Friday, January 9, 2009

An unbearable sadness of being



Sigh. I haven't posted in a while (even by my standards) as the end of the year brought too much work followed by the too much eating and drinking of the holiday season. But mostly I haven't posted because there's nothing that deserves discussion more than Israel's attack on Gaza, and frankly I didn't have the fortitude or courage (stomach or balls) to deal with the issues and facts head-on. I still don't. But in an attempt at securing just a sliver of piece of mind, I'll throw out some thoughts and useful links.

There is no aspect of Israel's actions that are rooted in or even related to self-defense. Any ideas otherwise are demonstrably false. Israel, not Palestine, broke the ceasefire on November 4, 2008 when it killed 6 Palestinians. That ceasefire, however, was not particularly sustainable as by its terms it continued the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Resources are not allowed to flow in, people are not allowed to flow out. Gaza is essentially a prison. I occasionally listen to uninformed blowhards on the radio ask, "well, what should a country do if it's neighboring country started firing rockets at them?" (and this is on NPR, I shudder to think what's being said elsewhere). Gaza is not a sovereign county, it is not recognized by Israel, it is an Occupied Territory. Israel should, and the US should make Israel (which it has the power to do of course), end the blockade, agree to the 1976 UN Security Council resolution for a two-state settlement, vetoed by the US and supported by the rest of the world (the vote was 150-3 in the General Assembly with only the US, Israel, and El Salvador(!) opposing it), and stop its attacks on and attempts to destabilize Hamas, the democratically elected governing party of Palestine. Bombing the fuck out of 1.5 million people trapped in a box before launching a ground invasion is a far different, far less acceptable course of action.

There's much more to say, but I just don't have the stregth to say it. These people do it better at these links:
To all the supporters of Israel who read this and won't want to talk to me again, I remind you of Chomsky's clarification that "supporters of Israel" should more aptly be called "supporters of the moral degradation and eventual destruction of Israel."

9 comments:

Jesse said...

1)regarding nov. 4th, it was 5 hamas gunmen who were guarding a tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel which was to be used for an "imminent attack". very different from a) an official declaration of an end to the ceasefire and b) intentional and active targeting of civilian populations.

2) countries that don't recognize the state of Israel - wait, it's easier to list the Arab countries that DO: Egypt and Jordan.

3) Why the ARAB league peace plan of 2002 is unacceptable:
a) the right of return for refugees (who voluntarily left in 1967 upon assurance of swift victory by the Arab alliance) would render Israel either a non-Jewish state, as declared in its constitution as its purpose for being, or a non-democratic state.
b) If the lands taken in the six-day war (resulting from an environment made hostile by Egypt) need be returned, then, too, should Texas, New York, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota... and Israel, having been taken by the Romans and passed around from empire to empire for the past 2000 years.
i) despite this, Israel has already given governing power back to the Arabs in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank, and was willing to go further, but that would have put the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. out of business, and was thusly rejected. These organizations/ "political parties" call for the destruction of the state of Israel, whether militarily, politically (i.e. the right of return), or otherwise.

5) I respect you and will continue to be your friend, but quoting Chomsky is not a way to put at ease the mind of a Zionist.

War is a horrible thing. Don't start one. When you do, don't hide your soldiers among your women and children.

Had you not used the picture of a bloody child to purport an anti-Israeli platform, you'd have had my full sympathy, as that child, for example, does. However, it comes across as another shameless tactic.

Israel's justifications clearly cannot be summarized in 5 abbreviated points, but I feel they are an adequate rebuttal to your piece.

In conclusion, you have failed to demonstrate the supposed fallacy of Israel's actions not having roots in defensiveness.

I.C. said...

Thanks Rajeev for posting this. It must be hell to live under occupation.

Its actions like these where you can witness the truth that violence is a cycle, how a victimized and tortured people can themselves become victimizers and torturers.

Like all reasonable people, one cannot side with the executioners, on either side. So then what's left is to weigh the competing claims and seek justice.

In the case of occupier and occupied, what is just -- what needs to end -- is rather self-evident.

God help that region.

djk said...

this difficult time in the world (for so many reasons) has only been further deepened by the middle east. yet again. i really appreciate your post and commend you for saying all. truly unbearably sad.

and i urge you to read nicholas kristof's piece in thurs ny times as well as howard schweber's piece on the huffington post. i think both have different ways of capturing the right and wrong of it all and ideas for the future. however no one can let the US off the hook and shouldn't.

rananda said...

Jesse,

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

regarding nov. 4th, it was 5 hamas gunmen who were guarding a tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel which was to be used for an "imminent attack".

I don't think the number matters all that much. The important point is that this was the first substantial violation of the cease-fire, whether or not Israel formally acknowledged or declared it as such (why would they?). Who is claiming that there was to be an "imminent attack?" If the Israeli government, remember that almost all states use the claim of a security threat to justify any act of aggression. The US in Grenada (one of the more laughable in recorded history), the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Indonesia in East Timor, these were all in response to imminent national security threats. Of course, even the US initially attacked Iraq because of Iraq’s vast array of WMD's (of course, this had to be changed to an effort to liberate them from tyranny when the WMD's weren't found, and then most recently it has been finally acknowledged as a play for controlling the important resources of the region (as the WSJ explicitly noted after Obama foolishly, in their minds, claimed he wanted to pull out troops from Iraq to place them in Afghanistan)). We should be very skeptical of Israel, or any other state including Palestine, claiming it faced an "imminent threat" to justify aggression.

I don't think it's all that controversial in non-state/business controlled media (aka outside the mainstream US media, not sure what the Israeli media is saying) that Israel broke the cease-fire. "While neither side ever completely respected the cease-fire terms, the Israeli raid was far and away the biggest violation," said Stephen Zunes, an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the University of San Francisco. "It was a huge, huge provocation, and it now appears to me that it was actually intended to get Hamas to break off the cease-fire." http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=98882.
A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid into the territory. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/05/israelandthepalestinians

countries that don't recognize the state of Israel - wait, it's easier to list the Arab countries that DO: Egypt and Jordan.

Right, but isn't that just reflexive? If Israel did recognize Palestine, wouldn't every Arab nation recognize Israel? But can the inverse be said? Even if all Arab states recognized Israel, would this make Israel recognize Palestine? The point, however, is not really who recognizes who, but rather whose people enjoy the fruits of a functioning and autonomous government, Israel or Palestine? Whose people are free to move and work and live, and whose people live under a blockade? Palestinians live under an illegal military occupation and have done so for 40 years. To suggest that Israel is acting in self-defense is not much different than suggesting that the US military is acting in self-defense in Iraq. I think technically, according to a UN document, it is impossible for an occupying force to act in self-defense with respect to violence committed from Occupied Territories (Occupied Territory is a term of art in international law). Of course, international law went out the window long ago with respect to the current conflict.

Why the ARAB league peace plan of 2002 is unacceptable:
a) the right of return for refugees (who voluntarily left in 1967 upon assurance of swift victory by the Arab alliance) would render Israel either a non-Jewish state, as declared in its constitution as its purpose for being, or a non-democratic state.


The right of return would not be exercised, in anything more than a very limited way, in the world we live in. If in fact, international support for the right of return did develop (which is unimaginable), Israel would certainly resort to the ultimate weapon, even defying the US, to prevent it. The 2002 Geneva Accords leave open the right of return for future negotiations. Palestinians had already accepted the so-called pragmatic settlement at Camp David and at Taba, which would not have changed the demographic nature of Israel.

What’s most interesting about the Saudi Plan or the Geneva Accords, I think, is that Israel, along with its senior partner, or what the astute Israeli-commentators call, “the boss-man called ‘partner’” (the US), stand in splendid isolation on this issue. The entire world, Europe, the South, Arab states, even the US populace, support a two-state settlement on the basis of the Saudi Plan or the Geneva accords. Is the whole world anti-Israeli?

b) If the lands taken in the six-day war (resulting from an environment made hostile by Egypt) need be returned, then, too, should Texas, New York, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota... and Israel, having been taken by the Romans and passed around from empire to empire for the past 2000 years.

While I’ll disagree with your characterization of the past events, I’m not sure why solutions/negotiations made in conditions particular to the here and now should be applied retrospectively to the past or prospectively to future events/conditions. I would be more than happy to call for most of the US to be returned to the indigenous population, but sadly they have almost all been killed. Compromises should be accepted if they can lead to something better. Leaving Palestinians caged in the West Bank and the Gaza strip is not something better.

A commentator wrote the following back in 2004 around the time of the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and what Israel’s motives were at the time. Much has happened since then but I think the not much has changed fundamentally: “I presume that the purpose of murdering Sheikh Yassin, destroying Rafah, and other similar measures is to ensure that after a likely Israeli partial withdrawal, the Gaza Strip will be so utterly demolished that the population caged within it will rot and die and turn on each other in desperation, at which point Western humanists can comment sagely on the inability of Palestinians (like Haitians, and other targets of our benevolence) to manage their own affairs even when given a chance. Therefore we must (reluctantly) support Israel's "defensive" moves to take over the valuable land and resources of the West Bank while leaving the remaining population caged in a dungeon there.”

I think that’s essentially it, and explains why Israel/US opposes any compromise that gives Palestine meaningful control of this land. As Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed puts it in an article I linked to: “1) The short-term objective is to allow Israeli and Anglo-American unchallenged monopolisation of the Gaza gas reserves, and continued apartheid-style domination of the Territories. 2) The long-term objective is to create permanent conditions facilitating Israel's re-encroachment on the Territories, encouraging Palestinian emigration and expulsion from their homes, and absorbing their remaining lands under renewed Israeli settler-colonisation programmes.”

I respect you and will continue to be your friend

Thank you, this actually means quite a lot, and I feel the same way towards you regardless of differences on these issues.

but quoting Chomsky is not a way to put at ease the mind of a Zionist.

I understand this, but I think that’s only if the Zionist is concerned with expanding Israel’s land and resource control in the region, rather than seeking security and integration within the region. Israel explicitly and self-consciously chose the former path 40 or 50 years ago. Chomsky and many others, without any “anti-Israeli” sentiment, wished she had chosen the latter path.

War is a horrible thing. Don't start one. When you do, don't hide your soldiers among your women and children.

This is ingenuous, to say the least. This is like accusing the Algerians for starting a war with the France in Algeria. While I would question whether Gaza is hiding its soldiers among women and children, what does it say about Israel that it has called Hamas’ bluff, so to speak, and is willing to attack those soldiers even knowing it is likely (certainly) to cause the death of women and children?

Had you not used the picture of a bloody child to purport an anti-Israeli platform, you'd have had my full sympathy, as that child, for example, does. However, it comes across as another shameless tactic.

I’m not sure why it’s shameless or a mere tactic. Any actor needs to be able to acknowledge and deal with the likely outcome of their actions. Israel doesn’t deserve an exception here, nor does Palestine, and nor do the US citizens who allow their government to enable this violence to continue.

Sir Fantastic said...

I've never heard the theory that Israel is really motivated by the desire to create the perception of a Haitian-like inability of the Palestinians to govern themselves. That's interesting. One of the biggest problems for me in this current conflict has been that I don't understand Israel's strategic goals. That is, I don't see how the invasion of Gaza will enable Israel to live without the worry of rocket attacks by its Palestinian neighbors in the future. Of course a country has the right to defend itself and to do everything it can to live without the threat of rockets attacks, but this looks to be just a rehash of the unsuccessful drive to remove Hezbollah in Lebanon. And since I can't understand how this invasion will allow Israel to live at peace with their neighbors, it has appeared to me to simply satisfy the base human need for revenge and blood lust.

rananda said...

Well, I think Israel's main goals have historically been geographic expansion and resource control (this is not significantly different from the goals of almost any nation state). Cantonization of the West Bank has been one of the strategies, and a weakening/destabilizing of the Hamas has to be another. This attack would seem to certainly weaken the ability of Hamas to govern Gaza, though it problems only exacerbates the despair, humiliation, and suffering of the Palestinian people, the real threats to Israel's security/safety.

Odo said...

as a good drunk/high/fat american, i was ready to give this latest eruption of mideast happenings a pass on the grounds of not knowing enough to care; but you went and left me needing to organize my thoughts on the matter. in this connexion, i labour under the cloud of being a demographic anti-semite (lithuanian jews having become a thing of history/beloved of hollywood (cf. the three stooges)), but nevertheless i can't shake this notion that the current Israeli state is the poster child for terrorist victory viz. the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. compromise and die.

through the lens of a lifelong war-gamer, the situation seems obvious: if the chaps with better armament can provoke their technologically backwards if numerically superior opponent into an extended conflict, they can, on the modern battlefield, utterly destroy their enemy. a protracted conflict in which 1 israeli dies for every 100 palestinians will ultimately lead the geographic region to consensus support of the democratic israeli state.

so that's my small-minded, cynical analysis. if (cf. Iraq) israel is prepared to lose 4000 of its own to kill 400,000 palestinians, then it will succeed in bringing its own democracy to the region. if there is to be peace short of this relatively apocalyptic scenario, then those with the advantage will have to make a concession to their adversary in deference to the ethereal principle of non-violent conflict resolution.

but who ever heard of a nation willingly conceding an advantage? in my Civ III world, I'd obviously take the geopolitical standing "hit" concurrent with exterminating local rag-tag rebels in order to conquer necessary lands for my own population's expansion inasmuch as it didn't threaten my access to the resources necessary to press/build on my technological advantage. the F-16 is militarily superior to the suicide bomber; ergo agreeing to a cease-fire is tantamount to giving the [palestinian] irregular forces freedom to kill my [israeli] populace. the rational war-like [israeli] (who is willing to accept the death of his countryman as an unfortunately necessary means to an end) will thus seek any opportunity to escalate the magnitude of violent conflict, knowing that the magnitude of the violence is directly proportional to the magnitude of victory. thus, i strategically prefer large-scale warfare wherein i can utilize my planes and tanks, to small-scale warfare wherein i have to rely upon checkpoints and small arms which are available to both sides.

just more stupid math and statistics. i personally prefer the ending where everyone gets so drunk and high that they forget what fighting means and simply interbreed until there's no comprehensible distinction between "us" and "them." face it: in the next couple of thousand years (i.e. the mirror back to "biblical times"), we'll be charged with spreading the Earth's ejaculate to other godforsaken rocks regardless of who won the petty stabbing contests over where the lines were drawn on this one. that is the measure of my optimism, and i lift my glass to toast everyone in smug security that the passage of time will crush all of these incipient stupidities.

cheers!

rananda said...

I.C.

It must be hell to live under occupation.

Unbelievably so, I imagine. It is also why people should not criticize the means of resistance or protest of the occupied unless they too are willing to submit to those conditions and behave differently. It's very easy for you and I (or the heads on my TV or in my papers) to say that Palestinians should not be firing homemade rockets into Israel (or Iraquis should not be placing roadside bombs near US troops); it is quite another thing to live as they live.

djk

however no one can let the US off the hook and shouldn't.

Of course, without trying to be too hyperbolic, I don't think it's totally unfair to say that this is basically all the US's fault. The US views Israel as an off-shore military base, and all of the tools of destruction that Israel is currently wielding against essentially a defenseless people were made or funded by the US. The US could stop the bloodshed with a single phone call.

Also, I just read the Kristof piece, I don't know, I think he's got the same set of assumptions that any respected member of the Western media has (Arabs use terrorism, ignoring the much more disparate Israeli/US terrorism, Palestine started it, etc), but I think he does at least show some compassion for Palestine. I still don't think these are the types of columns we should be seeing in the NY Times. I think the columns by Justin Podur (linked to in the post) are what we should be seeing. Interestingly, radio silence from Chomsky on this whole affair. Is he mourning over the loss of his wife, sick himself? If anyone see anything that he writes/talks on this, please let me know.

rananda said...

Odo

Thanks for that, I quite it enjoyed it, as almost always.

but nevertheless i can't shake this notion that the current Israeli state is the poster child for terrorist victory viz. the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. compromise and die.

Interesting take. I think the struggle between doves and hawks has been going on for a long time w/in Israel (as it always is w/in any nation-state, I imagine). I think the hard-core hawks chose expansion over security 40 years ago, back when a two-state (or even a bi-national secular state!) settlement was very possible. I don't usually think individuals, or individuals events, make all that much difference in shaping larger policy or planning, and I wouldn't imagine Rabin's death at the hands of an Israeli nutter would have emboldened similarly blood-crazed Israeli leaders, but it certainly could be a metaphor buried deep in the collective consciousness of Israel that rears its head at times.

a protracted conflict in which 1 israeli dies for every 100 palestinians will ultimately lead the geographic region to consensus support of the democratic israeli state.

If I understand what you're saying here, I think I agree. I think that's related to the Gaza as Haiti argument.

but who ever heard of a nation willingly conceding an advantage?

Bingo. I think what follows is right, as well.

i personally prefer the ending where everyone gets so drunk and high that they forget what fighting means and simply interbreed until there's no comprehensible distinction between "us" and "them." face it: in the next couple of thousand years (i.e. the mirror back to "biblical times"), we'll be charged with spreading the Earth's ejaculate to other godforsaken rocks regardless of who won the petty stabbing contests over where the lines were drawn on this one. that is the measure of my optimism, and i lift my glass to toast everyone in smug security that the passage of time will crush all of these incipient stupidities.

Amen to that. I am not as optimistic, but it's fun to dream. Especially when drunk and high.