Posted by Brad @ 4:27 pm on December 29th 2008

What You Should Know About the Latest Israel-Palestine Flareup

Daniel Levy has it.

Obama is keeping his distance, and a lot of Israel-watchers think the Israeli government will have a rude awakening if it expects the Obama administration to be the mindless cheerleader that the Bush administration has been—what the region needs, and what the Obama administration may be, is not a collective of shallow Zionists, but a conference table of honest brokers.

M.J. Rosenberg, one of my favorite bloggers on Israeli issues, shares that hope, and his learned a lot from the Lebanon debacle. He quotes Dr. Asali, which I’ll pass on:

“I do not believe that the conflict should be seen any longer as pitting Israelis against Palestinians, but must be re-conceptualized as a struggle between those who are committed to ending the conflict based on two states against those on both sides who persist in clinging to hostility. Those who are prepared to recognize each other’s dignity and self determination in two sovereign states share a common purpose, and have more in common with each other than with their compatriots who are bent on conflict for generations to come.”

As for me, I’ve been a long-time Israel supporter who has since turned to cynicism and jadedness and some resentment. I certainly take the point that Hamas and Palestinian hardliners themselves have no intention of ever recognizing the dignity of Israel or anything even approaching it. But that’s ceased to justify (if it ever did) writing a blank check to Israel, and the center for gravity for who is holding up the process and who seems more persistent in clinging to hostility shifted with the Lebanon action and stays there. The United States and the global community has horribly botched their dealings with Palestine since Hamas gained its democratic legitimacy. Ironically, under the bluster, there is every indication that a two-state solution is possible from Palestine’s perspective. But for that to happen, some detachment, I believe, from Israel is necessary.

19 Comments »

  1. Really? Perhaps you should consider what and who Israel and we have and are trying to deal with.

    http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html

    Bill Clinton came as close as anyone in reaching a peace deal that was highly favorable to the Palestinians and they (Arafat) walked away. I personally see no signs that Palestinian leadership of any political/religious color is interested in anything but all or nothing. I don’t see an end to the conflict there until one of those two options is realized, and I think the latter is far more likely than the former at this point.

    Comment by James — 12/29/2008 @ 5:39 pm

  2. Again it’s the charter.

    Arafat is dead. Palestine has given a fair few indications that they might be willing to return to 1966 borders, which, with an Israeli settlement freeze, would make a two-state solution possible. And if you want fringe, a lot of the West Bank Zionist settlers want nothing less than to start a hot war to wipe all holy land non-Jews off the face of the earth. And a brief look at the casualty totals for any particular outbreak of violence will tell you the story of who is dying out there.

    Simply put, this is no longer a question of who is right and who is wrong, and the international community, if they want to achieve some kind of stability where the two sides aren’t regularly lobbing missiles at each other on a yearly basis, need to put that aside. At this point I could give a fuck who might be more morally justified in killing the other side’s civilians. We can wave our moral judgment wand all we like and it leads us no closer to a practical solution.

    Comment by Brad — 12/29/2008 @ 5:50 pm

  3. This is not about our sense of morality, Brad, it is about reality; and the reality is that when you have two sides that are partially, or even mainly driven by some perception of divinely ordained territorial entitlement and even enmity, you can not possibly hope to reach a rational settlement unless those long-held notions are dispensed with. To think that this can be achieved any time soon when these ideas have been held for 100’s and 1000’s of years is nothing more than wishful thinking. Can it happen? Sure, but I highly doubt that anyone reading this blog will live to see.

    Comment by James — 12/29/2008 @ 6:29 pm

  4. Well, if you’re talking about reality, the preeminent question here would have to be “are Israel’s actions making Israel more secure?” And yet, nobody seems all that interested in answering or even asking that question as it pertains to Israel policy anymore.

    Comment by Brad — 12/29/2008 @ 6:43 pm

  5. I don’t know what the basis for your statements about Palestine is, Brad. For starters, to refer to “Palestine” as a unified entity is a mistake. There are probably elements within Palestine which would accept a two-state solution with pre-’68 borders. Of course, if they were ever to attain power, and if they were to negotiate peace with Israel on those terms, they would be killed.

    I don’t recognize any hope in the situation, and neither, based on their behavior, does anyone on the ground in that part of the world. For peace to take hold, there will have to be a working majority of individuals on both sides of the fence who 1. prefer it to war over territory (as Asili says) and 2. are willing to use force on elements within their own coalition who disagree (as Asili doesn’t say). We are nowhere near that point yet, and I cannot imagine under what circumstances we would get there.

    Comment by Rojas — 12/29/2008 @ 6:59 pm

  6. My guess, and it is just that, is that one or more of the following holds true:

    1. This is a two pronged strategy by Israel. The first prong being to make hay while the sun shines (i.e. while the Bush administration is still in power) buy killing two birds with one stone, for lack of a better term: Weakening Hamas (at least militarily) and I presume what will end up being a retaking of some territory to use as a negotiating card with the Palestians (they hope Abbas) and an Obama White House which so far has a murky position on the situation.

    2. It may also be a smokescreen and/or prod to push Iran’s hand to allow for an Israeli move against their nuclear targets.

    Stupid? Insane? Maybe, but Israel has taken many such chances. I just think that there is more to this than simple retaliation for Hamas lobbing rockets at Israel. I mean rockets are a form of precipitation over there and nothing over there is simple.

    Comment by James — 12/29/2008 @ 7:00 pm

  7. Brad, in response to your “it’s the charter” comment, I would just say that yes, it is a charter; a charter that has been in force for 20 years. I would submit that perhaps that charter is the first thing that needs to be changed if there is to be any hope of a peaceful end to that conflict.

    Comment by James — 12/29/2008 @ 7:09 pm

  8. There are two issues here.

    First, the Israel’s actions are outragious on so many levels. You can’t place 1.5 million people in a concentration camp. Preventing trade with GAZA is a crime agaist humanity.

    Moreover, settlements continue to this day. You can’t says Israel has the high ground in any way until the government sanctioned settlements end.

    Israel has held the occupied territories for 40 years. The in these territories have not been control their own economy for an entire generation. The average wage is 1000/month.

    They are regularly harassed by the settlers in all manner of ways. There are plenty of video’s out there if you care to look. Checkpoints, etc.

    The Palestinians are not going to act rationally under these conditions. There can be no negotiations under these conditions.

    If England had placed a blockade around Ireland during the IRA days would they have helped or hurt any peace effort? If Spain did the same with the Basque region would the basque rebels be more or less popular?

    To ask is to answer.

    The Israel tactics are designed to foment more anger and make negotiations less successful – impossible I should say.

    All that said, I would be happy to give Israel a tip of the hat and say go for it, but they insist on committing these acts with US dollars and arms as well as bending the arms of US politicians to make stupid statements that drag us into this conflict and make us the target of terrorists.

    This kills our chances for a more free society – a more ‘libertarian’ society – and that really irks me. Not to mention the impact they and their supports have in getting us into stupid conflicts with Iraq and Iran including (obviously) wars as well as the non-libertarian idea of trade sanctions with Iran
    that only end up hurting US economic interests.

    But there are still boobs like James who choose to defend these acts when the entire rest of the world looks at it with astonishment.

    Comment by daveg — 12/29/2008 @ 11:33 pm

  9. Some interesting comments about the conflict:

    Q: I get that. Most people understand that. You don’t want rockets in southern Israel. Americans can relate to that. But what is this specific operation going to accomplish? What’s the end game?

    A: We are striking at Hamas’ infrastructure to bring an end to the rocket firings on Israel, and to stop terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip.

    Q: Sounds good. That’s what it says on the President’s Conference website, too. But you bombed the Hamas radio station. You bombed a jail and a police station. You bombed Islamic University. Are they part of the infrastructure that is firing rockets? Those people weren’t ordering the rocket attacks, or helping, were they?

    Link.

    Comment by daveg — 12/30/2008 @ 12:30 am

  10. This “boob” will respond tomorrow. It is late here and I must sleep.

    Comment by James — 12/30/2008 @ 2:22 am

  11. I would expect that Obama will make some noises and cut a few loan guarantees, but underneath not that much will change (which will be similar to a lot of Obama positions, a la Blair; it’s the best strategy, too, to put a new face on continuing policy).

    Comment by Adam — 12/30/2008 @ 8:35 am

  12. daveg…

    There are two issues here.

    First, the Israel’s actions are outragious on so many levels. You can’t place 1.5 million people in a concentration camp. Preventing trade with GAZA is a crime agaist humanity.

    Outrageous? Hamas took over Gaza violently and expelled Fatah (i.e. Palestinians). This is a group that not only doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, but his hell-bent on seeing to it that it doesn’t exist. It isn’t some little argument over there, it is an armed conflict. This stuff happens in armed conflicts. It may be unfortunate, but outrageous? Hardly.

    Moreover, settlements continue to this day. You can’t says Israel has the high ground in any way until the government sanctioned settlements end.

    Israel has held the occupied territories for 40 years. The in these territories have not been control their own economy for an entire generation. The average wage is 1000/month.

    They are regularly harassed by the settlers in all manner of ways. There are plenty of video’s out there if you care to look. Checkpoints, etc.

    Israel won that territory as the spoils of war. Since military history seems to indicate that “to the victor go the spoils”, I would say that Israel “occupies” any territory it presently hold at its own pleasure. That is the concept that escapes not only you but a large number of Palestinians. They, and perhaps you, are focused on 1948 and the question of whether Israel should even be there. Israel is focused on 1967 and the fact that they handed their Arab neighbors their asses. They are of the mind that possession is 9/10ths of the law, but they also want to not die, so they are willing to trade the lands that they won in an actual war in order to end a de facto war. Unfortunately, they were dealing with Arafat who’s PLO used to be of the same mind as Hamas. Abbas of Fatah, a secular party, is a viable partner for eventual peace, but he is shackled by Hamas and other Palestinians who equate peace with the Mediterranean having a Sargasso Sea of Jews.

    I will not argue with you about the ongoing settlements because I think it is stupid and at the very least a sign of bad faith on the Israeli side.

    The Palestinians are not going to act rationally under these conditions. There can be no negotiations under these conditions.

    I have been kicking around this planet a few years and I have yet to see the Palestinians act rationally. As for the fact that these conditions don’t foster an atmosphere conducive to a group hug? Welcome to the party.

    If England had placed a blockade around Ireland during the IRA days would they have helped or hurt any peace effort? If Spain did the same with the Basque region would the basque rebels be more or less popular?

    Who knows? Do you?

    To ask is to answer.
    The Israel tactics are designed to foment more anger and make negotiations less successful – impossible I should say.

    I’d say suicide bombing TARGETING civilians don’t exactly exude a warm, fuzzy feeling, would you?

    All that said, I would be happy to give Israel a tip of the hat and say go for it, but they insist on committing these acts with US dollars and arms as well as bending the arms of US politicians to make stupid statements that drag us into this conflict and make us the target of terrorists.

    Do you really buy that canard? The terrorist readily state that their goal is to bring about an Islamic world. Israel simply represents an affront to that goal. It is a silly and unachievable goal to be sure, but it is their stated goal.

    This kills our chances for a more free society – a more ‘libertarian’ society – and that really irks me. Not to mention the impact they and their supports have in getting us into stupid conflicts with Iraq and Iran including (obviously) wars as well as the non-libertarian idea of trade sanctions with Iran that only end up hurting US economic interests.

    You clearly adhere to the unrealistic wing of the Libertarian Party that is the real thing that kills your chances. Balance, Daniel-san.

    But there are still boobs like James who choose to defend these acts when the entire rest of the world looks at it with astonishment.

    The rest of the world? The rest of the world is only concerned with their own self-interest in cases like this. Israel could go all Hamas, Iranian, et al, on the Palestinians and obliterate them from the face of the Earth and the rest of the world would be shocked for about ten minutes. Then they would breathe a collective sigh of relief and say, “Well, that’s finally over. Maybe now we can get down to making some money.”

    Finally, I would submit that ad hominem remarks hardly add weight to your arguments, but I can honestly say I have been called worse things. You are what you eat after all.

    Comment by James — 12/30/2008 @ 1:53 pm

  13. I am glad to report I find myself if very good company with this latest Glenn Greenwald piece.

    The real point here is that none of these intractable disputes between Israel and its various neighbors should be a focal point of American policy at all. Yet the above-documented orthodoxy [about supporting Israel] has ensured that it is [involved]. And — at least in the U.S. — that is the real issue, the reason why the Israeli attack merits so much discussion in the U.S. even among those who would just as soon refrain from having any involvement.

    As I wrote on Saturday regarding Israel’s varied wars, walls and blockades: “since we fund a huge bulk of it and supply the weapons used for much of it and use our veto power at the U.N. to enable all of it, we are connected to it — intimately — and bear responsibility for all of Israel’s various wars, including the current overwhelming assault on Gaza, as much as Israelis themselves.” With our bipartisan policy of blind and absolute support for Israel — not just rhetorical but military and material as well — our political leadership has inextricably (and foolishly) tied American interests to Israel’s interests.

    You have to take a stand against this if you care about US liberty as we are getting sucked into the problems of this sectarian state and are starting to look more and more like it both in being in lock down mode and have our own occupied territory (Iraq).

    It is not a place I want to go.

    And this all avoids the discussion of moral behavior (or lack thereof) on the part of Israel, which is a topic worthy of discussion.

    Link

    Comment by daveg — 1/3/2009 @ 3:05 pm

  14. Daveg (missed this earlier):

    If England had placed a blockade around Ireland during the IRA days would they have helped or hurt any peace effort?

    The IRA days aren’t entirely over, but surely you mean “The UK” rather than “England”? Our current Prime Minister is, after all, Scottish and so was Blair (although he moved around somewhat in his childhood, he was born in Scotland, lived there a while and attended a boarding school in Scotland).

    The UK did for a time prohibit some IRA-linked politicians from leaving Northern Ireland, I think, but that may have been illegal (I don’t recall right now), particularly if those individuals were MPs.

    Comment by Adam — 1/4/2009 @ 9:48 am

  15. Also, I still don’t think that Israel is in for a ‘rude awakening’, Brad. I think they’ll already know more or less what Obama is going to do and will have plans for it; they’ll presumably act outraged at times, but that’s part of the skill in Middle-Eastern politics (which is not entirely dissimilar to the experience of buying products from shops and stallholders out there, it seems to me).

    If Obama really is going to do something big regarding a sea-change in policy toward Israel, that could cost him a lot of the political capital he has. Isn’t he more likely to try to spend that on healthcare (for example)?

    My expectations would be for some really rather big talk and early pressure (which Bush and Blair also provided, with the ‘roadmap’) and gradual erosion as reality bites. Even if Obama can pressure Israel, Hamas are tough guys created in a horrendous situation and they can’t easily be controlled by anyone, in addition to which the suffering in Gaza is a continual engine for their recruitment; Hamas may be rational actors in their context as former de facto and now actual government in the almost unique concentration of human suffering that is Gaza, but on the international scale and in particular with relation to discussions with Israel, they are less likely to look like rational actors. Why would they be? Their existence and considerable strength in Gaza (although they don’t run all of it; there are crime families there too, I gather) is primarily a result of the consequences of Israel’s actions; there’s surely only so far they can move towards Israel before they lose their own legitimacy and something else arises to replace them, so long as the Gazan Palestinians’ lives are a daily routine of suffering and humiliation at the hands of Israeli troops.

    Meanwhile, Israel can’t easily, in terms of domestic politics, relax their strictures on Palestinians and the Gazans in particular while rockets fall, but there will always be rockets because there will always be angry young men so long as they experience that daily humiliation and see their women and children suffer. Yitzhak Rabin was maybe the only guy with the credibility and the inclination to take a hit for peace and he was killed by an Israeli opposed to that sort of equitable solution before he could progress far with it.

    I don’t think that it’s a situation for meddling in very much, at least not with some ambition to promote rapid change and I think that Obama probably feels the same way. The US is tied to Israel for good or bad but spending too much political capital on trying to improve things over there when his voters are clearly most concerned with things over here? That’s even before considering that if the US does go cold on Israel, there’s other money out there; the Chinese, for example, have plenty of interest in Israeli military technology and plenty of money to spread around…

    Comment by Adam — 1/4/2009 @ 10:04 am

  16. Meanwhile, Israel can’t easily, in terms of domestic politics, relax their strictures on Palestinians and the Gazans in particular while rockets fall, but there will always be rockets because there will always be angry young men so long as they experience that daily humiliation and see their women and children suffer.

    Two observations here.

    1. There are any number of global situations involving humiliation of angry young men and their families which do not result in terror attacks on civilian populations. I do not think it is accurate or useful to act as if Hamas’ actions were an inevitability or a law of nature. They are the product of a choice, just as Israel’s are.

    2. Said terror attacks on civilians predate the Gaza blockade, the Intifada, and indeed the Six Day War itself. There is no historical evidence of which I am aware to suggest that any policy actions on the part of Israel would result in an end to these attacks.

    The Israeli actions in Gaza may be worth condemning on their own merits–as disproportionate or as indiscriminate in their effects on civilians. I do think, though, that we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that these attacks are short-circuiting the process of Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation. There has been no propensity towards such reconciliation, ever, and those Palestinian leaders who have attempted to create such momentum have invariably wound up marginalized or dead.

    If we are going to understand Israel’s actions here, we have to start with the fact that they take attacks on their civilian population as a given.

    Comment by Rojas — 1/4/2009 @ 3:25 pm

  17. With regards to your point 1, my understanding that the situation there, and the history, is extreme, which is to say, not like the other examples of which you may be thinking. I’d love to get a mutual aquaintance of ours to write about it (he is out there and travels into Palestinian areas).

    As for terrorist actions in the area, they predate the formation of the state of Israel itself, although of course the word ‘terrorism’ is a weasel one.

    I haven’t condemned either side’s actions; I’m more interested in why they’re happening. Indeed, I think that a moral analysis of the situation, even when you can indentify groups and individuals sufficiently well, is almost a complete waste of time and has been for decades. It seems to me that the primary benefit arising from it is that the person conducting the analysis feels better about having more sympathy toward which ever side they tend to lean.

    Comment by Adam — 1/4/2009 @ 6:48 pm

  18. It seems to me that the primary benefit arising from it is that the person conducting the analysis feels better about having more sympathy toward which ever side they tend to lean.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy towards either side, however, I would have to say I think, overall, Israel is the worse actor and given their position of power they have the greater responsibility to improve the situation.

    As a sectarian/ethnic state Israel has a problem within the modern humanist morality of the West. They normal solutions to such a problem (single state solution) is not acceptable to the Zionists.

    That is there problem, however, and they need to figure out what they are will to do – how far they are willing to go – to achieve their dream of the “Jewish State”. Not the US’ problem.

    And it is US involvement that are strongly disapprove of. Israel is acting bad enough that the US is going to take the hit for Israel’s actions. We are enabling Israel to act less responsibly than it should.

    As far as the IRA example goes, if the UK placed all of Ireleand under a blockade during the ‘troubles’, which is essentially what Gaza is under, the violience would have increased ten-fold. It is not a formula for peace.

    It is such a bad formula, in fact, that the only possible motive for it is to not have peace, because that it not what the parties want.

    Comment by daveg — 1/5/2009 @ 1:30 pm

  19. More wisdom (and patriotism, altough he probably would be embarassed to hear that) from Mr. Greenwald:

    Ultimately, what is most notable about the “debate” in the U.S. over Israel-Gaza is that virtually all of it occurs from the perspective of Israeli interests but almost none of it is conducted from the perspective of American interests. There is endless debate over whether Israel’s security is enhanced or undermined by the attack on Gaza and whether the 40-year-old Israeli occupation, expanding West Bank settlements and recent devastating blockade or Hamas militancy and attacks on Israeli civilians bear more of the blame. American opinion-making elites march forward to opine on the historical rights and wrongs of the endless Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict with such fervor and fixation that it’s often easy to forget that the U.S. is not actually a direct party to this dispute.

    Though the ins-and-outs of Israeli grievances and strategic considerations are endlessly examined, there is virtually no debate over whether the U.S. should continue to play such an active, one-sided role in this dispute. It’s the American taxpayer, with their incredibly consequential yet never-debated multi-billion-dollar aid packages to Israel, who are vital in funding this costly Israeli assault on Gaza. Just as was true for Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, it’s American bombs that — with the whole world watching — are blowing up children and mosques, along with Hamas militants, in Gaza. And it’s the American veto power that, time and again, blocks any U.N. action to stop these wars.

    And it is the US that will receive any blowback from such actions.

    Comment by daveg — 1/5/2009 @ 3:35 pm

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