Cheerleaders Abroad, Gaza And Israel

I was composing, in my head, some reflections on Gaza’s past eight or so days, but Jonathan Freedland seems to have beat me to it.

I think the cheerleaders abroad sentiment, is something we should dwell on.

How is it that many in the West take up the pose of football supporters?

Cheering on their team irrespective of the murders, the rockets and the crippling inhumanity of prolonged low-level warfare. It is a form of intellectual hooliganism, desensitizing, brutalizing and demeaning.

You might not unreasonably expect that some of these cheerleaders would show a degree of sensitivity or reflection, once in a while. However, that doesn’t happen and having encountered both sides in the West I find their entrenched attitudes revolting, almost incomprehensible.

Anyone that has genuinely studied the Middle East would know there is no military solution to the conflicts in Israel, in Gaza and the West Bank, and those that cheer on from the sidelines have either lost their humanity or common sense, but Jonathan Freedland expresses it far better than I ever could:

“And through it all is the weariness: of those living – and dying – in the conflict most of all, but also of those drawn into it somehow. I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides and, sometimes especially, with their cheerleaders abroad.

So yes, I’m weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria. An estimated 800 died under Assad during the same eight days of what Israel called Operation Pillar of Defence. But, for some reason, the loss of those lives failed to touch the activists who so rapidly organised the demos and student sit-ins against Israel. You might have heard me make this point before, and you might be weary of it. Well, so am I. I’m tired, too, of the argument that “We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard”, because I see only a fraction of the outrage that’s directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for its drone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.

I’m tired of those who like to pretend that Israel attacked unprovoked, as if there had been no rockets fired from Gaza, as if Hamas was peacefully minding its own business, a Mediterranean Sweden, until Israel randomly lashed out. I’m tired of having to ask whether any government anywhere would really let one million of its citizens be confined to bomb shelters while missiles rained down. I’m weary of having to point out that, yes, occupied peoples do have a right to resist, but that right does not extend to taking deliberate aim at civilian targets – schools and villages – which is where all but a handful of Gaza’s rockets were directed.

And I’m especially tired that so many otherwise smart, sophisticated people apparently struggle to talk about Israel-Palestine without reaching, even unwittingly, for the dog-eared lexicon of anti-Jewish cliche, casting Israeli leaders as supremacists driven by a (misunderstood) notion of Jews as “chosen people” or, hoarier still, as international puppet-masters. It pains me that too many fail to realise that while, of course, there is a clear line that separates hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews, that border is porous. Traffic moves across it both ways. Witness the Lazio thugs who bombarded Spurs fans with anti-Jewish chants – “Juden Tottenham” among them – during their match on Thursday night, but also brandished a Free Palestine banner, deployed not to declare solidarity with Gaza but to taunt a club with large Jewish support. “

Operation Pillar of Defense Rolling Thread

I imagine that Operation Pillar of Defense will go on for a while so I am having a rolling thread with anything I read, hear or think relevant.

Firstly, John Cook at Gawker puts his foot in it with Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians.

The Tablet takes him down a peg or two:

“But don’t tell that to John Cook. Writing at Gawker in a post subtly titled “Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians,” Cook—who admits he does not know Hebrew (let alone, one can safely assume, midrash)—lists a few Googled biblical verses in which the pillar of cloud appears…”

Over at Foreign Policy the depressing, Israel Defense Forces live blogs Gaza offensive.

Aluf Benn has a piece entitled, Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza, which even I found to be incredibly cynical, but on reflection I think he might have a point.

This is a backgrounder by B’Tselem on Gaza.

Reuters explains what it sees:

Hussien Ibish presents a different perspective:

“During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed — largely due to internal transformations within the group itself.

The internal dynamic of Hamas has traditionally been that leaders in its Politburo, which is based almost entirely in neighboring Arab countries, were more militant than their compatriots inside Gaza. It was the leaders in exile who maintained close relations with the radical regimes in Iran and Syria, while the Hamas government in Gaza was more restrained because it had more to lose from violence with Israel.

That calculation has been inverted in recent months as Hamas’s foreign alliances have undergone a dramatic transformation and its domestic wing has made a bold attempt to assert its primacy. Hamas’s relationship with Damascus completely collapsed when the group came out in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Politburo had to abandon its Damascus headquarters, and is now scattered in capitals throughout the Arab world. This has also created enormous strains with Iran, which is apparently supplying much less funding and material to Hamas than before.

Hamas leaders in Gaza, meanwhile, have increasingly been making the case that the Politburo does not represent the organization’s paramount leadership — but rather its diplomatic wing, whose main role is to secure aid and support from foreign governments. It is the Hamas government and paramilitary force in Gaza, they argue, that are in the driver’s seat, because they are actually involved in fighting Israel. “

Emily L. Hauser’s contribution, I have one question about Israel and Gaza.

One noticeable characteristic of this conflict is how it has ignited passions not seen in the past 18 months. By that I mean, the likes of the Stop the War Coalition are organising a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London, yet for the last 18 months they have been almost silent concerning Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians.

That’s worthwhile comparing and contrasting when it comes to Western attitudes to people in the Middle East.

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian touches upon a real danger, the longer term consequences of this conflict:

“Ironically, Netanyahu’s uncontrollable new Gaza war could also tip the scales in an internal power struggle within Hamas, strengthening the faction gathered around Gaza political chief Ismail Haniyeh at the expense of those Hamas leaders in exile who hope to succeed Khaled Meshaal. Netanyahu’s war may actually end up bolstering Hamas in Gaza, or alternatively cause it to splinter and lose ground to more violently confrontationalist jihadi groups. Neither outcome would serve the all but forgotten cause of peaceful co-existence. “

Brent E. Sasley is astute:

“Given the emphasis on short-term tactical goals, it’s more likely the military operation won’t end neatly, which will in turn cause considerable electoral problems for Netanyahu and Likud-Beiteinu—who are otherwise persistently polling at less seats than they currently have. If this happens, perhaps Kadima—whose otherwise tired image doesn’t bode well for it in January—will have been proven prescient after all: that Bibi really is bad for Israel. In this case, the bad decision-making will become the politics. “

The Daily Kos (which is excellent for US election coverage) has a speculative report, which is based on the word of one individual, Israeli newspaper: Israel attacked Gaza knowing truce was in the works.

According to an informed journalist, Hamas have access to some serious hardware including the Fajr-5 rocket. It is over six metres in length and has a potential destructive distance of about 70 kilometres. What a terrible waste of human resources, building armaments the fire at Israeli civilians.
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Hamas And Likud Meant For Each Other

As Palestinians hide in their homes and Israelis stay in their bomb shelters we could almost be forgiven for thinking that these sorry and terrible events were unforeseeable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hamas since taking power in a coup d’etat have slowly built up their military capacity and spent $10,000s on equipping their internal security services.

Across the border Likud presides over a motley coalition of rightwing politicians and those far more interested in lining their pockets than finding peace in the Middle East.

In many respects, Hamas and Likud are meant for each other.

Neither of them really wants to go the extra mile, to recognize the reality of the necessary coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Both are prisoners of their own rhetoric and incapable of moving beyond their own limited mindsets.

The current terrible events, where hundreds of rockets and projectiles had deliberately been targeted at Israeli civilians in the past week, was entirely predictable.

Hamas know that they don’t have the military force to defeat the IDF, so allow Islamic Jihad or their own members to let off steam by targeting Israeli civilians. They do it partly to prove their radicalism and stay in power, and knowing how the Israeli government will respond they garner international support as the IDF’s actions kill Palestinian civilians.

It is a convenient and dismal game that Hamas and Likud play. Hamas provokes the Israeli government, who in turn must be seen to be protecting Israeli civilians, even though this and past incursions into Gaza have not actually stop the rockets and missiles.

Hamas and Likud are more concerned with staying in power and short-term goals than any long-term solution to this conflict.

And that is the problem.

Until the leaders are capable and willing to take the bold steps towards final status negotiations then rockets will rain down on Israelis and the IAF will bomb Gaza every few months.

My analysis might seem cynical, but years of watching the respective parties do little but stay in power or enhance their own prestige makes me pessimistic about the future.

As an antidote to my cynicism I recommend readers follow Hussein Ibish on Twitter. He’s smart, clear headed and attacked from both sides, which is not a bad sign!

This is one of his latest columns (written prior to the current conflict), MB and Salafists: the Closest of Frienemies is worth a read.

Ibish’s Hamas Rising? from October 2012 was prescient.

Post US 2012 Presidential Election Thoughts

A random pile of US election insights, links and wit.

Fox News didn’t have a good night, Watch Fox News Chew Its Own Leg Off in a Fury of Recrimination.

Huff Post and idiotic GOPers, US Election: The Funniest Angry Republican Twitter Responses To Barack Obama’s Victory.

On voting, Hollywood tweets on the Obama win, sexy voting and Karl Rove.

How Wall Street gambled on Romney and lost! Wall Street left to rebuild Obama ties after backing Romney.

Gary Younge from Chicago, Obama’s second victory is more low key, but in some ways more impressive.

Bigots can’t take it, Obama’s reelection sparks racially charged protest at Ole Miss.

At Labour List, 5 lessons for Labour from Obama 2012.

Again, Fox News provides their own excuses as to why Romney lost.

Netanyahu handling of Obama has backfired, so he’s told his MKs to shut up for fear of causing more offence.

Peter’s The Times They Are A Changin’.

Bad losers, Karl Rove melts down after Fox News calls Ohio for Obama.

Elizabeth Ann Warren’s win.

Most racist moments of the election, not pretty but Donald Trump gets a lookin.

Ever the politician, Boris Johnson buries news.

Markos Moulitsas is good and thoughtful.

Photos from the NYT.

GOPers might like this, How To Cope If Your Candidate Lost.

Talking of losers, Fox News Slowly Loses Its Mind Over Election Results.

From the Middle East, Likud and Islamic Jihad Decry Election Results.

Finally, as younger readers might say, Mel Phillips, has jumped the shark. Unbelievable nonsense, completely detached from reality, like reading a poisonous discharge from the John Birch Society. Glad I never read her in the first place!

Nativism, Racism And Riots In Tel Aviv

Demagogical politicians and nativism are nothing new.

Across the world from the Balkans to the resurgence of nativism in North America, it is a common political current. However, we are now seeing the consequences of nativism in Israel, race riots.

Noam Sheizaf reports:

“More than 1,000 Israelis protested this evening (Wednesday) against the African refugees and asylum seekers who have settled in South Tel Aviv in recent years. According to eyewitnesses’ reports, the crowd grew angry and ultimately violent, following speeches from Knesset members, including members of the government coalition.

It was one of the most violent protests Tel Aviv has known in recent years. Confrontations were continuing between police and Jewish citizens at around 10:30 p.m. local time.

Dozens of protesters tried to move from the Hatikva neighborhood, where the rally was held, towards Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, where most African asylum seekers and migrants live. They were stopped by police. Protesters attacked a car passing by carrying African passengers, smashing its windows. Shops associated with the African community were vandalized. [UPDATE: As of midnight, activists in Hatikva are still reporting looting and occasional attacks on immigrants.] “

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