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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hanging Gaza Out To Dry

As Gazans continue to be crucified for the sins of Hamas, the international community seems helpless or unwilling to either lift a finger in their defense or reign in the rogue state that Israel has now become. Even what is supposedly the world's most powerful nation is willing to endure the humiliation of its diplomatic representative by Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who last week said concerning the US vote to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire:
"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor. I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

"I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor....[Condoleeza Rice] was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor."
While the US is disputing this particular version of events ("just 100% totally completely not true," the State Department declared Tuesday), the low-key response to an allegation by the leader of a foreign (albeit friendly) country that he makes US policy is a clear indication of the power and influence the Israelis actually wield in Washington.

Another sad aspect of the international response is the dithering by Arab countries on whether or not to hold an emergency Arab Summit to condemn the Israeli attack. The two largest Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have been at the forefront of moves to block the convening of such a summit with the former reduced to acting as a mediator between Hamas and the Jewish state. The tepid Arab response has been thrown into sharp relief by the actions of Bolivia and Venezuela, which have both cut their diplomatic ties to Israel over the war, leading one Kuwaiti MP, Waleed al-Tabtabai, to suggest that the headquarters of the Arab League be moved from Cairo to Caracas. He said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "has proved that he was more Arab than some Arabs." Gamal Abdel Nasser must be turning in his grave. 

The people of Gaza have also been abandoned by their own government in the West Bank. Today we were treated to the spectacle of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, proclaimed leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, snubbing an emergency Arab summit called specifically to discuss the ongoing attacks against his people. These are the same attacks his government has labelled “Israeli aggression” and demanded an immediate end to. Abbas preferred to hold talks in Ramallah with the hapless UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, at the end of which they both issued largely meaningless demands for a ceasefire.

On the other hand, Turkey, perhaps Israel's best friend in the Muslim World, has not held back in its evisceration of Israeli action. Turkey has been brokering indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. But the war has stopped this process. Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sees the Israeli attack on Gaza as an act of betrayal and has refused any further contact with the Israelis, even reportedly denying Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's request to visit. According to Suat Kiniklioglu, spokesman of the country's Foreign Affairs Committee:
"We felt that our efforts and good offices in advancing the talks between Israelis and Syrians were damaged. It was extremely disrespectful because Prime Minister Olmert was here so recently, and this operation took place right after that!"
Apparently giving voice to tens of thousands demonstrating on the streets of Ankara calling for a severing of ties with Israel, Erdogan, who last week warned that a "curse" would befall Israel over "the children who died in those bombs", recently told Parliament that his criticism "is not as harsh as phosphorus bombs or fire from tanks ... I am reacting as a human and a Muslim."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

if israel went to pre 1967 borders...and settled the refugee problem.....then what next? do you think the borders are the "cause" of current problems??? I think not. so i am still curious to see if you have yet another solution because i doubt if the above two issues are the "cause".

F. Xavier said...

It has been said before that if you want to 'get things done', you do it when the US is transitioning from one president to another. Bush feels nothing as he ignores the UN; he has two more days in the Whitehouse. Obama's hands are tied coz he does not have executive powers yet [Although I am not sure, if he had the power, that he would have supported the Security Council resolution]. As of a few minutes ago, BBC says that Israel will announce a ceasfire. 1000 lives too late if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

F.xavier,
the analysis after the facts and events are ok, and often helps tell who is right or wrong. but were you to solve the issues....what would you do? any steps? any philosophical approach?

Gathara said...

Anon,
It is patently obvious that the Israeli-Arab conflict was sparked by the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine and the consequent (and continuing) dispossession of the Palestinians. I am aware that there are other disputes relating to the use of scarce water sources etc but the land question is the over-riding cause of conflict.

There is a difference between the cause and the solution. We do not necessarily solve problems by eliminating their cause. In this particular case, the Arabs tried and failed in the many wars leading up to 1973 and the Camp David treaty between Egypt and Israel. Israel is here to stay and the Palestinians (and indeed the Arabs) have accepted this. As Fouad Ajami wrote a year after Anwar Sadat's famous trip to Jerusalem to address Israel's parliament, the Middle East conflict is "no longer about Israel's existence, but about its boundaries."

Anonymous said...

gathara,
israel takes more land not because they need land per se, but to assure "security" and "bargaining chips". security is. not that i disrespect your opinion, but that some other critical approach is needed. and its not about boundaries. its about "security" that resides in the minds of people. the us (not USA)-them paradigm that drives predictable groups to either side is the problem. i think that region can be engineered by scientists to fit all those people, if only dogmatic positions and lexicographic preferences did not interfere. current politicised and purist religion is the greatest poison in this case. so the paradigm has to move from legalities, to "accommodation and compromise...where heavy losses must be accepted because of expediencies". otherwise only "FINAL SOLUTIONS" will fix the problem, as is obvious in all historical conflicts. in 100% cases peoples disappeared unless they lived under the victor's terms. once culture, religion, pride RULE, what can be achieved by pure logic in such "difficult circumstances" diminishes. sadly, we might have to wait it out, until the discount factor for militancy and militarism runs its course, and the "diminishing returns" from hostilities give birth to new paradigms.

Gathara said...

Anon,
I think the facts are not exactly as you publish them here. If Israel was occupying Palestinian land as a security buffer ala their occupation of Southern Lebanon, then how do you account for the expanding settlements in this very region? Such settlements simply increase the need for more occupied land to cater for "security". In Gaza, for example, prior to the 2005 pullout, Israeli settlers occupied up to 25% of the best land.

Secondly, what I am advocating for is a negotiated solution. I think the Arabs, having lost all their attempts to impose a Final solution, have come to terms with this. The greatest barrier is now posed by the Israelis, who being militarily superior and having the better allies, do not think they need to negotiate for what they assume they can get by force. I see no good reason why we should indulge them in this fantasy, seeing as the history of their 40 year occupation of Palestine does not inspire confidence in their ability to do away with Palestinian resistance. In other words, even the Israelis do not possess the means to impose a Final solution!

F. Xavier said...

The underlying reason for the lengthy conflict is land, not security. As long as Gaza Strip is still considered part of Palestine, Israel cannot justify the settlements between Gaza and West Bank. Ideally, Israel wanted Egypt to annex Gaza. This would leave Palestinians with the West Bank, and settlers would be free to do their thing unabated.

I think Egypt poses a bigger security threat than Gaza ever did. If elections were free and fair, that Muslim Brotherhood Mubarak likes to keep under wraps would win a landslide [kind of like Hamas which coincidentally is an offshoot of the movement]. Mybe then would Israel have cause for alarm.

If I was to propose a solution, it would be the pre-67 boundaries. In fact, Palestinians and Israel had almost agreed to something of the sort. The deal breaker was that Hamas refused to recognize 'the right for Israel to exist' although they agreed in theory to live side by side.

As it is, the Palestinians know that they are not about to get the map re-drawn; at least not in this generation. But they do believe that future generations will get concessions if they keep up their resistance.

Anonymous said...

X.xavier and gathara,
if you consider a)no.Palestinian refugess + b)palestinians in isarel + c)their birth rate +d) neighbouring hostility, vis a vis the israeli data, then it is strategic for israel to capture more land as a bargaining chip, or for future use. in fact only the south african option exists, but religious fundamentalism starkly prohibits this option. besides, palestinians would democratically outvote jews in just a few years....

1) if israel goes back to pre-67 borders, will Palestinians give up quest for original lands and be satisfied within that? if yes, then this is a GREAT window to new start.
2) if no, and some still want their original lands, then no end in sight. in which case, israel will "present reasons" to defend itself, and ......
3) another option is the "arab-muslim axis of pro- palestinians" to change the strategy and tacts. they easily play into israeli hands...and give israel semblance for cover for their aggression.
4) but my worst fear is that "religious dogma" among jews and muslims..is a terrible factor. it complicates otherwise simpler matters.

Gathara said...

Anon,
Just how is it strategic for Israel to continue to conquer and settle more land it cannot possibly defend? Assuming it is to use as a bargaining chip, then they surely must realise that with every confiscation, blockade and "failed" war, they are emboldening their enemies who will soon feel that there really is no room nor need for compromise. Their current military superiority is the defining "chip" and instead of seeking a favorable setlement now, they are putting off such discussion when there is no guarantee that thy will possess such superiority in the future.

The Palestinians have already offered exactly what you state in (1) as have the Arab league. It is up to to the Israelis to grab the moment and do away with their dreams of an imposed peace.

Anonymous said...

gathara,
its like kibaki giving in just a little to opposition demands on media bill, and coming on top as "magnanimous and a patriot", and having "sacrificed" for the sake of "peace and harmony". so when israel "gives back" land they will be seen to be "showing goodwill" by merely returning what they shoudnt have taken in the first place! besides, they create a "new matter" so the "old one" is pushed further back. but it is indeed strategic to take up that land. it only loses advantage when attacked by long range missiles, in which case it is a war israel can fight better than house to house street combat.
if i were Palestine, i would 1) tell other "palestinian cause fanatics" to take a hike. they dont help too much. 2) do a mahatma on isarel 3) fight to live in israel as citizens. in 30 years, the Palestinians will win votes and run the country!!!!!!!!!!!

the option of their independent states is hollow, but doable. those entities cannot function as states. too small, and no means beyond 2000 years old subsistence (olives etc). the option of militarism, is just wasting lives.
dont forget isarelis suffer religious belief that they "are chosen....and have a rendezvous with biblical prophesy". the worst poison and the worst rule for right & wrong. so the palestinians must play the underdog card very deftly!!!!! you cant throw rockets then when you are slammed, claim all those big things from geneva. a bit like hizbollah and lebanon.

Gathara said...

Anon,
First, it is exceedingly improbable that the Israelis would ever accept a one-state SA style solution. Their preferred formula is that the Palestinians are absorbed by the Arab nations they fled to just as the Jews who fled from Arab countries were absorbed into Israel. Population transfer they call it.

That being the case then, the Palestinian have two options. Either
1) quietly accept their fate and be progressively cleansed from the land of their birth and refuge ala the West Bank, or
2) resist and force Israel to come to an accommodation with them ala Gaza.

Strategically, the second option makes sense. I agree that non-violent non-cooperation ala Ghandi is the best way. I think the Palestinians have to redefine themselves as the victims, and not perpetrators of the violence.

One correction though. The slamming preceded, not came after, the rockets.

Anonymous said...

west bank and gaza are sorry rewards for the palestinians. rather be israeli, and carry your identity within israel, than be gazan, and grovel in hard circumstances for generations. the former has more hope and opportunity (at "apparent"loss of pride", the latter hollow appelation of statehood, with little to offer its citizens except strife and scrambe for humble subsistence.

in time, the Palestinians can grow to be equal (as it should be) just like african americans have endured.

the palestinians have already "lost so much' THAT such sacrifice pales in comparison to potential (but protracted) gains. the other options only legitimise their newfound "constraints" as losers, and force them to bigger loses in terms of emmigration, strife, hopelessness and god knows what technologies they have to join the global economy.
expose latterday bigotry for what it is: pathetic discrimination underserving of this century.

but maybe i am unfairly asking too much sacrifice of the palestinians!

Gathara said...

Anon,
It all depends on what you consider the bigger sacrifice. I think it was Emiliano Zapata who said that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

The Palestinians are not asking for anything more than the Jews demanded in 1948. They rejected reintegration into the countries that they had formerly called home, even though these were economically and militarily superior. Instead they chose to move to the desert. While that undoubtedly came at the expense of another people (the Palestinians), it illustrates the strength of the desire for a place to call home.

Anonymous said...

gathara,
i know you will be right on many moral and ethical issues. but that is not what the Palestinians need. they need to figure how best to get where they want to be, many years down the line. cold logic that gradually gets them forward. not episodic "pity" and "sympathy". change of stratgey required big time. lets wait and see what happens under obama admin.