Monthly Archives: January 2009

Thoughts on the Israel-Hamas Conflict

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I did not write much about the conflict in Gaza over the past few weeks. I provided a lot of links, perhaps too many, and generally avoided articulating what I think and feel about the situation. Part of this was due to concerns and fears. The fear that young friends in Israel will be called up for reserve duty and a concern about appealing callous to readers whose opinions I hold dear.

To be perfectly clear, I hoped and prayed for Israel’s overwhelming victory against Hamas. I doubted the political leadership of Israel was willing to go that far, but as others have pointed out, the primary means to achieve peace when one is at war with a totalitarian movement is overwhelming force against the enemy. A crushing blow is necessary.

Obviously, international opinion, especially in Europe, would be against Israel. The Muslim world would be calling for jihad. But isn’t this always the case? Hasn’t this been going on for decades? Whether Israel shows great restraint or not, its actions will be condemned by the “international community.” Every anti-terrorist operation conducted by Israel is condemned as some sort of “massacre” or “war-crime” by practically every country in the world except the U.S. while Palestinian terrorism is rationalized as “resistance”.

It does not surprise me that the radical/loony/leftover left supports Hamas just as they supported Hezbollah in 2006. At this point, “anti-imperialism” and above all, anti-Zionism, is their guiding ideology and raison d’être .

As with the previous conflict with Hezbollah,  some of my lefty friends and fellow bloggers strove to take a third position, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. These good people—call them the sensible left (or perhaps the sensitive left?)—despise Hamas and everything it stands for, but they see the suffering of the elderly and children of Gaza and cannot bear it. They call for a cease-fire and more humanitarian aid (see Bob from Brockley, Flesh is Grass, and Modernity Blog. Also see Bob’s “Henry Siegman’s Lies” here and at Engage).

None of this is shocking. These are good folks, after all. What is surprising is many of these people support the broader war against Islamist totalitarianism, the Global War on Terror, or whatever you want to call it. As they know, this war requires positive action, not reactive self-defense.

Sometimes you have to take sides. Israel is on the front lines of the conflict and anti-totalitarians of the left, right or center should all be supporting Israel’s swift and total victory over Hamas. Not a cease-fire that allows Hamas to rearm and start this deadly game all over again. As Sultan Knish writes, “Israel must win by winning“:

Had Israel destroyed Hamas and Hizbullah, the criticism would quickly die down to an annoyed mutter. The fanatics would retire to raving in a corner. But Israel turned back from doing so, and so the hate will increase, the incitement will grow viler and the attacks will grow more dangerous. Because nothing emboldens the enemy like failure.

Also see the Sultan’s, “America and Israel Declare a Unilateral Ceasefile Against Terrorism.”

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[Negotiate with me?]

Fred Siegel: On the Gaza War

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[H/t to the Telos Press blog]

This talk by Fred Siegel was presented at the 2009 Telos Conference which was a couple of weeks ago. I had all intentions of attending but things came up and, well, you know how it goes:

When my wife and I arrived in Israel a few days before the Gaza war began, we were taken aback by the focus on the increase in rocket attacks from Gaza after Hamas had decided to end the “truce.” Friends from across the political spectrum were incensed. During the truce, Hamas used the Arabic world for lull as a dozen rockets and mortars a day came into Southern Israel, but the count had jumped to 70 to 80 a day, and Southern Israel was forced to live in constant fear. The attacks were barely mentioned in the Western press.

We were struck by the unusual concurrence on what to do about the attacks. Generally our left-wing, upper-middle-class North Tel Aviv friends and our middle- and lower-middle-class friends from Hadera, whose middle Israel population of Mizrahim (Jews from Arab countries) is hawkish, agreed on little. But to our surprise their responses to the Hamas rocketing were in both emotional tone and political conclusion virtually identical. They all wanted both separation and normality—meaning as much separation from the Arabs and as much of a conventional Western life as possible.

In effect, the left had won the argument with the right over the settlements. The current center-right Kadima government came into power after Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza on the platform of pulling out from the West Bank as well. But as in Lebanon the dovish hopes of land for peace had been replaced with land for rockets. When it came to Hamas, the right had won the argument over whether there was anyone to negotiate with.

[read it all here]

The Nation on Gaza

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[No links in this post. Feel free to visit The Nation's website if you are so inclined.]

I don’t read The Nation that much these days. What’s the point? The authors always provide a standard lefty perspective that is predictable to the point of boredom. But a good friend of my wife stops by on occasion to chat and she always drops off her old copies of the magazine (as well as the New Yorker, another magazine I find grating).

So, while I was in the restroom this morning, I happened upon The Nation’s Gaza extravaganza and there was plenty to get my bowels moving. First up was an editorial claiming:

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has dramatically worsened a grave humanitarian crisis and will benefit only those who always benefit from war. There is no military solution to what is fundamentally a political conflict.

My reply is, tell that to Hamas.They don’t seem to agree with you, Nation editors. Instead, the organization is ideologically dedicated to Israel’s destruction and the murder of Jews.  Why do these authors feel the need to project their own politics onto Hamas? Why don’t they take the time to understand Hamas in their own words?

Next was Alexander Cockburn’s “Beat the Devil” column. Cockburn is a knee-jerk anti-Zionist and his hatred of Jews has been well documented. One sentence of his article was especially relavent:

[I]f the elites are as solidly a part of the amen chorus as they have been down the decades, once you leave the corporate and political highways and get on the side roads of the Internet, the picture is changing.

Yes, on the cesspools of the Internet like Cockburn’s Counterpunch the picture is not so much changing as it is getting more shrill regarding the so-called “Holocaust” and “genocide” in Gaza.

By the time I got to Naomi Klein’s “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction” (BDS for short) I got the picture loud and clear. Like most of the loony left, the pundits at The Nation place an extremely negative emphasis on Israel while denying the war crimes and other human rights violations of Hamas. Hamas is rarely, if ever, mentioned in any of these pieces. Instead, we have a narrative where Israel (and the United States) are to blame for all of Gaza’s ills, rather that the genocidal, totalitarian, and theocratic motivations of Israel’s enemies.

A Sign of Hope? Over 70% in Syria and Egypt Want Peace with Israel

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[H/t Solomonia]

In perhaps one of the most self-evident headlines in the Israel-Hamas conflict we have sociology professor Sami Alrabaa’s, “Hamas prefers war as an alternative to progress” in the National Post. You don’t say? On a more serious note, Alrabaa’s article is the perfect thing to forward to your right-wing friend or relative who says Arab intellectuals “never stand up against terrorism and Hamas.”

Alrabaa writes:

Some compare Gaza to a huge prison, to Holocaust. But who is to blame for all this calamity?

Israeli politicians have repeatedly stated that once Hamas stops its terrorist activities and launching of missiles, the blockade would be lifted. The Israeli cabinet even approved aid convoys into Gaza despite Hamas’ continued shooting rockets. The Hamas leadership ignored such conciliatory Israeli gestures and carried on the rocket-attacks on residential areas in Israel.

We Arabs are very good at twisting facts and exaggerating them, when it suits us. Mustafa Barghouthi, a Fatah activist, told CNN that “It was Israel which broke the ceasefire with Hamas.” Buthaina Sha’ban, a Syrian cabinet minister, called the recent Israeli attacks on Hamas’ military targets “the most atrocious Holocaust in the history of mankind”…

We Arabs have learned nothing from the two major disastrous wars against Israel. Some of us still believe that the Israelis understand only the language of defiance and violence. Violence is the only “argument” we possess. Rational, realistic thinking has never been a part of our discourse and action.

Especially Islamists, they rejoice at the on-going maiming and killing in Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. None of those Hamas-sympathizers has ever condemned the atrocities inflicted upon innocent people, arbitrarily killed in these countries by suicide bombers in the name Islam.

In Arabic we say, Ja’ja’a bila taheen” (It is all noise without flour). We Arabs are most boisterous, shrill people, but less effective or inclined to seeking pragmatic, workable solutions.

According to a clandestine survey by Bielefeld University conducted in Syria and Egypt (2006), over 70% of the population in these countries want peace with Israel. They are “sick and tired”, as many put it, of the belligerent discourse of the Islamists and the biased and instigatory propaganda of their national media. They, of course, don’t dare say that openly.

Read it all here.

Compare this to Rashid Khalidi who was recently on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” program [h/t to Yid with Lid]:

AMY GOODMAN: And Israel just says if Hamas stops shelling southern Lebanon with its rockets, they’ll stop.

RASHID KHALIDI: They do. They have carried out one of the most brilliant propaganda campaigns I have ever seen, long before this began. The dehumanization of the Palestinians and the demonization of Hamas laid the groundwork for this. They did what I call “clearing the crime scene before the crime” by removing all witnesses….

Zombietime: “Globalize the Intifada”

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Zombietime provides a comprehensive roundup of peace anti-Jew rallies around the world:

On January 10, the war between Israel and Hamas became a global conflict. No longer confined to the Gaza Strip, the fighting spread to cities around the world: what were billed as “anti-war” demonstrations from Los Angeles to Copenhagen and beyond were in fact overtly pro-Hamas demonstrations, and on Saturday, January 10 there was a unprecedented eruption of violence and extremism in dozens of European and American cities, surpassing anything seen at anti-war rallies in recent years.

Read it all here.