AFTER 50 DAYS, the war is over. Hallelujah.
On the Israeli side: 71 dead, among them 66 soldiers, 1 child.
On the Palestinian side: 2,143 dead, 577 of them children, 263 women, 102 elderly. 11,230 injured. 10,800 buildings destroyed. 8,000 partially destroyed. About 40,000 damaged homes. Among the damaged buildings: 277 schools, 10 hospitals, 70 mosques, 2 churches. Also, 12 West Bank demonstrators, mostly children, who were shot.
So what was it all about?
The honest answer is: About nothing.
Neither side wanted it. Neither side started it. It just so happened.
LET US recapitulate the events, before they are forgotten.
Two young Arab men kidnapped three young Israeli religious students near the West Bank town of Hebron. The kidnappers belonged to the Hamas movement, but acted on their own. Their purpose was to exchange their captives for Palestinian prisoners. Liberating prisoners is now the highest ambition of every Palestinian militant.
The kidnappers were amateurs, and their plan miscarried from the beginning. They panicked when one student used his mobile phone and then they shot the hostages. All of Israel was in an uproar. The kidnappers have not yet been found.
The Israeli security forces used the opportunity to implement a prepared plan. All known Hamas activists in the West Bank were arrested, as well as all the former prisoners who were released as part of the deal to free the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. For Hamas this was the violation of an agreement.
The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip could not keep quiet while their comrades in the West Bank were being imprisoned. It reacted by launching rockets at Israeli towns and villages.
The Israeli government could not keep quiet while its towns and villages were bombarded. It responded with a heavy bombardment of the Gaza strip from the air.
From there on, it was just an endless festival of death and destruction. The war was crying out for a purpose.
Hamas then did something that was, in my opinion, a cardinal mistake. It used some of the clandestine tunnels which it had built under the border fence to attack Israeli targets. Israelis suddenly became aware of this danger that the army had belittled. The purposeless war acquired a purpose: It became the War Against the “Terror-Tunnels”. The infantry was sent into the Gaza Strip to search out and destroy them. Read the rest of this entry »
Cross posted from his blog on the Times of Israel
We can invade Gaza, we can bomb it from the air, we can kill Gaza’s leaders, we can deprive Gazans of electricity and drinking water, we can control the sea around the territory and the air above it is clear that the one thing that we are unable to do is stop them shooting at us.
That’s a shame because it’s the only thing we actually want to do.
There are people who argue that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) hasn’t done enough, there are people who argue that it has done too much but in either case the debate is only about how much to punish Gaza and the people living there for the fact that there are projectiles being fired from their territory.
Victory lies in convincing Hamas to stop shooting, not in punishing them for shooting at us. At the time of writing sirens have just gone off in Tel Aviv and a four year old boy has died in the South of Israel. Testament to the failure of our political ad military leaders to stop Hamas. So far.
A part of me wishes to scream at the government, at the IDF and at the world entire “they are shooting at us, we must attack and we must not stop until the job is done!” But what job is this? We used to occupy Gaza and we ate rockets then too. We lost soldiers then also, to what end will we now invest our military might in Gaza when the motivation of Hamas to attack us will remain undiminished, even thrive?
Earlier in the week Israel scored a major tactical victory against Hamas with the targeted assassination of three major Hamas leaders. The Times of Israel reported that;
One, Muhammad Abu Shamala, was said to be the commander of the entire southern district of the Gaza Strip. Another, Raed al-Attar, was the commander of the Rafah region. The third, Muhammad Barhoun, like al-Attar, was deeply involved in the smuggling of arms from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to Gaza. Shamala and Attar, as TOI’s Avi Issacharoff noted, were founding members of Hamas’s military wing.
Perhaps even more importantly it appears that the IDF has also managed to assassinate the nominal head of the Hamas military wing Muhammed Deif, a man whose name has become something of a buzz word over the last month and whom most of us had never heard of before hand. He has survived 5 assassination attempts in the past.
But all this has really done is show us the limits of the use of force. Killing these men served to increase the amount rockets and mortars being fired at Israel. Hamas has indeed been punished, but we did not achieve our goal of ensuring quiet for Israel. Indeed if the goal of assassinating these men was to gain quiet for Israel that goal was not achieved. If it was to punish Hamas one needs to ask whether it was worth it.
Everyone seems to think that there is an answer. That there is something Israel can do to end the madness. Be it more military action or less, appeasement or aggression. I’m not so sure that there is an answer. In the short term appeasement will gain us some quiet. In the long term aggression may manage to damp down the scale of attack against us. But it appears that we have no meaningful way of stopping the violence altogether.
And so perhaps we who live here are simply doomed to face the wrath of Hamas for the fact that we exist on the one hand and the wrath of the world for fighting Hamas on the other without any hope of achieving the only objective that makes any sense; Peace.
Elizabeth Tsurkov, Israeli anti-war activist, on prospects for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine
My comrade Pate Radcliff conducted this interview with Elizabeth recently. She makes some interesting and perceptive points about the Israeli peace movement, the BDS campaign, antisemitism in the pro-Palestinian movement, and the Netanyahu government’s counter-productive attitude towards Palestinian ‘moderates’ and discouraging demographic trends within Israel.
As ever, Shiraz points out that we don’t necessarily agree with all the opinions being expressed (I personally, for instance, think what she says about the Histadrut is unfair, and could be said about any bureaucratic trade union organisation anywhere in the world -JD):
Put half an hour aside to watch this.
By Barry Finger in New Politics , July 29, 2014
[NB: Shiraz doesn't necessarily agree with all of this: but we think it's important and should be widely read]
Supporting the Struggle Against Apartheid Then and Now
The discussion of a socialist strategy towards Palestine never recedes from global pertinence and urgency. The basic terms of the Palestinian tragedy established in 1948 remain a festering wound—unaddressed, malignant and oozing in blood and rot. With it the Israeli garrison state continues to descend, and rightfully so, into isolation and disrepute in the court of civilized opinion. But under the protective and ever indulgent umbrella of American imperialism, Israel nevertheless continues to defy international outrage without consequence in its relentless march to impose a grotesque and monstrous caricature of a one-state solution on the whole of Palestine.
The Palestinian plight has its origins in the 1948 partition and ensuing war, although this was a direct continuation of the Zionist-Arab conflict that had been brewing for decades. In that conflict, both sides practiced ethnic cleansing, with no Jews remaining in areas conquered by the Arabs and few Palestinian remaining in areas conquered by Israelis. But the UN partition plan called for the Israeli state to constitute 55 percent of Palestine, in which the Arab population would represent almost half of the population. In the run up to and during the war, the victorious Israeli state expanded its territories to 78 percent, and mostly emptied those regions of their Arab inhabitants. Three quarters of a million Palestinians, some from the original 55 percent allotted to the Jewish state, were driven out; over 450 Arab villages were uprooted and their dwellings leveled. New Jewish villages, kibbutzim or immigration camps were built on or near the former sites of these Arab villages. Urban dwellings were reoccupied by Jews, often holocaust survivors. Jewish refugees from Arab nations, subsequently cleansed in retaliation for the Palestinian catastrophe (Nakhba), were sent to jerry-rigged development towns.
Gaza and the West Bank, the sites of huge concentrations of Palestinian refugees, fell—with Israel’s approval—into the hands of Egypt and Trans-Jordan (now Jordan) respectively; the possibility of a Palestinian state all but extinguished. This all changed when, after the Six Day war in 1967, these territories were brought under the control of the Israelis, uniting all of historic Palestine and reviving the Palestinian national movement. The colonial project at the heart of Zionism, of settlement and expulsion, was also reignited and several hundred thousand additional Palestinians were again expelled to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The remnants were left to the mercy of an ever more brutalizing occupation. The armistice boundaries of the 1948 war (the green line) were effectively effaced and Israel emerged as a nation unique in its refusal to define its borders—symptomatic of an Israel further seeking to consolidate its character as an ethnic Jewish state, but on a vastly broader canvas.
Today the struggle for justice for Palestinians continues. Where are Palestine’s allies? What power can it leverage? International solidarity has yet to save lives, to redeem territories, to compensate and repatriate refugees, or to establish the right of Palestinians to national self-determination in defiance of Israeli intransigence. An internationalist Israeli left, never more than a tiny minority and unable to implant itself in the Hebrew working class, is besieged not only by state repression, but also by a now burgeoning fascist street presence. The protracted Arab Spring, momentarily checked by United States and Iranian intervention, has yet to mature as an agency that can brake and reverse the momentum of Israeli settlement and dispossession. Read the rest of this entry »
An incredibly moving cry for peace and simple human solidarity with the people of Gaza, from an Israeli citizen:
“I call on the Israeli government to put an end to this bloodshed now … this is not a video game … there are only losers … Israeli society is losing its tolerance and becoming a mob…”
Below is a statement from the Israeli Communist Party (CPI). Shiraz Socialist would have many disagreements with this Stalinist organisation, but when its members are being attacked (along with others on the Israeli left) by ultra-right-wingers for protesting against what’s going on in Gaza, they deserve our support. It’s also worth noting that (unlike the British CP and the Morning Star), they’re unambiguously for a two state settlement – ie “an independent [Palestininan] state alongside the state of Israel.”
There is some hyperbole in the statement: the Netanyahu government is not “neo fascist”, but given the present situation that description can probably be put down to heat-of-the-moment OTT rhetoric.
It also should (but probably won’t) embarrass those on the left in the unions in Britain who are all for solidarity with dictatorial Stalinist and “anti-imperialist” regimes but would (presumably, if they support the BDS campaign) boycott or demand the liquidation of the likes of the CPI who are being beaten up for protesting (against) the war and occupation.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
The Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) express their rage and anguish at the brutal, criminal and inhuman assault conducted by Israel at the people of Gaza. We are herewith conveying our deep sympathy and solidarity to the people of Gaza who are killed and injured by a vicious government whose all intention is to keep the occupation and colonization of the occupied Palestinian Territories and to pursue the siege of Gaza. The CPI and Hadash support the legitimate Palestinian aspiration to establish an independent state alongside the state of Israel, whose capital is East Jerusalem, on the borders of June 4th, 1967.
Since the assault on Gaza began, CPI and Hadash have been organizing and leading a series of demonstrations and activities against that assault, calling to immediate ceasefire and to keep all civilians, Palestinians and Israelis alike, out of this bloody conflict. Throughout our activities and initiatives, fascist and racist mobs attacked us verbally and physically, while the Israeli police have hardly done anything to stop that. Those violent attacks were practically promoted by Israeli neo-fascist government that continuously incites against all progressive and democratic forces in Israel, especially against CPI and Hadash and even more so against the Arab-Palestinian population that resides within the state of Israel proper.
Last Saturday (July 19, 2014), hundreds of us – Jews and Arab-Palestinians together – demonstrated in the city of Haifa against Israeli aggression. We have got beaten and persecuted by Jewish Neo-Nazi mob, some of us were injured by stones and bottles that were thrown on us. The police arrested 13 of our members, although none of them was involved in any violent action.
Comrades, we shall continue! We will never surrender to intimidation and violence. Gaza, we at CPI and Hadash, Jews and Arabs alike, will be keeping our struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people!
Jews and Arabs are not enemies but comrades – brothers and sisters! Free Gaza! Down with the occupation! Long live independent Palestine!
Also: here is an earlier CPI statement condemning Hamas’s rocket attacks as well as the Israeli bombing.
H/t: Comrade DK
Amongst the many good and decent people who’ve been demonstrating against what Israel is doing in Gaza, are a significant number of anti-Semites, like this character:
It is probably the case that such undesirable elements will inevitably attach themselves to pro-Palestinian events. What is more worrying is the willingness (both at the events themselves, and then subsequently on social media) of leftists who claim to oppose anti-Semitism, to defend, explain away, minimise and generally turn a blind eye to, this sort of filth. Neither is there any evidence (that I’m aware of) of the PSC or other organisers of recent demos in London and elsewhere, doing anything to remove or challenge anti-Semites. Even this guy:
WAC-MAN, the Workers’ Advice Centre, is an independent trade union centre organising both Israeli-Jewish and Arab workers, in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Below is its statement on the current war on Gaza, reposted from its website here.
The Independent Trade Union Centre WAC-MAAN, unionizing Arabs and Jews in Israel, calls on the Israeli government to stop the attack on Gaza. The only livable alternative is a political settlement based on a two-state solution.
WAC MAAN calls on trade unions and peace supporters all over the world to initiate activities and pressure their governments to demand an end to Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.
The military escalation in Gaza, where civilians are being killed and homes destroyed, while rockets from Hamas confound the lives of Israelis, is a direct result of the swaggering anti-peace policy carried out by the Netanyahu-Bennett-Lieberman government. The attempt to obtain a Palestinian surrender by bombing civilian targets is criminal, reckless, and pregnant with disaster. This is the third such round in five years, and it is already clear that when it is done, the two sides will return to precisely the same point as in December 2008-January 2009 and November 2012. The Palestinian side has again endured destruction of buildings and infrastructure, with more than a hundred dead and thousands wounded so far, while millions of Israeli civilians are exposed to rockets.
WAC-MAAN, which unionizes thousands of Arabs and Jews in Israel, calls for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks, based on an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of 1967 and the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
It was the Netanyahu government that broke the US-sponsored framework of negotiations and started a wave of settlement building. Then it came out against the Fatah-Hamas unity government—a step that amounted to blatant interference in an internal Palestinian issue. The diplomatic stalemate, and the failure to fulfill the promised fourth stage of the Palestinian prisoner release, formed the background to the kidnapping of three Israeli youths. In response, Netanyahu proclaimed an all-out war against Hamas, hence against the Palestinian unity government.
The next step occurred when Netanyahu’s extremist position, along with calls for vengeance on the part of some cabinet ministers, incited rightwing Israeli extremists to kidnap a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and burn him alive. When the government sought to sidestep any responsibility for this horror, the Palestinian street exploded. Protesters took to the streets in Jerusalem and the Arab cities of Israel.
The present escalation, which includes Israel’s bombardments of Gaza and the launching by Hamas and others of primitive rockets against civilian targets in Israel, has sparked initiatives from the international community for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Yet Netanyahu insolently repeats that he has no intention of initiating a cease fire, rather he’ll go on raising the ante until the Palestinians produce a white flag. To this end the Israeli army has introduced a new tactic: bombing the homes of Hamas activists. By any account that is a war crime, and it has caused more than 100 casualties in the first four days of fighting. Most of the victims are civilians, many of them children.
Amid the attacks, we must not forget the events that led to the war. After the kidnapping of its youths, the Israeli government launched an all-out offensive against Hamas in the West Bank, broke its agreements by re-arresting more than fifty Hamas members who had been freed in the Shalit deal of 2011, and did all it could to foil the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Netanyahu, in short, dragged Hamas into a showdown. Given these provocations, Israel’s government bears the ultimate responsibility for every drop of blood that has been and will be shed in the present war.
WAC-MAAN joins many others, both here and abroad, in calling on both sides to reach a ceasefire. The only livable alternative is a political arrangement, the principles of which are embedded in the long-existing UN resolutions and concurred in by the entire international community.
Those paying the price of the present war are the workers on both sides. We call on trade unions and peace supporters all over the world to initiate activities and pressure their governments to demand an end to Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.
No to a war aimed at perpetuating the Occupation! Yes to peace talks on the basis of the two-state solution!
H/t: Workers Liberty
BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze is a superb programme that deals with serious issues in an intelligent, usually balanced, and often passionate, manner. Recent editions have included debates on the future of the NHS, assisted dying and the limits (if any) of freedom of expression.
Last night’s debate on Gaza was outstanding, even by the usual high standards of the show. If you didn’t hear it, click here.
Sarah AB, over at That Place gives a pretty good account of the discussion, but I’m reproducing, below, the assessment posted by one ‘Craig’, shortly after the broadcast, at a blog (new to me) called simply Is The BBC Biased? Quite clearly, whatever other reservations ‘Craig’ may have about the BBC, he was impressed by what he heard last night:
Tonight’s The Moral Maze was quite something.
To do justice to the thoughts it provoked would demand a post that took longer to read than it actually took to listen to the programme (and no one wants that), so I will simply sketch my initial impressions of it.
The panel contained two strongly pro-Israeli speakers, namely Melanie Phillips and Jill Kirby (making her debut), and one strongly pro-Palestinian speaker, Giles Fraser. The final speaker, Matthew Taylor, was happier to sit on the fence but dangled his feet on the Palestinian side.
The ‘witnesses’ were Colonel Richard Kemp and Dr Hugo Slim on the Israeli side, and Mehdi Hasan and Ted Honderich on the Palestinian side.
Michael Buerk gave a characteristically fine introduction (firm but fair).
Then came the first witness, Mehdi Hasan.
Mehdi (characteristically) was very canny in making repeated denunciations of Hamas, saying that they too had committed war crimes. Of course, that concession allowed him to repeatedly make his main point – that Israel is committing war crimes and that Israel is worse than Hamas because of its superior military strength and because it is ‘the occupier’.
His argument didn’t convince me but I can well imagine, unfortunately, that his fluency might have struck home with many a Radio 4 listener.
Melanie’s repeated attempts to talk him down, and both her and Jill’s attempts to get him to condone Hamas rather misfired. He was perfectly happy to condemn Hamas (#Taqiyya?) in order to make his condemnation of Israel tell, thus (in the process) somewhat taking the wind out of their sails.
Next came Colonel Richard Kemp.
He was very persuasive, making Israel’s case with considerable reasonableness (as opposed to Mehdi’s excitability). I suspect (and hope) that Radio 4 listeners will have responded well to his arguments.
Both Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser gave him space to make his arguments and seemed rather hard-placed to argue with them. Giles, characteristically, was passionate but also seemed somewhat disarmed by Col. Kemp’s quietly-made points. It was a clear win for Col. Kemp.
Then came Ted Honderich.
Prof. Honderich is a philosopher. [I own an encyclopedia of philosophy edited by him]. He sought to make a philosophical case in defence of Hamas. Yes, really.
I suspect (like me) that most Radio 4 listeners will have failed to make much sense of his arguments. All I took from his contribution is that he thinks Hamas is good and that Israel is bad, and that he thinks that Hamas is justified in deliberately seeking to kill Israeli civilians. Philosophically-speaking.
I almost wish that Michael Buerk hadn’t cut him off so curtly from making his initial argument as I suspect that Radio 4 listeners would have been even more put off by the result. (Michael clearly didn’t like Ted Honderich). Partly as a result, Prof. Honderich made very little headway here.
His remarkable (and reprehensible) appearance was dominated by his spiteful encounter with Melanie Phillips. Insults flew in both directions.
Finally came Dr Hugo Slim, who put the case for Israel well, but who was also willing to give his hands a good wringing in the process. Giles Fraser tried to wax passionate against him but seemed to find him too likable (too liberal) to get into a proper fistfight with, and Matthew Taylor appeared to reach a meeting of minds with him
The final panel discussion was lively. Giles Fraser came out (extraordinarily) as being sympathetic to Ted Honderich’s pro-Hamas points (well, he is a Guardian editorial writer these days). Melanie Phillips tried to talk him down (and everyone else – until Jill Kirby made a good, pro-Israel point). Jill Kirby floundered somewhat, though she made some good points (first day nerves?). Michael Buerk had a dig at Giles for seeming to back up Prof. Honderich, and Matthew Taylor sat on the fence.
All in all, a fiercely balanced programme.
I did note that some people on Twitter denounced it as biased, though I couldn’t work out in what direction they meant (and was deeply unwilling to check their Twitter feeds).
This response to the present horror in Gaza is a little confusing:
BDS (total boycott of all things – and people – Israeli) activist Haim Bresheeth appears to be heavily involved in an appeal, also involving Noam Chomsky, which quite rightly, calls on Israeli academics to speak out against the bombardment and siege of Gaza:
How does this fit with his and others’ desire for a boycott? The appeal is signed by at least one SWP’er (Mick Cushman, assuming he’s still a member) and also by leading boycotter and Hamas apologist Ilan Pappé.
An account of the difficulties of getting Israeli signatures (written by a supporter of Pappé) is linked to, but criticised for being “too dismissive of the Israeli reaction.”
The actual statement has so far been signed by about 40 Israeli academics and is a clear call for a negotiated settlement and peace agreement that will end the occupation and settlements. Unless anyone tries to interpret this as a voluntary liquidation of Israel it can only be a call for a two state solution.
The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people, is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.
So the BDS movement (SWP included) is calling for action, from people they say should not be engaged with in any way, advocating support for two states and laying into Pappé’s supporters for being unduly cynical about it.
Can anyone explain the logic behind this?
H/t: Comrade Pete