Posts Tagged War

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.

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More on defence spending and the South Pacific

Despite not being the “shadow CIA” that Julian Assange tried to pretend it was (mostly so that hacking them could seem like a big deal), strategic consulting company does provide some useful analysis.

In this week’s dispatch, Stratfor director George Friedman has analysed the strategy of Australia, trying to answer the question of why a country that seems both secure and wealthy would take part in so many wars that do not directly affect its security.

As Friedman details, the answer is that Australia must contribute to our strategic alliance with the Us in order to guarantee US support in our own region. As I have pointed out, the maritime routes in the South Pacific are not quite as secure as they seem, and will probably be the subject of some conflict over the coming decades.
Australia’s Strategy | Stratfor.

This leads to Australia’s strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia’s economy are at risk. …

Australia is in a high-risk situation, even though superficially it appears secure. Its options are to align with the United States and accept the military burdens that entails, or to commit to Asia in general and China in particular. Until that time when an Asian power can guarantee the sea-lanes against the United States — a time that is far in the future — taking the latter route would involve pyramiding risks. Add to this that the relationship would depend on the uncertain future of Asian economies — and all economic futures are now uncertain — and Australia has chosen a lower-risk approach.

This approach has three components. The first is deepening economic relations with the United States to balance its economic dependencies in Asia. The second is participating in American wars in order to extract guarantees from the United States on sea-lanes. The final component is creating regional forces able to handle events in Australia’s near abroad, from the Solomon Islands through the Indonesian archipelago. But even here, Australian forces would depend on U.S. cooperation to manage threats.

Once again, Australia is secure because we have played our strategic hand very well over the past century, but this may not necessarily be the case in future. Reducing our military — and especially naval — capabilities by cutting defence spending, as the Government is, is a huge mistake.

There is no shortage of Government projects that could be cut back instead of defence . We can start with some of these ridiculous middle class welfare/pork-barrelling measures that my favourite treasurer has just introduced, or that useless bid for a seat on the UN Security Council that has been our top foreign policy endeavour since 2009.

What is the point of having a vote in the Security Council when we are a military non-event?

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All these drums, where’s the fife?

Apparently the “drums of war”  keep beating for Iran:

U.S., Iran, Israel should cool the rhetoric – CNN.com.

In 2012, hard-nosed rhetoric from the United States and Israel has accompanied an ever louder drumbeat for a possible “military option” to combat Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s nuclear adventure | The Australian.

THE war drums are beating and people everywhere should be speaking out against this latest plan for aggression masquerading as justifiable pre-emptive strategy.

But it’s not a true war march without the fife. Here’s how a  real nation goes to war:

 

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The language says it all on Libya

A friend of mine recently argued to me that Egypt showed that police power is not enough to prevent a revolution, therefore the Arab countries that have not yet seen widespread protests must be doing something right. Not so my friend – Egypt and Tunisia were very different cases to the rest of the region.

Tunisia is the most modern, and most secularised Arab country, with the highest level of economic development out of all of them. Egypt has a 6,000-year history as a proud nation and the Egyptian army is made of Egyptians, who are patriotic and love their country, their people and their nation. This is why Egypt’s military response to the protests was muted, despite Mubarak’s best efforts; even though he was a military leader originally, he did not have the sufficient influence over his army to make it brutal enough to stamp-out the unrest that his country was seeing.

Contrast this with Libya. Gaddafi was not a patriot and he was not about making his country great, he has always been concerned with power and power alone. He changed the flag and changed the army – relying less on Libyan recruits and more on imported mercenaries to make-up his military and his secret police. These are not loyal Libyans serving their country; they are career thugs, loyal only to the man who pays them. This is why they have few qualms about firing indiscriminately on “their” own people and why more is needed than just protests to take Gaddafi down.

It is obvious now that “people power” was not enough to depose Gaddafi, and those opposing him have realised this. Having taken a significant chunk of the Libyan coast, they have begun forming and training a militia in order to pose a challenge to Gaddafi’s private army.

Subtle details in the media’s language says everything in a story like this. Originally, the Libyans filling Benghazi’s centre were “anti-government protesters” or “demonstrators”, similar to Egypt and Tunisia, as well as Bahrain, Yemen and all of the other countries seeing unrest. One month on, the Egyptians and Tunisians are “revolutionaries” – having protested their governments down. In Libya, they are now “Libyan rebels”.

Obama to Appoint Special Representative to Libyan Rebels – NYTimes.com.

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Friday that he would appoint a special representative to Libya’s rebel leaders and that the Treasury Department had placed sanctions on nine more family members and friends of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in an effort to force the Libyan leader to resign.

What’s the significance of this? Revolutions have revolutionaries, and Libya is no longer seeing a revolution. Rebels belong to a different class of event: a civil war. The “demonstrators” have become a bona fide militia and are now battling Gaddafi’s forces for territory, taking the country city-by-city and struggling to hold on to what has been gained. Unfortunately, people power is not enough to overcome a true dictatorship – what has yet to be seen is whether or not the West needs to step-in and help drive Gaddafi’s forces out of Tripoli*.

*Or if you’re Paul McGeough, whether the Zio-Crusader Empire is going to occupy Libya like it did Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine…

Photos: from this awesome photoessay in The Atlantic.

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Nasrullah threats: serious talk or diversion?

 

 
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrullah gave some very big posturing yesterday against Israel:

‘Hezbollah will conquer Galilee if there is war’.

“I tell the fighters of the resistance that one day they might be asked to liberate the Galilee,” Nasrallah said at a “Resistance Martyrs Day” ceremony.

“The Israelis are afraid,” Nasrallah said. “I want to assure you and tell the Israelis that they should be careful because the blood of Imad Mugniyeh will not go to waste.”

“Gantz came to visit the Lebanon border – welcome,” Nasrallah said, referring to the new IDF chief of staff. “He is the one that was defeated and pulled IDF troops out of Lebanon. You have a completely weak chief of staff.”

The question is whether this actually means war, or whether he is trying to threaten Israel in order to distract the Lebanese population from the upcoming indictments against Hizballah members for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri’s son and successor Saad, who leads the Sunni bloc in the Lebanese parliament, has refused to reject the UN tribunal’s findings, causing Hizballah to pull-out of the ruling coalition and leaving Lebanon without a government. I previously linked to this analysis from Yaakov Katz of the Jerusalem Post explaining the distraction theory.

This is not the first time that Hizballah has been posturing against Israel in order to distract from domestic affairs. The reality is that after the 2006 Lebanon war, despite claiming a great victory, Hizballah has been very tentative in its dealings with Israel for fear of a repeat. Israel has now promised to hold all of Lebanon responsible for Hizballah’s actions, given that Hizballah is now a part of the ruling coalition, meaning that the response to any escalation in tensions could be even more devastating.

It goes without saying that another war is in no one’s interests, but if it sees itself as facing a choice between another civil war against the Sunni factions in Lebanon and another guerrilla conflict with Israel, Hizballah may decide to go down the second path. Let’s just cross our fingers that neither outcome happens…

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Israel’s biggest threat right now?

So Iran’s nuclear program has a few more years, giving Israel a little breathing room, and the Palestinians aren’t attacking, for now at least. Apparently, Israeli Arabs are even more scared by terror attacks than Israeli Jews, meaning that Israel doesn’t need to worry so much about internal terror – for now at least.

There’s even a brief respite in the North – Hizballah has just decided to pull out of the ruling coalition in Lebanon and so collapse the Lebanese government:

Lebanon’s year-old unity government collapsed Wednesday after Hizbullah ministers and their allies resigned over tensions stemming from a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The walkout ushers in the country’s worst political crisis since 2008 in one of the most volatile corners of the Middle East.

The tribunal was widely expected to name members of Hizbullah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could re-ignite sectarian tensions that have plagued the tiny country for decades.

This is terrible for Lebanon, which is looking more and more likely to go into a civil war. As Hizballah is the most powerful military force in Lebanon, the only way that it would not win the civil war would be for other countries to intervene, turning the civil war into a regional war, which would not be fun for anyone.

That said, until that happens, Hizballah is probably too pre-occupied with Lebanon to start attacking Israel (unless they decide to attack Israel as a distraction, as explained here).

So point is, no one is really shooting at Israelis right now. So what’s the problem? Well Israel Beitenu has just decided to set-up a Knesset committee to investigate a few left-wing NGOs because apparently they are trying to “stop the IDF from doing their job”. This is bad, whichever way you look at it – singling out NGOs who disagree with their specific agenda makes a mockery of everything people like me have been saying about free speech in Israel. In fact, in response to some members of ruling right-wing party Likkud voting against the idea, Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman said:

”When I saw people from the right vote together with [Arab MPs] Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, it was a strange spectacle.”

This is 100% true, but not for the reason Lieberman thinks. It says a lot more about the proposal than Likkud – it’s not even that it’s right wing, it’s just a really bad idea. It also reflects really badly on Israel, it’s crazy that a man who would push this kind of thing through so blindly is actually supposed to be Foreign Minister – representing Israel to the world. In fact, he’s doing a really bad job of it. Just as Israel was mending relationships with Turkey, a key ally, Lieberman ran his mouth and ruined it all; he also undermines everything the rest of Israel is saying about trying to reach peace by saying that it is not possible.

Netanyahu responds to all this by saying that Liberman is “entitled to his own opinion” and rightly pointing-out that despite his title, Lieberman’s ideas are his own and are not Israeli policy. The problem is, Netanyahu feels that he can’t drop Lieberman from the coalition and take the centrist Kadima instead, since then Likkud would be seen as moving left and Beitenu would become the party of the right.

And I mentioned the Israeli Arabs before. Problem is, there are a bunch of rabbis who are trying to stop them from being able to buy land from Jews. This is understandably causing a very bad reaction amongst them. It also again makes Israel look awful and undermines the idea of Israel being an equal society with human rights. The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community just lives in a different world – they don’t serve in the IDF, they have extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty and they have a warped world view. Of course, this is the view of a minority and is not Israeli policy, but try explaining that to someone who is prejudiced against Israel already. Also, if current demographic trends continue, Israeli Arabs and Haredi Jews will make up the majority of Israel’s population later this century; if current social trends continue, Israel may look a lot like Lebanon at that point.

It’s really difficult to see a way out of the current situation, but one thing is clear – in this period of relative calm, the biggest threat to Israel is probably from within. I have no idea how these problems could be solved.

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Hamas: the Holocaust was a lie, there’s going to be a war and other light reading

The lie according to which they were a victim of a holocaust and the (Jewish) people are a victim — this lie has crumbled with the holocaust of Beit Hanun, the holocaust of Al-Fakhura and the other countless holocausts … committed by the Zionist enemy

This from Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar at a commemoration for one of the attacks during Operation Cast-Lead. The event in question was where the IDF dropped a bomb outside a UN school in response to a mortar being fired from the schoolyard and unfortunately killing innocent people who were seeking shelter in the school as well as the mortar crew.

This was a tragedy and Hamas are well within their rights to hold a ceremony commemorating it, but it most definitely was not an act of genocide. The whole of Cast-Lead killed about 0.1% of the population within Gaza – this being a population that is rapidly expanding. Not to take away from the deaths of innocents, but to suggest that Israel was trying to wipe-out the Palestinians there is ludicrous – if that were the case, Israel could easily have just carpet-bombed the Strip. Plus adding Holocaust denial to his statement just makes a mockery of anyone who thinks that Hamas’ leadership is anything less than anti-Semitic and hateful.

These statements come as tensions around Gaza are ramping up – Jeffrey white from the Washington Institute:

In December 2010, violence increased significantly along Israel’s border with Gaza, manifest by high-trajectory fire (rockets and mortars) on southern Israel, counterstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and clashes along the border security fence. The Gaza situation since the end of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 has been characterized by similar periods of increased violence and tension. Although these episodes have not produced major hostilities, the deterrence established by Cast Lead is decaying over time. Neither Hamas nor Israel may be seeking another round of serious fighting, but the potential for such fighting has nonetheless grown.

In a meeting with Netanyahu yesterday, Egypt’s president warned that threatening Hamas reduces the stability of the region. There’s no doubt that Cast-Lead had a very negative impact on Israel in terms of its relationship with its neighbours, particularly Turkey, but it was necessary at the time to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza. Let’s just hope that the current escalation doesn’t go too far.

Also watch this video from CNN, on a related note:

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