Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The future of Israel is hanging in the balance"

I have not commented much on the war in Gaza in the last couple of days. There are blogs on the internet that are doing that so effectively that I prefer to just point in their direction, rather than write something myself.

Terry Glavin composed a powerful article, in which he compiled the reactions in the Arab and Muslim world, and opinions from the "Western" Hard Left:

All well and good, but the problem is worse than mere verbiage. In Iran, the people are told Israel’s genocide in Gaza reveals the nature of what the US leaders consider to be the human rights. And they are told Gaza Slaughter Condemned as Genocide. In the Saudi Gazette, we read: Stop Gaza Genocide. In the Gulf Times: Qatar has condemned the savage Israeli raids on Gaza and the genocide operations perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian people.

On it goes like that, and one can to some degree excuse the "Arab street" for being so wrong about what's happening in Gaza that not an eyebrow is raised when the word "genocide" gets chucked around so liberally. In countries with low literacy levels and no press freedom, people can't be expected to do nuance very well. The Arab despotisms, and indeed most Islamic republics, consistently rank at the bottom of the 173-nation press freedom index maintained by Reporters Without Borders...

But then there's this: "The Palestinian resistance in Gaza has been retaliating to the Israeli genocide in Gaza and fired Sunday three rockets at Ashdod and Ashkelon, 40 km away from Strip." That's from the British magazine alJazeera, based in Manchester. And in the Toronto Star, Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, says: "People are suffering and dying. There is an actual genocide taking place." And in the same article, Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario, says: "I want to condemn in the strongest terms the acts of genocide committed by Israel this weekend," he said.

Michelle Sieff notices the same kind of deranged hyper-propaganda abroad in South Africa, and asks: "Isn’t Hamas the political entity which calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter?" She answers: "It is Hamas which has 'genocidal intentions,' not Israel." [-]

This is not just "verbiage." This is not just about Muslims being driven half-mad by the bloodcurdling lies they read in their state-sponsored newspapers.

Not just verbiage, says Glavin. Benny Morris, in the New York Times today, explains that these frightening phenomena have not been missed by the Israeli public:

MANY Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just before Israel launched the Six-Day War and destroyed the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies in Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

More than 40 years ago, the Egyptians had driven a United Nations peacekeeping force from the Sinai-Israel border, had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and air traffic and had deployed the equivalent of seven armored and infantry divisions on Israel’s doorstep. Egypt had signed a series of military pacts with Syria and Jordan and placed troops in the West Bank. Arab radio stations blared messages about the coming destruction of Israel.

Israelis, or rather, Israeli Jews, are beginning to feel much the way their parents did in those apocalyptic days. Israel is a much more powerful and prosperous state today. In 1967 there were only some 2 million Jews in the country — today there are about 5.5 million — and the military did not have nuclear weapons. But the bulk of the population looks to the future with deep foreboding.

The foreboding has two general sources and four specific causes. The general problems are simple. First, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds, despite Israeli hopes since 1948 and notwithstanding the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, have never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s creation and continue to oppose its existence.

Second, public opinion in the West (and in democracies, governments can’t be far behind) is gradually reducing its support for Israel as the West looks askance at the Jewish state’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbors and wards. The Holocaust is increasingly becoming a faint and ineffectual memory and the Arab states are increasingly powerful and assertive.

The recognition of this sentiment also appeared in George Szirtez' blog, here:

You think they don't mean it? If you were surrounded by hostile states who have never recognised you, who have vowed your destruction and keep lobbing rockets at you, you might want to take it a little more seriously. On the other hand - and this is what I increasingly hear - you might be coming round to thinking that maybe Israel, the one country where Jews are not in a vulnerable minority, has outlived international goodwill (friends have said this much to me) and really should be vanished (unspecified how) along with all those Zionists who support it. Remember Zionism equals Fascism, Racism, Nazism, Genocide and the True Holocaust.

What I hear in these pieces is utter bewilderment as to the question: So what should Israel be doing, if not allowed to defend its citizens? How is the IDF to prosecute its war on Hamas?

Michael Totten tries several possibilities for fit:

One problem here is that it’s not at all clear how they think Israelis should go about doing it. The weapons used by each side can’t be the same. No one has ever said Israel ought to put its superior weapons systems in cold storage until Hamas can develop or purchase something similar. Presumably Israel is allowed to use its superior technology as long as the casualty count on each side is proportionate.

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

If strict proportionality isn’t necessary, what are the limits? If the Israelis kill two Palestinians for every Israeli that’s killed, is that okay? Or is doubling the number of casualties on each side too unfair to the Palestinians?

More opinions and analyses can be found on:

Z-word blog,

The Spine

Martin Kramer's Sandbox



OK. Maybe I will add something in my own voice. Here is a comment I left on Modernity this morning. Modernity thinks the Israeli campaign is wrong. He has another proposal:

" My only suggestion is that a special UN force be stationed within Gaza, with the express purpose of stopping rockets being fired at Israeli civilians. "

Well, people who read my blog know my diminutive appreciation for the august institution that is the UN. Nor do I have much patience for those who still think the UN can be remotely effective in dealing with crises in the world. Consider Darfur, Zimbabwe, Congo, where on-going genocides, organized rape and mass maiming and mutilation have been going on for years now. How can anybody take this organization seriously baffles me.

Anyway, I assume that Mod's thought experiment aimed at the Rancid Left (he says not), so I thought I would speak for them in the way that they do not as yet dare to speak for themselves:

Israel is a criminal entity, founded on the ashes of 400 Palestinian villages and 700,000 refugees who are now 5 millions second, third and forth generation refugees. Israel, being a criminal entity, is not allowed to act like a normal state. It has no rights. And its one and only duty is not to protect its own citizens but to protect the Palestinian population from which the highly moral terrorist resistance is launching its attacks. Furthermore, Israel’s duty is to offer its citizens up for slaughter. It is the only decent thing Israel can do if it wants:

a) to erase the shame of 1948 (the greatest crime against humanity ever committed) and

b) re-instate European guilt for what Europe did to Jews just prior to 1948. (though that particular privilege will depend on the number of Jews killed by Palestinians, to restore justice to Palestinians. It had better be high, or we will continue to punish the Jews for the Holocaust until such time as we are satisfied that they paid for it in full).


At 10:43 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mazal tof! Noga!


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