Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Operation Lead Balloon: more analysis, protest, comment

The Daily Banter
Publicly, Israel has stated it wants to create a new security environment, to deliver the ‘knockout blow’ that will definitively destroy Hamas’ rocket-launching capability. To be sure, Hamas’ military infrastructure has been truly battered in the past couple of days. Yet toppling Hamas’ rule in Gaza is just not feasible. Logistically it would require precisely the sort of costly ground fighting that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have tried to avoid since they withdrew from the territory in 2005. And given the close proximity of military and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, it would inflict a level of human damage (beyond the 56 civilian lives already lost) that would eventually weaken tacit international support for Israel’s ‘right to self-defence’, as happened belatedly in Lebanon two years ago.


The Magnes Zionist
Meretz Flip-Flops on Support of War – Better Late Than Never

Arutz Sheva/Israel National News is reporting here that Meretz ended its support for the Gaza War today, less than a week after it announced it.
The Knesset held an emergency session on Monday and approved the government's decision to embark on Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza. The Knesset session was punctuated by stormy comments made by the Arab Knesset Members, who were repeatedly thrown out of the session. The mixed Arab-Jewish party Hadash boycotted the session entirely.

All Knesset parties except for Meretz and the Arab parties approved the decision to support the action in Gaza. The decision stated: "It is the right of the State of Israel to defend itself just as it is the right of any nation to do so. It is the right of the citizens of Israel to live with security just as it the right of any other citizens to do so."

I haven't seen this on any other website yet, and I don't know whether Meretz voted against or abstained.

Of course, the Meretz folks will tell you that they never endorsed a big operation, only a limited one. How limited?

Apparently 72 hours-worth.


Richard Silverstein (Tikun Olam).
Meanwhile in Crawford, the Bushites are fiddling while Gaza burns:
In Crawford, Tex., a spokesman for President Bush renewed calls for the parties to reach a cease-fire, but said Israel was justified in retaliating against Hamas’s attacks. “Let’s just take this one day at a time,” said the spokesman, Gordon Johndroe.

Good advice for those Gazans too as they hear the thumping of the Apache helicopters hunting down wanted Hamasniks: just ‘take it one day at a time.’

Seumas Milne - Guardian.
Instead, Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza are held responsible for what has been visited upon them. How could any government not respond with overwhelming force to the constant firing of rockets into its territory, the Israelis demand, echoed by western governments and media.

But that is to turn reality on its head. Like the West Bank, the Gaza Strip has been - and continues to be - illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. Despite the withdrawal of troops and settlements three years ago, Israel maintains complete control of the territory by sea, air and land. And since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel has punished its 1.5 million people with an inhuman blockade of essential supplies, backed by the US and the European Union.

Like any occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But there is no right of defence for an illegal occupation - there is an obligation to withdraw comprehensively. During the last seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by mostly homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel's hands this year alone. The issue is of course not just the vast disparity in weapons and power, but that one side is the occupier, the other the occupied.

GlobalVoicesOnline offers bits, some pro, some anti, from Israeli bloggers.

Nir Rosen - Guardian:

Nir Rosen has the temerity to go back to the old questions on what constitutes resistance, counterinsurgence or terrorism and concludes that the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, in this bold piece:

Gaza: the logic of colonial power
The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.

Counterinsurgency, now popular again among in the Pentagon, is another way of saying the suppression of national liberation struggles. Terror and intimidation are as essential to it as is winning hearts and minds.

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can.

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