+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:21:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 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.

Related:
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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How Europe’s Jews lost their humanity in Gaza http://972mag.com/how-europes-jews-lost-their-humanity-in-gaza/94759/ http://972mag.com/how-europes-jews-lost-their-humanity-in-gaza/94759/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 07:53:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94759 The racism that has swept across Israel is devastating to behold. It is also an abdication of what Jews have prized for centuries: A sense of common humanity.

By Gilad Isaacs

For centuries Jews knocked on the door of Eurasian civilization. As they stood precariously on the doorstep they understood that crossing the threshold – being enveloped by the warmth and light within – would signify acceptance, normalization and safety. Sometimes they begged, sometimes they yelled; often they declared: “I am a Jew,” and continued in the vein of:

Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? [The Merchant Of Venice]

Most Jews did not wish to become something they were not. They were happy to remain Jews, and simply sought for others to accept them as such. Some of these Jews became Zionists, whose dream was more than land. They proclaimed that Jews would be accepted as equals if they had a state of their own; if they, as Theodore Herzl proclaimed, entered the “family of nations.”

Fast forward to today. In Israel, the most devastating casualty of the ongoing occupation has been this cherished notion of common humanity.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The racism that has swept across Israel is devastating to behold. Israelis maraud through the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv yelling “Death to Arabs”; a renowned Israeli scholar argues that the sisters, mothers and wives of potential Palestinian terrorists should be raped as a method of deterrence; Knesset members call for a war against all Palestinian people and the forced expulsion of Palestinians out of Gaza and the West Bank; the deputy mayor of Haifa is beaten; a Palestinian teenager is burnt alive; and the list goes on. These are not the misdeeds of rogue anti-social elements: This is a wave of hatred and violence that is committed or supported by large swathes of the Israeli public. Most disquieting is the celebration of Palestinian death and suffering, whether it be cheering from the hilltops of Sderot as bombs fall upon Gaza, or joyous outbursts from Israelis on social media.

Such enmity, and the justification of the hundreds of civilian deaths in the assault upon Gaza, is premised upon a profound “othering” of the Palestinian people, a disregard of the common humanity that Jews prized not so long ago.

Many Israelis would not actively identify with this open loathing, but they are no less a product of their society. In response to the killing of innocent Palestinians, an Israeli woman – whose generosity of spirit I respect – asked me, “Is anyone asking, though, why Saudi money wasn’t used to build shelters for the children of Gaza?” The blockade is the obvious answer, but the question really means: The fault is not ours, it is theirs; they choose to squander their money on attack tunnels instead of protective shelters for their civilians. They are not like us, they do not sufficiently love their children, Golda Meir said in 1972, and Netanyahu repeats ad nauseam.

Why then do Palestinian mothers weep?

Palestinian women cry after Israeli air strike on Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women cry after a deadly Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

Not all Israelis are guilty of this disregard. Yet, the depths of intolerance and hatred are arguably more evident when one witnesses the viciousness of the Israeli right’s reaction to those Jewish Israelis calling for an end to the carnage: Right-wing thugs stone antiwar protestors; the captain of a youth soccer team in Be’er Sheva writes on his Facebook page, “send left-wing voters to the gas chambers and clean this country of leftists”; Israeli journalist Gideon Levy is nearly assaulted in the rocket-battered southern city of Ashkelon; an angry mob, some (unknowingly) wearing neo-Nazi t-shirts, yell slogans such as “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists” while rampaging in coffee shops identified with the left, breaking things and beating people up. The list could go on. Whilst these might be the most acute manifestations of intolerance of difference, the mainstream is guilty of the same; they accuse those who speak out against the current atrocities of being “unpatriotic.”

Not only do many Israelis view the Palestinians as less than them, they also harbor – uncomfortably perhaps – similar sentiments about those that would abandon their brothers-in-arms and defend the “other side.”

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

That said, we must applaud the large number of Israelis who are prepared to demonstrate against the war, and the many more who sit at home profoundly shaken both by the attack on Gaza and by the hate on the streets. Despite the wartime closing of ranks, dissent is neither impossible nor uncommon.

The Jews are no longer knocking on doors to be let in. We have our own fortress now, bristling with arms. But the cost has been heavy; on the altar of nationalism and ethnic supremacy we have sacrificed the long-cherished ideal of common humanity. Israelis and Zionist Jews, and their most vociferous supporters, can no longer see themselves in the Palestinians. And what we are left with is the second half of Shylock’s speech:

And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Gilad Isaacs is an economist and activist, he tweets from @giladisaacs.

Related:
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
‘Our’ murderers – what would Arendt and Buber say?

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Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths http://972mag.com/blaming-palestinians-for-their-own-deaths/94729/ http://972mag.com/blaming-palestinians-for-their-own-deaths/94729/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:52:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94729 ‘All the targets hit by the IDF in Gaza were attacked morally; those killed are responsible for their own deaths. And Netanyahu – he just wants the Gazans to be safe.’

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Keren Rubinstein)

It is moral because we told them to leave, and those who stayed did so at their own peril. It’s moral because Hamas encouraged them to stay, that’s why this is a self-inflicted genocide carried out by Hamas. The Palestinians who died in Shejaiya, in Khan Younis, actually everywhere and always, are to blame for their own deaths. Maybe it’s only the children who aren’t guilty of their own deaths – maybe it’s the parents who are to blame. As for the elderly people who died, that’s definitely Hamas’ fault. Whichever way you twist it, that blood was not spilled by our hands.

How deeply can you suppress the denial by Israelis? How can the prime minister – the prime minister of the army whose air force killed four nameless children on the beach in Gaza for the world’s cameras to see – look straight into the camera and tell the Palestinians of Gaza, “We want you to be safe”?

Paramedics and people run at the scene where four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military shelling on the harbor and nearby beach of Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children; Ahed Bakr, 10, Zakaria Bakr, 10, Mohd Bakr, 11, and Ismail Bakr, 9.; were killed during the attack.  As of 16 July 2014, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the 2014 Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Paramedics and people run at the scene where four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military shelling at the harbor and nearby beach of Gaza City, July 16, 2014. Four children; Ahed Bakr, 10, Zakaria Bakr, 10, Mohd Bakr, 11, and Ismail Bakr, 9.; were killed during the attack. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Anyone who has been listening to Palestinian voices in Gaza in recent weeks has heard one message repeated over and over through the thunder of Israeli bombardment: No place is safe in Gaza, a bomb can fall anywhere, anytime, on anyone. And there’s nowhere to run, because you can’t leave Gaza; while in it – inside this narrow, impoverished and overpopulated strip of land – nowhere is safe.

They were named Zakariya Ahed Subahi Bakir, age 10; Ahed Atef Ahed Bakir, age 9; Ismail Muhammad Subahi Bakir, age 9; and Mohammad Ramiz Izat Bakir, age 11.

Out of the thousands of targets “attacked” morally, none of these “surgical” bombardments featured in the IDF spokesperson’s clips or the few bombardments cancelled at the last minute, nor did any of the prime minister’s pleas manage to convince Gazans that Israel wishes for their safety. Perhaps they were actually convinced by the overflowing morgues, or maybe they were thinking of the more than 177 dead children. Maybe they were thinking about the Al Batsh family and its 17 dead, or maybe about the Al Haj family and its eight dead.

After the “surgical” phase they moved onto the heavier instruments. The moral side called on the residents to leave and the immoral side told them to stay. Many chose to stay: Some presumed that it was safer at home; others were afraid to leave, perhaps caring for an elderly mother, a relative in a wheelchair or small children. Maybe they stayed because Gaza is closed from all directions – where could they run for safety?

Maybe they stayed because they heard that UNRWA’s schools were already overflowing with incoming refugees, and in any case those schools are also being shelled. Maybe they stayed because they were afraid that if they left, the democratic side’s graces would guarantee that they would have nowhere to return to. Maybe they were afraid of Hamas, maybe of the IDF. Either way, maybe they thought of the morgues. Maybe they were afraid. Of course they were. Frightened Arabs dying by the dozens don’t make for telegenic photos. The kids on the beach weren’t captured telegenically either. Morally, but not telegenically.

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed earlier by an Israeli attack in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured more than 6,200 in the current offensive, most of them civilians (photo: Activestills)

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed earlier by an Israeli attack in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack, which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

Hamas most certainly intended for all this to happen; we, most certainly, did not intend for any of it. But if intent is the outcome expected of a reasonable person, then what was the intent of the person who dropped bomb after bomb on one house and then another, and buried entire families? Those families apparently weren’t persuaded to flee for their lives after the bombarding army’s courteous announcement.

Israel and Hamas both know – it is impossible not to know – that the inevitable result of the war in Gaza is devastating civilian losses there. The bloody experiences already accumulated are sufficiently horrifying to establish with confidence that this is the inevitable outcome, that any claim about the absence of intent is simply detached from reality and renders the word “intent” totally devoid of meaning.

But the main point is that it is moral, and we can move onto the next house, the next family, the next neighborhood. In Beit Hanoun, in Beit Lahia, in Jabaliya, there are another few dozen, hundred, thousand cowardly Palestinians, afraid of the democratic army for no reason at all, and who have every reason to fear the terrorists, whose morality lacks values and is undemocratic. Arabs are cowards; they shake with fear. It will of course be done morally and, in any case, whatever happens Hamas is to blame. Always. What the IDF does is moral. Always. And legal too. The main thing, once again, is that the blood that we spilled was not spilled by our hands.

Hagai El-ad is the CEO of B’Tselem.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call

Related:
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like
Catch-22: When a humanitarian ceasefire becomes a death trap
WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour

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Will there be peace if Palestinians lay down their arms? http://972mag.com/will-there-be-peace-if-palestinians-lay-down-their-arms/94603/ http://972mag.com/will-there-be-peace-if-palestinians-lay-down-their-arms/94603/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:36:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94603

The world expects millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank to happily and quietly live under occupation. While laying down arms is a positive step towards peace, it is not enough to end this conflict.

Written with Dr. Marc Gopin

In the past few weeks the pro-Israel pundits have been recycling an argument that runs as follows:

If Palestinians were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no Israel.

This argument is based on two false assumptions about Palestinians. The first statement is based on the false assumption that the only impediment to peace is Palestinian violence, and the second is based on the assumption that the Palestinians’ main goal is to eradicate the Jews. The argument also rests on the false premise that Israelis are completely peaceful. Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish answered this argument in one of his poems.

The accusation is that I hate Jews.
It’s not comfortable that they show me as a devil
and an enemy of Israel.
I am not a lover of Israel, of course.
I have no reason to be. But I don’t hate Jews

I will continue to humanize even the enemy
The first teacher who taught me Hebrew was a Jew.
The first love affair in my life was with a Jewish girl.
The first judge who sent me to prison was a Jewish woman.
So from the beginning, I didn’t see Jews as devils or angels,
but as human beings.

Many Palestinians share Mahmoud Darwish’s opinion. They don’t hate Jews. They live, work and maintain friendships with Jews and Israelis, and have had good and bad experiences. But the argument is a cheap scare tactic. It demonizes Palestinians and equates them with Nazis. This kind of fear is counterproductive, and fuels the conflict rather than offers constructive solutions.

We – Marc and Aziz – have been working together for six years. Marc is Jewish, Aziz is Palestinian. Neither of us believes for a moment that one of us is waiting to kill the other.

Screenshot of Al Qassam Brigade video

Screenshot of Al Qassam Brigade video

On a political level, this statement is false because Palestinians in the West Bank did, in fact, lay down their weapons. Moreover, they use their weapons to protect Israel.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has recognized Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent interview with Al-Mayadeen News (Arabic) declared that the armed struggle is over and he is opposed to rockets, armed resistance and any kind of fighting against Israel. The Palestinian police are instructed to arrest anyone who plots an attack on Israel. They have been doing so for the last nine years, since Abbas took office. According to Israeli security officials, Abbas succeeded in stopping suicide bombings after taking office.

Abbas has focused on building infrastructure for a Palestinian state. He has worked for a negotiated settlement with Israel. Both former President Shimon Peres and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Abbas a true partner for peace.

Abbas was elected by Palestinians on the agenda of creating a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders next to an Israeli state. But so far he has failed in his mission. So, the assumption that when Palestinians lay down their weapons, peace will prevail is far from the truth and ignores the underlying issues of the conflict and the occupation: territorial conflict, struggle over resources, and lack of political will.

The vast majority of Palestinians supported the peace process and supported President Abbas’ UN bid for statehood on the 1967 borders, giving Israel 78 percent of the land Palestinians view as their homeland.

The U.S has also lost hope in the peace process, with its envoy Martin Indyk calling it dead. Abbas finds himself in a tough place. How can he continue to justify the existence of the Palestinian Authority? Can the political structure in the West Bank survive people’s anger and frustration? Even as Gaza is being attacked, the PLO finds itself unable to offer any solutions, and is, in many ways, irrelevant. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has no vision to offer the Palestinian people.

A protester holding a poster with Nelson Mandela's portrait, during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, December 7, 2013. The demonstration marked four years to the Popular Struggle in Nabi Saleh, while commemorating the killing of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi by Israeli army forces, and twenty six years since the first Intifada.

A protester holding a poster with Nelson Mandela’s portrait, during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, December 7, 2013. The demonstration marked four years of the popular struggle in Nabi Saleh, while commemorating the killing of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi by Israeli army forces, and 26 years since the First Intifada (photo: Activestills)

The irony of Israel’s argument is that Hamas is using a similar concept. Hamas’ argument goes like this: The PLO’s recognition of Israel and renouncement of armed struggle has achieved nothing. The PLO has laid down its arms, and still there is no peace. Hamas argues that its violent 2012 confrontation with Israel was able to achieve more than PLO diplomacy and negotiations have achieved. The reason Hamas is able to gain support nowadays is Abbas’ failure to achieve peace with Israel through negotiations. 

Palestinians find themselves today between a rock and hard place. They know they have no chance of winning with armed struggle. They also know that negotiations are unlikely to lead to an agreement (at least not with the current Israeli government). Even non-violent initiatives like the BDS movement and weekly village protests against the West Bank wall are quickly accused of being anti-Semitic. It is absurd that Palestinians are expected to ask Israel, “What form of protest should we stage that you find acceptable and not anti-Semitic?” Many Palestinians feel that the world is blind to their grievances and aspirations for freedom.

So, let’s set the record straight. Palestinians are not Nazis. Palestinians, like everyone else in the world, seek freedom, recognition of their national identity, and an end to the occupation. They long for peace and reconciliation, and are exhausted by this never-ending conflict and pain.

It is ridiculous for the world to expect millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank to happily and quietly live under occupation. While laying down arms is a positive step towards peace, it is not enough to end this conflict. There must be a clear vision that ends the occupation and guarantees security and freedom for all.

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He is also the co-founder of MEJDI Tours.

Related:
Reward activism and diplomacy, not violence
Mandela: I was inspired by Begin’s struggle against the British
As Palestinian frustration grows, young man considers armed struggle

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Beyond protest: War and the Israeli Left http://972mag.com/beyond-protest-war-and-the-israeli-left/94656/ http://972mag.com/beyond-protest-war-and-the-israeli-left/94656/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94656 This article first appeared in Dissent Magazine.

Many Israelis who define themselves as “on the left” (about 20 percent of the population on a good day) support Operation Protective Edge. It’s a small and lonely subset that is both left wing and opposes the war. Over the last month, this little constituency has faithfully staged demonstrations of a few hundred—with last Saturday’s rally reaching somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000, by organizers’ estimates—and has written articles of protest. But the demonstrators tend to use such general slogans as “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” or “No, no, we won’t let fascism come to pass” (the latter chanted at right-wing counter-demonstrators). The anti-war left in Israel is clearly upset, but it has neither generated a coherent line of critique about the war nor formulated demands or proposals for alternate approaches other than calling for a ceasefire. Its influence, as a result, is severely limited.

There are three main reasons why it is so hard to create an effective opposition line, let alone gather supporters and momentum: the circumstances of this particular war (and the two previous rounds); the general climate of opinion in Israel; and the left’s own weaknesses, including baggage of the distant past.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

First, the current circumstances make opposition very difficult, on the surface. Hamas is a miserable political regime that imposes religious fundamentalism on Gazans, stifles women, and kills collaborators. It has fired rockets at Israeli towns for over a decade and dragged Gaza into wars that were bound to kill its civilians. Not content with rockets, it has dug tunnels for terrorists targeting Israeli civilians. It is not hard to understand, in these conditions, the case for a forceful response on Israel’s part.

Unless, that is, one considers history before June 30, when the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was already outraged by a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal made in late April that created an interim technocratic government without Hamas and called for Palestinian elections. That would have meant a more unified Palestine, something Netanyahu has worked hard to destroy. Using the abducted teens as a pretext, without providing evidence of Hamas’ involvement—an Israeli police spokesperson allegedly admitted this weekend that it wasn’t directly responsible—the prime minister ordered a sweeping West Bank operation against the organization, just as much a provocation as Hamas’s later actions. Rockets fell on southern Israel like clockwork. Before that, Gaza was under various forms of blockade for seven years. Even moderate Palestinians in Gaza would rather die now, I have had some tell me, than suffer slow suffocation. This alternate reality is rarely discussed.

Second, the Israeli climate of opinion is hostile. There has been right-wing rage and violence before: in 1983, a Peace Now demonstrator was killed; in 1995, a prime minister was assassinated. For now, extremists on the right are content to express hatred of the left, call them traitors, and call for their death, along with Arabs. There have been violent scuffles. As unpleasant as this environment is, though, the recent larger demonstration shows that it probably don’t intimidate anyone still committed enough to oppose the war.

The deeper scourge is apathy;  Israelis on the whole show little interest in either peace or Palestinians. They didn’t pay attention to the peace negotiations and they aren’t paying attention to a few thousand demonstrators against a war they believe was forced upon them. “What is, is what will be,” goes a Hebrew saying. The counter-demonstrators may even be doing the antiwar camp a favor by getting them into the paper. Meanwhile, a Channel 10 poll shows that 87 percent of Israelis prefer to continue fighting rather than accept a ceasefire—a 14-point rise from a survey conducted before the ground operation began.

 Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

But the left itself also bears some responsibility for its weak impact. First, opposition to the war can easily appear as a knee-jerk reaction rooted in habit rather than reality. The lack of a coherent critical message feeds that image.

There are deeper problems, too. For most of its history, the left has argued that peace would bring security. In practice, that didn’t work. Israelis largely believe this conflict is symmetrical, but they reject equal Israeli and Palestinian responsibility for the failures of peace efforts. They instead blamed the aborted peace processes – Oslo and the Camp David negotiations of 2000 – for the security they never received. In recent years, they’ve ignored Palestinian Authority security cooperation and nonviolent Palestinian political tactics, and credit only the separation barrier for (relative) calm inside Israel.

The left needs to update its arguments. “Peace brings security” is inaccurate and unrealistic. Instead, the case needs to be made that a diplomatic solution is the only way to stop inevitable escalation by extremists and full-blown wars every few years. No country has eradicated violence. The question is how to contain it.

Justifiably losing patience, the left has searched for sticks, toying with boycott and international pressure—but those just reinforce the bitter accusation of betrayal among Israelis. Carrots—incentives—are a necessary alternative, but they are hard to find, since Israel has all the allies, alliances, and trade relations it wants.

Still, there are tactics that haven’t been tested: pressure from within—for example, in the form of civil disobedience—has not been widespread beyond a handful of draft refusers. Outside pressure from “our own”—imagine liberal American Jews appealing directly to their Israeli kin—is more likely to resonate with most Israelis than UN condemnations that make Israelis dig in and change nothing on the ground.

Different approaches must be found. Israel needs them—and Palestine, too.

Related:
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza http://972mag.com/not-about-tunnels-israeli-tanks-take-aim-at-central-gaza/94582/ http://972mag.com/not-about-tunnels-israeli-tanks-take-aim-at-central-gaza/94582/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:04:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94582 Israel’s ‘no-go zone’ – created by scorched-earth shelling that has leveled entire neighborhoods – has shrunk Gaza nearly by half.

A colleague in Gaza City’s Tal el Hawa neighborhood reported before dawn this morning that Israeli tank shells were falling all around the apartment building where he and his wife were hunkered in a hallway, contemplating where they could flee come sunrise. Between them and the Mediterranean sea to their west are fewer kilometers than those separating them from Shejaeiya to the east, where days earlier, Israeli tanks had reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble.

“They’re doing to us like they did to Shejaeiya,” my colleague said. Although the sun has barely risen in Gaza and the damage not yet fully surveyed, by all accounts, last night’s bombardment was the fiercest yet in central Gaza—and this time it came from tanks, too.

Palestinians inspect damages of a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. During the ceasefire on 26 July, many Palestinians went back to Shujaiyeh to inspect the damages together with medics who attempted to rescue injured or collect bodies. Dozens of bodies were collected but many remain as Palestinians do not have all the necessary equipment to dig. Israeli attacks turned the neighborhood into a scene of utter devastation, with entire buildings flattened and thousands forced to flee.  Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 in the current offensive.

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during the July 27 ceasefire. (photo: Activestills.org)

I strain to grasp the tactic. Hadn’t Benjamin Netanyahu, just hours earlier, forecast further violence by vowing to destroy Hamas tunnels? Never mind that the tunnels had only recently figured into his rationale for what Germany’s largest-circulation daily, Sueddeutsche Seitung, called the “Gaza-krieg.” If “destroying tunnels” was Netanyahu’s casus belli, what on earth were Israeli tanks doing so close to Gaza City, in the heart of the Strip?

And are the tanks there to stay?

As Israel stepped up its shelling of northern and eastern Gaza earlier on Monday, the first day of the Muslim feast marking the end of Ramadan, Netanyahu’s military endgame began to look a lot like what Palestinians feared most – a return to the status quo. Only this time, with the shelling reaching central Gaza, the picture looks far more bleak.

A map published Thursday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs paints the picture, offering a striking visual of what may be Gaza’s new de facto “border.” The map shows an Israeli-imposed “no-go zone” extending three kilometers into the Strip from its northern to southern tips—an area representing 44 percent of Gaza’s total land mass and within which, presumably, Israeli tanks unleashed hell upon Gaza City last night.

If past is precedent, that expanded area will be a virtual shooting gallery for Israeli soldiers long after the present military maneuvers end, and only Palestinians willing to risk life and limb will dare enter. Just ask residents of the eastern and northern Gaza districts abutting Israel. Long before their homes were devastated by shelling, they understood just how lethal their enforced penury was. In the so-called “buffer zone,” which officially extended only 300 meters into Gaza, human rights organizations had documented Israeli snipers firing at Palestinian civilians up to 1.5 kilometers from the border with Israel.

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014.<span class="s1"> Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014.<span class=”s1″> Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

With Israeli troops now enforcing their “no-go” policy in an area twice as deep, Palestinian civilians beyond that zone face a similar and persistent threat, as evidenced last night. In fact, as the OCHA map shows, Palestinians living in the northern three-quarters of Gaza may all be within shooting distance of Israeli snipers. That is certainly the case in Gaza City, where thousands of displaced Palestinian families have sought shelter. UN spokesperson Chris Gunness said yesterday that more than 170,000 Palestinians—or nearly 10 percent of Gaza’s population—were seeking shelter at facilities run by the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Making matters worse, the Israeli military later in the day issued fresh evacuation orders to residents of northern Gaza, raising fears that attacks there would escalate to levels that saw entire neighborhoods leveled in Beit Hanoun and Shejaeiya. And even as more people fled toward Gaza’s center, the military dropped a new flyer on Gaza City, listing names of alleged Hamas members killed by airstrikes and asking, tauntingly, “In your opinion, whose name will be written in the coming publication?” (Palestinian journalist Lara Aburamadan displayed the flyer on Twitter).

            Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

The threat came as news broke of yet another attack on a medical facility—this time also in the heart of Gaza City. As NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported, the attack struck an outpatient clinic of Gaza’s main hospital, Al Shifa, at around the same time that 10 people, including children playing outside, were killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Shati refugee camp.

The attacks show no sign of abating. Within hours of the Shati attack, Netanyahu called for Hamas to be demilitarized and said that Israel would continue targeting tunnels along its border with Gaza. But with that “border” now nearly halving Gaza’s territory and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced to cram into central Gaza areas still under bombardment, Netanyahu is clearly targeting far more than tunnels. In fact, his actions are drawing Israel ever farther from a compromise, and it’s hard to imagine Hamas acceding to a ceasefire under these conditions.

Indeed, the group has vowed to continue fighting until Israeli troops leave Gaza and displaced residents return home. That, too, seems like a distant prospect: Even if a ceasefire deal allowed displaced Palestinians to return to northern Gaza, it’s unlikely they would be able to stay there unless the ongoing Israeli embargo is lifted—a key Hamas demand—and they are allowed to rebuild.

All of which brings us back to a lesson John Kerry has already learned: Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with the status quo, and at this point—after bearing the blows of three full-scale Israeli assaults in five years—they have little left to fear. This much is for certain: if the bombing ends tomorrow but the so-called buffer zone remains, Gaza’s resistance will continue. The only question is whether the world will pay attention when today’s massacres become tomorrow’s one-off murders again. If it doesn’t, we can be sure that the massacres will return again soon.

In the meantime, the killing continues.

Related:
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?
Five Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; Palestinian death toll hits 1,088
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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‘Unprecedented’ violence stalks anti-war demos across Israel http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/ http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:24:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94530 The recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Haifa against the Gaza war have largely failed to reach the global media. And while the end of the bloodshed still seems far from sight, there is a different, violent confrontation being held inside Israel – one that targets Arab citizens and left-wing activists on the internet, and uses physical violence against anti-war demonstrators.

By Omer Raz

Tel Aviv, July 13

The second weekend of Operation Protective Edge saw the first bout of physical violence at Habima Square – the cultural heart of Tel Aviv. At around 8 p.m. a crowd of several hundred people gathered to protest against Operation Protective Edge, and called for a ceasefire. A second small group, comprised largely of teens and young adults draped in Israeli flags, began harassing the anti-war demonstrators, shouting slogans against their protest and accusing them of treason. The protest got tense as the right-wingers became physically violent.

A few minutes after 9 p.m., air raid sirens began blaring after Hamas shot multiple long-range rockets at Tel Aviv. The leftist protest scattered to find shelter, while the rightists chased them into dark alleys and cafes, where several leftists were beaten. Shortly after, +972’s Haggai Matar wrote the following: “When the sirens sounded into the night, only one thing was obvious to all of us: the fascists in front of us are more dangerous than the rockets on the way.”

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists attacking left-wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists were injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The scene was later described by the new, self-ordained nationalist leader – a long forgotten ex-rapper who goes by the name of “The Shadow” (HaTzel). He wrote the following on his Facebook profile shortly after the protest:

We started with three people against their 800, and finished with 350 of ours and zero of them. It was crazy to do it all with sirens in the background and explosions in the sky.

Haifa, July 16-17

A city with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs, Haifa is known as a bastion of Jewish-Arab coexistence. (In the past it was referred to as “Red Haifa” for its blue-collar port and industry working class politics.) Haifa has held regular Saturday night demonstrations since the beginning of the assault. The July 16 protest was organized by the Balad party and Abna’a Al-Balad – a secular Palestinian movement in Israel – and included prominent Arab political figures such as Knesset members Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zehalka, both of whom are hated by the general non-Arabic public.

The demonstrators marched and chanted slogans through the streets of the Wadi Nisnas and the German colony neighborhoods, before violence erupted between the protesters and police forces, resulting in 40 arrests. The following day, Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, held a joint demonstration against the Gaza war as well as against the arrests. In response, leading figures of the far-right, including Kahanist activist Baruch Marzel, called on supporters to attend and “take a stand” against the anti-war demonstration.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa's Baha'i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

The police did not take any chances this time; helicopters hovered above Mount Carmel, police officers on horseback guarded the main entrances to the protest, and a large vehicle equipped with a water cannon was station across the road. The anti-war demonstrators numbered no more than 300, while at least 1,000 counter-protesters stood on the other side of Moriya Avenue. Police presence was heavy and kept the two sides at bay. The rightists yelled slogans such as “Go to Gaza,” “Death to Arabs,” and “Death to leftists.” Water bottles and stones were thrown at the Arabs and Jews who stood together and yelled “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Young men in their 20s roamed the main road leading to the protest. They were hooligans; we had never seen them in Haifa before. This wasn’t only hostile ground for Arabs, it was hostile to anyone who is not committed to the war effort. When the left-wing protest dispersed and buses began to load people back to their homes, the mob got out of control. They started again chasing and beating leftists, including women and elderly people. The police then used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse the rioters; at least 30 people were injured.

Tel Aviv, July 26

It took three weeks before the anti-war camp slowly materialized. After the events in Haifa, organizers put together an event to be held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square – where 400,000 people once demonstrated against the Lebanon war in the 1982. Thousands were expected. Three hours before the event, just as people from all across the country were making their way to Tel Aviv in the heavy Saturday evening traffic, the police announced that it was canceling the protest for security reasons, because was slated to coincide with the end of the humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, the police reversed its decision one hour later. Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters came to Rabin Square, with hundreds on the nationalist side. The latter were supported by many passersby on the street, who shouted and harassed the leftists.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The demonstration was once again heavily guarded by police, and the two sides were separated by steel fences. Speeches were made by politicians, as well as by members of Combatants for Peace (former soldiers and militant Palestinians who have since come together to renounce violence). Police dispersed the protest at 10 p.m., a full hour before it was scheduled to end. But the nationalists did not stop there. As demonstrators were leaving the square, several were accosted and attacked by right wingers, some of them wielding metal batons. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by police.

WATCH: Anti-war demonstrators square off with right-wingers in Tel Aviv:

Omer Raz is an environmental engineering student and former editor of the student magazine editor at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

Related:
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal? http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/ http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:34:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94559 Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that its ally in Cairo gets the credit, rather than the Hamas-allied Turkey and Qatar? 

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

There is hardly any difference between the draft agreement presented by Kerry and the Egyptian proposal, apart from the question of who will be its sponsor: Cairo, or Turkey and Qatar?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

On Sunday morning, Haaretz’s excellent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, published a commentary on the new draft proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

At the end of his article Ravid added:

[Kerry's] conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.

A report published in Haaretz reveals the text of the draft, compares it with the draft presented by Kerry last Thursday and discusses the negative aspects that appear in the draft. We do not have access to the full text of Thursday’s draft, but we do have the full text of the Egyptian draft of the ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and which was rejected by Hamas.

A close reading of the full version of Kerry’s “Hamas-inspired” draft and that of the Egyptians reveals insignificant differences between the two. The Egyptian draft, which was put together with Israel, while excluding the Hamas from the process, was formulated before the land invasion of Gaza and therefore does not address the question of Israel’s continual destruction of the underground tunnels.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

According to Haaretz, the Thursday draft allowed Israel to continue destroying the tunnels for a period of one week following the beginning of the ceasefire, whereas the “Hamas-inspired” draft does not allow it. Effectively, the current draft states that immediately after the onset of the ceasefire ”both sides will refrain from carrying out military or security activities that could lead to confrontation between them.” It is obvious that the draft forbids targeted assassination attempts against members of Hamas and the other organizations, but it is not at all clear that the continued destruction of the tunnels is forbidden as well.

Haaretz lists other problems in Kerry’s draft, the most important being the lack of any reference to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. However, the Egyptian propsal does not deal with this issue, and it is clear to Israel that the demilitarization will not be achieved by a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Therefore demilitarization was not stipulated as the objective of its current operation in Gaza.

Another claim presented by Haaretz is that the new draft requires both sides to return to the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. This agreement was put in place in order to secure the reopening of the border crossings, as well as to enlarge the area to which Gazan fishermen have access. However, the Egyptian draft presented the agreement of 2012 as the basis of negotiations between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel. It is important to note that Hamas considers the return to this agreement an accomplishment, in light of Israel’s breaching of the agreement and the tightening of the blockade on Gaza, which took place in the time since the agreement was signed. It was also claimed by Haaretz that the draft does not mention the Palestinian Authority and thus weakens it. However, Egypt’s proposal also did not refer to the PA.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

According to Kerry’s draft, it was claimed that the negotiations for a permanent arrangement with Hamas will address the organization’s demand to open a sea harbor and an airport in Gaza. There is no reference in the text of the draft to these demands, and the chances that they will be supported by the U.S. are next to nothing. The airport in Gaza was bombed in 2001 and has not been in operation since. The site of the harbor under construction was also bombed in 2001. Since Israel did not adhere to its commitment (part of the 2005 agreement regarding border crossings), to enable the construction while Mahmoud Abbas was in control of the Gaza Strip, it will not do so under Hamas rule.

There is only one difference between the drafts: the identity of their respective sponsors. According to the Egyptian draft, Egypt will supervise the implementation of the agreement, whereas in Kerry’s draft the role of supporting the agreement and providing humanitarian assistance was given to the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, the United States, Qatar and Turkey.

A senior official in Kerry’s delegation was therefore justified in stating that the Kerry draft was based on the Egyptian proposal, which had been wholeheartedly endorsed by Israel. Thus, if Israel is opposed to the Kerry draft, it is opposed to its own plan.

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that the regime in Cairo gets the credit rather than Turkey and Qatar? Or maybe the fact that 86.5 percent of Israelis currently oppose a ceasefire is driving the spin masters who need to look for excuses to continue the fighting?

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a human rights activist and a graduate student in Middle East studies.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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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.

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

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Gaza becomes Syria: Middle East geopolitics 2.0 http://972mag.com/gaza-becomes-syria-middle-east-geopolitics-2-0/94511/ http://972mag.com/gaza-becomes-syria-middle-east-geopolitics-2-0/94511/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 03:13:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94511

The bickering between countries over who has the right to negotiate over the Palestinians is nothing new. We’ve been here before.

By Aziz Abu Sarah and Dr. Marc Gopin

There are two main camps involved in negotiating a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. However, the players are not within the camp that most would have expected. What started as Israel vs. Hamas is quickly becoming a geopolitical issue involving many new actors. While this might seem good for some, it should be seen as terrible news for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Israel, Egypt and the PLO seem to be in one camp supporting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, and Saudi Arabia might be there as well. That camp calls for an immediate ceasefire and for all issues to be negotiated in Egypt after the ceasefire is achieved. In the other camp stands Hamas, Qatar and Turkey. They oppose the Egyptian ceasefire because it does not address the blockade on Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo: U.S. Embassy)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo: U.S. Embassy)

There is a third camp that includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and some other international figures, who are trying to figure out how to bring these two camps to agree on one formula for a ceasefire, but are managing to get everyone angry instead. Complicating things is a reported $11 billion defense deal between the United States and Qatar, which prompts some to question what’s going on in terms of everyone’s interests.

The problem with these new alignments is that Hamas vs. Israel is now becoming a geopolitical conflict that includes countries that have become bitter enemies. Qatar and Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the opposition to Sisi, the current Egyptian president, is positioning them on the rejectionist side of any proposal that Egypt would propose. Egypt, on the other hand, does not want Qatar or Turkey to have any regional influence on its borders – certainly not in Gaza. Sisi’s strategy has been to pressure Hamas to accept his proposal by limiting aid coming from other Arab countries, such as the Tunisian aid  that was not allowed into Gaza last week. However, Egypt marginalized Hamas to a point of complete mistrust when it did not speak to its leaders directly about the first ceasefire proposal.

Secretary Kerry’s efforts have not lead to any concrete agreements yet. According to Haaretz writer Barak Ravid, the Israeli government was shocked by his ceasefire proposal. According to Ma’an News Agency, the PLO was furious that Kerry would undermine the Egyptian proposal and side with the Turkish-Qatari proposal.

The bickering between the Arab and Muslim states over who has the right to negotiate over the Palestinians is nothing new. Palestinians have paid the price for the Arab and Muslim geopolitical infighting for decades. Unfortunately, some Palestinian leaders are allowing the Palestinian case to be used in this geopolitical fight.

We have seen this movie before. Some of the same players involved in “helping” Gaza are also involved in Syria. Different proposals, never-ending talks and negotiations. The end of the matter is that regional interests trump the Syrian interest for most of these countries. Three years on Syria is divided, broken in small “states,” with over 160,000 killed and millions  displaced or made refugees. All the promises for support faded away. Syrian civilians are the ones who paid the price.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

Today this same is happening in Gaza. ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, is already reported to have a presence in Gaza and is likely to try to take power from Hamas. While all the other regional powers are arguing about which “proposal” for a ceasefire should be accepted, more than 1,040 Palestinians have been killed and 6,000 injured, with 44 Israelis killed as well. If this conflict continues with the same intensity for 12 months, there will be 24,000 Palestinian killed with 72,000 injured. Gaza today lies in ruins, and more than 170,000 have been made homeless. It will take years to rebuild what was destroyed in two weeks.

Hopefully, a ceasefire will be finalized soon and the regional powers will stop playing with Palestinian lives for their own political self-interests. But let’s remember that the ceasefire will not end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps the main problem with the ceasefire negotiations is that they ignore the underlying issues. While a ceasefire will allow Israelis to slip back into normal lives, it will keep Palestinians under occupation both in Gaza and the West Bank.

It also ignores that the next generation is comprised of children who have seen three wars in six years. Kids in Gaza only know Israelis from the destruction of their cities, and the deaths of their family members. Kids in Israel only know Palestinians from the sound of sirens. So, unless we change course, we can expect a similarly ugly confrontations very soon.

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He is also the co-founder of MEJDI Tours.

Related:
Obama calls on Netanyahu to accept unconditional humanitarian ceasefire; 15 killed in Gaza
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces

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