Friday, January 16, 2009

Thoughts on Gaza

For Israel and Palestine to live in peace, whether as one whole state or two, they need an entirely new kind of leadership. Both of them, and us too, to better accomodate solutions grounded in an authentic desire for peace, and the resources necessary to guarantee Palestinian self-sufficiency and Israeli security.

Most activists and academics seem obsessed with the blame question, their anger towards whichever other side blurring their anger over the existential question of the conflict. This doesn't make sense to me. When we witness our friends or family fighting, we try to stop the fight first. Of course, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one side or the other is going to seem alien to us. That's precisely why we should turn to organizations like Parents' Circle, groups of Israeli Arabs (haven't read the new Newsweek article on that, but I intend to soon), and, where possible, Palestinian critics of Hamas.

Those defending the Palestinian leadership (I'm talking Hamas in the Gaza context) need to acknowledge the reality that many ordinary Israeli citizens live in fear of terrorist attacks. They need to accept that reality even though there are some words in there uncomfortable to discourse-leftys. They also need to distance themselves from violence against innocents--or at least admit that they favor it so we can mock or ignore them. (I'm not talking about understanding the root of such violence. We need to do that, but we can do that without favoring it politically or tactically. It's precisely the break away from such violence that will distinguish the successful, creative Palestinian leadership I am wishing for.)

Those defending Israel's military campaign have already lost the ability to sincerely wish for a nonviolent solution to the conflict. Even if Israel is merely retaliating, to defend retaliation--particularly when it results in such a higher death count than what it retaliates against-- is to renounce one of the core principles, and arguably the core political implication, of New Testament ethics; it is to distance oneself from one of the few genuinely consistently successful political strategies of the 20th century. And it admits, without explicitly bothering to do so, that the dead three year-old boy, the sobbing mother, and homeless people who have done nothing more than live within the borders of misleaders, are all acceptable byproducts of Israel's decisions. That last one puts Israel's supporters precariously close to where the most cynical --or mentally unstable-- Palestinian leader may be found.

I want leaders in Palestine, Israel and America, not misleaders. I don't care whether the solutions forged are secular, spiritual, material, financial, capitalist or socialist. I want the adults to grow up so the children can grow up. You won't hear the mainstream media talking much about misleadership, at least in a thematic way. Corporate media is too bound up in the fate of its subject matter to be able to imagine or predict a Gandhi or Martin Luther King. As long as we let media sensationalists, weapons makers, and religious fanatics set the tone, mainstream public discussions will fail.

Alternative media is another story. As long as progressives are willing to listen to both sides, our fora may be the key to finding common ground. I'll be moderating a debate between Professors Jason Steck and Stephen Zunes on Saturday, January 24 on Shared Sacrifice Radio, on the subject of Gaza. My role in that debate will be one of neutral moderator, so nobody should worry about whether my personal feelings about the issue will bleed into any of the questions. But if anyone wants to suggest questions to ask our opposing scholars, feel free to send some my way.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to statistics published on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, total deaths of Israeli citizens by Palestinians came to 38 in calendar year 2008.

That is everywhere in the world, over the entire year, by every possible means (suicide bombings + rockets + stabbings + snipers, etc.), and includes both Israeli civilians and IDF; a narrow majority of those deaths were IDF (there were 3 Israeli deaths during the attacks on Gaza not reflected in the MFA figures)

Just in Gaza just in the last week of 2008, more than 400 Gazans, the majority of whom were not members of Hamas and many of whom were women and children, were killed by Israeli bombings alone.

Single week. Single location. Single population. Single death vector.

More than 10X the death toll for all Israelis at the hands of Palestinians by all means anywhere in the world for the entire year of 2008.

And this ignores the fact that for nearly the whole year Israel engaged in a murderous blockade, in flagrant violation of international law.

And contrary to the lies peddled for US consumption, the Israeli government and media openly acknowledge (in Israel) that they broke the ceasefire in November with a raid and assassination of Hamas members, immediately after the US election.

I understand the point you are trying to make Matt and at some level I am inclined to agree, but this false balancing pose is unacceptable and nauseating. On that score, your should be embarrassed.

"It is true Somoza was a violent dictator, but the FSLN was also violent, so a curse on both of them." Bullshit.

Your friend in Detroit.

matt said...

Then I need to choose my words more carefully in the future, and you need to read them more carefully in the present. Because I am not saying what you think I am saying, and certainly not in any way comparable to your ludicrous reduction in the hypothetical Nicaragua example.

matt

Anonymous said...

"Those defending the Palestinian leadership (I'm talking Hamas in the Gaza context)"--are defenders of genocide. Just read the Hamas charter.

And Jews "renounc[ing] New Testament ethics"? Oh, no, what is the world coming to?!? One religion not following another religions' ethics? Shock horror!

Next we'll be seeing Buddhists renouncing the Qu'ran, Hindus renouncing the Book of Mormon, and Christians renouncing the Bhagvad Gita! Where will it end?

(You do realize they are Jews, and don't believe in the New Testament--and their ethics say an eye for an eye, right?

Finally, "it is to distance oneself from one of the few genuinely consistently successful political strategies of the 20th century."

What do you mean, turning one's cheek is a successful strategy? Yes, I guess when faced with a group explicitly dedicated to one's obliteration, the best thing to do is turn the other cheek.

That actually sounds like suicide to me. How successful is that? Well, from Hamas' point of view very successful.

You seem incapable of rational thought, and if this is the level of argumentation you teach your students, I feel sorry for your debate squad. There is no point in discussion politics with you. I'm out.

matt said...

Hey, anonymous:

By the "new testament ethics" phrase, I meant the conservative christians in America who unconditionally and uncritically defend Israeli hardliners.

Sorry for the misunderstanding, and sorry also that said misunderstanding reduced your comments to little more than a pile of anonymous douchebaggery.

Moreover, I trust Parents Circle, and the thousands upon thousands of activists in organizations filled with peace-loving Jews and Arabs, who HAVE lost loved ones in the Middle Eastern conflicts, more than I trust a troll. They say there are solutions other than war. I say you're uncreative and probably secretly get off on the thought of dead Palestinian babies (and the inevitable dead Israeli children who are also victims of the follies of misleadership on both sides). GFY.

I hope that, contextually, you see this as an appropriate response to your anonymous post.

matt said...

One more thing, anonymous douchebag:

The most important part of my post was the following:

"Most activists and academics seem obsessed with the blame question, their anger towards whichever other side blurring their anger over the existential question of the conflict. This doesn't make sense to me. When we witness our friends or family fighting, we try to stop the fight first. Of course, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one side or the other is going to seem alien to us. That's precisely why we should turn to organizations like Parents' Circle, groups of Israeli Arabs ... and, where possible, Palestinian critics of Hamas."

You should read over that and learn some things. Hell, I'll bet you aren't even Jewish anyway.

Anonymous said...

Nice name calling! Good way to prove your point!

You never clarified what you meant by "it is to distance oneself from one of the few genuinely consistently successful political strategies of the 20th century."

What is that strategy? Concessions? When faced with an enemy dedicated to your obliteration, as Hamas explictly is by their own charter, concessions are suicide.

If not that, then what? What are these "solutions other than war"? The only solution Hamas wants is Israel wiped off the map; anything less than Israel's total annihilation is unacceptable to them. What is to be done against that other than war? Seriously; trolls like us anonymous douchebags want to know!

Anonymous said...

During the debate, professor Stephen Zunes wanted "one example" of Hamas using civilians as human shields.

Here's one:

ttp://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233050211857&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[Excerpt]:

Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a "fortress" by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields.

They told the official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper that for years Hamas had used their property and homes as military installations from which the group would launch rockets into Israel, dig tunnels and store arms. According to the victims, those who tried to object were shot in the legs by Hamas operatives.

And here's a Hamas MP bragging about their human shield policy:

http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1710.htm

Following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008.

Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life."

There's proof for you, professor Zunes

matt said...

Anonymous:

I hope you will email those links to Dr. Zunes directly, since I doubt he reads this blog. I am sure you can find his email address very easily, since he, and it, are all over cyberspace. If he responds to you, I'd love to hear what he says in reply.

Once again, I interpret this as further evidence of misleadership, treachery, and failure on all sides of this conflict. You can interpret it any way you like.

Anonymous said...

Sent!

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