richardf8: (Ensign_Katz)
The Israeli Palestinian Conflict: Not a Civil Rights Issue.

I want to get a few thoughts down here. American liberals tend to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Civil Rights issue. It's a narrative we are comfortable with, that we understand well, and that we know how to pick sides in. The basic assumption is that the Palestinians are fighting for a right to self determination that is a threat to Israeli hegemony, and if Israel would only give them this freedom, there would be peace. If this were true, the Oslo accords would have resolved the conflict. But there are larger goals in play here.

It is important to understanding the current condition of the conflict to read Hamas' charter. It is a thick read, written in lovely regal language. But its thesis is clear. I will distill a few things here that I think are pertinent.

1. What does Hamas mean by liberation and resisatance? We liberals love these words. We hear them and our sympathies are immediately awakened to poor, hungry masses yearning to be free. But it is not people that Hamas is looking to liberate. It is land. (Article 6 and Article 15). The land is "every inch of Palestine." And that would be Palestine as it looked at the time of the British Mandate. Liberation of the land entails bringing the land under Islamic rule, as Hamas understands it (ibid).

2. Where does Hamas fit among Islamic movements? Hamas is a unit of the Muslim Brotherhood, specializing in the Liberatioan of Palestine (article 2). What this means is that the goals of Hamas are in service to the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.

3. What about the two state solution? Article 13 of the charter should be read in its entirety to understand why this will not work so long as Hamas holds poltical power, but here is a brief quote."There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce."

So, what we should be noticing here is that what Hamas wants for the land it calls Palestine (which is to say the 1947 borders) is the same Islamic rule that, over the past few years was selected and rejected in Egypt, the Egyptians ultimately preferring the political oppression of a military government to the religious oppression of rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The next question is what do the Palestinians want? I can't answer that. The Palestinians, if offered an election, will find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between Hamas and Fatah. I am convinced that the election of Hamas a decade or so ago was less about alignment with Hamas' goals than it was about throwing the Fatah bums out. I think that during a period of calm, throwing the Hamas bums out would be a real possibility, but that during a time of live fire, there is a tendency to cleave to the more belligerent party which would work in Hamas' favor.

Eliminating Hamas is essential to being able to give the Palestinians the freedom to explore their desires. Achieving this would mean reoccupying Gaza without settling it, and subjecting it to the political oppression now found in Egypt, while working assiduously to improve prosperity. When there is a strong, moderate Gazan majority, it should fight, and win, a war for indepedence that would culminate in its having its current borders with, depending on Egypt's goodwill some additional land in the Sinai. The West Bank could be part and parcel with this or not depending how West Bank and Gaza Arabs feel about each other.

Current liberal attempts to influence the peace process or to coerce Israel into yielding too much too soon do not ultimately support core liberal values like equality or self-determination, because they enable Hamas, for which these values are best relegated to the dustbin.
richardf8: (Default)
First, I am unsurprised. We tend to view Hamas primarily as a terrorist organization because that is how it gathers our attention. To Palestinians, however, Hamas is also, and perhaps primarily, a service organization. It has a history of delivering services like health care and child care to Palestinians where both Fatah and Israel have failed to do so. Thus, I think they came to power not on the basis of their hatred for Israel, but rather because most Palestinians see in a Hamas with the government's resources at its disposal the potential for some serious infrastructure and service improvements. As for Hamas' attitude toward Israel . . . I don't think it significantly worse than Fatah's. While Fatah nominally recognized Israel's right to exist, its militant wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, continued operations unabated, with Arafat and then Abbas chiding them publicly not as "wrong" but merely as "ineffective," and this mostly to appease the west. One suspects these men cheered in their hearts at the casualties inflicted.

As for America - we need to move carefully. Money is the language of diplomacy, and there are lessons from the past we must bear in mind. When Anwar Sadat proposed to address the Knesset, Saudi Arabia responded by revoking the aid they were giving Egypt to the tune of $3.5 Billion a year. We were able to preserve that peace process by replacing that aid with aid of our own. This raises the question: If we revoke the aid that we are giving to the Palestinian Authority, who is likely to replace it? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Syria? It seems to me that to grant the power of the Palestinian purse to any of these nations by abdicating it ourselves would scarcely be in our, or Israel's, best interests. The nations likely to replace any funds we revoke, are also likely to make those funds conditional on Hamas' continued rejection of Israel.

So how to move forward? Well, if there is one thing I think Israel owes the territories, it is infrastructure. Quite frankly, if Israel had understood in 1967 that the territories would still be in its hands in the 2000's, it might have taken more seriously the need to make capital improvements to the land. However it persisted in a belief that it would one day exchange those lands for peaceful relations with its neighbors, as it did with Egypt in 1979, and thus its investments were minimal. So working cooperatively with Hamas to create and improve infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank is a step that should be considered, although there are major trust issues to overcome. As trust is built in this way, the foundations of a positive polical relationship can be built, and the pragmatism required to actually govern a people and a land will moderate the dangerous idealism that lurks behind Hamas' terrorism.
richardf8: (Default)
In your August 18th editorial you write that "Gaza represents the worst side of Israel's settlement movement. The densely populated strip is home to 1.3 million Palestinians - most of them refugees, or offspring of refugees."

Israel is home to 4.8 million Jews, nearly all of whom are "refugees or offspring of refugees." Indeed, since 1948, far more Jews have been ejected from communities in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Jordan and the other Arab countries in the region than Palestinians were ejected from what has become Israel. Many of these Jewish communities were older than either Islam or Christianity. Israel absorbed all of them. The Arab nations, on the other hand, refuse to accept the Palestinians as immigrants, forcing them to remain in the strip and to remain refugees.

Indeed, an historical review of the region makes it clear that Israel is a nation surrounded by nations that are bent on its destruction for reasons of simple anti-semitism, and that the policies that these nations hold with regard to Palestinian Arabs are at least as destructive of Palestinian quality of life as Israeli policy has been. The Arab world cynically views the Palestinians as shock-troops in their 48 year old war against Israel, and to that end provides ample aid in arms and explosives, but appallingly little in infrastructure or commerce.

The withdrawal of settlers from Gaza will do little to change that dynamic. As long as the Arab world is pumping the Palestinian streets full of arms, and the Palestinian schools full of anti-Jewish propaganda, the Palestinian people will remain the victims of the anti-Semitic war in which they are being used as pawns.
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The news of Arafat's death has been greeted by many of us with a collective sigh of relief. But I feel the need to say publicly something of which I have been trying to remind myself. Rumours have been flying as to cause of death, various wishes and speculations have occurred regarding his afterlife/place in the world to come. In other words, it's hard, after so many years of enmity, not to gloat at his death, to treat it as a cause celebre.

However. There is a story in the Talmud.

It is said that when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, and the reed sea parted for them and then closed in upon the Egyptians, the Angels danced and sang at the Egyptians' deaths. The Lord chided them, saying "do not celebrate. Even though the Egyptians were wicked, they are still My creations, and it pains me to have to destroy them."

And even though Arafat was wicked, he was still God's creation. And perhaps George W. Bush's words on the matter, "God bless his soul," despite the outrage they have sparked, are the most appropriate. After all -- whose soul is in greater need of God's blessing than the man whose life was a curse?

So farewell Mr. Arafat, I expect the world might be a better place for your leaving it, but may you find in death the peace that evaded you in life.
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Today my Synagogue had, as a guest, a Presbyterian Minister who came by to explain how it came to pass that the Presbyterians have decided to divest from corporations invested in Israel. It was not a position with which he himself agreed, and he has been getting quite an education as he has been talking about it. It seems his purpose to get them to rethink their position, and his church is not considering any divestiture itself.

The discussion brought to light a number issues I think both Jews and Liberals/Liberal Christians need to consider when talking about the troubles in that part of the world. Here are a few points. )
richardf8: (Default)
I present two articles here

The First, from Adbusters:
Adbusters Article discussing the Jewishness of Neo-Conservatives

The second, from the Washington Post:
Survey on Jewish Responsibility for Death of Jesus )

In truth, I am more concerned about the "Jewish Conspiracy" libel than the "Christ-Killer" thing, but whenever the two come together things do not go well. It is one thing to hate Paul Wolfowitz because he is an ass; but quite another to suggest that his Jewishness should be raised as an issue. This is a further example of the the growing neo-liberal anti-semitism that has kept me from peace marches against even wars I oppose. I cannot bring myself to stand beside someone who equates the Israeli (over)reaction to a constant barrage of terrorism with Nazism, a not infrequent practice of neo-liberals.

[Edited to clarify the separateness of the two articles.]
richardf8: (Default)
The UN is comprised primarily of nations that attained their size and power primarily through tools like assassination, torture and conquest over hundreds of years. Then they all get together and come up with the Geneva convention that says the tools they used to get big and powerful are no longer in play.

Handing Israel the Marquis of Queensbury rules when they've been getting their nuts kicked in a barfight for decades is completely unacceptable. It stinks of the rankest anti-semitism for them to say that its OK for the palestinians to blow up your civilians, but we're going to condemn you everytime you do something about it.

And that is precisely what the UN resolution does by not bothering to mention the fact that this wheelchair bound quadruplegic with the beatific smile engineered the death and injuries of thousands of Israelis and Arabs. Even the blood of the suicide bombers he radicalized is on his hands.

The same is also true of Rantisi, whose definition of the "occupied territories" just happens to include everything inside the Green Line, and has had a long standing agenda to eradicate every Jew in the region.

If the UN is going to condemn Israel every time it goes after the killers of its people, I am left wondering: were they giving the Jewish People a state, or a Jumbo-Sized Concentration Camp when they created it?
richardf8: (Default)
Those of you who have been reading my Journal for a long time know that while I opposed the war in Iraq, I did not think it unjustified. My opposition to the war can be summed up in a single name: George W. Bush. The craving of the Bush family's enfant terrible for this war convinced me that it was being waged with inadequate forethought and for the wrong reasons. Yes, this oil-industry entrenched, Halliburton-connected corporate sycophant was engaging in a simple transaction of blood for oil. And like some child screaming "I want it now Now NOW!" in the candy aisle and Target he managed to shout down anyone who reasonably opposed him.

But there was a case for war, and there is a link to 9/11.

This all comes around to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When Bush accused Saddam Hussein of funding international terrorism, he was not lying. Let me repeat that: When Bush accused Saddam Hussein of funding international terrorism, he was not lying.

Saddam very openly supported the suicide bombings in Israel by essentially offering rewards to the families of suicide bombers. He even traveled to Gaza to present these awards in person. This is no secret, it is something he did with plenty of press coverage. After all, it was in Saddam's best interests to show the Arab world that even a secular state such as his was a useful ally.

And this brings us to the very nature of the intifada: Namely that the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a proxy war between the US and the Arab world. We pump money into Israel, they pump money into Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the two sides kill each other. But proxy wars are long, drawn out, bloody, and ineffectual. And they don't really strike at the heart of the matter. We fought one against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Our boy was Osama Bin Laden.

So the Arabs would like to win this proxy war. While Saddam is doing his bit to keep the flow of suicide bombers streaming steadily into Israel, Osama decides, quite independently, and with the help of many people in the Saudi government who prefer to say that they were making "charitable donations," to staunch the flow of US Money into Israel. So he figures that striking out at the US might curtail that. The Arab world has been trying to destroy Israel since 1948, and the strike at our World Trade Center was an attempt to cut a supply line. It was also an ultimatum: continue supporting Israel, and more stuff like this can happen.

So, while Saddam and Osama would likely not give each other the time of day, they are working for a common goal: the elimination of the State of Israel. Now it's impossible for us to strike at the supply line feeding Al Qaeda because, well, we need Saudi Oil. So how can we reduce our dependence on Saudi Oil AND take out a supply line of money to suicide bombers? By taking out Saddam, and taking over Iraq.

There's only one problem with this plan: it violates international law. And unfortunately, given the UN's positions that wander between anti-Zionism and barely disguised anti-Semitism, preventing Saddam from killing Jews is hardly justification enough.

And that is why, when the war was being protested, the Anti-Semites on the left broke out their "Magen David = Swastika" signs, in addition to the more rational No Blood For Oil, and Let Inspections Work. And that is why I could not stand with them.

But Bush was lying. He was lying about direct connections between Hussein and al-Qaeda. He was lying about the state of Iraq's WMD programs, and the quality of our intelligence. And he asked congress to invest him with powers that he cannot constitutionally possess -- and they did it.

Now, one of the most disturbing things about Bush's lies is this: The Good, True reasons for fighting the war in Iraq, that we need to do something to staunch the flow of suicide bombers into the land of our ally, Israel, and that he is running a regime that tortures and kills its own, were not likely to be sufficient in the eyes of the world community. Bush's lies stemmed from the fact that he knew the truth wouldn't be good enough for a UN Secretary General who, when a Suicide Bomber walks in on a Passover Seder and kills a dozen people, vaguely condemns "violent methods," but when the Israelis respond by killing Palestinian terrorists and the kids they use as human shields, enumerates each death in gory detail.

Which raises the question in my mind: when the State of Israel was first created by the UN, did they really intend it as a safe haven for the Jews, or was placing it in the midst of hostile territory just a way of establishing a new kind of concentration camp?

This leaves me feeling -- well a bit lonely. To really have opposed the war in Iraq, to march against it, would have meant standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who apparently thinks my circumcised dick qualifies me as some sort of Brown-Shirt, while supporting it would have meant standing behind an oligarch for whom the wages of death is cash.
richardf8: (Default)
I was reading an article today which tallied up the death tolls in the intifada. Something like 840 Israelis killed and 2260 Palestinians killed.

At first glance it is easy to look at the disparity between these numbers and say "Israel is massacring the Palestinians." But to do so would be to overlook much of what is going on.

One must begin by understanding that the words from Hamas, Al-Aqsa, Islamic Jihad, even from Damascus and Tehran have not been that they want Israel to withdraw from the settlements, but that they wish to eradicate Jews from the region entirely.

Now, let's look inside the head of Ariel Sharon. Come on in with me, there's enough empty space in here for all of us. You see, his "strategy" for dealing with the intifada has been to deal more death to the Palestinians than they deal to the Israelis in the vain hope that the Palestinians will realize they cannot win and back off.

Sharon's strategy is built on a false assumption, however, and that is the assumption that the Palestinians value the lives of their sons, daughters, husbands and wives more than they value the ideal of the utter eradication of the Jews in the region.

The imbalance of this death toll teaches us, more than anything, that the Palestinians hate Jews more than they love life. Until that situation is reversed the death tolls will continue to rise, and do so at the nearly 3:1 ration they are now.

Israel really needs to reach out, to make the territories a place of great comfort and prosperity for the Palestinians living there. Because unlike war, which relies on a willingness to follow orders, terrorism relies on a personal vendetta. Deconstruct the vendetta, and you lose the terrorist.

This last point is why Tehran has flat out refused to allow Israel to assist in Bam to accept aid from either would reveal that neither Israel nor America are the monsters Tehran makes them out to be, and they can't have that.
richardf8: (Default)
The idea for this cartoon has been in the back of my mind for a while, ever since I saw a cartoon of Ariel Sharon devouring Palestinian children by the mouthful. [ profile] visservoldemort's concerns about such libel and the hate-crimes they produce inspired me to get it down on paper. Behind this cut you will find my big 'ol political cartoon as a two frame gif animation )
richardf8: (Default)
I had thought that this idea I had a couple years ago was obsolete when Abu Mazen became the PA's Prime Minister. I had dared to hope. But now that Arafat is once again asserting himself on the international stage, I figured I'd execute it, and use it as an excuse to play with my Pitt Pens.

Pitt artist pens on Arches Hot-Press watercolor sketch paper. I really need to learn to draw Sharon, the figure in there looks kind of like a generic Israeli politician. I am pleased with my Arafat, however.
richardf8: (Default)
It is generally well known that yesterday Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem. Sharon is considering how to respond. I think it best if he doesn't, because to do so relieves Abbas of responsibility for dealing with his terrorism problem. After all, if Sharon is willing to look the part of the bad guy, why shouldn't Abbas let him?

What is not so generally well known, however, is something I learned from Pacifica Networks "Free Speech Radio News" yesterday. It seems the US deported a bunch of Middle Eastern men, most of whom committed the crime of not having their papers in order while being Middle Eastern men. Among these were a number of Palestinian men. One was a father of nine, happy, i'm sure to be away from the fighting, arbitrarily separated from his family to be returned to the war-zone he fled. Another was a middle aged diabetic who went untreated while in our custody and is now blind as a result.

Now while the "Free Speech Radio" agenda of portraying Palestinian Terrorists as noble freedom fighters fighting evil Jews offends me (I prefer to couch this conflict as a war among intransigent idiots all around), I found this tidbit to be an interesting reflection on our so called "war on terrorism." We have basically held people without due process, cared for them so badly that one went blind, and then sent them back to the very place they fled.

Now not only is such cruelty inhumane, but, as is always the case with cruelty, it is bad strategy as well. These deportees will be very well received by terrorist organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah. Their stories will be canonized in their terrorist curricula and they will themselves be living proof of every anti-American sentiment. It is almost as if the administration wants to foster terrorism rather than fight it. If we do these things in the green wood, what will happen in the dry?

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