This Too Shall Pass

It was not my intention to post here until the New Year, when my access to the internet would be more secure. Unfortunately the world still turns even while I take a break; events on the ground continue, people die and atrocities occur, imperialism remains, whether I tuck into a turkey dinner or enjoy the haunting beauty of winter woodlands or not. It is true that there is perhaps little that I can do to reverse these injustices, to contribute to building a better world where these atrocities will one day be recalled as scarcely believable myths of darker ages. But that is true of most things; nonetheless I can see no other option than to try.

One of the key motivating forces in my life stems from an experience with a humble mosquito. Whenever I hear someone say ‘what can I do? I am but one against many…’ I recall the experience of being locked in a room with a lone mosquito. As small as it was, it was able to produce a reaction from me far disproportionate to its size relative to myself. True, I eventually killed it, but it does show that no matter how small one is, one may still have a great impact.

What has prompted me to post now, earlier than I would have liked are the events in Gaza of the last few days. Most by now are aware of the massive aerial assault on this piece of land, one of the most densely populated and impoverished places on our planet. Indications are that a ground assault (I doubt a sustained full occupation though) are to follow in the next few days.

The Palesitine-Isreal question is one not very dissimilar to the race question in Bermuda – views can become quickly polarised and emotional to the degree that discourse ends up talking at cross purposes, positions become entrenched, and we have the trench warfare becoming the norm.

Knowing this, I hope that the discourse, if any, that follows will prove to be the exception to the rule of such discourses. Optimistically idealist of me, perhaps.

I should state right away – and I doubt this will come as a surprise to many – my sympathies lie primarily with the Palestinian people. Often the pro-Israeli side attempt to create a strawman of pro-Palestinians, saying that they are ready to demo against Israel but say nothing about the tragedies caused by Palestinian rockets or bombings. While there are no doubt some within the pro-Palestinian camp that cling to the maxim of the ends justify the means (and they have their mirror image amongst the zionists for sure), I think it is unfair to misrepresent the pro-Palestinian camp as being such.

Its not hard to empathise with the terror that Palestinian suicide bombings or rudimentary rockets can instill within the Israeli people. The greatest terror comes simply because the victims of these tragedies are largely civilians going about their daily life, while most of the attacks are tragically random due to the rudimentary and imprecise mechanisms available to the Palestinian militants. It is horrible, it is terrible, it has a distinct social impact. For one, it leads to a dehumanisation of the ‘enemy’ which makes it easier to legitimise using violence – preferably overwhelming – with the aim of either destroying or incapacitating the enemy.

At the same time, I can also understand, and better justify the actions of the Palestinian militants. Their actions come largely out of desparation and limited access to weaponary to defend themselves with. The same social impact of terror attacks that may be seen within the Israelis occurs within Palestine itself, but magnified due to the greater destructive power of the Israeli state as opposed to the Palestinian people.

Israel has failed to address the root causes of the conflict; if anything they have exacerbated the situation. And they continue to do so. The current assault on Gaza is no different. The systematic destruction of Palestinian society and economy, combined with constant military incursions has certainly not helped.

Israel today is a Goliath, the Palestinians are a David, only David’s sling and stones are this time no match for Goliath. And the world stands by and watches the strong stamping on the weak. Some pious words are spoken, resolutions are passed in the UN, but nothing comes of it. The US continues to arm Israel, despite the terrorist activities of Mossad throughout Arabia, despite Israel’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, despite its illegal occupation of land, its state-sponsored settlements of occupied lands, its warmongering in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. I have long since lost all illussions of the West as standing for democracy and human rights. I have found these to be empty rhetoric and propaganda to hide the actions of the West throughout the world. I have little faith in the UN, shackled as it is to the West and rendered impotent as such.

Perhaps I am overly cynical. But it certainly has not escaped my notice that the Israeli general election is coming up in February, with the ruling Kadima Party facing charges of being soft on Hamas by the resurgent Likud Opposition. Nor does it escape my attention that President-elect Obama (who is predictably siding with Israel here) is thought by the Israeli’s to be less strongly pro-Israel than the outgoing Bush II regime.

I cannot envision a full ground assault on Gaza, only limited incursions to gather intel, assassinate Hamas leaders and target institutions better destroyed on the ground than from air, while also further humiliating the people of Gaza and Hamas. The full attack will probably be over by the end of this week, if not sooner. It will certainly be over by inauguration day in the US. This too, indeed, shall pass.

But the festering and open wound that is the so-called holy land will continue. The apartheid regime perpetuated by Israel will continue. This guarantees further desperate reactions from Palestinian militants.

I don’t know what I can do. But I’ll be the best darned mosquito that I can be and work for a resolution to this crisis.

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4 thoughts on “This Too Shall Pass

  1. This land was your land but now it’s my land, from the Conventions to the …..Because your pissed of, well check the stats.

    Amazing how a people can have a land and only a handfull per sey yet dictate their incompetance in self rule.

  2. I thought this article struck a balance on the issue that I haven’t seen before. It’s long, but well worth a read. The link is http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5446519.ece

    “Israel’s attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but stupid. No country in the world is going to ignore the provocation of rockets being launched from neighbouring territory day after day. If Mexico had a group of anti-imperialists bombing Texas, imagine how long it would take for America to mobilise a counterattack. Israel has every right to respond.
    But the kind of response matters. Killing 500 Palestinians and wounding 2,000 others (at the time of writing) is disproportionate. Hamas can harass, but it cannot pose any threat to the existence of Israel. And just as Hamas’s indiscriminate bombing of population centres is a crime against humanity, so is Israel’s killing of civilians (at least 130 so far in Gaza, not to mention the thousands in the years of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza).
    Hamas had respected the previously negotiated ceasefire except when Israel used it as cover to make assassination raids. Hamas argued that these raids were hardly a manifestation of a ceasefire, and so as symbolic protest it would allow the release of rocket fire (usually hitting no targets). But when the issue of continuing the ceasefire came up, Hamas wanted a guarantee that these assassination raids would stop. And it asked for more. With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing acute malnutrition, Hamas insists that the borders be opened so that food can arrive unimpeded. And in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, it asks for the release of 1,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
    Hamas has made it clear that it would accept the terms of the Saudi Arabian peace agreement, though it would never formally recognise Israel. It would live peacefully in a two-state arrangement, but it would never acknowledge Israel’s “right to exist”. This position is unnecessarily provocative, and is deeply self-destructive for Palestinians who believe it is the only symbolic weapon they have left.
    How do we get out of this destructive spiral? The first step is for the world to demand an immediate ceasefire. That ceasefire should be imposed by the United Nations and backed unequivocally by America. Its terms must include the following:
    — Hamas stops all firing of missiles, bombs or any other violent action originating from the West Bank or Gaza, and co-operates in actively jailing anyone from any faction that breaks this ceasefire.
    — Israel stops all bombing, targeted assassinations or any other violent actions aimed at activists, militants, or suspected terrorists in the West Bank or Gaza, and uses the full force of its army to prevent any further attacks on Palestinians.
    — Israel opens the border with Gaza and allows free access to and from Israel, subject only to full search and seizure of any weapons. Israel allows free travel of food, gas, electricity, water and consumer goods and materials including from land, air, and sea, subject only to full search and seizure of any weapons or materials typically used for weapons.
    — Israel releases all Palestinians in detention and returns them to the West Bank or Gaza according to the choice of the detainees or prisoners. Hamas releases Gilad Schalit and anyone else being held by Palestinian forces.
    — Both sides invite an international force to implement these agreements
    — Both sides agree to end teaching and/or advocacy of violence against the other side in and outside mosques, educational institutions, and the media.
    — This ceasefire would last for 20 years. Nato, the UN, and the US all agree to enforce this agreement and impose severe sanctions in the event of any violations.
    These steps would make a huge difference, isolate the most radical members of each side from the mainstream, and make it possible to then begin negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a broader and deeper set of issues.
    The basic condition for creating peace is to help each side feel “safe”. A first and critical step is to speak in a language that is empathic toward the suffering of each people in a climate of discourse in which both sides’ stories are heard and understood.
    Yet Israel, as the militarily superior power, ought to take the first steps: implementing a massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and in the West Bank to end poverty and unemployment, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment; dismantle the settlements or make settlers become citizens of a Palestinian state; accept 30,000 Palestinian refugees annually back into Israel for the next 30 years, apologise for its role in the 1948 expulsions and offer to co-ordinate a worldwide compensation effort for all that Palestinians lost during the Occupation; and recognise a Palestinian state within borders already defined by the Geneva Accord of 2003.
    This is the only way Israel will ever achieve security. It is the only way to permanently defeat Hamas and all extremists who wish to see endless war against Israel.
    The most significant contribution the new Obama administration could make to Middle East peace would be to embrace a strategy that homeland security is best achieved not by military or economic domination but by generosity and caring for others. If this new way of thinking could become a serious part of US policy, it would have an immense impact on undermining the fearful consciousness of Israelis who still see the world more through the frame of the Holocaust and previous persecutions than through the frame of their actual present power in the world.
    It breaks my heart to see the terrible suffering in Gaza and in Israel. As a religious Jew I find it all the worse, because it confirms to me how easy it is to pervert the loving message of Judaism into a message of hatred and domination. I remain in mourning for the Jewish people, for Israel and for the world.
    Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine. (rabbilerner@tikkun.org)

  3. This is the usual “soft and fuzzy” Israeli response. We should all just get along.

    The basis for this reasoning is that there are radicals in each camp that move the moderates to extreme action. Get rid of the radicals and everyone wants to kiss. But no. The radical position in either camp is the reality. Israel displaced a huge population in order to enforce a jewish voting population. This is radical. It is the foundation of the Jewish State. The only way you can justify it is from a radical position. This is way the moderates in Israel must move to the radical position at times of crisis when decisions have to be made. They like to think nice liberal thoughts but their reality is a kleptocracy.

    Since Israel rests on land originally owned by others and claimed by them, it has two options

    1. Give the land back. It will never do this as long as it has the support of the USA.

    2. Fight another war.

    The purpose and meaning of Israel is war. It will always move to a radical position and that position will dictate aggression. Time and Time again. Since this is so, the Pals must also move to a radical position and fight back.

    There is no soft and fuzzy solution. The Israelis must either illuminate the Palestinians, which they may finally do, or become a secular state, in which case the jewish state would cease to exist. Just the way South Africa of the early 20th century disappeared when the ANC finally defeated the whites.

    The guy who wrote this article is high. I want what he’s on. This is the best bit:

    “Yet Israel, as the militarily superior power, ought to take the first steps: implementing a massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and in the West Bank to end poverty and unemployment, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment; dismantle the settlements or make settlers become citizens of a Palestinian state; accept 30,000 Palestinian refugees annually back into Israel for the next 30 years, apologise for its role in the 1948 expulsions and offer to co-ordinate a worldwide compensation effort for all that Palestinians lost during the Occupation; and recognise a Palestinian state within borders already defined by the Geneva Accord of 2003.”

    yeah. And monkeys shall fly from my nose.

    The two state solution is dead.

    Israel is a failed state.

    This is a very dangerous situation.

  4. An interesting – and alternative view. And you may well be right. I have to admit, the one point you made that I do agree with is “this is a very dangerous situation”.

    I am holding my breath that the (normally useless) UN gets its act together. If this spreads to other anti-Israel countries, the bang could be enormous.

    Shalom!

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