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Israel versus barbarism

This cartoon from The Economist says much.   Grim humour but, despite some core truths, exaggerated with respect to the assigned symmetry of responsibilities.

Is Israel overreacting to the ongoing bombardment of its territories by the Hamas terrorists? Is Israel foolishly ignoring the realignment of political direction in Egypt and other countries or is it taking advantage of internal strife in countries, such as Syria, to prosecute its retributions against those who lob missiles into its territories? I think none of these things.  Israel is simply defending its right to exist as an “garden of paradise in the desert sands”. Surrounded by hostile regimes  Israel seeks its right to continue to exist.  Independent of history what country would not?  The increased security threats that Israel faces from countries such as Egypt  are not a sensible reason to cower to terrorism when the central demand made by the terrorists is for Israel to disappear. There are few other options for Israel. Can anyone who has examined history accept that Israel will make further concessions while it is under bombardment?

The fact of civilian casualties in Gaza is a tragedy of monumental proportions that need to be attributed to Hamas and to those who gave it political power.  Not attributed to Israel which seeks to defend  itself against an enemy that conceals itself in civilian areas among women and children, fires missiles at Israel and which then cries foul when the inevitable and genuinely terrible tragedies occur as a response.

The leaders of Hamas occupy a priviledged position in their terrorist la-la land.  This morning they claimed they will continue shelling Israel until it stops its attacks on Gaza and opens up the borders of Gaza to free trade (presumably in weapons!) .  The latter is something not even Egypt wants. The Hamas leaders further criticise Israel for continuing the bombardment of Gaza when they have been bombarding Israel itself for months and continue to do so at a furious pace today.  750-800 missiles since January this year. Do they really believe that anyone sees such language as anything other than total hypocrisy?

A ground invasion of Gaza despite the signalled accumulation of firepower and troops seems likely to be an outside option.  Hamas does not control all the terrorist groups operating in Gaza so targeting Hamas alone would not make sense. In addition an invasion would be costly in terms of lives and damage.


29 comments to Israel versus barbarism

  • Jim Rose

    Would anyone care what Hamas says if it was not firing those missiles. The power to hurt gives them influence.

    Israel does not really want actually to mount a punitive land expedition into Gaza, fighting house to house and risk troops being taken hostage. Hamas wants to keep at least some missiles. That is enough to parlay a truce.

    The Egyptian and other Arab governments and peoples too are staying quite because they do not want to risk another middle east war. that would destroy the gains of the Arab spring.

  • wjr

    I wish the word “terrorist” could be banned from political discourse. Labelling your enemy as a terrorist or sponsor of terrorism, seems to justify any barbaric behaviour. The Nazi regime knew this only too well when its occupying forces would slaughter whole villages in conquered territories in response to the “terrorist” killing of one German. Gaza is not quite an occupied territory but it is something very close. It is certainly not an independent state. It is more like a vast concentration camp, with no control over its borders, no air or sea port, no capacity to raise tax revenues. Israel has the ability to ignite Gaza any time it wishes, and it seems to use this ability conveniently at election times (2008 and now). All concerns over social issues which have arisen in Israel over the past couple of years could have been a threat to the Netanyahu’s reelection chances have now been forgotten, in the face of “national security” concerns.

    I cannot condone the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, but in all honesty what are the Palestinians supposed to do? They have tried war, terrorism and since Oslo, the path of negotiation. But all the time the annexation of land by Israel continues. Israel likes to claim it would like to reach an agreement over a “two-state” solution, but has no real interest in doing so. Likud’s aim is to create a Greater Israel Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river with Jerusalem as its capital. Unfortunately there are so many of its original inhabitants in the way. It would be so convenient for Israel if the world would accept the way American, Canadian and Australian settlers treated their indigenous peoples, but the world has moved on from there, and ethnic cleansing is no longer acceptable – although Gaza bears a lot of similarities an Indian Reservation of a hundred years ago. So Israel’s strategy seems to be to make life so unbearable for the Palestinians that most will chose to leave.

    By the way did anyone notice the irony of Obama’s remark that any nation would resist rockets being fired into its territory? Does that include Pakistan?

  • hc

    Bill, I agree that the word “terrorism” is generally a loose term but here it is not. The United Nations General Assembly uses the following definition of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public….” Firing 750-800 missiles at civilian targets in Israel seems to be an attempt to “provoke a state of terror in the general public”. I cannot see US firing of drone missiles into parts of Pakistan in this light – it does not have this type of intent, indeed it is designed to pursue killers who explode bombs in marketplaces and mosques. Nor is Israel is targeting civilians – is targeting Hamas and the weapons being directed at it.

    Is Gaza really a giant concentration camp? I think Israel have shown restraint for tolerating almost daily missile attacks from Gaza for years. Ordinary Israelis are terrified of these attacks – I don’t think it is just political manoeuvring.

    Israel’s actions arise because it believes the Palestinians are not prepared to accept its existence as a legitimate state. Why the sanctions against free trade? Because Israel knows that this trade includes the transfer of weapons and missiles that will be directed at it. Again, would you sensibly permit this trade?

    You say “I cannot condone the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, but in all honesty what are the Palestinians supposed to do?” I think you are right with the first bit – in fact no one can condone it. The Egyptians and others condemning Israel assume it just never happened. But it did and is continuing to happen.

  • Jim Rose

    HC, many forget that the Gaza strip is not an enclave of Israel. It has a border with Egypt which the Israel gave up the right to patrol under the Oslo accords as part of its unilateral pull-out from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Complain to Egypt if it closes that border from time to time.

    There are clear legal and military differences between an occupation, a siege and a blockade.

    For example, UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorised military action and a no-fly zone over Libya but it ruled out any “occupation” of Libyan territory. The UN considers an total embargo, a no-fly zone and constant aerial bombardment of Libya not to be an “occupation.”

    Richard Cohen in the Washington Post was on the mark today when he said that Hamas does not care if its own people die because civilian casualties are an asset for them.

    see the google map at which shows that much of Gaza Strip to be rural – ideal for Hamas military and missile bases away from civilians as required by the laws of war.

    The laws of war also call for uniforms and the carrying of weapons openly so the fact that compliance with these laws of law would make Hamas more exposed to air attack is beside the point.

  • rog

    Call it what you will there are some strong similarities between Gaza and the Warsaw ghetto.

  • Jim Rose

    Rog, are Israel’s unilateral pull-out from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the establishment of the Palestinian authority in 1993 similar? Israel seems to be marching in the wrong direction?

    Under the Oslo Accords, Israel kept control of the airspace and territorial waters of Gaza and its border crossings to prevent arms smuggling.

    Gaza has some similarities to the Free City of Danzig between the world wars, the International Zone of Tangiers from 1923 to 1957, but not the Free Territory of Trieste. West Berlin was occupied by the Four Powers until the reunification of Germany.

  • Sir Henry Casingbroke

    David Landau on Latte line tonight answered all your questions and your commenters’. You might as well close this topic off because he nailed the topic comprehensively. There is nothing more to say.

  • hc

    On the way into work this morning I listened to Bob Dylan’s “Neighborhood Bully”:

    Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
    His enemies say he’s on their land
    They got him outnumbered about a million to one
    He got no place to escape to, no place to run
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
    He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
    He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
    He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
    He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
    Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
    He’s always on trial for just being born
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
    Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
    Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
    The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
    That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
    ’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
    And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    He got no allies to really speak of
    What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
    He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
    But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
    They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
    Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
    They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
    Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
    He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
    In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
    No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
    He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
    Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    What’s anybody indebted to him for?
    Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
    Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
    They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
    He’s the neighborhood bully

    What has he done to wear so many scars?
    Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
    Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
    Running out the clock, time standing still
    Neighborhood bully

    Read more:

  • Jim Rose

    I do wonder what the truce talks are about. I assume Hames may have to tone down the missile attacks and control some of the wilder militias.

  • wjr

    I thought this from a blog entry by Craig Murray ( relevant background to the discussion:

    It was a banal, everyday story of Palestinian villagers being evicted from their land in the occupied West Bank, to make way for an Israeli “military zone”. These pastoralists had lost a thousand hectares to the Israelis in the last few years, and now these ancient villages were being finally, forcibly, evacuated in a vicious act of ethnic cleansing. The shepherds claimed that what this was really about, was the precious springs that watered their livestock. Work was already starting to divert their water to nearby, and illegal, burgeoning Israeli settlements.

    The BBC World Service TV has this minute, at 9.00am GMT, started its news broadcast as usual from Ashkelon in Israel, highlighting rocket attacks on Israel. There is no mention on the BBC – there has never been any mention on the BBC, or anywhere in the Western mainstream media – that for at least 4,000 years Ashkelon was an Arab town, until in 1948 the entire, Arab population of 12,000 was driven out by armed force, many being massacred. Doubtless some older inhabitants of Gaza are refugees whose home is Ashkelon.

    Israel is exercising its right of self-defence in precisely the same sense that Hitler was exercising the right of self-defence in Normandy in 1944 – ie not at all. Why the world puts up with this blatant ethnic cleansing and prolonged, agonizing genocide of the Palestinain people, I have no idea. It is not just about bombs and rockets and deaths now. It is about the shepherds being pushed out of their village in 2012 as part of the same process of the massacre of Ashkelon in 1948, all a process of genocide of the Palestinians in which Obama, Clinton, Cameron and Hague, as two wholw generations of western politicians before them, are actively complicit.

  • Jim Rose

    wjr, would you support a popular front for the liberation of occupied eastern prussia. the front is trying to right the wrongs of the 1945 ethnic cleansings.

    truce just announced. will it hold? who will break it?

  • wjr

    Jim Rose – Germany had conducted a horrific war of aggression against the Soviet Union, which lost up to 20m people.

    Israel was awarded a part of Palestine by the UN in 1948. It wants to grab all of it using whatever methods it needs to,
    no matter how repugnant. It is only because it has the backing of the US political class intimidated
    by the powerful pro_israel lobby and media that it gets away with it. But the tide is turning. Slowly people are beginning
    to realise what is going on, with the support of their governments (Canadian Govt. is no better). As Lincoln said, “You can fool all
    of the people some of the time etc….” Already establishment figures like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Gerald Kauffman
    are speaking out. More will follow.

  • JB Cairns

    Sorry but I don’t agree lobbing those bombs terrorised Israelis. For one thing they were not missiles. They had little accuracy at all.
    For another if one studied Israeli newspapers they had little impact on Israeli life.

    For another the Arab terrorists have murdered far less people than the Israeli terorists such as Begin or Shamir.
    I haven’t seen any large population changes at all.

    I agree with Landau.
    When countries eventually realise whom the palestinians voted for they might get somewhere.

  • Jim Rose

    wjr, why are borders in 1861, 1919, 1945, 1948, 1956 or 1967 or any other time morally superior?

    Revanchism is a recipe for endless wars. Revanchism is the desire to reverse territorial losses.

    the borders in Europe are so fluid even now that collecting the vastly different maps of Europe is a hobby. there is a web link with a gif. of maps back to before roman times.

    The formation of the common market put an end to Revanchism in Europe. What is the old free trade catch-cry about when there are national borders, troops will soon follow?

  • wjr

    Jim Rose: Your position seems to be that you endorse the capture of territory by military force. Hasn’t the world moved beyond that?
    After the horrors of WW2, the world decided that this was one of the major causes of great power wars and decided to outlaw it in
    the founding declaration of the UN.

    And leaving aside the history for a moment, do you condone the theft of land in the West Bank and the Negev (see previous post) that
    is going on IN THE PRESENT DAY as Western governments turn a blind eye (or are intimidated into saying nothing as Obama found out when he stated that
    Israel should put a temporary moratorium on settlement building)?

    If you believe simply that might makes right, then say so. Don’t try and dress it up with historical analogies, and talk of legal differences between
    occupations sieges and blockades.

  • Jim Rose

    my position is revanchism – the desire to reverse territorial losses – is a recipe for endless wars. The warmongering sections of Left has other views.

    Israel gave back territory when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 1995. Did it get peace in return?

    Gaza was never part of Israel. Egypt occupied it prior to the 1967 war.

  • Jim Rose

    the palmer report is 2011 said that: “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”


  • wjr

    Jim, Jim . . . You didn’t answer my question ” Do you condone the theft of land in the West Bank and the Negev that
    is going on IN THE PRESENT DAY?” And here is a second question: What should happen to the Palestinians who are
    dispossessed by these illegal actions? Should they have Israeli citizenship? Should they remain stateless? Or should
    they be expelled i.e ethnically cleansed?

    And by the way since you like to argue in terms of legalities, the UN still regards Gaza as occupied territory. So Israel
    did not “give back” Gaza in 1995. As somebody above pointed out its situation resembles that of the Warsaw Ghetto.
    Its inhabitants are stateless (as were Jews under Nazi regime); it has no control over its borders nor access to tax revenues;
    Israel controls what goes in and what is exported. Its inhabitants were to be “put on a diet” (Dov Weisglass). I can see the argument
    for monitoring imports to prevent importation of weapons, but what is the justification for restricting exports, if not collective
    punishment of keeping unemployment and misery levels high?

    I maintain that the ruling faction in Israel have a deliberate policy of making life hell for the Palestinians. They are content with (and even
    encourage low levels of violence from the Palestinians, because they can use this in their argument that there is “no partner for peace”. They
    are happy to keep Palestinians in a situation where they have citizenship rights in no country (i.e. are stateless). Hence watch them pull out
    all of the stops to prevent a UN motion giving them observer status at General Assembly. The pressure on and from US and EU on other
    countries is no doubt immense.

  • Jim Rose

    wjr, do you want every local squabble to escalate as outsiders’ take sides rather than stay out of the fray? Neutrality limits conflicts instead of escalating them.

    Canon Sydney Smith was a classical liberal in early 19th century England who wrote this to his warmongering PM thus:

    “For God’s sake, do not drag me into another war! I am worn down, and worn out, with crusading and defending Europe, and protecting mankind; I must think a little of myself.

    I am sorry for the Spaniards – I am sorry for the Greeks – I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Baghdad is oppressed, I do not like the present state of the Delta; Tibet is not comfortable. Am I to fight for all these people?

    The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. Am I to be champion of the Decalogue, and to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy?

    We have just done saving Europe, and I am afraid the consequence will be, that we shall cut each other’s throats. No war, dear Lady Grey! – No eloquence; but apathy, selfishness, common sense, arithmetic!”

    HT: Murray Rothbard

  • wjr

    Well Jim I do agree with you on this. I only wish that Bush, Blair, the NeoCons, PNAC and Liberal Interventionists would have followed this advice. With the bombing of Serbia, NATO essentially ripped up one of the major principles of behind the formation of the UN not to mention a tacit agreement that went back to the Treaty of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years War. In some ways I regret the collapse of the Iron Curtain – tough on those who had to live behind it, but life would no doubt be better for citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, and the world an altogether safer place.

    But with respect to Israel, our governments are already deeply involved, providing aid and the latest weaponry along with diplomatic cover at the UN and in other international forums. It is only when citizens of western counties become aware what is happening in Palestine, that these governments will be persuaded to follow a different policy. So discussion and raising awareness of the issues are important.

  • rog

    Wars are essentially trade wars, the humanitarian aspect is a political angle.

  • Jim Rose

    Rothbard was old enough to remember when “he kept us out of the war” was the highest tribute for a political leader while now the pundits condemn any leader who “stands idly by”.

    Edward Luttwak pointed out that the Kosovo war proved that precision modern air bombardments can be effective as an intervention only in unique circumstances:
    1. an enemy sufficiently developed to offer targets worth bombing
    2. but sufficiently democratic to care about the deaths of civilians, and
    3. yet be sufficiently primitive and authoritarian to become the target of such bombing in the first place.

    that is a very short list.

  • “he’s not one of us.”In 1973 labor would have been Kaput. But it wasn’t immediate. First Arik Sharon tried his hand at fnirmog a new party, Shlomzion. The voters gave him 2 seats. Then, he went to Begin, (an old rascal if there ever was one); and he talked Begin into “Likud.” Then? Move dates forward, and you see Likudniks tried to turn Sharon into a sock puppet.Now? Yes, Israel has unity. But Gaza caused a rift, as much as an opportunity. You know, I think Sharon understood that Gaza would lob dreck at Sderot. He was prepared. Lebanon? Now, just a military bonus thrown into the mix. But Iran’s a real menace. And, lebanon, in bed with iran, like the french were with the germans, need to get whalloped so hard their heads stink worse than their cheeses. Olmert has a political death wish with his “convergence.” But we have to wait and see. CAROL HERMAN

  • derrida derider

    What Hamas is terrified about is being sold out by those Fatah “collaborators” in the West Bank. A peace deal would leave both Hamas and Gaza out in the cold. What Netenyahu is terrified about is losing an election and the settlers being “sold out” by those peaceniks in Labour. A peace deal would freeze Likud out of government indefinitely.

    Hamas and Netenyahu have identical political interests here – making sure the pro-peace faction in Israel lose the upcoming election. Hamas has been lobbing crude (and fairly harmless) home-made rockets for a while now trying to get Netenyahu to do something, but he preferred to wait until the election was close. On his signal (that assasination) Hamas then laucnhed their limited stock of proper (Iranian) missiles – hence a few actual Israeli casualties (3 dead). The 180 Palestian dead, of course, are not a concern for either Netenyhu or Hamas; politics is politics …

  • JB Cairns

    DD has hit the nail on the head.

    Whilst neither side wants war neither side wants peace either.

    Israel assassinate the main Hamas person trying to get a peace accord together.

    Both sides ‘win’

    I found it tragic that the Palestinijnans held an election which Hamas clearly won and then they were not allowed to govern.

    This meant the realists lost face and those wanting violence gained the upper hand.

  • Jim Rose

    JB, on Hamas, remember Huntington’s “Two Turnover Test” in democratic consolidations

    The party who won the first election after the autocrat or the colonial government left are not always keen to give up the reins of power.

    for a nation to move from an emergent to a stable democracy, it must undergo two democratic and peaceful turnovers of ruling parties.

    After an emerging democracy’s first turnover, the new administration often reverts to authoritarian rule.

    I read that the second turnover in Ireland in the later 1920s was a bit hairy. The Irish civil war was just a few years previous. Taiwan had a second turnover in 2000. Thailand seems to still struggle with the second turnover.

  • JB Cairns

    that argument becomes academic if you do not even give the people to become the politicians of realpolitik

  • Jim Rose

    does anyone fire missiles from the West Bank, which is partly occupied by Israel? what stops Hamas from doing that as it did prior to 2005 from the Gaza when it was occupied?

    Is it because Hamas gains political capital from both killing civilians and getting its own people in the Gaza killed in counter-strikes? Is there no political capital from firing missiles and morters from the West Bank?

    A very calculating business is Hamas.

  • John Brolokes

    I find it odd that some artworks stolen by the Nazis in WW2 are returned to their rightful owners (or their descendants), but the land stolen by the Israelis is theirs to keep.

    And Israel and Gaza and the West Bank just reminds me of South Africa and apartheid. It should be one secular state with equal rights for all.

    But of course neither the Israelis or the Palestinians want that.

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