Sunday, January 4, 2009

Losing the war of public opinion

Juan Cole, Informed Comment: Israel's political tradition seeks expansion if possible; if not possible, it seeks a balance of power... If that is not possible, it seeks to be held harmless... If that is not possible, it is willing to wage total war to punish the enemy population until it accepts at least a cold peace. Where necessary, Israel is willing to give up territorial expansion to get the cold peace...

The big long-term problem Israel has it that its assiduous colonization of the West Bank has made a two-state solution almost impossible, turning it into an Apartheid state. And if you go on practicing Apartheid long enough, that begins to attract boycotts and sanctions. And forestalling a Palestinian state means that likely the Palestinians will all end up Israeli citizens...

War on them, circumscribe them, colonize them all you like. They aren't going anywhere, and you can't keep them stateless and virtually enslaved forever, occasionally exterminating some of them as though they were vermin when they make too much trouble. That, sooner or later, will lead to boycotts by rising economic powers and by Europe that could be extremely damaging to Israel's long-term prospects as a state... For it to lose the war of global public opinion may ultimately be more consequential.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz: Nobody has asked whose blood is being spilled and why. Everything is permitted, legitimate and just. The moral voice of restraint, if it ever existed, has been left behind... Here lie their bodies, row upon row, some of them tiny. Our hearts have turned hard and our eyes have become dull. All of Israel has worn military fatigues, uniforms that are opaque and stained with blood and which enable us to carry out any crime... Nobody is coming to the rescue -- of Gaza or even of the remnants of humanity and Israeli democracy... When the time comes for reckoning, we will need to remember the damage this war did to Israel. The blood pipeline it laid has been completed.

Karma Nabulsi, The Guardian: As a way to share time on the phone, while my friend Houda's neighborhood was under aerial assault for more than 40 minutes, she and I discussed at length comparisons between previous Israeli military sieges we had been under. The carefully planned and premeditated strategy of terrorising an entire population by intensive and heavy bombardment of both military and civic institutions -- destroying the entire civic infrastructure of a people 
-- was identical. What is unprecedented here is that in Gaza there is nowhere to evacuate people to safety: they are imprisoned on all sides, with an acute awareness of the impossibility of escape. Land, sea, sky: all will kill you.

David Bromwich, Huffington Post: There is a word for the straightforward killing of enemies by a superior force where the victims are sparsely equipped and the odds one-sided. Much of the world is calling Israel's actions in Gaza a massacre... In the past ten years the US and Israel have shared a fantasy. The fantasy says that the Arabs understand only force. It says we can end terrorism by killing all the terrorists. The neighbors of the terrorists will be overawed. No new terrorists will be created. Finally, when every face on the president's fifty-two card deck is crossed out and the known composition of Hamas is dead, we can 'address the social conditions' that foster terrorism. But perhaps there are no such conditions. Do the terrorists not hate for hate's sake?

Reza Aslan: 'A war to the bitter end.' That is how Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak described his country's latest military campaign in the Gaza strip... But if war is indeed an accurate description of the current conflict, then can we continue referring to Hamas' attacks against Israel as acts of terrorism? If a government declares war against a terrorist group, does it not in effect transform the group's members from terrorists into soldiers? In a battle between a state like Israel and a 'non-state entity' like Hamas, are acts of terror distinguishable from acts of war?

Avrum Burg, interviewed by Tony Karon, in Time: My idea of Judaism can be represented through a classic Talmudic dilemma: You are walking along by the river and there are two people drowning. One is Rabbi [Meir] Kahane, and the other is the Dalai Lama. You can only save one of them. For whom will you jump? If you jump for Rabbi Kahane because genetically he's Jewish, you belong to a different camp than mine, because I would jump for the Dalai Lama. As much as he's not genetically Jewish, he's my Jewish brother when it comes to my value system. That's the difference between me and the Jewish establishment in Israel and America.
Image source here.