Friday, July 23, 2010

Middle East Primer

By Guest Blogger Geo.

While I find plenty of disagreements related to Israel and the Palestinians, I find myself clearly "highly prejudiced" and not fully understanding "the other side" in many ways. While I can understand the fears many Jews have of another Holocaust, my sense is that the real, major dangers are long-term continuing with the status quo.


I'd like to state a number of "facts" and try to talk separately about issues relating to them:

1. Jews were a tiny minority in Palestine, which began growing after World War I.

2. Palestinians were a diverse vast majority of the population in Palestine after World War I.

3. Turkey lost its control of Palestine after World War I

4. Conflicting promises were made promising both Palestinian and Jewish States beginning in 1918.

5. Increasingly after World War I the Jewish residents of Palestine gained in numbers and power which met increasing resistance from some Palestinians particularly in the riots of the late 1930's.

6. Palestinians in the period 1918-1948 - were not a single, unified group. The strongest Palestinian leader was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, however he had significant opposition amongst Palestinians.

7. The United Nations proposed the creation of separate Jewish and Palestinian States as hostilities increased in 1947 which was rejected by various Arab States and Palestinian leadership.

8. Israel declared its independence in May, 1948 and was invaded by several Arab armies.

9. There was no "Palestinian Army" and significant numbers of Palestinians did not fight against the new Israeli Army and State.

10. Significant numbers of Palestinians fled their homes often under pressure from the neighboring Israeli forces.

11. Other Palestinians remained within Israel and became Israeli citizens.

12. After the 1967 War, Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank (both of which had been in Jordan prior to the War), the Golan Heights (which had been in Syria previously) as well as a significant part of Sinai and the Gaza Strip (which had both been within Egypt previously).

13. Israel later negotiated peace treaties with Egypt and later Jordan. The peace treaty with Egypt resulted in a return of significant land in Sinai to Egypt. Jordan basically regained no substantive land.

14. Israel has unsuccessfully (to date) negotiated with Syria regarding making peace related in part to the proposed return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

15. Since the 1973 War the only serious military actions have been Israel's incursions into Lebanon and most recently in Gaza.

16. No country neighboring upon Israel poses a military threat to Israel. Israel's military strength is substantially greater than its neighbor's military forces.

17. Various efforts have been made to make a permanent, comprehensive peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

18. The Palestinians under the leadership of Yasir Arafat and his Fatah Party increasingly sought peace with Israel eventually recognizing Israel's right to exist.

19. The Oslo Accords of 1993 and the Camp David Summit of 2000 both did not lead to a permanent peace agreement. One major area of disagreement from Wikipedia was explained as: "Barak offered to form a Palestinian State initially on 73% of the West Bank (that is 27% less than the Green Line borders) and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In 10 to 25 years the West Bank area would expand to 90-91% (94% excluding greater Jerusalem).[1][2][3] As a result, "Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements."[4] The West Bank would be separated by a road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with free passage for Palestinians although Israel reserved the right to close the road for passage in case of emergency. The Palestinian position was that the annexations would block existing road networks between major Palestinian populations. In return, the Israelis would cede 1% of their territory in the Negev Desert to Palestine. The Palestinians rejected this proposal."

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_David_2000_Summit )

20. In the United States criticism has been leveled at Arafat and the Palestinians for rejecting the Israeli proposals at Camp David in 2000. IF - Arafat had accepted the terms proposed by Israel he almost certainly would have lost power, most probably being assassinated because of how much the Palestinian leadership would have conceded to Israel - related to The West Bank, Jerusalem and the rights of refugees.

21. Towards the end of Arafat's life and since his death Hamas, a much more radical group, has increasingly gained power as the more moderate Fatah Party has failed to bring an independent Palestinian State into existence.

22. Free and fair elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 at the urging of the United States and others.

23. Hamas won a significant victory in the 2006 elections.

24. The United States (in particular) has significantly Not recognized the leadership of Hamas because of its failure to fully recognize the existence of The State of Israel.

25. Violence in the West Bank and around Jerusalem has been minimal in recent years.

26. Problems have persisted in Gaza despite its supposed "independence" when Israel required its Jewish residents (who had occupied a huge amount of its land despite being a tiny minority of its population) to leave it.

27. Shelling of Israel coming from Hamas ceased after a ceasefire was established between Hamas and Israel. This ceasefire was broken by Israel, not Hamas in November, 2008.

28. Israeli's invasion of Gaza in December, 2008 was intended to stop the shelling and weaken the power of Hamas as well as ending the smuggling of arms from Egypt into Gaza.

29. Despite the killing of many in Gaza and a clear "military victory" the power of Hamas in Gaza has increased, not decreased as a result of the invasion.

I would argue that prior to 1973 there were serious threats to Israel coming from Egypt, Jordan and Syria, but that the Israeli military was stronger than the combined armies of those three countries. Since 1973 the only potentially serious threats to Israel from Middle Eastern countries have been from Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) and Iran at various times. Iraq and Iran are the only major Middle Eastern States where the Shia (as opposed to Sunni) Moslems are the majority population.

Hamas is no friend to the leadership of all the Middle Eastern countries currently with the possible exception of Iran.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank have grown substantially and continue to grow. Palestinian resentment and violence, where there has been violence, has often related to the expansion of these settlements as well as the expansions within the Jerusalem Area in formerly Palestinian dominated areas.
Peace is possible for Israel. Israel has long not wanted to make peace absent a serious expansion of its pre-1967 borders within the West Bank. Initially it had military concerns related in part to how narrow Israel is in the middle of its country. More recently the concerns are largely not military. The concerns now relate to the desires of some Jews, mostly highly religious, to keep control of: "Judea and Samaria" where an ancient Jewish history certainly exists. These desires inevitably conflict with Palestinian desires for their own country in the West Bank.

Peace is possible IF Israel will accept an independent state primarily of nearly all of the West Bank (with possible "land swaps" in small areas) and Gaza. The negotiations in these areas could result in peace within a relatively short period of time.

The more difficult negotiations will occur related to Jerusalem. Even there, there are certainly possible compromises which can result in peace.

It would seem highly logical to me for The United States - to pressure Israel to make peace with the Palestinians related to: 1.) Settling permanent boundaries in the West Bank and ceding Gaza and 2.) Creating a framework for negotiating related to Jerusalem.

Negotiating related to the rights of refugees won't be simple, but is also resolvable.

A Palestinian State would presumably be demilitarized and thereby not any military threat to Israel.

While I don't want to overly simplify things in my descriptions above, it really is not that complicated. The big issues are: 1.) The Radical Right forces that control much of Israel's political base, 2.) The powers that radicals in Israel (and to a lesser extent within the Palestinians) that sabotage the few honest efforts that are made, 3.) The necessity of negotiating with Hamas and holding them accountable with Serious Negotiations, 4.) The totally crazy - control that the U.S. has pushed in both letting Israel do what it wants and in rare instances doing things against Israeli interests to prevent peace.

We in the U.S. could force Israel to negotiate seriously and probably help bring about peace. Logically we would do this by listening to the moderate forces that exist elsewhere in Europe, Turkey and other places who would work with us if we genuinely sought peace.

Certainly, there are risks to trying to make peace as I've proposed above. I would argue though that the risks of Not Having Peace - are much greater both in the short-term and long-term. Israel will likely eventually lose its strategic importance as oil reserves run out in the Middle East in coming decades. It will likely gradually lose its strategic importance and support from the United States then (if not sooner). It is best to negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness.

The U.S. should focus its energy on making peace and dealing with Iran, which certainly potentially is much more dangerous (as well as Pakistan - which is far more dangerous).

The post originally appeared here.

24 comments:

butterflywings said...

You can't negotiate with Hamas! They are misogynist extremists who not only don't recognise Israel, they actually want to wipe all Jews off the face of the earth.
You just do not negotiate with terrorists. Palestine needs new leaders.
That said, I admit Israel is not blameless.
The sad thing is that a state founded after the most appalling atrocity in human history is actually perpetrating violence itself.
And yeah, the 'benevolent' interference of the West carving up the world after WW2 is in large part responsible.
For that reason, I don't believe the West can bring peace to the Middle East, nor should we act like benevolent dictators trying to make the kids play nicely.
The two sides have to do it themselves.
That means both sides, and while Israel could certainly do more, Hamas just simply are not interested in peace.

geo said...

You have to negotiate with Hamas. Words such as "terrorist" are not helpful in this context. Hamas is certainly not a progressive, movement. Neither is the leadership in Pakistan, North Korea and perhaps Iran.

Israel and its agents certainly do a lot of "terrorism" (in the name of eradicating terrorism) as the U.S. does to a much larger degree.

The U.S. and other Western countries are already massively involved in what is going on with the billions in aid, military sales and the like.

If peace were to be achieved it likely would be a larger threat to despotic governments near Israel, rather than to Israel itself.

Israel has serious military domination in the Middle East! UN Peacekeepers and similar could help police potential hotspots if necessary.

The U.S. has not be a neutral party in this conflict. The PLO was asked to recognize Israel and it did so. Peace was not possible because of the Intifadas. They are over.

Israel needs to seriously, seriously negotiate and a peace settlement, to have any chance of lasting, must be a Just compromise creating a viable Palestinian State.

Making peace is risky! Perpetuating the status quo is riskier.

Read University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer's April 29, 2010 speech at:
http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/10418 for an excellent, perceptive analysis.

Peace is possible, but it will take dramatic changes that We must push towards. Thanks!

Clarissa said...

Now for my opinion on this matter. If I could bring myself to believe that the following solution: "Peace is possible IF Israel will accept an independent state primarily of nearly all of the West Bank (with possible "land swaps" in small areas) and Gaza" would stop terrorism and violence on both sides, I would definitely support it and campaign for it. However, historic precedent and the very mechanisms of nationalism demonstrate that this is not goin to happen. The very weak national identities of both Israelis and Palestinians for now still require a lot of violence to establish themselves. Both groups need a hated and desired Other that they will lash against violently, thereby affirming their own identity time and again. One can establish borders and independent states all one wants, but the need for collective identity is a lot more basic than that.

Examples abound that this is exactly the way this works. Look at Russia and Chechnya. I don't justify Russian atrocities in this conglict but the reality is that the moment the Russians withdraw, the Chechens invade Russian territory in a way that is guaranteed to bring the Russians back with a vengeance.

Now, as for the "Apartheid" that Palestinians are subjected to within Israel. Of course, this is a shameful and horrible state of things. However, what would be a practical and reasonable solution for it? Granting the Moslims people of Israel exactly the same rights that the Jewsih people of the country have would mean introducing and accepting Shariah laws. That would immediately disqualify Israel from even attempting to present itself as one of the developed countries of the world.

To summarize: I do not think that either party in the conflict is really interested in peace. The only possibility of peace being established is a development of a source of identity cohesion that would be an alternative to violence but just as strong. Until collective identity is somehow reaffirmed non-violently, the Israelis and the Palestinians will be locked in their violent embrace for decades to come.

Clarissa said...

People who criticize the endless warfare waged by the US forget about this country's extremely strong need for identity cohesion. How else do you make a farmer from Oklahoma, a banker from New York, and a hippie from Berkely feel that they have something in common unless it's through waging war. It isn't even necessary that the hippie, the farmer, and the banker agree about the war. What's needed for national cohesion is that all three put this issue at the centre of their existence.

All slogans of "Let's stop war" are naive, unless they take into consideration that war has a powerful connection to issues of identity construction.

geo said...

I'm confused as to where to start in responding to some of your (Clarissa's) words.

Palestinian identity is amazingly unified given the diversity of its people. You talk as if "Palestinian" equates with "Moslem".

"Muslim 75% (predominantly Sunni), Jewish 17%, Christian and other 8%, if East Jerusalem is excluded"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Palestinian_territories

An independent Palestinian State would of necessity mean it Not being (your words): "would mean introducing and accepting Shariah laws". Such a State would require the Majority of Palestinians oppressing a substantial minority of its own population.

The Palestinian People share a remarkable interest in education and in bettering themselves economically.

We seem to forget that Israel was formed out of a land where there was already a population of native people living there.

The "Apartheid" that exists is most visible within the West Bank as well as in Gaza. Most recently Nablus's Palestinian population has dropped dramatically since the Israeli's have essentially "strangled" it.

It is bizarre that a city with (previously) over 200,000 (now over 100,000) Palestinian citizens has its population forced out of much of its own business district and central core and other areas so that a few thousand religious Israeli Jewish people can "live freely" (at the expense of the native population).

The most horrible things occur generally within the West Bank and Gaza. (cont. in separate response)

geo said...

(2nd part of response)
C -Now, as for the "Apartheid" that Palestinians are subjected to within Israel. Of course, this is a shameful and horrible state of things. However, what would be a practical and reasonable solution for it?

G - I'm lost here! Saying that Palestinians have EQUAL rights to education, housing, medical care, social services, jobs, etc. - might be a good starting point.

There has NEVER been an "intifada" amongst Palestinian Israeli citizens. Even when things were at their "worst" in the early days of the State of Israel, the "danger" was from Fedaheen trying to infiltrate across the Jordan River into the West Bank. It was NOT a case of "war" or "terrorism" or similar coming from Within Israel.

C - Granting the Moslims people of Israel exactly the same rights that the Jewsih people of the country have would mean introducing and accepting Shariah laws. That would immediately disqualify Israel from even attempting to present itself as one of the developed countries of the world.

G - This statement - is comparable to saying that Granting African-Americans "equal rights" is tantamount to White Women everywhere in the U.S. being constantly under threat of Rape by Black Men (N - word more likely to be used).

The leadership of the PLO and similar are a mixture of Moslems and non-Moslem people. Even within what one might label "Moslem" there are minority sects and the like. The non-Hamas leadership is significantly Non-Religious in outlook.

Even in Gaza with its Hamas leadership there are Greek Orthodox and other non-Moslems worshipping and living their lives "freely" (in comparison to its Moslem population).

I have no idea where you get the idea that Both Israelis and Palestinians don't BOTH want Peace!

Commonly Israelis want a "peace" which is a Jewish State, not having to deal with a population within its greater boundaries which will soon be larger than its own population.

Palestinians can NOT "go home to ___" (Egypt, Syria, etc.) though Jordan has a sizable Palestinian minority. The Majority of Palestinians have NEVER been violent. Where there is violence, it commonly relates to provocations and similar.

I would really suggest that you read and listen to a variety of other people whose beliefs differ from yours - perhaps including King Hussein of Jordan, as well as Palestinians, Jews and others.

My sense is that your "view" is highly simplistic and myopic. Excuse my "harshness", however it is difficult to respond. Go on You Tube - and watch - any one of the "Sleepless in Gaza..." video series. Read "propaganda" of Jewish Voice for Peace. Read Rami Khouri and his excellent blog from Lebanon. Many other options exist.

Clarissa said...

Geo: as for the "strong" Palestinian identity, you said yourself that "Palestinians in the period 1918-1948 - were not a single, unified group." I conclude from your own statements that this strong identity is a result of the events that took place since 1948. The most notable of those events was the formation of Israel and its consequences. This is precisely why I'm saying that both Israeli and Palestinian collective identities need this conflict. This is the way it works EVERY SINGLE time with national identities that form themselves in similar circumstances. You want me to treat the Israel-Palestine situation as absolutely exceptional but it isn't.

Of course, we can keep pretending that "people want peace" and it's just big bad United States that creates the conflict. However, the very same conflicts have been taking place all over the world where national identities needed to be reaffirmed. Once again, look at the conflict between Russia and Chechnya.

As for the Muslim people demanding a Shariah court, that's exactly what happened in Canada, or didn't you notice?

I think that until people agree to abandon their belief in the exceptional nature of this conflict and start looking at precedent, nothing will get resolved. You see yourself how emotional people get (you, for example) when simply discussing this issue. This is not a criticism of you, it's just an observation. As philosophers noticed 200 years ago, collective identity needs to operate in the realm of emotions in order to prevent people from noticing just how unreasonable and illogical it is.

The idea that Israelis should just remove themselves from the occupied territories and everybody will live happily ever after is controverted by all kinds of precedent. Yet we still need to believe in this pipe dream because it's so neat and easy.

Clarissa said...

Geo: as for the "strong" Palestinian identity, you said yourself that "Palestinians in the period 1918-1948 - were not a single, unified group." I conclude from your own statements that this strong identity is a result of the events that took place since 1948. The most notable of those events was the formation of Israel and its consequences. This is precisely why I'm saying that both Israeli and Palestinian collective identities need this conflict. This is the way it works EVERY SINGLE time with national identities that form themselves in similar circumstances. You want me to treat the Israel-Palestine situation as absolutely exceptional but it isn't.

Of course, we can keep pretending that "people want peace" and it's just big bad United States that creates the conflict. However, the very same conflicts have been taking place all over the world where national identities needed to be reaffirmed. Once again, look at the conflict between Russia and Chechnya.

As for the Muslim people demanding a Shariah court, that's exactly what happened in Canada, or didn't you notice?

I think that until people agree to abandon their belief in the exceptional nature of this conflict and start looking at precedent, nothing will get resolved. You see yourself how emotional people get (you, for example) when simply discussing this issue. This is not a criticism of you, it's just an observation. As philosophers noticed 200 years ago, collective identity needs to operate in the realm of emotions in order to prevent people from noticing just how unreasonable and illogical it is.

The idea that Israelis should just remove themselves from the occupied territories and everybody will live happily ever after is controverted by all kinds of precedent. Yet we still need to believe in this pipe dream because it's so neat and easy.

Anonymous said...

"would mean introducing and accepting Shariah laws.
G - This statement - is comparable to saying that Granting African-Americans "equal rights" is tantamount to White Women everywhere in the U.S. being constantly under threat of Rape by Black Men "

Geo: it sounds here like you are trying to equate shariah with rape. That's unfair and wrong. Shariah does not promote rape and whatever you might think of shariah laws they have a right to exist.

geo said...

Anonymous - I think you totally misunderstood my point. I was trying to say that - the statement which Clarissa made - was a Total Leap of Conclusions to something reflecting the biases of the viewer.

I was in no way - speaking positively or negatively of Shariah itself, but rather speaking about Clarissa's conclusions - which I will address later - in a separate response.

While I personally may not see Shariah as a "positive" (a separate issue), I in no way meant to or ever would want to imply that such laws have "no right to exist".

I apologize if my words seemed to you to imply what you concluded about them.

Jonathan said...

I disagree with BOTH Clarissa and Geo. You have both bought into the anti-Israel propaganda which is fueled by anti-semitism and promoted by Moslem extremists. Clarissa: there is NOTHING "shameful and horrible" that Israel is doing. And Geo: those videos you recommend are created and disseminated by the anti-semitic propaganda machine. You can't take them at face value.

It's very sad to see how otherwise intelligent, progressive and weel-intentioned people are taken in by this propaganda that they accept and reproduce unquestioningly.

Clarissa said...

The most frustrating part of any discussion about the Palestine-Israel conflict is that people are always passionately pro one side and virulently anti another side. As a result, my position (which is based on recognizing that such a drawn-out and violent conflict can only exist if both sides need it on some level) is the most unpopular with every one. I realize that but I'm convinced that only an analysis of how BOTH sides benefit from the conflict will eventually bring peace.

To draw a parallel, in a very similar way I believe that feminism will continue deadlocked until we analyze how BOTH men and women benefit from the patriarchy. The whole "horrible-bad-men-oppress-poor-blameless-women" rhetoric has brought feminism into a dead end. It works the same with any nationalist conflict.

Clarissa said...

FROM GEO:

C -This is precisely why I'm saying that both Israeli and Palestinian collective identities need this conflict. This is the way it works EVERY SINGLE time with national identities that form themselves in similar circumstances.



G – I see distinctly different issues than you do. From the Palestinian perspective part of what you say is true. During the 1918-1948 period things developed including the evolution of “independent” countries from the former French and English colonies including: Egypt (the most populous), Syria, Iraq, and the two relatively weak ones Jordan and Lebanon and Palestine where conflicting promises were made to the Palestinian and Jewish populations.



Palestine had been a part of the feudal Turkish Empire where absentee landlords owned much of the land and a variety of peoples had coexisted for a long time including Moslems, Christians and a relatively small number of religious Jews.



As the Jewish emigration grew after World War I, the Palestinians’ acceptance of the status quo began shifting. The British recognized (and chose) The Mufti of Jerusalem as the Palestinian leader. This resulted in power being concentrated in a single member of the “elite” who was corrupt and ineffective.



Resistance to the growth of the Jewish population grew. It is important to recognize that what transpired was Not “Moslem vs. Jew”, but rather a native population whose majority was Moslem confronting an immigrant population who were Jewish.



The power and strength of the Jewish community was organized and focused amongst a few groups. The weakness of the Palestinian community was a result of the Mufti’s corrupt leadership and large, generally absentee, landlords selling the lands of tenant farmers and others to Jews who largely raised money from abroad.



The British were responsible for developing two independent states which was difficult given the conflicting pressures they faced and their inability to build what they were supposed to be building. After World War II the pressures related to the Holocaust and the resulting Jewish refugees and the resentments of a divided leadership of both The Mufti and the neighboring Arab States resulted in the British abandoning their “stewardship”, The Declaration of Independence of Israel, and the 1948 War.



Popular opinion has it that in 1948: “The Arabs fought the Jews”. (Given more recent events this seems often translated to: “Moslems fought Jews”.) It is also commonly stated that Arab leaders pressured Palestinians to leave their homes so “The Jews could be driven into the sea” and the Palestinians could return to their homes.

Substantial research by Israelis later on has determined that the latter type of statements were largely, if not exclusively, part of the propaganda (of Israelis) used to rationalize the efforts to scare Palestinians away and make the Israeli war effort easier. In fact Palestinians were pressured by Israelis to flee most significantly from Jaffa (now a suburb of Tel Aviv), Haifa, and many Arab villages. The number who fled totaled roughly 700,000, which was probably a little more than half of the pre-War population.



Besides the substantial flight, it is also significant that significant numbers of Palestinians remained in their homes and became Israeli citizens. 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. The Palestinian population included people who worked for and with neighboring Jewish people and there were bonds between them. Many Palestinians expected a Jewish State to become a reality and saw their best options as being a part of it. Some warned Jews of impending military attacks during the 1948 War.

Clarissa said...

FROM GEO:

The 1948 War consisted of the invasion of the armies of neighboring Arab countries. There was no Palestinian Army to speak of and very few (native within pre-War Palestine) Palestinians fought against the Israelis.
From 1948 to 1967 a state of (near) war persisted between the neighboring Arab States and Israel. Egypt was the “big power”. Jordan was the most precarious Arab State. King Hussein had a state which was probably majority (or close to majority) Palestinian, while he was Not Palestinian. Because of the State of (near) War, Jews did not have access to East Jerusalem including The Wailing Wall, the most holy site for observant Jews.
The 1967 War was a disaster for Arab forces as Israel took control of East Jerusalem and The West Bank (from Jordan), much of Sinai and The Gaza Strip (from Egypt) and the Golan Heights (from Syria). The most recent war in 1973 did not result in significant border changes.
Much has changed since the 1973 War! Egypt, Jordan and Israel made permanent peace and have had normalized relations since then. Syria’s leadership has changed somewhat and there has not been any direct military or direct political conflict in decades.
The divisions between Palestinians and the leadership of neighboring states have become clearer in recent times. Palestinians gradually became much of the middle-class work force for many Arab countries. Unlike significant numbers of people in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Jordan, reform movements developed and weren’t totally squashed by the government. Gradually the PLO changed from a militant organization to seeking peace with Israel. As things evolved and the peaceful resistance to Israeli occupation grew, the Palestinians became more of a “threat” to the Arab countries, particularly through their examples of how things didn’t need to be despotic, class-divided as they often were elsewhere.
Palestinians have learned that Israel is not going to go away and is a permanent state. Divisions amongst Palestinians between the PLO-Fatah leadership, which is now the “moderate” leadership and the newer, much more radical Hamas have hurt the Palestinian cause.



Hamas has grown in power and influence! Its Moslem religious leadership and resistance to recognizing Israel have been problematic for many. As a result of the failures of PLO leadership, Hamas won leadership in the most recent elections which were pushed for particularly by the United States. U.S. leadership naively thought that the PLO-Fatah forces would win the election.



Currently Hamas controls Gaza and PLO leadership controls The West Bank, though Israeli control of both severely limits both of them. Hamas supported or lead rocket attacks from Gaza primarily upon Sderot, Israel created fear over a several year period and resulted in the deaths of approximately 13-15 people in total. A truce was initiated between Israel and Hamas and the attacks ceased.



In November, 2008 Israel broke the truce. This is very important as blame upon Hamas for what has happened since then is seriously misguided. Israel invaded Gaza and the deaths were approximately: 1800 to about 18 – including many civilian deaths.



One can blame Hamas for various things, however the Israeli invasion was clearly unjustified and a total failure in terms of all its aims, besides perhaps public opinion with Israel. It strengthened the hold Hamas has upon Gazans, which is its biggest failure. Morally it also is a HUGE blemish upon Israel.

Clarissa said...

FROM GEO:
Gaza itself is both an impossible situation and a perfect example of how change could be brought about. As long as one focuses upon Hamas, bringing about serious change is unlikely. Ignoring the human tragedy there is not a viable option. Regardless of one’s politics, Gazans need food and other basic necessities, as well as a place where much of the destruction of the war is taken care of through rebuilding.



The Israeli blockade of Gaza is unethical, unnecessary and counter-productive. It serves the purpose of entrenching public opinion both within Israel and amongst Palestinians making peace in the future less and less likely.



The one effect the continuation of the blockade may accomplish is helping force a reapproachment between Hamas and Fatah. Whether this is good or bad may depend upon How this is accomplished and what the results are. In the end it will probably put more pressures upon Israel.



It is unclear to me Why Most Palestinians (in your opinion) have any reason to want to continue the conflict. I can easily understand why a few “radical” politicians and other people simply survive and prosper in a State of Continued Conflict.



This might be similar, for example, to the desirability for dissension amongst people like Hannity and Limbaugh and others within the Right in the U.S. whose identities rely upon “the enemy” and that nearly alone.



Within Palestine however, there are relatively few who profit this way and see things this way. It actually is amazing how many people who have had children and other relatives killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time (such as going to/from school) remain focused upon non-violent resistance. They’ve obviously learned that violence perpetrated against a massively stronger oppressor simply leads to more death and destruction.



Most Palestinians in their lives are focused upon the same kinds of things that most of us are focused upon: making a living, family, trying to enjoy life and similar. The political leadership oft times seems impotent, however it must function as all Palestinians must function, in a world where the Israelis control many of the daily functions of life.



The changes that have occurred in recent years largely deal with the increased segregation of the West Bank’s population from Israel. The number of workers who work in Israel proper has dropped dramatically in recent years as it has become increasingly more difficult to do. The Wall – that the Israelis continue to build makes simple movement within the West Bank more and more difficult to do with increased delays and impossibilities of getting from one point to another.

The West Bank and Gaza are being strangled economically. They are also being strangled in other ways which affect peoples’ morale and general mindset.

Clarissa said...

FROM GEO:

Despite all that is going on, the violence perpetrated by Palestinians is really not very significant. Much, much more common are situations where Palestinians protest things like the expansion of the wall, and are fired upon. At worst, a few stones were thrown. In many cases no actions beyond simple perceptions of “we’re under attack” (when nothing beyond words and people being present has occurred) results in Israeli soldiers responding.



Equally problematic are the “settlers” and their increasing expansions in the West Bank. The “settlers” attack Palestinians working on their own lands and over time Palestinian lands are increasingly inaccessible as the ‘borders’ between Settler villages and Palestinian lands are expanded supposedly to protect the Settlers. The blatant racism and xenophobia of the Settlers can easily be seen in various ways.



In general there is a huge Israeli military presence and mindset which makes violence against Israelis punishable at such an extreme and the punishment against Israelis for attacking Palestinians so slight (if any) that violence is extremely minimal except as perpetrated by Israelis.



Within The West Bank and Jerusalem and to a slightly lesser degree within the rest of Israel restrictions upon transit and other similar things tighten the noose around Palestinians more and more.



In seems very obvious that the Israeli leadership perceives things best as:



1.) Building the fears of Israelis towards Palestinians and

2.) Making future violence – another Intifada and similar more and more likely in response to provocations and increasing restrictions.



Israel’s leadership clearly wants Palestinians to leave Jerusalem and to a lesser degree The West Bank. It wants to push Palestinians into Jordan, Lebanon and anywhere else it can get them outside of Israeli control. Israel wants to create “facts on the ground” which will in the end result in a much smaller Palestinian State, with much of the West Bank annexed into Israel.



Where you and I differ greatly relates to What the Palestinians want. Certainly some Palestinians want and hope to return to their families’ former homes within Israel. Most Palestinians recognize, however, that this is unlikely to be possible.



Palestinians want a (viable) Palestinian State. They also want a state of “normalcy” where they can live like normal human beings. I don’t think that you can imagine the world of limited rights that exists currently in the West Bank. I know that I felt like I knew far more than I do now, having watched over 80 videos in the Sleepless series in recent months.



I don’t know where you get the idea that there is an Equal Acceptance and Desire of the Status Quo. Very few Palestinians profit from things currently. Economically they are hurt greatly by what goes on. More importantly their psyches are impacted severely – they are told that they are not fully human and that they don’t matter.



Given all that has been done to them, Palestinians seem to me to be remarkably NOT seeking revenge and similar. They recognize very readily that IF they amazingly can find some peace, that it could be lost easily by “terrorism” or similar.

Clarissa said...

FROM GEO:

The protests against Israel and similar serve an important purpose now for Palestinians. They need to have hope and the unity that demonstrations and similar build is important for them.



Frequently issues related to “Moslems” seems to enter the dialog. The Palestinians who are Moslem are moving towards a more religious and demonstrably “religious” identity. At the same time it is NOT a move towards a “religious” state such as might generate Sharia type laws, Except perhaps within the few Political/Religious devotes of Hamas who are perhaps visible beyond their numbers.



Amongst Palestinians there is, perhaps of necessity, an identity not tied to religion as such. Where there are differences they relate to political strategy and similar. The minority religious communities amongst the Palestinians have been respected and accepted similar to the Turkish Empire’s relative tolerance, rather than the splits between Shia and Sunni and similar.



Palestinians are not “better” or “worse” than others.



For Palestinians the Naqba is the terminal event. 1948 – was the critical year. Certainly there was Not a perspective that “they had it good” until 1967. This limitation in perspective may exist in part because of differences that existed between King Hussein and the general weakness of the Hashemite leadership he headed. He had no “right” to rule over the Palestinians. The State of Palestinian leadership circa 1967 was also far less developed than has gradually developed over the past 20-30 or so years.



The reaction to 1948 is not appreciably qualitatively different than the Holocaust is to most Jews. While they may say: “Never Again!” this doesn’t mean that most Jews accept killing and oppressing others. Jews, also have reasons to have wanted to seek revenge, but the response was and is not generally in that direction.



Where there has been Palestinian anger and violence and similar over the past 10-20 years, it has largely been focused upon “Israelis” as oppressors, not “Jews” (e.g. “kill the Jews”). Obviously when there have been revenge killings, this may appear anti-Semitic in circumstances.



Israelis also want “peace”, though their path to finding it is more complex. The fear of another Holocaust is still a major fear amongst Jews in Israel and elsewhere. In a sense this fear is slightly irrational given the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Israeli and Arab militaries as well as their situations in the “world stage”. Palestinians have little “respect”. They serve as a token for support with “radical” Moslem leaders such as Khaddafi in Libya, who’s done little to really help them.



Israel has clout with the U.S., Great Britain and other European countries as well as others in the world.

Israelis have developed the perspective that they are entitled to and deserve water, at the expense of the Palestinians and other resources, similar to how the U.S. has viewed its over-consumption relative to the rest of the world.

Clarissa said...

Many younger Israelis leave Israel temporarily or permanently because of their distaste for both the ongoing state of tension, as well as the ever increasing powers of the religious (often American born) citizenry. Within Israel there is huge proportion of the population who are not religious at all.



There is a big split within Israeli public opinion between Part of the religious community (and a few others) who want to expand and grow on the West Bank and others who think Peace Important. (Part of the religious community has no “political” interest in “Israel” as such and wish to focus mainly or solely upon “religion”. Such people would have little interest or necessarily support of the Settlers.)



Israelis who value peace vary from “radicals” who are allied with various Palestinians to more middle-of-the-road people. “Combatants for Peace” – www.cfpeace.org/ is an example of a “radical” group. Others demonstrate on the West Bank (the Israel government is trying to make such protests by Israelis more and more difficult to do.).



Plenty of Israelis are fed up with the constant state of near war and the inherent militarism that exists. They vary between those who see it as sometimes necessary and those who think it totally unnecessary.



In general I think it utterly simplistic and in some situations totally wrong to conclude that both Israelis and Palestinians want things to continue as they are. You can easily Google this type of area and get more info and ideas in such areas.



C- Of course, we can keep pretending that "people want peace" and it's just big bad United States that creates the conflict. However, the very same conflicts have been taking place all over the world where national identities needed to be reaffirmed. Once again, look at the conflict between Russia and Chechnya.



G – I don’t know the Russian/Chechnya’n conflict in any depth. I would note that Russia as a state has existed for centuries and the “modern-Russian State” has existed for a long time.



Israel/Palestine seems very different to me related to conflicts that have existed amongst the various countries of what used to be Yugoslavia as well as the Greek/Turkish or India/Pakistan conflicts and other such conflicts that I’m aware of.



There has Never been a (democratic or united) Palestinian State. Israel has existed for 62 years and its history building up to then is largely since 1918 – 92 years ago. The animosities which exist are “religious” mainly in the sense that Israel’s identity is “Jewish” much more so than that a majority of the Palestinians are Moslem. If Israelis were primarily Hindus the conflict could be similar if there was a perceived “ancient history” of Hindus proximate to Israel.



I see a Huge difference between the conflicts between the Irish Catholics/ Protestants and Great Britain and what has gone on re: Palestine-Israel. The Jews – are a relatively recent “dominant” residence group in Israel-Palestine who had a very ancient history there as well as an ongoing religious connection amongst a relatively small proportion of Jewish people in the period leading up to WWI.

C - As for the Muslim people demanding a Shariah court, that's exactly what happened in Canada, or didn't you notice?



G – I feel trapped here in terminology and focus.



Palestinians – are Not Primarily Focused upon being “Moslems” – related to this conflict.


You seem to return over and over again to return to “Moslems” (in this case related to Shariah) which seems highly irrelevant to me for the most part. If I were to discuss your background of which I either know little or nothing – I think, perhaps incorrectly, that you are of Spanish background and emigrated to the U.S. a little over a decade ago.

Clarissa said...

Sorry, the previous comment was also from Geo.

So is this one:

Assuming that this is essentially “correct” for purposes of example, I would be “wrong” to call you “Chicano” (implying Central American-Mexican background), “a wetback”, an illegal alien or numerous other (mostly negative) statements I might presume based upon “Spanish” as my sole clue (not connecting it with Spain or not understanding the Spanish – Spain vs. Spanish ties to Mexico, Central American and South America. When I lived in Chicago our neighbors on one side were Cuban-Americans and on the other side were Puerto Rican in background. To most “Americans” they were both “Latino” (or worse), however these people had Zero interest in each other related to ethnic origin – and there were potential class and other issues that could have divided them.



I don’t understand the relevance of Sharia to the Palestinians! You seem to see conservative Moslem beliefs and religious control as being Obvious, with Palestinian influence or even Involvement in Israeli or Palestinian affairs. Within the existing West Bank Palestinian leadership and “government” I am aware of No indication that Sharia is and issue whatsoever. Hamas’s leadership of Gaza may be more problematic here, however Gaza is not currently controlled in ways that you describe.



I’d Not be surprised if something transpired in Canada related to a desire for a Shariah Court. I would, however, want to know a lot, lot more before I decided that what happened was typical or highly relevant to issues related to Islam in general. I might, for example, wonder IF this was coming from Sunnis or Shia’s and which part or parts of their tradition.



I also feel it important to look at What and in What Degree things are happening and moving forward. Obviously, for example, there are issues in Europe relating to growing anti-Semitism that are tied to issues involving some Moslem (religion) people.



I would want to both Not dismiss the anti-Semitism allegations as being “overblown” as well as Wanting to understand Who the issue was and how serious it was. There are a huge number of Moslems in the world, and relatively few of them are in any way tied to what I’m referencing.





Issues related to – “Moslem terrorism” – I believe if anything point to the importance of the U.S. and Israel doing the exact opposite of what is being done now.


Israel-Palestine – as an issue today – serves as an excuse for all kinds of terrorist and “radical Islam” type issues and takes away from some of the “real issues” that exist.



There are serious issues related to Iran – related to possible future nuclear weapons that is a HUGE issue both in the U.S. and Israel, as well as other places. Israel-Palestine – serves as a huge excuse for Iran – and the U.S. – in diverting attention from the actual serious issues that exist.



Iran – has legitimate complaints related to:



1.) Israel having nuclear weapons and

2.) The U.S. – and its intervention in Iran from the early to mid-1950’s to the overthrowing of the Shah and what occurred in the late 1970’s.



When Israel helps continue the status quo and the U.S. serves as an apologist for it and oft times a “belligerent” force related to Iran, it is difficult to deal with a lot of the issues that exist.



At a simple level (and I’m no expert in this area) there are serious issues with Iran related to its issues with Iraq (where most of what I’ve read indicates that Iran has actually on the whole been more stabilizing than de-stabilizing since 2003) as well as related to Sunni-Shia issues and power issues in the Middle East. It is my understanding that the US 2003 invasion and related actions has strengthened Iranian influence to the dismay of US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Clarissa said...

Palestine-Israel should have little to do with Al Queda – and Pakistan/Afghanistan issues and similar. Unfortunately the labels: “terrorism” and similar get incredibly muddled and confusing with the complication of the conflict of which I speak of.



It would be much, much, much, much easier to deal with both:



1.) Islam – radical Islam – Sharia – type issues and

2.) “Terrorism” – related issues



and how these two are intertwined – IF we could seriously work to solve the issues that exist in Israel-Palestine and have peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as a “boogie man” for anti-American and anti-Western issues and helps build radical Islam and terrorism in general.



IF – we realistically are to deal with issues – related to what is going on, we need to understand – who is who – and not be so ignorant and ethnocentric in our outlook. A simple example relates to Hizbollah (Shia) and Hamas (Sunni) and their relationships to each other. George W – and his minions looked incredibly stupid when they equated the two groups and implied strongly that they were “allies” against Israel. The ONLY common thread that the two groups had was their shared stand against Israel. They have been and generally are rivals – of each other (in different geographic areas) who most commonly are Not united. What unites them is continued labeling of each of them as similar and treating them as if they were similar.



IF – we could and would deal with the issues with Palestine-Israel – we could separate the “radical extremists” (including “terrorists) from many others who are Very Different from them. As it is our naivete and simplistic actions and keeping our head in the sand – helps keep us in a permanent state of “war” against “the terrorists”. We could end up with a world where the real “terrorists” would be isolated and cooperation would exist to track them down and eliminate the threat that they are.



C - I think that until people agree to abandon their belief in the exceptional nature of this conflict and start looking at precedent, nothing will get resolved.



G - I think that you are missing some of the relevant precedents and lumping this in with other such precedents. I doubt that you would equate the Indian/Pakistani/(and related struggles in what later became Bangladesh)

and argue that the British should have kept hold of all until they could work out the ethnic/religious areas there or various other possible late things that might have kept the conflicts going to the degree that they were going.



I agree strongly that we need to look at history and precedents. I also see the precedents as different than you (evidently) do. I’d imagine that few would have thought it possible to have peace in Ireland at the heat of the struggles there before peace was made.



I also Highly Doubt that few saw the collapse of “communism” in Russia 10 years earlier.



C - You see yourself how emotional people get (you, for example) when simply discussing this issue. This is not a criticism of you, it's just an observation. As philosophers noticed 200 years ago, collective identity needs to operate in the realm of emotions in order to prevent people from noticing just how unreasonable and illogical it is.



G – Yes, I do get emotional. I also find it very discouraging when there are things like the Goldstone Report, an important finding that was principled and excellent – criticizing both Israel and Hamas for excesses related to the Gaza “War”, – and political pressures for “balance” result in the US House condemning it – 344-36 (I’m happy that my congressperson was one of the 36) – with abstentions.

Clarissa said...

Again, people, the previous comment was part of Geo's long response, and so is this one. You are making me work hard here, Geo. :-)

It saddens me that people as highly intelligent and informed as you are, (including commentators on the only faintly “leftist radio network” continue to be dazzled with and impressed with so many forces which push for “balance” and similar.



As a Jew, I faced and face, far more pressures to support Israel and its positions that most other Americans do, besides perhaps right-wing, Messianic Christians (who believe that when Jesus comes back again, that all the Jews will be killed – along with the other disbelievers), to support Israel and its positions. It’s not easy to face all one’s family who views things differently (sibling, parent I mean) as well as other well-meaning, caring people.

C - The idea that Israelis should just remove themselves from the occupied territories and everybody will live happily ever after is controverted by all kinds of precedent. Yet we still need to believe in this pipe dream because it's so neat and easy.



G – I NEVER have said that the Israelis should just removed themselves from the occupied territories. I have said over and over again that a Just Peace needs to be negotiated. There are many, many individuals such as Jimmy Carter who have excellent ideas for bringing peace. There are many Jews who are in groups – such as Jewish Voice for Peace and seek peace. There are many Moslems – and non-Moslem Arabs and others who seek peace.



I also strongly believe that the US needs campaign finance reform and a gradual drastic reduction in military spending. Neither of these are likely to happen. A reduction in Military spending would be “irresponsible” if it was a unilateral 70% cut in one year, with 90% of our military bases closed to meet the required reduction.

Clarissa said...

And the last portion of Geo's response:

I do argue though that:



The U.S. needs to drastically change its approach to the Conflict. We need to NOT fund Israel – in supporting a continuation of the status quo. See:
http://wrmea.org/component/content/article/245-2008-november/3845-congress-watch-a-conservative-estimate-of-total-direct-us-aid-to-israel-almost-114-billion.html - for a conservative estimate of $103 billion in total and at least around $3 billion annually spend in support of Israel until and unless peace is ACTIVELY sought and hopefully achieved,



The US needs to serve as a true mediator in negotiations – reflecting not only the Israeli position, but the positions of the Palestinians and others who aren’t at the table,


Countries such as Turkey (present moment excepted perhaps) need to be supported in efforts to bring peace. Turkey is a growing “power” in the world and has had good relations with both Israel and Arab countries,


Peace can not be imposed from outside, but we need to make peacemaking a priority comparable to other high priorities and not allow it to be squashed by the Israeli Government’s refusals to seriously negotiate, as well as (if they happen) “unreasonable” Palestinian demands.


The current Israeli Government is unlikely to seriously negotiate currently due to its domestic political situation. As a result it likely will be necessary for drastic financial effects of its failure to prioritize peace (with justice) to move it along in the short-term,


Palestinian leadership currently is weak. There is a clear split between Fatah leadership on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. I can’t readily see how they will have a chance of unifying and working seriously for peace unless and until 5. above is not a serious issue and there are clear beliefs that both peace will become possible and that the U.S. will be “fair” in its role as a mediator,


US public opinion clearly is relatively uneducated and uninformed in most of these areas and the President Obama will NOT succeed in doing what I suggest without a dramatically improved political situation domestically which will see “peace” as both important and achievable. Currently this is unlikely.


Despite all the negatives and difficulties etc. – peace is the only viable option to help both Israel and the U.S. be involved, successful parts of the “World Community”. The U.S. needs to be able to start dealing with its many problems, and Peace in the Middle East is one of the few problems, that “miraculously” could be solved. Israel also needs peace. It can not afford to postpone it and needs to take the risks to make peace. I don’t think that currently we can similarly ask the Palestinians to do much “better” because they are the largest part (by far) of the “victims” of this tragic situation.

geo said...

Clarissa - Thanks for posting all that I sent you! I thought it too lengthy and specifically focused upon responding to what you said to be "postable".

Others - who may be interested (positively or negatively) might want to look at some of my past postings at: http://www.geoisphere.blogspot.com where the original thing I wrote that you posted was initially written.

Thanks again!

I never expect to "convince" anyone of anything. I do hope, however, that you, and some others over time will read more and form what I would see as a more "balanced" perspective.

I have many hundreds of Israeli relatives and Israel's first nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon (liberature) was my great-uncle (by marriage).

I am most happy to focus upon specifics - where disagreements exist. I can not and will not respond to blanket statements related to my "biases" or being "self-hating" or "anti-semitic" or whatever.

It is no easier to be as I am than it is to be Gay, Lesbian or Transgender and "free" by such "deviance".

I read a lot and have experienced a lot in these issues.

I'd suggest to some such as the responder who disagreed with both you and me to look at divergent points of view in some dept. We who "disagree" see plenty of mainstream thought as well as things supportive of us.

In about 1987 I saw Louis Farakkhan speak and that helped me understand issues that he and others have expressed related to Blacks and Anti-Semitism. Hearing him speak Doesn't mean that I agree with him (by a long-shot!) Thanks again!

T.L. Winslow (TLW) said...

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http://historyscoper.com/tlwjerusalem