Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel Attack on Gaza: Same Story Different Day in Palestine

BBC correspondent Jihad Misharawi holds his son's body
There are some elements which are wholly predictable in the world. Israeli-Palestinian violence is one of those things. Israel recently assassinated the military head of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, in the Gaza Strip. This of course led to a coordinated violent response from Hamas which in turn caused an even more violent response from Israel. There has been the normal kabuki dance in which Israeli political leaders say that they won't tolerate acts of violence from Palestinians and reserve the right to defend themselves. And US political leaders have condemned violence from Hamas, and also strongly defended Israel's right to defend itself, while insulting Hamas as cowardly. It is totally predictable that the US mainstream media has wholly accepted the Israeli point of view about the latest violence, which is that Israel was peaceably minding its own business when out of nowhere a bunch of anti-semitic religious nutball Third World savages started to shoot rockets into Israel. And anyone who doesn't conform to that pov will be attacked as anti-semitic or biased. 

Well I have no plans to join any mainstream media or think tanks anytime in the near future. So I can write what I like. And you can call me what you like. As I have written before I think the only fair and possible long term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an unitary state with equal rights for all and special rights for none. That's not perfect, as South Africa is discovering, but given the circumstances I think it's a baseline. That that solution is becoming less and less likely is a tragedy not only for Palestinians but for Israelis and ultimately Americans who are currently wedded to a bipartisan foreign policy that supports the most right-wing elements of Israeli politics no matter what.

Israel, as its leaders and US partisans emphasize, does have the right to defend itself. If I lived in Texas and Mexicans were constantly lobbying rockets over the border I would expect the US military to show them a little love. But, and you will never ever ever see this concept expressed in any mainstream media or government statement, Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves. If I lived in Mexico and US aircraft were constantly bombarding me I would hope that the Mexican military, no matter how understaffed, inept and outgunned, would try to fight back.
So let's just not freeze frame the last week and look at what Hamas does. You have to look at the past months and even years. There was an informal truce between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt. I'm going to bet that you may not have heard about these events, which are the proximate cause for the latest violence.

On November 4, Israeli soldiers killed an unarmed, possibly mentally ill man who was allegedly walking too close to their buffer zone. On November 8, during another Israeli incursion in the Gaza strip, Israeli soldiers killed a 13 year boy playing soccer near his home. The following day there were rockets fired into Israel. There was another Israeli incursion which resulted in the deaths of Palestinian women and children and the path of escalation was set. One final attempt at a truce was set. Jabari actually received a peace proposal but evidently it was simply a ruse to lure him out into the open. Hamas can not win a military confrontation with Israel. Israel knows this. And despite the bluster about "opening the gates of hell" (Does that sound better in Arabic? Who talks like that???)  Hamas knows it too which explains its attempts to hold to a truce. Of course when you put people in a position where they have literally nothing to lose they will lash out. Gaza is a blockaded hellhole of 1.5-1.6 million impoverished refugees. Noam Chomsky recently visited and described it as an open air prison. This isn't surprising given that a survey showed that a majority of Israelis want preferences for Jews over Arabs in jobs, and would not be in favor of letting West Bank Arabs vote if Israel formally annexed the West Bank.

So why would Israel ignore a truce and then assassinate an opposition's leader, knowing that this would likely lead to an escalation? I think there are a couple of reasons. 
There are upcoming Israeli elections in January 2013. Certainly Netanyahu wants to ensure his party can form a government and outflank any more right-wing parties (or ministers).The other reason is that, as pointed out by the Tehran bureau chief for the NYT , this new violence will greatly complicate any attempt by the US and Iran to reach some consensus on Iran's nuclear program as neither the US nor Iran will want to make deals or even be talking to each other while their proxies are killing and dying. Could a deal with Iran have been possible? Maybe, maybe not. But this report of deals and concessions with Iran certainly would have irritated and worried some of the more right-wing elements in the Israeli body politic. And with the US under President Obama having turned to a kill list and enthusiastically supported the illegal tactic of extrajudicial assassinations there is no way that the US President could do anything other than support the Israeli Prime Minister, even if Israeli actions run counter to US interests. There is a piece by dissident US journalist and civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald that is a must read.

Mira Scharf and family
The latest round of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have revealed a disturbing (from an Israeli POV) capacity and one that though still militarily pathetic have killed Israeli citizens, including a pregnant woman. So what's the answer? The only short term solution is for the UN security council to force Israel and Hamas to stand down. Beyond that there would need to be UN armed observers in the West Bank and Gaza. But since the UN security council will never act to condemn or restrain Israel I expect that the region will suffer continued. It is ironic that while Israel is bombing people who in the US mindset, do not have the right to defend themselves, Syria is bombing people, who despite having turned to violence in an attempt to overthrow a dictator, have every right to defend themselves. The Syrian rebels have committed some ugly massacres and human rights violations but they (unlike Hamas) happen to be fighting against someone that the US and its European allies don't like. They are thus eligible to receive US support under the table . They've received French recognition and may soon receive open French and US direct arms shipments.
The moral of this story is choose your enemies wisely.


1) How would you fix this latest mideast crisis?

2) Is there a long term solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict?

3) Should the US stop supporting one side?

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