|"Double Standard" by Carlos Latuff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: A montage of the Gaza War. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: Dar al-Fadila Association for Orphans, consisting of a school, computer center and mosque in Rafah serving 500 children, were destroyed by the Israelis during Israel's assault on Gaza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: An Israeli strike caused a huge explosion in residential area in Gaza. This is during the Israeli assault on Gaza 08-09 Day 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Protest against the Israeli attack on the Palestinians of Gaza held at the State Library 4 January 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Still shot from video footage filmed on the 18th day of the War on Gaza showing the destruction sustained from Israeli-Palestinian clash in the area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
It has been a long time, more than a month, I believe, since I posted anything on this site. During that time I have been reading a number of remarkable novels by writers from various countries (about which, more on a later date); but more recently I have been immobilized by the horrors of the Israeli attack on Gaza.
In recent days I have been following not only the events, but the commentaries on the events, many of which have come to me through the email system, and others have been staged by various TV networks, notably Al Jazeera.
I have been astonished by the claptrap pedalled by the Israeli government spokespersons, who have acted as if the whole problem began with the kidnapping, and later deaths, of three Israeli teenagers. They never mention that the Israelis killed two Palestinian teenagers a month before; or that, in their frantic search for the missing Israeli teenagers (a phony event, as it happens, because it has been revealed that they knew from the start the fate of these boys) the Israelis killed at least 14 people. Or that killings of Palestinians by Israelis have been continuing year by year.
The fact, established by various people with historical knowledge of the Israel-Palestinians imbroglio, is that the continuing occupation of the West Bank by Israel is what lies at the core of this dispute. The fact is, Israel has blocked every effort to create a peace that would be lasting, preferring, instead, to illegally occupy these lands by building settlements which have so changed the situation on the ground that Israel now seems to be in an unassailable position, so long as it can keep intact its military might, for which it seems to depend entirely on he United States.
A commentary by a Beirut academic named Rami Khouri, whose name is familiar from his having contributed over the years to The Ottawa Citizen, really summarized the facts of what has been happening on the ground. He spoke the day at the ceasefire arranged by Obama and Ban Ke Moon broke down. He pointed to the fact that the agreement for a ceasefire did not mention what John Kerry mentioned later in a press conference, that Israel would be free to pursue its project to destroy tunnels that lay behind the area they had occupied . That is not a ceasefire, when one side is given the right to continue its operations, he said. And it illustrated the basic problem with the role of the United States as intermediary.
Traditionally, over the many years of this conflict, he said, the United States has treated the demands and wishes of Israel as the bottom line that must first be satisfied, and once that is done the Palestinians are left to pick up the crumbs of whatever is left over. Evidently, this so-called ceasefire which gave the Israelis authority to continue with their work was the best deal Kerry could get out of Netanyahu. This of course can have come as no surprise to those who were paying attention, for in talking about the coming ceasefire I heard Netanyahu say, straight out, that ceasefire or no ceasefire, Israel would not be deterred from its mission to destroy all the tunnels.
Khouri called this incompetent diplomacy by the United States. And in looking forward to measures that might be taken to bring further peace--- first, a ceasefire, then a step towards a permanent solution --- he hoped that Egypt would step in and work from a neutral position --- something that can no longer be guaranteed --- and that other powers, more friendly to Hamas than those under the control of the United States (among whom he seemed to include all Western powers like those in Europe, Canada and so on), powers like Turkey, Qatar, and some others might step into a more prominent role of mediation. Only thus, said Khouri, would it be possible to look forward to serious efforts of diplomacy, to replace the amateurish diplomacy practised by the Americans. The Americans, though they have lost their right to mediate because of their total support for everything Israeli, would have to be involved in such negotiations because they are the only power trusted by Israel, he said.
When an interviewer directed his attention to the criticism expressed by Obama of the shelling of a UN shelter for 3500 people, resulting in the killing of 19 people and wounding of countless others, Khouri said, “We cannot any longer take notice of what the Americans say, what they do is what counts. And they have, at the same time, renewed their support of Israel by sending them more of the arms and ammunition they are using to devastate the refugee camps of Gaza.”
Following that pertinent interview, Al Jazeera yesterday screened a revealing episode of their daily programme Inside Story, with, as guests, Daniel Levy, a former adviser to an Israeli Prime Minister who is now director of a Middle East and African programme for the European Council of Foreign Relations, Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestine National Initiative, and Shashank Joshi, a research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, of London. They were agreed with Rami Khouri’s point that the so-called ceasefire was not in fact a real ceasefire, since Israel was given authority to continue with its destructive activities: in other words, the Americans, as usual, had agreed to the demands of Israel, without which there would have been no ceasefire. Levy said Israel had become accustomed to acting with impunity in relation to the Palestinians, and this was beginning to be something that was working against their best interests. Bargouti rejected the idea, pedalled by the Western media, that the Palestinians were not united: he said they were, in fact, united, and had been planning to send a delegation to Cairo for more serious talks about the future that would have included all Palestinian factions. He compared this situation to one a few years earlier when Israel told Abbas, the Palestinian leader, that they were ready to talk about a Palestinian state, but he had to know that such a state would have an Israeli military presence, the Israelis would not withdraw from their present occupation status, they would not agree that Jerusalem should be capital of such a state, so with that information, they should go ahead and negotiate. Of course, said Levy, that was not a serious negotiation. He said that in the current situation the US would have to decide whether it was a mediator or a party to the struggle: in the latter case, it could no longer be a mediator. He added that the best route for the Palestinians would be to eschew the firing of rockets, but concentrate on opposing the occupation by civil disobedient, non-violent methods within the ambit of international law.
Bargouti said in the current situation Israel and the United States were insisting that Palestinians did not have equal rights to be considered normal human beings as the Israelis. They were, he said, not entitled to defend themselves when attacked (according to this American/Israeli position), they were not entitled to resist occupation, and they were not entitled to live ordinary life with the amenities necessary to carry on their daily activities. Meanwhile Israel conducts one massacre after another on them.
One striking thing is that the leaders of the western world automatically assume that in case of breakdown, the fault lies entirely with the Palestinians. Yet the facts on the ground, the thousands of people killed and wounded on one side compared with the few on the other, the insensate destruction of houses, the bombing of schools, hospitals, water and power plants, what seems like the determination to destroy the life of Gaza once and for all, leave no doubt as to which is the injured party here.
I have been reading a lot of things bearing on this issue recently, much of it extremely illuminating. Especially interesting is the growing body of work by disillusioned Zionists of one kind or another--- soldiers who finally could no longer stomach their oppressive role in keeping the Palestinians under control, academics who could no longer swallow the myths of the creation of Israel by the Zionists, and so on.
All of these make it plain that Israel has occupied Palestine using the very methods of terrorism, brutal occupation, and ethnic cleansing, as it is now called, that they now self-righteously say make their current opponents beyond the pale: they won’t even talk to people who are doing what their own leaders (men who later became Prime Ministers of Israel) did many years ago.
An interesting article in this week’s Guardian Weekly quotes an Israeli peace activist as saying that as a people who were traumatised over centuries by their experiences in Europe, the Israelis now have a sense that people owe them, a sense that allows them to ask “who are you to tell us what to do?”
The author quotes another Israel peace activist as saying that when Palestinians die, “Israelis don’t deny they have died, but they’ve simply done a mental process that blames the Palestinian deaths on Palestinians themselves.”
Most of the commentators who have impressed me have pointed to world opinion as the only factor which could rescue the situation from its current stalemate. And the fact seems to be that opinion has recently been changing towards more sympathy for the Palestinians, as evidenced by the demonstrations in their favour recently throughout the world. Unfortunately, so far this has had almost no effect on politics. But as the people of the world mobilize to try to bring the Palestinian suffering to an end, it seems obvious Israel will eventually be forced to negotiate seriously with the people whose lands, homes, businesses and culture they have occupied and/or destroyed.