Posts Tagged Liam Getreu
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.
No one saw this coming, right?
Well, that may be a lie.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to bury the Levy Report, which recommends legalizing most unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and making it easier for existing settlements to expand, a senior politician who spoke with the premier about the issue told Haaretz yesterday.
I guess this must be awkward for Liam, who said this:
MK is right: Israel won’t be imploding today. But if the reaction from government ministers is anything to go by there will be action, or at least Netanyahu’s hand may be forced further than he’d like, especially as peace talks might be starting to begin again.
This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).
I guess everything after “Mk is right” really was redundant.
Far be it from me to gloat.
Back on this theme, some detractors (who probably didn’t read the report before detracting) have attacked the Levy Report for bringing an end to the two-state solution and taking away Palestinian land rights.
For a quick and easy, cut-and-paste style rebuttal, I figured I would take a post by Benedict Roth on the latest uproar in the West Bank, followed by an excerpt from the Levy Report’s conclusions, then some commentary.
To wit (my bold):
Susya is a tiny Arab village–more a shanty-town than a village–sandwiched between two Jewish settlements at the southern edge of the West Bank. It has been repeatedly demolished by the Israeli army since its creation in the 1980’s. It is about to be demolished again, by court order, because it is sited on agricultural land and its residents have not been granted permission to build.
The Arabs whose shacks are being demolished have documents attesting title to their land. Ironically, they also hold title to the site of one of the Jewish villages, a few hundred yards away. Indeed they lived there until the early 1980’s. But they were ordered to leave by the military government after archaeological remains were found. So they camped on their fields nearby.
… So, today, nearly every Palestinian construction site is “illegal” and is subject to demolition while the Jewish settlement programme proceeds apace, fuelled by a ready supply of building permits and funds. By controlling Area C through its civil administration, Israel obtains all the benefits of annexation without incurring any obligation to grant its Arab residents legal and political rights. Water, electricity, land, public services and votes are all reserved for Jews.
a. The area of municipal jurisdiction of each settlement, if not yet determined, must be determined by order, taking into due consideration future natural growth.
f. In the event of conflicting claimants to land, it would be appropriate to adopt a policy whereby prior to any determination by the state regarding petitions for eviction or demolition, a thorough examination of the conflicting claims be conducted by a judicial tribunal dealing with land issues. This is all the more necessary with respect to claims of prior purchase or prescription, or where the possessor acted in a bona fide manner. Pending such determination, state authorities should be instructed to avoid taking any position in land conflicts and carrying out irreversible measures, such as eviction or demolition of buildings on the property.
g. To this end and with a view to facilitate accessibility by local residents to judicial tribunals, we suggest the establishment of courts for the adjudication of land disputes in Judea and Samaria, or alternatively, extending the jurisdiction of district court judges in order to enable them to handle in their courts, land disputes in Judea and Samaria.
h. It is necessary to draft into the security legislation a right for the public to review data banks administered by the various official bodies, including the Civil Administration, concerning land rights in the area of Judea and Samaria.
j. The composition of the Appeals Committee should be changed. It is presently manned by uniformed reserve officers, jurists, who are, of necessity, perceived at the least to be subordinate to, and even under the command of the Head of the Civil Administration. We feel that this situation is not proper, and therefore recommend that the Appeals Committee be composed of non-uniformed jurists, a factor which would contribute to the general perception of the Appeals Committee as an independent body, acting according to its own discretion.
k) The “Procedure for Dealing with Private Land Disputes” must be revoked. Such disputes must only be considered and adjudicated by a judicial body.
So let’s recap. A huge part of the problem (which, by the way, is a huge problem — I completely agree that the way the people of Susya are being treated is a disgrace) is that the people of Susya have been arbitrarily moved around and denied the right to enjoy land over which they hold title. This has been made possible due to the current Israeli Civil Administration in Area C; which has an Appeals Committee that is not a proper court and is essentially made-up of Administration officials; and which is overly secretive, extremely bureaucratic and very difficult for Palestinians to work with — whether they seek information or building permits.
I will note that I have a lot of (completely anecdotal) reason to believe that the difficulty in attaining building permits is not all down to direct discrimination, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption that presents hurdles to people who can’t “work the system” like Israelis can.
So what does the Levy Report recommend? That the Appeals Committee is abolished and replaced by a proper independent judiciary; that no new construction or demolition may take place without prior approval of this judiciary; that the judiciary is given the power to examine the land ownership rights that are currently ignored; and new freedom of information laws to make the whole process more transparent.
That, to me, looks a lot better for the people of Susya than the opaque, corrupt system they currently face, in which their claims are adjudicated by the people that they are going up against.
Please correct me if I’m wrong.
IN A rather surprising move, Liam had this to say in response to my previous post:
MK is right
Of course, I knew that before, but it’s just so nice to see it on Liam’s blog.
On the other hand, Liam doesn’t really think I’m right and I don’t really think he’s right. So to briefly respond to what he actually said:
This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).
In fact, the Ynet report also discusses the radical departure from the current interpretation of the legal status of settlements and settlement outposts in the West Bank, based on the Sasson report delivered to right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005…
The Zionist Right prefers land to democracy. That’s fine. But it’s not Zionism. And it won’t enable the Jewish-democratic state of Israel to exist far into the future.
So aside from pointing out that sentence one directly contradicts sentence three, in that last paragraph (the Zionist Right is not Zionist eh?), I would like to ask the following question: “so what?” Yes the report contradicts what Sasson said in 2005, but – as Liam points out – what it does do is merely re-iterate the “Zionist Right” position on the matter, one that has been consistent since the 1970s.
I see this as another example of an alarmist trend in Israel/Palestine commentary that is increasingly bothering me. Somehow a conflict that seems to change very little and very gradually (excepting the occasional sudden flare-up of violence) has a huge “turning point” every second week.
I don’t see anything particularly notable in a clearly stacked panel of dubious jurists – which was put together in order to appease people Bibi has won several victories over recently – releasing a report that says exactly what everyone thought it would. It isn’t indicative of any new trends or schools of thought in Israeli society.
NOW THAT Kadima has joined the Netanyahu-led coalition, the settlers actually have far less power than they had a few months ago. Regardless, Bibi has always been playing a double game – he fought the settlers on evacuating Ulpana and won, all the while declaring himself pro-settler and commissioning new homes in the settlement blocs that no-one believes are actually going anywhere. He clearly has his objectives in mind and he has his political strategy – one that has served him very effectively to date. I honestly cannot see how this report would make any difference to either his objectives or his strategy.
Bibi talks big, but he is a very cautious actor and his achievements come gradually and incrementally. For a while now, he has been very subtly undermining the outposts while maintaining the “pro-settlement” pretence. I don’t see how this report would change that, or anything else really.
There has been a lot of hysteria over the Levi Commission Report, released in Israel last night Australia time (for anyone who can read Hebrew, the report is available HERE. Unfortunately, my limited grasp of Hebrew does not extend to complex legal documents).
Like this for example:
Accepting the substantial elements of this report means this: no more occupation, annexing the West Bank, giving citizenship to Palestinians, end of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. Or, of course, it could really become apartheid, and not give Palestinians citizenship at all. This is what the Zionist Right is leading us to: the end of the two-state solution.
the Levy Committee avers that government encouragement of any construction conferred an “administrative assurance,” even if there were no legal and official permits issued.
Now, Israel uses the same British common law system as Australia does to form the basis of its legal system. I have never heard of any concept of “administrative assurance” that can be used in lieu of a permit. Generally, you have no permit, you can’t build.
There are a few other recommendations that also sound a little poorly thought-out, like removing various powers to evict settlers and making it easier to build settlements.
But then there’s this:
The committee recommends legalizing all the outposts even without a retroactive government decision, and to do so as follows: To issue an order delineating the settlement and designating the adjacent areas as needed to accommodate natural growth; to cancel the need to get permission from the political echelons for every single stage in the planning process, and to not implement demolition orders that have already been issued.
See, that sounds a little familiar. It’s similar, in a way, to something Ehud Barak was suggesting a couple of months ago. That sounds like Israel unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank, which is altogether not a terrible idea IMO. It could reduce the bickering that goes back and fourth about borders and land swaps if Israel just says something to the effect of, “this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. You don’t like it? Make us a better offer.”
The committee also recommends the cancelation of the “bothersome use order” that allows the head of the Civil Administration to force settler-farmers off ostensibly Palestinian land, even if there is no Palestinian complainant … Levy believes that these are land disputes that the state should not involve itself in, but that should be sorted out before the courts. The committee, in fact, recommends setting up a special court to deal with land disputes in the West Bank.
That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea either – mostly because a court ruling is more binding than this strange state restraining order thing they have at the moment.
Finally, I’ll address the point about the Fourth Geneva Convention and belligerent occupation. I have looked into this at length, and it is basically true. The current international humanitarian law never predicted anything like the situation in the West Bank, so it is a huge grey area. Everyone who tells you it’s definitely legal or illegal is making laws where there aren’t any.
Irrespective of that, the current legal regime applied in areas B and C of the West Bank is a bizarre military administration derived from the Jordanian law as it stood in 1967 – it needs to be overhauled, and exercising some form of sovereignty is the only way that Israel could actually do that.
So basically, some good may yet come of this report. I’m also very skeptical of news reports on an 89-page document that was released a few hours before – we’re pretty much seeing reports on the executive summary. It’s never a good idea to jump to conclusions on these things.
In fact, in all probability, nothing will ever come of this report. It is dated 21st June – presumably when it was made available to cabinet, even though it only became public yesterday – meaning that the government has had it for over three weeks and hasn’t moved on it. My bet is that they won’t, this will be consigned to the massive vault of reports that caused a minor media shitstorm and were subsequently forgotten. The Israeli government must have somewhere.
The above photo was released by the Spokesperson’s office at the Israeli Defence Forces to promote its role in the upcoming gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. The photo has come under flack because one of the men depicted was not actually gay. I will note first that I use the word “gaffe” ironically, click here to see why.
Regular Karnage interlocutor Liam was one of the people giving the photo flack:
Advocates for Israel have every right to point to positive elements of the country’s socio-political makeup, regardless of other parts of the equation that are less than flattering. That doesn’t mean it excuses the negative parts though, which is where the main problem develops. It becomes an issue when hasbaraniks come to believe their own propaganda, when they start, in their mind, to dismiss the occupation, the lack of gay marriage, the lack of full civic equality for Palestinian-Israelis and think that it’s okay because gays can serve openly in the military. It’s not okay.
The IDF was downright stupid manufacturing this photo. They could have found an openly gay couple, surely. But instead they went the half-assed route and got sprung. That is pinkwashing — they’re making stuff up to get the good news story. That’s unacceptable and works against people trying very hard to stand up for Israel where it’s needed most.
A long email chain ensued. Below is an edited sample of my responses, Liam may publish his at his own prerogative.
My gut reaction was similar to Liam’s, but having thought about it:
So the photo was staged… does anyone looking at that photo really think that they were walking around Tel Aviv and happened to snap a pic of two male soldiers holding hands?
Clearly it’s a staged photo, which happened at a photoshoot. That is how promotional photos are taken. Generally, the people in promotional photos are not really what they look like — for example, this woman does not really play for Liverpool:
The IDF picture is a promotional photograph. It was attached to a press release from an official military outlet and not a news-reporting service. It is openly a piece of propaganda and does not make any pretences about that. It is not claiming to be an accurate depiction of any real events, it is only supposed to be representative of the IDF.
While you’re getting all indignant about the fact that the soldiers in the photo weren’t actually gay, there are people who are genuinely angry about the photo because they think that the IDF should not be so outwardly gay-friendly.
So instead of praising the IDF for doing something that is actually quite remarkable and completely unprecedented (an ARMY marketing itself as gay-friendly. An ARMY, that is OFFICIALLY participating in a gay pride parade — that is totally unheard of anywhere else in the world, whatever the motivations), you are castigating them for a minor detail that no one would even know had some journalist not done a little digging and that is really of no consequence to anything.
The sexual preference of the guys in the photo is really immaterial, it has no bearing on whether or not the IDF is gay-friendly. In fact, as one gay blog noted, it may even be better that one of them is not gay:
Before anyone cries “Foul!”, this is actually better. A gay man and a straight man holding hands couldn’t be a more comforting sign of acceptance, friendship, alliance and unity between gay and straight soldiers. The army isn’t about finding romance. It’s not about gay soldiers hooking up. It’s about fighting for your citizens while standing by your fellow countryman, regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Gay and straight holding hands together in joint cause is the greatest symbol of equality we can think of. We’d love to see a similar gesture from two American soldiers, wouldn’t you?
I got kinda angry after I saw the article below. There is still a fight to fight here, the IDF has not always been as accepting as it is and there are still senior figures in the IDF who do not exactly agree with this stance, as well as people who are pressuring the IDF to stop being so open to gay people. These “pinkwashing” accusations attack the people who are doing the right thing and empower those who would sooner see the IDF regressing to a less tolerant place.
By attacking the photo, you’re playing into the hands of dickheads like this:
Less than a year ago, religious cadets were kicked out of officers’ course because they had trouble listening to female singing. The IDF sacrificed them on the altar of political correctness, and this is precisely what it does now with the photo of the two gay soldiers in uniform.
This photo makes no contribution to the original IDF mission; it merely offers blatant flattery in line with the taste of shapers of public opinion.
Friend of the blog Liam Getreu and I were having a private email conversation over Peter Beinart’s recent New York Times op-ed — and upcoming book — which calls for Jews to boycott West Bank settlements. The piece has been creating a huge stir on the old interwebs, with responses being thrown-around everywhere and a particularly amusing-yet-insightful Twitter debate going on between Beinart himself, Palestinian researcher Hussein Ibish and MK favourite Jeffrey Goldberg.
The conversation between me and Liam has partly gone public in a post on Liam’s blog. Naturally, I feel that I must also respond in public. Here goes nothing:
while Beinart’s suggestion of boycotts is, yes, aimed at changing settlers’ behaviour (which may have a degree of naivety, if we think it’s going to instantly deconstruct everything overnight), but it’s also about making a moral stand: I do not support the settlement enterprise, and I don’t want my money going to support it. That’s an entirely legitimate point of view.
… Of course a boycott isn’t going to end the occupation, but it will help to undermine the economy that many have going there. And Beinart’s suggestion, that the money you would otherwise spend on settlement products is instead spent on democratic Israel’s products (or, another suggestion, split between that and Palestinian businesses?), is a good one. Your purchasing behaviour may help change realities, in some small way.
Liam is correct in that boycotts can be a legitimate political tool and, for the record, I am also in favour of the Israeli government ending the ludicrous and counter-productive tax breaks and other incentives that it still gives to Israelis who move over the Green Line.
That said, the circumstances surrounding a boycott of West Bank settlements make it impossible to make the point that Beinart and Liam want to make through a boycott of them.
It is important to remember that, with a few fringe exceptions, Jewish communities worldwide (Liam and Beinart included) are completely opposed to the BDS movement. The movement is dishonest to its very core, it claims to be about “Palestinian rights” and that it takes no stance on a one or two state solution to the conflict, however its fundamental tenets effectively call for the destruction of Israel and reject the idea that Jews are entitled to nationhood or self-determination. Boycotts are particularly touchy for Jews as they bring back spectres of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses that served as a prelude to the Holocaust.
Beinart’s boycott idea is derived from Jews who are not comfortable supporting the BDS movement but still feel the need to “do something”; meaning that the West Bank boycott can never be wholly separated from the broader BDS movement. Indeed, as Omri Ceren observes, such initiatives regularly metastatise into full-blown BDS.
This is where Beinart’s thesis starts becoming increasingly problematic. Accepting a partial boycott of Israel is ostensibly akin to accepting some — if not all — of the BDS movement’s ideology. This leads to Read the rest of this entry »
This profile of Churchill’s legacy by Adam Gopnik raises some great arguments. As always, it’s best to read the whole thing, but here are the parts I particularly liked.
Of course, Churchill and Hitler were, in the most vital respects, opposites. Churchill was, as Lukacs insists, a patriot, imbued with a love of place and people, while Hitler was a nationalist, infuriated by a hatred of aliens and imaginary enemies. But Churchill knew where Hitler was insecure and where he was strong, and knew how to goad him, too…
There was a fine difference between Stalin and Satan, and Churchill grasped it. In Antony Beevor’s history of the Battle of Stalingrad, the brutality and waste of the Stalinist regime—prisoners left to die in the snow, political commissars ordering the execution of innocents, the dead of the great purges haunting the whole—is sickening. But the murderousness of the Nazi invaders—children killed en masse and buried in common graves—is satanic. It is the tragedy of modern existence that we have to make such distinctions. Yet that does not mean that such distinctions cannot be made, or that Churchill did not make them. His moral instincts were uncanny. In 1944, after the deportation of the Jews from Hungary, when the specifics of the extermination camps were still largely unknown, he wrote that the Nazis’ war on the Jews would turn out to be “probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world.”
I really like the distinction here between patriotism and fascism (I don’t agree with using the word “Nationalist” for Hitler there). Patriotism is a positive ideology – love of your country and culture – where fascism is negative – hatred of “aliens”, as Gopnik puts it.
The second paragraph there is very important, because it isn’t uncommon for people to try to equate things to the Holocaust that really were not on the same level, but it’s hard to criticise them because the things they describe were terrible. So remember, there is a difference between Stalin and Satan.
More importantly, I read Liam Getreu on a new Israeli academic boycott of Ariel University just after reading the following on Churchill:
“The word ‘appeasement’ is not popular, but appeasement has its place in all policy,” he said in 1950. “Make sure you put it in the right place. Appease the weak, defy the strong.” He argued that “appeasement from strength is magnanimous and noble and might be the surest and perhaps the only path to world peace.” And he remarked on the painful irony: “When nations or individuals get strong they are often truculent and bullying, but when they are weak they become better-mannered. But this is the reverse of what is healthy and wise.”
This explains my problem with the Israeli initiative pretty well. Israelis are allowed to have a political problem with Ariel University, whether you agree with them or not. I’m not convinced at all that it was established solely to prevent Palestinians from ever controlling the West Bank, but its presence definitely has an impact on the whole settlement issue and if they don’t want to work with it on that basis, fair enough.
The problem is the lack of perspective on the wider issue of the BDS movement. The Israeli academics are making a noble gesture, but they aren’t understanding their opponents. The BDS movement’s goal is not to counteract the settlement intelligentsia and make a two-state-solution more viable, it is a one-state-solution movement. They want to make it less realistic to reach a peace deal between Israel and Palestine and rather focus on making it more and more difficult for Israel to exist as a state, with the goal of eventually overthrowing Israel and creating a Palestinian-majority state, with some kind of naive view that it would end-up like South Africa (which, by the way, is getting worse and worse as time goes on) and not like Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan etc.
That’s why the Churchill quote applies. The Israeli academics are appeasing a movement that is gaining strength and acting “truculent and bullying”. The movement is not one that is happy to negotiate and find halfway ground – its rhetoric is all-or-nothing. When Israelis partially support anything in the BDS ideology, the BDS leaders tend to use it to justify themselves by saying “I’m agreeing with this Israeli, only extending it a little further” rather than moderating their views. However well-intentioned that Ariel U movement was, it was a bad move in my opinion.