Friday, July 18, 2014

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic:

Jeffery Goldberg's psychoanalysis begins with the idea of  "Palestinian self-destructiveness" then switches to Hamas. Well, which is it?  What Palestinians -- in fact Hamas -- were proposing, and did last week again at the height of Israeli hysteria, was simply enforcing international law. Goldberg doesn't come right out and say it, but has his reasons not to call for an end to the collective punishment and a release of prisoners held without fair trial. Of course, the most serious issue is the dead civilians. But people often put their lives on the line when fighting for what they want.  Goldberg appears to admit this is a problem with a single sentence fragment: It's

Entirely, miserably, true.

that Israel is killing Palestinians. But he tempers this in the way many in the US press have been taught to do so, in the passive voice. Innocents "get killed" from "that country." If anything, they're being lured into the "self murder" strategy of Hamas. By projecting responsibility for these crimes onto others, Goldberg shows more humanity in this dithering than he does saying he's concerned about them. If he were a true psychopath he would simply say "kill them all, and be proud." His facade of quiet rational analysis when push comes to shove supports war and brutality in a way the fanatical terrorists on his side cannot.

I'm not one to assume Hamas doesn't have its legitimate critics.I know that powerful people can influence the masses and for that reason ordinary people are  less responsible. But ordinary Americans and Israelis do not face the same pressure of Palestinians. They have working electricity, internet, regular elections and so on.

So keeping to the issue of myopia. The true "enemy of compromise and progress" in the situation is the whole concept of military domination. It would only be myopic to limit this criticism to the weakest party in the conflict. Yet most pundits even on the left when confronted with the notion of political Islam put their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la it's all about religion. One exception to this is Noam Chomsky who frequently tests ideas by taking examples from the past, or from another country in order to short-circuit our temptation to see ourselves as The Good. He also helped create the warning of genocide, a fear of his resulting from a combination of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons and its tendency of to defend a Jewish majority at all costs. Goldberg either ignores the context of this warning by the left or simply doesn't know about it.

 Either way, what he's demanding is actually more myopia. He takes the standard partisan approach, and parrots Bill Clinton into assigning all this blame outside the tribe, and the Israeli/Obama mantra of rockets, rockets rockets. Obama gives canned speeches about his love for little dead children who aren't his own -- granted they're from the right country. Does Obama's sympathy include the Palestinians who do resist lawfully? What about Goldberg's? They are not asked to compromise but are instead thrown into jails, tortured and assassinated. Goldberg himself whitewashed the humanitarian flotilla incident a few years back as "a project of pro-Hamas Turkish activists" basically mirroring the Israeli and US government lines that it was "engineered" by the sinister Turks. If one looked, one could probably find humanitarians in Gaza being called agents of Israel, and a dutiful journalist shaking his fist at them as they're shot. It wouldn't be a stretch to expect this from a Palestinian ex-prison guard, Goldberg's twin.

Being supporters of crime, the elites the US media prefer are naturally liars, saying the US influence in the region is something to cautiously praise. These people live in more security than Hamas elites do. And thanks to US policies, they have much more say in their governments than their restive populations (the majority of Egyptians view the government's court system and the police as a total sham.) Egypt and Israel are both in the US orbit that was instituted as soon as Truman was told how much oil there was in the region. US military cooperation with Egypt was cemented following the 1973 war. On the freedom of information act section of the CIA website is an interview President Sadat gave wherein he explained something interesting. He wanted a "miracle" similar to Vietnam, and Israel knew it was coming days before. Publicly it was claimed to be a surprise. This is right out of one of Kissinger's favorite books "The Prince" on how to acquire a new territory, namely showing overwhelming force. Sound familiar? Or is looking at official Israeli policy without help from Gulf commentators too myopic?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Two experts on peace

I know this is not representative of all the ins and outs of the ceasefire proposals, or even this particular one. But this similarity was so striking I wanted to point it out:

Palestinian representative from the Hamas party today:

Israel accepted the truce in a surprise move Tuesday morning, after Hamas categorically rejected the notion of a ceasefire Monday night.
"A ceasefire without reaching an agreement is rejected. In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri reiterated this Tuesday morning.

President Shimon Peres, 2007:

NS: Well, you say you were acting under legal constraint but this is all territory which under the 1948 partition of the UN was not part of the land of Israel.
SP: All right, but they refused to take it. Look, would they take the whole partition of the Israel as the legal foundation? Ben Gurion was ready. They rejected it. Look, you cannot say: I don't take it, I attack you. If I shall win OK, if I shall lose I win too. You cannot do it.
NS: But are you suggesting that the fact that the Arab armies attacked in 1948 means that the Palestinians living in the West Bank forfeited for all time their legal rights to that territory.
SP: No, the problem was: what is the West Bank, not the people. But what is the West Bank? Because you see the Arabs too agreed, they agree to 1967 not to 1948 they understand it. They changed the concept of the borders. Look, you cannot go to war, lose the war and then say pay me a price. Why should you pay a price? If you go to war once, twice, three times, the next time you say Just a moment, next borders should be defensible, and that's according with UN 242 and 238.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Response to the Tired Cliches in the Jewish Daily Forward

 This is a response to a recent article by J J Goldberg in the Forward newspaper.

What first appears to be an indictment of Israeli Machiavellian politics is instead an endorsement of them. Taking an approach similar to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Iraq, J J Goldberg laments in his new article that Israel is "stumbling into" a "war that nobody wanted," yet, on balance, this blood feud might just teach the Palestinian "crime family" a "lesson," creating a few more years of peace. Overall, he has written a stale portrait of Netanyahu's complex "pragmatism" which he claims is heading off a push in the Israeli right for a full-scale land invasion.

But we are not on the edge of the cliff as the Forward and the Israeli branding allege. Rather we have been at the bottom of the canyon for some time thanks in no small part to the perpetual fog of war and cult of personality. Such a miserable depth has blinded Goldberg and many others to the dignity of the Palestinian people (see this rundown for what I have in mind). A favorite of his colleague Mira Sucharov (who does not deny the nationalism of Palestinians), Max Nordau, was absolutely repulsed when he heard Israel was conquering already settled land, "we are committing an injustice," he said. If these are the reactions of people invested in the Zionist program, it's hard to be surprised when those living under occupation their whole life don't agree in principle. Yet Goldberg manages to be affronted by this.

The most important omission however in this article is what William Mardsen has called "the prime reason for the violent outbreaks," namely the occupation, the settlements, and the "daily humiliations and frequent outbursts of brutality." Mardsen further notes Obama's reminder of just which country pays billions to Israel, a very good reason for obeying US diktat on how to conduct the war. While Goldberg indulges himself in the spectacle of the violence he pretends to abhor, without worrying about repercussions, he totally misses what the cycle means politically. It was known in 1996 when Netanyahu was elected he was going to empower Hamas, not weaken them. Lisa Beyer of Time magazine noted "[t]he radicals of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, along with the smaller Islamic Jihad, hope to provoke Israel into abrogating its agreements with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization." To do this, "Hamas would love to see the Likkud come to power. It would mean the end of the peace agreement." Goldberg will be surely happy to learn that, on balance, Israel too provoked attacks, assassinating a Palestinian with a cell phone -- a murder Israelis I come into contact with often laud as ingenious. Ten years after the "slimmest of majorities was persuaded that [Netanyahu's] youthful energy and conservative caution hold the greater promise," Hamas won its first election. The peace negotiations under the guidance of the idea of giving Palestinians no more than "fried chicken" pretty much brought us to where we are now, with some warning of a new intifada. This was done with full support of many wealthy Americans who were enamored by his polished, TV-friendly image, as well as a 15 point bump in polls from terror attacks escalated under the government of Peres. Pragmatic indeed.

Goldberg makes no mention of these Palestinian victims, nor US responsibility. Instead he engages in celebration of breaking the will of the Palestinian Mafia which includes members of Parliament and political prisoners "crush[ed]... according to the law," as an Israeli interrogator threatened. Goldberg indeed forgets to mention aggression itself is a crime under international law, although he brings up the damning Goldstone report as an aside. In fact, not only is aggression a crime but the threat of one is as well. Robert Kagan warns that the result of this aid policy will, in effect mean "that there will never be another chance" as a new generation of vengeful, oppressed jihadis follow the money. What a ticklish predicament.

It's time to give up the tired cliches and put pressure on the US to give up its role as chief negotiator,  and to suspend enough aid to isolate the stern politicos looking for a fight (this also includes universities such as BGSU and Abilene Christian University which have intimate ties to the US military industrial complex). I propose it should amount to $25 billion, a proportionate response to the amount divested in 1960 from South Africa in protest of their white nationalism (coincidentally, this is also about the sum Israel received from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust).

And it's important we do this before things get out of control. But with that in mind, what does "control" look like? Looking at only 11 days in January of this year, Ray Hanania documented "racist graffiti, burning and uprooting trees, breaking car windows and puncturing tires, in addition to attacks against the [Palestinian] villagers themselves" -- acts Mira Sucharov presumably sees as "casual racism." Contrary to the sympathetic image the Forward paints, Netanyahu's government warned in February of this year, before the ISIS/Islamic Jihad kidnapping, that he was going to "teach Hamas a lesson very soon." Minister Uri Ariel echoed this recently, condemning the "terror government," and vowing "a clear Zionist answer" -- more illegal settlements. Far from spontaneous self-defense, following an end to "seven years" of "the most tranquil in Israel’s history" these are leading Israeli politicians endorsing "sickening and appalling" tactics months beforehand. They have too much support already in their political campaign against Palestinian independence.