Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Coming from the Washington Post, this is astonishing. It mentions many significant facts about Palestine, Gaza, and Israel which are studiously kept buried by our nightly television news toadies. I've noticed that some of those TV "personalities" are looking noticeably uncomfortable about the Israeli slaughter in Gaza, and the lies used to justify it, and yet restrict their personal protest to squirming and changing the subject. Their body language reveals their true feelings but isn't revealing enough to get them fired through Jewish pressure.

Israel's Gaza Gamble

By Mahmoud Sabit

This has been a particularly brutal two weeks in the tragic saga of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. It's not very clear as to what precisely all this death and destruction is supposed to accomplish from an Israeli perspective. The utter defeat of Hamas? There's no consensus that this can accomplished by military means; Hamas is an ideological organization with strong support in Gaza, and their structure is woven into the very fabric of the refugee camps. To cow the civilian population of Gaza into withdrawing their support of Hamas? This is not very likely, especially after the sheer quantity of explosives showered on Gaza like confetti, and their resultant toll on the civilian population. Civilians tend to harden their determination when subjected to a constant diet of explosives, as the Germans learned during the London Blitz in WWII. As an election 'gimmick' to show how 'tough' Israel's leaders can be? Perhaps Israel's leaders have lost all sense of moral and ethical proportion if they believe that bombing an oppressed civilian population and its choice of leadership into a state of total submission following two years of virtual siege is a measure of toughness or lack of 'squeamishness.' To present President-elect Barack Obama with a fait accompli when he is sworn in later this month? A crisis that will force the new administration's hand upon taking office? It would not be the first time an Israeli government has attempted to impose its narrow agenda on an incoming U.S. administration.

Whatever the reason, it is a serious gamble, and a gamble without any likely long-term benefits. On the contrary, the long term implications do not benefit the interests of arriving at a final and just settlement to all parties in this dispute, whether Israeli, or Palestinian or Arab. It's certainly a gamble that may change the perspective of Arab governments in their interests in a rapprochement with Israel. There has been for the past few years an offer of peace to Israel by the Arab countries formulated in the Beirut Declaration of March 2002. This offer has so far been gathering dust, unaddressed by Israel, and it could be withdrawn (though this is not really likely.) The pressure from Arab public opinion as a result of this situation may well force the hand of some Arab governments to withdraw their support of this Declaration. To so dramatically reveal the Arab governments' inability to influence anyone at all on the conduct of Israel in Gaza would strengthen the position of Iran and its allies in the region. These are potentially serious consequences. For Israel to gamble with such possibilities is to engage in a serious disservice to their Israeli constituency as well as to their Arab neighbors.

Any and all civilian deaths and casualties should be deplored, be they Palestinian or Israeli. Firing homemade rockets into Israeli territory and bombing civilians in Gaza with modern ordinance are both acts that do not advance the cause of peace. Neither will tormenting a quite helpless refugee Palestinian population in Gaza with an economic embargo, nor denying its basic right to some sort of compensation through an overall peace settlement, nor attempting to coerce them into an abject capitulation to Israel's demands.

As for Hamas, they exist solely as a result of over 40 years of brutal Israeli occupation over the Palestinians without any recourse to a just settlement that would allow these people to have some sort of choice for their own future. At first the PLO/Fatah represented their interests, but Fatah was not able to deliver, thanks to Israeli intransigence and U.S. complicity. Thanks to a compliant U.S., Israel has an effective Security Council veto on any inconvenient resolution that this international body considers that might in any way restrict actions Israel considers 'appropriate' - which may or may not be abhorrent to the international community.

So when a free and open election took place in 2005, Hamas was elected to lead the Palestinian people, not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank. Hamas was brought into power because they are an element just as intransigent, just as doctrinaire and just as hard headed as past Israeli governments have proven to be. The reaction by Israel, the U.S. and Western Europe to this election was, as expected, vociferous. Even the right of the Palestinian people to choose their own leaders, however odious they may be considered, has been denied them. In a cynical display of moral outrage, Israel and the U.S. conspired with Fatah to topple Hamas, through violent means. The end result was that Gaza remained under Hamas control, whereas the West Bank effectively came under Fatah control. In addition Gaza has been under an economic embargo for several years now, causing immeasurable hardship to the Palestinian civilian population, in effect reinforcing a brutal occupation with a state of siege, actions more reminiscent of the excesses of the Middle Ages rather than the 21st century. If Hamas is considered so unsuitable today, 60 years after these Palestinians became refugees, perhaps Israel and its allies should have entered into a sincere and just settlement with more acceptable Palestinian partners decades ago.

Possibly one of the more sinister aspects of this tragedy is the clumsy attempt through media 'spin' to portray Israeli civilians as victims in this crisis. When we see on our TV screens and computer monitors the effects of Hamas 'rockets' on Israeli communities, compared to the sheer havoc wreaked by Israeli high explosives on the Gaza urban landscape and its civilian population, the educated and informed can safely put this fiction aside. As of a couple of days ago, in an TV interview with the BBC, Dr. Mars Gilbert at Dar el Shifa hospital in Gaza informed us that the overwhelming majority of casualties he had treated were civilians and that of the 900 casualties that they had so far cared for at Dar el Shifa, 25% of the fatalities and fully 45% of the wounded were women and children.

In an article that appeared January 7, 2009 in the UK, Avi Shlaim, a respected Israeli historian and Oxford University scholar, wrote that Israel had become a 'rogue' state, by definition a state that ignores and violates international law at will, has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, and practices terrorism (the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.)

In another BBC World interview with another noted Israeli historian, Tom Segev, when posed the question, "After the fighting is over, what should then happen?" answered, "We shall have to talk to Hamas - they may be a terrorist organization, but they are also a political party, a social welfare movement and the elected representatives of the Palestinian people."

These educated and informed Israelis are well aware of the fundamental truth of this situation, which is that Israel's long term security, its very survival, relies on making a just and equitable peace with the Palestinians, making peace with the rest of the Arab World, and making the Arabs their best friends as quickly as possible.

From an Egyptian perspective, the government is not thrilled that Hamas is in this leadership position with the Palestinian people. They are after all the 'little' brother of Egypt's own Muslim Brotherhood, opponents today of the Egyptian government. Egypt also realizes that Hamas will probably survive this onslaught; their survival will be considered a victory and may well have serious repercussions in the Arab World. In short this Israeli gamble, ill-timed, ill-conceived and ill-advised, may well reinforce and encourage political Islamist ideologues and their extremist elements in the moderate Arab World. If Hamas does not survive, even more extremist elements may replace them in Gaza - elements that have been waiting on the sidelines for just such an opportunity, including al-Qaeda.'

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