+972 Magazine » Noam Sheizaf http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:22:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Israelis in the U.S. urge the Jewish community to take a closer look at Gaza http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/ http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:07:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95791 ‘We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,’ says a public letter published by Israelis for a Sustainable Future. ‘We argue that these terms might be one and the same.’

A group of Israelis living in the U.S. has published an open letter the the American Jewish community, calling on it to join them in opposition to the war in Gaza and the years-long blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip. While condemning Hamas’ targeting of civilians, the group states that “maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about.”

The group, calling itself Israelis for a Sustainable Future, was started in response to the war, but organizers told me that they wish to continue their activity even if a ceasefire is reached. The appeal to the Jewish community was born out of its engagement and influence over Israel-Palestine, organizers say.

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza'a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza’a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Here is the public letter in its entirely. You can see the list of signatures here, or follow them on Twitter.

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the U.S. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation ‘Protective Edge.’

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.

The belief that being ‘pro-Israel’ means uncritically supporting the actions of the Israeli government and military does not help the Israeli people. The Israeli people do not benefit from being oppressors. Israeli society does not benefit from ruling over 4 million Palestinians. The Israeli soldier does not benefit from risking his or her life in wars that could have been avoided.

The Israeli people gain nothing from perpetuating the occupation. Israeli children learn nothing from being taught everybody wants to kill them. And the Israeli population does not grow stronger from rising aggression within it, from a loss of tolerance and from a surge of violent racism against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

But maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about. Unfortunately, the regimes in Israel are becoming increasingly cynical, willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary to maintain their position of power and their control over the Palestinian people.

We believe this war could have been avoided. We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us. And we are happy to explain where we are coming from.

We believe that a biased media attempts to draw symmetry that does not exist. Just look at the numbers. Look at the pictures. Throwing blame at international criticism isn’t making Israel look any better. Taking action to stop human rights violation would. We obviously do not condone any form of anti-Semitism in this discourse, but we also feel that dismissing the entire discourse as anti-Semitism is not helpful to anyone.

Most of all, we believe that blood is blood, all equal and all worth the same. And we are well aware of what happens when the lives of one people are deemed to be worth less than those of others.

Israel needs your support to break out of the cycle of violence:

We encourage you to tell your community leaders to critically examine the Israeli government policies they rally behind. We urge you to support the moderate voices in Israel, forces that find themselves increasingly under attack by their own government and the Israeli media, and even physically assaulted by right winged vigilantes. We ask you to write to your congressional representatives to share your conviction that Israel can only be safe and prosperous if it stops the killing of civilians, ends the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and guarantees freedom and equality to all of its citizens. We invite you to start a fruitful dialogue with us.

Thank you,
IFSF | Israelis For a Sustainable Future

COMIC: Google Glass for the Gaza gaze
+972 Magazine’s full coverage of the war in Gaza.

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Let’s stop using the terms ‘fascism’ and ‘democracy’ from now on http://972mag.com/lets-stop-using-the-terms-fascism-and-democracy-from-now-on/95649/ http://972mag.com/lets-stop-using-the-terms-fascism-and-democracy-from-now-on/95649/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:22:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95649 The debate over the state of Israeli democracy (or the rise of fascism) is code designed for lefty Zionists. Others don’t get it, and it may even do more harm than good. Some thoughts following Haaretz’s interview with Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell.

Protest against the boycott Law, Tel Aviv, June 12 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

Tel Aviv protest against the anti-boycott law(Archive photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

There has been growing discussion over the last few weeks regarding the risk of fascism in Israel and the dangers to Israeli democracy, most recently in an extensive interview by Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell in Haaretz. I hold Sternhell in high regard, and his book, The Birth of Fascist Ideology, is among the few required readings in my undergraduate degree I actually remember in some detail. But while this terminology may be of use to foreign observers trying to make sense of what is happening in Israel against the backdrop of their own historic experience, I have serious issues with the incessant talk about “fascism” and “democracy” in the current Israeli moment.

In fact, I think we should stop using the word “fascism” altogether. I know that the warnings about fascists and fascism sound very grave, but my feeling is that the word does not mean that much to anyone here. At best, it’s a sonorous warning against something general and obscure; more commonly, it’s simply isn’t scary enough.

It’s also a lousy base for political organization. Israel does not have a tradition of anti-fascism, like Greece or Germany. Maybe some of the Russian-speaking Israelis have anti-fascist consciousness, but if they do, it doesn’t seem the recent cries impress them overmuch. I just think that outside a very small circle, “fascism” is simply a code word used by one political camp. When it cries “fascism,” the Left just wants to say “help, I’m getting beaten up.” This is a legitimate statement, but there is no need to hide it behind generic terminology cribbed from an introductory political science class.

On a personal level, whenever I hear the word “fascism,” I see the European middle class – a kind of conservative bourgeoisie that goes berserk. This is why using this term to dub Israeli followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane – religious, messianic, hardly middle class – seems contrived. If anyone in Israel here reminds me of actual fascism it is the new political aristocracy with their European posturing and their nationalism: Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid, Gilad Erdan.

There are many words that have a tighter link to Israeli political culture and to the Israeli experience which we should be using when we want to communicate political messages, even negative ones. For instance, Kahanism – a genuine political current in Israel; anyone over the age of 40 can recall the debates surrounding the movement, as well as the mass protests it provoked and violence that accompanied it. Of course we should be speaking about discrimination, violence, racism. But the interesting thing about these concepts is that they cannot be reduced to an attack exclusively against the political Right; they carry a broader political and social significance than that. (Perhaps this is precisely why people prefer to shout “fascists,” as it suggests that the target is right wing.)

Our liberal use of the word “democracy” has also devalued that concept. I used to write quite a lot about democracy and the threats to it. Now I try not to use the word unless I have to. Democracy is a very abstract word. Like “fascism,” it is little more than a code word for a specific political tribe and its allies abroad, and meaningless for everybody else. The result then is that we shout about “democracy,” and most people don’t understand what we want from them. (The lie about “Jewish & democratic” merits a separate discussion.)

The word “democracy” is problematic in yet another way. The call to “defend democracy” assumes there is something to defend, and that this something is in danger. This observation is entirely unique to the Zionist Left. The Palestinians in the occupied territories can hardly be expected to feel that there is a democracy worth defending here. Palestinians citizens might have their doubts too. (As MK Ahmed Tibi memorably put it: “Israel is Jewish and democratic. Democratic for the Jews and Jewish for everyone else.”)

On the Right, among the settlers or the veterans of the Revisionist movement, the situation actually feels more democratic than at any other point in Israeli history, during which they were the ones being suppressed, excluded and marginalized. In the 1950’s my grandmother could not work in education because everyone knew she used to be in the Irgun (a pre-state right-wing Zionist militia). For people like her, Israel became a lot more democratic over the past few decades.

To make a long story short, the Right feels Israel is more democratic, the Palestinians never felt it was democratic and the only ones crying about democracy going to the dogs is the Zionist Left. And it is doing it not because of its universalism, but because for once, it is the Zionist Left that’s on the run. This is obviously something to worry about, and I’m as concerned about this assault as anyone else, but let’s not claim to speak in the name of “democracy.” Let’s talk about persecution, about silencing and censorship, about nationalism, about community, about mutual responsibility, about “thou shalt not do unto others,” about rivalry or even about civil war.

I think the truly irritating thing about these two words is that they often hide a private or a collective interest behind something ostensibly universal and global. What’s more, the string of incidents held up as proof for the advancing-or-already-established “fascism” is light years from that grand and terrible word: a fired teacher, a suspended broadcaster, and so on. (Professor Sternhell is actually the only leftist voice in nearly two decades to be the victim of an assassination attempt, so as previously stated, I have no bone to pick with him.)

Each one of those incidents is ugly, and one can speak of a general phenomenon. But if you want to talk fascism, why talk about these unpleasant but relatively mild incidents, and not, say, October 2000, when police gunned down Palestinian citizens of Israel during demonstrations. Or why not discuss 17 Palestinian protesters that the IDF killed in the West Bank this past month alone? And how can we even begin to speak of democracy in a state where a huge chunk – nearly half – of the population under its effective sovereignty is administered by military rule? Why are we only waking up now?

At the end of the day, I think the two terms, fascism and democracy, are intended only for a tiny part of the Left. They are part of an internal language of mutual encouragement and reinforcement. This is an important survival tool for a persecuted minority, but on a larger scale they won’t do any good – and might actually make things worse.

You can watch me debate Prof. Sternhell  and Prof. Tamar Herman on those issues on Channel 10 here [Hebrew], our part starts at min 23:00. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call; I thank Dimi Reider for translating it.

The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
On the Adam Verete affair and anti-democratic trends: Three notes
Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy?

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Netanyahu is talking to Hamas. It’s about time http://972mag.com/netanyahu-is-talking-to-hamas-its-about-time/95570/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-is-talking-to-hamas-its-about-time/95570/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 20:02:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95570 Without Hamas, there will be no interim agreement and no long-term solution. The notion of the ‘moderates’ reaching an agreement between themselves while the ‘fundamentalists’ are ignored or even dealt with forcefully is a dangerous illusion.

For the past week Israel has been negotiating with Hamas in Cairo. While the Palestinian delegation to the talks includes a representative of Mahmoud Abbas, and while the Egyptians are the ones carrying the messages back and forth between the two parties, everyone knows exactly what this is all about. These are no longer talks about prisoner exchanges, but rather a first attempt to touch upon the core issues relating to the siege on Gaza and the status of Hamas as ruler of the Strip. Israel is talking to Hamas (and to Islamic Jihad, which is closer to Iran). Better get used to it.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. Hamas is not a post-modern organization like ISIS, but a national movement with vast support within the Palestinian population (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu is drawing fire from the Right – that’s to be expected – but a lot of it is coming from the Left too. Bibi’s critics on the Left claim that ever since the kidnappings all he has done is strengthen Hamas (that’s true), help Hamas regroup during its time of crisis (that’s also true), and that instead he should be talking only to Abbas and other “moderates.” And that’s dead wrong.

Hamas, as any serious observer knows, is a political movement with an armed wing (so is Fatah, by the way). These kinds of organizations are common with national liberation movements – just like Sinn Fein was or the Jewish militia in Mandatory Palestine. More importantly, Hamas represents a vast portion of the Palestinian public in Gaza and the West Bank. It’s a grassroots movement, closely tied to the population, not some postmodern, transnational volunteer organization like ISIS or al-Qaeda.

Even if the actual support rate for Hamas within the Palestinian population doesn’t reach 50%, but only 40% or even 35%, that’s high enough to turn it into an essential part of any binding political solution, because with such strong support it has the ability to sabotage any agreement if left out. Just as any agreement that would only represent half of the Jewish population would have very low chances of succeeding (see Oslo Accord).

The notion of the “moderates” reaching an agreement between themselves while the “fundamentalists” are ignored or even dealt with forcefully is just the type of illusion the Israeli Left likes to come up with (see this campaign for example). It’s also the kind of thinking that led to some of American’s worst foreign policy disasters. If the Israeli peace camp was serious about peace, it would go out and demand that the Cairo talks be turned into preparation for further negotiations on a permanent solution, instead of daydreaming about striking a separate deal with Abbas.

Netanyahu (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu. Doing the right thing a month too late and thousands of lives too short (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

This is where people usually jump up and remind us that Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction or the dismantling of the State of Israel. So what. There’s a big difference between talk and political action. The platform of Likud – Israel’s ruling party for most of the period since 1977 – doesn’t recognize the Palestinian people as the native people of this land, not their civil rights nor their right to a state of their own. And still, Palestinians have been negotiating with Likud members for 20 years now, without ever making it their condition that Likud changes its platform and rewrites its history prior to any talks. The wording of Hamas’ charter, just like that of the PLO’s charter before it, are only an excuse to avoid negotiations.

If the current talks would have been about “the destruction of Israel,” avoiding them would have been the right step. But the talks are about a long-term ceasefire, the lifting of the siege, about the safety of the citizens of Israel and the wellbeing of the residents of Gaza. How can anyone oppose that? I simply don’t get the Israeli peace camp anymore, that roots for the government during wartime and attacks it from the right during talks.

Hamas is a central part of “the Palestinian Problem,” which is why Hamas must be part of any solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu should be congratulated for finally understanding that the conflict has no military solution. Instead of restoring the taboo on talking to Hamas, we should be glad that it is Netanyahu, of all people, who is breaking it.

Any criticism towards Netanyahu should be about him still needing the Egyptians in the room, along with their own problematic agenda and interests. It should be for sticking to the divide and rule approach towards the Palestinians, instead of treating their entire leadership with respect. It should be for always refusing to deal with the core issues and only agreeing to the minimum of steps required for maintaining the status quo. And most of all, it should be for being dragged into doing the right thing, a month too late and thousands of lives too short, and only after first exhausting every single worst option.

In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control http://972mag.com/gaza-war-its-about-keeping-the-palestinians-under-control/95143/ http://972mag.com/gaza-war-its-about-keeping-the-palestinians-under-control/95143/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 19:56:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95143 Israel has been waging a single war since the mid-70s. Its goal is to avoid sharing power or assets with the other people living on this land. The Gaza war wasn’t about creating a new order, but about maintaining the old one. 

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza'a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza’a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014 (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

At the time of this writing, Operation Protective Edge has come to an end and the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is delicately holding. Though indirect talks are taking place in Cairo, reports from the negotiations indicate an Israeli refusal to lift the siege on Gaza. Hamas has vowed to fight on if the ceasefire doesn’t hold, but the humanitarian crisis in the Strip is likely to make that difficult.

As things now stand, it’s clear that declarations by Israeli ministers and generals on “a new reality” in the south disguise a different, opposite goal for this war: Protective Edge was carried out in order to restore things to way they were before June 2014. In other words, to maintain the status quo.

This has been the goal of Israeli policy for many years now. Since the end of the 1973 war, Israel has been waging a single war against a single adversary – the Palestinians. The first Lebanon War, the Intifadas, Cast Lead, Protective Edge and most of the military operations in between were all part of “a military solution” to the Palestinian problem. Even the notable exception – the 2006 war in Lebanon – was leftover from the the 1982 invasion, which was conducted against the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Despite all the threats that came and went over the years – the Syrians, Iran’s nuclear program, the axis of evil, international jihad – at the end of the day, it all comes down to the Palestinian issue. The reason why all those threats are constantly debated and inflated in Israel is to hide this fact.

This is the heart of the matter: There are two population groups, Jews and Palestinians, living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley. They are nearly equal in size and almost totally mixed: there are Jews and Arabs along the coast line, Jews and Arabs in the north, Jews and Arabs in the south, and Jews and Arabs in the West Bank.

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads, calling for an end to the attack (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Jews living everywhere in this territory have full rights, while the Palestinians are divided into all sorts of sub-groups with differing sets of rights that are never equal to those of the Jews. Jews are represented and protected everywhere by a single unified, sovereign government, while most Palestinians are administered by different kinds of weak, partial local administrations. Jews hold almost all the assets – including most of the lands – while Palestinians have very few assets, and some of them are inaccessible or off-limits, like the natural gas fields inside Gaza’s territorial waters.

This is a unique order. I don’t know of any other country in the world that has held such a large part of the native population as non-citizens for such a long period of time. It is an inherently unjust order, and it will continue to create instability and to cast serious doubts over the legitimacy of the entire system. This will happen regardless of all the advocacy efforts on the part of the government, or the number of Zionist laws the Knesset passes. Reality has a force of its own.

In this context, keeping the Palestinians under control was, and still remains, the Israeli challenge; not killing. The violence is a byproduct, which Israelis would happily do without. The goal is to keep the existing order of things. Great resources are directed to this end: a massive defense budget; technological creativity; philosophy professors that come up with new ethics for this national project; the Supreme Court defines the legal boundaries for it – who can be killed and who can’t, what land can be taken and what not; all while a propaganda machine tries to market the outcome to the world and to our own citizens.

When the Palestinians accept the order of things instead of rebelling, Israelis can turn to other issues – talk about social justice, rising real estate prices, the culture war between the religious and secular, and between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. But then something happens, and everyone goes back to dealing with the national project: How to keep the Palestinians under control.

The alternative involves sharing power, assets and land with the other people living on this land. This could be achieved by dividing the territory in two (the two-state solution) or within one unified territory. There are also hybrids of the two models. But as long as the Israeli goal is to keep as many assets as possible in the hands of the Jewish community, or to keep the Palestinians under its control – for example, through controlling the borders or the airspace of the future Palestinian state, or allowing the IDF to violate its sovereignty – there will be no compromise, and Israel will continue to carry out “peacekeeping missions,” continue “to restore order,” continue to “renew deterrence,” “mow the grass” and all those other euphemisms for keeping Palestinians under control.

As a side note, it should be clear that the Israeli tendency to try and determine who is a “legitimate” Palestinian leader and who should be dealt with by force – whether it’s Hamas’ Khaled Mashal or MK Hanin Zoabi – is also a part of this game. Recognizing only those who accept our terms in advance is simply another form of control.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

The price of a fair compromise, one that really has a chance of working, is huge. Israel retains all the assets and, therefore, is the one that needs to pay and take risks. The Palestinians have very little “to give” Israel in return, save for legitimacy and some hope that things will pay off in the future. Even the much debated security arrangements are worthless. A Palestinian leadership can promise peace today, but who knows what will happen and who will be in power in five or 10 years. In the short run, the compromise is likely to lead to less security as increased political instability on the Israeli side.

It is therefore clear why at this moment in time, when Israel is so powerful and rich, a compromise doesn’t look too attractive for most of the Jewish public. Israel is caught in a tragic decision-making paradox: As long as things are going well, the motivation for compromise remains extremely low. For compromise to become a preferred option, things need to go horribly bad. Until they do, sending soldiers to restore order, to kill and be killed, will seem like the easy way out of any given crisis. And when the benefit-cost ratio finally changes, the price of the compromise is likely to rise, too.

Netanyahu chose the cheapest solution in Gaza: A unilateral retreat without an agreement, which is way less risky than taking the entire Strip, and way less daring than reaching an agreement that actually changes the reality on the ground for the better. Netanyahu usually resorts to cheap solutions. His political opponents – Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Yitzhak Herzog, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar – are not that different. They might have their own ideas for solving the problem at hand – how to keep the Palestinians under control – but none of them want to change the question.

‘Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel’s system of governance’: An interview with filmmaker Yotam Feldman
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution
Israel has alternatives to this war

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This is Netanyahu’s final status solution http://972mag.com/this-is-netanyahus-final-status-solution/94938/ http://972mag.com/this-is-netanyahus-final-status-solution/94938/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:25:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94938 The Gaza war should be seen as part of Israel’s overall strategy, which aims to maintain the current status quo in the Palestinian Territories.

One of the Israeli Right’s greatest political achievements was convincing the public that “we tried the Left’s ideas, and they failed.” Some even say that the current reality is the outcome of “the Left’s ideas.”

Naturally, this claim comfortably avoids the responsibility that the Right had in torpedoing any attempt for peaceful reconciliation, from 1987’s London Accord to Netanyahu’s unilateral decision in 1996 to stop implementing Oslo. (For some reason, the video in which Netanyahu boasted of killing Oslo and manipulating the Clinton administration didn’t leave the kind of impression one would expect.) Oslo itself was as far as one can get from a genuine two-state solution; it did not include the evacuation of a single settlement or the transfer of one square yard to full Palestinian sovereignty.

But these are the kind of historical debates in which nearly everything has been said. The fact is that we have been living in the age of the Right for many years now, and right-wing ideas – from Sharon’s disengagement to Netanyahu’s status quo – are the ones that shape reality on the ground.

All Israeli prime ministers from 2001 onward originally came from the Likud. Despite all sorts of “revelations” they experienced with regard to the Palestinian issue, and despite the new parties they formed, broke off from or returned to, none of them took active measures on the ground that were meant to lead to a fair compromise with the Palestinians. All they did was take several elements from the two-state solution and incorporate them into the old right-wing approach: the Iron Wall, military power, colonization, maximum land and minimum Arabs.

This is how Olmert’s unilateral withdrawal plan was born (and floated again recently by Michael Oren), along with Netanyhau’s “economic peace,” Bennett’s “Stability Initiative” or the far right’s absurd “Israeli Initiative.” All of those are variations on the same theme, which most of the time doesn’t even get its own name, yet remains the blueprint for Israeli policies.

The Gaza disengagement in 2005, a crucial moment which led to the current state of affairs, was the opposite of compromise: its stated goal was the prevention of a Palestinian State. The drama surrounding the evacuation of some 9,000 people shouldn’t obscure the fact that the disengagement was a status quo-oriented idea – more a rearrangement than a disengagement – and the debate surrounding it remained within the right wing, between the radical right and the more pragmatic conservatives.

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. Some people accuse him of lacking a strategy, but that is a shallow assessment. Netanyahu has been carrying out his strategy for years now. The failure of the peace talks and the war in Gaza are part of the same game, which is about maintaining the current status quo and doing so by force, if necessary.

Netanyahu’s approach is consistent. The conflict is for him a zero-sum game, and therefore one need not move beyond “a modified status quo.” One should use the regional and international system to search for ad-hoc coalitions, rather than rely on long-term relationships and agreements. One should try to avoid using military force, yet still prefer it to concessions; when decision time comes, the choice is clear. One should also continue to colonize land, but at a pace that takes geopolitical circumstances into account.

These ideas now represent the Israeli mainstream. Save for the issue of settlements, the differences between Labor’s Herzog, Livni, Lapid, Netanyahu and Liberman are minor. You hear the same thinking echoed by Israeli think tanks, op-ed pages and conferences. It is ironic that Israel accused Palestinians of a “unilateral move” when they tried to take their statehood bid to the United Nations (!), when unilateralism is at the heart of Israeli thinking.

Israel has been implementing these ideas for years, and the results are the only ones possible: brief periods of peace and prosperity (for Israelis) interrupted by periodic violent escalations. Things couldn’t be clearer. What we are witnessing in Israel these days is the “solution” – the alternative to both two states and one state.

The decision to try end the military operation unilaterally is particularly telling. For the government, the next escalation is always preferable to handing the adversary any form of achievement, while the war’s goal is to return the situation to how it was before the bombing started.

The current moment – when dozens are killed daily (most of them Palestinian civilians), when Israel becomes more and more isolated and when all policy choices are bad – is the direct outcome of the status quo strategy. This is when the real cost of the status quo becomes clear, rather than during the sunny intervals between wars. Only this time it is too late to go back. At every crossroad, Netanyahu doubles down on his bad bets, and the entire nation joins him willingly.

Israel has alternatives to this war
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice

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When will we get it? Palestinians are fighting for their freedom http://972mag.com/when-will-we-get-it-palestinians-are-fighting-for-their-freedom/94778/ http://972mag.com/when-will-we-get-it-palestinians-are-fighting-for-their-freedom/94778/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:33:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94778 We consider ourselves a nation that just wants to live in peace, but it’s about time we realize that for Palestinians the siege and the occupation are a constant state of war.

This article is a translation from Hebrew of my Time Out Tel Aviv column from July 31.

Not one of our wars was one of our choosing. Nobody should have to sleep with the thought of Hamas digging tunnels under their home. No state would have been willing to live with rockets. No one should accept the abduction of soldiers. No society would be willing to tolerate terror attacks in its cities. No one wants Katyusha rockets falling on cities in the north. No regime should accept stone-throwing on its main roads. All of the wars were entirely justified when they broke out, and anyone who doesn’t understand this is simply naive, or traitorous.

That’s how the obtuse rationale that has taken over Israel functions. Israeli existence has no past and no history, no context and no politics – just a cycle of threats and responses, all of which are justified.

Palestinians from Shejaiya area flee their homes and look for shelter in Gaza city following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (photo: Anne Paq / activestills)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area flee their homes and look for shelter in Gaza City following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. The spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and four elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital (photo: Anne Paq / Activestills)

At some point this cycle is supposed to get tired. At some point it should be clear that if you stop the suicide bombings, the other side finds rockets. And if you stop the rockets, the other side finds tunnels. I’m sure that the greatest of minds are working right now on a solution to the tunnels, except that soon another existential threat will rise, one that is much more primitive and much more frightening. Because that’s how independence struggles play out all over the world. Cruel, ugly, and bloody. The Viet Cong, the Algerian FLN, even the African National Congress at some point – they all held what were considered at the time to be radical ideologies, and they all used horrifying measures. Why would it be any different for us and the Palestinians?

The infrastructure for terror is the occupation. We consider ourselves a nation of peace seekers who just want to be allowed to live in peace, and I believe that no Israeli wants to kill or be killed. But it’s about time we understood that the Palestinians live in a constant state of war – whether it be the siege of Gaza or military rule in the West Bank. And if we don’t understand this, they’ll be sure to remind us. Gaza is the farthest place in the world from Tel Aviv – until the rockets fall. And then suddenly we remember we’re neighbors.

The entire world understands the connection between the occupation and terror. It’s only us who don’t. Only we feed ourselves stories of global Jihad and anti-Semitism being the root of the problem, while the most simple explanation is right in front of us. World history makes it clear: Either the occupied minority are made citizens of the occupying state, or it is granted independence. There are no other nations stuck in this kind of limbo, without citizenship and without a state, like the Palestinians. And there are certainly no  other nations that would tolerate it.

Tel Aviv is to blame, too. Tel Aviv, which thinks it’s a cute Western city, opposes the situation in theory but mostly doesn’t pay any attention to those forgotten just an hour away. Tel Aviv would also prefer to have victims of war instead of paying the price of a just compromise. Maybe because most of the victims are on the other side. Maybe because the cost of a compromise is a war at home, with our own people.

One thing is clear: This won’t stop. If we occupy the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians will try to kill the soldiers who enter Gaza, and if we leave they will swim and dig and fire missiles so that we remember they exist. Then we will respond with force. There will be no other choice.

Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
Israel has alternatives to this war
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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Amid Gaza war IDF buys ammunition from U.S. stock in Israel http://972mag.com/amid-gaza-war-idf-buys-ammunition-from-u-s-stock-in-israel/94723/ http://972mag.com/amid-gaza-war-idf-buys-ammunition-from-u-s-stock-in-israel/94723/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:14:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94723 The last time the U.S. allowed Israel to restock the IDF’s munitions from its local supply was in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War.

The U.S. approved the sale of $300 million worth of ammunition to Israel, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday. Among the ammunition Israel bought from the U.S. was “an undisclosed amount of 120 mm mortar rounds and 40 mm ammunition for grenade launchers,” ABC news reported

The interesting fact is that the sale was made from the U.S. stockpile (WRSA-I) – an emergency storage of ammunition and other military gear (including missiles and military vehicles) that the U.S. European Command has kept in a secret location in Israel since the early 90s. The storage belongs to the U.S. military, but the president can authorize a sale to Israel under special circumstances, as it did during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Israel’s ability to maintain a prolonged war is a sensitive military issue, and the details of the IDF’s stockpile are kept secret. However, it is a well known fact that in some cases Israel has relied on American supplies during its wars. The most well-known example is the arial convoy sent by President Nixon in 1973.

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

No details of the current sale were made public in Israel after the Pentagon announcement, so it is unclear how a refusal to transfer the ammunition to the IDF would have affected Israel’s decision to continue with its Gaza operation. Israel usually uses the $3 billion in annual aid it receives from the U.S. on the purchase of weapons, since it must spend the money on U.S. products. Occasionally, the U.S. Congress also allows special aid packages during war times.

Israel announced this morning that 16,000 more reservists will be drafted, and that the IDF will receive new offensive missions in Gaza. Over 1,400 Palestinians and 55 Israelis have been killed in the war so far.

+972 Magazine’s full coverage of the war in Gaza
WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?

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Protective Edge: The disengagement undone http://972mag.com/protective-edge-the-disengagment-undone/94528/ http://972mag.com/protective-edge-the-disengagment-undone/94528/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:06:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94528 Israel’s latest operation has brought about an end to the notion that Gaza can be separated from the rest of Palestine.

The current war in Gaza demands we revisit the circumstances surrounding Israel’s “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Supporters of the war often claim that Israel left the territory and “got rockets in return.”

The first rocket was fired from Gaza in 2001, but there is a more important point to be made here: one cannot evacuate a certain part of the occupied territories and expect the problem to be solved – at least in that particular area – while more settlements are being built and there is less freedom elsewhere. The national drama surrounding the evacuation of 9,000 settlers in 2005 disguised the fact that Israel never ended the occupation; it merely rearranged its forces (and some of the civilian population). Just like it did with Oslo.

The events leading up to the siege demonstrate that pretty clearly – Hamas, after all, won the 2006 elections, but Israel denied it its victory. Just like other occupying powers, Israel insisted, and still does, on using its veto power in internal Palestinian politics. The rest is well known: having been left out of the political process, Hamas took Gaza by force and launched attacks on Israel, leading to Israel placing the Strip under siege, which didn’t end even when ceasefires were reached.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

These events could have been expected, but in a way they served what the Israeli government perceived as its own interest. The object of the disengagement was to prevent the creation of the Palestinian state – relieving the pressure on an area that Israel had trouble maintaining in order to hold on more tightly to other parts. This was no secret; even Ariel Sharon’s top aid, Dov Weisglass, said as much on record in an interview with Haaretz.

The bottom line is that Gaza and the West Bank are a single unit. This was demonstrated again and again in the last decade, including in the run-up to this war, which had much to do with the widespread operation Israel carried out against Hamas’ political leadership in the West Bank after the abduction of the three teenagers. An action taken in one place leads to a response in another. It is now clear even to Israelis that one cannot simply “get rid of Gaza”; the Strip is once again understood as part of the greater Palestinian issue. And this is Hamas’ greatest achievement in this war.

Conflicting forces of separation and integration are at work between Israel and the territories it occupied in 1967. If Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense were parts of the ongoing effort to isolate besieged Gaza, this military campaign seems to bring about an opposite outcome. Any foreseeable end to Operation Protective Edge will probably include some mechanism that would reconnect Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, and through them to Israel. There is even the option that Israel will decide to re-occupy the entire Strip, though this still seems unlikely.

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

At this point, it seems that nobody in Israel has given much thought to the goals or the exit strategy of this campaign. Naturally, Israelis would like to see the arrangement Israel has in the West Bank installed in Gaza – a proxy government whose main function is to protect Israeli citizens and prevent another uprising, financed by the international community and under Israeli supervision. The Egyptians would be happy with such a solution as well.

The problem is that the Palestinians, as well as the rest of the world, seem less thrilled – especially since Israel has made it fairly clear that the Palestinian Authority will never become sovereign in any real sense of the word.

Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Israel has alternatives to this war http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/ http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:19:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94325 This war can end and the next one can be avoided by lifting the siege, allowing for imports and exports in and out of Gaza, relieving the pressure on the civilian population, and then embarking on a genuine effort to reach a fair compromise with the Palestinians.

This operation feels different from previous escalations. A ceasefire may come soon, but we could also be heading for a long period of violence and instability. Another escalation will not be limited to Gaza: the West Bank saw its largest protest since the Second Intifada last night, with two killed by army fire.

This round of violence should also be understood in the context of regional turmoil. The Palestinians were the only ones not to revolt during the Arab Spring, due to their unique circumstances under Israeli occupation. But one could see Gaza – especially if events spill over to the West Bank – as “the Palestinians’ turn” in the revolution. The Israeli-Egyptian alliance also points to the fact that Israel is no longer a bystander but party to the fighting taking place in the region.

Israel was, however, never a passive observer. It is the regional superpower and has the support of the world’s superpower. At any given moment, the Israeli leadership can choose from various policy options. This was the case following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, the escalation that preceded the military campaign, and this is also the case now.

I would like to discuss a realistic alternative, along with its cost and risks.

Funeral for the 26 members of the Abu Jame' family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame'  family. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Funeral for the 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’  family. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A new policy must begin with a different strategic goal. The current Israeli goal is “peace for peace,” meaning a return to the status quo in exchange for an end to the military campaign. For Gaza, this means continued siege. As I wrote here before, Israel treats Gaza and the West Bank as a couple of open air prisons that occasionally get out of control; the goal of the military operations is to restore order. This is a policy that is supported by the Israeli opposition, which is sometimes still referred to as “the peace camp” but nevertheless supports all the wars.

An alternative strategic goal should include lifting the siege in the short term and reaching a fair and stable compromise with the Palestinian people in the medium to long term. I use the word “compromise” here because there won’t be a “solution” in Israel/Palestine that will end politics and history. Jews and Palestinians will continue to compete and cooperate on this land for the foreseeable future. But as long as maintaining the status quo remains the Israeli goal, the violent military campaigns, with all their horrors and losses on both sides, are an inevitable consequence.

There is no way around this. The “peace for peace” formula doesn’t work because the occupation is not peace. So what the Palestinians are getting is “a little less war for peace.” For this reason, the current war with Hamas is not an effort to “strengthen the moderates” and to “facilitate peace,” as some claim, but rather an alternative to peace.

The nature of this compromise should also be understood in a different way. This is much more important than the one state/two states debate. If the compromise must include the current assumptions of Israeli policy – that Israel should have veto power over Palestinian politics, over candidates and winners; that Israeli citizens should enjoy 100 percent security throughout the process and beyond; that Palestinians should accept the Zionist narrative and give up their own; that Israel will be able to dictate certain assets that it would retain for itself, from religious sites to strategic territories – if all this is to continue, then there is no solution, nor will there be one. Again, it’s worth mentioning that most of the Israeli “peace camp” never relinquished those demands, therefore its support for peaceful compromise cannot be taken very seriously.

If the strategic goal is indeed a compromise or a solution, Israelis must realize that they won’t be able to control Palestinian politics or the Palestinian economy, and that one should be prepared for the possibility of some casualties along the way. On the other hand, it’s not that we don’t have casualties now. The status quo offers endless rounds of violent escalation. Some of them will be cheaper for Israel in terms of human lives, and some more expensive. A compromise, on the other hand, will not guarantee complete security, but it does present a certain opportunity for a much better future.

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of operation ‘Protective Edge,’ when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel can end the fighting now. For that, it can agree to lift the siege on Gaza. Egypt could, in theory, do that by opening the Rafah crossing, but ultimately it will not replace Israel. The siege is an Israeli policy, and Gaza is a Palestinian issue linked to historic Palestine.

Lifting the siege can take place in stages. Israel can open the ground crossings for people and goods immediately, since it supervises them anyway and could prevent the import of weapons. There should be no problem in allowing exports from the Strip and the movement of people in and out – two things Israel banned, save for unique cases. Naturally, Israel should also allow Gaza’s civil servants to be paid. Preventing the transfer of funds for their salaries is something that contributed to the current escalation.

Israel should also recognize the Palestinian unity government and encourage the strengthening of its authority all over the occupied Palestinian territories. This is in Israel’s interest too, and I never quite figured out why the government opposes it.

Once a ceasefire has been reached, the Palestinian Authority and Israel should quickly agree on a mechanism for allowing sea and air travel to and from Gaza. This is where Israel can demand international guarantees or the presence of some third-party monitors. It can also ask for international forces to be present along and around the border of Gaza. This could help deal with the tunnels issue that Israel is concerned about.

This is in the short term. Hamas already signaled that such measures would lead to a long-term ceasefire. More than anything, these terms would ease the suffering of the Gazan population, which should be on everyone’s mind. Naturally, such measures would not provide complete security guarantees for Israel; such guarantees do not exist. This is where we return to my previous point: If one is not ready for the risks involved in the potential collapse or violation of agreements, no agreement will be possible at all. The de facto meaning of such a position is support for the status quo.

At the same time, it is worth remembering that agreements are not always bound to collapse, and history is full of examples of diplomatic measures that succeeded. Some violations are inevitable, but the conflict can gradually take on a non-violent form.

For such a ceasefire agreement not to lead to another round of war, it must be accompanied by an immediate effort to reach a full-scale compromise; one that would end the occupation and touch all core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugees. As we learned in Oslo, interim agreements that are turned into permanent arrangements are a problem in and of themselves, and can, in fact, lead to further violence.

I will not go into the one state/two states/confederacy debate here. It should, however, be remembered that all these options include certain security risks and, more importantly, the Jewish public would need to give up considerable assets. In the two-state solution these are territorial assets. In the case of the one-state solution it means sharing state institutions and symbols, and the redistribution of land.

The alternative to those arrangements is not only the status quo, but perhaps a return to full Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza. Even if Hamas is defeated and the previous order of things is restored, the Palestinians will return to fighting for their independence once they recover. The Palestinian Authority will not be able to do Israel’s police work for much longer – the Palestinians will topple it or they will force it to support the uprising, and then Israel will destroy it.

This is the choice we face as Israelis. The price of a compromise is undeniable, there are certainly risks involved, but it’s not an impossible challenge. Israel is wealthy and powerful, and has the support of the West; those challenging it are divided and isolated. It remains unclear how many of these circumstances will exist in the future.

Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
Why I object to this military campaign, even as missiles fall on my city

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]]> http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/feed/ 34 Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses? http://972mag.com/why-do-palestinians-continue-to-support-hamas-despite-such-devastating-loses/94080/ http://972mag.com/why-do-palestinians-continue-to-support-hamas-despite-such-devastating-loses/94080/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:08:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94080 I know of many Palestinians who do not like Hamas. Yet for them, the Gaza war is about the siege – part of their own war of independence. Israelis refuse to get that.

In The Fog of War, Errol Morris’ excellent documentary, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara speaks about a certain inability to understand the enemy – one that stems from a lack of empathy.

In the film, McNamara, a brilliant systems analyst, who is today associated more than anything with the Vietnam War, says that part of President Kennedy’s successful management of the Cuban Missile Crisis was his administration’s ability to put itself in the shoes of the Soviets and understand their point of view. “In the case of Vietnam,” he says, “we didn’t know them well enough to empathize.” As a result, each side had a completely different understanding of what the war was about.

This understanding came to McNamara only in 1991, when he visited Vietnam and met with the country’s foreign minister. McNamara asked the foreign minister whether he thought it was possible to reach the same results of the war (independence and uniting the south with the north) without the heavy losses. Between one and three million people died in the war, most of them Vietnamese civilians. This does not include the hundreds of thousands of casualties in the war against the French, which took place shortly before. Approximately 58,000 American soldiers were also killed in the Vietnam War.

“You were fighting to enslave us,” yelled the foreign minister at McNamara, who in turn replied that that is an absurd notion. The two nearly came to blows. But as time passed McNamara understood. “We saw Vietnam as an element of the Cold War,” he says, whereas what the foreign minister was trying to tell him was that for the Vietnamese it was a war of independence. Communism was not the heart of the matter for the Vietnamese. They were willing to make the worst sacrifices because they were fighting for their freedom – not for Marx or Brezhnev.

Nations will make inconceivable sacrifices in these kinds of struggles. An entire one percent of the Jewish population was killed in the 1948 war. The public accepted it painfully and with a stiff upper lip because they felt, just like the Vietnamese, that they were fighting for their lives and for their freedom. We have become so much more susceptible to loss, not because we went soft, but because we have a deeper understanding that despite all the “we’re fighting for our future” slogans, 2014 is not 1948.

Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in all three military operations in Gaza, not including the Second Intifada. Most of them were civilians. I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it.

+972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

The demand that the people of Gaza protest against Hamas, often heard in Israel today, is absurd. Even if we disregard the fact that Israelis themselves hate protests in times of war, they still expect the Palestinians to conduct a civil uprising under fire. The people of Gaza support Hamas in its war against Israel because they perceive it to be part of their war of independence. A Hamas warrior who swears by the Quran is no different from a Vietcong reciting The Internationale before leaving for battle. These kind of rituals leave a strong impression, but they are not the real story.

Israelis, both left and right, are wrong to assume that Hamas is a dictatorship fighting Israel against its people’s will. Hamas is indeed a dictatorship, and there are many Palestinians who would gladly see it fall, but not at this moment in time. Right now I have no doubt that most Palestinians support the attacks on IDF soldiers entering Gaza; they support kidnapping as means to release their prisoners (whom they see as prisoners of war) and the unpleasant fact is that most of them, I believe, support firing rockets at Israel.

“If we had planes and tanks to fight the IDF, we wouldn’t need to fire rockets,” is a sentence I have heard more than once. As an Israeli, it is unpleasant for me to hear, but one needs to at least try and understand what lies behind such a position. What is certain is that bombing Gaza will not change their minds. On the contrary.

A Palestinian crying near rubbles of his home after the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja'ia, Gaza City, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian crying near rubbles of his home after the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja’ia, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

“But if they didn’t fire rockets or launch terror attacks there would be no siege. So what do they want?” the Israeli public asks. After all, we already left Gaza.

Back to McNamara and The Fog of War. If the citizens of Vietnam would have abandoned Communism, McNamara told the Vietnamese foreign minister 1991, the U.S. wouldn’t have even cared about them. They could have had both their independence and their unity. But in the eyes of the Vietnamese, things looked completely different. As soon as they managed to drive out the French, in marched the Americans. Colonialism simply never stopped. The choice was between a corrupt U.S.-sponsored regime in the south and a horrific war with the north.

For the Palestinians, the choice is between occupation by proxy in the West Bank and a war in Gaza. Both offer no hope, and neither are forms of freedom. The Israeli promise — that an end to armed struggle will bring freedom — is not trustworthy, as the experiences of past years has shown. It simply never happens. The quiet years in the West Bank have not brought the Palestinians any closer to an independent state, while the truce in between wars in Gaza has not brought about a relief from the siege. One can debate the reasons for why this happened, but one cannot debate reality.

Hamas tells the Palestinians the simple truth: freedom comes at the cost of blood. The tragedy is that we usually provide the evidence. After all, the evacuation of settlements in Gaza came after the Second Intifada, not as a result of negotiations. The Oslo Accords came after the First Intifada; before that, Israel turned down even the convenient London Agreement between Shimon Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein.

Israelis are convinced they are fighting a terror organization driven by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Palestinians are convinced Israelis are looking to enslave them, and that as soon as the war is over the siege will be reinforced. Since this is exactly what Israel intends to do, as our government has repeatedly stated, they have no reason to stop fighting.

Hamas may accept a ceasefire soon. Its regime might collapse. Either way, it is only a matter of time before the next round of violence. Human lives are not cheaper for Palestinians than they are for us. But nations fighting for their freedom will endure the worst sacrifices. Like in Shujaiyeh.

An excerpt from The Fog of War. The part I refer to starts at 11:46 minutes:

Originally posted in Hebrew on Local Call.

PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
The ‘terror tunnels’: Another Israeli self-fulfilling prophecy
‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Mourning death wherever it strikes

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