Gaza - "War to the Bitter End"
by Charles Lemos, Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 07:12:06 PM EST
I noticed a diary by Main Street on MyDD Missing in Action on Gaza. I know that Jonathan will be blogging on the topic once he gets to Israel. Speaking for myself, I'll say it's not easy to find the right words and when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict a misplaced word can set off a minefield even on a progressive blog not to mention this is a subject seemingly beyond my comprehension at this point or at the very least my attention span. Haven't we seen this all before?
Instead of my own nebulous views, I'll offer the words of others who I think make points worth reflecting upon.
Here's Robert Fisk in The Independent:
We've got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don't care any more - providing we don't offend the Israelis. It's not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel's side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs - who, as we all know, only understand force.
Ever since 1948, we've been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis - just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist "death wagon" will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be "liberated". And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise "restraint" - as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas's home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.
The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel's anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas's anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which ... See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and ... Got it? And we demand security for Israel - rightly - but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was "under siege" - as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.
By last night, the exchange rate stood at 296 Palestinians dead for one dead Israeli. Back in 2006, it was 10 Lebanese dead for one Israeli dead. This weekend was the most inflationary exchange rate in a single day since - the 1973 Middle East War? The 1967 Six Day War? The 1956 Suez War? The 1948 Independence/Nakba War? It's obscene, a gruesome game - which Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, unconsciously admitted when he spoke this weekend to Fox TV. "Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game," Barak said.
Exactly. Only the "rules" of the game don't change. This is a further slippage on the Arab-Israeli exchanges, a percentage slide more awesome than Wall Street's crashing shares, though of not much interest in the US which - let us remember - made the F-18s and the Hellfire missiles which the Bush administration pleads with Israel to use sparingly.
Quite a lot of the dead this weekend appear to have been Hamas members, but what is it supposed to solve? Is Hamas going to say: "Wow, this blitz is awesome - we'd better recognise the state of Israel, fall in line with the Palestinian Authority, lay down our weapons and pray we are taken prisoner and locked up indefinitely and support a new American 'peace process' in the Middle East!" Is that what the Israelis and the Americans and Gordon Brown think Hamas is going to do?
Yes, let's remember Hamas's cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel's need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching - come to heel or we will crush you - is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians - and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.
Not a whimper from Tony Blair, the peace envoy to the Middle East who's never been to Gaza in his current incarnation. Not a bloody word.
We hear the usual Israeli line. General Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Israeli army's "research and assessment division" announced that "no country in the world would allow its citizens to be made the target of rocket attacks without taking vigorous steps to defend them". Quite so. But when the IRA were firing mortars over the border into Northern Ireland, when their guerrillas were crossing from the Republic to attack police stations and Protestants, did Britain unleash the RAF on the Irish Republic? Did the RAF bomb churches and tankers and police stations and zap 300 civilians to teach the Irish a lesson? No, it did not. Because the world would have seen it as criminal behaviour. We didn't want to lower ourselves to the IRA's level.
Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated "terrorism". So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east - in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? - a well-known man in a turban smiles.
Mr. Fisk, I think, captures it brilliantly. And then there is Israeli historian Tom Segev writing in Haaretz, Israel's left-leaning paper.
Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey..
The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.
As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.
Also catching my eye in terms of the more reprehensible fold is this:
Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Arab protests while calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to dismiss minister Raleb Majadele, the lone Arab serving in the cabinet.
Arab MKs repeatedly accused the government of waging a war for electioneering purposes and the defense minister of intentionally killing children. Russian-Israeli MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) proposed that the Arab lawmakers relocate to Gaza and not return. The Arab MKs retorted by calling him a "Fascist," and insisted that he should return to the country where he came from.
"There are those who are counting bodies and at the same time counting Knesset seats," Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) said. "Bodies for votes - this is done primarily by the Labor Party."
"There are those who are profiting from Palestinian blood in order to get elected," Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh said. Barakeh and MK Taleb a-Sana were subsequently evicted from the plenum.
The full article is at Haaretz. MK, by the way, stands for Member of the Knesset. And in the same article there's Ehud Barak quoting Barack Obama:
"Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it."
If I live to be a hundred, I'm sure I will never fully understand this conflict. Your thoughts?