Posts Tagged Palestine

Shameless propaganda hurts pro-Israel cause

I am often a spokesperson for the pro-Israel community in Australia. I do deliberately put-forward a line that is favourable of Israel and I admit that, from time to time, I will downplay information that runs contradictory to that line.

It is not an attempt to deny or whitewash anything, more a necessary aspect of being a part of a public debate. Ceding ground can have severe consequences, so must be done very carefully. It is made especially difficult for people like me to give honest criticisms of Israel when faced with opponents who are unrelenting, intolerant and even genocidal.

Any small criticism of Israel made by someone in my position is taken to be vindication for views that I find abhorrent. A common and very prominent example can be seen in comments made by now Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak a few years ago that Israel could become an apartheid state if action was not taken on the peace protest.

Barak was playing domestic politics — trying to malign his right wing rivals for not taking enough action on the peace process. However, I cannot count the number of times I have heard that Barak quote followed by something like ‘I agree with Mr Barak, I just think that Israel already is apartheid’, as though this were a perfectly natural conclusion to come to and there was just a minor disagreement between the speaker and Barak.

And of course, as a certain Jordanian BDS group reminded us recently, many of my opponents have some kind of racial prejudice thinly masked by their adopted rhetoric. In a charming Facebook discussion, several Jordanian Palestinians made it perfectly clear that, to them, any Jewish presence in ‘historic Palestine’ is illegitimate and the Jews should all ‘go home’. No, none of them could answer where exactly ‘home’ is.

Anti-normalization and the Israeli Left – a Facebook debate | +972 Magazine.

ALL CITIZENS OF THE ILLEGAL STATES OF “ISRAEL” ARE A PART OF THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT, EXCEPT THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF PALESTINE, AND SO, ALL THOSE WHO SERVE THE ZIONIST PROJECT ARE ZIONISTS FOR US, REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, RELIGIOUS BELIEVES OR DISBELIEVES OR POLITICAL VIEWS, FOR DISAMBIGUATION, ANY NON-ISRAELI JEW IS NOT A ZIONIST, ANY PALESTINIAN JEW IS NOT ZIONIST, AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT SERVE THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT BY OTHER MEANS THAN CITIZENSHIP

That said, I think it is extremely important to be credible when speaking on these issues. Using ‘their’ tactics against them is not a strategy that I can follow in good conscience.

While I may write carefully in order to give a certain impression, I am not dishonest, I do not lie, and I do not manipulate the truth for convenience’s sake. This is why I am extremely bothered by people like Maurice Ostroff, who has done all of the above in an op-ed in today’s Jerusalem Post regarding a group of African asylum-seekers who were trapped between Israel and Egypt for the past week.

Setting the record straight: Migrants… JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

Contrary to the claim that the Convention obligates Israel to permit these refugees to enter the country, there is no provision at all in the Convention requiring a contracting state to allow entry of refugees who are not already in its territory. Article 33 refers only to refugees who have already entered, whether legally or illegally.

This omission of a requirement to admit refugees not already in the territory was evidently deliberate, as described in the judgment in the matter of Regina v. Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2004].

The judgment refers to the important backdrop to the Convention as described in “Refugees under International Law with a Reference to the Concept of Asylum” (1986), as follows: “States the world over consistently have exhibited great reluctance to give up their sovereign right to decide which persons will, and which will not, be admitted to their territory and given a right to settle there. They have refused to agree to international instruments which would impose on them duties to make grants of asylum.”

As regular readers will be aware, I make a habit of checking sources.

Here is the UK House of Lords case to which Ostroff was referring (European Roma Rights Centre and others v Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2005] 1 All ER 527). The passage that he quoted was not a ruling by the Court, it was one judge quoting an Australian case that the court had been referred to by counsel for the appellants.

In fact, referring to that case at all is disingenuous to say the least. The case concerned Czech citizens who were trying to claim asylum without leaving the Czech Republic — meaning they could not possibly be considered ‘refugees’ as they were not ‘outside their last country of habitual residence’. This was also at a time when the UK was being flooded with asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, the majority of whom were not valid refugees.

There is not really any comparison to a group of African asylum seekers fleeing from Egypt, which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and which has some rather unnerving practises like shooting asylum seekers as they try to reach Israel.

In fact, the Prague Airport case was brought by Roma who claimed to have been discriminated against when British immigration officials would not let them board planes to the UK — and they won! The Court ruled that British authorities could not refuse to allow Roma into the country on the premise that they might claim asylum once there.

Meanwhile, this was just sickening:

In terms of Article 33, a refugee (as defined in Article 1) may not be expelled or returned (“refouler”) to territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Clearly this does not include threats by common criminals. If this were the case it would apply to citizens of all countries suffering from a high crime rate like Colombia, Mexico and South Africa, which was plainly not the intention.

It is therefore obvious that the Convention does not cover the circumstances of refugees seeking admission to Israel from Egypt.

‘Common criminal’ is a broad and meaningless phrase. Let’s look at the actual situation and see if it fits.

Ostroff was referring to these comments by the UNHCR representative in the region:

UN refugee envoy: Eritreans trapped at Israel-Egypt border must be allowed in – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

“The most worrying thing to me is the discussion of pushing them back into Egypt, which is highly irresponsible, because if they go back to Egypt there is a high risk these people will fall in the hands of human smugglers, and it is well known, it is all documented, that many of these people have been abused, there are cases of torture or rape, and if you send them back you are sending them to a situation with a very high degree of insecurity.”

The Sinai is a largely ungoverned and chaotic region of Egypt. Its local population is mostly Bedoin and they make their money through organised crime, exploiting their convenient location on the land-bridge between Africa and Europe/Asia.

They also like to dabble in things like the human slave trade and kidnapping for ransom. They particularly like to target the vulnerable Africans trying to escape the continent as they know that these people have no real protection.

The Egyptian authorities have struggled to control this at the best of times and right now is probably the worst of times in this regard.

There is no ambiguity for Ostroff to hide behind, sending the asylum seekers back to Egypt would have meant that their “life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership”.

Attacking Egypt for turning a blind eye to inhumane treatment is entirely valid, however it is completely unjust to try and pretend that Egypt is an acceptable place for these people and Israel is under no obligation to take them in.

The worst part of Ostroff’s polemic, however, was this:

The lack of credible information from the Foreign Ministry and the IDF spokesperson is a sad reflection on Israel’s public diplomacy. While admiring the valuable humanitarian work performed by Israeli groups like “We Are Refugees” that filed a petition in support of the migrants, I am disturbed by the ill-founded criticism which has been disseminated worldwide by them and by William Tall, the UNHCR representative in Israel.

Clearly, Ostroff does not admire the petitioners who managed to convince the High Court that Israel had to let the refugees in. He is essentially advocating that the Government of Israel do everything it can to oppose them and then take credit for their work when it loses.

That is dishonest and contemptuous. It does the pro-Israel cause no favours at all.

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Olmert Rebukes J Street at their own Conference

Anyone else who just watched Ehud Olmert addressing J Street saw a great performance from the former Israeli Prime Minister. I have a feeling that it was not quite what the organisers of the conference had envisioned when they organised for him to give the keynote address at their conference.

Olmert did criticise the current Israeli Government (he is from the opposition party after all) and he did laud J Street as a legitimate pro-Israel organisation, but he made a lot of points that run counter to J Street’s narrative and policy platforms.

For instance, he spoke about the Iranian threat to Israel and made it clear that the military option, while a last resort, is on the table in order to prevent a nuclear Iran. Also, after speaking at length about the need to make peace and how the current Israeli Government is not moving towards peace (which I don’t entirely disagree with), he very bluntly stated that Palestinians have responsibilities and they do not always meet those responsibilities — proceeding to detail the generous proposal he made to Mahmoud Abbas and how this was walked away from.

(I will note that he spent a while heaping praise on Abbas and explaining that Abbas does not support terrorism and is a partner for peace. My feeling is that this may be true, but Abbas faces a lot of internal opposition in Fatah.)

Most importantly, he said that he will not ask J Street to go to their government and ask them to pressure the government of Israel. As he said, “is this an American problem?” This is exactly the argument I have been using against J Street’s methodology. Israeli government policy is an Israeli problem, it is not America’s place to pressure them one way or the other and doing so often backfires — creating resentment for America in Israel, winning sympathy for the more extreme elements of Israeli society and generally hardening the Israeli mindset against America’s agenda.

Barukh Binah, the deputy chief of mission at Israel’s Washington embassy, made a similar point when he addressed the conference. I hope (but don’t expect) that J Street’s leaders will take this on board and start re-evaluating their raison d’etre. There are a lot of more productive uses of their time than lobbying Congress.

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Toulouse shootings are Islamist after all

So much for that neo-Nazi theory… French police raid house in school killings case – FRANCE 24.

AFP – A French police special forces unit hunting an anti-Semitic serial killer launched a pre-dawn raid Wednesday on a house where a man claiming al-Qaeda ties was holed up, a police source said. Two police were slightly wounded as the operation got underway, led by officers investigating three attacks by a lone gunman in which three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish school children and a rabbi were killed, he said. A source close to the inquiry told AFP that the suspect had exchanged words with the RAID team and had declared himself to be a member of al-Qaeda, the armed Islamist group founded by late Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

**UPDATE**

Reports are coming out on Twitter that the suspect is claiming that he was “avenging Palestinian children”. This goes to show yet again that our enemies do not distinguish between “Jews”, “Zionists” and “Israelis” at all (or, for that matter, between “civilians” and “combatants”, or “adults” and “children”…).

Meanwhile, there may be a reason why everyone was so gleefully jumping on the idea that it may not have been Islamists. Again linking into the third-worldist dynamic, a number of Jews (and other members of the Western intelligencia) seem want to do everything they can to deny that Muslims may sometimes be antisemitic. Jonathan Tobin made this point: Neo-Nazis Versus Jihadists? « Commentary Magazine.

However, if we are discussing what Jews and other civilized persons should be worrying most about today, the idea that there is any comparison between the danger posed by the scattered bands of neo-Nazi extremists and that of Islamism is not a serious proposition. The neo-Nazis are a nasty bunch and capable of violence. But Islamist terror has at its command, terrorist armies, control of sovereign territories (Gaza, Lebanon and a major state such as Iran) as well as the resources to finance a nuclear weapons project. While the persistence of Nazism, even in its current truncated form is upsetting and makes us wonder whether Western civilization really is in trouble, Islamism is a real threat, not a symbolic one. While we may dismiss this argument as the sort of thing that is … for people with nothing better to do, the fact is, a lot of liberal Jews really are more scared of the dangers that existed in the past than they are of their people’s current foes. For many liberal Jews … raising the question of Islamist hate for Jews — something that is the source of the rising tide of anti-Semitic agitation around the globe — is somehow in bad taste if not evidence of the dread charge of Islamophobia. They are so conditioned to believe that Muslim distaste for Israel’s actions is the reason for enmity that they ignore the vicious stream of Jew-hatred coming out of the Middle East and prefer to worry about an altogether mythical post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. Instead, they prefer to dwell on the far less potent danger posed by the tiny groups of Hitler-lovers who are generally too weak and isolated to do anything more than disturb the peace. While such groups are despicable and deserve the attention of law enforcement, to focus on them is to re-fight the last war.

Matthew Ackerman makes a similar point, but stresses the need for Jews to stop making the claim that Israel is the source of antisemitism – recognising that Israel was originally envisioned as the answer to antisemitism. The take-away point: antisemitism existed before Israel and it still exists today, but Israel is a source of pride and strength for the Jewish people that allows us to face this evil in a way that we were not able to before. ; Toulouse a Reminder of the Need to Refute Jewish Cowardice « Commentary Magazine.

There is one Zionist truth that Judt and his ilk pin their hat on, which is that the goal of the Jewish state is indeed and always has been, since Leo Pinsker put pen to paper, to change the way the world looks at Jews. For Pinsker, it was the unique quality of Jewish statelessness that prevented “a certain equality in rank” between Jews and non-Jews, a condition that fostered Jew-hatred and led to the terrible violence of Russian pogroms. For Theodor Herzl, his far more famous successor in Zionist pamphleteering, it was simply the presence of Jews that enraged the masses. He wrote, “We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.” The thing Pinsker, Herzl, and their followers got sadly wrong was the idea that Jews could be saved from Jew-hatred by creating a state of their own, either by “normalizing” the Jewish condition or by providing completely for their physical security. No state, though, can provide for the complete safety of all its citizens, let alone its ethnic kin abroad. And hatred of Jews, as should be beyond plain by now, clearly draws from deeper waters than the Jewish political condition, whatever it may be. We should call the fantasy that Jews would be able to live in peace if only they gave up their claim to independence cowardice because that is the term we reserve for those who willingly give up what is theirs in the hope that by so doing that may be freed of physical danger. The Jewish state may not be able to resolve the non-Jewish problem of hatred of Jews, but it can – as has been the case these last ten years in an Israel that has woken up to the truth that many of its enemies can be appeased only by its death – cure the Jews of their fascination with weakness. That is, if we have the courage to stand united against the irrational attacks launched against us and our children.

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Here lies President Barak Obama/Whose word no man relies on…

Who never said a foolish thing,
Or ever did a wise one.

Following a theme that I’ve been seeing of comparing Obama to poetic figures, Walter Russell Meade referenced a poem by the Earl of Rochester, written about King Charles II of England, but ascribed here to Obama and his Middle East policy. This is in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s astounding speech to a joint session of US Congress, which was met with an almost unbelievable number of standing ovations and a great deal of support. As Meade says:

The Dreamer Goes Down For The Count | Via Meadia

Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum.  The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent.  It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.

The speech once again showed that whatever you make of his views, methods and stances, Bibi is a very smooth political operator and an outstanding orator. Obama’s speeches have made his career, so the fact that an (albeit US-educated) Israeli can wipe the floor with him in his home turf says a hell of a lot.

Here are the full video and transcript:

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to his response to the heckler – brilliant and quick, with some of the loudest applause of the whole speech.

You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy. So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran that they’ll be able to do what that young woman just did — I think she’s young; I couldn’t see quite that far…we must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979

It is very difficult to argue with most of Bibi’s stances after watching that in full. He also did make some unprecedented concessions. He not only unequivocally reaffirmed his belief in the two-state solution, but he actually recognised the Palestinian narrative.

No distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy where their creativity and initiative can flourish. Now, we’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years, the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves.

And then he argued for his demand that the Palestinian Authority recognise Israel as a Jewish state, with a very strong argument.

And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy the Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people — and I told you it wasn’t easy for me. I stood before my people, and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end, that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace

I actually think that he was right on the mark here. If the Israelis are willing to accept the Palestinian narrative, accept their claim to the land, treat them as the nation that they define themselves as and affirm their right to their national homeland, why is it so unreasonable that they reciprocate?

Of course it is difficult for them to accept the Zionist narrative, but if they reject everything that 5 million Israelis – and probably another 10 million Zionist Jews in the Diaspora – define themselves by, how can there ever be a peace agreement? How could they ever compromise on anything pragmatically if they can’t make that ideological concession?

He even addressed the refugee issue very well – and he is absolutely right. In the same way that everyone must recognise that the borders will not be identical to pre-1967, not every descendant of Palestinian refugees will be able to move back to the precise town or village where their ancestors lived; but a just solution can be found through other means.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous. All of you, and the president, too, have referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as you’ve been talking about a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.

Well, Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the one and only Jewish state. And Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state.

And here’s what this means: It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

The issues that are controversial are the lines he drew on the map – specifically, refusing to leave the Jordan valley or to divide Jerusalem.

But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it’s therefore vital, absolutely vital, that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it’s vital, absolutely vital, that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.

Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they’re necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. Because in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And, my friends, when I say “Tomorrow,” I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean tomorrow.
…Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites, has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians, but I believe that with creativity and with goodwill, a solution can be found. So this is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well that in the Middle East the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend. So peace must be anchored in security.

That said, I would like to believe that if negotiations were happening, these issues could be addressed. Bibi is unique at the moment in terms of all parties involved in the negotiations in that he alone has laid-out exactly where his lines are and what he wants. Neither Obama nor Abbas and (definitely not Hamas) have stated what it is exactly that they hope to achieve and what their vision of a solution is. So long as Abbas refuses to sit down at the table, it is hard to see how that will ever happen.

It’s true that Bibi too is now refusing to sit down, as a result of the unity agreement with Hamas, but again, how could he negotiate with Hamas? What hope could there possibly be? Hamas see it their God-given duty to kill Jews, they think that if they kill a Jew they go to heaven and if they are killed by a Jew they go to heaven. They believe that Jews controlling a state on what should be Muslim land is a crime against God and that violence is the only way to address this. And yet Israel is supposed to negotiate with them?

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Hamas says “enough bloodshed” and renounces violence, commits to peace process

This is pretty incredible, no one thought that they would ever do this!

Just today, Hamas has announced that it will cease all combat activities in order to quell the rising hostilities in the area and to stave-off a repeat of Israel’s 2008 Gaza incursion:

Hamas seeks calm, stability in Gaza: spokesman – People’s Daily Online.

Taher al-Nouno, spokesman of the Hamas government, said in a press statement sent to Xinhua that “we reiterate that our position is to firmly restore stability and work on calming down the situation in the field.”

“The government has been making internal and external contacts to avoid the Gaza Strip’s new confrontation with Israel,” said al- Nouno, adding that the interior and foreign ministries are working on blocking the Israeli attempt to wage another war on Gaza.

He also stressed that his government has made the decision to cease all combat with Israel and begin talks to achieve Palestinian unity and a viable solution to the conflict, stating that, “the people have had enough. We have had enough. We must do what is important and stop the fighting and bloodshed.”

The Hamas spokesman also called on the Arab League for immediate move “to halt any new Zionist aggression on the Palestinian people and prevent Israel from using the current situation in the region to commit more massacres here.”

You can watch the incredible video of this announcement HERE.

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Why a Palestinian state is an awful idea

 

 

I bet you’re all outraged right now, I would be too. For the record, a Palestinian state is not only a very good idea, but a necessity – there is no way this conflict will ever be solved otherwise.

But there’s one little caveat: it has to be reached through some sort of agreement. Not even a bilateral agreement, I woud argue that it has to be an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian authority, as well as the US, the Arab League, the UN and possibly the Hamas and the EU. Without all of those parties agreeing, there won’t truly be a solution. This is why the idea of Palestine unilaterally declaring a state scares me so much, but they keep threatening to do it:

Abbas: Palestinians to ask for UN recognition if peace talks fail – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been dropping hints that he will leave his post in September should negotiations with Israel not resume by then, and should there be no agreement about the establishment of a Palestinian state.

During a meeting in Ramallah with members of the Council for Peace and Security (who include former top IDF officers ), Abbas declared that the PA intends to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, and to win Israeli recognition for such a state. However, he indicated, if no accord is reached between the two sides, and if serious talks do not resume, the PA will turn to the UN General Assembly in September and request recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Let me take you back to 1987. A lot of stuff happened in that year, good stuff. For instance, your humble author was born, meaning that you get to be reading this right now.

One thing that happened in 1987 is that Arafat declared a Palestinian state and had it recognised by a bunch of other UN states and was bringing it to the General Assembly (GA).

The next thing that happened was the first intifada.

You know what’s going to happen when the UN votes on this? If the UN rejects it, the Palestinian people will not be happy. If the UN accepts it, nothing will change on the ground, the Palestinian people will not be happy. What happens when the Palestinian people, en-masse, aren’t happy? An Intifada.

This also kind of means that Israel would no longer be in a grey area and would be actually breaking international law. Except that under international law, when one sovereign nation attacks another, that is mandate for a war of self-defence, which justifies occupying territory until the conflict is no longer a concern. Rocket attacks from Gaza? Hey, now Bibi has a mandate to re-occupy the territory. It’s also a great way to see checkpoints and curfews re-instated and life getting much worse for Palestinians in the West Bank. Plus there will be more terror attacks in Israel, which are never fun.

On the other hand, the GA has passed so many sanctions against Israel by now that if anything the GA ever did actually had an effect, Israel would have been abolished many times over. Regardless of a GA motion recognising Palestine, as long as the US still supports Israel in the Security Council, nothing will come of it.

Remember that every state who cares boycotts Israel anyway – all Islamic states have had official boycotts going back decades, most won’t even permit anyone to enter the country if they have an Israeli stamp in their passport. The only two with any kind of relationship with Israel are Egypt and Jordan.

If the US does stop supporting Israel over this (which is a possibility with Obama), that will make Israel completely isolated, which will make it feel alone and attacked. What do Israelis do when they feel alone and attacked? Vote Likkud – look at 1997, 2003, 2009 etc. What will Likkud do? change nothing. What happens then? Intifada.

This path will lead to war. That will undo all of the progress that the PA has made to get to the point where it could maybe run a state and bring us right back to 1987. It’s a very bad move, I sincerely hope that Abbas and Fayyad are just posturing.

A Palestinian state is necessary, but the way to get there is through cooperation and dialogue, not unilateral moves and certainly not violence.

For a little more background, see: Co-operation, not collision, with Israel is the only route out for the Palestinian Authority – On Line Opinion – 13/1/2011.

 

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Terrorism, reprisals, civilian casualties: here we go again?

I woke up this morning to the following news:

Deadly bombing the first in Israel in seven years | The Australian

JERUSALEM suffered its first bombing in seven years today when an explosive device hidden in a shopping bag blew up at a bus station during the rush hour, killing one woman and wounding 30.

…Shattered glass from the windows of the bus were strewn across the pavement, which was scorched and smeared with blood.

The attack comes after a fortnight of rising tensions in the Palestinian territories that culminated in a series of military strikes on Gaza.

The group believed to be behind the attack is the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group that takes a more militant stance than Hamas, which has been moderated recently by responsibility. The attack coincided with renewed rocket strikes and was probably in retaliation to a recent Israeli strike that took-out some PIJ leaders:

Analysis: A war on multiple fronts|The Jerusalem Post.

The attack which rocked the entrance to the capital on Wednesday morning came just hours after two Grad-model Katyusha rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Beersheba and another hit south of Ashkelon.

Islamic Jihad had vowed to retaliate against an air strike on Tuesday which killed four of its senior operatives.

This is an absolutely disgusting and inexcusable act, but there has been a whole build-up to this. I know that I’ve been MIA for a few days, but if I had more time to write, I would have been writing about the escalating tensions in this conflict.

Of course, Israel’s strike that killed four militants did not just kill four militants, unfortunately:

GAZA STRIP: Israel tank shells kill three Gaza children, one man | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times

Several Israeli tank shells landed Tuesday at a playground in Gaza City, killing three children and their grandfather and injuring 12 other children and women, hospital sources and witnesses said.

Eyewitnesses said that seven tank shells slammed a playground where children were playing soccer, adding two other shells crashed through the ceiling of a nearby house, injuring six women.

Relatives of those killed said they prevented a group of Palestinian militants from firing mortars into Israel from an area that is adjacent to their houses just half an hour before Israeli tanks fired the shells.

But militants waited until people went for prayers at the neighborhood’s mosque and sent a round of mortar shells beyond the Israel-Gaza borderline, which is a little less than half a mile away from the bombed area.

Although that story does not exactly exonerate PIJ from the killings either.

And then there’s the Itamar massacre on the weekend, which was a complete act of brutality that saw a family literally butchered in their own home:

Immoral equivalencies| The Jerusalem Post.

On March 11, five members of the Fogel family were hideously knifed in their own home at Itamar – the parents Udi and Ruth, 11-year-old Yoav, three-year-old Elad and three-month-old Hadas. The throats of Udi, Yoav and tiny Hadas were slit in their beds. Elad suffered two stab wounds to his heart.

This was anything but a chance mishap.

This was premeditated, beyond cold-hearted.

The homicides were the handiwork of terrorists who encountered their blameless victims face-to-face and, with malice aforethought, did not shrink from piercing an infant’s neck.

The other piece of the puzzle from Israel’s perspective is a sudden and massive increase in rocket fire from Gaza.

Israeli Attack on Gaza Militants Kills Four Civilians – NYTimes.com

Tuesday’s violence came amid a sharp increase in tensions along the Israel-Gaza border in recent days. Hamas has fired more than 60 rockets at Israel since Saturday, and Israeli warplanes and artillery units have carried out repeated attacks. Both sides claim they are retaliating and not seeking an escalation in the conflict, but fears of a repeat of the Israeli war here two years ago were palpable.

And there’s truth to that “tit-for-tat” statement, both sides have been escalating this situation whilst simultaneously calling for the other to stop. It’s like a retarded game of chicken where everyone loses.

Hamas has committed to keeping the truce, but admitted that it voluntarily increased rocket fire:

Hamas repeats commitment to keep unofficial truce

Abu Obaida, spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, said: “If the enemy agrees to avoid escalation and stop the aggression on our people, Hamas will also abide [by the truce].”

He confirmed that Hamas was behind last Saturday’s barrage of mortar attacks on Israel. He claimed that the attacks were a “natural response to the ongoing crimes of the Zionist enemy.”

Abu Obaida said that the attacks came in response to the recent killing by the IDF of Ghassan Abu Amer and Adnan Ishtawi, two Hamas activists.

“The enemy will pay a heavy price if it continues its aggression on the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman cautioned.

And then Israel has re-iterated that it will hold Hamas responsible for every attack:

In Response to Rocket Fire IAF Targets Terror Sites in Gaza Strip

The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will continue to respond harshly to combat terror. The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it.

This may not be entirely fair, as it is not clear how much control Hamas has over PIJ. In fact, there have been reports that Hamas is trying to reduce their activity:

MESS Report-Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News source.

It is noteworthy that Hamas has not fired at Israel over the past two days, even after four Palestinian civilians were killed by errant IDF mortar fire on Tuesday.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s office said yesterday that Haniyeh had phoned the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, Abdallah Ramadan Salah, in Damascus. Pundits in Gaza said Haniyeh asked Salah to stop the escalation, for which Islamic Jihad is mainly responsible.

Although Hamas didn’t exactly seem bothered by the attack in Jerusalem, which luckily the PA at least condemned:

J’lem bombing is a ‘natural response to Israeli crimes| The Jerusalem Post.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in a statement that he “strongly condemns the terror attack in Jerusalem regardless of the identity of the perpetrators.”

Referring to the possibility that Palestinians were behind the attack, Fayyad said it would it be despicable if any Palestinian party was involved, especially in light of the huge damage that such attacks have inflicted on the Palestinians in the past.

Hamas representatives in the Gaza Strip hailed the attack as a “natural response to Israeli crimes against Palestinians.”

The big worry here is that the situation will return to 2007/08 levels, which Israel managed to repair only through a huge military operation. Hopefulyl the sides will see sense, but this has been coming for a while.

There is a whole other side to the past week, which is the games being played between the PA and Hamas, as well as a few settlement issues that were overshadowed by all this violence. This post is getting too long, so you can look forward to that tomorrow.

 

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Don’t give terror a free pass

I didn’t say anything in the last couple of days about the Israeli settler family who were murdered as they slept, or the Israeli government’s response – announcing 500 new units to be constructed in the 3 blocs that almost everyone agrees Israel will hold on to in any final-status agreement (see HERE). This is a huge issue though, and would have received a lot more coverage if the Japan earthquake weren’t overshadowing it all.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens has written an extremely eloquent piece on some of the implications of this saga and the reactions to it, in the context of the broader issues. He argues that the world jumps to criticise Israel for acts of little or no consequence (like construction in an area that they realistically will never withdraw from), whilst giving a “free waiver” to any Palestinian crimes (like butchering children as they sleep), dismissing them as “understandable”, given the alleged severity of Israel’s actions.

Stephens: Are Israeli Settlers Human? – WSJ.com.

I have a feeling that years from now Palestinians will look back and wonder: How did we allow ourselves to become that? If and when that happens—though not until that happens—Palestinians and Israelis will at long last be able to live alongside each other in genuine peace and security.

But I also wonder whether a similar question will ever occur to the Palestinian movement’s legion of fellow travelers in the West. To wit, how did they become so infatuated with a cause that they were willing to ignore its crimes—or, if not quite ignore them, treat them as no more than a function of the supposedly infinitely greater crime of Israeli occupation?

It is precisely in this sense that the frenzied international condemnation of Israeli settlements and settlers does the most harm. Having been accorded the part of George Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein—perpetual target of the proverbial two minutes of hate—they have drained whatever capacity there was to hold Palestinian actions to moral account, to say nothing of our ability to understand the nature of a conflict that is more than simply territorial. The demonization of the settlers has made the world not only coarse but blind.

Much of the conversation that I’ve seen from left-leaning Zionists has been condemnation of the new settlement policy whilst almost overlooking the actual horror of the event. An act as barbarous as this cannot possible be looked-on with anything but disgust.

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