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Tag Archives: Palestinian
Ariel Sharon still sleeps peacefully on life-support three years after suffering a massive stroke, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was still at the helm in Israel — because today, the Israeli government appears to have only tactics to fight the next battle, but no strategy beyond an improvisational combination of expanding the occupation of the West Bank, cynically chanting the benedictions of a two-state divorce that will come, one day (like the moshiach) while getting on with the “iron wall” business of creating expansive “facts on the ground” and trying to crush Palestinian resistance. There’s no “peace process” at work in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor as there been for the past eight years.
Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in next weekend’s Israeli election will provide what George W. Bush liked to call a “moment of clarity”, by making it unmistakably clear that Israel’s leaders are not, in any meaningful sense, a “partner” for a credible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Then again, you’re more likely to hear more wishful spin about how Bibi, precisely because he’s so hawkish, is a better bet for making peace — which sort of dodges the inconvenient truth that Bibi has no intention of doing so.)
So, what’s Obama to do?
Obama’s Administration could argue that the U.S. may have its preferences, but it can’t choose Israel’s leaders; it has to work with whomever Israel elects. Indeed. But the same is true for the Palestinians. And a major reason for the steady deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian situation over the past eight years has been Washington’s efforts to choose the Palestinians’ leaders for them, with increasingly disastrous effects.
The catastrophe in Gaza has, counterintuitively enough, presented President Barack Obama with an opportunity to restart the peace process — precisely because it has demonstrated the catastrophic failure of the approach adopted by the Bush Administration…. …The Gaza debacle has made one thing perfectly clear: any peace process that seeks to marginalize, not integrate, Hamas is doomed to fail — and with catastrophic consequences.
Haven’t we been here before?
I. The Last Waltz?
Repeating behaviors that have produced catastrophic failures and expecting a different result is insane; and when a person’s psychotic behavior puts himself those around him in immediate physical danger, the responsibility of those who claim to be his friends is to restrain him. But even as Waltz With Bashir shows in multiplexes across the world as a grim reminder of the precedent for Israel’s brutal march of folly in Gaza, the U.S. (and the editors of the New York Times and Washington Post) insist that there is a sanity and rationality to sending one of the world’s most powerful armies into a giant refugee camp to rend the flesh and crush the bones of those who stand in its way — whether in defiance or by being unlucky enough to have been born of the wrong tribe and be huddling in the wrong place. By fighting its way to their citadel, they would have us believe, Israel can destroy Hamas and usher in a golden age of peace. Or, to borrow from the casual callousness of Condi Rice during the last such display of futile brutality, we are witnessing, again, the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Israel failed in 2006, just as in 2002 and 1982. This time, they tell us, will be different.
And then the horror unfolds, as it always does — the hundreds of civilians accidentally massacred as they cowered in what they were told were places of safety, mocking the Israel’s torrent of self congratulation over its restraint and its brilliant intelligence — and the hopelessly out-gunned enemy manages to survive, as he does every time. And by surviving, grows stronger politically. No matter how many are killed, the leaders targeted by Israel’s military are endlessly regenerated in the fertile soil of grievance and resentment born of the circumstances Israel has created. Circumstances it has created, but which it, and its most fervent backers refuse to acknowledge, much less redress.
Soon enough, the bloody mess in Gaza will end in another cease-fire, having hardly changed the political equation in Gaza — much as the opposite might have been hoped for by the Bush Administration, the Israeli government and the regimes in Cairo and Ramallah who are quietly cheering Israel’s assault in the hope that it fatally weakens Hamas. The cease-fire, when it comes, will end rocket fire on Israel, but will also likely require the opening of the border crossings into Gaza (Hamas’ basic demand for a renewed truce). If so, that’s an outcome that could have been achieved without the killing of close to 400 people. And my money says that this cynical show of force by Barak and Tzipi Livni won’t even stop Bibi Netanyahu from winning Israel’s February election. The killing in Gaza, in other words, has been utterly senseless by even the most cynical measure. Continue reading
John Carlin’s extraordinary new book reveals how Mandela’s genius lay not in forgiving his enemies but in disarming and outmaneuvering them, while never compromising on his demand for justice Continue reading
Guest Post: Breyten Breytenbach: I just heard the terrible news that Mahmoud Darwish passed away. As for many of you, I’m sure, the anguish and pain brought about by this loss is nearly unbearable.
Some of us had the privilege, only a few weeks ago, of listening to him reading his poems in an arena in Arles. The sun was setting, there was a soundless wind in the trees and from the neighbouring streets we could hear the voices of children playing. And for hours we sat on the ancient stone seats, spellbound by the depth and the beauty of this poetry. Was it about Palestine? Was it about his people dying, the darkening sky, the intimate relationships with those on the other side of the wall, ‘soldier’ and ‘guest’, exile and love, the return to what is no longer there, the memory of orchards, the dreams of freedom…? Yes – like a deep stream all of these themes were there, of course they so constantly informed his verses; but it was also about olives and figs and a horse against the skyline and the feel of cloth and the mystery of the colour of a flower and the eyes of a beloved and the imagination of a child and the hands of a grandfather.
Israel at 60 is an intractable historical fact. It has one of the world’s strongest armies, without peer in the Middle East, and its 200 or so nuclear warheads give it the last word in any military showdown with any of its neighbors. Palestinian militants may be able to make life in certain parts of Israel exceedingly unpleasant at times, but they are unable to reverse the Nakbah of 1948 through military means.
Israel is here to stay, and its citizens know this — which may be why they appear to more indifferent to the search for peace with the Palestinians than at any time in the past three decades.
The curious irony of history, though, is that while the Zionist movement managed to successfully create a nation state in the Middle East against considerable odds, that movement is dead — the majority of Jews quite simply don’t want to be part of a Jewish nation-state in the Middle East. And so the very purpose of Israel has come into question. Jewish immigration to Israel is at an all-time low, and that’s unlikely to change. In a world where persecution of Jews is increasingly marginal, the majority of Jews prefer to live scattered among the peoples, rather than in an ethnic enclave of our own. That’s what we’ve chosen. So where does this leave Israel?
You could say Jimmy Carter was tempting fate by meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal — after all, his entirely appropriate evocation of apartheid in reference to the regime Israel has created on the West Bank earned him the label “Holocaust-denier.” But Carter, bless him, his sticking to his guns, insisting that peace only becomes possible when you talk to everyone involved in a conflict. And I’d say Carter has reason to suspect that despite the pro-forma criticisms of his Meshal meeting from Secretary of State Condi Rice as well as the McCain-Clinton-Obama roadshow, the backlash won’t be anything like the firestorm created by his apartheid book. It was reported today, in fact, that the Bush Administration is regularly briefed on back-channel talks between Iranian officials and a group of former U.S. diplomats led by Papa Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Thomas Pickering. So, far all the posturing and bluster, there’s a back channel. And I’d wager that despite the official sanctimony, Carter will be debriefed on his conversations with Meshal by both Israeli and American officials — because Meshal is a key player, like it or not.
The inevitability of talking with Hamas is already widely recognized in U.S. policy circles, and especially in Israel. Already, the Israelis negotiate secretly over issues such as the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, prisoner exchanges and a cease-fire with Hamas through intermediaries such as Egypt. And a poll published by the Israeli daily Haaretz in February showed that two out of three Israelis support direct talks between their government and Hamas — an option publicly advocated by such high-profile Israeli leaders as former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy and former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami. And just as some Israelis are recognizing that Hamas cannot be eliminated, so too do some Hamas leaders appear to realizing that Israel isn’t going to be militarily defeated, either. Continue reading
With the 60th anniversary of Israel’s birth — and of the Palestinian Nakbah (catastrophe) — which are, of course the same event, almost upon us, I was reminded this week that April 9 was also the 60th anniversary of an event that has long epitomized the connection between the creation of an ethnic-majority Jewish state and the man-made catastrophe suffered by the Palestinian Arabs. That would be the massacre at Deir Yassein, a small village near Jerusalem where fighters of the Irgun, led by Menahem Begin, massacred up to 250 Palestinian civilians — in what later emerged as a calculated campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” using violence and the threat of violence to drive Palestinians to flee their homes and land, which were then summarily appropriated by the new state of Israel, which passed legislation forbidding the Palestinian owners from returning to their property. It was the events of 1948 that created the Palestinian refugee problem, and set the terms of a conflict that continues to define the State of Israel six decades later. No resolution of the conflict is possible without understanding the events of 1948 — something that precious few mainstream U.S. politicians do. The irony is that Israelis are far more likely to be familiar with the uglier side of their victory in 1948 than are their most enthusiastic supporters on these shores. Continue reading
Those who’re always seeking a Palestinian Mandela ought to take notice of the latest survey results of Palestinian public opinion, that show the only candidate capable of beating Hamas in a free and fair election is the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. The problem, of course, is that Barghouti — far more popular in Fatah than is Abbas — is an Israeli prison. And more importantly, he has no intention of playing the Palestinian Petain role that has been created for Abbas Continue reading