian Arab population will “self-deport.”  Everything that the government of Israel is doing brings it closer to that goal, he says.

Click on This Is Israel Winning Part One and This Is Israel Winning Part Two to read Jim Henley’s two posts from May, 2010,.

Click on Beneath the Layers of Gaza for his current thinking.

Gaza and Israel’s demographic dilemma

June 11, 2010

I have long interpreted Israel’s policies toward the civilian populations of Gaza and the West Bank as expressions of blind rage, provoked by Palestinian terrorist attacks which also are expressions of blind rage. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they are based on an evil logic.

One of Israel’s long-range problems is the so-called demographic dilemma – the fact that the Palestinian Arab birth rate exceeds the Israeli Jewish birth rate so that, in time, the Arabs will be a majority in the territories ruled by Israel – Israel proper plus the West Bank and Gaza. To counter this the government of Israel tries to encourage Jewish immigration from Russia and other countries.

But there is something else that Israel can do to resolve the demographic situation, and that is Palestinian Arab emigration. The Israeli government blockade of Gaza does not make any sense in military terms; few of the embargoed products has any military use. But it does have the effect of making the lives of the people of Gaza so miserable that they will use any opportunity to leave.  Expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank serves the same purpose.

You could view Hezbollah and Hamas terrorism as mirror images of this policy. Random attacks on Israeli civilians do not impair the Israeli government’s military capability nor do they make the Israeli government more willing to negotiate. But the creation of a climate of fear and uncertainty would discourage immigration into Israel and encourage emigration.

If this interpretation is correct, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to go on and on and on until the two sides realize that neither one is going to drive the other out, and they have to figure out how to live together.