Posts Tagged Gaza
I was a little heartened when I readt his profile of Sami al-Ajrami by Sarah Topol a few days ago.
Ajrami is apparently the only Palestinian living in Gaza who reports events there in Hebrew to the Israeli media. He has figured out something that seems to go over the heads of pretty much everyone else I ever see who try to push the ‘Palestinian’ line — including most of the Jewish left. My bold:
Ajrami says he tried to create common ground by comparing the Israelis who fled their towns in the south for the relative safety of Tel Aviv to Gazans evacuating their homes in heavily-targeted areas of the enclave. “I can understand your misery, as people, as humans—but you have to understand the message from Gaza,” he remembers saying. “It’s the same misery and there are politicians who rule and govern in a way that makes a lot of civilians dead.”
Israelis are more prone to understanding that message, Ajrami believes, than if he accused the Israeli military of targeting Palestinian civilians. “They won’t understand me, and they will say: ‘What? Fuck, you are launching rockets randomly on our houses!’ They won’t understand and they won’t feel sympathy towards your misery,” he says.
Ajrami’s mission is not to be a one-way bullhorn on the situation. When he speaks as an Israeli expert on local television and radio in Gaza, he tries to explain that Israel is a segmented society, with different factions that should be engaged in different ways. “Let’s separate between Jews and Israelis, and Israelis citizens and Israeli government and the Israeli policy, because I can have the support of a lot of Israelis because they understand and they call for the end of occupation, just like me,” he says.
I wrote last week about the common experience of being shot at and the futility of trying to be The Victim in the conflict. Ajrami understands that. He sees that the way to make Israelis sympathise with Palestinian suffering is not to start telling them how evil they are and how much worse it is for Palestinians than for Israelis, while trying to downplay the impact of Palestinian terrorism. The way to do it is to concentrate on shared suffering and common experiences.
Fear, suffering, and anger are things that Israelis understand. Trying to claim a monopoly on these emotions is what hurts the Palestinian cause the most (the same, by the way, can be said for the people on the Israeli side of the fence who do the same thing).
We need more people like Ajrami, and we need people on the Israeli side broadcasting to the Palestinians in Arabic. In fact, it seems insane that nobody in Israel has thought to do that yet (or at least, hasn’t done it well).
It seems that nobody has been killed, thank God. Also, it is not guaranteed that Hamas carried this out, but Hamas were definitely celebrating it. There are reports that Israel has stepped-up its airstrikes over Gaza and Hamas/PIJ have stepped-up rocket fire in response. Who saw that one coming?
Just to be clear: an anti-war rally in Tel Aviv was cancelled because of this bombing. Everyone in Israel who wanted to end the offensive has just lost their case. All of the Israeli peaceniks that I follow are as shocked and scared as everyone else. These attackers have essentially guaranteed that there is no end in sight to this war.
**Update** at least 21 injured. Police say it was a definite terrorist attack
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There are breaking reports of a bus bomb in Tel Aviv, the first attack there since 2006. From what I can gather from Twitter and elsewhere, it was a female terrorist who threw a bomb onto the bus and then left the area. The police has arrested one suspect and are looking for another. There were over 10 injured, three critically. Luckily, the bus was mostly empty at the time.
Most importantly/disgustingly, Hamas is busy celebrating this as a ‘victory for Allah’ over the loudspeakers in Gaza. Celebratory gunfire heard throughout the strip.
This pretty much puts an end to any hope of a ceasefire agreement. What Hamas have just done is won themselves a long-protracted ground war.
A bus exploded in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding at least 10 people, three of them seriously.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast on the No. 66 bus on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Henrietta Szold Streets, but Israel Police suspect it was a terror attack. Passersby were ordered to keep their distance from the scene.
Large police forces were deployed to the area, and opened a manhunt after two suspected terrorists. Eyewitnesses say they saw a person plant an explosive and run away. Al-Arabiya reported that at least one of the suspected terrorists was a woman.
“A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv. This was a terrorist attack. Most of the injured suffered only mild injuries,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
You think YOU have it bad? You should hear about ME! Or: why Israelis and Palestinians need to shut up and listen
What do you feel when you’re being shot at?
The answer may seem obvious, but in the scheme of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it’s important. As everyone tries to ‘out-suffer’ everyone else and the stories of trauma in Gaza and in Southern Israel mount, people seem to be forgetting this basic truth: being shot at is fucking terrifying.
That’s right, being shot at is a very unpleasant experience. It means that the person on the other end of the trigger/rocket-launcher wants to kill you, and is trying to kill you. Of course, there is probably some context: perhaps that person has suffered immensely; perhaps they lost a sister or brother or son or daughter and they are venting their rage at the people that they blame; maybe you have had a much more comfortable life than they have – they have been living in constant squalor fear, while you have been able to life relatively normally, most of the time at least; maybe it’s not you they were shooting at, but the person next to you – you just happened to get caught in the crossfire.
All of this information is important, but when you’re being shot at, it’s an academic point really. No amount of context will make you think ‘ok, well fair enough, I guess it’s not really their fault that they’re shooting at me’. It seems ridiculous to say, but the way people talk, you’d think that was the natural reaction that most people have. Abstract discussions of ‘necessity’ and ‘proportionality’ do not make you forgive the fact that you and your loved ones are being shot at. All that you really have in your head at that moment is ‘fuck, I’m being shot at’.
Here is something that everyone needs to bear in mind as they try to take the mantle of ‘suffering’ and claim the moral high ground in the current Gaza incursion: Israelis and Palestinians are shooting at each other. It’s that simple.
Well, it isn’t that simple. There is a lot to be said about the fact that Hamas is shooting at the Israelis to inflict terror and the Israelis are shooting at Hamas to try and stop Hamas shooting at the Israelis. But then, the Israelis inflict terror in spite of themselves. Shooting at people will do that. Whatever you want to say about Hamas launching rockets from civilian areas, it makes very little difference to the people who are on the ‘business end’ of the response. All they know is that they were not firing rockets from civilian areas, but they are being shot at.
Then again, that makes no difference to the Israelis in Hamas’ ever-expanding rocket range. The fact that they are being targeted with much less powerful weapons and that they have bomb shelters to run and hide to does not make the fact that they are being shot at less traumatic. All of those things are true, and they are losing less loved ones than the Palestinians in Gaza, but they are being shot at, and being shot at is fucking terrifying.
I have, over the course of my relatively brief time in Israel, had to take shelter from Hamas rockets twice and had rocks thrown at me once. That’s a hell of a lot less than most of the people in Israel at the moment, but when those incidents happened, I was not thinking about how terrible life must be for the Palestinians who were attacking me. My thoughts were more along the lines of: ‘fuck, I’m being shot at!’
I am writing this post because I have been sitting at my computer screen for almost a week now, watching two Sides of the Conflict trying to out-do each other in terms of being shot at. And in all honesty, the Palestinians win hands-down. The big Israeli infographics with numbers of rockets are not quite as pity-inspiring as footage of families grieving over dead children. But, once again, that is beside the point. In fact, what is really going through my mind is: what is the point? Why is it so important to have suffered? Why are we holding up spent rockets and dead and injured children to the world and saying ‘you need to feel sorry for me, I’m being shot at!’?
And more importantly, why am I the only one who seems to be affected by all of it and see two different groups of people being shot at? Why do I have to put up with so many people saying ‘you think the ISRAELIS are suffering? Do you know how many people died in Gaza today?’ or ‘you think the PALESTINIANS are suffering? Do you know how many rockets were fired into Israel today?’
Why can they not both be suffering? What’s so hard about recognising that the war is hell on everyone?
I can tell you this: there are two traumatised and terrified peoples firing at each other over the Israel/Gaza border fence right now, they are both going through hell, and neither of them will ever stop so long as they keep pretending that THEIR people are the ones that are REALLY suffering. Just shut up for a second and pay attention to the world outside your little bubble.
I’m sure that, by now, everyone has heard about this bullshit going on in Gaza. This is one of those rare situations when I say that I hate to say ‘I told you so‘ and I actually mean it.
Meanwhile, you know that ‘Ahmed Jabari’ guy that Israel just rocketed into oblivion? You know, this guy:
Well according to my old friend and sparring partner Liam, when he wasn’t busy launching rockets at Israel, or procuring rockets to launch at Israel, or calling for the ‘rats’ to be driven out of Israel (by which he meant the Israelis), he was actually ‘Israel’s biggest ally in negotiations with Hamas’.
The guy was probably Israel’s biggest ally in negotiations with Hamas — ceasefires, returns of soldiers, etc. (Oh, wait, I thought Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas?) Yeah, he was a horrible terrorist, but so were plenty of other people that Israel talked to, and indeed became prominent Israelis themselves. I’m all for getting the bad guys — but choosing them should be done more carefully, and strategically.
Liam based his conclusions on something Gershon Baskin said:
The Israeli decision to kill Ahmed Jaabri was total insanity. Jaabri was behind enforcing all of the recent ceasefire agreements. He sent his troops out to stop the rockets and was prepared to reach a long term ceasefire. Jaabri was also the main interlocutor of the Egyptian intelligence service in reaching ceasefire understandings. Now who are they supposed to talk to? Who can expect the Egyptians to continue to mitigate our relationship with Gaza? Now the government and people of Israel will face a massive barrage of rockets and they bought the entrance card to Cast Lead II.
Aluf Benn is also in on the party, referring to Jabari as Israel’s ‘subcontractor in Gaza‘.
Now I’m not saying that it’s typical of Liam not to fact-check things that sound a little implausible but kind of fit into his general narrative that the Israelis never do anything right. I wouldn’t say that. Not that I really understand what’s so appealing about the idea that Israel took out the best friend it had in Gaza other than some kind of perverse combination of vindication and schaudenfreude.
But what I am saying is that Liam didn’t fact-check.
For one thing, none of those ceasefires were really ‘enforced’. If they had been enforced, there would not have been ceasefires, there would have been a ceasefire. Maybe he did clamp-down on non-Hamas militias a little, but there are other things that he didn’t do – like not give them weapons, or not prevent them from firing at all. In fact, I don’t really see the fact that he clamped-down on non-Hamas armed groups as particularly endearing – one of the groups he completely drove out of Gaza was Fatah. That wasn’t about helping Israel, it was about holding onto power.
Meanwhile, it is true that Gershon Baskin was negotiating with Jabari… through Baskin’s Palestinian Christian colleague Hanna Siniora, who was speaking to Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Razi Hamed, who was speaking to Jabari. It is also true that he secured the Shalit deal, and that he kept Shalit alive and relatively unharmed – if a little malnourished and isolated, as well as and completely sun-deprived and denied his basic as a prisoner, let alone a prisoner of war – although he wouldn’t release him without Israel releasing a few hundred mass murderers and a thousand other Palestinian prisoners.
So this, apparently, makes him Israel’s best buddy in Gaza? Well as they say, with friends like these…
But in all seriousness, the argument that Liam/Baskin/Benn put forward is pretty much like those people who want Bashar Assad to stay-on in Syria because ‘better then enemy you know than the enemy you don’t’. I reject that idea completely. The enemy we knew was terrible. I have no doubt that the next Qassam Brigades commander will not exactly be a saint, but he might be less competent than Jabari and he will definitely be less experienced (and he will also definitely be a ‘he’, as an aside).
Either way, I feel like Liam is jumping to conclusions a little by condemning the strategic expertise of the Israeli government and intelligence agencies based on one journalist’s Facebook status. But that’s just me I guess.
This is a VERY welcome development in Israeli politics. Bibi Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz have agreed to form a unity government instead of going to early elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) reached an agreement early Tuesday morning to form a national unity government and cancel early elections, which had been expected to take place on September 4.
Under the agreement, Kadima will join Netanyahu’s government and support its policies in exchange for a commitment that the government will support its proposal for an alternative to the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer national service.
This was always a strong possibility with a Mofaz-led Kadima — remember that Kadima was formed when Sharon split from Likkud to withdraw from Gaza. Half of the Kadima MKs are Likkudniks and really it was only a matter of time before they joined Likkud in government.
Between them, the two parties have a near majority in their own right. Add Barak’s Atzmeut party and you have what a lot of us have been praying for: a strong, secular, centrist coalition (yep, “praying”).
Getting rid of all the crazies means that Bibi can allow the Tal Law to expire and stop this ridiculous Haredi exemption from contributing to Israeli society. It also means that he will no longer be beholden to Lieberman, which immediately curtails the encroaching Putin-esque antidemocratic reforms from Beitenu and gives space for the opening of markets that the country desperately needs in order to address its numerous economic woes.
Overall, this is the best thing that has happened in Israeli politics since at least 2009. Hopefully it will live up to its potential.
Jordan Chandler Hirsch has given the best review that I have seen yet of Peter Beinart’s new book The Crisis of Zionism (UPDATE: except this one) (disclaimer: I have not read the book myself). For those who don’t follow these things, for the past couple of years, Beinart has been trying to pioneer some new form of “liberal Zionism” that, for reasons explained below, I find deeply flawed.
Before I get into that, I would just like to highlight one important point that Beinart has backtracked on. In the New York Review of Books essay with which Beinart originally launched his campaign, he had a premise that was very popular with quite a few of the Jews who were inclined to agree with his position anyway (hi Liam): that the reason American Jews have become increasingly alienated towards Israel is that they cannot “blindly support” Israel the way AIPAC does (which AIPAC doesn’t actually do).
This is understandably an attractive prospect for Beinart and his followers — who wouldn’t want to believe that everyone naturally agrees with them and if only the establishment were different, they would be super popular. Unfortunately for Beinart (and Liam), this assumption is not grounded in reality. He has since been proven wrong and quietly moved away from this position:
Beinart—though he doesn’t explicitly admit to it—largely walks back his theory of political distancing in The Crisis of Zionism. In fact, in direct contradiction to his article in The New York Review of Books, he endorses Cohen’s argument that, for the vast majority of American Jews whose ties to Israel are weakening, intermarriage is a more important factor than politics. Noting that the intermarriage rate among Jews today is “roughly 50 percent,” Beinart admits “the harsh truth is that for many young, non-Orthodox American Jews, Israel isn’t that important because being Jewish isn’t that important.” Later, he states, quite rightly, “it would be wrong to imagine that young, secular American Jews seethe with outrage at Israel’s policies.” “For the most part,” he writes, “they do not care enough to seethe.”
Hirsch goes on to explain the important flaws in Beinart’s thesis. He more-or-less describes my point of view as well: rather than addressing the problem, Beinart is just presenting Read the rest of this entry »
According to Jared Malsin in Foreign Policy, the recent murder of an Italian in Gaza has created some new scrutiny on Salafi (ultra-conservative literalist Islam-ism) Islam in Gaza. Fair enough.
Now try and guess what’s wrong here:
At the root of these dynamics is the Israeli and Western policy of isolating Gaza and ignoring Hamas. The crippling four-year-long blockade of Gaza has created the conditions of human misery and desperation in which a handful of people have turned to extremism.
Did you get it?
The premise here is that there was no extremism in Gaza before the blockade. So apparently, thousands of suicide bombers willing to end their own lives and kill room-fulls of civilians weren’t extreme. I guess they were just misunderstood.
Perhaps realizing that a heavy hand can create further radicalization, Hamas has also recently taken a more nuanced approach to the Salafis, including sending religious scholars into prisons in hopes of nurturing a more tolerant outlook among them.
So Hamas clerics are the moderate ones now? Let’s lok at something one of them said once:
[The Jews] want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”
May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.
Sounds pretty moderate to me, right?
Ironically, Malsin did stumble across the point somewhere, but seemed to look past it and try to find it somewhere else.
This is the crux of Hamas’ dilemma: if it allows attacks on Israel, it risks massive retaliation from the Israelis; if it imposes too strict a ceasefire, it risks eroding its credibility among its political base in Gaza, particularly among its armed cadres. A U.N. diplomat, quoted anonymously by Crisis Group explained the problem: “How long can Hamas sustain a policy of not engaging in resistance, while this non-engagement doesn’t produce any results in terms of liberating Palestine, easing the blockade, or any other political goal for which the movement exists?”
Hamas here is reaping what it has sown. They have been spreading and practising this kind of extremism for years. The problem for them is that now they control Gaza, they have more responsibility than they had when they were just a militia and their policy determines what happens to the Gazans. If they continue to randomly target civilian populations, they will only escalate tensions and cause more harm to come to everyone – so they are finally beginning to realise that this is not an effective strategy, or finally starting to think at all strategically.
These Jihadi groups that they can’t control are Hamas’ legacy to the Palestinian people. Hamas paved the way for the extreme thought, the violent rhetoric, the weapons smuggling and the kidnapping of foreigners. They brought the idea of violence as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, to Gaza.
To reign-in these groups, Hamas would have to cooperate with Israel to a degree – as the PA have done to reduce terror in the West Bank. This, however, will be a complete reversal of everything that Hamas stand for – so unfortunately, I can’t see it happening.