January 23, 2008

While You’re Waiting

I’ve had too many things to do all at once, but I’m almost caught up. The publishing schedule around here will be back to normal shortly.

In the meantime, here are some worthwhile links to keep you busy.

Noah Pollak posts a counterintuitive argument at Commentary and says Gazans crashing through the Egyptian border is good news.

The Times of London says Hamas has been planning to break into Egypt for months.

Bill Roggio published a map at the Long War Journal that shows the shrinking areas of operation for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. military now believes that 90 percent of foreign fighters in Iraq entered from Syria.

An Afghan journalist was sentenced to death for downloading “blasphemous” material about women from the Internet and distributing it.

Raymond Ibrahim translated and edited an important new book called The Al Qaeda Reader. Victor Davis Hanson wrote the introduction. A portion of the profits will be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2008 7:32 PM
Comments

In regard to 90% of foreign fighters flowing in through Syria, it is my understanding that Syria does not require passports for Arab men who are entering Syria from other Arab countries, which makes Syria an inviting way station for aspiring nutbars. I would be curious if I am correct in this understanding and whether Syria has done anything to change this policy. Then again, maybe we don't mind. If we know that most are flowing through that one location, then maybe it is easier to attempt to stem the flow and track those who get in, rather than having to watch the entire border.

Posted by: Saint in Exile Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 6:45 AM

Michael,

Indeed the situation is Gaza is a good thing, but not like you think. It shows that Israel's and America's policy toward Hamas is poor and will inevitably bring about failure, as usual. You just can't ignore over one million people and hope they somehow no longer exist!

It's painfully tragic, really. Palestinians were fed the "go democratic" propaganda. So they do so. They democratically elect those who they felt would best represent their interests: Hamas. The Bush administration and the Israelis would rather sacrifice democracy (and any real chance at peace) than to dare give Hamas the support they need to move away from radicalization and into moderation, and heck maybe even acceptance of Israel! It's a real shame, actually.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 7:31 AM

The Good Democrat,

Hence key phrase in your post:
"They (Palestinians) democratically elect those who they felt would best represent their interests".
It is all one needs to know, really.

"The Bush administration and the Israelis would rather sacrifice democracy (and any real chance at peace) than to dare give Hamas the support they need to move away from radicalization and into moderation"
Democracy is not being sacrificed in this case. It is simply adverse reaction to Hamas's undemocratic behavior, which is still supported (mind you) by overwhelming majority of its electorate despite that.

", and heck maybe even acceptance (by Hamas) of Israel! It's a real shame, actually."

First, Hamas will never support existence of Israel, otherwise it will have to disband as obsolete party of absolute losers.
Second, shame is when you are willing to ignore one simple reality - "I do not have to like your choices. Plus, if you are trying to hurt me I will fight back".

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 8:06 AM

I have read the "Al Qaeda Reader". It is an excellent way to peer into the minds of terrorists and the justification they use in executing their reign of terror. It is a translation of letters and article written by bin Laden and Zawahiri intended primarily for muslim readers with some letters/articles intended for western readers.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 9:10 AM

Saint in Exile: If we know that most are flowing through that one location, then maybe it is easier to attempt to stem the flow and track those who get in, rather than having to watch the entire border.

Take a look at Bill Roggio's map. You'll see a narrow AQI supply line running straight from Syria to Mosul.

Good Democrat: The Bush administration and the Israelis would rather sacrifice democracy (and any real chance at peace) than to dare give Hamas the support they need to move away from radicalization and into moderation, and heck maybe even acceptance of Israel!

What kind of support should Israelis give to an enemy that fires hundreds of rockets per day at them? Please explain in detail how that would help, and find a historic example where your plan worked in another situation with an enemy that is ideologically similar to Hamas.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 9:43 AM

Take a look at Bill Roggio's map. You'll see a narrow AQI supply line running straight from Syria to Mosul.

Is the implication that the Syrian government is aiding al Qaeda? Or that al Qaeda is exploiting the lax border security?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 9:48 AM

DPU: Is the implication that the Syrian government is aiding al Qaeda? Or that al Qaeda is exploiting the lax border security?

It's sort of one and the same thing, isn't it?

Chaos in Iraq is Assad's regime insurance policy. He also has good reasons to want the worst Sunni extremists of his own somewhere other than Syria.

He has no incentive to tighten up that border.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 9:52 AM

"Asked whether he had reported it to the government, he replied: "It was the government that was doing this. Who would I report it to?"

That is my favorite bit of the Times article.
Anyone else read the comments section from that piece?
Yikes.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 10:38 AM

Chaos in Iraq is Assad's regime insurance policy. He also has good reasons to want the worst Sunni extremists of his own somewhere other than Syria.

Absolutely, but a wave of fundamentalist victories next door would undoubtedly inspire fundamentalism inside his borders also. His best scenario would be to export them to a place they would lose badly and hopefully not come home again.

That place, of course, may well be Iraq, but that could hardly be seen as Syrian government support for al Qaeda.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 10:55 AM

Michael,

The Bush administration and neo-conservatives have gone into the Middle East touting that democracy will bring about peace. But they aren't looking for democracy, but rather, allies that support the west. Because to be for democracy means that unscrupulous individuals and groups can come to power (see United States 2000) ;) (just a good jab there) :)

Unfortunately, if you wish or desire peace, you need to work with the individuals who represent the larger population in an area or nation or country. In Palestine, you have two main groups, one represented by Fatah, and the other by Hamas. Within Palestine, both carry much weight. To utterly pretend that one does not exist and to ignore them politically is a grave mistake that will come back to haunt you.

You have to engage the Palestinians peacefully, not with tanks. You cannot create a humanitarian disaster within Palestine and not expect to see a more isolated and more extreme group. Palestinians feel that a grave injustice has been done to them. As long as they continue to be given reasons to think that (cutting off aid to Palestinians in Gaza, killing Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank by Israelis, the extremely humiliating check points, etc, etc), they will continue wanting and desiring violence upon the Israelis.

What I never understood, back in the period of 2001-2004 during the Intifada is why, when an Islamic Jihad member blew himself up in Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon attacked a Fatah police station. That never made any sense to me if the purpose of the retaliation was to get back at Islamic Jihad and weaken that organization. Why attack Fatah and weaken Fatah?

The whole thing is a big horrible mess. And to get out of it, we need an American president who will be a real friend of Israel, one who will tell Israel that there are limits to their actions, not promote Israeli incursions into Gaza or Lebanon as "birth pangs" of a new Middle East. It is possible to get peace between Israel and her Arabian, Muslim neighbors. It has been done before. But one has to have the imagination that it can actually be done.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 11:32 AM

Syria certainly doesn't support Al Qaeda for ideological reasons. No question about it. And I agree it is best, from the Syrian point of view, if the jihadis they export get killed if at the same time the American regime change project is sufficiently discredited to keep Assad safe. He had good reason to worry that he might be "next." Now he doesn't.

If this was a deliberate plan on his part, it worked very well for him. It if wasn't a deliberate plan, the result is the same in any case.

Assad doesn't need to overtly support Al Qaeda in a "state sponsor of terror" kind of way for this to work out for him. Lax border procedures are all that's required. He doesn't need to do more than that, so why should he? He has plausible deniability this way.

It's not a conspiracy theory. Just an observation that it's in his interest to have lax border controls, and not in his interest to tigthen them. And this theory matches the data.

But Assad does very deliberately support other terrorist groups, so assuming he planned it this way isn't that much of a stretch. It's not like anyone is accusing the Canadian government of doing something like this. We're talking about a government that has supported various terrorist groups all over the region for decades.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 11:36 AM

But Assad does very deliberately support other terrorist groups, so assuming he planned it this way isn't that much of a stretch.

Of course. I just wanted clarification about the support corridor to the Syrian border.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 11:47 AM

"The Bush administration and neo-conservatives have gone into the Middle East touting that democracy will bring about peace."

And it will but it does not mean it is going to happen overnight. These people (Arabs and Israelis) were fighting each other for decades if not longer. Not one generation was raised to hate the other side. You cannot just shake something like that off but simply saying "so be peace".

"But they aren't looking for democracy, but rather, allies that support the west."

No doubt allies are better than enemies and loyal allies can be obtained via stable democracy.

"Because to be for democracy means that unscrupulous individuals and groups can come to power"

Then that would not be a democracy.

"Unfortunately, if you wish or desire peace, you need to work with the individuals who represent the larger population in an area or nation or country. In Palestine, you have two main groups, one represented by Fatah, and the other by Hamas. Within Palestine, both carry much weight. To utterly pretend that one does not exist and to ignore them politically is a grave mistake that will come back to haunt you."

Actually, because there is some difference between Fatah's and Hamas's approach regarding future relationship with Israel it is not only possible but wise to do just that. Fatahland and Hamasland can be made examples of totally different things. Palestinians will be able to see what works best for them.

"You have to engage the Palestinians peacefully, not with tanks. You cannot create a humanitarian disaster within Palestine and not expect to see a more isolated and more extreme group. Palestinians feel that a grave injustice has been done to them. As long as they continue to be given reasons to think that (cutting off aid to Palestinians in Gaza, killing Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank by Israelis, the extremely humiliating check points, etc, etc), they will continue wanting and desiring violence upon the Israelis."

It is hard to argue with this argument except if I am not mistaking Palestinians have never given (not for long anyway) peace a chance. Not after Oslo, not after 2005 Gaza, not ever.

"What I never understood, back in the period of 2001-2004 during the Intifada is why, when an Islamic Jihad member blew himself up in Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon attacked a Fatah police station. That never made any sense to me if the purpose of the retaliation was to get back at Islamic Jihad and weaken that organization. Why attack Fatah and weaken Fatah?"

I do not know whether it is correct or not but as I recall those days it was widely believed by Israelis that Arafat is sole instigator and controller of violence perpetrated by each and every Palestinian group. And Fatah is (was) Arafat.
BTW, why attack this police station and not the other? Random choice or actionable intelligence? Knowing how Israelis act I am inclined to think it was latter.

The whole thing is a big horrible mess. And to get out of it, we need an American president who will be a real friend of Israel, one who will tell Israel that there are limits to their actions, not promote Israeli incursions into Gaza or Lebanon as “birth pangs” of a new Middle East. It is possible to get peace between Israel and her Arabian, Muslim neighbors. It has been done before. But one has to have the imagination that it can actually be done."

Mess it is. But if you think somebody knows how to fix it you are mistaking. This can only be done through trial and error. 'Birth pangs', as you say.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 1:16 PM

Good Democrat, your argument is unconvincing because you're basically saying "be nice to the terrorists." And I say that as someone who opposed Israel's war in Lebanon and approved of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

Hamas doesn't want peace. They do not think like you and I think. They say negotiation with Israel is treason. Dealing with them diplomatically is not an option because they refuse to participate. They would rather shoot rockets at civilian population centers than have food and electricity.

What would you suggest Americans do if we had this problem with Mexico? Give them money and all kinds of free stuff and hope they would leave us alone? You'll have a very hard time finding an example anywhere in history where that kind of strategy worked.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 1:38 PM

What would you suggest Americans do if we had this problem with Mexico? Give them money and all kinds of free stuff and hope they would leave us alone?

What would you suggest doing that would result in long-term peace?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 1:56 PM

We have to be nice to terrorists? Use our words instead of our fists huh? Of course, kinda hard to say anything when are constantly being pummeled. There will be no peace in the ME as long as groups such as Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., exist.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:02 PM

There will be no peace in the ME as long as groups such as Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., exist.

Such groups will always exist, given the right political environment. If their absence (and, I assume, no analog to them develops) is a precursor to peace in the region, how would you go about creating that situation?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:07 PM

DPU,

My half-baked idea for "peace" is this. Leave the West Bank as well as Gaza. Recognize the sovereignty of the Palestinian nation. Let the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem vote on which state they want to belong to. (We already know which state the Jewish neighborhoods want to belong to.)

No more occupation. No more settlements. No more anything that is morally ambiguous or controversial. Give the Palestinians everything they deserve (which is not necessarily the same thing as everything they want. They can't have Tel Aviv.)

If the sovereign nation of Palestine unilaterally starts a war, destroy the Palestinian government and leave. Repeat as needed until everybody is tired of it.

If the newly sovereign Palestinian government decides that yet more war with Israel is a bad idea, then great. Peace has been achieved. I think we all know that the sovereign government of Palestine would fail to make peace, though, and the current peace process will fail for exactly the same reason.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:13 PM

No more occupation. No more settlements. No more anything that is morally ambiguous or controversial. Give the Palestinians everything they deserve (which is not necessarily the same thing as everything they want. They can't have Tel Aviv.)

Unless I'm mistaken, this seems quite close to a number of Palestinian proposals that I've seen.

Any guesses as to what would happen to an Israeli government that tried to pull the settlements out of the West Bank?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:17 PM

DPU: Unless I'm mistaken, this seems quite close to a number of Palestinian proposals that I've seen.

Great. Someday it might happen then.

Any guesses as to what would happen to an Israeli government that tried to pull the settlements out of the West Bank?

It would be ugly. I sympathize, but it has to happen.

I sympathize and agree with the Palestinians about a lot of this stuff. What I cannot abide is the "be nice to terrorists" and "sit there and accept rocket attacks without shooting back" crap. No country would just sit there and let foreigners shoot rockets at their population centers without doing something about it. And by "something" I do not mean "support the people shooting the rockets."

In the short run, and in the real world, I have no idea what Israel should do. But I do know that supporting the people who are shooting the rockets is the least likely to work. (I'm not suggesting that is your point of view, by the way.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:24 PM

DPU: Any guesses as to what would happen to an Israeli government that tried to pull the settlements out of the West Bank?

I should add, though, that around 90 percent of Israelis are against the settler movement according to the polling I've seen. So the Israeli government would survive -- especially if they promised to destroy any sovereign Palestinian state that declared a war of aggression on them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:26 PM

By "Palestinian state" above, I meant the government, not the country.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:26 PM

It would be ugly. I sympathize, but it has to happen.

I think it would be civil war. There are a quarter of a million settlers living in the West Bank. Given that evicting 10,000 settlers from Gaza caused a significant political crisis, I think demolishing or abandoning the West Bank settlements would be political suicide. Which may indicate why they are still there.

But I do know that supporting the people who are shooting the rockets is the least likely to work.

I suspect that the mindset of many of the rocket shooters is that co-operating with those that they see as oppressors is the strategy least likely to work.

Shooting rockets into Israel is stupid and I strongly disagree with it, given the political circumstances, but it's bound to occur, and will keep occurring unless political circumstances change in some significant way.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:41 PM

DPUL I suspect that the mindset of many of the rocket shooters is that co-operating with those that they see as oppressors is the strategy least likely to work.

The people shooting the rockets want all the Jews to leave Israel. So yes, I suppose you are right. Cooperating with the Jews is less likely to make them all run "back" to Europe.

Hamas says it took the Muslims 400 years to evict the Crusaders, but that they can get rid of the Jews in a mere 200 years. That's the mindset.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 2:54 PM

DPU:Such groups will always exist, given the right political environment. If their absence (and, I assume, no analog to them develops) is a precursor to peace in the region, how would you go about creating that situation?

Were it a simple answer it would have happened. How do you get a group of people to stop believing they are the "victim"? The "palestinians", or more precisely the terrorist groups, have been claiming victim-hood for so long they don't need to read their own press reports. Of course the terrorist groups are not about to do anything or say anything to deter this mindset. After all their power relies on the notion that the people are the victims of the state of Israel. What the people need to do is realize that they are victims BECAUSE of Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, etc. That if these groups didn't engage in terrorist activities against Israel, Israel wouldn't need to retaliate. Remove these groups from the populace and peace can be obtained. The devil is in the details. How do you remove the label of victim when it has been used for multiple generations?
It is clear negotiating with the terrorists will not and cannot work.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:29 PM

The people shooting the rockets want all the Jews to leave Israel.

And some of the settlers want all the Palestinians to leave Palestine.

Hopefully, there are more reasonable people somewhere between those two positions.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:31 PM

You have to engage the Palestinians peacefully, not with tanks. You cannot create a humanitarian disaster within Palestine and not expect to see a more isolated and more extreme group.

Hamas and Fatah have already committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, what human rights organizations call "war crimes".

They deliberately target and murder civilians not engaged in hostilities (Israeli and Palestinian); they murder captives and soldiers by throwing them off buildings, they use ambulances to carry out terrorist operations, they use mosques and hospitals as armories and battlegrounds; they use cartoons and Disney characters to indoctrinate and recruit toddlers and children to their terrorist armies, their explosive caches regularly explode in random Palestinian neighborhoods, resulting in yet more innocent deaths; they celebrate the murder of Israelis by having parades and handing out candy. Every nation in the Middle East hates, fears and despises these groups.

How on earth could they become more isolated and extreme?? They only way these organizations could become more extreme would be if they turned to cannibalism.

But, of course, if they did, there would always be a few academics and "good democrat"s out there who would use the peace at any price/moral relativism routine to make excuses for them.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:33 PM

How do you get a group of people to stop believing they are the “victim”?

Empower them, is my first thought. This is a group without too many rights or privileges, and that usually results in extremism of one sort or another.

Remove these groups from the populace and peace can be obtained. The devil is in the details.

This assumes that the groups are the source of the problem rather than a symptom of a political problem. Suppose the groups are "removed" and new groups form because the underlying causal conditions are still present? That is a more likely scenario, in my opinion.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:37 PM

Kevin: How do you get a group of people to stop believing they are the “victim”? The “palestinians”, or more precisely the terrorist groups, have been claiming victim-hood for so long they don't need to read their own press reports.

That's why they should get their state now. Take their victimhood away. Maybe support for these groups will dry up. If not, destroy their government which will be widely known as an aggressor state. Repeat as needed. There are only so many governments that will arise in Palestine that will be interested in meeting the fate of the vanquished previous government.

Israel's situation is morally ambiguous, which is a huge part of the problem. Some Palestinian grievances are legitimate. So address them. Fix them. And fight back, defensively, and with overwhelming force, if/when that proves to be insufficient.

It's not a quick fix solution. There will be more fighting either way. Only Hamas is able to end this right now, without more people dying, and they refuse to do so.

This is a position long advocated by the Israeli left. Full blown war under the present circumstances is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons, as is maintaining the status quo with fairy tale "peace conferences" that everyone knows will go nowhere. But a full blown total regime change war against a foreign sovereign aggressor state is a different story entirely. (See the United States versus the Taliban regime after September 11, 2001.)

If I'm wrong that Hamas/Fatah would form a sovereign aggressor state, then great. Problem solved. I seriously doubt it work would that easily, but you never can tell.

Nations get a lot more sympathy and support when they're attacked while just sitting there and minding their own business. Israelis need that kind of support at some point in the future or they're really screwed. And they are going to be attacked anyway.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:48 PM

DPU: And some of the settlers want all the Palestinians to leave Palestine.

Yes, but they aren't the government, they don't control the military, and they don't shoot up to 300 rockets a day into the civilian population centers of Palestine.

You know as well as I do that if Israeli settlers fired thousands of rockets at Palestinians that the IDF would force them to cease at once.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 4:52 PM

Peace won't come to the Palestinians until they choose it.

If I were a Palestinian leader, I would create a tiny city state called "Hope" or "Peace".

The goal would be to build a peaceful, economically successful entity and grow it gradually.

-Access to "Hope" would be limited

-Have a written Constitution as the foundation of law, and make it hard to change. Human rights, and that Jews are humans, would be the basis of this document.

-Citizens would be selected and have to pledge non-violence except in clear self defense. Violation = expulsion. Population would be deliberately small (under 1000 people); families would be welcomed.

-Pick an area of expertise-making cable or plastic pasts, growing food, etc. and build the core of the economy around that.

-Ignore Israel to the extent possible. When not possible (teaching history in school, etc.) my attitude would be that the past is the past, and we are building the future.

-Seed money would come from European and American governments, foundations, philanthropists, etc.

-Gradually increase population and geographical area.

-While originally a benevolent dictatorship, evolve to a Republic once city is established and viable. Introduce three independent branches of government over time-executive, legislative, judicial.

That's what I would do if I were a Palestinian leader.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 5:01 PM

You know as well as I do that if Israeli settlers fired thousands of rockets at Palestinians that the IDF would force them to cease at once.

Sure, I know that. But that wasn't my point, it was that there are extreme points of view on both sides of the political fence. The extremists don't have the same level of support on the Israeli side. And I would wonder why that is?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 5:10 PM

DPU: I would wonder why that is?

Because Israeli culture is liberal and democratic. (In other words, civilized.) Palestinian culture isn't. Arab culture generally isn't, especially not in Gaza.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 5:57 PM

MartyH,

Interesting theory. It reminds me of the "oil spot" counterinsurgency strategy (which has proven effective).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 24, 2008 6:00 PM

"If I were a Palestinian leader, I would create a tiny city state called “Hope” or “Peace”."

If you were Palestinian leader you would be dead within an hour after expressing this idea from hands of your bodyguards.

Yes, Israelis should leave WB and force Palestinians to declare state. Then if Palestinians still try to wage war not to go after their government but after their land. It will hurt them much more than death of their leaders, which will quickly come and go anyway. Then do few land-for-peace deals just to prove to whole world that it is not working and finally keep the land.

Of cause, if I am wrong (I hope so but I doubt it), Palestinians will not wage war anymore and will have normal state and normal life.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 5:29 AM

Michael:Nations get a lot more sympathy and support when they're attacked while just sitting there and minding their own business.

I would love for the scenario that you mention to work. Let's assume the aggressor state does happen. It seems, at least to me, that anti-semitism, especially toward Israel, has grown. Part of it due to the "palestinian" issue. But I seriously doubt that it would melt away with the creation of a seperate state. In fact I will go on a limb and state that Israel would be further admonished for attacking a sovereign state and that they should show restraint towards a "smaller" neighbor. I would also say that an aggressor state is guaranteed 100%. If one thing dealing with terrorists have shown, give them what they want they then want more and continue. The pressure would be back on Israel to cede even more. Of course it brings us back to square one. Frankly, I don't think you, me, or anyone else who posts here will see real peace happen in the ME.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 6:14 AM

Good comments Michael and I agree with your solution to the issue. Nothing less than a complete withdraw to 1967 borders will bring peace.

I have a question however. Can you tell us exactly how many Israeli non combatants have been killed in Hamas/Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the last ten years?

Can you then tell us how many Palestinian non combatants have been killed in Israeli reaction to them?

I think the number of Israelis killed by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the last 10 years is under 20. The deaths of Palestinian non combatants from Israeli responses to rocket fire number in the hundreds. Despite the fact that there were almost 2,000 rockets fired on Israeli in 1996, the overwhelmingly majority missed their targets and those that landed close to their targets almost never killed anyone.

The Israelis certainly have a right to respond to rocket fire, but a disproportionately deadly response to mostly non lethal rocket attacks is not the way to do it. If you look at the Israeli website address I provided below it is clear that despite killing dozens and dozens of Palestinian terrorists and non combatants alike that the numbers of rockets fired have only gone up. It is very clear the Israeli responses are not working to stop the rocket fire yet at a very high civilian casualty rate for the Palestinians.

It would seem a different and more effective response to the rocket fire is needed by the Israelis.

I have spent a lot of time in Palestine and Israel. From my conversations with Palestinians, some of them very militant, it is clear that even a majority of them would stop resistance if something close to the 1967 borders were re-instated. I know this flies in the face of the bellicose statements by members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the like, but I think it is true.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-%20Obstacle%20to%20Peace/Palestinian%20terror%20since%202000/Victims%20of%20Palestinian%20Violence%20and%20Terrorism%20sinc

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 7:58 AM

For me the quickest way to a Palestinian state, without a single settler, is for the Palestinians, as an entire people, to drop all of their arms and resistance. As they drop their arms and resistance they need to make a unified demand for "one person, one vote" for all Palestinians under Israeli rule.

This "one person, one vote" would almost instantly garner the support of the entire world. Israel would then been forced to make one of three choices:

1. Give all Palestinians the vote in an Israeli state. Considering the demographics issue this would be a non starter.

2. Continue the occupation of Palestinian lands standing alone against unified world opinion, including the USA who would be forced to reconsider any support for Israel.

3. Quickly move to help set up and support a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders to eliminate the possiblity of large numbers of Palestinians gaining the vote in Israeli elections.

The quickest way to a full and independent Palestinian state is a non violent campaign based on the Nelson Mandela method, non violence and demanding fair and equal citizenship and voting rights.

Too bad the militants do not realise this. If they dropped their weapons and demanded full voting rights in Israel they'd have their own state in a matter of a few years, with conditions they could only dream of now.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 8:09 AM

Too bad the militants do not realise this. If they dropped their weapons and demanded full voting rights in Israel they'd have their own state in a matter of a few years, with conditions they could only dream of now.

The militants don't realise this because they're Muslim supremacists. Sharing a democratic state, borders, or the region we call "the Middle East" with people they consider to be inferior or non-human is not their goal.

It's not clear how many Palestinians are also Muslim supremacists, but since they elected Hamas, you'd have to assume that a fair number of them are. We can't assume that they voted for Hamas because of Fatah's "corruption". How many Americans would vote the Ku Klux Klan into power for the same reason?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 8:30 AM

Mary,

They didnt elect Hamas because they are "Muslim supremacists", they elected them because they were seen to be uncorruptable, in contrasts to the well known corruption of Fatah and the PLO.

Comparing the KK to Hamas just isnt kosher, parden the pun. They have little or nothing in common. The best comparison to Hamas would be Hizb'Allah, something I think Hamas has strived towards. Hamas, like Hizb'Allah, has set up massive charities; they run schools, hospitals and feed tens of thousands of Palestinians daily.

There is not a large Christian community in Hamas areas like there are in Hizb'Allah areas, but if there were chances are they would garner a good percentage of Christian votes just like Hizb'Allah gets votes from Christians in their areas. Why? Because in plain and simple terms, whether you like their platform or not, they get things done in a way that the governments and other political parties in Lebanon and Palestine cannot.

The sad fact is, is that there is little choice for Palestinians. You can either support the corrupt leaders in Fatah and the PLO, probably because they gave you or someone in your family a job, or you can support the religious party in Hamas. Not much of a choice.

I think the part that is usually not talked about in regards to Hamas is the Israeli role in starting the group and fostering it's development as a counterweight to the secularists in Fatah and the PLO. I am sure they regret the time, money and other help they gave to the religious extremists. It is a policy and a choice that certainly backfired on them.

However, it is my experience that if Palestinians were given the option of a state based on 1967 borders and continued violence, 90% would take the state and run.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 9:03 AM

The best comparison to Hamas would be Hizb'Allah, something I think Hamas has strived towards. Hamas, like Hizb'Allah, has set up massive charities; they run schools, hospitals and feed tens of thousands of Palestinians daily.

Focusing on Hamas' 'charity' is even less kosher. Israel, like Hamas and Hizb'Allah, also set up massive charities for Palestinians under the 'occupation'. Israel ran schools, hospitals, they employed and fed tens of thousands of Palestinians daily.

When I visited Israel last year I heard more calls to prayer from mosques than I heard in Muslim Malaysia. Arabs live a very good life in Israel. And, unlike Gaza under Hamas, the sewers don't explode.

Under Israeli control, Palestinians were among that most well fed, well employed human beings in the Middle East. But what did Hamas and Fatah offer that Israel failed to offer? A land without the presence of Jews.

A land without the presence of 'others' is how the Palestinians define peace.

There is not a large Christian community in Hamas areas like there are in Hizb'Allah areas

I don't think there are many Christians in the Hizb'Allah controlled neighborhoods. There aren't many Christians in the Hamas controlled areas either. There's a reason for that.

But Hamas and Hizb'alllah are not really comprable to the Klan - they're much better at public relations. This right-wing, fascist based supremacist organization has actually convinced western liberals to support their goals. All it took was a few well faked news releases and the ever-present threat for people accused of 'collaboration', of a sudden gory death. I'd guess that the Klan types in Europe are taking notes.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 10:13 AM

This right-wing, fascist based supremacist organization has actually convinced western liberals to support their goals.

Which western liberals support their goals?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:07 AM

Which western liberals support their goals?

Organizations like Peace Now, journalists like France 2's Charles Enderlin.

Liberals was probably the wrong word to use, but that's probably what they call themselves..

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:19 AM

Mary,

I have been to Palestine and Israel several dozen times the last fifteen years. Your talk about hearing the Adhan from mosques in Malaysia is really non sequitur. I heard the Adhan more in Syria than Palestine even though the government of that country is secular.

Back to Hamas, I don't think anyone would think that Hamas could set up charities like Israel does, Israel is a state, Hamas is not. As an occupier Israel is required, by International Law, to support and maintain the people which it occupies, so anything they set up in the lands they occupy cannot really be seen as a "charity" as they are obliged to do so.

Israeli Arabs do live a better life than their partners in Gaza and the West Bank, but it is hardy ideal. The funding issues regarding hospitals, schools and other infra-structure are only the beginning of the complaints I have heard from Israeli Arabs. It is sad, but Israeli Arabs, supposedly full citizens of Israel, get less funding for their towns, cities, schools and hospitals. This is not a way a democracy should work, all areas of Israel should get equal funding regardless of the race or religion of it's citizens. The fact is that this is not the case. Are they better off than their Palestinian neighbors, sure, are they equally as well off as their Jewish co-citizens? Not close.

It is funny, but you seem to be arguing that the Palestinians should have been HAPPY to be occupied. That is an odd idea to argue. It sounds almost like a throw back to old colonialist ideas. Most of Africa was "better off" with their colonial masters, but that still didn’t stop the Africans from wanting freedom, countries of their own. I guess I should point out that the idea that the colonised/occupied should be happy about their colonisation and occupation went out in the 1960s.

I take it you know little or nothing about Lebanese politics. There are Christians in areas that have elected Hizb'Allah representation and more than a few of them vote for the party. When they need something done where do you think they go? To the local Lebanese government official? Even if they did have the "reshwa" (bribe) to pay the official, they might or might not get help months later. No matter what you think about Hizb'Allah, the same cannot be said of them.

As to their goals, I doubt many Westerners would support for idea for a "Muslim" country in Palestine in Lebanon or Palestine, but other goals are clearly debatable, ie the one state solution in Palestine (one person, one vote) and the idea that the Shi'a of Lebanon (and Muslims in general) are severely under represented in Lebanese politics. But, moving again to your idea that the occupied/colonised should be happy for their plight, it doesn’t matter what we WESTERNERS would want for their government. That is the choice of the people of the countries in question.

As for myself, I reject completely the notion that a country should be set up for the sole advancement of one group of citizens over another, whether it be Jews and Muslims in Palestine, Shi'a and Muslims in Lebanon, or blacks and whites in South Africa.

A nation is not truly democratic if it is set up with the notion that it's sole raison d'entre is to advance one group of citizens over another. That is one of my major issues with Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:20 AM

Peace Now supports the establishment of a Muslim state in Palestine? Really? Do you have a link that says that?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:21 AM

Mary, I interviewed some guys from Peace Now during the last war, and they do not even remotely support Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other group of that sort.

I found them to be much more sophisticated about war and peace than similar groups in the US and Europe.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:32 AM

Organizations like Peace Now,

Can you point me to something that indicates that Peace Now (who style themselves as leftists, not liberals) supports the goals of Hamas?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:43 AM

...journalists like France 2's Charles Enderlin.

And while you're supplying something to back up your statement, can you provide something that indicates that Charles Enderlin supports the goals of Hamas?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:47 AM

Marc,

I agree that Israel's current response to the rocket fire is ineffective. I think everyone knows that.

But I don't buy your body count logic. Just because most rockets miss their targets doesn't mean Israelis should just sit there and take it. You know very well why more Palestinians are killed in this conflict, and it doesn't make the Palestinians morally superior or deserving of slack. Do you expect the Israelis to wait for their number of dead to rise before fighting back just out of fairness? No leader of a nation at war will ever do that, in any country, at any time. "We have to let Palestinians kill more of a our children before we can defend ourselves again" is neither a responsible nor reasonable position for a country under attack.

Israel needs to resolve this before better rockets make their way into Gaza. And better rockets will make their way into Gaza.

There is nothing morally wrong with a "disproportionate" response during war unless war crimes are committed. A disproportionate response may be unwise or an over-reaction or strategically stupid, but it is neither morally correct nor wise to wait for body counts to equalize before proceeding.

Firing rockets indiscriminantly at population centers is a war crime. Shooting back with precision is not. Firing rockets from civilian neighborhoods is a war crime because it endangers civilians. Shooting at military targets that were illegally placed in civilian areas is not a war crime. Hamas is to blame for the unequal body counts because they are incompetent and because they are war criminals.

Wars that are proportionally fought tit-for-tat at a very low level will drag on forever and ever and ever. Wars end when both sides tire of fighting (see Israel and Jordan) or when one side loses (see Allies versus Nazi Germany). Not before. The way this conflict is dragging on now, neither of those things will happen any time soon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 11:59 AM

I agree Michael and I do not think I said, nor did I mean, that Israel should do nothing. However, the effectiveness of the responses are indeed an issue. I also think that the body count is an issue in regards to the media and international opinion.

If you are killing large amounts of civilians with your response and still cannot stop the rocket fire it would make sense to stop. The responses have proved ineffective and the large civilian casualties are a media and image liability.

You might not think that disproportionate response to rocket fire is wrong, but that is not something that sells well on the international stage. As Iraq has taught us all, these things are as much about perception and image as they are about effectiveness.

In this case Israel has killed hundreds of non combatants in response to attacks that have killed around a dozen Israelis. This tactic has been a failure from both the military angle as well as a PR angle. In today's world the two are almost of equal importance.

The idea of cutting of critical supplies for the entire populace of Gaza is going too far as well. It is dubious in regards to International Law and Israel's role as an occupier, never mind the idea of collective punishment. Besides, like the responses to the rocket fire, it just doesn't work.

As to war crimes, I believe that more than a few of these have been committed by both sides. I was in Israel when the Israelis dropped a bomb on a packed apartment building in the middle of the night guaranteeing a massive amount of civilians deaths. That is exactly what they got. You talked about indiscriminate rocket fire into population centers and I agree with that; the same goes with dropping 1,000 pound bombs on packed apartment complexes in the middle of the night.

The Israeli family I was staying with at the time was gob smacked that their government had done such a thing. It made me feel good to know that at least they didn't think that either side had a lock on the war crimes issue.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 12:16 PM

I take it you know little or nothing about Lebanese politics. There are Christians in areas that have elected Hizb'Allah representation and more than a few of them vote for the party. When they need something done where do you think they go? To the local Lebanese government official? Even if they did have the “reshwa” (bribe) to pay the official, they might or might not get help months later. No matter what you think about Hizb'Allah, the same cannot be said of them.

I know a little bit about Lebanese politics and Hizb'allah controlled neighborhoods. When I said, "I don't think there are many Christians in the Hizb'Allah controlled neighborhoods", that's what I meant. It is a fact that Christian groups like the Aounists are currently aligned with Hizb'allah, because they believe this alliance can help them gain more political power.

But, moving again to your idea that the occupied/colonised should be happy for their plight, it doesn’t matter what we WESTERNERS would want for their government. That is the choice of the people of the countries in question.

Yes, the old "if you don't support my point of view, you must be one of those pro-colonization types" I've even seen this routine used often to defend all sorts of things, even cannibalism.

Did anthropologist Beth Conklin, who lived with former cannibals, and who said: "We assume that cannibalism is always an aggressive, barbaric and degrading act, but that is a serious over-simplification, one that has kept us from realizing that cannibalism can have positive meanings and motives that are not that far from our own experience" - support cannibalism's goals and traditions? I don't know, but she was sure giving them some very positive spin.

Of course I'm not in favor of colonialism, and I'm not trying to imply that anyone should be happy to be colonized. But when someone says that Hamas and Hizb'allah are popular because of their charitable work, it's implied that Israel was not providing any services. It's also implied that, if Israel were to provide those services, they would be as beloved as Hamas or Hizb'allah. Both implications are false.

I also believe that the only real solution is to give Palestinians a state, and to make them take full responsibility for that state. I would hope that they would use that opportunity well. From what I've read in the papers and from what I've seen of Palestinian television, I believe that Muslim supremacism has infected their culture, but I've never visited Gaza or Palestinian areas in the west Bank, so I can't say for sure.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 12:23 PM

Have you ever been to Lebanon? There are not really areas in Lebanon that are 100 "controlled" by any sect. Many nominally Shi'a areas have a significant Christian populations, even in Shi'a heartlands like the South.

It is FACT that Christians in areas with Hizb'Allah elected representation will often go to Hizb'Allah officials BEFORE officials belonging to various Christian parties because of the fact that the Hizb'Allah officials are better at getting their needs met, without reshwa (bribes) or wasta (connections).

Sorry if you don't like it, but it is fact.

Hamas and Hizb'Allah are popular because of their charitable work. If you do not believe me ask people who have lived in areas under Hamas or Hizb'Allah control. You can admit this is fact without lending any sort of support to either group. The facts are just that, facts, and to talk about them does not indicate any level of support for the groups being talked about.

Israel does little or no charitable work in Lebanon, so that is a moot issue in regards to Lebanon and Israel charity there. The work it does in Palestine cannot be described as "charity" because it has an obligation under International Law to do what it is doing. Doing something one is obligated to cannot be described as charity.

If you take your beliefs on what will happen with a future Palestinian state based on TV and papers then it is clear why the issues seem to be confusing you.

90% of Palestinians will take a state based on 1967 borders without issue. Knowing that is the difference between reading things in papers, seeing them on TV, and actually having some time on the ground and personal relationships with people in the area.

You comparison of Lebanon and Palestine to areas which practice cannibalism is over the top and is exactly why I will not respond to it. It almost seems like you are interested in a new blood libel, this time against Palestinians. Shame.

I know many Israelis and Palestinians and amazingly enough I find them to be a VERY similar people. It is interesting, but in my travels in the Middle East I often heard from Arabs that the reasons the Israelis and Palestinians fight so much is that they are related, like cousins. Many of the stereotypes that run amuck in Arab society about Jews are the very same stereotypes that they hold for the Palestinians as well. Jews have always seemed to be the blacksheep and ill-treated of Western society and Palestinians have always been the blacksheep and ill-treated members of Arab society.

Part of my family background is Jewish and I found that I can be equally at home amoungst Palestinians and Israelis.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 12:47 PM

Have you ever been to Lebanon? There are not really areas in Lebanon that are 100 “controlled” by any sect. Many nominally Shi'a areas have a significant Christian populations, even in Shi'a heartlands like the South

Yes I have, and as far as I know, there are neighborhoods controlled by a sect, like the one describe in Michael's photo essay here. And yes, there are Christians living in the south. It's not clear how many of them support Hezbollah.

You comparison of Lebanon and Palestine to areas which practice cannibalism is over the top and is exactly why I will not respond to it. It almost seems like you are interested in a new blood libel, this time against Palestinians. Shame.

Oh, now you're being silly. I was comparing your argument to the argument used by Beth Conklin, the woman who wrote a book about "compassionate cannibalism." It was a comparison of rhetorical devices, not a comparison of cultures.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 1:04 PM

"Controlled by a sect" isn't really the best way to describe what we're talking about here. The Hezbollah areas in my photo essay that Mary linked to are controlled by the Hezbollah militia, not by "the Shias." There are other Shia areas that are "controlled" by Amal, for instance, which is a secular party.

Lebanon absolutely is a patchwork of various sects living in their own cities and neighborhoods. Some areas are mixed, but most aren't.

The reason they aren't controlled by sects per se is that sects are further divided by political parties. And some Lebanese vote for parties that are dominated by sects other than their own. Not a lot do this, but some do, enough to make it more complicated.

Sectarian parties also form political coalitions with parties from other sects. Sometimes sects are divided by different coalition loyalties. The Maronites, for example, are divided between the March 14 and March 8 coalitions. March 14 is Sunni dominated, and March 8 is Shia dominated, and the Christians are split with a majority going with March 14. Almost all Druze are with March 14, as are almost all Sunnis.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 1:33 PM

Israel does little or no charitable work in Lebanon, so that is a moot issue in regards to Lebanon and Israel charity there.

I do not think the Lebanese would permit the Israelis to do charitable work in Lebanon.

The work it does in Palestine cannot be described as “charity” because it has an obligation under International Law to do what it is doing. Doing something one is obligated to cannot be described as charity.

Mm.

So Hamas gets praised for the charities they run, but what the Israelis do doesn't count because they have an "obligation under International Law"?

I don't think I care for the double standard you're using. Obliged or not, you can credit or criticize a group for how well they fulfill their obligations.

90% of Palestinians will take a state based on 1967 borders without issue. [...]

...as an intermediate step towards their long-term goal, aka 'pushing the jews into the Med'.

No thanks.

It is interesting, but in my travels in the Middle East I often heard from Arabs that the reasons the Israelis and Palestinians fight so much is that they are related, like cousins.

They are cousins. Palestinians are Arabs, and Arabs claim descent from Abraham, as do the Jews. The land dispute is a lot like two heirs fighting over who gets the deed to grandpa's real estate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions", because of the progenitor role Abraham plays in their holy books. In the Jewish tradition, he is called Avraham Avinu or "Abraham, our Father". God promised Abraham that through his offspring, all the nations of the world will come to be blessed (Genesis 12:3), interpreted in Christian tradition as a reference to Christ. Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider him father of the people of Israel through his son Isaac (cf. Exodus 6:3, Exodus 32:13). For Muslims, he is a prophet of Islam and the ancestor of Muhammad through his other son Ishmael. By his concubine, Keturah, (Genesis 25) Abraham is also a progenitor of the Semitic tribes of the Negev who trace their descent from their common ancestor Sheba (Genesis 10:28).

------

RE: But I don't buy your body count logic. [...]

All body counts tell you is which side has superior tactics, strategy, training, and/or equipment. No more, no less.

One of the things I really like about MJT is that (unlike entirely too many 'journalists') he has a good grasp of what is and is not a war crime, and why.

Wars that are proportionally fought tit-for-tat at a very low level will drag on forever and ever and ever. Wars end when both sides tire of fighting (see Israel and Jordan) or when one side loses (see Allies versus Nazi Germany). Not before. The way this conflict is dragging on now, neither of those things will happen any time soon.
-MJT

...and this is why I would dearly love to see 'just war theory' debunked and buried. It is based on profoundly flawed premises, and trying to fight in accordance with 'just war' principles just results in endless low-level conflict that drags on indefinitely.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 1:47 PM

Mary, any word on Peace Now and Charles Enderlin's support of Hamas goals? Or any other western liberals who support those goals?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 2:27 PM

Mary, any word on Peace Now and Charles Enderlin's support of Hamas goals? Or any other western liberals who support those goals?

Okay, it is hard to know how fervently Peace Now and Charles Enderlin support Hamas' actual goals. I can't read their minds. However, like Beth Conklin and her cannibals, it's clear that they work long hours to give 'militants' some very positive spin.

(And, once again, this is discussing rhetoric and marketing tactics, not comparing cultures...)

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 2:37 PM

This cannibal thing is the new pirate thing, isn't it?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 3:57 PM

"The idea of cutting of critical supplies for the entire populace of Gaza is going too far as well. It is dubious in regards to International Law and Israel's role as an occupier, never mind the idea of collective punishment. Besides, like the responses to the rocket fire, it just doesn't work."

Although, I am not familiar with international law, it seems logical to me that occupier should take care of occupied.
However, if Gaza was ever occupied it is no longer. Not since 2005. It looks like for the last 2+ years everything Israelis were providing for Gaza was charity.

I heard many times before about Palestinians voting for Hamas because of Fatah corruption. May be it is true, I do not know. When are next Palestinian elections? I am curious to see what will happen.
Something tells me even though due to Hamas actions Gazans most likely will have living conditions worst than today they will keep voting for Hamas. Except then explanation will be not corruption of Fatah but radicalization by Israel. Cycle will continue.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 25, 2008 5:07 PM

A few things here. Michael is right in that there are areas controlled by certain militia, but these areas are seldom completly comrpised of one sect or another. Since the end of the last civil war this has been less and less the case with every year.

So one village might be Shi'a mostly, and support Hizb'Allah, but the nieghboring village could very well be mainly Christian and be either supportive of the'Aounists or Falangists.

At the same time their representitive in the Lebanese lawmaking body might be a Hizb'Allah member. I have heard it from the mouth of Christians personally that live and have family in such areas that the Hizb'Allah representitives are easier to do with. They get the job done better, quicker, and no bribes as is standard in Lebanon and the wider Middle East.

As to double standards of Israeli obligation to Gaza and the West Bank and Hamas charity, sorry if you think it is a double standard. Again, it is my view point, International Law requires an occupying power to provide food, hospitals and basic humanitarian needs. One cannot then decribe such things provided by the occupying power as "charity".

As to Gaza itself, basically what Israel did is to withdraw and create the biggest prison camp in the world. Almost nothing can get into or out of Gaza without Israeli approval. The exception would be the Rafa crossing, which Egypt is bound to protect under international treaty.

We have seen how Israel has been able to deprive Gaza of even the most basic of healthcare items. 50% of young Gazans are aenemic, a large percentage is malnourished. This isnt because there is not the money to buy food or other essential items in Gaza, it is because Israel blocks food, healthcare and other items from coming into Gaza.

This is collective punishment. The concept is that the entire populice of Gaza is being punished for the actions of a few terrorists groups. The is also illegal under international law.

It is also ineffective, like the response to the rocket fire, as it doesnt stop resistance, and actually creates a PR disaster for Israel abroad.

We can sit here and discuss what is illegal and immoral all day and probably not come to an agreement, but we certainly come to an agreement as to what is effective and what isnt. Starving Gaza of food and basic humanitarian items is not effecitve from either a military nor a PR perspective, ignore the morallity of legality of these actions.

Leo, if I surrounded your house with barbed wire, tanks and large amounts of troops and then decided to leave you in your house, but keep it surrounded and control what comes in and what leaves, what choice would you have? This is exactly what the Israelis have done in Gaza.

You have a very small stretch of land that is completely bordered by Israel with the exception of a small area in the Rafah crossing. Israel controls everything that comes in or goes out of the strip. A good example would be pulling the guards out of San Quentin, but surrounding the prison with heavily armed troops. You allow little or nothing into the prison then sit back and ask why they are doing so poorly.

Mary is showing her extremist colours when she talks about to what extent Peace Now and others support Hamas goals.

Michael has made it clear that he thinks the statement was nonsense and Mary has been asked to provide proof to her statements, which she is unable to do. To continue the attacks on Peace Now and other individuals after being called out and asked for proof shows the emptyness of such claims.

Rosignol,

You state tht all that body count does is show who has superior tactics, strategy and training. Do you really believe this?

I guess in Iraq the insurgents far greater body count means they have superior tactics and strategy? How about when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were in the prime launching dozens of suicide bombings and killing dozens and dozens of Israelis? Did that show their "superior tactics".

What about German actions on the eastern front? They certainly had a far greater body count, does that then justify their actions and show their "superior tactics"?

As an idea that is pretty far out there!

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 7:43 AM

Marc: The concept is that the entire populice of Gaza is being punished for the actions of a few terrorists groups. The is also illegal under international law.

No, it isn't. Gaza is a hostile entity, and hostile entities are often sanctioned and blockaded. It is not even remotely against international law. The United Nations does the same thing, to Iraq for example.

I have never been a fan of this sort of thing because it is cruel and ineffective, but it isn't illegal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 10:43 AM

Rosignol,

You state tht all that body count does is show who has superior tactics, strategy and training. Do you really believe this?

Body count tells you nothing at all about which side has the most just cause, who is the victim, or which side is more moral.

All the body count tells you is which side has the better tactics, strategy, training, and/or equipment.

I guess in Iraq the insurgents far greater body count means they have superior tactics and strategy?

Superior tactics than the Iraqi civilians are using, yes- which is not surprising, as civilians are not combatants.

Superior to the US forces, no.

Superior to the Iraqi military or police, I dunno. I do not think so, but I have no reliable data.

Tactics can be assessed after a battle, strategy cannot be assessed until after the conflict is over. As the insurgents in Iraq appear to be losing the conflict, I would say that their strategy is probably not superior, but it will be some time before we know for sure.

How about when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were in the prime launching dozens of suicide bombings and killing dozens and dozens of Israelis? Did that show their “superior tactics”.

Yes. Suicide bombing is a very difficult tactic to counter. The Israelis had to build massive walls around Gaza to stop them, far more effort and resources than it takes to equip one bomber.

What about German actions on the eastern front? They certainly had a far greater body count, does that then justify their actions and show their “superior tactics”?

The Germans did have superior tactics, training, and equipment on the eastern front. They lost because their strategy was flawed, there were too many Russians, and they far more tanks than the germans thought.

However, you seem to think this justifies what they did. Having the ability to do something does not justify anything. There is a tremendous difference between being able to do something and having the right to do it, or for it being right to do.

As an idea that is pretty far out there!

.....

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 12:29 PM

Marc,

"Leo, if I surrounded your house with barbed wire, tanks and large amounts of troops and then decided to leave you in your house, but keep it surrounded and control what comes in and what leaves, what choice would you have? This is exactly what the Israelis have done in Gaza.

You have a very small stretch of land that is completely bordered by Israel with the exception of a small area in the Rafah crossing. Israel controls everything that comes in or goes out of the strip. A good example would be pulling the guards out of San Quentin, but surrounding the prison with heavily armed troops. You allow little or nothing into the prison then sit back and ask why they are doing so poorly."

No, I wouldn't like my house surrounded by barbed wire or fence regardless whether is it designed to fence me in or out. However, I would very much like to fence out some one who wants to kill me.

I am not touching subject of Rafah crossing. To me, as long as it is open there is no blockade. But this is matter of interpretation.
Regarding blockade and Israel controlling everything that comes in and goes out of the strip.
What exactly was and was not allowed to be moved across Gaza border and why?
Was it always like that? Why did it change for the worst?
Wouldn't fence be an effect rather than cause as you trying to portray it?

Off topic (or not?):
From various sources I get that there were 350K Gazans in 1967. Today there are 1.3M.
Do you know of any other ME country showing the same population grows level or anything even close to that?
And if there is no such country will you be able to explain Gaza phenomenon?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 1:05 PM

Marc to Leo: if I surrounded your house with barbed wire, tanks and large amounts of troops and then decided to leave you in your house, but keep it surrounded and control what comes in and what leaves, what choice would you have?

Anyone who shoots missiles at my city is going to have bigger things to worry about than blockades and razor wire.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 1:28 PM

And if there is no such country will you be able to explain Gaza phenomenon?
-leo

Apparently the Israelis are also blockading contraceptives. Remember, no matter what happens, it's always Israel's fault [/sarcasm]

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 26, 2008 2:34 PM

Gazans and reproduction. I have always felt that demographics will be what really forces a peace agreement in the area.

Why do Gazans have such big families? Since 1967 Gaza has been little short of a giant prison camp. Lock up 300,000 Americans in a prison camp, I guess we could use Mormons and pre-Vatican 2 Catholics, and see what would happen.

Muslims in the Middle East tend to have more children than people in the West, Gazans themselves are usually a bit more on the conservative end of their practice of Islam. Large families are the norm.

I wonder, however, why you ask the question in the first place? Some pro-Israeli pundits in the past have talked about a campaign of large families as a coordinated plan by the Palestinians to subvert Israel. Is this where you are going? In my time in Ireland I saw much the same talk from Republicans and Unionists, often it is ironic how you could change "Palestinian" for Republican and "Israeli" for Unionist and come up with the same results.

I dont think there is such a thing, conservative Muslims usually have larger families. Head to southern Utah and you'll find the same thing. I doubt the American average of around two children holds up there.

Israelis, like most Western countries, do not have the high birth rate of developing countries, especially Muslim developing countries. Demographics is something they are going to have to face sooner rather than later.

I have heard the calls for a Palestinian figure of non violence to arise, but that would be the worst thing that any Israeli could want who is not interested in a complete pullback to 1967 borders. Again I think the Palestinians, if they followed a path on non violent resistance, would have a DREAM state in the matter of a few years.

Michael,

You talk about the rocket fire into Israel from Gaza as if it has always been there. It has not. The rocket fire is not an isolated event apart from the history of Gaza.

Listen, I'll tell you part of what started moving me to my particular set of views about the Israeli Palestinian issue. As I have mentioned before I have a Jewish background from my father's side. My father hated Arabs and was about as pro-Israeli as you could get. This is how I grew up.

Years ago I started visiting the Middle East with the same ideas in my head. Like most people who end up spending a lot of time in the Middle East, I came to find out things were not so black and white. The people who subscribe to black and white viewpoints about the Middle East are those who have never been there, or those who are so ideologically indoctrinated that the Messiah himself could contradict their viewpoints and they'd not rethink them. This is why American supporters of Israel tend to be so much more radical than Israelis themselves.

So I found things were not as easily cut out as I thought they were. I met Palestinians and Israelis from all stripes of cloth that challenged my old ideas. For me the defining moment, the turning point, was visiting a settlement in the West Bank where I saw several large posters. One said "Arabs to the Gas Chambers" and the other said "Arab Free Zone".

The "Arabs to the Gas Chambers" speaks for itself, no explaination needed. The "Arab Free Zone" was almost an exact copy of the fliers the Germans would set up in the occupied areas of Eastern Germany that said "Jewish Free Zone".

Realising that there were some Jews, a significant minority, who despite their experience at the hands of the Nazis, were willing to engage in the same tactics, caused me to rethink a lot of things.

Since then I have visited the Middle East dozens of times, learned Arabic, and worked in the region in both a governmental and private capacity. I have also seen the support for policies that I view as quasi-illegal, grow on all sides.

Look at the number of Palestinians who support suicide bombing. I saw a poll sometime ago that said about 45% of Israelis would support some sort of "transfer" of Palestinians to areas outside of Israeli control. Of course "transfer" is a code word for ethnic cleansing. So here we have the desecendents of Auschwitz and the Holocaust promoting the idea of ethnic cleansing.

Members of my fathers family died in Nazi camps, yet here are Israelis advocating the same sorts of measures. We have Palestinians who think all Israelis, male or female, are legitimate targets of resistance. It is insanity on both sides.

In the last 15 years I have seen how the conflict has twisted both communities. I think the Palestinian community moreso as more often than not in Israel you'd often be hard pressed to tell there was a conflict raging anyways, but they are still affected.

It is interesting how many times I have traveled to the Middle East with Westerners, mostly Americans, who have already decided that the Palestinians are completely at fault and that the Israelis are completely justified in all actions, nay, even to be lauded for the restraint they've shown. After spending a few months in the region they figure out that things are not so black and white and that responsibility most certainly must be more evenly distributed.

After seeing things like this and having the experiences in the area that I do it is often hard for me to enter into discissions about Palestine and Israel with people who have never lived or traveled to the area. When I do it is almost painful as I see the mistakes and ignorance abounding.

For me I see the outside support that the Palestinians and the Israelis get and I view it as nothing more than tools that the militants use to extend the conflict. If Israel and the Palestinians were left to their own devices, other than basic humanitarian support, they would be forced to an accomodation.

I see the support coming from outside of the area, often from extremists on both sides, as being nothing more than the normal hardliners who do not live in the area pushing for their view of the solution, using the blood sweat and tears of others.

One of the reasons why I posted on Michael's blog in the first place was because I had been reading it for some time and I could easily see how he had changed in his viewpoints, ideas and words about the region the more time her spent there. Even though we do not agree about a lot of things, he is a person who will allow first hand events and experiences on the ground to affect his understanding of the situation.

Too bad many here are still stuck in the old hardline, unmoving opinions about the area. What gives me hope are the Michael's of the world who allow their experiences to evolve their thinking and opinions about the area.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 27, 2008 7:04 AM

Mary is showing her extremist colours when she talks about to what extent Peace Now and others support Hamas goals.

Yes, and the West Bank settlers are Nazis, anyone who says nice things about the Israelis providing services is a colonialist and I was coming close to blood libel with my comaprison of "Lebanon and Palestine to areas which practice cannibalism". Hyperbole much?

For years after WWII, sociologists and psychologists tried to understand why the civilized, Westernized, and (compared to most of the world) relatively liberal Germans supported Hitler. They tried to understand why the rest of the world let the Third Reich get so far, why so many people were willing to believe German misinformation and propaganda.

And now, with so many media types and 'peace' organizations willing to spread Hamas and Hezbollah's misinformation and propaganda, with so many people willing to ally and 'negotiate' with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia these sociologists and psychologists have a great, living laboratory in which to study this phenomenon.

Groups like (European/Western) Peace Now, the International Solidarity Movement and France 2 don't disseminate Hamas' and Fatah's propaganda because they support Muslim supremacy. They do it because they want to fight imperialism or 'the man', they want to sell advertising, they've been threatened by Hezbollah's public relations groups, they want to feel better about themselves by helping those they believe are downtrodden, they want peace at any price, they think the militants are a bunch of socialist 'revolutionaries' like Che, they want to wear a cool scarf, hang out with the militants and get a picture of themselves holding a gun...

A lot of these propagandists don't support Hamas' real goals - they don't want to drive the Jews into the sea, they don't support Sharia laws or Muslim supremacy. They have their own reasons for doing what they do. Just as the Germans had their own reasons for supporting Hitler. Just as some American neo-cons think it would be a good idea to support members of Euro-fascist groups like the BNP. Just as the American government thinks its a good idea to ally with Saudi Arabia. It's a combination of skillful marketing plus people lying to themselves, for their own reasons.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 27, 2008 9:35 AM

So Mary, I guess we must just go ahead and realise that you have nothing to support your claims that "Peace Now" support Hamas and their goals.

Thanks for the admission.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at January 28, 2008 6:38 AM

So Mary, I guess we must just go ahead and realise that you have nothing to support your claims that “Peace Now” support Hamas and their goals.Thanks for the admission.

Marc, I guess we must go ahead and realise that you base your idea that the Palestinians and Israeli "extremists" are equivalent, not on reasearch or facts, but on Reaganesque anecdotal evidence. Your Naziesque settlers are the equivalent of his welfare queens.

I visited a West Bank settlement, and I was also troubled by the attitudes there, but I also knew, from speaking to many other Israelis that those attitudes represented a minute percentage of the Israeli population.

You say:

For me the defining moment, the turning point, was visiting a settlement in the West Bank where I saw several large posters. One said “Arabs to the Gas Chambers” and the other said “Arab Free Zone”...Realising that there were some Jews, a significant minority, who despite their experience at the hands of the Nazis, were willing to engage in the same tactics, caused me to rethink a lot of things...

Look at the number of Palestinians who support suicide bombing. According to a recent Pew poll, "Fully 70% of Palestinians believe that suicide bombings against civilians can be often or sometimes justified, a position starkly at odds with Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations." Also, "confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains relatively high (57%)."

Palestinian attitudes are extreme when compared, not just to Israelis, but to the attitudes of Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian and African nations.

You say:

"I saw a poll sometime ago that said about 45% of Israelis would support some sort of “transfer” of Palestinians to areas outside of Israeli control. Of course “transfer” is a code word for ethnic cleansing."

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians support some sort of "transfer" of Jews to areas outside of Palestinian control. Of course, "transfer" is a code word for ethnic cleansing.

You say:

"Israeli Arabs do live a better life than their partners in Gaza and the West Bank, but it is hardy ideal."

What sort of life would Jews have under a Hamas or Fatah administration? What happens to Jews who mistakenly drive into Palestinian territory?

Israeli and Palestinian extremism is not, in any way, equivalent.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 28, 2008 10:24 AM
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