Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Great Writings on Gaza Culled by Chaverim

Dear readers, you have a lot of homework to do, beginning with this excellent piece by William Saletin in Slate, very compatible with our own perspective:

... "The most plausible way to stop this cycle of violence is through internationally supervised demilitarization." . . .  Including an invitation to Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority to restore governance and cooperate with Israel on security for both peoples. For example, acknowledging that 
Gazans have no government to protect them . . . Every day, more civilians die in Gaza. Israel, the country that’s killing them, has agreed to cease-fire proposals. But Hamas, which controls Gaza (though many of its political leaders don’t even live there), rejects these proposals and continues to fire rockets into Israel. You can argue that the rockets justify Israel’s attacks or that they serve merely as a pretext. Either way, they get more Gazans killed.
The only way to make sense of Hamas’ behavior is to recognize that its goal is not to stop the killing but to exploit it. That explains why Hamas encouraged Gazans to stand atop targeted buildings and ordered them to stay in areas where Israel had issued pre-invasion evacuation warnings. It also explains why Hamas insists that Israel grant concessions in exchange for a cease-fire. Hamas thinks a cease-fire is a favor to Israel. Given the gross imbalance in casualties, that’s a pretty clear statement that Hamas thinks Gazan deaths should bother Israel more than they bother Hamas.    
This is from Peter Beinart's Facebook page: 

My final Israel commentary; why I'm 'retiring'

Last week, our pro-Israel peace camp was abuzz about a NY Times op-ed piece written by Nathan Thrall, an analyst for the International Crisis Group; he powerfully argues that "The Road to War [was] Paved by the West."  Although I found it informative, I was less enthralled by Thrall (couldn't resist the alliteration) than others were. Rather than a single overriding reason for the current troubling situation, I see two.

Just as the present Israeli coalition government cannot conceive of any lasting deal with Hamas (and decided to invade instead), Hamas seems incapable of explicitly endorsing peaceful co-existence with Israel.  If our camp were in power in Israel -- say in a government in which the Meretz party had a significant voice (like Rabin's coalition in the 1990s) -- it would make every effort to find a way to work with Hamas as it is, despite its internal dynamics and contradictions.  But the reality is that Israel has a right-leaning government that won't do that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons We Can Learn for the Day After

My website:
We're in our fifteenth day of war, and things are looking quite sad. I've already been to two funerals of fallen soldiers, and they were heart-breaking. Two young men who were called up to defend their country sacrificed their lives doing so.  I know that on the other side of the border people are hurting as well.

As a leftist, it is painful to feel our responsibility. On both sides people failed to convince their leaders and their communities that there are better ways to settle thing than through war and destruction. But amidst all the grief and frustration I think we must try to learn some lessons, already, that may help us in the aftermath of yet another round of violence.

We should not be drawn into the temptation of seeing things in black and white.  Just as we thought we must struggle from within Israel to find friends across the border, so we must struggle to find partners within Israel. Some people on the extreme left have been voicing their objections to the war with zealous outrage no less dangerous than those on the right: calling our soldiers murderers, calling the war a slaughter, questioning our right (and obligation) to defend our citizens, and rioting. This is not the way to bring the war to an end, and not the way to create a healthier or more tolerant society.

'Helping a shared society cope with crisis'

A new PPI board member, Phyllis Bernstein, co-chairs the Israeli Arab Educational Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. She has published this in NJ Jewish News, an illuminating and hopeful op-ed on Jewish-Arab relations within Israel. Here's an abridged version:
. . .  In the current and understandably heated climate, many Arab citizens are now fearful of speaking in Arabic on public transportation and refrain from walking on city streets in Jewish neighborhoods. Some are afraid to show up at work. Their fears have been stoked by social media rumors of attempted kidnappings of Arab children by Jewish settlers. 
. . .  Fortunately, there are many efforts to improve relations between Israel’s Arabs and Jews.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Writing PPI's statement on Gaza War

It's always hard to write something by committee, which we needed to do.  This is most of what was scrapped when we suddenly learned that Israel was launching its ground offensive, necessitating a re-write of the statement we finally issued late on Friday (click here to read PPI's actual statement):
There are plenty of issues to resolve. For example, peaceful Gazans should have the right to freely exit and reenter their tiny enclave, while Israelis have the right to safeguard their country from attack. But these cannot be settled at the point of a gun.

We hasten to add that there is no justification for the thousands of rockets and other munitions fired from the Gaza Strip, now and in previous times, at Israeli civilians.  Not only do these attacks unlawfully endanger non-combatant Israelis, but, as we’ve seen repeatedly, they also cause Israel to respond with its much more formidable military arsenal to inflict massive harm on the lives and infrastructure of Gaza.  Hence, this constitutes the opposite of self-defense for the people of Gaza as claimed by its Hamas rulers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ground Invasion, Day Two

The ground invasion of "Operation Protective Edge" has entered its second day.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed its fighters engaged I.D.F. soldiers in the town of Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza. There have also been reports of Palestinians firing artillery rounds from the town of Beit Lahiya, just west of Beit Hanoun. These two towns are the northern most population centers in the Gaza Strip.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement to the press, the ground operation was initiated to target Hamas's tunnel infrastructure following a Hamas incursion into Israeli territory through a tunnel on Thursday evening, Israel time.

There are three categories of smuggling tunnels in Gaza: smuggling tunnels into Egypt, of which there are dozens; combat tunnels underneath Gazan cities, of which there are hundreds and attack tunnels into Israeli territory, of which there are approximately twenty.

Israelis Demonstrate Against Gaza War

Demonstrations are scheduled today (Friday) and tomorrow, including one at the Barkai Junction near my old kibbutz. Others will be in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The banner pictured below reads: "No to occupation and racism, yes to just peace!" The caption underneath it asks if people aren't sick of the macho conflict over the years.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update: I.D.F. Ground Invasion Has Begun

Tanks move into position (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
The ground phase of "Operation Protective Edge" has begun (click for JTA article).

In the last offensive against Hamas in Gaza, "Operation Pillar of Defense" in November 2012, reserve units from the I.D.F.'s Southern Command (to which Gaza is designated) were called to train for the ground invasion. (A bit of background: I served in the I.D.F. as a combat soldier, and my reserve unit was called to fight in Operation Pillar of Defense.) The reserves were to enter the Gaza Strip at the same time as conscripted soldiers. But the reservists, coming straight from civilian life, needed training before they entered combat. The conscripted soldiers, therefore, had to wait until reservists were sufficiently trained and outfitted with gear. Those days proved crucial to Egyptian and U.S. mediation efforts, so a ground invasion was avoided with a ceasefire.

This time, reservists were called from the Home Front Command, not from the Southern Command. Conscripted soldiers, already prepared for fighting, were transferred to bases around Gaza. This means the I.D.F. was able to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip much quicker, in a matter of hours after the decision was made.

Murders Exploited as 'Opportunities'

Philip Davies is a doctoral candidate at Cambridge U. 
Something monstrous occurred some time between 12 and 13 June 2014 when somewhere between the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem someone thought: “This is an opportunity.” Thus, what should have been a murder investigation became the deliberate manipulation of an entire nation led to believe that Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel were alive and their rescue imminent provided, naturally, that the government and the IDF were given free rein in the West Bank to find them before it was too late. Indeed, even the most cynical observer would not believe that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu would be so ghoulishly Machiavellian to send the mothers of the three victims to the United Nations with the knowledge that their children had in fact already been murdered. 

Terribly, infuriatingly, this is what transpired. Officials from the government and the security services heard the full recording of a victim's call to the police, including those dreadful gunshots, and knew their police forensic teams had found shell casings from the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. All these facts were censored by a gag order sanctioned by the Israeli justice system; these facts were known to many journalists and editors in the press, and yet we were made promises based on a falsehood everyday for 18 days until their bodies were discovered.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Statement on Gaza War by World Union of Meretz

The World Union of Meretz (WUM) is the international faction of the World Zionist Organization allied with Israel's Meretz party.  There are left-Zionist groups from over a dozen countries around the world aligned with WUM; Partners for Progressive Israel is the WUM affiliate within the United States.  (We've previously reported on a Meretz party call for a unilateral ceasefire.) This is WUM's (slightly edited) statement, received July 16: 

Dear Friends,
These are difficult days for all of us. 

Israel is under attack, rockets are being fired from Gaza to cities all around the country, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Once again, we have been dragged into this story we all know too well. Citizens in the south of Israel are constantly under rocket fire and on Tuesday, while we were sitting at Haaretz's Israel Peace Conference dreaming of a different future and working to build hope, ... rockets were fired at Tel Aviv. Since then, sirens go off regularly everyday. Meanwhile the death toll in Gaza is growing, more and more innocent civilians are dying everyday and the humanitarian situation worsens.

Thanks To Fat Cat Donors, Gaza Burns

It occurs to me that the continuing Gaza war can be viewed (in addition to viewing it as part of Israel's continuing battle to maintain the occupation) as a testament to the failure of American democracy. Hear me out.

Everyone knows that the only way to permanently end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by Israel getting out of the territories occupied after the '67 war in exchange for ironclad security arrangements guaranteed by the United States.

The territories Israel would evacuate would become an independent Palestinian state.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ceasefire On & Off; Meretz favors unilateral ceasefire

In response to a question raised in yesterday's Partner's teleconference with Abu Vilan, there's a news report (ironically from a right-wing news source) announcing the Meretz party call for a unilateral ceasefire.  We now know that Israel observed an Egyptian effort to secure a ceasefire for six hours today, but when Hamas continued its rocket attacks, Israel resumed its air offensive.  Here is part of that Jewish Press online article on the Meretz position:
Meretz Calls for Unilateral Ceasefire
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said Monday that Israel should declare a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza and call off Operation Protective Edge.  “We cannot eliminate the terrorist infrastructure,” Gal-on told Israel Radio. “… and the images being broadcast around the world are causing damage.”