The Best on Gaza

Robert Fisk: Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony
December 30, 2008, THE INDEPENDENT

How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which – in any other conflict – journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.

That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don’t come from Gaza.

But watching the news shows, you’d think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn’t worry the world.

Well, the world should worry now. Crammed into the most overpopulated few square miles in the whole world are a dispossessed people who have been living in refuse and sewage and, for the past six months, in hunger and darkness, and who have been sanctioned by us, the West. Gaza was always an insurrectionary place. It took two years for Ariel Sharon’s bloody “pacification”, starting in 1971, to be completed, and Gaza is not going to be tamed now. …

Johann Hari: The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling. Independent, Monday, 29 December 2008

…There will now be a war over the story of this war. The Israeli government says, “We withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and in return we got Hamas and Qassam rockets being rained on our cities. Sixteen civilians have been murdered. How many more are we supposed to sacrifice?” It is a plausible narrative, and there are shards of truth in it, but it is also filled with holes. If we want to understand the reality and really stop the rockets, we need to rewind a few years and view the run-up to this war dispassionately.

The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser, Dov Weisglass, was unequivocal about this, explaining: “The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians… this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”

Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders, so they voted for Hamas. It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice – an Islamist party is antithetical to all my convictions – but we have to be honest. It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 per cent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 per cent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long, long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.

Rather than seize this opportunity and test Hamas’s sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. It announced that it was blockading the Gaza Strip in order to “pressure” its people to reverse the democratic process. The Israelis surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine – but not enough for survival. Weisglass quipped that the Gazans were being “put on a diet”. According to Oxfam, only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza last month to feed 1.5 million people….

The dire cost of domestic rivalries
Neve Gordon
guardian, 29 December 2008

Israel seems more concerned with electoral politics and restoring its military reputation than stopping the Qassam rockets…

Although Olmert did not say as much, the “mission” includes four distinct objectives. The first is the destruction of Hamas, a totally unrealistic goal…. The second objective has to do with Israel’s coming elections…. The third objective involves the Israeli military. After its notable humiliation in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, the IDF has been looking for opportunities to re-establish its global standing…. Finally, Hamas and Fatah have not yet reached an agreement regarding how to proceed when Mahmoud Abbas ends his official term as president of the Palestinian National Authority on January 9. One of the outcomes of this assault is that Abbas will remain in power for a while longer since Hamas will be unable to mobilise its supporters in order to force him to resign.

What is clearly missing from this list of Israeli objectives is the attempt to halt the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel’s southern towns. Unlike the objectives I mentioned, which are not discussed by government officials, this one is presented by the government as the operation’s primary objective. Yet, the government is actively misleading the public…

Nir Rosen in the Guardian, here

“…The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? …

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

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

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

…Yet the US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some “collateral” civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to “shock and awe”, as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives and the national liberation movements the Palestinians established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means necessary, it is because they are weak.

From the ashes of Gaza
Tarik Ali, THE GUARDIAN, Tuesday 30 December 2008

In the face of Israel’s latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution.

The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians etc (for all the gory detail, see Harvard scholar Sara Roy’s chilling essay in the London Review of Books) were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had “provoked” Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato’s favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.

As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the west claims it is combating in the “war against terror”.

The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer. The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money.

Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The west and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the “international community” in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, US and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run.

Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza – in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer, “the public will then support the Authority against Hamas.”

Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this. Hamas’s electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those of the party it had defeated at the polls. Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority’s combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a “peace process” that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people.

It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad base of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran. How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas’s unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer, despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests that followed, in which some 300 Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank.

On August 19 2003, a self-proclaimed “Hamas” cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in west Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire’s negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas, in turn, responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization – a longstanding demand of Tel Aviv.

What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline – demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest-armed oppression of modern history.

“Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against occupation force,” said General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993. The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. ….

Israel Recussitates Hamas, By Daoud Kuttab in Washinton Post

Thanks to Israeli bombs, the Islamic movement has been saved from political death.

For two years, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas) has been losing support internally and externally. This wasn’t the case in the days after the party came to power democratically in early 2006; despite being unjustly ostracized by the international community for its anti-Israeli stance, Hamas enjoyed the backing of Palestinians and other Arabs. Having won a decisive parliamentary majority on an anti-corruption platform promising change and reform, Hamas worked hard to govern better than had Fatah, its rival and predecessor.

Things began to sour when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza, but even then, Hamas enjoyed considerable domestic support — and much goodwill externally. Then the movement turned down every legitimate offer from its nationalist PLO rivals and Egyptian mediators to pursue reconciliation, and support for it began to slip.

Things got worse in November when a carefully planned national unity effort from the Egyptians failed because, at the very last minute, Hamas’s leaders refused to show up in Cairo. Failure to accept this roundtable invitation greatly upset the Egyptians, and they and other Arab leaders scolded Hamas publicly. ….

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan….

Why Israel Feels Threatened By BENNY MORRIS in NY Times

Iran’s nuclear threat, the rise of Hamas and Hezbollah and Israeli Arabs’ growing disaffection with the state offer challenges that Israel’s leaders and public find difficult to counter….

…. But the attack will not solve the basic problem posed by a Gaza Strip populated by 1.5 million impoverished, desperate Palestinians who are ruled by a fanatic regime and are tightly hemmed in by fences and by border crossings controlled by Israel and Egypt.

An enormous Israeli ground operation aimed at conquering the Gaza Strip and destroying Hamas would probably bog down in the alleyways of refugee camps before achieving its goal. (And even if these goals were somehow achieved, renewed and indefinite Israeli rule over Gaza would prove unpalatable to all concerned.)

More likely are small, limited armored incursions, intended to curtail missile launches and kill Hamas fighters. But these are also unlikely to bring the organization to heel — though they may exercise sufficient pressure eventually to achieve, with the mediation of Turkey or Egypt, a renewed temporary truce. That seems to be the most that can be hoped for, though a renewal of rocket attacks on southern Israel, once Hamas recovers, is as certain as day follows night.

The fourth immediate threat to Israel’s existence is internal. It is posed by the country’s Arab minority. Over the past two decades, Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens have been radicalized, with many openly avowing a Palestinian identity and embracing Palestinian national aims. Their spokesmen say that their loyalty lies with their people rather than with their state, Israel. Many of the community’s leaders, who benefit from Israeli democracy, more or less publicly supported Hezbollah in 2006 and continue to call for “autonomy” (of one sort or another) and for the dissolution of the Jewish state.

Demography, if not Arab victory in battle, offers the recipe for such a dissolution. The birth rates for Israeli Arabs are among the highest in the world, with 4 or 5 children per family (as opposed to the 2 or 3 children per family among Israeli Jews).

If present trends persist, Arabs could constitute the majority of Israel’s citizens by 2040 or 2050. Already, within five to 10 years, Palestinians (Israeli Arabs coupled with those who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) will form the majority population of Palestine (the land lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean).

Friction between Israeli Arabs and Jews is already a cogent political factor. In 2000, at the start of the second intifada, thousands of Arab youngsters, in sympathy with their brethren in the territories, rioted along Israel’s major highways and in Israel’s ethnically mixed cities.

The past fortnight has seen a recurrence, albeit on a smaller scale, of such rioting. Down the road, Israel’s Jews fear more violence and terrorism by Israeli Arabs. Most Jews see the Arab minority as a potential fifth column.

What is common to these specific threats is their unconventionality. Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the threat from conventional Arab armies. Indeed, it repeatedly trounced them. But Iran’s nuclear threat, the rise of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that operate from across international borders and from the midst of dense civilian populations, and Israeli Arabs’ growing disaffection with the state and their identification with its enemies, offer a completely different set of challenges. And they are challenges that Israel’s leaders and public, bound by Western democratic and liberal norms of behavior, appear to find particularly difficult to counter.

Israel’s sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led to one violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.

Specter carries message from Israel to Syria, December 30, 2008

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter carried a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Specter (R-Pa.) met Sunday with Olmert in Israel, where he said he “got a review of the Syrian negotiations” from the Israeli prime minister, the Jerusalem Post reported. He left Israel Monday, and refused to discuss the details of the message he was carrying.
“I believe the efforts to isolate Syria have not been successful,” Specter told the paper. “We ought to try to change things. President [Bill] Clinton tried to do a good job in 1995 and 2000, and I think it ought to be pursued.”

Comments (214)

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1. offended said:

Nir Rosen’s article is a great pleasure to read. Who would have thought that he’s of a Jewish descent? Nir is one of the people why I still have faith in homo sapiens.

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December 30th, 2008, 7:49 pm


2. Idit said:

Offended said

“Nir Rosen’s article is a great pleasure to read. Who would have thought that he’s of a Jewish descent?”

Such a racist remark.

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December 30th, 2008, 8:19 pm


3. Chris said:

“Nir Rosen’s article is a great pleasure to read. Who would have thought that he’s of a Jewish descent?”

Really?!?!? There aren’t many great writers out there who are a pleasure to read and who are also of Jewish descent? I’m surprised anybody would actually write such a racist thing! Shame on you!

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December 30th, 2008, 8:41 pm


4. offended said:

^^ to the two ****** above: no, there aren’t many Jewish writers (who are great pleasures to read) who also speak with such accuracy and well-rounded understanding against the long list of Zionists’ persecutions of the Palestinians people…

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December 30th, 2008, 9:10 pm


5. Chris said:

Isn’t there a moderator that is supposed to screen for comments like that?

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December 30th, 2008, 9:24 pm


6. Cédric said:

Wow! Robert Fisk (1st article) is still young, dynamic and accurate as I can see!

To “Offended”: What would you think about someone sayin’: “He is a clever guy though from Muslim descent”? The same things you saif for Jewish. In Europe, theres a lot of good and critical writers from jewish descent: Roni Brauman, Dominique Vidal, Alain Gresh, to name but a few. So please try to avoid sayin’ racist statements when you ignore a reality…

A site review about Gza bombing in my blog:

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December 30th, 2008, 9:43 pm


7. norman said:

To all,

Does anybody thinks that Hamas should accept the cease fire if it does not include the lifting of the blockade .

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December 30th, 2008, 9:43 pm


8. Shai said:

Chris, Idit,

As the token Israeli and Jew here, I didn’t read any racist remark in Offended’s comment whatsoever. I understood exactly what he meant. If anything, he gave Nir Rosen a compliment by essentially saying that if Jews can speak so clearly against what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, then he (Offended) still has faith in us humans.

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December 30th, 2008, 9:46 pm


9. Alex said:


I edited the “i” word.

I know you are anything but a racist, but please explain to Chris what you really meant.

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December 30th, 2008, 9:48 pm


10. norman said:


Offended is not racist, we are just frustrated from the Lack of jewish outrage about what is going on in Gaza,

The more Jews start opposing the racist policies of Israel the more people will separate what Israel does from the Jewish people , Unfortunately , until then antisemitism will increase as the world associate the Israeli actions with the Jewish people.

More anti Israeli policies spearheaded by caring Jews is needed to let the world know that the Jews are innocent of the Palestinian blood.

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December 30th, 2008, 9:53 pm


11. norman said:

It is interesting how Shai, Alex and i can write the same thing without seeing each other note,

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December 30th, 2008, 10:00 pm


12. Akabar Palace said:

The poor innocent Gazans attend Gilad Shalit “Opera” 2 weeks ago:

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December 30th, 2008, 10:24 pm


13. majid said:

Norman, I’m only responding to your number 7 comment.
Common sense says yes.

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December 30th, 2008, 11:07 pm


14. norman said:


I disagree, The dead Palestinians would have died in vain, but then I am not under fire.

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December 30th, 2008, 11:45 pm


15. majid said:

Is this your final answer?
Or are you considering putting yourself under fire and then finalize your answer?

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December 30th, 2008, 11:54 pm


16. norman said:

there are good people,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Israel does not speak for all Jews
“Members of Iran’s small Jewish community staged a demonstration outside of the United Nations’ office in Tehran, to protest the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in the Gaza Strip.”
Posted by As’ad at 11:51 AM

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December 30th, 2008, 11:55 pm


17. qunfuz said:

Mondoweiss is a great Jewish anti-zionist blog. Joshua has a link to it above.

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December 31st, 2008, 12:39 am


18. SimoHurtta said:

A cease fire would be now a huge victory for Hamas and a total defeat for Israel. So much has Israeli leaders and military bullied about destroying Hamas. Israel’s leaders have basically no options than continue. The ruling coalition would loose the elections because for the second time they could not serve what they promised.

As an occupied area Gaza (and West Bank) holds so many different militant groups that new missiles would go to Israel in hours after the cease fire. Hamas certainly has no capability or now even the will to stop that. Neither has PLO. Hamas could say when after the first missile that come-on we do not have any more the police stations and the necessary administrative infrastructure to control the events. And that is true, not an excuse. Israel took away from Hamas its ability to govern but can’t take away its fighting capacity.

Rational people as leaders (which Israel seems not to have) should finally understand that Israel has to make up its mind fast about the peace and two state solution. Surely the “solution” is not have a cease fire and leave everything as it was and build again, heaven knows the number of times, the administrative buildings to Gaza with EU money to be destroyed by Israel after a couple of years.

It would be interesting to know how much is the Israeli economy’s share of this Palestinian aid in form of domestic production (for example cement and steal) and share of products bought from Israeli importers. I have unsuccessfully tried to find data and estimates about it. Anyway Israel gets a healthy share of this constant rebuilding. It is an perpetual motion machine. Israel destroys, we stupid Europeans, Americans and Arabs pay, and Israeli businessmen provide the goods to rebuild. Well “stupid” Americans have even to pay for the bombs and planes.

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December 31st, 2008, 12:40 am


19. Rumyal said:


We have our differences but I have to say this is an insightful comment and an angle I haven’t seen addressed a lot before: fiscal accountability as a means for European people to pressure their governments against such attacks. We all remember the power station that was donated by the EU and bombed into smithereens a couple of years back, and now this attack. There is no reason the European taxpayer should pay for that.

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December 31st, 2008, 1:51 am


20. majid said:

Simohurtta said’ “we stupid Europeans, Americans and Arabs pay”.
What are you options as a European, Simo?
Nejjad wants Europe to cough up a piece of land somewhere around Austria, Germany or Poland, most likely close to where you live, and make it home for the Jews. So it is either pay up or pack up.
I’m sure if you choose the latter Nejjad will not leave you alone to face your predicament and he will offer you many advices similar to your recent comment regarding how to define victory and defeat when you start firing your own version of Qassams.

Norman, have you made up your mind?

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December 31st, 2008, 2:12 am


21. Rumyal said:

Dear Norman,

The Geronimo analogue from Joshua was adequate—martyrdom (and fighting F-16 with steel tubing can’t be anything else) is a great way to get remembered but not so much for achieving national goals. The original Izz ad-Din al-Qassam died exactly like that, fighting the then-mighty British with Ottoman-era rifles. His successors will not do any better, least of all to themselves. The dead *have* died in vain and there is no need to add more. Non-violence is the best path for the Palestinians both tactically and strategically.

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December 31st, 2008, 2:18 am


22. norman said:


What Israel did in the last few days made very clear that they do not value Palestinian lives and blood, cease fire will only delay the problem and make it again a chronic disease , the only way to solve the problems in the Mideast is to make them acute so leaders will have to deal with them , If Israel succeed in destroying Hamas which i doubt , It can start fresh and show the Palestinians that it cares about them and if it fails which is more likely will have to talk to Hamas and solve their problems together , no more attacks from Gaza and no more blockades ,assacinations and control of Palestinian airspace and seashores and borders , The Israeli public will not be so arrogant thinking that they can force their well on others , Cease fire will solve nothing without a clear lifting of the blockade and the starvation of the Palestinians and giving them the chance to rule themselves and be responsible to their people,


you got my answer,

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December 31st, 2008, 2:32 am


23. Rumyal said:


I may be naïve, but how about something like this. Stop firing rockets for 24 hours. Then arrange a mass demonstration (hundred thousand people or more) of children, women, man and march peacefully to the border crossings with Israel. Tell the media in advance that this is what you are going to do. Bring thousands of video cameras and stream everything on the Internet for the world to see. Israel will not dare do anything against this crowd, if the crowd remains peaceful. After a few days, public opinion will be totally flipped, and the blockade will be lifted for good. It has been done before and it will be more effective today in the Internet age with the information immediately available throughout the world.

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December 31st, 2008, 2:43 am


24. majid said:

How would you or, Hamas to be accurate, force Israel to lift the blockade and cease control of Gaza airspace and waters? That is if ceasefire is not declared and accepted by both sides with the status quo.

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December 31st, 2008, 2:47 am


25. Nour said:


Hamas did stop firing rockets, not for 24 hours, but for a period of months. “Israel” continued to attack Gaza and impose a blockade on it. The Ceasefire was repeatedly broken by “Israel,” but no one gave a damn. However, once Hamas decided to finally respond to “Israel”‘s repeated atacks against Gaza, the media began to scream that the ceasefire was broken.

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December 31st, 2008, 3:04 am


26. Rumyal said:


I agree with you on the facts, but this has never been a struggle about the true facts. Israel depends on international recognition and therefore the most important struggle has been for both Israel and the Palestinians a battle of PR especially in the Western world (upon which Israel depends). The Gazans haven’t been able to register themselves in the Western public opinion as the victims in this struggle, whereas others have succeeded (Tibet, SA, etc.). So, if I were in their place I would recognize that this is the case and ask what needs to be done differently. I’m not an expert on PR by a long shot but I have a very strong feeling that a gigantic peaceful vigil with children and women will do the trick. Now is a good time too, because this region is in the forefront of the news and the peaceful-yet-non-compromising reaction would be juxtaposed against the carnage caused by Israel. I don’t deny that Western public opinion is by default tilted against Arabs, after years of vilification in the media, movies etc. so it’s not going to be a walk in the park. On the other hand it does seem to have a better chance, both tactically and strategically, than the current death ritual.

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December 31st, 2008, 3:50 am


27. swerv21 said:

hi Josh, all:

I think you might want to check out Zvi Bar’el’s analysis at Haaretz. It is here:

He’s fairly insightful as usual.

For one thing, I think he is one commentator on the Israeli side who is hearing echoes of the ‘second Lebanese war’ in this offensive. His outline of Hamas’ diplomatic victory is as follows:

“Hamas can rack up its first victory for its methods as several European countries are already talking about a “humanitarian” cease-fire, and Egypt has been fixed in the public eye as a collaborator with Israel. This will make it hard for Egypt to act as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, and the war in Gaza will require international involvement and certainly active Syrian involvement to end the hostilities.

In that way Gaza goes from being a local dispute between Israel and Hamas to the status of half a state with the same status as Israel, so hopes Hamas.

Such a step could never have come off through regular diplomatic channels, where Hamas would have appealed to Egypt or some other mediator, but only by enlisting the masses in the region and by bypassing the Palestinian Authority, which is not functioning during this crisis.

Mubarak’s efforts in his speech on Tuesday to relink the West Bank and Gaza and place Gaza again under the PA’s authority says something about the diplomatic battlefield. A separate cease-fire with Gaza under Arab and international pressure may be interpreted as a recognition of the separation between Gaza and the West Bank – and recognition of the Hamas government. This will place Gaza under the diplomatic auspices of Iran and Syria, on the border with Egypt.”

It is kind of painful to consider strategy when so many are suffering, but if Egypt has truly lost its credibility as a broker between the Isreali’s and Hamas, and if the operation is ineffective in its stated goal of removing Hamas from power- then that means only broker left is Syria.

This makes Syria the winner of the latest conflict.

Has Syria’s new found leverage been telegraphed by the arrival of Arlen Specter in Damascus?

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December 31st, 2008, 4:20 am


28. Qifa Nabki said:

Ho hum, another Syrian victory by remote control? Sounds a bit premature.

Here’s a very funny Egyptian’s take on the situation.

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December 31st, 2008, 4:49 am


29. Shai said:


I agree with Rumyal. The battle for PR is far more important. And on that realm, the Palestinians have almost always lost. I also think it’s not a battle they must lose – in fact, there are quite a few ways to win it, even against Israel’s “rich and educated” spokespeople.

When I was in the army, just as the first Intifada began, I heard a lecture about possible scenarios in Gaza. One of them was quite interesting. It entailed the planned gathering of thousands of women, children, and the elderly, all marching peacefully towards Kfar Darom (which was dismantled a few years ago, when Sharon withdrew from Gaza). And this gathering was not to stop before the settlement, but rather continue marching straight into it. The few soldiers guarding Kfar Darom would not be able to handle this mass, and after a few useless shots in the air, would quickly withdraw. The residents, though some armed, would fear the Palestinians even more, and would also have to vacate the place quickly.

So the scenario drew out, essentially, the civil takeover of an Israeli settlement by the Palestinians, peacefully, without a single person killed. And from what I recall, the army had NO ANSWER to this scenario! It could not possibly reinforce every settlement in Gaza with a couple hundred soldiers. And it couldn’t mobilize a few thousand quickly, to stand against such a march once it took place (unless knowing of it in advance). And no one around the world could say “those terrorists” about unarmed women, children, and elderly.

Nonviolent civil disobedience is, in my mind, the Palestinians’ best weapon against the Occupation and against our F-16s. We “know” (ya’ani) how to deal with weapons labs, missile launchers, and even underground tunnels. We don’t know how to handle a peaceful crowd (and I’m not talking a few hundred people). These marches, protests, should take place in Gaza and the West Bank, nonstop, by tens and hundreds of thousands. They should be orchestrated well, and aimed directly at the court of world opinion. I trust the Palestinians are plenty talented at figuring out how to do it. It’s a little difficult for soldiers to shoot at 100,000 peaceful marchers. Even for “Israeli” soldiers…

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December 31st, 2008, 5:00 am


30. offended said:

Shai, Alex, Norman.

Thank you guys!

I was too jaded yesterday to explain.

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December 31st, 2008, 5:12 am


31. majid said:

Great link QN. I bet you this Zvi Bar’el has never been to Egypt. And if he did he never ventured beyond Taba.

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December 31st, 2008, 5:19 am


32. offended said:

A silent sit-in protest in Dubai Yesterday evening. Offended was among the crowd, although he’s nowhere to be seen in this photo.

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December 31st, 2008, 5:22 am


33. Alex said:

31. majid said:

Great link QN. I bet you this Zvi Bar’el has never been to Egypt. And if he did he never ventured beyond Taba.


Zvi Bar’el has been to Egypt many times .. he reported once on the Cairo book fair for example … he interviews regular Egyptians and Egyptian officials … he speaks classical Arabic better than I can.

And … He is finishing his Ph.D. in Islamic studies.

He spent a long time in Iraq, in many other Arab countries.

Qifa Nabki,

Remember a year ago you were even more suspicious of many things that already proved you wrong.

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December 31st, 2008, 6:06 am


34. majid said:

OK, Alex. The guy has a Ph.D.
But he still doesn’t know anything about Egypt.

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December 31st, 2008, 6:17 am


35. Alex said:


If you liked Sandmonkey, you obviously will not like Zvi Bar’el.


Excellent suggestion … it really bothers me that while Palestinians are clearly courageous enough to die in the many ways Israel can kill, but they are not convinced to try the non violent approach in large numbers … why can’t 500,000 Palestinians march towards the border with Israel? … in Lebanon when they reached a point of wanting the Syrian army to get the hell out of their country, up to a million Lebanese demonstrated in the street … next to the supposedly scary Syrian army … that army did not fire a bullet at them .. a few months later the army was out.

Why can’t the Palestinians try that? … why don’t they produce an enlightened leader (as opposed to the passionate Hamas types and the crooks in Fatah)?

The first intifada (with rocks, no arms) was close … and it was useful for them. The second intifada which was more violent, was a disaster …

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December 31st, 2008, 6:28 am


36. Alex said:

a good piece on Gaza by Tony Karon from Tie Magazine

Now, when it comes to understanding and responding to the crisis, we have the comments made by President-elect Barack Obama last July in Sderot, which were widely quote in response to teh weekend’s strikes:
“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. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

I suppose the question I’d like to ask Obama, in the very Jewish tradition of asking how I would experience that which I was about to do to another, is what he would do if someone had moved his grandparents out of their home and forced them into a refugee camp, where he and his daughters lived, caged in, and were now being slowly choked of any meaningful livelihood, denied access to medicines, elecricity, even basic foodstuffs sometimes. What, I wonder would he do then? (He needs to have a meaningful answer to that question if he’s to be anything other than an obstacle to progress in the Middle East, like Bush has been. He may want to take a lesson from “Mr. Zig-Zag” here: On the election campaign trail in 1999, Ehud Barak was asked what he’d have done if he’d been born Palestinian, and answered without hesitation, “Joined a fighting organization.” A moment of rare honesty, that.)

It will be up to Obama, more than any other world leader, to change the morbid dynamic between Israel and the Palestinians — because it is a U.S.-authored conceptual approach that undergirds the current travesty in Gaza.

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December 31st, 2008, 6:35 am


37. Shai said:


Have any Palestinian intellectuals written about this need? Why, in fact, isn’t there a Palestinian Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela? It seems if ever a situation called for it, it is now. Such a leader can unite the Palestinian people, the various factions, and force Israeli and the world to deal with the real issues at hand, namely the legitimate national aspirations of a people who deserve nothing more than the basic rights of every human being on this planet (but also nothing less), and their suffering for the past 60 years. Hamas’s Qassams, and Israel’s F-16s, are a smokescreen for this, and cause the world to focus in the wrong direction. At this rate, we’ll be blogging about this in another 60 years as well.

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December 31st, 2008, 6:44 am


38. majid said:

I didn’t say I liked SandMonkey. I found it funny. I am sure many Egyptians are finding in ridicule and sarcasm an opportunity to laugh off ridiculous attempts to draw their country into something they know full well is against their interests. If you lived in Egypt you should know how quick witted an Egyptian can be.
But now that you said it (sandMonkey), I’d say Zvi Bar’el could have learned something from it before prematurely making his predictions.
I agree with QN. It is too early to predict. Let’s wait at least until the Arab Summit convenes in Cairo – if enough leaders show up. You know they could have other schedules, especially that this meeting was called up in haste.
I don’t know what happened a year ago between the two of you. But history doesn’t always repeat itself.

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December 31st, 2008, 6:46 am


39. Rumyal said:

Alex, Shai,

Did anybody say Sari Nusseibeh?

The guy owes me a share of the royalties by now with all of my promotion… but it’s an absolute *must read*.

Unfortunately, he isn’t MLK in terms of charisma and ambition, but he is the “true North” in terms of charting the right way… for both of our peoples…

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December 31st, 2008, 7:17 am


40. Alex said:


There are some Palestinian intellectuals, but they are not leaders. There are many Palestinian leaders, but they keep proposing the same old approaches.


I agree it is indeed too early. But I estimate there is a 70% chance I will be right though. we’ll see.

And I heard from many Egyptian friends about their disappointment with Nasrallah’s specific targeting of their country. I think Nasrallah over did it.

Read what Mona Eltahawy wrote here, you will like it:

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December 31st, 2008, 7:26 am


41. offended said:

Martin Luther King, although a legendary personality, was operating in a system that allowed his voice to be heard and his protests to proceed. Martin Luther King would quote Benjamin Franklin to remind white Americans of their own values and how they are breached.

The situation in Palestine is different, it’s a head-on collision between an occupying force that build partition walls and place people under siege, and a helpless population who had been betrayed by most of its leaders and let down by most of its Arab brethren.

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December 31st, 2008, 7:38 am


42. Sprinkle said:

Offended did not write anything offensive. He/She simply noted how unusual it is to hear a Jew stand against Israeli policy, and how refreshing such a thing is.

What I find offensive is how quick so many insecure people are to accuse others of being racist and anti-semitic when the truth hurts.

These authors should to a circuit of the megachurches and teach Christian Zionists a thing or two about how their donations are spent!

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December 31st, 2008, 7:57 am


43. majid said:

OK Alex,
Good to be optimist.

I read that article early today. I was planning to provide a link here but I forgot. Thanks for bringing it up.

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December 31st, 2008, 8:01 am


44. Majid said:

According to Associated Press, Israeli Government rejected a 48-hour ceasefire requested by EU.

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December 31st, 2008, 8:43 am


45. Murphy said:

Alex, I can’t believe how naive you are being.

“Why can’t the Palestinians try that? …”

But Alex they have!!!!! Many, many times, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. There have been countless demonstrations against the wall and the blockade, among other things. They have achieved nothing.

“that army did not fire a bullet at them .. a few months later the army was out.”

Public opinion means that the Syrian army would find it difficult to fire into a crowd of unarmed fellow Arabs. The Israeli army operates under no such restraints, as it has shown time and again.

“The first intifada (with rocks, no arms) was close … and it was useful for them”

Two points: one, it is true the first intifadah started out as a non-violent protest, but Israel – as you surely must know – responded with extreme violence. You don’t remember ‘peacenik’ Rabin and his ‘break their bones’ command? Secondly, what exactly did the first intifada achieve?

Dont’ get me wrong – I often despair at the lack of imagination and intelligence of successive Palestinian ‘leaderships’. But to act as though non-violent protest had not been tried, and that it would somehow impress Israel is, as I’ve said, shockingly naive.


“to draw their country into something they know full well is against their interests”

Sorry, but its way too late for that. By coluding with Israel’s attack on Gaza – just the latest example of decades long collusion with Israel – Egypt lost the right to complain about being ‘drawn into’ a tragedy partly of its own making.

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December 31st, 2008, 8:53 am


46. qunfuz said:

Alex – Israel’s policy at the start of the second intifada was to use massive force. Dozens of Palestinians were shot before the intifada was militarised. There are and have been hundreds of non-violent protests at checkpoints, against the wall, etc, which are met with Israeli violence. If the western media was watching and not framing the story as one of poor Jewish democrats against terrorist Arabs, non-violence might have a hope.

Martin Luther King had Malcolm X behind him. Ghandi had a burgeoning armed resistance behind him. I don’t mean Martin or Ghandi wanted Malcolm or armed resistance, but white America and the British empire saw their choice: either deal with the nice guy or be forced to deal with the angrier ones.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t great scope for further, better organised non-violent confrontation.

It is essential and urgent for a new PLO to be reconstituted to represent ALL Palestinians, in Gaza, the Bank, 1948 lands, the diaspora, Islamist and secular. All palestinians should agitate for this TODAY. The ‘peace process’ farce needs to be officially rejected. It has only harmed the Palestinians and served the occupier. Then a Palestinian discussion – and referendum – needs to be held to determine the movement’s aims (I suggest abandoning the two-state solution, which is no longer viable, thoroughly unjust, and will perpetuate the Palestinian’s economic status as a servant class: it’s time for the Palestinians to demand Israeli passports and rights). It is of course an impossible task to organise a new PLO, but a necessary one. Why impossible: most of the elected representatives of the Palestinians from the West Bank are in Israeli prisons. Would Arab regimes allow their Palestinian refugees to organise and vote?

I’m aware that I’m particularly emotional about the tragedy before us. Having said that, I do wonder if peace will ever be possible with Israeli Jews, at least before they meet a large defeat. Finkelstein said it, Israel has to be defeated; then it will produce leaders who will make peace. But at the moment we have a large scale massacre like this every couple of years. Then there is the casual barbarism of occupation and siege. The vast majority of these people do not believe we are human. I think our focus should be on fighting them. If only we could deal with one or two of our client regimes, we could actually get somewhere.

Writer John Berger’s statement:

“We are now spectators of the latest – and perhaps penultimate – chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.

Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.

This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less – with marginal questioning – mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it – is one of history’s ironic jokes. There’s no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.

Let’s do so.”

John Berger
27 December 2008

I don’t think we can make peace with a viscerally racist enemy, not until it has reason to change its ideas. To those who say ‘we’re weak; we have no choice,’ I say that peace isn’t on the agenda, only colonial submission.

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December 31st, 2008, 11:04 am


47. why-discuss said:

With all their military genius, nuclear weapons, walls built etc.. how Israeli have not find a way to build an anti-defense system against old fashioned rockets?
What kind of morals the Israelis have when they support brutality when dialog and concessions should and are the only way out. After all these lands were stolen from the palestinians and their loss should be compensated not bloodily punished. Any way with this war and the disgust and hatred it inspires, Israel is going backward decades in getting sympathy from arabs.
Israelis may think they can leave in a fake peace but they may end up
been always surrounded by suspicion and hatred not because of their religion but because of their cruel and selfish acts.

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December 31st, 2008, 11:27 am


48. qunfuz said:

I found this on Informed Comment:

the SHUR working paper on Israel, Palestine and democratic possibilities. Here are the report’s policy recommendations:

‘ The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status;
•Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities;

•There must be just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization in the pre- and post-state period, including the abrogation of all laws, and ending all policies, practices and systems of military and civil control that oppress and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or national origin;

• The recognition of the diverse character of the society, encompassing distinct religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, and national experiences;

• The creation of a non-sectarian state that does not privilege the rights of one ethnic or religious group over another and that respects the separation of state from all organized religion;

• The implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194 is a fundamental requirement for justice, and a benchmark of the respect for equality;

• The creation of a transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy;

• The recognition of the historic connections between the diverse communities inside the new, democratic state and their respective fellow communities outside;

• In articulating the specific contours of such a solution, those who have been historically excluded from decision-making — especially the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel — must play a central role;

• The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks for justice and reconciliation’

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December 31st, 2008, 11:33 am


49. Shai said:


“It is essential and urgent for a new PLO to be reconstituted to represent ALL Palestinians, in Gaza, the Bank, 1948 lands, the diaspora, Islamist and secular. “

I absolutely agree. The Palestinians must get rid of any opportunity for Israel to claim we have “no partner to talk to”. They must unite now under a single, authoritative and governing body.

Btw, I too am starting to sense that perhaps my people and my nation need to once again feel what it is like to be defeated, and what the real alternatives to peace are. 1977 was made possible, not only because of Sadat, but indeed because of 1973, just 4 years earlier. It would be a terrible thing, if once again our region would have its all-out conflict, and many more thousands and tens of thousands would die, than back in the 70’s and 80’s.

I still pray we don’t have to get there, but certainly at the rate we’re going, and with the “policy” we seem to be adopting, it’s almost inevitable. How sad it is that we already know what the price is, in fact for all sides of our conflict, and yet it’s like a terrible movie that must be watched in its entirety.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a Happy New Year. May this year bring us sanity, and an end to the terrible suffering of so many people in our region, who deserve a peaceful life no less than any of us.

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December 31st, 2008, 12:45 pm


50. qunfuz said:

Happy New Year to you, Shai.

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December 31st, 2008, 1:34 pm


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