Friday, January 9, 2009
Isreal's rights and Israel's obligations
It's difficult for me to write with any kind of confidence about what's happening on the Gaza strip because it's a complex situation rooted in centuries of conflict, and I haven't done enough reading to even pretend to have a handle on it.
I do understand this. Israel has a public relations machine that sells their wars as well as the Pentagon has sold ours. And, by and large, the American press prints the press release.
In the first few days of the Israeli bombing, the LA Times printed a simpleton's guide to the conflict in which they reprinted the Israeli justification for bombing which has been repeated and repeated by the American press since the conflict began:
Over the weekend, Israel began airstrikes against the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, in response to rocket attacks against nearby Israeli communities launched after a six-month truce expired.
Of course, there was no mention that the Palestinians had been suffering though a devastating blockade which left them without enough food or medicine. And this was on top of Israeli-sanctioned occupation of Palestinian territory, severe restrictions on travel and trade, and a longterm repression of the Palestinian people by Israel.
A lot has been written about Israel's right to defend itself. Of course. But if that's the case then the Palestinians have the right to defend themselves too. Unfortunately, without the support of the world's munitions manufacturers, their means are less specific, more crude, and less effective then the massive show of force, and destruction, Israel is able to muster. And Israel has the support of the most significant powers in the Western world.
Fortunately, the web provides an opportunity to get other perspectives. None of it is pretty. And as a country, we seem content to take Israel at its word as they take us by the hand and lead us down the path to the third world war.
What to do?
Naomi Klein, whose thoughts and intellect I have great respect for, has an idea that might put Israel's lust for oppression into check.
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While it's easy to look at this conflict as "Goliath vs. David", Israeli response is usually frowned down upon. When we were in Israel in 2006, we met a great number of Israeli citizens (many of them transplants from the US, Australia, India, England and Russia) quite willing to negotiate the Golan Height and East Jerusalem for recognition of the nation's right to exist. Hamas does not agree - they'll never recognize the Jewish state and they want it all back. With the help of Iran, they used the cease-fire to "reload". Did the Iranian government also supply the Gazans with food and medicine?
One can get all pissy about this. Israel is vigilant to the point of being oppressive but it only takes one suicide bomber to erase a family shopping at the market. The Israeli government sent out their usual warnings prior to the incursion, giving Hamas the opportunity to stock their weapons in particular schools and mosques.
I know it's an ugly situation and the Bush government did nothing to build upon the gains of the Clinton administration. And, unlike many of my friends, I am not a big fan of any invasion (especially one in which the enemy uses children as shields.) Any invasion strengthens Hamas and allows people to take their eyes away from the sectarian violence in Iraq (in which children, parents, teachers, policemen and clerics are killed on a regular basis.)
Is it up to the other Arab nations to take care of their brethren, to come to the table and convince Israel that, during any cease-fire, all Middle-East nations will help Gaza rebuild its infrastructure? I can't imagine Hamas will ever recognize Israel (loss of face is worse than the useless death of children and martyrs make such good publicity.) As I have written in this space before, there seem to be no good solutions, just occasional cease-fires.
I will admit that the complex history of U.S. and Israeli policies have been a mystery to me. Since Israel's inception there has been a tangled web of controversy and boat loads of money provided to ensure the survival of that state.
I'm concerned now more than ever that the U.S. is over-spending on Israel. The question need not be whether Israel has a right to exist, instead whether it has a duty to do so under its own volition. Whether the existence of a state is more or less about rights of the state to exist or rather more about its duties in how it manages its interrelations and affairs.
Israel's behavior has often been the target of great controversy. The fact that Israel is a strong U.S. ally in the middle-east region is a compelling reason to support them. For the pleasure of this relationship the U.S. sends Israel great sums of money every year. With U.S. help Israel has developed one of the world's most advanced military and are quite capable of protecting their territory. With additional assurances by way of standing backup support from the U.S. in case of an invasion, Israel faces no overwhelming threat. If Israel were to take a more aggressive posture in the region, say settling in areas outside their territory, taking new territory or simply controlling the territory of others, we might ask ourselves what it is that we are helping to protect. At a minimum, the U.S. should not support a military regime bent on controlling the region. If the U.S. provides support and assurances to support such a regime under all circumstances, then we may well be the cause of their overzealous ambitions. In fact, those ambitions might be far less aggressive in nature had they to think more and act more on their own volition.
Israel's public relations machine? Who are they? What firm in DC is being paid for managing their campaign? Must be the same one the International Jewish Conspiracy has on permanent retainer. Consider this real fact: the Saudis are underwriting, with real petrodollars, as they have for decades, substantial payment to major DC public relations firms to front for the Palestinian cause. Image? How many people remember the fact that the Palestinian people danced in the street in the West Bank and in Gaza, gave out candies when the WTC was destroyed? The fact remains that Israel gave Gaza complete politcal autonomy and wholly vacated its territory in exchange for absolutely nothing. The grateful Palestinian population had a choice they could then have made to use the opportunity to elect progressive leaders who, with the help of both Israel and the international community, which was freely offered, could have turned Gaza into an oasis of freedom and economic development that would have been envied throughout the Arab world. Instead they chose to elect a group of proven cutthroats who remain, to this moment, dedicated not to a two-state solution (this despite the fact that Israel is the only non-Arab state in the Middle East), but rather a one state solution, with the Jews driven into the sea. Instead developing Gaza into an economic powerhouse, they have chosen to turn it into another Somalia. Economic blockade? Yes, imposed only after Hamas refused abjectly to discontinue unprovoked attacks across the border upon the same civilian populations they still intentionally target. Public relations? Were the Israelis to adopt the same tactic in defending themselves from these terrorists, that is, intentionally target the Gazan population, the world would, to an even greater extent than they now condemn the current incursion, demand the dismantling of the Jewish state. Perhaps that is what Hamas has in mind. After all, they routinely use their civilian populations purposely as human shields. Theirs is a culture of death; they promise more suicide bombers in Tel Aviv cafes and Israeli buses, assuring their "martyrs" an instant ticket to paradise. Where is the outrage when these intentionally targeted civilians, both Jew and Muslim, are shredded by ball bearings and nails, or disintegrated by the explosives in the vests worn by children whose parents live off the annuities Hamas and Hezbollah pay them for their blood sacrifice?
Let's for a moment, posit an analogy for the blogger's consideration. Let's say that La Raza, convinced of their historic right to California and the American Southwest, set up shop somewhere south of Tijuana, and with the help of the Iranian government and funded with cocaine money from an inspired narco corrida hero, buy and start lobbing Ketushas into SoCal. How long do you think it would be before the 82nd Airborne would billeted at the El Presidente in Mexico City? The sad part of such a scenario is the fact that a U.S. invasion would be welcomed by the Mexican population, who are victimized by the corruption of their government by the narcos; contrast that with the attitude of the Palestinians, who, regardless of the fact that Hamas terrorists are drawing fire down upon them, blame Israel for all of their misfortunes. Israel is held, therefore, to a higher standard than that to which we would hold ourselves.
It is, of course, so fashionable on college campuses these days to take the part of the Palestinians, as the cause de jour. Their lot is truly a miserable one. But the blame is not one that can be laid upon only Israel's doorstep. Modern Arab states, none of which are democracies in any true sense of the word, have consistently prohibited any form of real immigration by Palestinian refugees. It is easier and cheaper, rather than to absorb these people into their petroeconomies (since none of them produce anything of any great exportable value than oil)to fuel the dream of repossessing the whole of Palestine. These same Arab states have remained conspicously silent about the steps Israel has taken to protect its civilian population because such steps serve their interests. Israel is attempting to defang a Shia funded viper. The success of Hamas and Hezbollah serves only to remind the Sunni dominated states that their hold on power and on the economic machine that has gripped the Western world by the throat will last only so long as they can contain these fanatics and direct their rage outward, rather than inward.
No thoughtful person I've heard or read has ever suggested that Israel does not have the right to defend its citizens. No reasonable person would champion the tactics or the hateful philosophy of Hamas.
But my anonymous respondent suggests a generosity of mind and spirit in which, "Israel gave Gaza complete politcal autonomy and wholly vacated its territory in exchange for absolutely nothing. The grateful Palestinian population had a choice they could then have made to use the opportunity to elect progressive leaders who, with the help of both Israel and the international community, which was freely offered, could have turned Gaza into an oasis of freedom and economic development that would have been envied throughout the Arab world. Instead they chose to elect a group of proven cutthroats who remain, to this moment, dedicated not to a two-state solution (this despite the fact that Israel is the only non-Arab state in the Middle East), but rather a one state solution, with the Jews driven into the sea." This is an ostensibly reasoned argument which seems to leave out pertinent facts (Israeli settlements in Palestine, concrete border walls, blockades), and is informed by a blind passion which sees Arabs, here Palestinians, as universally hateful, backward, murderous, primitive and non-productive.
If I hear about Palestinians dancing in the street on 9/11 again, I'm going to puke. Do you think Americans did not dance in the street after the capitulation of Japan upon the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The worst instinct is to dance on the grave of a vanquished enemy. But using those actions to paint an entire populace is disgraceful.
The corruption of facts and employment of intellect fired by a hateful passion is not the way to peace.
Let's begin by talking about the dead children on both sides, and go from there.
Ed, I'm learning that many people would rather tell you why Israel has the right to do whatever it wants in the name of defending itself, rather than talk about the dead children.
It's very disheartening.
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