Sunday, January 11, 2009


Long live Palestine. Long live Israel. Long live New York:


Anonymous Dan Hilborn said...

Thank you, Terry, for providing one of the few voices of sanity on this awful situation.

Peace is a wonderful idea.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous shokal said...

I've been following this issue for years and one thing that frustrates me to no end is the self censorship which exists around this issue in North America. There are far braoder debates taking place about this war in Israel, which cannot occur here. If only someone in our media could speak with the clarity and moral courage of Israeli writer Gideon Levy. Here's Levy

"This war, perhaps more than its predecessors, is exposing the true deep veins of Israeli society. Racism and hatred are rearing their heads, as is the impulse for revenge and the thirst for blood. The "inclination of the commander" in the Israel Defense Forces is now "to kill as many as possible," as the military correspondents on television describe it. And even if the reference is to Hamas fighters, this inclination is still chilling.

The unbridled aggression and brutality are justified as "exercising caution": the frightening balance of blood - about 100 Palestinian dead for every Israeli killed, isn't raising any questions, as if we've decided that their blood is worth one hundred times less than ours, in acknowledgement of our inherent racism.

Rightists, nationalists, chauvinists and militarists are the only legitimate bon ton in town. Don't bother us about humaneness and compassion. Only at the edges of the camp can a voice of protest be heard - illegitimate, ostracized and ignored by media coverage - from a small but brave group of Jews and Arabs.

You can't have it both ways. The only "purity" in this war is the "purification from terrorists," which really means the sowing of horrendous tragedies. What's happening in Gaza is not a natural disaster, an earthquake or flood, for which it would be our duty and right to extend a helping hand to those affected, to send rescue squads, as we so love to do. Of all the rotten luck, all the disasters now occurring in Gaza are manmade - by us. Aid cannot be offered with bloodstained hands. Compassion cannot sprout from brutality.

Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate - and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.

Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Here's what I don't get.

We're told that some kind of "self-censorship" obtains regarding this issue in North America, and yet the arguments Levy makes are ubiquitous here in North America. Yes, perhaps you won't find many people in the official punditocracy taking up Levy's "It's all Israel's fault" line (or absurdly holding all Israelis who support the current offensive explicitly responsible for its excesses, as Levy does), but that's hardly evidence that there is any "self-censorship" going on. More likely, it's that most reasonable people think that Levy's line of thinking is maybe just a tiny bit nutty.

You say "There are far broader debates taking place about this war in Israel, which cannot occur here," and yet you cite Levy as evidence, and Levy contradicts you. Levy writes that in Israel, the current Israeli offensive "isn't raising any questions," and "Only at the edges of the camp can a voice of protest be heard."

What's especailly absurd about that is that Gideon Levy is a columnist for Haaretz, hardly a self-censored voice at the eges of some "camp." Haaretz is Israel's oldest daily, and one of its most influential newspapers. Its English-language edition is probably cited in North America more than any other Israeli journal. The specific essay you cite, which appeared only a couple of days ago, has already been picked up by dozens of North American webzines and discussion forums.

That said, I would actually be very surprised if there were not "far broader debates taking place about this war in Israel." It is Israel that is at war, after all. Israel is the country Hamas has declared an abomination before God and has pledged to destroy. I should rather hope that Israelis are talking about it more than us here in North America.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous shokal said...

I remember reading an article a while back by Edward Said where he was discussing the the taboo that exists around the question of Palestine in the United States. He had an extended dialogue with another Israeli writer which featyred a frank discussion about the events of 1948, and Israel's responsibility for all this. There was the a reply Meron Benvenisti, ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek. It was disgustingly personal, full of insults and slander against Said and his family. But he never denied that there was a Palestinian people, or that we were driven out in 1948. In fact he said, we conquered them, and why should we feel guilty? Siad then replied and the whole dialogue was contained in the paper. He argued that this interview would have never made an Ameerican newspaper. I'm not sure how true this is now,as there is far greater awareness about the Nakba, but it seems to me that it is the case that the Palestinian narrative is so poorly know in the Western world and the Palestinian people have come to be demonised and slandered in truly vile ways. Partly I think this has to do with western guilt and complicity around the holocaust combined with orientalist and racist ideas about Arabs and Palestinians.

As for Levy his view at once available widely in Israel for discussion while at the same time being repressedd through the forces of militarism, nationalism and anti Palestinian racism. These two coexist. It seems to me that in North America at the level of offcial mainstream media we do not have an honest dialogue about these issues.

More when the entire world knows the name and face of a captured Israeli soldier, while thousands of palestinians are locked away as political prisoners; when Israeli victims are given identities while Palestinian die nameless, we have a serious issue of representation. We also have an issue of langauge in the media. The occupation is seen to be an issue of some "settlements" instead of a systematic policy of closures, roadblocks, house demolitions, assasinations, harrasment, bureacracy which effects Palestinian lives on a daily basis. Much of our media has recentluy for example repeated Israeli lies that it ended its occupation of Gaza when it still controls air space, water, border acess, implements a criminal blockade and reserves the right to invade, kill and maim at will.

I think though that the strnaglehold is starting to break as every day of Israel imposes worse and worse forms of punishment. The formation of groups like J street, the increasing boldness of jewish activist in denounding Israeli violence have dealt a blow to the control that jewish groups like AIPAC once commanded. In that way the tide is turining and hopefully it can be reflected in the media's coverage of this issue.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous shokal said...

"It is Israel that is at war, after all. Israel is the country Hamas has declared an abomination before God and has pledged to destroy."

Not only is this simplistic but its ahistorical to the point of bordering on the absurd. There's a brilliant article posted over at the guardian by oxford historian Avi Shlaim which should really be a must read for those grappling with the historical forces which got us here in the first place. Let me quote a relevant passage

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak - terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

(It is Israel that is at war, after all. Israel is the country Hamas has declared an abomination before God and has pledged to destroy.)

"Not only is this simplistic but its ahistorical to the point of bordering on the absurd."

It is a fact.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous shokal said...

Perhaps the perspective of William Sieghart a professor in conflict resolution, who has met frequantly with Hamas can introdice you to a more nuanced and complex way of thinking

"In the five years that I have been visiting Gaza and the West Bank, I have met hundreds of Hamas politicians and supporters. None of them has professed the goal of Islamising Palestinian society, Taleban-style. Hamas relies on secular voters too much to do that. People still listen to pop music, watch television and women still choose whether to wear the veil or not.

"The political leadership of Hamas is probably the most highly qualified in the world. Boasting more than 500 PhDs in its ranks, the majority are middle-class professionals - doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers. Most of its leadership have been educated in our universities and harbour no ideological hatred towards the West. It is a grievance-based movement, dedicated to addressing the injustice done to its people. It has consistently offered a ten-year ceasefire to give breathing space to resolve a conflict that has continued for more than 60 years.

The Bush-Blair response to the Hamas victory in 2006 is the key to today's horror. Instead of accepting the democratically elected Government, they funded an attempt to remove it by force; training and arming groups of Fatah fighters to unseat Hamas militarily and impose a new, unelected government on the Palestinians. Further, 45 Hamas MPs are still being held in Israeli jails.

Six months ago the Israeli Government agreed to an Egyptian- brokered ceasefire with Hamas. In return for a ceasefire, Israel agreed to open the crossing points and allow a free flow of essential supplies in and out of Gaza. The rocket barrages ended but the crossings never fully opened, and the people of Gaza began to starve. This crippling embargo was no reward for peace.

When Westerners ask what is in the mind of Hamas leaders when they order or allow rockets to be fired at Israel they fail to understand the Palestinian position. Two months ago the Israeli Defence Forces broke the ceasefire by entering Gaza and beginning the cycle of killing again. In the Palestinian narrative each round of rocket attacks is a response to Israeli attacks. In the Israeli narrative it is the other way round.

But what does it mean when Mr Barak talks of destroying Hamas? Does it mean killing the 42 per cent of Palestinians who voted for it? Does it mean reoccupying the Gaza strip that Israel withdrew from so painfully three years ago? Or does it mean permanently separating the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, politically and geographically? And for those whose mantra is Israeli security, what sort of threat do the three quarters of a million young people growing up in Gaza with an implacable hatred of those who starve and bomb them pose?

It is said that this conflict is impossible to solve. In fact, it is very simple. The top 1,000 people who run Israel - the politicians, generals and security staff - and the top Palestinian Islamists have never met. Genuine peace will require that these two groups sit down together without preconditions. But the events of the past few days seem to have made this more unlikely than ever. That is the challenge for the new administration in Washington and for its European allies."

1:22 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

William Sieghart does not introduce me to a nuanced or complex way of thinking. He's a well-monied flake whose public relations agency specifically sets out to fault the "Western secularist midset" for all our problems and to promote religion. 'Yes, these Hamas lads, lovely chaps really. PhDs and everything. Why, we could have them round to the club for toddies. Sort things out. It would be smashing!'

Go away, Shokal.

Sieghart is a fool.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous shokal said...

Muckracking journalist Max Blumethal confronts the protestors and war mongerers at a rally in New York. A great video

8:43 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Go away, Shokal.

I'm disappointed, Terry. The points put forward seem reasonable, and they have been presented in a non-abusive manner. This kind of response from you makes it look as if you are either disinterested in dialog, or only interested in commentary that agrees with you position.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

The "points" being put forward by Shokal are cut and paste jobs from wankers, all aimed to reiterate, over and over again, that it's all Israel's fault. That's not dialogue. It's trolling, it's cluttering up this place, and it gets in the way of real dialogue. Why don't you invite him over to your blog?

11:40 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

It's trolling

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Shokal said...

I've never argued onmce that its all "Israels fault" nor am i sure what that even means. What I've said is that to view this conflict as being about Hamas desire to destroy Israel is to put on the blinders, shut off critical thinking, dienage from any historical analysis, and ignore the fact that this isn't a "war" between two equal sides but a lonstading conflict between an occupier and the occupied. It's what Tony Kushner, one of the most dynamic playwrites of hgis generation said this morning on Democracy Now. He has been to Gaza and the West Bank and said that living one day under the occupation would destroy the whole set of illusions we carry around with us that Israel is enaged in a form of self defence as it colonises, brutalises and as we speal slauighters Palestinian lives.

Terry can you name me an Israeli govenment which has recongnised the existence of the Palestinian people in even 22 per cent of their historic land, as laid out by UN resolutions? Israel has reserved for itself the right to attack neighbouring countries, refugee camps, build colonial settlements, entrech an parthied system in the West Bank, while playing divide and conquer games with the Palestinian leadership. It has relied and worked with reactionary Arab govenrments in promoting these aims and imprisoned Palestinians who oppsoe this project whether they be marxist, nationalist or Islamist. It seems to me that Israel is in Gaza waging a war not on Hamas but on the basic fabric of Palestinian civil ife, making life as unbeareable as possible, destroying insitutions, attacking civilians and attempting to the Palestinian question from a political one to a humanatarian catastrophe. In practice and history whether from Deir Yassin, to 1967, to Sabra and Shatilla or present day Gaza it has been the Palestinians who have been pushed off the map and had their existance as a people threatened. That they still exist speaks to ongoing steadfast resistance to their oppression.

Your own position seems to be that Israel is justified in carrying out these assaults on Gaza, as it must deal with the threat posed to itr by Hamas. That might make for good propaganda but its utterly divorced from any semblance of reality. More so it runs against what's been put out from the secular left in palestine whether ot be the marxist PLFP or Mustafa barghouti's Palestine National Initiastive. Where, too, is your solidarity with the ISraeli left, the refusniks, Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, B'tselem and others.

11:58 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Just out of curiosity, Terry, what is your position on Israel's peace movement? You have decried the lack of a coherent or moral peace movement here that has contributed to the current crisis (a view that I am personally not sympathetic to), but I wonder if you feel the same about the Israeli anti-war movement.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Jesus H. Christ, DPU.

Read my first post on this subject. Read at least one of the subsequent posts that answer your specific question. Real peace movement (i.e. One Voice, Combatatants for Peace, Just Vision, etc: In favour. Fake "anti-war" movement: against.

Reduction of the debate to such useless binary categories in the first place: against.

1:33 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Crabby much?

1:42 PM  
Anonymous shokal said...

The three groups that you've listed strike me more as NGO's than broad political movements, nor am I sure what they are actaully doing on the ground but fair enough, I guess. Nor I am too impressed to discover that OneVoice's board of directorsin incluse experts and lumanaries such as Danny Devito, discredited apologists for Israeli violence like Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross and Arab dictators in the form of King Abdullah. Forgetting this for the moment, when I think of the Israeli peace movement, actual activists such as Uri Avnery, his group Gush Shalom, the brave men who have risked Israeli prison terms in order not to serve in the occupied territories--the refusniks--come to mind. Are they "real" or fake "anti war" in your odd and quite vague dichotomy?

2:21 PM  

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