Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Letter to a School Friend: Engaging with Gaza

Dear Said

Last week I attended a talk by Israeli author A.B Yehoshua about his most recent book 'Friendly Fire.' The story describes the visit of a woman to her brother in law in Tanzania who seeks to disconnect from anything Jewish and Israeli. A former diplomat who lost his son to friendly fire, Yirmiyahu isn’t even prepared to pick his sister in law up from the airport - after all, there may be other Israelis on the plane.

He doesn’t want to know who the Prime Minister is or light Chanukah candles.

He just wants to take a break from the 'whole messy stew'.

In short he wants to disengage – from the burden of his pain, from the weight of history, and from the responsibility that being Jewish and Israeli poses.

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Truth is, I identified with Yirmiyahu. Because for the last fortnight, I've also wanted to disengage - from the 'who's right and who's wrong' debate jumping out every time I open Facebook; from the seemingly eternal never ending argument as to who started; from the binary role play of goodies versus baddies.

It's not because I disagreed with the pro – Israel arguments.

I believe that no other country would tolerate thousands of rockets on its population; that Hamas has little care for Palestinians and operates among civilians; that weakening them is good for Israel and Palestinians (and moderate Arab states) too, that other than national suicide, there's not much Israel can offer that would satisfy Hamas in the long run.

I just preferred to leave the field to others, to shut my eyes off the whole 'Hasbara (PR) thing'; to focus instead on how Israel could be 'smart' rather than 'right', to think about setting achievable war aims and exit strategies rather than proving Hamas fires rockets from mosques.

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Said – this was my status before reading Sunday's Facebook message from you. You asked my opinion, and despite the fact I wanted to steer clear, despite the fact I fear we disagree, I realized it was important to respond…

Discussing his about-face over the original Gaza withdrawal, Ariel Sharon once said that 'what one sees from here is different to what one sees from there.' I've spent the last few days reading and seeing what people see from there. The pictures are shocking, the analysis uncomfortable. It has led me to deeply question some of my views.

But now I want to try and explain the view from here. Because regardless of whether one agrees, it's important to hear our narrative, our questions, our fears.

And believe me we have many…
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Life in the south of Israel has ground to a halt with the area suffering thousands of rockets over the past 8 years. It affects every aspect of a person's life. I don’t want to dwell on the emotional upshots of living with terror – Israel doesn’t have a monopoly on suffering. And it's not to suggest that I'd rather live in Jabalaya than Sderot – I wouldn’t.

But suffice it to say that when a siren sounds people have 15 seconds to take cover…

It's no way to live – and something needs to be done to prevent it.

And however much I'd love Mahmoud Abbas to ride into Gaza on a white horse and maintain order, our current neighbor to the South is not a moderate Palestinian who wants to negotiate a peaceful resolution – but an Islamist group funded by Iran and wedded to our destruction.

So after we completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and after Hamas used the truce to re-arm and then unilaterally ended it by raining rockets down on us for a week (without any response), I think the Government (any Government) had the right to respond militarily to protect its citizens – all 750,000 of them who are now in the line of fire.

In a country that has no word for consensus, you know you're onto something when almost everyone across the political spectrum supports a policy.

Discussion over the conduct of the war is harder. Part of me feels that this is what happens in war; that this is the price for living in a tough neighborhood, that pacifism in the Middle East equals national suicide; that weakening Hamas strengthens chances for peace.

That the world is great at telling Israel what we can't to, but less good at telling us what we can.

Another part of me fears that regardless of the ultimate responsibility for the war (which I believe lies with Hamas), we have innocent blood on our hands.

And above all I have questions…

How fighting Hamas apparently strengthens them, but ignoring their rockets without responding doesn’t weaken them.

How any country can successfully fight non state actors who hide among civilians (and fire from mosques and schools) without hitting those civilians.

What a
'proportionate' response is to a group seeking your destruction with 750,000 of your civilians in its sights.

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So, similar to Israel in the summer of 2005 and Yirmiyahu in the novel, I wanted to disengage from Gaza, to emotionally turn off, to take a break from the weight and emotional burden of living here with all the complexities it throws up.

And like the rest of this country in 2009, I've realized that we can't completely disengage – neither from the population of Gaza we stopped occupying in 2005 nor from the difficult questions of balancing the maintenance of our safety and security with proper conduct.

So perhaps all we can do is try and work our way through this moral grey area as best we can, explain our narrative to those open minded enough to listen, and pray for the day when our peoples can live in peace.

15 comments:

Zak Safra said...

Calev, cheesy as the old Golda Meir quote is, its true. We can't forgive Hamas for taking human shields. I don't think it is a grey area. Those Gazans who have lost thei lives because of our fire would have beenalive had their been no rockets.

I know its painful to think about, but it is important to place blame for those deaths on the doorstep of those who caused this war.

NSB said...

Cals, before commenting I will once again make a point to say to you what I said to the CNN reporter: though it may not be too early anymore (as it was then) I can still claim a slight ignorance when it comes to giving an educated opinion about war – and maybe that’s because, yes, as you say, I choose in a way to disengage. But also because I fear that as someone sitting in a comfortable king size bed ‘suffering’ from a bad cold, I can’t imagine having a true understanding of the matter.

(I mentioned in my own post how Churchill wisely once said : ” True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information” I’m no true genius just yet.

What I can convey is the complete understanding of that feeling you describe of wanting to disengage. To not join in everybody’s facebook statuses and not take part in posting hasbara clips (nor be bothered to click on any of them). But instead to take a step back, want to close my eyes and trust in those wiser than myself to handle the situation in the smartest way possible – putting ego aside. I emphasize with that feeling of ‘not being part of the inner circle’. Yet the difference in this case then in when you wrote about it years ago…is that not being part of the circle this time is by choice - I’d rather not state an opinion together with everyone as a team, nor am I sure that I can at this point.

I’m human, and an opinion about human life and how it hurts to lose or take one I can give full heartedly. After I pray with my students every morning for the safety of our soldiers they start ranting: “death to Arabs” and I stop them. I tell them I’m personally offended. They respond “why? Are you pro Arab?” My answer is: “I’m pro not wishing death upon people”.

With that said, I still don’t believe there is a moral grey area and I would never dare say that any one of our soldiers out there has innocent blood on his hands. None of them want to be there – I believe they all have hearts. As you said – Something had to be done. And as Golda Meir said: “peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us”. They’re using human shields and that’s a shame, a waste of life. It’s sad and it’s where we defer. We are not opting for death and saying ‘it’s what happens in war’, we are trying to keep whomever we can alive. Anyone who dies while trying to achieve that – Arab or Israeli, is not a waste of a life but rather a means to saving one.

BraveJeWorld said...

Agreed, there is no grey area here. Say that I have swallowed all the pro-Israel PR articles and footage out there but I think I can say I know the Israeli culture, mentality and values fairly well, which are profoundly Jewish ones after all, to know the amount of assymetry in values that the two fighting parties hold. Hamas is well documented for cowardly hiding behind, indeed pushing to be killed those who it knows will be able to win them a PR win, innocent civilians.

About remaining quiet and disengaging from the furore and social media war etc, one can only recall Pastor Niemoller's poem. In this case, it is us directly they are coming for again and so this is exactly the time to be speaking up.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree it's frustrating. Around Hannukah- seems like a long time ago, I wrote here and on the JPost site expressing astonishment with the views of those who have advocated over the years, way before either you or I were born (in my case 1977) for settling Judea and Samaria, and before that Gaza. I tried to express then the following: I have witnessed the majority in Israel, Labor governments as well as Likud, overtly or tacitly supporting the settlers. These settlers seemed to be applying a Biblical logic of subduing the enemy and allowing them the right to live on the land as long as they are peaceful. I tried to state then that this was not only immoral but unworkable. That history may have the shown ethnic cleansing time and time again in country after country to have been effective. What has never worked though is trying to maintain a population in the millions separate, without rights to citizenship and at the same time pacified. I'll add now, after reading the comments to your post citing again Golda Meir- can't you surely say the same about Jewish settler parents putting their children in harm's way by choosing to live at this timer in Jewish history, say in Hevron/al Khalil?

But I'll say this for sure to you, and the other people who commented on your post- perhaps the most frustrating and dispiriting thing over the years has been to have been looked at as an enemy by fellow Jews who see themselves as stonger and more Jewish than I. I guess if there's anything positive for me personally that has come in recent weeks, it is that I no longer quite believe them. I have defended the Jewish people in the pages of the Guardian, a newspaper I discovered by following your link, after I discovered your blog on JPost. Ridiculous statement, I know- but I'll repeat it. I have defended the Jewish people in the pages of the Guardian, to the best of my ability. I have done so precisely from a perspective that was formed independently of those in the Jewish community who have felt they had the high ground in labeling who was firm enough in teir Jewish identity:

Here's Ed Husain as reprinted in the Guardian:

Ed Husain The Observer, Sunday 11 January 2009

How can this happen before our eyes? As a British Muslim, it is so frustrating that no one seems to understand our anger. Comments
(179)

These last two weeks have left me deeply troubled. The images of innocent, wounded Palestinians being carried on stretchers to hospitals as they recited the Muslim testimony of faith called out to me. On my deathbed, I will recite the same Islamic declaration of faith. Like a billion Muslims across the world, I identified with the Palestinians.

I desperately tried to understand Israel's position, but couldn't. A ragtag Hamas army and its rockets did not warrant the wrath of F16 jets and Apache helicopters followed by an invasion, with mass killings in their wake. Like most Brits, I looked on aghast. I recalled Britain's involvement in creating Israel in 1948. We had a duty to help Arabs, to make right our historical wrongs. But how?

The constant lies from Israeli government and military spokespeople infuriated me, as did Hamas' warmongering and desire for perennial conflict. Just as Hamas smuggled in rockets over the last six months, Israel meticulously planned this murderous onslaught. While both extremes plan to kill and maim, mostly innocent Arabs and some Israelis lose their lives. How can this happen before our eyes? I got text messages from Muslims across Britain expressing anger, shock and, most important, a deep desire to act. We all wanted to do something, but what? We could not simply sit by and watch as the Israelis killed mercilessly and cleared the decks during the last days of the Bush presidency.

After a week of bombings, Israel launched an invasion. All the while, Israel's protector in chief - the US - looked on silently, swallowing the myth that Israel was just another ordinary country responding to terrorist attacks. Israel is not an ordinary country: it is built by children of Holocaust survivors, forcing themselves on Arab land over Palestinian dead bodies.

Saying the above is not antisemitic. I received emails and phone calls from extreme Zionists, and public attacks from fanatics such as Melanie Phillips, for daring to question Israeli actions. Many urged me to calm Muslim anger, but why should I? If this does not make me and other Muslims angry, then what could?

For me, the most frustrating element was being fobbed off by government officials: "It's far too complicated" or: "That's not how diplomacy works."

This palpable feeling of powerlessness to stop the killing, starvation and terror drove me to new levels of questioning the efficacy of our slow, sleepy political class. While Gaza burned, Gordon Brown went on a tour of England. In stark contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy was in Damascus and Cairo. I feel Britain is failing to make a difference on the ground. Yes, we did our best at the UN, but what impact did we have in Gaza? Or on wider Arab public opinion?

Tomorrow, with other Muslims, I will meet foreign secretary David Miliband. Will he bring Britain's sobriety and friendship to bear on Barack Obama and help redirect US foreign policy or will Britain be a sycophant to an American bully boy?


My reponse was:

I hate to say it, but people like Ed Husain are responsible for the horror they supposedly decry. He writes:

Israel is not an ordinary country: it is built by children of Holocaust survivors, forcing themselves on Arab land over Palestinian dead bodies.

I feel quite confident in saying that 95% of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands believe Israel's existence to be absolutely necessary. Their sense of identity was not invented in Europe or the Holocaust.

In addition, Ed Husain must know that no country is "ordinary". Certainly not Pakistan or India. But the writer here has a cozy environment in which he can take liberties deconstructing and vilifying Jewish nationalism while doing nothing of the sort for any other nationalism. As a Muslim, he has the upper hand in his society and in the world, backed with the knowledge that there are over 50 Muslim states, ultimately reaffirming and reinforcing his identity. That reality gives him a false sense of entitlement.

It's not honest, nor is it helpful. Ed Husain can well keep up the work of delegitimizing Israel, and the national state that the Jews set up by not admitting that it has a philosophical right to exist. It's about as helpful and constructive as saying- Pakistanis and Indian Muslims are frauds- they're really Indic people of a Hindu culture. Well- who are you to tell others better than they know themselves about who they are and where their identity comes from?

This arrogance and condescension of people like Ed Husain towards Jews, a position he is able and encouraged to take because he thinks he has that right, encourages the perpetuation of this conflict, and if and when this conflict is over, many more to follow.


So, Calev, there's my perspective on the past few trying weeks. I believe that at the very least, I am, in a real sense recovering from having had my Judaism hijacked from me by fellow Jews who have viewed me with suspicion and hostility over the years for disagreeing with their politcs.

Anonymous said...

The blood of the innocent is on the hands of the the people who use human shields...

Say a person tries to stab you while you are walking down the street. That attacker is also holding his 6 months old baby...while you try to protect yourself, your attacker's baby is hurt as a result of the struggle. Does that mean that you have the blood of the innocent on your hands? No way. You had no choice but to protect yourself.

It is a sad situation in which Israel has no choice but to protect itself even if children are hurt. Our utmost commitment is towards our own babies.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for the children of Gaza, but there is not blood on my hands

Rachel

Anonymous said...

mate - when faced with the options that Israel is faced with it is either kill or be killed. And in this unavoidable war, unfortunately innocent civilians will be caught up in the middle of it. You just have to remind yourself that Israel does its upmost to abide by the rules of war and limit civilian casualties - yet Hamas continues to put its civilians in the front line as it knows propaganda is one of its major weapons against Israel. What frustrates me is that the media fails to report how Hamas publicly encourages its citizens to die for the cause and be suicide bombers and clearly does not care for the welfare of its own people! And don't forget that to defeat the Nazis in World War II the Allies bombed the hell out of Germany and killed a significant number of civilians in the process - no one viewed the Allies as having "blood on their hands", as the alternative was a much larger loss of life and the extinction of the Jewish people - we now face the same threat!

Ben

Anonymous said...

Well said Calev. As so often happens, you have articulated what I've been feeling.
I was in Israel very briefly to look into aliyah options. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to contact you. Bizzarley, it was easier to be in Israel during the conflict than it is to be so far away.

Sam

Anonymous said...

Dear Calev,

I appreciate your response. I think we are very similar people – in fact I always felt that. I get the impression that you, like me, are diplomats in a way, and maybe find it difficult to tell people what they don’t want to hear, we want everyone to get on. However, its healthy that we disagree, as awkward or uncomfortable it may be, and I think its paramount that we discuss our issues with the situation as much as possible, this is what its all about: dialogue. I know that you are an open minded and well informed person who understands our grief. In similar vein, I understand your grief and issues, but we differ on the causes of the current conflict, and the solutions that could have put an end to this madness a long time ago.

I understand what you are saying, ‘something had to be done’. However, peace and security for Israelis cannot and will never be achieved by bombing Gaza to smithereens. What the Israeli Government is doing at the moment is fostering intense, deep hatred (and half of Gaza are children, so that’s virtually an entire generation who are left traumatized and will probably never be willing to forgive) that will in turn push more Palestinians towards extremism, and make an eventual peace even more impossible to achieve than it already is.

What we must consider first is the context of Hamas’ support. They were legally elected in free and fair elections which were encouraged by the US until it was decided that the ‘wrong’ party won. Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate their political agenda following its rise to power - from the ideological rejectionism of their charter, they moved towards the pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. They were ready to talk. Why did Israel refuse? Does Israel recognize Palestine? You can negotiate with anyone.

So Israel imposed a grossly immoral blockade, collectively punishing each and every resident of Gaza(http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/email/a-crisis-of-dignity-in-gaza) by making food, medical supplies, water, electricity, and fuel scarce. Gaza was in effect under siege, but apparently this was not truce-breaking. Israel continued its’ targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders and killed civilians, including children in the process, but apparently this was not truce-breaking.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of Hamas by any means - I can’t stand extremism in any shape or form. However, what you must realize is that there is support for Hamas because of the hate created by the illegal, brutal military occupation that has lasted 40 years and has seen no hope of ending. There is support for Hamas because of the continued acceleration of settlement expansion (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1037270.html), which is, in my opinion, the main overwhelming obstacle to peace as it means that there can never be a viable Palestinian state.

Perhaps weakening Hamas is better for everyone in the long term. But how do you do that? Israel’s current actions are strengthening them – turning life into living hell is not inspiring the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it is uniting the local population behind them and reinforcing their determination not to surrender.

Even if you militarily cripple Hamas, you can never completely destroy them. What Israel needs to do is to address the real reasons for extremism, the apartheid (http://www.ameu.org/page.asp?iid=271&aid=585&pg=2). If Palestinians were treated equally, had their basic human rights, and could see that the hope for a homeland was genuine, Hamas would have hardly any support. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians do not want the destruction of Israel, just the basic freedoms they are entitled to as human beings.

How can anyone in his right mind remain moderate with the war crimes that are taking place(http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054158.html)? How can I ever convince anyone that we should have faith in a Government that collectively punishes an entire population for the acts of one group? Can you honestly expect me or anyone to believe the IDF are trying to minimize civilian casualties when they, not for the first time(http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054158.html), are using weapons like white phosphorous (http://www.btselem.org/English/Gaza_Strip/20090112_Use_of_White_Phosphorus.asp) which is illegal by international law? When they use civilians as human shields(http://www.btselem.org/English/Human_Shields/Index.asp)? When there are reports on Bt’selem that they are shooting at fleeing Gazan civilians(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7828536.stm)? When they bomb a UN school being used as a safe house despite being in possession of the GPS coordinates (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-obama)?

My anger is intense, however, it is nothing compared to that of people in the Arab World judging by what I hear and see. The destruction of Gaza has created levels of hate unheard of in the history of wars with Israel. In Jordan, the friendliest country to Israel, every radio station has turned into a mouthpiece of Hamas. Victory is not measured by the damage Hamas can inflict on the Israelis, but in the widespread passionate support they have engendered throughout the Arab and Muslim World, from Mauritania all the way to Indonesia (http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1231625457/). The biggest losers are the moderate Arab States who believed that by adopting more moderate policies they would placate the US and might get somewhere with a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are now seen as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

There is also something of an elephant in the room concerning proportionality. What I’m not asking you to justify is military action in the abstract. I’m asking you to explain to me how killing over 300 children in two weeks is justifiable. I understand you’ve got a political objective – weaken Hamas. But even assuming this operation would help reach that objective – which I don’t – how can it come at that cost?

Calev, you claim that ‘you know you're onto something when almost everyone across the political spectrum supports a policy’. In that case how do you feel about the fact that the entire world is telling Israel its’ actions are outrageous? Are we on to something there?

I, like you Calev, want to disengage from everything that's happening but it becomes harder as each day passes. I wish I could, because it is affecting my sanity, but I just can't.

We are all the same people. We all want the same things, but Palestinians have nothing left to give, no bargaining chips, zilch. The only way Israel will ever have its security is once Palestinians have their rights restored. Seeing as Israel is the occupier, its pretty much down to them to put an end to this turmoil.

Said

Anonymous said...

wonderfully written Calev.
I agree with almost everything you've written except two things:

1. Although Israel withdrew from Gaza, it kept on practically occupying it by controlling the borders (and good thing it did). I wish the Palestinian Govt./Hamas had the sense to negotiate the opening of the borders so the Palestinian economy would flourish.

2.I think we can and should separate between the reason for this military response (we had good reasons) and the amount of destruction we caused. I mean, we can justify our action up to a point. Even if we agree that actions were needed, we don't have to support or justiy everything that was done by our side.

To Said
I have the fear that those moderate Arab countries that were accused as collaborators quite enjoyed Israel's brutal reactions to Hamas' provocations. They know thay will have to face Islamic extremists at home - don't you think they are the most cynical in the neighbourhood?

love to continue chatting about this,
Noa

Anonymous said...

If I may, can I address Said thru your blog?

Dear Said, you repeat the oft used argument that Hamas was elected democratically, and you are correct. The Palestinians are quite entitled to elect who they want, but why then do you imply that the rest of the world is not entitled, democratically, to decide who it can, and can’t do business with. This is democracy.

You claim this legitimacy for Hamas, but ignore their killing and expulsion of hundred’s of the opposition PA. surely undermining their claim to democratic legitimacy. Hamas is NOT a democratic organisation in itself, but one run on the basis of an extreme Moslem fundamentalism, and they take pride in their links with the Moslem Brotherhood, an organisation viewed with trepidation in most ‘moderate’ middle east regimes (especially Egypt who have been fighting it since the 1920’s).

You state that Hamas have moved to ‘a pragmatic accommodation’ with the 2 state solution – I’d be interested in the basis for this assumption, unless it is in their view that the second state be another Arab country in what is now Israel.

Their charter (and their religious belief) insists that this is Wakf land, and as such there can be no Jewish State – so what should Israel talk about? They discuss temporary ‘hudnas’, rather than any peace, during which they openly admit they would ‘peacefully’ rearm, ready for the ‘next round’ – so what should Israel talk about?

They refuse to abide by any previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. – so what should Israel talk about?

Hamas insist on open borders, at the same time as proclaiming that the ‘resistance’ must continue and that suicide bombers are an appropriate form of this resistance. What country could be expected to open it’s borders when faced with this threat?

Hamas talks about allowing in humanitarian aid and during the truce the borders were partially opened for long periods of time, but were often closed following the repeated rocket attacks on southern Israel. Who should be blamed for this?
You express anger at Israel for defending itself by closing this border, but none at Egypt who also have a border, and who do not have an existential threat to their existence.

You talk about the anger in the Moslem world at what Israel is doing but can I ask – do they have the same anger when 10’s of thousands of Moslems are killed by other Moslems (yes 10’s of thousands) in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Algeria, and in the past in Lebanon (incidentally the Jordan you mention killed over 3,500 Palestinians in just over a week when they expelled them, and Syria wiped out thousands of its own people when they destroyed the town of Horma – without a squeak from all those who are so quick to criticise Israel.

Where are the out-pourings and marches (and shame) when in Iraq Moslem suicide bombers kill Moslem pilgrims in Mosques on Moslem holy days, or Moslem children at bus stops, or shoppers in markets because they happen to be the ‘wrong sort’ of Moslem, or in Algeria where whole villages are wiped out in horrendous massacres.

Or is the anger only relevant when a non-Moslem does the killing?

We should all weep for all the innocents caught up in the violence but it seems that most Moslems and most of the world don’t care – unless the killing can be blamed on the non-Moslem West, and especially if it is Israeli.

The anger of the world would also be more credible if it had been exhibited during the intifada when Palestinian suicide bombers were, almost every day for about 6 weeks, targeting Israeli mothers and children in Pizza parlours and shopping arcades in Israel, or during the 8 years of rocket attacks on southern Israel - or is the killing of Israelis OK, because after all, they are Israelis.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of both Israelis and Palestinians want peace. You state that there can’t be whilst Israel uses violence, but express no criticism of the Arab violence, nor at the constant hate pushed out in the Palestinian schools and TV. At Camp David there was a chance for a durable peace, giving the Palestinians, once again, the opportunity to be part of a viable 2 two-state solution. This was rejected by Arafat, and continues to be rejected by Hamas. Israel has accepted the concept of a proper two-state solution, but until there is a seed change in the mindset of the Palestinian Leadership, the events in Gaza will unfortunately be in danger of being repeated to the despair of both sides.

Tom Grey said...

Israel already has difficulty remaining a democracy AND Jewish -- given that the Israeli Arabs are second class citizens.

The double standard hypocrisy of Israeli critics makes it too easy for Israel supporters to ignore this democratic / human rights contradiction at the heart of Israel's "moral superiority".

I suggest Israel adjust its democracy: 1) restrict representation to Parliament to those parties receiving at least 5% (or some X%) of votes, like Slovakia does. 2) creating various Israeli cantons, especially at least two for Israeli Arabs, so that there can be some Israeli cantons where being Arab and Muslim doesn't mean second class.

Israel also failed as a post 1967 occupier, as compared to the US in Iraq, at creating Arab human rights oriented institutions.


Israel is right to defend itself from the rockets. It is stupid (and thus wrong from stupidity, not morality) about invading Gaza without a plan to re-occupy at least part of it and push the Arabs in the occupied part to respect human rights.

Drafting Israeli Arabs into the IDF, specifically for occupation work, would also be a good idea.

(thanks for a fine blog; first time visitor from Slovakia, tho American)

Anonymous said...

This speech was made by the Chief Rabbi at the pro-peace rally in Trafalgar Square on 11 January 2009 and I think it sums up what many Jews think about the current situation:

"We are gathered today, not in triumph but in tears. Nothing that has happened in Gaza needed to happen. All it took to avoid all the suffering was for Hamas to end firing rockets on innocent Israeli civilians.

That's all.

And let a voice go out today from here in Trafalgar Square, and from other gatherings today in Manchester, Paris and Washington - as it has gone out from Israel since the day it was born, 60 years ago:

We want peace. Israel wants peace. We who love Israel want peace. No to terror -- yes to peace.

Let there be an end to bloodshed and hate. Let there be peace.

We say to those who criticise Israel: You want Palestinian children to grow up with hope.

So do we.

You want Palestinians to be able to live in dignity.

So do we.

You want Palestinian parents to have work, income, and a life for their families.

So do we.

When a great British Zionist, the late Dr David Baum, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics, a man who lived in Bristol but asked to be buried, as he was, in Israel, in Rosh Pinah, sought to give expression to his hopes for Israel, he created a state-of-the-art child care facility.

Where? In Gaza.

He died on a sponsored cycle ride raising money for paediatric facilities in Gaza.

When one of the finest young men of our community, Yoni Jesner, was killed in a suicide attack on Tel Aviv bus, his family donated his organs to save life, one of whom was a seven-year-old Palestinian girl, Yasmin Abu Ramila, who had been waiting two years for a transplant.

We care about the Palestinian future.

We care for Palestinian children.

We care about life.

And that is why we say to Hamas, who for years, day after day, have been endangering the lives of innocent people:

Stop killing the Palestinian future.

In 2005 Israel withdrew from Gaza. It said to the people of Gaza: the land is yours. The factories, the farms, the buildings our people built are yours. The aid you seek in building an economy is yours.

That is when terror should have stopped.

Instead that is when the current wave of terror began.

The living nightmare for the people of Sderot and Ashdod and Ashkelon.

A ceaseless rain of rockets injuring and killing young and old, the vulnerable, the innocent, who wanted nothing except peace.

There are young children in Sderot who have only known a life of living in bomb shelters.

Who can live like that?

When Jews built the land and state of Israel, the land where our ancestors lived for 4000 years, they didn't want to fight with their neighbours.

They didn't want to spend a lifetime fighting war and fearing terror.

All they wanted to do was live.

And so we ask Hamas, and Hizbollah, and the countries that give them aid and arms, why do you want Israel to die?

Stop wanting Israel to die.

Start wanting your children to live.

There is one question that cries out for an answer.

Why, Hamas, do you hold in such contempt not just Israeli lives but Palestinian lives.

Why do you fire rockets from schools, store arms in hospitals, surround yourself with human shields?

Why have you consistently acted so as to maximise the death of innocent Palestinians?

In the words of Colonel Richard Kemp, reported in today's Sunday Times:

Senior military adviser to the British cabinet, 'Hamas deploys suicide attackers including women and children, and rigs up schools and houses with booby trap explosives.

Virtually every aspect of its operations is illegal under international humanitarian law.

The Palestinian future will begin the minute Hamas stops firing rockets on innocent Israelis.

The minute they try to stop killing the people whom they see as enemies but who want to live as friends.

The minute they stop endangering the Palestinian people by pursuing a policy that is blighting the Palestinian future.

Just say three words:

Yes to peace.

And a day will come when Israelis and Palestinians, Jews Muslims and Christians, The people of Sderot and the people of Gaza, will live together in peace.

No longer fighting one another, but helping one another to live in freedom and dignity.

That day will come.

It could be a hundred years away

Or it could be today.

It's up to Hamas and the countries that give it arms.

And for the sake of Palestinian children, and Israeli children, let it be today.

But in the meanwhile we say,

Beloved G-d, The G-d we worship.

The G-d of life who told us to sanctify life, Al Rahman, the G-d of compassion, The G-d of Avraham, Ibrahim, father of our several faiths, show us the way to live your way.

The way of Salaam,
The way of Shalom.
The way of Peace."

Anonymous said...

I have been mesmerised reading these blogs - the self justification for encircling people, starving them then pounding them with bombs! Collective punishment can never be right. The Israeli's are rich and powerful. They are also clever and they should find another way to live alongside the Palestinians. Remember, you took their lands, have some humility in how you behave now.

Daniel said...

... "The Israeli's are rich and powerful. They are also clever and they should find another way to live alongside the Palestinians"...

Anonymous - I like you! It's been a while since I've felt rich, powerful and clever.

Seriously, Said, Anonymous, enough of the "nununu" (Israeli onomatopoeic term for "scolding"). Same goes for you, justifiers of the Israeli military response (of which I'm probably one, living in Israel and knowing that I probably don't have access to the tools and the knowledge not to give this country's leaders the benefit of the doubt).

What should we be doing as a society? How should we respond / act generally? How should the Palestinian people / people of "moderate" Muslim nations / people of liberal democratic nations / add categories as you see fit, act in situations such as these? How long do we keep on acting like that when it doesn't seem like it's working - i.e. when someone else doesn't act like we want / expect them to act (and how do we judge when or whether this has happened) before changing to something else, and what is that something else? And at what point does the use of force become legitimate (if ever)?

In answering those questions, try to minimise the use of emotive verbs (not mandatory, but it helps).

My feeling is that there are too many judges amongst us (yes, on both "sides") and not enough legislators. I think intelligent people need to try to be both.

Calev - that doesn't go for you - I think you're a pretty creative legislator. Keep it up and keep up the blogging so that we can benefit.