Rantings...

Israel-Gaza Rant Circa – August 2014 – Here we are again, again!

In Gaza, Israel, Middle East on August 21, 2014 at 9:47 PM
Black_300

Dark days.

[WARNING: RANT TO FOLLOW!]

I haven’t really said much about the latest round of Gaza-Israel hostilities but after a number of questions (and arguments!) about the conflict over the last few weeks, I feel a need to state my piece (peace!). My viewpoints have been established after spending about seven out of the last eighteen years living in Israel, some of which as a journalist, and most of my life obsessed with the region. To be clear, I identify as a left-wing Australian Israeli. Meaning that on the political spectrum I am most closely aligned with the Greens in Australia and the social democratic Meretz in Israel (check out their stated principles for where I stand (more or less) on Israel here). I am also a pragmatist.

In reality this means that I am a firm believer that the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through a negotiated settlement. No matter the amount of rockets raining down on Israel, and let face it, there have been thousands, nor the horrific amount of civilian deaths in Gaza caused by IDF air strikes, yes horrific. There is no other way to end this conflict other than to talk about a solution. However before a solution can be discussed, there are some facts on the ground issues that have to be brought to light or at the very least not swept under the carpet.

1. The argument that The Gaza Strip is not occupied. What a crock. Perhaps a better word is surrounded or caged. Whilst no Israeli troops are stationed in Gaza, Israel controls most of its trade routes, Egypt the other. Gaza has no port and no airport. Israel controls the sea beyond 5.6km of Gaza, meaning that fishermen cannot fish effectively. In effect this makes Gaza an open air prison, where people and products cannot freely leave or enter (read more here). Claims that Gaza could have been the Singapore of the Middle East after Israel physically left Gaza in 2005 are ridiculous. Singapore has one of the busiest ports in the world and its airport is a hub for thousands of international flights per year. Gaza never had a chance.

In this regard, the blockade on Gaza has to end. Though it will likely need 3rd party involvement to ensure that trade not weapons are being allowed into the territory. So yes, I agree with a demilitarised Gaza for a period of time until which a long-term peace agreement is established. This is needed to de-escalate the conflict and retain a period of non-violence where normalization and rebuilding can occur.

2. Hamas as freedom fighters. Sure, if freedom means that the people of Gaza live under the rule of an Islamic (fundamentalist) state. Make no mistake Hamas are, well, arseholes. They are the ones that used to blow up bus loads full of Israeli civilians and derailed a peace process, remember? They have also admitted responsibility for killing the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, which started this latest round of horrors. What is the best way to get rid of Hamas? Give Gazans a good enough reason to stop supporting them. At the moment they have nothing to lose – they have no money, no freedom, no hope – Hamas at least gives them what they see as dignity. Make no mistake, every time Israel bombs the shit out of Gaza with an expressed aim of taking out Hamas (though killing a whole lot of civilians along the way), who gets stronger? Hamas. So the strategy ain’t exactly working is it?

What about the rockets I hear you yelling? Hamas’s strategy of aimless and relentless rocket fire is actually working brilliantly. It pisses off Israelis who move further to the right politically and then support increasingly harsh Israeli government measures against Gaza, which in effect helps Hamas retain support. F-ed up as it is. Gazan civilians dying actually helps Hamas and Israel falls into the same trap EVERY SINGLE BLOODY TIME. Israel should limit its response to ONLY fire when fired upon. Israel taking down an entire apartment block filled with civilians in order to reach one Hamas fighter who is likely not home IS NOT PROPORTIONAL and is unjust.

And the tunnels? Well, Israel should destroy them where they can. They do not have to destroy the entire Gaza Strip in order to do so. I believe the IDF is using sonar in order to find them and they should be able to be detected and destroyed within the border buffer zone area. (actually need more info on this…)

3. All anti-Israel sentiment is anti-Semitism. Um, no it is not. Crying anti-Semitism every-time someone criticizes Israel or the notion of a Jewish state is shameful. It also decreases the potency of anti-Semitism when something really is anti-Semitic. For example, protesting against Israeli policy and questioning Zionism is not anti-Semitic. However, pro-Palestinian supporters running through the streets bashing up random Jews, threatening to blow up Jewish schools and not allowing Jewish students into uni classes for no other reason then they are identifiably Jewish IS ANTI-SEMITISM (read more here). It is abhorrent and there is no justification for it.

4. Zionism for the record is simply the ideology of Jewish nationalism. It began in Europe in the late 1800’s as a secular left-wing movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland after centuries of virulent European anti-Semitism, which culminated in the holocaust (read more here). Zionism helped establish the State of Israel, which received UN recognition in 1948. Whilst many Israelis and Jews still consider themselves Zionists (believers in a Jewish homeland), the ideology has in recent years been co-opted by the religious Zionist (settler) movement that want to settle the land between the river and the sea without regard for its Palestinian inhabitants thus earning growing criticism and charges of racism.

On a personal level, I currently do not identify as a Zionist. I would say I am a non-Zionist or post-Zionist but not necessarily anti-Zionist. Meaning that I recognize the historic reasons for Zionism and its role in establishing the State of Israel but I believe holding onto a Jewish nationalist philosophy impinges on the civil and human rights of Israel’s minorities (20% of Israeli nationals, 1.6 million people – within the green line – are Arab/Palestinian. ** This figure includes the almost 300,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, 1967-captured territories, that are residents not citizens of Israel [read more here]).

I also believe strongly in a separation between state and religion therefore I can support Israel as a secular state with a historic Jewish connection but I cannot support an Israel that allows Jewish religious law or indeed extreme versions of Jewish nationalism to dictate policy, including such issues as marriage not to mention any future Israel-Palestinian peace agreement. The Jewish religious right is getting stronger in Israel and it scares me. I want no part of a Jewish religious state that models itself as a Jewish version of Saudi Arabia or Iran.

5. The geographic area we are talking about is tiny. It is super small. So if the Gaza Strip is three times the size of Geelong (approx. 360 sq km) crammed with 1.7 million people, Israel (within the pre-1967 green line) is about twice the size of greater Melbourne (approx. 20,770 sq km) with 8 million people (if you include the Israeli occupied West Bank and Golan heights it is about 3 times the size of greater Melbourne – confusing I know, correct me if I got this wrong. The number of Palestinians in the West Bank is currently 2.7m…). If you think of the rocket fire from Gaza City to Tel Aviv, it is about the same distance as a rocket being fired from central Geelong and hitting the Melbourne CBD. An enemy so close to home is a scary and not so fathomable concept for people living in an expansive country such as Australia.

6. The two-state solution is dead. Some argue that due to ‘facts on the ground’, i.e. the 350,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank creating territorial discontinuity for a potential Palestinian state, a two state solution is not possible. I have to disagree. The two state solution (or three state – Gaza as separate from the West Bank) remains the only solution that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to retain their national identities and aspirations. In recent times, there has been an out-of-the-box solution discussed – the parallel state solution – two peoples with two states within the same land (read more here) but I don’t see how that would work in reality? However, maybe the paradigms through which we see this conflict have to shift in order to find a workable compromise to the conflict?

7. Do I have all the answers? Um, no. If I did, I would be a deity, which would be awesome but not gonna happen so… I do however have an opinion, which is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. So please don’t tell me I don’t know. I have seen what I have seen and it wasn’t all great – Israeli policy-wise, peace-wise, human rights-wise. But some of it was great – my family, my friends, my life there, the music, the culture. I don’t say what I say because of hate. I say it out of love, because I want Israel to be better. A true light unto nations. Not a hated entity whose right to exist is questioned and whose future is unsure.

But no matter what I say, I will be called a Palestinian sympathizer/Jewish traitor by some and a Zionist apologist by others (quoting Mark Baker). So go right ahead, call me what you like. But I am a woman. A Jew. An Israeli. An Australian. I care. And I will not apologize. I hope for a solution that is able to provide both Israel and the Palestinians with a homeland/s that is free from conflict and provides equal rights for all.

[END RANT]

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  1. One of the most well-rounded analyses of the issue I’ve seen. Despite this topic being absolutely rife with ethical issues I have not touched it because, frankly put, I don’t know enough about it to do anything other than speculate. As you note however, this doesn’t seem to stop many other commentators being automatically and heavily biased one way or the other.

    I’ve heard it suggested recently that the Israel-Palestine conflict might better be typified as a ‘feud’ rather than a ‘war’, in that for most participants the original cause of the conflict has been replaced by more recent grievances they have experienced from it. As someone vastly better informed on the situation than me, would you consider this accurate assessment and if so, should this alter the way the situation is approached?

    • I think that is a really accurate description of the conflict at this stage. A feud between two sides that have experienced real and recent trauma from warfare and terrorism. It makes it a very difficult situation to resolve as the grievances are current even though the conflict is old. I saw an article (http://wapo.st/1u7bOkL) by Dennis Ross, former US peace negotiator, that argues for conflict management, not conflict resolution, which may be a better way to start a process of resolution. First deal with facts on the ground, then only later try to solve it. However, I worry that this approach retains the status quo of the current conflict and occupation for a longer period of time than is necessary. At this stage though, anything has to be better than open warfare.

      • True enough. Most people I know (I’m Australian-based) have withdrawn from this issue entirely – I think the protracted nature of it and lack of clear resolution (or a clear-cut ‘good guy/bad guy’ distinction) has drained people’s ability to care about it. All of which just worsens the situation of course, since the only way I can see this improving now is through international pressure on both parties. Would be a nice first step if we stopped arming both sides, but why would we do that when there’s so much money to be made?

  2. Reblogged this on The Ethics Of and commented:
    So far I have stayed the hell away from the Israel/Palestine conflict that’s happening at the moment, not because it’s not stuffed full of ethical issues (it most certainly is) but because I don’t know nearly enough about what’s actually happening, why, and who I can trust for that information (though this sort of ignorance hasn’t stopped about 80% of other commentators on the topic).

    This analysis on the other hand is pretty damn well-rounded, comes from a source on the ground who admits the limits of their knowledge, and most persuasively, doesn’t automatically take sides. Well worth a read for those trying to sort out what the hell is going on over there at the moment, and who, if anyone, is in the right.

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