Saturday, May 26

The Dehumanization and the Hate

The tragedy of hate between Israelis and Palestinians results in death and tragedy on both sides. The violence in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah continues unabated. Even the fifth cease-fire between the two sides will not hold indefinitely. The weird result of all this is the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot and the surrounding kibbutzim. What does Hamas hope to achieve by this? Is it a tactic to create a digression from the intrafraternal fighting, or is it an invitation to Israel to re-occupy Gaza so that they can blame the occupation for their woes? By doing this they will stir up anti-Israel feeling and create a semblance of unity amongst themselves.

The funeral processions are endless. Revenge and counter revenge! Revenge and counter revenge! Hate and counter hate continues unabated. The violence does not end. Blood flows in the streets! Leaders on both sides watch impotently. Who is to blame? The blood of innocent people is crying for a solution, which is ever evasive to both sides of an eternal conflict over land and faith. The Israeli Air Force are carrying out pin point attacks on Hamas institutions in the hope of stopping the Qassam rocket fire into Israel.

The Palestinians claim that their human rights have been curtailed under Israeli occupation. The Israelis have to bear the full burden of the violence, which increases unabated and is becoming more and more uncontrollable. The hate and lack of trust is gaining ground rapidly. There does not seem to be an end in sight.

Many questions remain unanswered as to the cause of this violence. The Middle East is loosing its humanity and this applies to both sides. The Palestinians do have legitimate demands. The Israelis are the conquerors and the Palestinians are the vanquished. This is the result of many years of animosity since the establishment if the State of Israel.

Perhaps one may be presumptuous and venture to theorize as to the cause of the ongoing violence. After the occupation of the West Bank in the Six-Day War, Israel became responsible for the vanquished population there. This population had been in severe poverty for many generations. The “foster parents” of this occupied Palestinian population is Israel because of its occupation. It is the responsibility of the conqueror to attend to the well being of the vanquished. The Palestinians were exploited by Israel. Jewish Settlers were encouraged to buy homes and establish themselves amongst the Palestinian population. The Israeli government, over the years, established new settlements and pumped in lots of money. The settlers who arrived were religious fanatics and extreme right wing Zionists who usurped the land. They uprooted Palestinian olive plantations and took over the Palestinian farm lands.

Had the Israeli government not encouraged settlements in the occupied territories and rather used the money for establishing a viable socio-economic structure for the Palestinians, the situation today would not have reached such a tragic state.

The Israeli government could have improved the living standards by encouraging oversea investments in the territories and thus employment of the Palestinian population in meaningful jobs with competitive salaries. Emphasis could have been made on education and training as well as providing security and health services of a reasonable standard. This would have been a better investment for Israel’s security rather than encouraging racist right wing religious Zealots from settling in the territories. Many of these settlers came from the United States and were total social misfits in the countries of their origin. When the time would be ripe in a peace settlement, then these territories could be handed over to the Palestinian people in an orderly fashion without such an escalation of violence. Hamas and the other extremist groups would not have survived had the territories been viable economically and the Palestinian population meaningfully employed.

There are claims that Israel had tried to improve the situation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. This is a debatable. There is no doubt that there are groups in the territories whose ideology is bent on Israel’s total destruction. The education of young children to hate Israel is an unfortunate part of the Palestinian educational curriculum. When the Palestinians are subjected to humiliation by the imported settler fanatics, how could one expect them to show tolerance for the settlers when Palestinian lands are forcibly taken away for illegal settlements?

The latest intifada started because of the rejection by Yasser Arafat of the Clinton-Barak proposals at Camp David for a solution to the Middle East Crises and the establishment of a Palestinian State in 2000. The fact that Arik Sharon had come to the Temple Mount with his supporters when he was leader of the opposition prior to his election was a catalyst for the second intifada. It was by no means the reason. It would have happened anyway. Tensions started running high between the two sides for a long time prior to that.

Arafat, at the time, could never sign an agreement with Israel. There is the feeling that had he signed the agreement with Israel, the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other fanatic Islamist groups would have assassinated him. He would have met the same fate as Anwar Sadat over 23 years ago. Despite the fact that Arafat was the elected leader of his people, the hate for Israel is so great that it is doubtful that had he signed, the situation may not have been any different.

We are now saddled with the most brutal forms of terrorism – the suicide bomber. There seems to be a consensus amongst Israelis that the only way to deal with this threat is by army action. If only there were moderate voices in both the Israel and Palestinian camps which would be heard. Both sides lack imaginative leadership, which could be involved in confidence building measures, so that peace negotiations could be started.

There is no doubt that a solution to the conflict is the establishment of an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel. It is doubtful if that Palestinian State will be democratic in nature. The Arab States are not democratic, as this was never part of their leadership or philosophy. There is no reason to believe that a future Palestinian State will be any different. Our main concern as Israelis should not be the internal nature of that Palestinian State but rather its desire to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to live at peace with her.

We are all in need of good will and a desire on both sides to recognize one another and to strive for a Middle East that will be peaceful and stable economically. We all must make a new start despite the terrible bloodshed that this area has suffered. After all nobody has benefited from this tragic situation.

Saturday, May 19

Blame the Occupation?

Gaza is burning! The civil war between Hamas and Fatah is gaining momentum despite the numerous attempts at arranging a cease-fire between the two groups. The overflow of violence between the two sides results in the most macabre scenario imaginable. They send Qassam rockets to Sderot, an Israeli town within the green line, resulting in injury to innocent people and severe damage to property. This is a town where the unemployment rate is high and the people are weak economically. Why does Hamas indulge in murderous activities that befit their fantasy world of seizing power and destroying everything in their wake? There are many Palestinians, who blame the occupation for the chaos and slaughter occurring between the rival Palestinian factions. They believe that it is the Israeli policy of “divide and rule” that is responsible for the chaos. They see it is a tactic for prolonging the Israeli occupation.

The situation is reaching a point of no return. Reports state that Fatah is losing to the Hamas militias. The Palestinian people in Gaza are experiencing a total living hell. Streets are empty because people are scared to leave their homes to do their routine chores. Children are not going to school. Those people who do leave their homes are stopped by Hamas militias and their identities checked to see which clans they belong. If it is a clan associated with Fatah, their lives are at risk. Law and order have collapsed and so has the national unity government which never really existed in practice.

The Palestinian people are now on the sidelines and are helpless. The chances of establishing a democratic Palestinian state has become more remote than ever. The issue of factional violence has become so serious that there is no chance (at least, at this point in time) of cessation of violence and the formation of responsible government. Even the Islamic University of Gaza has not been spared from damage. Blaming the factional violence on the Israeli Occupation is absurd! One would expect that the occupation would be a unifying factor that is the lowest common denominator of all Palestinian factions, irrespective of their differing ideologies. It could have formed a basis by which there would be cooperation between the factions to reach their common goal of an independent Palestinian state. This is not the case at all and therefore the occupation cannot be blamed for this extreme violence against the warring sides. The situation is deteriorating into civil war. Apart from that, the Israelis had vacated Gaza unilaterally and there are no forces there anymore.

There is no Palestinian leadership to address the issue of factional violence and its connection with firing Qassam missiles into Sderot and its surrounding environment. The warped Hamas mind using this tactic defeats the end of any logical thinking. This tactic is incomprehensible and nobody can fathom what Hamas hope to achieve by it. The only possible reason that they do this is to provoke Israel into retaliating. The more Hamas militia members that Israel destroys, the more they hope to make political capital out of it and gain more support for their power struggle against Fatah. Their propaganda machine will run to the world of nations to accuse Israel of blatant aggression in order to prolong the occupation. Any idea of peace talks with Israel is even further from their lexicon than ever before.

The Palestinian people who supported Hamas in the elections last year got more than they bargained. Hamas does not intend to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. They intend to establish a Palestinian state replacing Israel. The biggest enemy of the Palestinians is the fantasy of destroying Israel. This enemy from within is part of the Hamas structure and ideology. They will attempt to do this using murderous tactics even against their own people in order to achieve their goal. The state which they wish to establish will abide by their racist and pseudo-Islamic concepts and this does not bode well for the Palestinians. It will not be a democratic state, but a religious pseudo-Islamic state of Taliban-like proportions that will not tolerate any opposition to strict Islamic religious law. The only way they can achieve this is by threatening their people with death if they disobey. Israel is a strong country and their chances of destroying Israel are remote indeed. They will plunder and murder Palestinians who oppose them as well as attempt to send in suicide bombers into Israel. They have started doing this in Gaza already. Nobody is immune from Hamas violence and terror. The future for the Palestinian people is very bleak indeed.

The Palestinian people must rise to the occasion for their own good. Hamas is a danger to their wellbeing and the people must arise as one and say “Enough is enough!” They must go into the streets and demonstrate with their feet against the Hamas leadership and their murder squads! They must stop using the occupation as an excuse for inactivity. After all, the occupation is playing into the hands of Hamas. They are using it as a tactic to justify their activities even against their own people in their quest for establishing Islamic rule and wiping out opposition by force.

There is even talk in Israel of supporting Fatah’ against Hamas. This would create a situation whereby Fatah will be viewed as a Quisling party and this could boomerang against Israel and would weaken the already weak Fatah leadership under Mahmoud Abbas even further. It would not serve anybody’s interests least of all Palestinian interests.

The Palestinians have never been blessed with good government. It has received an evil Hamas terrorist regime that terrorizes its own people. Even Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas PM, (who is prepared to sign a long term hudna - cease-fire agreement – with Israel and is considered a pragmatic moderate) has no power and there are elements in Hamas who will remove him from power eventually.

I leave the reader with the following message of Gush Shalom who faults Israel for this situation. Maybe there is some truth in the following:

“We have isolated Gaza.
We have starved Gaza.
We have expropriated hundreds of millions that belong to them.
We have convinced the world to impose a blockade on them.
We have humiliated Mahmoud Abbas.
We have boycotted Hamas.
We have pushed them into a fratricidal war.
Now there is anarchy.
The price is paid by
Sderot.”

Ad published in Haaretz, May 18, 2007

Wednesday, May 16

Anarchy and Chaos in Gaza

The situation in Gaza is running out of control and the Unity Government brokered by the Saudis is on the verge of total collapse. Factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah resulting in deaths on both sides is increasing. Attempts are being made by various Palestinian factions to prevent this. While the respite in fighting may cease temporarily, the rift between Hamas and Fatah is widening. Complicating the matter even further is the continuous firing of Qassam rockets into Israel causing injury and damage.

It is becoming more difficult to understand the motives behind the Palestinian struggle. The factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah is tearing Palestinian aspirations for independence from the occupation apart. There is a power struggle between the two sides that is moving out of control. As much as many of us would like to see the end of the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, independent economically and based on democracy, justice and peace, this will remain an ever evasive dream.

Palestinians went to the polls to vote for a new government one and a half years ago. They voted out the corrupt Fatah Palestinian Authority and voted in a Hamas Government, which promised clean government and a better future for the Palestinian people. Today there are no signs that they kept their electoral promises. All they did was continuing their non-pragmatic and irreconcilable hate for Israel and fomenting violence between the various Palestinian factions. Hamas and its military wing are involved in fraternal strife and intrigue. They are not interested in putting the Palestinian house in order and assuming responsible government. There have been no attempts to build institutes and infra-structures, which would provide the Palestinian with meaningful employment, not to mention economic viability and prosperity. Hamas and their allies seem more interested in gaining power at a great cost in blood to outlaw any opposition by violence. They do not intend to share power. They wish to establish a radical Islamist state which would destroy all vestiges of democracy. They wish to rule by the sword.

Anarchy is the result and the Palestinian people are being terrorized by the Hamas violence in Gaza. The situation is further complicated by the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot to commemorate Al Naqba (the catastrophe). Today and for the last couple of years, life in Sderot has been shear hell for its citizens. An end to the occupation is the dream of most Israelis today. There is no Palestinian Authority capable of maintaining law and order and ensuring good government. This fact must be admitted with great pain! If more territory is handed over unilaterally to the Palestinians, a vacuum will be created that will be filled rapidly by Hamas terrorists. There will be no government in Palestine, but a ruling class of war mongers and terrorists, which will not only be a threat to Israel, but also to the Palestinian people themselves. This would create the ideal conditions for Iran to extend its influence and re-arm the various factions for its own personal gains. Al Qaeda factions would also find the situation ripe for their increased presence in the Gaza strip as well.

There is only one reason behind the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel and this is to minimize the factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah and to create unity between them. They are doing this in the hope that Israel will retaliate. Israeli retaliation will then unite the various warring Palestinian factions as they run screaming to the UN to draft another anti-Israel revolution condemning Israel for “genocide and ethnic cleansing”. This ranting and raving by Hamas and its allies are very successful in gaining support for their cause of artificial unity between the warring power seeking Palestinian factions.

It would be wise of Israel not to retaliate to the Qassam rocket fire for these reasons. A sign of strength is gritting one’s teeth and bearing the Qassam onslaught, taking appropriate precautions to minimize damage and loss of life as much as possible. Any other tactic of retaliation would play into the hands of Hamas.

While the chaos and anarchy continues between Hamas and Fatah, the chances of an end to the occupation being replaced by a viable Palestinian state remains remote as there is nobody on the Palestinian side capable of taking over from Israel. This is an unfortunate irrefutable reality! Hamas is a cancerous growth in Palestinian society! Those responsible for its creation are now reaping the fruits of chaos, anarchy and hate. Responsible government and an orderly end to the occupation are not in the lexicon of the Hamas Covenant which makes their intentions clear.

The Mickey Mouse cartoons that are used to brainwash children to become suicide bombers is a sign of the Hamas disease of hate and terror. There is great potential there for “genocide and ethnic cleansing” of the Jews true to Hamas style. (See clip 1446)

Saturday, May 12

The Pain of Al Naqba (the Catastrophe)

For Israel it is joy - the celebration of Independence Day – when the Jews, after more than 2000 years of exile, have returned to their ancient homeland when Israel was established in 1948. The majority of the world had voted for the partition plan for the establishment of Israel and Palestine - two states for two peoples. After the Holocaust during the notorious Nazi Period, the world became sensitive to the needs of the Jewish People and this was responsible in no small measure to the establishment of Israel as a haven for the Jewish People in 1948.

However, out of the joy for one people, the tragedy for another people was also created. This subject has become charged emotionally that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the truth as to what happened during those years prior to 1948 and the end of World War 2 which found many Jewish survivors of Europe displaced because of the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

Many historians are raising questions about Israel’s establishment and its effect on the Palestinians. What happened to the Palestinians because of Israel’s establishment has to be re-examined objectively and truthfully. There are so many versions to what had happened and both Palestinians and Israelis view their history from a different perspective entirely. Each side justifies its actions. This has resulted in the loss of many facts, and the truth of what happened lies somewhere between both the Israeli and Palestinian version of what had actually occurred.

Events from the Palestinian side have not been fully documented. Palestinians claim that the Zionists were responsible for burying many facts and overlooking the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel. They maintain that the Palestinian refugee problem was created solely by Israel. Massive immigration of Jews resulted in displacement of the Palestinians who were driven out en masse. Many Palestinian villages were destroyed and rebuilt by the fledgling Israeli state and given new names. According to Palestinian Refugee Research Net (PRRN), estimates vary of the number of Palestinians refugees displaced from within what became the borders of Israel in 1948. In 1949, the United Nations Conciliation Commission put the number at 726,000; the newly-established United Nations Relief and Works Agency subsequently put the number at 957,000 in 1950.

The Israeli government has in the past suggested numbers as low as 520,000, while Palestinian researchers have suggested up to 850,000. Of this population, approximately one-third fled to the West Bank, another third to the Gaza Strip, and the remainder to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon or farther a field.”

In order to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, emphasis must be placed on the truth of what happened prior to Israel’s establishment and the relationships between Jews and Arabs before Israel’s establishment. From the truth, a solution acceptable to both sides of the conflict is possible.

Naturally, it is desirable that Palestinian refugees and their offspring are consulted so that they can contribute to a solution to the conflict. The number of refugees and their offspring involved should not be overlooked.

At the same time, Israel should show more understanding towards Palestinian sensitivities and pain on the issue of Al Naqba. This does not mean that the attitude of the Arab leadership at that time is blameless for the Palestinian tragedy. It would be appropriate to read Professor Shlomo Avnery’s well written article “Until they accept responsibility” on this subject which appeared in Haaretz on 11th May 2007. He writes:

The Palestinians will mark the annual Nakba Day on May 15, as they have done in previous years. We must listen to their voices. As human beings and as Jews we must listen and be attentive to the other’s pain, even if the other is - at the moment - our enemy. However, we must listen critically”.

Any claims by Israel to play down the importance of this in the Palestinian psyche are unproductive and callous. In the past, Israel has shown total insensitivity to Palestinian feelings, especially since the June War of 1967 and has been more sensitive towards the colonization and well being of the illegal settlers (including the right wing religious Jewish Zealots) on the West Bank, rather than improving the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian People under occupation. Israel is responsible for the wellbeing of the Palestinian people under occupation. Failure to assume that responsibility had led to the birth of a new generation of Palestinians who grew up under occupation that provided them with no hope for the future. It had created a generation of young Palestinians, filled with hate for Israel and this resulted in the violence and suicide bombings that caused so many tragic deaths. A nation that is satisfied, strong and viable economically would not use all means at its disposal to create violence and bloodshed in order to achieve its independence. This has also exacerbated the existential problem that Israel had with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world since its establishment.

The time has arrived for a reappraisal of Israeli attitudes towards peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world which is largely dependent on that. The Saudis have suggested their peace plan and lately Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora called on Israel to adopt the Saudi peace initiative that calls for normalized ties between Israel and the Arab world in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In an opinion piece, published in the New York Times on Friday 11th May 2007, Siniora said that the Arab world is “not interested in wiping Israel off the map, but in achieving legitimate goals of cease-fire, safe borders and the opportunity for all area residents to live in peace and security".
Israel must not look for reasons to disregard the Saudi Peace Initiative or any overtures towards peace coming from Arab leaders. It is imperative on Israel for the sake of peace to take note of these overtures and cease its manipulations and excuses for not wanting to negotiate. No doubt, there will be tough negotiations but the reward for true peace and recognition is a small price instead of the heavy price because of futile wars which achieve nothing but bloodshed, tragedy and death.

The Palestinian People must come to terms with Israel’s existence and Israel’s goal must be ending the occupation and returning to the borders prior to the 1967 Six Day War. Violence and bloodshed on both sides must make way for peaceful negotiations and dual recognition of each nation’s right to live in secure, recognized borders.

Despite the differences in the situations between Israel and apartheid South Africa, there are some lessons that could be learnt from the South African model of reconciliation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu had established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission whereby those responsible for injustices inflicted under apartheid were made to confess to those who suffered. This had proved a great success in starting a process of healing between black and white peoples of South Africa. The transition from apartheid minority White Rule to democratic majority Black Rule was peaceful. Perhaps a similar model could be applied to the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict where both peoples can ask forgiveness from one another for the tragedies inflicted on one another because of the conflict. The parameters are different but the principle of healing is the same. This could be the beginning of a healing process for the benefit of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Saturday, May 5

The Israeli Paradox

The Winograd Report has come out. This has caused a stir in the handling of the Lebanese War of July/August 2006. The “triumvirate” (PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister, Amir Peretz and the former Chief –of –Staff, Dan Halutz) of Israel were blamed for the way the war was conducted and its resulting failure. The war ended inconclusively. The Israeli Army went into Lebanon causing wanton destruction and death of many Lebanese citizens as well as Israeli soldiers in their line of duty. It left Hezbollah relatively unscathed as their firing of Katyusha rockets deep into Israel continued until a declaration of a cease-fire. This caused much damage to property as well as many Israeli civilian deaths. The war was an exercise in futility and had damaged Israel’s deterrent power. Decisions to go to war were rash, bad and unnecessary. There was no planned strategy from the beginning as was obvious when Katyusha rockets rained on Israel with impunity, irrespective of Israel’s air strikes.

The Winograd Report resulted in a rather strange paradox. The left and right wing in Israel joined hands in their common desire to force Olmert and Peretz to resign from their positions in the cabinet because of their failure in the war.

On 3rd May 4, 2007, a huge demonstration was held in Rabin Square (which is well known for many demonstrations including the tragic evening when PM Yitschak Rabin was assassinated on 5th November 1995) in Tel Aviv. Both the left wing and the right wing supporters of the occupation joined forces in this strange demonstration. It remains incomprehensible why the left wing took part. The right wing has an obvious goal and that is to replace PM Olmert with the right wing Likud leader, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. The left wing, by default although not by intention, has played into the hands of Netanyahu’s supporters in trying to achieve this. It would have been prudent of the left to abstain from demonstrations against the pathetic Olmert-Peretz leadership. The left wing has no viable alternative to Olmert or Netanyahu. Ehud Barak, another prime ministerial failure wishes to make a come back. This is as ridiculous as it is pathetic! There does not seem to be a viable alternative to the bad Olmert Government.

The demonstration would have served a greater purpose had the demonstrators called for the resignation of the government on the grounds that it is weak and unable to carry out meaningful negotiations for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours as well as a call for an ending of the occupation. The right wing settler movements would not have come to demonstrate. This would have sent a positive message on the desire to make peace and pressured the weak, corruption-ridden government of Olmert to resign.

Bibi Netanyahu has had his turn at being prime minister and was a failure. When he served as finance minister, he introduced a draconian “support and growth tax” in order to increase the income of the government’s coffers at the expense of the weaker public sector whose earning power is poor. People had to pay this tax and there was no accountability for it. The excuse was that Israel’s economy had to be bailed out of the doldrums that it was in at the time. Meanwhile some Likud members were raking in cash at the tax payers’ expense. This included the director of the Income Tax Authority, Jackie Matza and his friends, one of whom is the director of the PM Office, who is now on the verge of being put on trial for bribery and corruption. All this occurred during the time that the Likud was in power. How short the Israeli memory is! All the corruption scandals occurred during the Likud Coalition under Ariel Sharon prior to the 2006 Israeli Elections. When Ariel Sharon left the Likud over the disengagement fiasco and formed the Kadima party, many Likud members, with a dubious past in clean government, joined him. People like Tzachi Hanegbi, Avraham Hirschson (the recently resigned Finance Minister) and even PM Ehud Olmert are under suspicion of corruption, just to mention a few. Considering all these factors, it is scandalous enough for the electorate to demand the government’s resignation without the added findings of the Winograd Report. Is it possible that the Israeli Electorate (which is now growing more right wing) wishes to return failed party political hacks back into the government?

If, by remote chance, the government forms a caretaker government because of public pressure, and elections are declared within a few months, the electorate will not change its voting patterns. The result will once again not allow any party to gain an absolute majority as has been the case since Israel’s establishment. The Israeli Electoral system is so flawed that going to vote has become an exercise in futility and frustration. In any case, one will always land up with a coalition of opposites that is incapable of making decisions for good, clean government and for the achievement of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It looks as if the bruised Olmert, who is a shrewd politician in his own right, will weather the storm of protest and survive albeit in a further weakened state.

All that remains for the Israeli Electorate under these conditions is to place a white paper in the ballot box to register disgust for a voting system that ensures ongoing chaos in the formation of any new government.