Saturday, January 3, 2009

Benny Morris on Hamas and Iran

Benny Morris, once the darling of anti-Zionists, has turned out to have quite a different point of view than was attributed to him at one time.

Israel has no choice but to be tough on Hamas - and Iran

After a week of air assaults on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian retaliatory rocketing of Israel's southern cities, the Israeli leadership was at a crossroads. It had to decide whether to embark on a ground offensive or to call it quits and find a face-saving diplomatic endgame (which would leave Hamas with most of its military manpower and firepower intact).

A third alternative was to continue the air campaign while sending in ground forces with limited objectives, designed to curtail Hamas rocketing in specific sectors and to interdict Hamas resupply from Egypt through the tunnels under the Philadelphi axis along the Gaza-Sinai border. A number of Israeli brigades were massed along the Israel-Gaza border, and the troops, according to reports, were raring to go. Last night they went into Gaza.

I believe Israel is right to go ahead: to deliver ground incursions, in various sectors, to bleed Hamas and ultimately to destroy its will and ability to rocket Israel by occupying the border area permanently.

The Israeli cabinet, however, may be more cautious. It has apparently rejected the idea of conquering the strip and crushing Hamas - given the densely packed urban terrain, the limitations imposed by international and internal Israeli opinion and the cost in military and civilian lives.

These considerations are compounded by the fact that the defence minister and Labor party leader, Ehud Barak, and the foreign minister and Kadima party leader, Tzipi Livni, face general elections on February 10 and an electorate unwilling to countenance big sacrifices. At the same time, the leaders cannot allow Hamas to continue rocketing Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod - cities with a total population of some 750,000.

From Israel's viewpoint, the problem is that Hamas, like Hezbollah, will remain - and at some point down the road it can be expected to harass or assault Israel, independently or in collaboration with Hezbollah or Iran. And the basic realities of the contemporary Middle East will remain the same, with Israelis continuing to feel boxed in and under threat.

Israeli foreboding has general sources and specific causes. The general problems are simple. First, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds have never accepted the legitimacy of Israel's creation or the continued existence of the Jewish state, notwithstanding Israel's peace treaties with the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, signed respectively in 1979 and 1994.

Second, public support for Israel in the West (and in democracies, governments can't be far behind) has steadily withered over the past few decades, as the memory of the Holocaust - which in an ill-defined but general way underwrote Israel - has dimmed and as Arab power and assertiveness have surged. As well, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its occasionally heavy-handed treatment of the Arabs have played a part.

More specifically, Israel faces a combination of dire short- and medium-term threats. To the east, Iran is advancing its nuclear project, which most Israelis and most of the world's intelligence services believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons. The fact that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly threatened Israel with destruction quite naturally leaves Israelis deeply perturbed.

In the next year or so, if the world community does not force the Iranians through diplomacy and economic sanctions to halt their nuclear programme, then either the US or Israel will have to attack and destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities.

To the north lies another threat: Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Shi'ite Muslim organisation that vows to destroy Israel and is funded by Iran. It has recovered from the thrashing it received in 2006 when Israeli forces struck into south Lebanon and reportedly now has an arsenal of 30,000-40,000 rockets, some of which can reach Tel Aviv and Dimona, the site of Israel's nuclear facility.

To the south, Hamas will remain Israel's implacable foe, its charter/constitution of 1988 proclaiming the necessity of Israel's destruction "at the hands of Islam".

Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the conventional threats posed by the armies of the Arab states, trouncing them repeatedly. But the current threats are unconventional and pose a far more difficult challenge. This past week, Israel has taken on one of them, the Hamas rocketry; in future, it is likely to confront - in the absence of cogent western intervention - the far more dire threat of Iran's atomic programme.

Only a change of mindset among the Palestinians, and the wider Arab and Islamic worlds, could allow for peace. And that's not going to happen as long as the Arab world is so strong (and growing stronger) and, at the same time, governed by a mentality of grievance and victimhood.

Benny Morris teaches Middle East history at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and is author of 1948, A History of the First Arab-Israeli War

Ground op underway: IDF troops enter Gaza

Israeli TV Channel 1 is showing nightvision photos of infantry entering Gaza. Location of the entry points and scope and duration are not given.
Alea iacta est.  
Ground operation underway: Following heavy artillery bombardment, IDF soldiers enter Gaza Saturday evening; forces invade northern section of Strip; earlier, army fires hundreds of shells at areas adjacent to Gaza fence
Hanan Greenberg
Latest Update:  01.03.09, 20:42 / Israel News
IDF invades Gaza: IDF ground troops entered the northern Gaza Strip Saturday evening, as the army launched its long anticipated ground operation.
 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Friday night and approved the ground incursion. The operation was approved in principle in the cabinet session 10 days ago.
Earlier in the day, artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip. The IDF said that by Saturday evening hundreds of shells had been fired at precise targets in Gaza. Much of Gaza was enveloped by darkness as night fell.
Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately."
Earlier Saturday, the Air Force attacked a vehicle in Khan Younis carrying Hamas officer Muhammad Maaruf and another group member. The two were reportedly killed in the strike. Saturday morning, a senior Hamas commander was assassinated.

Gaza and the rights of the oppressed

This from Tom Carew of  Safra VeSaifa aka no surrender-ne pasaran
I listened to a once highly reputable Irish broadcaster and author, Brendan O'Brien on Newstalk 106 FM this Saturday morning, a man who has contributed probing, insightful and courageous work on NI, deal with Gaza, aided by ex-Irish Army Junior Officer and Irish Times *Security orrespondent*, Tom Clonan, with only Susan Philips to inject a note of sanity and balance and objectivity.
 I was amazed to hear O'Brien indulge in uncritical and partisan broadcasting, systematically siding with the anti-Israeli view, and even frequently  *leading the witness* in his interviews.

I began to reflect on this widespread phenomenon,  which seems to have sunk to new lows in Irish media since the recent  Israeli operations in Gaza from Sat, Dec 27, 2008.

But this is not merely about ongoing bias against Israel, or bias on just  this occasion, or sloppy, sub-professional  media operations.
There is, it now seems to me,  a terrifying, but unspoken and unexamined set of assumptions lurking behind all this, a deep, ongoing and long-festering  Western cultural crisis, an undeclared, subversive re-definition of what it is to be human, and of history, ethics, politics, and of truth itself, which might be outlined as follows:-.

1.  Its all about pain or conflict  [and possibly also loss of life ] as the main, if not the only evil. It is not about reasons or reasoning or *principles* as ways to understand or guide life or issues. It is totally subjective and beyond intelligibility.

2.  And *dialogue* is always possible, and always mandatory.
And with anybody - no matter their agenda or ideology or goals or ethics or record or priorities.

3.  All sides are always morally equal - we must never be *judgemental* - but especially when  it comes to either  the methods, or the goals, or the results, of  *The Other*. 
We must always, and without question, value and cherish not merely *other-ness*, and *the other-ness of the other, as other*, but  we must also value and cherish *difference* as such.
For its own sake.
And without any reference to our own perspective on what is valuable, or even tolerable.
Otherwise we are *racist* or *Islamo-phobic*, and guilty of *Hetero-Phobia*.

Fear or challenge of sinister principles or values is now conflated with fear, or rather with undiscriminating hatred for all people who belong to an entire tradition, and open debate or free exploration or frank controversy,  is outlawed, as *hate-speech*.

4.  Everything is *culturally-specific*,  and totally relative.

WE must never *privilege* our own insights or principles or values or concerns or interests or traditions or achievements.
That is the sole and absolute entitlement of the oppressed.

5.  There cannot be any universal rights or obligations, or even any minimum standards which might define even the outer limits of human decency and tolerability.
Therefore we can never be *impartial*  - for that would  imply some objective standards.

6.  But nevertheless, we must never be *neutral* or be *critical* - we must become *engaged* - and *committed* - we must be in *solidarity* with the *oppressed*.

7.  The *oppressed* are constituted, and identifiable, simply  by their being poorer or weaker.
 As measured by them, and by them alone, and solely by their chosen standards.

8.   The *oppressed*, those self-defined  and self-identified  WOE  [ *Wretched of The Earth* ],  therefore must define not only their own agenda and values, but also ours, as we are committed to the *Pedagogy of  [ which means always and only Pedagogy BY and FROM ] the Oppressed*, who alone are the uncorrupted, and incorruptible, voice of progress, the vanguard of the future, the sole anchor and destiny of humanity, and whose *discourse* alone must always be *privileged*, and remain free from the *cultural hegemony* of any external criticism or evaluation or challenge.

9.  The WOE [ *Wrethced of The Earth* ]   can never be responsible, in any way, or to any extent, or ever be held responsibile,  for their own plight.

10.  And the WOE are responsible and answerable only to themselves, and to those values and concerns and priorities, which they, in their oppression, are forced to adopt. .

11 .  The *oppressed* have no choice,  but are permanently forced to *resist* their cruel oppressors, none of whom can exist among the oppressed, and by whatever methods the oppressor may choose.
And the *oppressed* in turn, can never  become the oppressor.

12.   It is never for us to say, much less to tell the oppressed, how or when to *resist*.
Or to suggest who their oppressor may be.
Or to challenge their definition of their oppression.

13.    Nothing has a context or roots. 

The only context is oppression,
the only roots are those of oppression,
 the only enemy is the oppressor,
and the only goal is liberation of the oppressed.

14  Only the oppressed can tell us who is the most oppressed.   And by whom.

15.  The picture, the image,  is all -  feelings are all - there is no place for any questioning - of them, much less for any evaluation of them -  or of their *authors*, or of  their *meaning*, if their *authors* are the oppressed.
Their meanings are whatever the oppressed declare them to be, at any *given* time.
And the interpretation by the oppressed is the only valid interpretation.

Otherwise we are guilty of  Cultural Hegemony, and of the Patriarchic Fallacy,
and guilty of  *Logo-Philia* and  *Logo-Centricity*.

The sceam and suffering of the oppressed has no need for the words of their oppressor.

The resistance of the oppressor does not answer to the ideology of their oppressor.

Questioning, unless by the oppressed, and according to their own sovereign values, is always further oppression and Cultural Hegemony,  and Cultural Imperialism.

Tom Carew
An un-reconstructed Hespero-phile

Israel's Gaza operation: A progressive Defense

Eric Lee of LabourStart has written a very strong article about The Battle for Gaza. Eric Lee is a veteran fighter for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. He was a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor, and ran the BibiWatch column at now defunct Currently he is in UK and runs Labourstart. His credentials as a progressive are impeccable.
Eric writes in part:
The battle for Gaza did not begin yesterday. It is one in a long series of battles that stretches back for decades. On this point, both Israelis and Palestinians agree – even if the mass media tends to have a much shorter memory.
This battle is the latest stage of a war that is entirely about whether a Jewish state will be allowed to exist in the land of Israel. On this point, both Hamas leaders and the Israelis are in agreement.
A strong case can be made that this battle is part of the endgame in that war. The decades-long conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is slowly coming to an end. And Israel has won...
The first and most important consquence of Israel's military victories was the peace agreement with Egypt. It was the Egyptian army more than any other which posed an existential threat to Israel's existence. Once it was taken out of the picture, an Arab victory in the long war was no longer possible.
This was followed a decade later by the PLO decision to embrace a two-state solution, which lead directly to the Oslo accords. Israel now finds itself in the extraordinary situation of having its former worst enemy, Fatah, as its strategic ally.
It is in this context that Hamas' weakness and isolation must be understand. They are weak because they are the last redoubt of what was once a mighty enemy – an enemy that could deploy divisions across several fronts, and whose tanks and aircraft once threatened to reach Tel Aviv.
The defeat of Hamas and the re-insertion of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza – possibly enforced by a pan-Arab peace-keeping force including Egyptian troops – would the best possible outcome of the current fighting.
Were that to take place, the conditions for a renewal of the peace process in 2009 would be in place. With a Kadima-Labour government in power in Jerusalem and Obama in the White House, Fatah controlling both parts of the Palestinian territories – it would be the best chance in years for a final agreement on a two-state solution.
Read the whole thing here: The Battle for Gaza.
We cannot have peace as long as Hamas rule in Gaza. This is not due to "Israeli Inflexibility." We cannot have peace with Hamas because they declare, over and over, that they will never make peace with Israel. And Hamas  cannot be removed in any other way evidently, save by force. Eric is not a land hungry settler apologist writing in INN (Arutz7) or Jerusalem Post. Those who mistakenly believe it is "progressive" to support the reactionary and genocidal Hamas or that there can ever be peace with an organization like Hamas need to pay attention.

Of course, if the current operation only kills a lot of people without accomplishing anything at all, it would be a tragedy for peace as well as for Israel.
 If Israel's goals are frustrated because well-meaning "peace" advocates insist on a "humanitarian" solution, that could well happen. World War II could have been ended with a lot less bloodshed, and much earlier, if the Western Allies had consented to let the Nazis keep their gains in the East. The British blockade of Germany would end, alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Germany.  The Nazis would withdraw from France. That is not much different from a solution that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza indefinitely and allows the free flow of arms to Gaza.   
Ami Isseroff

Thursday, January 1, 2009

THE CRISIS IN GAZA: A Response to Rabbi Gopin, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, and the Jewish Left

by Carlos

January 1, 2009 - Yesterday Brit Tzedek v'Shalom held a "Town Hall Conference Call" on "The Crisis in Gaza: An On-Ground Report from Jerusalem." The featured speaker was Rabbi Mark Gopin, an expert on conflict resolution. I will summarize the views he expressed from notes I took during the conference. My analysis will follow.

Gopin observed that the current Israeli action in Gaza was much better planned than the 2006 Lebanon war, and the intelligence Israel had is astounding. Much of it probably came from Fatah members who want to see Hamas defeated.

Gopin is squarely against the Israeli action in Gaza. He wants President-Elect Obama not to wait but to act immediately and possibly send John Kerry as an envoy to the Middle East.

Gopin says that using force as "a way to bring the Palestinians to the table" is futile. To eliminate the rocket fire from Gaza against the cities of southern Israel it would be better to have "a series of ceasefires of a long term nature." Gopin puts much hope in Obama's engagement with Syria and is looking forward to Obama's presidency.

He also advocates "serious negotiation" to eliminate the tunnels and the smuggling of missiles so as to prevent another Lebanon on Israel's southern border.

In response to a question about whether some amount of force might be necessary since Hamas has stated that its goal is Israel's destruction, Gopin stated: (what follows is a very close paraphrase)

There are different factions within the opposition, and even Hamas and Syria have right and left wings. People there are arguing about the future, trust vs. distrust, military vs. non-military solutions. It's just not as open, you can't follow it as well as with Israel. But there is a split within Hamas and we should test it. Test them by inviting them to come to the table. That will reveal the split within Hamas, and that can't be bad for Israel.

We made a mistake in Oslo when while moving to the left we dismissed the right's concerns about incitement and textbooks. We must now say these things are non-negotiable and tell Hamas: we cannot have a ceasefire while you are bringing in missiles from Iran. Insisting on our "right to exist" is an unrealistic demand - if the USSR had demanded our recognition of their right to exist, we would have had to accept their occupation of half of Europe.

After 10 years of ceasefire, the Palestinians will want peace and not want to go back to suicide bombing.
Gopin concluded with the following points:

There are elements within Hamas that want peace with Israel. Hamas has actually been sending signals that, within its own religious framework, it wants peace - a "ten-to-twenty-year" ceasefire is effectively a peace treaty as far as Hamas is concerned.

Israelis see the qassam rockets as the beginning of history, but the qassams must not be decoupled from the blockade that has made Gazans' lives miserable and must be understood within the context of Palestinian suffering.

One side of the Jewish community acutely feels the effects of centuries of humiliation and believes that Jews must strongly assert themselves and exact "two eyes for one eye." Another side - Gopin's side - realizes that Jews now have power and must learn to use it with restraint.

Finally, we need to model for Congress a new relationship between Arabs and Jews. This will be difficult because AIPAC has Congress so intimidated that it can't hear any criticism of Israel. We need to become a counter-influence, a force balancing AIPAC's unquestioning support for whatever Israel does.

I have tried to summarize Gopin's position fairly. Here are the problems that I see with it:

1. Gopin's most serious flaw is that like most of the Jewish left, he misreads Hamas and the Palestinian extremists and projects his own values onto them. He actually came close to saying - in fact what he said really does amount to this - that Hamas really wants peace, it just has its own different way of letting people know it. Yes, Hamas does want peace, conditioned on an end to Israel's existence. Religious principles cannot be subject to negotiation. For Hamas, eliminating Israel is a religious principle.

2. Gopin thinks the answer is agreeing to a series of limited ceasefires with Hamas. That has already been tried. He seems unable to appreciate what "hudna" (ceasefire) has meant to jihad fighters since the time of Muhammad - a tactical move to allow them to build their forces for the next attack. Once again, this is a projection of his own values onto people who do not share them. It is the left's version of ethnocentrism.

3. George Santayana said that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Gopin proposes "serious negotiations" to eliminate missiles from Gaza. That was tried before in Lebanon with Hezbollah. A United Nations resolution was even passed. It made no difference. Hezbollah not only rearmed; it is twice as strong now as it was two years ago.

4. Gopin tends to make bad analogies. Whether or not is it wise for Israel to insist on recognition of its right to exist, it is not the same as the situation with the USSR. No one ever denied the right of the USSR to exist as a country, or tried to wipe it off the map. Recognizing Israel's right to exist is not the same as accepting the occupation. On his blog Gopin also compares Israeli/Palestinian conflict to the conflict in Northern Ireland, and points out that even Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley eventually made peace. But the religious factors at play in Northern Ireland were in no way similar to those operating now in Gaza. Once again Gopin, in spite of his quest for a "nuanced" approach, fails to grasp the intensities of the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

5. If Hamas or even a significant faction within Hamas really wants peaceful coexistence with Israel, it's news to me. Gopin bases his belief on inside information from "people that he knows." This is a problem I have with many on the Jewish left: on the basis of a few individuals whom they claim to know, they ask me to disregard what I read in the news and to believe that Palestinians as a whole and even possibly the extremists themselves really want peaceful coexistence with Israel. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, yet they keep finding ways to rationalize it away.

6. Gopin is right that the qassam rockets and the blockade must not be decoupled, but his interpretation is wrong. He puts the cart before the horse. With no aggression from Gaza there would be no blockade. It is not Israelis who start history with the qassams, it is Palestinians who start history with the blockade. They criticize even Israel's nonviolent attempts to defend itself as if either the qassams did not exist or Palestinians have a God-given right to fire them.

7. Gopin exaggerates the power of AIPAC, bringing back echoes of the supposedly formidable "Jewish lobby" that Israel-haters claim controls America's agenda. Concerning the Jewish left becoming a counterforce to AIPAC, if it happens on Gopin's terms this is what will follow: There will be increased American pressure for Israel to abort its operation prematurely, and the result will be another Lebanon. All Hamas has to do is survive and preserve its military capacity - just as Hezbollah did in 2006. Gopin's way will make sure that this happens. And it will be worse than the status quo ante: Hamas will emerge claiming a victory and will rebuild to double strength, becoming the Hezbollah of the south. This is not good for Israel, nor is it good for the Palestinians: for however bloody this conflict has become, allowing Hamas to emerge claiming victory will only set up an even bloodier future conflict. Gopin puts his faith in ceasefires, but we have seen how good Hamas is at keeping its "hudnas" and how it uses them to become even stronger.

8. How long are the residents of southern Israel supposed to wait until Gopin's pie-in-the-sky becomes reality? Their lives are already intolerable. Gopin expects Obama to make things all better, but every American president before him has failed and Obama is not Superman, nor is he the Messiah. Gopin's glasses are rose-colored because he does not respect Hamas enough to take what it says seriously; instead he projects his own liberal values onto Hamas (as in: Hamas really wants peace, they just have a funny way of showing it.) We will not get anywhere until we accept Hamas for what it is and realize that their Charter is not just toilet paper but that they actually mean every word of it.

9. Gopin says that Jews are now the ones with the power. This is shortsighted. Israel may have better weapons than Gaza, but Israel is in mortal danger and the elimination of Israel is far more likely than the elimination of Gaza. The missile stranglehold of Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north will soon have all of Israel within range as their weapons become more sophisticated. Hamas is not just Hamas; it is a proxy of Iran and Syria. Iran's supply of weapons and training to Hamas is well documented. The missiles that can already reach Ashdod and Beersheba are smuggled from Iran and China. These are not "home-made rockets" but battle-grade weapons trained on civilians. Just in the past couple of days there were direct hits on a high school and kindergarten in Beersheba, and children's lives were spared only because classes had been canceled. Iran is not sending Hamas increasingly sophisticated missiles just to have them lie dormant during some "hudna." Those missiles are intended to be used, and it is certain that Hamas will find a pretext to use them regardless of what kind of ceasefire is negotiated.

10. The question of ceasefires must be understood strategically. In game theory, this is a classic "Prisoner's Dilemma." The two sides have the best mutual outcome if they cooperate - but as soon as they do, the more aggressive side realizes it can gain an advantage if it attacks. And so it will, until forced once again to come to the table and strike a "hudna." After that the cycle only repeats: the side that wants it all will once again try to get it all, and bye-bye hudna. Hamas wants it all. Not just Gaza and the West Bank but Haifa and Tel Aviv. They say so themselves. Repeatedly. Gopin, as a Jewish leader, is acting with extreme irresponsibility in refusing to believe them and is undermining Israel's security.

Israel had to act, not just for Sderot but for its future. The advance of the Hamas war machine had to be stopped, and should have been stopped years earlier, before it could grow to its present level.

I am not a member of the Jewish right and I have the battle scars to prove it. But the actions of the Jewish left are dangerous and must be confronted. I understand they are looking for an approach to the conflict that is consistent with moral and spiritual principles. I am too. However, no such approach can be found by shortchanging the complexities we all face.

It is easy to be spiritual if we define reality in such a way that our cherished theories work. It is easy to create a false world in which appeal to the other's better nature always wins, while those whom we judge for not following our vision are left to pick up the pieces in the real world. We want to believe that all human beings desire the same things and that at the bottom of its heart Hamas, being human, really does want peace with Israel. We want to believe that if we are just nice enough, using no force, imposing no sanctions, then the other side will respect us and commit to an indefinite ceasefire under which all will prosper. Unfortunately, both the words and deeds of Hamas soundly contradict any such notion. What we see as being humane and compassionate, Hamas sees as an occasion for contempt and a weakness to exploit.

It is ironic that the Jewish left maintains it is seeking a "nuanced" approach to the conflict, as opposed to the black-and-white picture it accuses its adversaries on the right of perpetuating. One cannot find nuance by oversimplifying reality. A true nuanced approach must recognize the historical and factual complexities that thwart even the best spiritual plans. It may be praiseworthy to love, or at least not hate, your enemy. But it is foolish to assume that your enemy necessarily thinks the way you think or values what you value. The enemy recognizes our difference in values and says so: "We desire death like you desire life." We need to recognize it too.

No one with an ounce of compassion would want to inflict even a single civilian casualty, even in self-defense. But sometimes the only choice we get is a Sophie's choice. How do you preserve your spirituality when confronted with the choice either to kill or be killed, or worse, have your family killed? Answer: you fight for that spirituality. But what you do not do is abandon your family to destruction. Nor do you cherish illusions about your enemy that make it OK to do exactly that. No, you fight to protect yourself with as much respect for the humanity of the other that you can maintain without destroying yourself.

The difference in values could hardly be clearer. Israel patiently waited for years while its people were under fire, while Hamas used every "ceasefire" to rearm with deadlier weapons. Israel warns civilians to evacuate; Hamas fires without warning. Israel tries to spare civilians whenever possible; Hamas wants human trophies and designs its weapons not only to kill but to maim and disfigure the human body. Even Israel's targeting of tunnels has been selective, bombing weapons tunnels while sparing commercial ones. Unfortunately civilian casualties are inevitable when unlike you, your enemy does not protect its civilians but as part of its war strategy exposes them to danger. Israeli towns build shelters to protect their citizens when the rockets come, while the world complains that the rockets didn't kill enough Israelis to justify a response. Meanwhile Hamas fires at Israel from residential areas, and gathers people on rooftops of buildings it thinks Israel wants to hit. Why? Because it knows Israel does not share its values and does not want to kill civilians, and it uses that fact as a battle tactic. Whatever mistakes Israel may have made, it does not murder innocent people intentionally. The same cannot be said of a culture that values death and martyrdom over life and peace.

Undoubtedly there are Palestinians who truly do want to coexist peacefully with a Jewish state. Unfortunately there are not enough of them. It is not Palestinians as people who are the enemy. The real enemy is an ideology of darkness that has too many people in its grip. The real spiritual approach must begin with recognizing the darkness as darkness. No side is free of darkness. But if we really want to be "nuanced," we must recognize varying degrees of darkness. Claiming the right to fire increasingly powerful missiles in an intentional effort to murder civilians is beyond the pale of civilized society. So is filling those rockets with ball bearings and with large quantities of ammonia to inflict maximum human damage. And so is using one's own civilians as shields for those weapons.

Yes, it is indeed a challenge to respond to this level of depravity without losing one's own humanity. But we serve no spiritual purpose by shying from that responsibility and taking refuge in theories and assumptions that make life simpler but do not correspond with reality. These are tough questions, and we must wrestle with them. True spirituality begins with struggle. It always has.


Erlanger, Steven. "An Egyptian Border Town's Commerce, Conducted via Tunnels, Comes to a Halt." New York Times, Jamuary 1, 2009.

Katz, Yakov. "Latest Rockets Manufactured in China." Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2009.

Kershner, Isabel and Ethan Bronner. "Israel Pursues Diplomacy but Presses Attacks." New York Times, Jamuary 1, 2009.

Selig, Abe. "School Closure Saves Lives of Pupils." Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2008.

Mighty problem

" "Israel is mistaken if it thinks that by killing Hamas leaders it will put an end to the group," Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said in a telephone interview. "Hamas is a movement that has the support of 35 to 40 percent of the Palestinian people." "
Israel Assault on Gaza Kills Hamas Leader as Diplomacy Falters

Hard Truths About the Conflict



By Robert J. Lieber
Thursday, January 1, 2009; Page A13

After Israel's dramatic airstrikes, the world's media are filled with images of suffering Palestinian women and children, innocent victims in what is being referred to as a renewed cycle of violence. Predictably, both sides are being urged to call a halt, though in much of the Middle East and parts of Europe these demands, and the blame, fall especially heavily upon the Israelis. In America, there is relatively greater understanding and sympathy for Israel, but here, too, concern is growing about the violence.

While the details of the conflict often appear complex, the fundamentals -- hard truths about Gaza, its Hamas rulers and the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- are straightforward. First, despite the tragic deaths of civilians, Israeli's airstrikes have been precisely aimed at Hamas fighters, installations and rocket launchers. Inevitably, the use of force causes injury and death to innocents, but from initial figures announced by U.N. personnel, it appears that more than 80 percent of those killed were Hamas security personnel or other militants -- a ratio that might compare favorably with the use of force by U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In view of Hamas's practice of deliberately placing missile launchers and other weapons in the midst of densely populated areas, the precision is remarkable. It also reflects the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) seek to minimize civilian deaths, while Hamas deliberately targets civilians.

Second, what we are witnessing is not a "cycle" of violence. The IDF airstrikes are a reaction to the unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks against the Jewish state. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in the hope that the Palestinians would use the opportunity to prepare for an eventual agreement and a two-state solution in which they would live side by side in peace with Israel. Since then, there have been more than 3,500 such attacks aimed at areas of southern Israel, including over 200 launches since Dec. 19, after Hamas chose not to extend a six-month truce. The expanding range of these missiles now covers an area populated by as many as 700,000 Israelis.

Third, Israel and Hamas have profoundly different aims. Israel has accepted the principle of a two-state solution as the basis for ending the conflict. Hamas, by contrast, rejects this. Its language of "resistance" or "ending occupation" (even though no Israelis, civilian or military, other than the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, have "occupied" Gaza for the past three years) is but a veiled expression of Hamas's actual objective: destroying Israel and creating an Islamist Palestinian state in its place. Credulous observers may see more peaceful purposes, but Hamas leaders periodically reassert these objectives, whether in the Hamas covenant or, in the words of a prominent Hamas cleric, Muhsen Abu 'Ita, speaking on Al-Aqsa TV and calling for "the annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine."

Fourth, any realistic hope of progress toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a successful two-state solution requires that Hamas suffer a severe setback in the present fighting in ways that seriously damage its capabilities and weaken its political credibility among Palestinians. Leading officials of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority know this and, notwithstanding their formulaic criticisms of Israel, have explicitly blamed Hamas for the current violence. PLO and Fatah officials fault Hamas for the deaths in Gaza, and an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nimr Hammad, told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar: "The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles." Indeed, Hamas's position as a radical, terrorist, adventurist, Islamist organization is underscored by the absence of support for it by Muslim governments other than Iran and its surrogates.

Successful negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis remain highly desirable, but their achievement would require that a single credible Palestinian authority ("one authority, one gun, one law," as Abbas puts it) be able to speak on behalf of its people, represent them in difficult but meaningful negotiations, and possess the capacity as well as the will to enforce its side of a binding agreement. But Hamas represents an alternative source of authority and a direct challenge to the existing Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, while also -- through its non-recognition of Israel, its support for terrorism and its refusal to accept prior negotiated agreements -- rejecting even the most basic prerequisites for negotiations.

Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, not because they embraced the ideas of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, but because they concluded that the effort to destroy the Jewish state had failed and that refusing to come to terms with it was harmful to their national interests. Ultimately, peace will be possible only if most Palestinians and their leaders become convinced that terrorism and violence are a dead end and that they cannot under any circumstances prevail over Israel through the use of force. If today's conflict leaves a seriously weakened and politically damaged Hamas, that result is more likely to enhance the prospects for peace than to weaken them.

Robert J. Lieber, a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University, is most recently the author of "The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Iranian newspaper closed after publishing an article favorable to Israel

Newspaper banned in Iran
Tehran, Dec 31, IRNA - Iran enws agency

Director General of domestic media at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry said 'Kargozaran' newspaper was shut down over a media offense on Wednesday.

Mohammad Parvizi said the paper was banned upon articles 6 and 12 of Press Law and the case has been sent to the court.

He added, "The paper was banned over publication of an article justifying anti-human crimes of the Zionist regime and calling Palestinian resistance as terrorism and claiming that Palestinian combatants take position in kindergardens and hospitals and so cause the deaths of children and civilians."

Israel Rejects Temporary Truce as Gaza Fighting Intensifies

By Calev Ben-David and Saud Abu Ramadan

Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- The Israeli government rejected a temporary cease-fire with Hamas, as its aircraft bombed targets in Gaza for a fifth day and rockets fired from the coastal enclave struck deeper throughout the country's south.

Israel will consider a truce only once the overall security situation changes, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the close of today's meeting of the Security Cabinet, his spokesman said.

"We believe a respite to Hamas just to rearm and regroup would be a mistake," Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev said in a telephone interview after the meeting. "It's important to continue the pressure on the Hamas military machine."

At least 30 rockets hit Israel today, including the first strike on the country's central roadway, Highway 6, and the cities of Ashdod, and Ashkelon, and Beersheba, which is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Gaza. There were no reported deaths or serious injuries.

As many as 390 Palestinians have been killed and 1,900 wounded since Israel started its aerial campaign, according to the Palestinian emergency services office in Gaza City. At least a quarter of the fatalities were civilians, said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, in a phone interview. Three Israeli civilians and one soldier have died in the rocket attacks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Hamas is prepared to halt attacks on Israel if the government lifts its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas's political leader, Khalid Mashaal, made the offer in a telephone call with Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its Web site.


NOTE: Russian doublespeak again, in Soviet style.

Diplomatic Efforts

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Paris tomorrow to discuss diplomatic efforts to end the conflict with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said ministry spokesman Aviv Sharon. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday proposed a 48-hour cease-fire in the fighting.

Israel's Cabinet on Dec. 28 cleared the way for the army to draft as many as 7,000 reserves, and the military on Dec. 29 declared a swath of Israel just north of Gaza a closed military zone, where movement was restricted. Journalists were also prevented from entering. Tanks and troops have been moved up to the Gaza border, preparing for a possible ground invasion.

The decision by the Israeli government to reject calls for a temporary cease-fire is a sign that it is planning to launch a ground operation in Gaza, said Shlomo Gazit, former head of military intelligence. "If they didn't want to go in on the ground then it is likely that they would have preferred at this point to accept a cease-fire."

A six-month cease-fire with Hamas expired Dec. 19.

Tunnels Attacked

The Israeli air force attacked targets in the seaside Gaza Strip last night and this morning, including tunnels along the Egyptian border, weapon storage facilities, Hamas outposts and the office of Hamas leader Ismael Haniya, the army said in an e- mailed statement. Israeli naval forces also hit targets in Gaza, including vessels used by Hamas, it said.

The Hamas leadership met today in an undisclosed location in Gaza to avoid being targeted, according to a news statement given to reporters.

Hamas leaders condemned what they called the "fierce and barbarian attack carried out by the Israeli occupation," and called on Arab governments to take political action to stop Israel.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo today that divisions between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah led to the Israeli strikes on Gaza.

Amre Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, called on Palestinian factions to hold reconciliation talks in Cairo immediately.

Israel is allowing 106 trucks of food and other supplies to pass through a border crossing with Gaza for humanitarian purposes, said army spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovitz in a phone interview.

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at; Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza City through the Tel Aviv newsroomt .

Last Updated: December 31, 2008 10:29 EST

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Interesting snapshot of war at Day 4 of Israeli response to a 3-year rocket barrage

The IDF is mulling a suspension of the ground operation if Hamas stops rockets launching against Israeli civilians and property.

Israel mulls truce offer on Day 4 of Gaza assault

The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel is considering suspending its Gaza offensive to give Hamas militants an opening to halt rocket fire on Israel, but the threat of a ground offensive remains if the cease-fire does not hold, an Israeli defense official said Tuesday.

Israel's defense minister is to raise the proposal during a meeting of Israel's security Cabinet on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Israel TV's Channel 10 also reported such a proposal.

At the same time, the security Cabinet will also be asked to consider various plans for a ground invasion, the defense official said. The public rhetoric from Israeli officials has indicated they expect the operation to continue.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the current, aerial phase of the operation was just "the first of several" that have been approved, an Olmert spokesman said.

Palestinian militants, meanwhile, kept up their rocket assaults on Israeli border communities, despite relentless Israeli air attacks against Gaza's Hamas rulers and unwelcome word from Egypt that it would not bail them out.

Israeli warplanes smashed a Hamas government complex, the largest one hit so far, dumping the biggest single load of bombs on the buildings, which had been evacuated since the bombardment began Saturday. Israel also hit security installations and the home of a top militant commander.

The question hanging over the Israeli operation is how it can halt rocket fire. Israel has never found a military solution to the barrage of missiles militants have fired into southern Israel.

Beyond delivering Hamas a deep blow and protecting border communities, the assault's broader objectives remained cloudy. Israeli President Shimon Peres acknowledged the challenge, saying the operation was unavoidable but more difficult than many people anticipated.

"War against terrorists is harder in some aspects than fighting armies," Peres said.

More than 370 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli air onslaught against Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers began Saturday, shortly after a rocky, six-month truce expired. Most were members of Hamas security forces but the number included at least 64 civilians, according to U.N. figures. Among those killed were two sisters, aged 4 and 11, who perished in an airstrike on a rocket squad in northern Gaza on Tuesday.

Israeli warplanes smashed a Hamas government complex, security installations and the home of a top militant commander. During brief lulls between airstrikes, Gazans tentatively ventured into the streets to buy goods and collect belongings from homes they had abandoned after Israel's aerial onslaught began Saturday.

Rasha Khaldeh, 22, from the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, said she dared go no further than down the block to look for food.

"We just don't know what they are going to shell next. It's not safe," Khaldeh said.

The campaign has brought a new reality to southern Israel, too, where one-tenth of the country's population of 7 million has suddenly found itself within rocket range. Militants have pressed on with their rocket and mortar assaults, killing three Israeli civilians and a soldier and bringing a widening circle of targets into their sights with an arsenal of more powerful weapons.

The military estimated that close to 700,000 Israelis are now within rocket range, with the battles shifting closer to Israel's heartland. Of the four Israelis killed since the operation began Saturday, all but one were in areas that had not suffered fatalities before. On Tuesday, a Bedouin Arab town became one of the new targets.

"It's very scary," said Yaacov Pardida, a 55-year-old resident of Ashdod, southern Israel's largest city, which was hit Monday. "I never imagined that this could happen, that they could reach us here."

By mid-afternoon, gunmen had launched about a dozen rockets and mortars, down from 80 a day earlier, the Israeli military said. But the number of firings have fluctuated sharply throughout the day, and that number could dramatically rise by day's end.

In the 72 hours since the offensive began, militants have fired off more than 250 rockets and mortars all told, they added.

"Zionists, wait for more from the resistance," Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan wrote in a text message to reporters, referring to militants' armed struggle against Israel.

The offensive comes on top of an Israeli blockade of Gaza that has largely kept all but essential goods from entering the coastal territory since Hamas violently seized control June 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

At the United Nations on Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate cease-fire and urged Mideast and world leaders to do more to help end the Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote political dialogue.

He also urged urged Arab foreign ministers, who are holding an emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, "to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse."

Egypt, which has been blockading Gaza from its southern end, has come under pressure from the rest of the Arab world to reopen its border with the territory because of the Israeli campaign. Egypt has pried open the border to let in some of Gaza's wounded and to allow some humanitarian supplies to enter the territory. But it quickly sealed the border when Gazans tried to push through forcefully.

In a televised speech Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak responded to critics, including the leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, who have accused him of collaborating with Israel.

"We tell anybody who seeks political profits on the account of the Palestinian people: The Palestinian blood is not cheap," he said, describing such comments as "exploiting the blood of the Palestinians."

Mubarak said his country would not throw open the border crossing unless Abbas regains control of the border post. Mubarak has been rattled by the presence of a neighboring Islamic ministate in Gaza, fearing it would fuel more Islamic dissidence in Egypt.

Israel's air force initially hammered security facilities, then broadened to weapons-making and storage facilities, the homes of militant field operatives, and government buildings that are the symbols of Hamas' power.

The initial wave of airstrikes took Gaza by surprise, targeting militants and Hamas security forces at key installations, often located in the midst of tiny Gaza's densely populated towns and cities.

But the government buildings targeted later were empty, as Gazans became fearful of venturing out into the streets. For Ziad Koraz, whose nearby home was damaged in the attack on the government compound Tuesday, that violence gratuitously put Gaza civilians at risk.

"More than 17 missiles were directed at an empty government compound, without regard for civilians who lived nearby," Koraz said. "If someone committed a crime, they should go after him, not after an entire nation."

Israel has allowed a trickle of aid through its cargo crossings with Gaza despite the military campaign, agreeing to allow 100 trucks in on Tuesday, defense officials said. Jordan, the Red Cross and the World Health Organization were also preparing to send medical supplies.

Israel's navy on Tuesday turned back a boat of pro-Palestinian protesters who had hoped to enter Gaza to demonstrate against the Israeli blockade.

The Israeli side of the border area was declared a closed military zone on Monday, obscuring operations in the area. But with thousands of ground troops, backed by tanks and artillery, massed on the border, and the air force knocking off target after target, the big question looming over the operation was whether it would expand to include a land invasion.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the operation would "expand as needed ... to restore tranquility to (Israel's) south and deliver a blow to Hamas so the rocket fire and other operations against the citizens and soldiers of Israel stop."

During the six-month truce that expired Dec. 19, gunmen fired 360 rockets and mortars, the vast majority in the agreement's waning weeks, the military said. In the year before it took hold, more than 4,300 projectiles were fired, it added.

Over the years, militants have improved the aim and range of the rockets. On Monday, a missile crashed into a bus stop in Ashdod, a city of 200,000 that is 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Gaza and only 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Israel's Tel Aviv heartland.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Barack Obama, go !

The transnational Jihad is revving up its motors, time for defense and to neutralize terror.
Obama Defers to Bush, for Now, on Gaza Crisis
Published: December 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Barack Obama went to Israel in July — to the very town, in fact, whose repeated shelling culminated in this weekend's new fighting in Gaza — he all but endorsed the punishing Israeli attacks now unfolding.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Now, Mr. Obama's presidency will begin facing the consequences of just such a counterattack, one of Israel's deadliest against Palestinians in decades, presenting him with yet another foreign crisis to deal with the moment he steps into the White House on Jan. 20, even as he and his advisers have struggled mightily to focus on the country's economic problems.

Since his election, Mr. Obama has said little specific about his foreign policy — in contrast to more expansive remarks about the economy. He and his advisers have deferred questions — critics could say, ducked them — by saying that until Jan. 20, only President Bush would speak for the nation as president and commander in chief. "The fact is that there is only one president at a time," David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, reiterating a phrase that has become a mantra of the transition. "And that president now is George Bush."

Mr. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, talked to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday. "But the Bush administration has to speak for America now," Mr. Axelrod said. "And it wouldn't be appropriate for me to opine on these matters." As the fighting in Gaza shows, however, events in the world do not necessarily wait for Inauguration Day in the United States.

Even before the conflict flared again, India and Pakistan announced troop movements that have raised fears of a military confrontation following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. North Korea scuttled a final agreement on verifying its nuclear dismantlement earlier this month, while Iran continues to stall the international effort to stop its nuclear programs. And there are still two American wars churning in Iraq and Afghanistan. All demand his immediate attention.

Mr. Obama's election has raised expectations, among allies and enemies alike, that new American policies are forthcoming, putting more pressure on him to signal more quickly what he intends to do. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Obama has not suggested he has any better ideas than President Bush had to resolve the existential conflict between the Israelis and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

"What this does is present the incoming administration with the urgency of a crisis without the capacity to do much about it," said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and author of "The Much Too Promised Land," a history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. "That's the worst outcome of what's happening right now."

The renewed fighting — and the international condemnation of the scope of Israel's response — has dashed already limited hopes for quick progress on the peace process that Mr. Bush began in Annapolis, Md., in November 2007. The omission of Hamas from any talks between the Israelis and President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls only the West Bank, had always been a landmine that risked blowing up a difficult and delicate peace process, but so have Israel's own internal political divisions.

Mr. Obama might have little to gain from setting out an ambitious agenda for an issue as intractable as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the conflict in Gaza, like the building tensions between India and Pakistan, suggests that he may have no choice. "You can ignore it, you can put it on the back burner, but it will always come up to bite you," said Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian peace negotiator.

For Mr. Obama, the conundrum is particularly intense since he won election in part on promises of restoring America's image around the world. He will assume office with high expectations, particularly among Muslims around the world, that he will make an effort at dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Early on as a candidate, Mr. Obama suggested that he did not necessarily oppose negotiations with groups like Hamas, though he spent much of the campaign retreating from that position under fire from critics.

By the time he arrived in Israel in July, he suggested he would not even consider talks without a fundamental shift in Hamas and its behavior, effectively moving his policy much closer to President Bush's. "In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation-state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries," he said then.

Mr. Obama received an intelligence briefing on Sunday and planned to talk late on Sunday to his nominee for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and his choice as national security adviser, James L. Jones, according to a spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson.

One option would be for an Obama administration to respond much more harshly to Israel's policies, from settlements to strikes like those this weekend, as many in the Arab world and beyond have long urged. On Sunday, though, Mr. Axelrod said the president-elect stood by the remarks he made in the summer and, when asked, noted the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel.

Otherwise, Mr. Obama could try to pressure surrogates to lean on Hamas, including Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza. He can try to build international pressure on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks into Israel. He can try to nurture a peace between Israel and Mr. Abbas on the West Bank, hoping that somehow it spreads to Hamas. All have been tried, and all have failed to avoid new fighting.

"The reality is, what options do we have?" Mr. Miller said.

Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Honolulu.

Next Article in Washington (1 of 4) » A version of this article appeared in print on December 29, 2008, on page A10 of the New York edition.