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June 05, 2010

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Yes, as opposed to bombing the bejeezus out of them for shooting rockets at them, just like we would do if Mexican terrorists started doing so to us.

Double post.

Also, there's some mangled tagwork in the last quoted paragraph.

Yglesias and Martin are complaining that war is terrible and that the Israelis are winning.

The blockade didn't start when Hamas won an election. It started when it fought with the PA and kicked them out. This was an erasure of democracy, not an example of democracy. Egypt blockaded at about the same time.

There are plenty of people, all over the world, Arabs and not, who are in much worse condition than the people of Gaza.

Ah, AreaMan drags out the popular Big Lie about Gaza, presenting the events of June 2007 with no context whatsoever.

The background is just a little more complex. The link is Fatah-centric, if anything. The crucial point is that the U.S. paid and supported forces nominally inside Fatah that attacked Hamas and worked to bring down the unity government from early on. It took a year for the plan to come to full fruition.

The U.S. and Israeli governments withheld aid from the Gaza government from the elections onward, with periodic seal-offs of Gaza. The blockade did intensify into its current form after Hamas defeated the Fatah forces in full-out fighting in June 2007, but was part of a long effort to punish the Gazans for having elected the wrong party.

"having elected the wrong party"

At least we agree on this.

No, we don't agree even on this.

I was using the expression from the U.S. government's point of view. I'm one of the few people I know who was completely unsurprised by the results of the election in Gaza -- partly because of the U.S. govt's open support of Fatah in the run-up to the election, partly because I'd kept in close enough touch to understand the depth of the Fatah corruption that sickened many of their long-standing Palestinian supporters (and identified with it, as a partisan Democrat in 2006).

I'm all too familiar with U.S. govt behavior when elections that they've promoted or demanded don't yield the desired result.

There are plenty of people, all over the world, Arabs and not, who are in much worse condition than the people of Gaza.

Entirely irrelevant.

And out of curiousity, which Arab population did you have in mind? I suppose one could point to Iraq, but then...

fyi: Im not going to delete the double post because of Nell's comment.

I blame the 8 month old who likes to sit on my lap and bang the keyboard like it owes him money (milk money presumably).

Nell,
sorry I understood that it was not true, the humor font didn't work. It was clear that, like every government so far in Gaza, they had done a good job positioning themselves as the better choice for Gazans. I am not sure there is one, but they certainly are better in some ways.

They are not better for a peace process, but that has proven not to make a Palestinian government popular anyway. Peace by capitulation is unlikely to become popular, which is the Gazan view of the peace process since Arafats time.

Peace by capitulation? What would that entail? Agreeing not to fire rockets into Israel in exchange for an end to the blockade?

That doesn't sound like peace by capitulation. That just sounds like peace.

"That doesn't sound like peace by capitulation. That just sounds like peace."

Really Seb? Thats all of the capitulation that Israel would require? We must have peace now then, or certainly in several six month periods over the last few decades.

To be clear, both sides want too much, both look at any peace plan that has been on the table and consider it capitulation.

Of course, maybe that only seems to me to be the political reality that prevents peace.

It would be difficult to argue that in the entire history of Israel-Gaza cessation of the rocket attacks is all that would be required, as Israel didn't withdraw from Gaza until very recently. And I suppose Gaza would have to not operate as a staging area for other types of bombs either.

Arguably, if the people in Gaza generally wanted to stop the rocket and bombing attacks, but just couldn't, there might even be a relative peace.

But in reality, they elected Hamas, the very group that carries out the rocket and bombing attacks, as their government. So it isn't as if you can really even argue that peace has recently been on the table.

Unless by peace you mean that Israel takes no action against a government which actively and openly sponsors ongoing bombing and rocket attacks against Israel.

But that really would be capitulation.

What would that entail?

Presumably that would entail the realization on the part of the Israelis that they have two choices: Either exterminate the Palestinians completely, or give up on the apartheid idea of a Jewish State.

Nothing good will come of this.

"Unless by peace you mean that Israel takes no action against a government which actively and openly sponsors ongoing bombing and rocket attacks against Israel."

It's considered peace by the Western press when it's only Palestinians being arrested, living under occupation,and even being killed by Israelis. In one case documented here, a period of calm was broken when Palestinians killed Israelis, or that's how the American press reported it. What they meant was that a period when Israelis were busy killing Palestinians was broken when Palestinians killed Israelis.

Anyway, Hamas observed a ceasefire and suppressed almost all rocket fire for six months in 2008 (they weren't able to stop them all, but there was a huge reduction). It was Israel that never lifted the blockade (which is an act of war).

"Sebastian, you're comparing Syria's 1982 action with Israel's 2009 action--I'm comparing Syria in 1982 with Israel in 1982 and they are quite comparable in brutality in that year."

Estimated civilian deaths for the 1982 Lebanon action are in the 4,000-5,000 (Katz & Russell "Armies in Lebanon").

Estimated civilian deaths for the Hama massacre are 10,000-25,000 (the Syrian Human Rights organization says 30,000 but that is generally thought to be high). And they were all in one city.

For whatever it is worth.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say with "blockade (which is an act of war)".

Of course blockades are acts of war. So are bombings and firing rockets at one's cities. The government in charge of Gaza (Hamas) and Israel are at war. Of course they commit acts of war against each other. That is what happens in wars. It is just that Gaza is losing the war, and that Israel doesn't want to engage in total war the way that Syria did against the essentially the same elements. Which is probably good, though maybe bad because at least if they did the war would have been over decades ago.

Hamas is in charge of Gaza. It has declared war against Israel. It shells, mortars, bombs and send rockets into Israel. It does so on the order of about 120 rocket attacks per month and about 120 mortar attacks per month. That is no small deal.

It will probably be at war against Israel for the rest of our lifetimes. That probably won't be fantastic for the civilians in Gaza, who could definitely have a much better life if they weren't at war with Israel. But they chose Hamas, knowing full well that Hamas wanted war with Israel. Until they decide that war with Israel isn't worth it, they will have war with Israel.

So are bombings and firing rockets at one's cities.

So you acknowledge that Israel declared war on Gaza well before Hamas was elected?

Or doesn't it count when Israel bombs and fire rockets at Palestinian cities?

Hamas is in charge of Gaza. It has declared war against Israel.

Sure. That's what happens when one country attacks another. You remember that the US declared war on Japan after Japan attacked the US? If Israel didn't want war with Gaza, Israel shouldn't have attacked Gaza.

That probably won't be fantastic for the civilians in Gaza, who could definitely have a much better life if they weren't at war with Israel.

But as they have no power to stop Israel attacking them, they have no power to have "a better life". Whichever government they voted for in Gaza, they could not stop Israeli attacks on their schools, hospitals, or their lives. That power belongs to the Israelis, and the Israelis prefer to continue attacking Palestinians at very little risk to themselves.

Until they decide that war with Israel isn't worth it, they will have war with Israel.

I think you're very confused about which side has the power to stop the war. So long as the Israeli government believes that it's worthwhile maintaining Gaza as an internment camp and running Israel as an apartheid state, they will continue to be at war with the Palestinians, because that "war" poses few risks to them or to the non-Palestinian Israelis. The Israeli government perceives no benefit in stopping the war, and the Palestinians have no power to stop the war.

Er, okay. I have some questions. I've seen the whole 'Israel and Hamas are at war' thing kicked around a fair bit. It even seems relatively accurate; you have two state or state-like entities that are having their members and agents attack each other. But at this point it sort of breaks down for me.

Let's say they're at war. That usually is used as a springboard for making the point that shit happens in war, and that some of it is horrible but also perfectly legal and often necessary. Fair enough. Something I happen to agree with actually. But aren't wars usually prosecuted with the purpose of ENDING them?

What exactly is the point of this war, for either side? If this were a typical war, of the kind we're all used to reading about in history class, one of the endgames would be that Israel would roll into Gaza, seize control of the territory, and then impose and enforce a peace. Possibly the peace of the gun, but that's OFTEN how wars end. (Clearly Hamas has no capability whatsoever of rolling into ISRAEL and then imposing and enforcing a peace, so I'm not even going to discuss that possible end scenario.)

But it seems like Israel has no interest in doing that. In fact, they PULLED OUT of Gaza, a situation that seems to have actually made things worse for both them AND the Gazans.

Sebastian says that Gaza is 'losing' the war with Israel. That just doesn't seem right to me. They've LOST. I mean... they have, right? They barely have what could be called an army, they're massively outnumbered and outgunned, everyone seems to agree that Israel could conquer them at any time. They're Berlin in early 1945. Only the victorious armies aren't rolling in.

Okay, so, we've got an endless siege going on here. The OTHER way wars typically tend to end, barring complete geographical conquest, is the concluding of terms after a period of negotiation.

That was a really long leadup to what ought to have been a couple simple questions, which I seem to have a habit of doing around here on those rare occasions when I post, but I like to be as clear as possible.

What I REALLY want to ask is, ARE THERE terms on the table? Has Israel offered Gaza/Hamas a peace deal? Have they offered to negotiate? Has HAMAS offered ISRAEL a peace deal? Have THEY offered to negotiate? Is Israel insisting on some of kind of 'you will surrender unconditionally before we even speak with you' precondition? Has Hamas given their own unacceptable preconditions? (And yes, I'm aware that Hamas governing documents are, er, not exactly amicable to Israel. That seems like the sort of thing you talk about at a negotiating table, yes?)

The general impression I get, from the news and from blogs and even from actually going out and trying to look into this deeper myself, is that NOBODY on EITHER side is actually even talking to each other. There is no diplomatic contact (or even 'flag of truce meeting between military leaders' contact) at all.

And that just seems INSANE. There's gotta be some kind of standing offer from at least one side, right, even if its just of the 'lets sit down and we'll talk' variety, right? Or am I dramatically overestimating the common sense of EVERYONE involved?

Mercutio: The general impression I get, from the news and from blogs and even from actually going out and trying to look into this deeper myself, is that NOBODY on EITHER side is actually even talking to each other.

Correct. Israel has no need to negotiate with the Palestinians because Israel is, as Jim Henley notes, winning the war. The Palestinians have no reason to negotiate with the Israelis because the Israelis renege on any offer made.

What Israel's government has wanted, as Henley notes, is control of the entire territory west of the Jordan River without the pesky natives who were living there before the Zionists arrived. They have been fighting a war for that for 63 years, and they are winning that war.

And that just seems INSANE. There's gotta be some kind of standing offer from at least one side, right, even if its just of the 'lets sit down and we'll talk' variety, right?

I think the standing offer that is always available on the Israel side is "Leave, and we won't stop you." They don't want anything from the Palestinians but their absence.

Sebastian, that's one source on the 1982 Lebanon War. I've seen estimates for the death toll in Beirut alone that go higher than the figure you cited. Scroll down to the casualty section in the wikipedia link

link


I don't have it handy, but I once looked at an old State Department country report on Lebanon in a college library and they used the 17,000 dead figure (or something like that)--I cited that in a letter to the NYT Book Review many years ago (and, incidentally, received an anonymous hate letter telling me I was well known as a Nazi in my area. Someone before the internet made it easy to look up addresses had gone to the trouble of tracking down my street address though he/she mailed the letter from 50 miles away.)

There are also sources that give conservative estimates for the death toll in Hama. Patrick Seale gives the range of estimates in his biography of Assad--

"Just how many lives were lost in Hama must remain a matter of conjecture, with government sympathizers estimating a mere 3000 and critics as many as 20,000 and more. Complicating an accurate count was the fact that many women and children fled through the cordon of troops ringing the city and were at first presumed to be among the casualties."

He tentatively gives his own guess (between 5000 and 10,000) and then says "the impact of the battle on on the Arab and international perception of Asad's regime was very great indeed"

and one paragraph later, after detailing the regime's efforts at rebuilding Hama and changing the conservative religious atmosphere (among other things, "introducing the first dormitory block in all of Syria to house both male and female students") he ends with "But all this could not erase the name of Hama as a byword for massacre."

That's from a leftwing British reporter who wrote a somewhat sympathetic biography of Asad (as he spells it). It's aways fascinating for me to read outside the limits of American writing on the Middle East. Anyway, I'll repeat that I don't think the Hama massacre is some deep dark secret that nobody has condemned. The average American hasn't heard about it, but the average American probably couldn't say much about most Israeli atrocities either, except for whatever might be on TV that week

I think we have a difference of opinion on 'condemned'. I never said that it was a secret, I said that it didn't matter. Syria currently maintains a regime which is much harder on say being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (even though the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence) than Israel is on being a member of Hamas (which rather noticeably has not).

It doesn't matter like the ongoing situation in Tibet doesn't matter. Neither requires secrecy to not matter.

BTW, RE Lebanon could you be mixing in active militants/army members? In Hama the government barely made the pretense that it was killing militants. It was openly a collective punishment issue. Even *syrian* estimates of militants killed are about 1,000. And the 400 collective punishment executions were specifically not militants. Hama was about purposely killing thousands and quite possibly tens of thousands of civilians in a 3 week period. I'm not sure why you would quote a pro-Assad reporter on the topic of how many were killed in Hama. Fisk puts the number at at least 10,000 for example. And he isn't an American either.

@Eric:

Feel free to delete the duplicate post. I've reproduced my comment originally put up on June 05, 2010 at 12:48 PM below:

EM: Israel is justified in preventing arms shipments to Gaza. Israel is in no way morally or ethically justified to debilitate over a million Gazans, most of which are children, in these ways. It is shameful.

Likewise, a response that focuses entirely on what a 'blunder' and 'screw-up' etc. this was for the Israeli government, that does not include a strong call for an end to the illegal blockade, is shameful.

Our government is providing the money and diplomatic protection that makes the Israeli government's intransigence possible. We have to publicize and condemn the role of our Congress and executive in sustaining this inhumane policy, and in allowing the Israeli government to evade an independent investigation.

Until the U.S. government uses its enormous leverage to help hold the Israeli govt to account rather than shielding them from any consequences, the campaign for boycotts, disinvestment, and sanctions against Israel is the most promising avenue for activism.

"I'm not sure why you would quote a pro-Assad reporter on the topic of how many were killed in Hama. Fisk puts the number at at least 10,000 for example. And he isn't an American either."

I quote Patrick Seale because he knows what he is talking about and tells me things that I don't read in the standard juvenile American reporting on the subject. I don't always want to read moralizing accounts about how terrible this or that country's actions happen to be--imagine trying to learn about US foreign policy or US policy in general if all you ever read was Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky. I like them both, but this would be crazy.

Seale also gives the range of estimates for Hama. Nobody knows the death toll in Hama but the range of estimates spans essentially the same range given for Hama (and 17,000 isn't the highest for Lebanon either). And try reading American reporters (say Jonathan Randal or even Friedman) about Israel's bombing of Beirut-you will get the same picture of brutal indiscriminate firepower used in an urban setting that you get from Fisk. And Sabra and Shatila was the sort of face-to-face massacre that happened in Hama, killing somewhere between 800 (the Israeli figure) and over 2000 innocents and it's impossible to believe Sharon didn't know what the Phalangists would do to civilians, since they'd done it before. It's absurd to pretend that there is some qualitative or quantitative gulf between what happened in Hama and what happened in 1982 Beirut. In both places there were massive civilian casualties caused by indiscriminate firepower,intentional collective punishment of civilian populations, and massacres of civilians.

And nothing happened to either Syria or Israel except a further darkening of their reputation.

What is rich and poor, what is the second generation in life, as long as one should do something, brave, a person should simply happy life, don't consider so much, let oneself so trouble!

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