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January 08, 2009

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Demand The Human Rights is not enough, we must exercise them every day.
Felipe
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One of the greatest lost opportunities of this decade was when Hamas won the Palestinian elections. If the U.S. had been smart, we would have taken the approach that worked in Northern Ireland.

In both cases, there were politicans winning elections who were affiliated with a terrorist group (in the case of Northern Ireland, the IRA). But they were nominally not part of the group themselves. The victors in the Palestinian elections were doubtless close to Hamas, but they ran and won as officially independents. Which opened the opportunity to accept them as the representatives of the Palestinians who were open to non-violent approaches to resolving problems.

But we didn't do that. Instead, we denounced these elected democrats as "terrorists" and shut down any discussions in favor of trying to force them from power. Which led, fairly directly, to Hamas takeover of Gaza and more violence. To call this stupid and counterproductive is to give it too much credit.

Whether the opportunity will present itself again, with an American government prepared to sieze it, remains to be seen. But I'm not holding my breath for it to happen any time soon. Alas.

That, Eric, is a well-researched, generally well-argued, and fairly thoughtful post. All of the pitfalls that you detail are worth noting; indeed, some seem like the most probably consequences of the present action. Of course, it's also possible that the attack on Hamas in Gaza will have positive consequences as well, but I understand your reluctance to explore that possibility.

But what this post fails to address is the core problem that has consistently derailed all attempts to arrive at a negotiated settlement since 1993: the inability or unwillingness of Palestinian leaders to reign in extremists. Indeed, your post presents any number of reasons to believe that this problem has been worsening. If we were, in fact, witnessing a split between Meshal and Haniyeh, then Meshal prevailed. Haniyeh was unable to prevent the resumption of heavy rocket fire, despite his nominal leadership. It's not a split between Damascus and Gaza City; it's a split between elements of the political leadership, and the spiritual/military leadership. Even within Gaza, figures like Nizar Rayyan were pressing for - and indeed, led - an escalation of hostilities.

This poses a dilemma. Israel dealt with Fatah, but discovered that Fatah's compromises soon left it compromised, unable to control even its own radical elements, let alone those of the Islamists. To propose that Israel focus on sheering off the political leadership of Hamas from its more militant members is to head down the same path again. I lack your confidence that Haniyeh and his ilk were pursuing anything more than a tactical advantage - their opposition to a resumption of hostilities, I suspect, stemmed largely from the fact that they had the most to lose. They've supported ceasefires mostly because they don't believe that Hamas is strong enough yet to sustain direct conflict. But let's assume you're right, and that such figures might eventually be persuaded, through a series of confidence-building measures, to pursue a settlement. The extremists within Hamas, I suspect even you would agree, are uncompromising. Split the organization, and the militant rump will be even more extreme. Do you expect the civilian government to reign it in? To put its members in jail, or kill them, to prevent attacks?

The failures of the Israelis are well known, and amply documented. But Palestinian society is, at present, a mess. If its civilian leaders cannot or will not prevent extremists within their ranks from attacking Israeli civilians, then it is naive to think that the Israeli polity will simply sit there and absorb waves of attacks. If Haniyeh, facing the sure annihilation of everything he had worked to build in Gaza, was unwilling to dispatch his forces to stop the attacks, what would make him do so in the future? Without the Altalena, there could have been no State of Israel. I'm still waiting for a similar watershed on the Palestinian side.

Observer: No doubt, you are getting at one of the central aspects of the durability of the conflict.

As distilled, I believe, in this excerpt:

If Haniyeh, facing the sure annihilation of everything he had worked to build in Gaza, was unwilling to dispatch his forces to stop the attacks, what would make him do so in the future?

Bottom line: Key elements in Israel and the US have not wanted a unified Palestinian leadership. They've gotten what they wanted. It started way back in the early days of Hamas, and now it's morphing into new Hamas splinter groups.

So it is a bit rich to then use that disarray in the leadership of the Palestinians as a pretext to continue smashing it into bits.

The answer, or best hope as it were, lies in strengthening the bond between Hamas (moderates) and Fatah. Haniyeh and others need to feel secure enough in their position to test more conciliatory positions.

If we encourage Fatah and Hamas to strengthen ties - rather than rupture same - then it is possible to get enough political buy-in and self-assuredness from enough Palestinian leaders such that the combined front could squash the militants.

Not all at once, or with absolute discipline. This will take time, but we must also stop letting the actions of the most extreme militants dictate the contours of the peace process. We continue to cede them easy, cheap veto power over everything.

...their opposition to a resumption of hostilities, I suspect, stemmed largely from the fact that they had the most to lose

Yes, and we must make this a permanent state of affairs.

This involves real concessions from Israel: lifting the siege of Gaza (military and blockade), cessation of new and expanding settlements (and removing others) and perhaps a real detente with Syria (portions of the water in Golan might have to be shared).

These measures would give Fatah and Hamas something to point to as gains in order to garner support from the population, and justify any necessary crackdown on revanchist militants.

In exchange, Israel would then be in a position to make real demands of the Palestinian leadership, backed up with buttressed legitimacy and high ground. Already, some of this type of tense peace is being explored in the West Bank. It needs to be expanded upon.

But what this post fails to address is the core problem that has consistently derailed all attempts to arrive at a negotiated settlement since 1993: the inability or unwillingness of Palestinian leaders to reign in extremists.

The events in Hebron last month indicate that the Israelis haven't done much to rein in their extremists, either. If the Israelis want to claim any sort of moral high ground, they must deal with the settlers. They could start by enforcing their own laws.

Observer: If its civilian leaders cannot or will not prevent [the IDF] from attacking [Palestinian] civilians, then it is naive to think that the [Palestinian] polity will simply sit there and absorb waves of attacks.

Quite.

Yeah, I have to agree with jesurgislac's revision. Basically, in a long, drawn out, angry, process towards peace *some people* are going to be killed on each side by the forces that have the most to gain from continuing a war. We've always known that. War is good for some parts of society--for political parties clawing their way to the top, for the military, for people who want revenge, for people who dream that they can get more at the bargaining table every time they threaten more violence.

We ought to know, going in, that peace is going to be costly. Not as costly as war but many of the same costs in life and property will be paid *while we are getting to the stage* of marshalling public opinion on all sides of the argument and making war seem like a less good option than peace. So, some people are going to be killed. Its a sunk cost. Retaliation, specifically military retalation, is counterproductive because it *can't be a movement towards peace since its designed to take the place of diplomacy* and it strengthens the hand of the anarchic or militaristic factions by giving the peace seekers *no where to turn*.

I heard a very good interview on NPR the other day with a palestinian expert. The interviewer, stupidly or cunningly, asked her whether Israel bombing the shit out of gaza wouldn't "strengthen the hand of moderate arab groups" against those perennial instigators Iran and....everyone else. The palestinian speaker politely didn't burst out laughing but did say, very mildly, basically. Look--in politics you *strengthen people's hands* politically by showing that they can deliver something. Peace, stability, food, gas, health care, schools, etc... If there is *no moderate group* that the US is willing, for example, to go to bat for...no moderate group that Isreal will deal with then there's no moderate group that draws strength or grows as a result of this bombing." and that is basically the case, isn't it? Israel is leaving every palestinian no choice *but* to side with Hamas, or something (from the israeli point of view) worse.

I know we've over used this phrase in the last eight years but this really is "worse than a [war crime] its a blunder" of massive proportions. And its wholly unforgiveable. Man, I hoped, qua jew, that we were going to be smarter than this. They've got not plan. They don't even have the scent of a plan. Their plan has gone to cuernavaca and left them with nothing but blood on their hands.

aimai

Killing the natives is easier than dealing with them. At 300 Palestinians for every 1 Israeli, this is probably the most civilized and modern way to implement genocide and/or ethnic cleansing.

Observer wrote:

"But what this post fails to address is the core problem that has consistently derailed all attempts to arrive at a negotiated settlement since 1993: the inability or unwillingness of Palestinian leaders to reign in extremists"

That's silly. Why do you hold the Palestinian leadership, which has no state and little infrastructure, to a higher standard that the Israeli government?

Eric:

I agree with much of that. But these two paragraphs are the crux of the matter:

These measures would give Fatah and Hamas something to point to as gains in order to garner support from the population, and justify any necessary crackdown on revanchist militants.

In exchange, Israel would then be in a position to make real demands of the Palestinian leadership, backed up with buttressed legitimacy and high ground. Already, some of this type of tense peace is being explored in the West Bank. It needs to be expanded upon.

I disagree that Palestinian public opinion will be bolstered by concessions to Syria, or that building new neighborhoods in Ma'aleh Adumim has a major bearing on militancy in Gaza. But the economic blockade is another matter. Lifting that blockade makes a great deal of sense, provided that good enforcement is in place to regulate the flow of goods and to prevent smuggling. Rebuilding Gaza, after this devastating attack, will be a major project, on the same scale as the reconstruction of South Lebanon after 2006. And it's a necessary project.

The settlements are the second half of a two-pronged approach. The most compelling means available to Israel of demonstrating the benefits of peaceful coexistence is bringing that to fruition in the West Bank, as a model to Gazans and others who have been reluctant to embrace that approach. That means abandoning many settlements, permanently annexing a handful of others, and ceding an equal amount of land in return. (Not, I hasten to add, because those settlements are immoral or illegitimate, but because on balance, removing them presents the best possible future.) There's broad agreement on the general contours of such a deal. And there's actually some indication that Israel already had this in mind; that the offensive in Gaza was the stick, and that a reinvigorated negotiation over the West Bank will be the carrot.

But the problem I have with your argument is the great sympathy, even deference, it shows for Palestinian public opinion, without making similar allowances for Israeli public opinion. Just as Palestinians need to see concrete gains to turn away from violence, so too do Israelis need to see concrete gains in security in order to cede further control of territory to a government they do not trust, and to risk schism within their own society over the removal of settlements. Breaking that cycle has proven incredibly difficult. You write that "In exchange, Israel would then be in a position to make real demands of the Palestinian leadership, backed up with buttressed legitimacy and high ground." And that's true. But it would also have lost most of its leverage. Buttressed legitimacy and the moral high ground are weak cards - what are the Israelis supposed to do, demand that the revanchist militias be suppressed because it's the right thing to do? And if they're not? What then? It's why the Israelis are reluctant to take the leap first, and then see if they can make it work out. You seem to regard the Palestinian reluctance to abandon attacks on civilians, or to curb those who launch such attacks, as entirely understandable; won't you cede that Israeli reluctance to relinquish control over the territory from which those attacks are launched, or to refrain from retaliation without any evidence that forbearance will yield results is similarly understandable?

That's the necessary context for understanding Gaza. Israel pulled out in the hope that unilateralism could break the deadlock. It was very, very wrong. But the ascendance of Hamas in Gaza permanently changed the political landscape in Israel. Say what you will about the reasons Palestinians had for voting for Gaza; from the Israeli side of the border, it looked as if the first major withdrawal in thirty years only undermined the more conciliatory elements within the PA, and emboldened the hard-line radicals. Which, I think, is certainly true, although by no means the primary reason for Hamas' success.

Undoing that damage will be hard. You make the case that re-unifying Gaza and the West Bank is the necessary precondition for proceeding with negotiations. I disagree, vehemently. Even if reconciliation were possible, the result would necessarily be a government taking a much harder line than the current PA administration in the West Bank. Israel is not going to make concessions to a government that includes a group publicly committed to its dissolution, with an armed wing actively trying to carry out that project. Gaza and the West Bank are ruled by rival factions, which are at very different points along any path to peace. Far better to move them along separate tracks. Let Israel negotiate an agreement with the PA over the West Bank. The PA security forces are being professionalized, the PA itself is becoming more competent, and there's reason to hope that negotiations could lead to the removal of many of the roadblocks, and some of the more isolated settlements. Bit by bit, stability in the West Bank and Israeli withdrawals can build confidence. Building competence is equally important - one mistake that negotiators made, early in the process, was rushing the formation of the Palestinian state. It takes time to rebuild the institutions of governance; when the PA faltered, both the Palestinian people and the Israelis lost confidence in its abilities.

If the Israelis and Palestinians show that peace can be achieved in the West Bank, I suspect that Gaza will eventually come around. The more moderate elements in Hamas may reconcile themselves to living alongside a Jewish state, or if they won't, others in Gaza certainly will. At some point, as Gazan society comes to long for what their compatriots in the West Bank already have, new possibilities will emerge. Perhaps a coalition government and reconciliation. Perhaps an Israeli incursion, with PA forces taking control in its wake. Perhaps a popular revolt.

But not now. Gaza lags far behind the West Bank in almost every measure of development, most of all in its support for the most extreme and revanchist elements. Those views won't change overnight, just because the price of flour drops or because jobs suddenly become plentiful. So if peace is a realistic possibility in the West Bank, but a still distant prospect in Gaza, why would you allow the latter to hold back the former?

"They don't even have the scent of a plan."

I support Israel's right to defend itself, but once the innocent women and children start dying en masse, the least it could do is have an outline of a plan.

Also, just as the U.S. did not have a post-Sadam plan in place, among other things, Israel must realize the nuances and risks in its war with Gaza.

As Eric noted: "a weakened Hamas may provide an opening, and support amongst a beleaguered population, for even more radical and pernicious forces like al-Qaeda and similar groups. Desperation and violence have a tendency to beget more desperation and violence, not less."

Lynch expressed dismay over the Israeli ambassador's "absolute refusal to entertain a question about the negative effects of the images from Gaza on the wider region (the important image of the war, he nearly spat, should be that 'terror is not allowed to win')."

Seems to me that mimics the we're-right, you're-wrong attitude we've heard the last eight years from George Bush and Dick Cheyney.

Exhaustive and thoughtful post, Eric.

Yet more evidence in support of the Clausewitz-O'Neill Principle:

"War is a continuation of politics by other means."

"All politics is local."

Therefor: "Wars are started -- and continued -- primarily for *domestic* reasons." Leaders want to placate, impress, reward, punish, or isolate people on their "own side", the fight with the "other side" is just the way it is acted out.

No wonder the IDF isn't letting reporters into Gaza -- they are performing for the sake of other Israelis, they need to control how that performance is perceived.

I disagree that Palestinian public opinion will be bolstered by concessions to Syria, or that building new neighborhoods in Ma'aleh Adumim has a major bearing on militancy in Gaza.

I should have clarified this: detente with Syria would remove their incentive to interfere, and cut short one of Iran's inroads. So this would apply to a different aspect of the dynamic.

Now I'll read the rest of your comment...

That's silly. Why do you hold the Palestinian leadership, which has no state and little infrastructure, to a higher standard that the Israeli government?

I don't hold them to nearly so high a standard. But the simple fact is that Israel currently holds and controls much of the territory in which the Palestinians would like to build a state, and possesses the overwhelming balance of force. So if you want to know how to arrive at peace, the place to start is by asking a simple question: What do the Palestinians have to do in order to get the Israelis to give them that land, and to allow them to keep it? And you'll find a surprisingly simple answer: renounce violence, recognize Israel's legitimacy, relinquish or settle claims on Israeli land, and police those radicals who won't go along.

That basic formula is unchanged over the past fifteen years. What we've learned is that implementing it is vastly harder than anyone imagined. But if the Palestinians took those steps tomorrow, Israel would be left without recourse. Even the United States would insist that, in response, it immediately implement the contours of Oslo.

I understand why they haven't. As Eric details, there are seismic forces at work within Palestinian society that make it incredibly hard for them to take the first step. And as I've responded, it's similarly difficult for Israelis to do so. But if the Palestinians were to take he plunge, the conflict would end remarkably quickly. If Gaza illustrates anything, it's that Israel lacks the power to end this conflict unilaterally.

Breaking that cycle has proven incredibly difficult.

True. The moods amongst Israel's population is also a key factor. I just assumed that the US has more ability to influence that directly, should we decide to exercise those means.

Buttressed legitimacy and the moral high ground are weak cards - what are the Israelis supposed to do, demand that the revanchist militias be suppressed because it's the right thing to do? And if they're not? What then?

What is Israel doing now exactly? Why does less moral leverage help?

On the contrary, it would help Israel (and the US!!!!) if there were fewer compelling arguments for Palestinian grievances. If Israel were truly committed to giving Palestinians a viable homeland and actual autonomy, then Israel's actions would be viewed through that lens. That changes a lot.

It's why the Israelis are reluctant to take the leap first, and then see if they can make it work out.

Yes and no. Israel doesn't need Gaza for any reason other than the water there. Artillery, in the modern age, is not really reliant on high ground. That is important.

A large contingent of Likud and their American counterparts just don't want to make the concessions necessary. They've written as much repeatedly (read: A Clean Break). To this set, compromise requires a measure of sacrifice, whereas they can keep all the spoils through obstinancy.

That's the necessary context for understanding Gaza. Israel pulled out in the hope that unilateralism could break the deadlock.

Yes, and no. The way that Sharon pulled out was also significant in that it made it likely that bad results would follow. Many people warned about this at the time: that withdrawal should have been coordinated, and forced through the paradigm of negotiation in order to give Fatah something to hang their hats on. Consider this from Daniel Levy:

I appreciate the Gaza evacuation of 2005 and how difficult it was and I in no way condone the launching of rockets against civilian targets from Gaza but the unilateral nature of the Gaza withdrawal was a mistake (and I said it at the time) and I don't appreciate this rewriting of history. Israel at the time did not evacuate Gaza as part of the peace process. Then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explicitly said that Israel "will stay in the territories that will remain." His most senior adviser who was in charge of the disengagement, Dov Weisglass, was even more explicit stating that the plan would freeze the peace process and "prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state...it supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians." This was brought out by the fact that, as mentioned, Gaza was immediately placed under closure - and those who blame the Gazans for not developing their economy post-occupation should be reminded of that.

Israel doesn't need Gaza for any reason other than the water there

That would be Golan not Gaza.

doh.

Observer; What do the Palestinians have to do in order to get the Israelis to give them that land, and to allow them to keep it?

1. Make clear that, however much the Israelis want them to, they are not going to just leave.

2. Make clear that, however many of them the Israelis kill, however many of them the Israelis torture, however unjustly they are treated by the Israelis, they are not going to just leave.

3. Make clear that, though the Israelis can kill more of them, and have the state apparatus to imprison them, torture them demolish their homes, take their farmland, and bomb their schools and their hospitals, they are not going to just leave.

4. Try to get sufficient world public opinion on their side that the Israelis are compelled to quit killing them, torturing them, imprisoning them, demolishing their homes, bombing their schools and their hospitals, in order to get them to leave.

5. Try not to starve to death after the Israelis build a steel and concrete barrier around the Gaza Strip and only permit food in or trading goods out when they decide.

...have I left anything out?

The Palestinians have been trying that five point strategy for some time now, Observer. Is there anything else they can do?

And you'll find a surprisingly simple answer: renounce violence, recognize Israel's legitimacy, relinquish or settle claims on Israeli land, and police those radicals who won't go along.

...and then the Israelis will just let them leave?

Huh.

"Is there anything else they can do?"

I'm going to regret this.

But. (I condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza, and think they are pointless and self-defeating, and other boilerplate, yaddayadda.)

To answer the question: Israel is not bombing or sending tanks into the West Bank (you can now list all the bad things Israel does in the West Bank, and I condemn a lot of them, but my point remains: Israel is not bombing nor sending tanks into the West Bank).

This would be because Palestinians there, under the PA, are not sending 60 rockets a month or more into Israel.

Similar non-violence is something that Palestinians -- an unhelpful lumping, I'd suggest, by the way -- could do in Gaza, as well. Since you ask.

Non-violence is something both sides could try more of all around. Then meeting like with like.

So, yes, there's an entirely obvious thing you left out.

Gary:

That is a very good point, and I endorse it 100%.

I agree with you Gary, about nonviolence being something that both sides ought to try.

And as I'm sure you'd agree, that would include lifting blockades, which are a silent type of violence that people in the US easily ignore. And while Israel isn't bombarding the West Bank, things aren't exactly happy there either. Plus one could get into who exactly started the current round of violence, not that who started it justifies the behavior of either side, because it doesn't.

And on the subject of blockades, here's James Wolfensohn on why the Gaza withdrawal didn't turn out well for Palestinians. That's not a response to your post. I was going to link this anyway--

Link

"And as I'm sure you'd agree, that would include lifting blockades, which are a silent type of violence that people in the US easily ignore."

Yes, I agree. Of course, the reasons for the blockades should also go away.

"And while Israel isn't bombarding the West Bank, things aren't exactly happy there either."

Which I acknowledged. It's because of the need for endless boilerplate to acknowledge 4,259 aspects of the guilt and wrongs of both sides that I have no patience for I/P discussions any more. It becomes impossible to discuss the topic without spending hours, or months, seeing if people can acknowledge the vaguely similar history, and then days doing all the mutual acknowledging. Life is short.

"Plus one could get into who exactly started the current round of violence,"

Yes, one could, and we could spend a year or two going backwards ad infinitum, too. For the umpteenth time.

As it happens, I've spent a couple of hours this week ranting to the woman I live with about the futile strategy of the Israelis, and the moral wrongs committed. But I don't feel a crying need to argue it all, one way or another, on a blog. Again.

Sounds the same as most political issues, as I said to you earlier (in another thread where you might not have read it). I haven't noticed that there is general agreement on tax policy or the size and type of social safety nets or other areas in foreign policy.

So if you're going to get huffy about it, I understand, but then follow your own advice and stay away.

I didn't mean to be huffy, and particularly not at you, Donald.

As I indicated, it's just that I have no patience left on this topic any more.

In 2001, 178 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (201, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians in Israel/the Occupied Territories: 153.

In 2002, 373 Palestinian civilians were
killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (616, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 269.

In 2003, 369 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (204, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 129.

In 2004, 624 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (194, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 68.

In 2005, the year of withdrawal, 107 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (83, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 41.

In 2006, 523 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (134, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 17.

In 2007, 300 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (84, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 7.

In 2008, up until November 30th, 403 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the IDF. (41, in the West Bank.) Total number of Israeli civilians killed byPiI/tOT: 21.

2005 is the year of the lowest number of Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF in either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip - 190.

In 2002, the year of the highest casualty rate for Israelis, the highest-ever number of Israelis who were killed by Palestinians in Israel: 184.

When non-violence on the part of Palestinians merely means that the IDF will kill Palestinians at a lesser rate than before, but still in numbers that Israelis are not expected to tolerate without retaliation, it is hard to see this as anything but expecting Palestinians to behave better than Israelis under severer provocation.

"But I don't feel a crying need to argue it all, one way or another, on a blog. Again."

Again, granting that you have every right to feel this way about whichever issue you chose (I have my own issues where I feel this way), it's this attitude that used to drive me crazy about this issue because so many people seem to have it. Oh, let's not argue the I/P issue again. Well, yeah, maybe there's enough arguing about it in the blogosphere, finally, but in the American political scene as a whole there's nowhere near enough argument. Glenn Greenwald just wrote about this again, and Jon Stewart ridiculed American politicians a night or two ago, and Obama has been a profile in cowardice so far (no surprise at all). So it's just fine and wonderful that there's so much debate about it online (several posts in the space of a week at ObiWi), but it hasn't translated out into the political world yet.

And?

Hey Jesurgislac, could you document the total number of abortions plotted against the total number of women who died in back alley abortions? Would you say that the total numbers are dispositive in that case?

A mere recitation of numbers does little to help the discussion. Perhaps Palestinians are just really incompetent when it comes to killing Israelis. Perhaps their access to weapons isn't as good. The numbers alone don't tell the story you seem to think...

Okay, Gary, no problem here. I get sick of political blogging for weeks at a time myself.

Since I brought it up, how exactly should people do something productive about this? I signed a couple of online petitions, one at J-Street and one from Foreign Policy in Focus. This probably won't lead to huge change on the political scene. Now Jon Stewart joking about it--that I can half-seriously imagine might change things a bit, if politicians become targets of popular satirists.

Hey Sebastian, is this an attempt to derail an I/P thread into an anti-choice thread? Because of course I can cite you figures for maternal mortality, maternal morbidity, safety of legal abortion, unsafety of illegal abortion, etc. As you must know.

A mere recitation of numbers does little to help the discussion.

It's information. If Palestinians are expected to tolerate the IDF only killing 190 civilians a year, why is it that Israelis can't be expected to endure 17 civilians being killed in one year?

And I think that if Israel was merely dropping badly aimed missiles all over the Gaza Strip, and only rarely managing to hit anyone, but sending mothers and children screaming to their basements multiple times a day, keeping schools and places of public gathering closed non-stop for weeks at a time, that neither Palestinians, nor anyone else of conscience, would regard this as non-violent, or non-provocative.

To acknowledge that both sides are committing unjustified, horrific, violence, and to agree that the violence on both sides isn't "proportionate," isn't a valid argument for overlooking any of it as wrong and destructive to chances for peace.

If I'm not being clear enough: the violence against civilians in Gaza is horrible, and wrong. The deaths of children is particularly evil. I condemn it thoroughly. (I also believe it's wildly counter-productive, but that's a whole 'nother rant.)

But the violence isn't one-sided, and that shouldn't be overlooked, "just" because there are so many fewer Israeli deaths. Rockets constantly raining down on you, even if they only land a block away, rather than on you, isn't something that should be dismissed as inconsequential. That's all.

Killing children is evil. So is missiling their schools and homes. 10,048 rockets since 2001. 70 a day currently.

Both sides have been doing evil things.

There's terror all around.

Eric:

Since you quote Daniel Levy, I'll link you to Jeffrey Goldberg's response. The value of Levy is that he's acutely aware of the flaws in his own society, and its approach to peace; his flaw is that in his frustration, he tends not to see the problems on the other side of the fence. He's useful as an internal critic of Israeli society; he's far less useful as an analyst or chronicler of the situation as a whole.

I have no interest in defending Sharon, his motives, or his methods. But to his credit, he pulled out of Gaza - it is to everyone's advantage that Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip, even if the manner of that withdrawal was unfortunate. Olmert, Sharon's successor, made fairly clear his intent to follow up the withdrawal from Gaza with similar withdrawals from large chunks of the West Bank. His hand was forced by rocket fire from Gaza, which made further withdrawals politically impossible.

I'm not suggesting that there isn't a large, and vocal opposition within Israel to the prospect of a settlement. Of course there is. But it's nothing like a majority. Those days have passed, likely forever. Israel is a strong state, with powerful centralized institutions. Withdrawal would be a severe trauma to its society. It will need large amounts of foreign aid to absorb the economic shock, as well as external political support and encouragement. But, in the end, if the state was able to withdraw from Gaza, it will be able to withdraw from other settlements, too. There will be violence. Some people will die, and tens of thousands of lives will be scarred. But under the right circumstances, it can be done.

What is Israel doing now exactly? Why does less moral leverage help? On the contrary, it would help Israel (and the US!!!!) if there were fewer compelling arguments for Palestinian grievances. If Israel were truly committed to giving Palestinians a viable homeland and actual autonomy, then Israel's actions would be viewed through that lens. That changes a lot.

Would it help Israel if the Palestinians had fewer valid grievances? Absolutely. Is it better to have the moral high ground? Without doubt. But it matters how you get there. If Israel withdraws from the bulk of the West Bank in a negotiated agreement with the PA but before the PA can build a competent security force, before a consensus exists within Palestinian society that the two-state solution is the path forward, before the PA demonstrates its willingness to face down radicals than the result will be little different than Gaza. The revanchists will be empowered, the centrists will lack the means to curb them, and Israel will respond to continued attacks. The problem with Gaza wasn't that Israel acted unilaterally, it was that it created a vacuum - it left Gaza, but didn't leave a state behind. (And, I'd add, the ease with which Hamas swept aside the supposed defenders of that state - despite their foreign-supplied weaponry and training - simply underlines the point. Had the existential threat to Hamas come from a democratically-elected Fatah government, and not the other way 'round, the balance of forces wouldn't have been any different.)

So it's not enough for Israel to do what's right, and rely on its moral leverage and the plaudits of third parties to ensure that its new neighbor develops into a viable state and fulfills its obligations. It can't withdraw until the PA is ready to assume control. James Jones has moved it closer, but it will take time. A phased withdrawal offers the chance for the PA to grow gradually into its new role, for both parties to correct and learn from their mistakes, and for both sides to gain confidence. It's going to take time, and Israel can't move ahead alone.

"Since I brought it up, how exactly should people do something productive about this?"

If I knew, I'd be advocating it.

Someone was asking about the tunnels, btw.

"If Palestinians are expected to tolerate the IDF only killing 190 civilians a year, why is it that Israelis can't be expected to endure 17 civilians being killed in one year?"

Neither should tolerate either.

Neither.

Neither.

Whoever destroys the life of a single human being, it is as if one had destroyed an entire world.

If the proper nouns were switched, would you be arguing that Palestinians should tolerate hundreds of missiles, and "only" 17 deaths? Do you argue that the sonic booms over Gaza are harmless and innocuous? Do you argue that the limits on what enters and leaves Gaza, though it kills no one directly, is something to be tolerated?

No, you don't.

What both sides do is wrong. Not "proportionally" wrong, but wrong.

You seem to have some trouble ever acknowledging that.

Jes:

I took Gary's bringing up of "non-violence" as an option to mean not mere "not being violent", but the *active* practice of non-violence (Gandhi, King). One of the things that drives me nuts about the last few decades is that active non-violence so rarely seems to be even noticed as a possibility in so many situations -- as though the only possible responses to violence are more violence or inertia. And yet *that's not true*.

Doctor Science:

It's a fabulous point. Personally, I've always thought that the most potent weapon available to the Palestinian cause is the one most rarely used - nonviolent resistance. Marches on checkpoints. Boatloads carrying humanitarian supplies. These things have been tried on occasion, but the former have sometimes been marred by gunmen mixing in, and the latter tend to emerge from third-party groups (e.g., ISM). Neither has been used enough. If the aim is to create a homeland and force Israeli withdrawals, nonviolent resistance is far more likely to be an effective tactic.

Seb: That seemed kind of backhanded, bringing up abortions in an I/P thread. As Jes noted, her numbers, assuming they are correct, and I do not doubt her, are "information."

That said, I think Jes could have made her case better simply by referring to the neighboring "Moral Clarity" thread by publius.

In it, he quotes the Washington Post:

"When rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived at the site, they found 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with four young children lying next to their dead mothers, the Red Cross said. The children were too weak to stand and were rushed to a hospital, the agency said."

Apparently, peaceful resistance, does not sell.

Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine

"Hey Sebastian, is this an attempt to derail an I/P thread into an anti-choice thread?"

No, it is an illustration that reciting ratios of deaths isn't illuminating if you don't all agree on the moral structure of the situation.

Doctor Science: One of the things that drives me nuts about the last few decades is that active non-violence so rarely seems to be even noticed as a possibility in so many situations -- as though the only possible responses to violence are more violence or inertia. And yet *that's not true*.

I agree. But, few of the people who are sternly advocating that when Palestinian terrorism is less active and the IDF are killing only a few dozen Palestinians a year in the Occupied Territories, the Palestinians should obviously count their blessings that they're allowed to live in peace, are people who advocate responding to military force against civilians with active non-violence.

Both sides have responded to atrocities by the other side with atrocities of their own. The Israelis have always killed more people, and have always had the state force to resort to systematic collective punishment of innocent people, which the Palestinians have not. The Israeli atrocities are for the most part carried out by the IDF, which is inarguably under the control of the Israeli government, which is in principle a democratic government that can be ousted by the voters if it does things they find unbearable. These things apply less strongly or not at all to the Palestinian atrocities.

Clearly the Israelis would find it a lot easier to quit committing atrocities against the Palestinians - and would save more lives if they did - and yet, it is frequently argued that you cannot expect them to do so because what the Palestinians are doing to them is intolerable without retaliation: so the deaths of 7 Israelis are intolerable, but the deaths of 190 Palestinians are somehow not.

Sebastian: No, it is an illustration that reciting ratios of deaths isn't illuminating if you don't all agree on the moral structure of the situation.

Well, yes. But, as demonstrated in other arguments, while statistics don't convince people who have already made their minds up, they are at least factual information. People arguing that what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is merciful compared to what the Palestinians are doing to the Israelis, need to be aware of the relative levels of casualties on both sides, and to be able to defend the principle that the side that is routinely killing mass numbers of civilians is somehow being merciful and civilised in retaliating in this way.

"But, few of the people who are sternly advocating that when Palestinian terrorism is less active and the IDF are killing only a few dozen Palestinians a year in the Occupied Territories, the Palestinians should obviously count their blessings that they're allowed to live in peace, are people who advocate responding to military force against civilians with active non-violence."

Who are these people, specifically? Who is arguing that Palestinians should "count their blessings"? Cite, please? Anyone here? Cite?

"People arguing that what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is merciful compared to what the Palestinians are doing to the Israelis, need to be aware of the relative levels of casualties on both sides, and to be able to defend the principle that the side that is routinely killing mass numbers of civilians is somehow being merciful and civilised in retaliating in this way."

Who are these people? Who the heck are you referring to? Who here has said this?

It would be helpful if you would be specific, because it sure looks as if you're conflating a variety of people, perhaps none of whom have posted to this thread or ObWi, with yet other people.

That seemed kind of backhanded, bringing up abortions in an I/P thread.

Hell, this is a great idea. Let's dump it all here and put a cordon sanitaire around the post. Then we nuke the entire thread from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Corporal Hicks?

Corporal Hicks?

I'm Hudson. That's Hicks.

Somebody wake up Hicks.

Game over, man! GAME OVER!

Hey, Hicks. Man, you look just like I feel...

Hey, Vasquez...you ever been mistaken for a man?

Jes:

I find your comment at 4:25am inscrutable, with regard to active non-violence.

someotherdude:

Thank you for the link. Historically, non-violent resistance can be *extremely* successful, but it requires two elements: (1) charismatic leadership, and (2) 20 years.

I'm naturally suspicious of charisma so I don't want point 1 to be true, but I think it is in practice. It doesn't seem to me as though either Israel or Palestine has thrown up the kind of charismatic leadership a successful nonviolence movement would need, but I don't know why. Have the potential leaders been killed? Co-opted by party politics and violence? Is the Palestinian population too young demographically? But the Israeli population is not, and their peace movement hasn't gained political ground either.

Knowing the NYT, they would cover a peace movement if it had charismatic leadership, no matter whose side it was on. The media can ignore a lot, but they *loove* charisma.

Then we nuke the entire thread from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Along with I/P and abortion, surely there's room for guns as well before the nukes get here.

Historically, non-violent resistance can be *extremely* successful, but it requires two elements: (1) charismatic leadership, and (2) 20 years.

Even that isn't necessarily enough: think of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Non-violent resistance only seems to work when the opposing power loses their moral certainty about the rightness of their own position.

I think that it is going to be very difficult to achieve this for the Israelis (and their supporters) with respect to the Palestinians. In particular, much support for the Israelis seems to be based on the following basic position: the Jews deserve a homeland, because they have nowhere else to go. There are already numbers of Arab countries, so the Palestinians can go there: they do not need to have the land they currently live in. (It is therefore the fault of the Arab states that there is a problem). I don't see how you can easily undermine or trouble that kind of moral simplicity.

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