“The War in Gaza: Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?” by Cordesman

The War in Gaza:   Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?
By Anthony Cordesman
January 9, 2009

[After summarizing Israel’s significant tactical achievements in Gaza during the two weeks since its invasion, Cordesman puts the whole situation in proper strategic perspective:]

. . . . .  the growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved. As of the 14th day of the war, nearly 800 Palestinian have died and over 3,000 have been wounded. Fewer and fewer have been Hamas fighters, while more and more have been civilians.

These direct costs are also only part of the story. Gaza’s economy had already collapsed long before the current fighting began and now has far greater problems. Its infrastructure is crippled in critical areas like power and water. This war has compounded the impact of a struggle that has gone on since 2000. It has reduced living standards in basic ways like food, education, as well as medical supplies and services. It has also left most Gazans without a productive form of employment. The current war has consequences more far-reaching than casualties. It involves a legacy of greatly increased suffering for the 1.5 million people who will survive this current conflict.

It is also far from clear that the tactical gains are worth the political and strategic cost to Israel. At least to date, the reporting from within Gaza indicates that each new Israeli air strike or advance on the ground has increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza. The same is true in the West Bank and the Islamic world. Iran and Hezbollah are capitalizing on the conflict. Anti-American demonstrations over the fighting have taken place in areas as “remote” as Kabul. Even friends of Israel like Turkey see the war as unjust. The Egyptian government comes under greater pressure with every casualty. The US is seen as having done virtually nothing, focusing only on the threat from Hamas, and the President elect is getting as much blame as the President who still serves.

One strong warning of the level of anger in the region comes from Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Prince Turki has been the Saudi ambassador in both London and Washington. He has always been a leading voice of moderation. For years he has been a supporter of the Saudi peace process and an advocate of Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialog. Few Arab voices deserve more to be taken seriously, and Prince Turki described the conflict as follows in a speech at the opening of the 6th Gulf Forum on January 6th, “The Bush administration has left you (the incoming Obama administration) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza…Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.” Neither Israel nor the US can gain from a war that produces this reaction from one of the wisest and most moderate voices in the Arab world.

This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain any grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made  by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?

To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it is not apparent.

As we have seen all too clearly from US mistakes, any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends. If there is more, it is time to make such goals public and demonstrate how they can be achieved. The question is not whether the IDF learned the tactical lessons of the fighting in 2006. It is whether Israel’s top political leadership has even minimal competence to lead them.

Comments (104)

Daniel said:

I find it intriguing that the person who posted this article has left out the article Synopsis. For the sake of intellectual honesty, I believe this part should have been included in order to maintain the logical flow of thought and to present the reader with a complete analysis. Notwithstanding that a link has been provided, yet I still see no reason why only part of the article should be copied and pasted. A link would have been sufficient. I think it is important to include this Synopsis at least for those readers who do not bother to follow the link. So here it is:

The Israeli-Hamas War, and there is little else that it can be called, has now lasted two weeks. Israeli jets have flown some 800 strike sorties, and the IDF has pushed deep into Gaza. Israel also continues to report tactical gains. The IDF spokesman reported that the fighting on the war’s 14th day continued the second phase of the ground operation throughout the strip, “with infantry, tank, engineering, artillery and intelligence forces operating in large numbers throughout the Gaza Strip, with the assistance of the Israel Air Force and Israel Navy.” He summarized the result as follows:

“The Navy, Air Force and Artillery Corps continued to assist the ground forces throughout the Gaza Strip, striking Hamas targets, groups of gunmen and terrorists identified in rocket launching areas and located near the forces.

. . .The IAF attacked a number of targets, based on IDF and ISA intelligence, including the house of Yaser Natat, who was in charge of the rocket firing program in the Rafah area, and the house of Muhammad Sanuar, the commander of the Hamas “Han Yunes Brigade”. In addition, the IAF struck approximately 60 targets throughout the Gaza Strip, including:

A mosque used as a weapons storage facilities and as a meeting place for Hamas terror operatives

A Hamas Police structure

Fifteen tunnels used by Hamas terror operatives against IDF forces, some of which were located under houses

Ten weapons storage facilities

A number of armed gunmen

Fifteen launching areas and underground launching pads used to fire mortar shells at IDF forces
. . . The Israeli Navy operated in front of Deir El Balah in the Central Gaza Strip, targeting Hamas rocket launching sites.

The IDF will continue to operate against the Hamas terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip according to its operational plans in order to reduce the rocket fire on the south of Israel.”
No one should discount these continuing tactical gains, or ignore the fact that Hamas’ rocket and mortar attacks continue to pose a threat. Nearly 600 rounds hit Israeli territory between December 7th and January 9th. It is also clear that there are no good ways to fight an enemy like Hamas that conducts attrition warfare while hiding behind its own women and children. A purely diplomatic response that does not improve Israel’s security position or offer Palestinians hope for the future is equivalent to no response at all.

The fact remains, however, that the growing human tragedy… (Now go back and read the rest of the article copied and pasted in the main post)”

Cordesman however, has not given justice to the Israeli strategic objectives behind this war that will definitely be achieved once the war ends. It is obvious Israel is making an un-equivocal statement that it will not tolerate an Iranian controlled Hamas ruled enclave on its southern borders by conducting the war on this scale. There is no doubt that when the war ends, a new political reality will emerge in the region which would very much serve Israeli national interests. Without giving any supporting data, Cordesman contends “At least to date, the reporting from within Gaza indicates that each new Israeli air strike or advance on the ground has increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza.” The Institute for Near Eastern Studies conducted a poll of Gazans just after the war erupted. It found more than 60% of Gazans believe that Hamas has made an error by refusing to extend the truce. Furthermore, reports indicate that Palestinians and Arabs view Hamas as an organization which has only succeeded in creating dissension and divisions among the Palestinians and the Arabs. The future of Hamas as a viable political organization is now very bleak as a result of its mismanagement of the so-called Palestinian cause and particularly in its refusal to come out clearly in recognizing the State of Israel.
The so-called front states that have done little more than verbal support for the Hamas cause will surely come under fire from Muslim and Arab masses and they will appear as the main culprits behind the demise of Hamas. They will also be blamed for the unjustified and senseless losses of life and property since they have provided the encouragement and instigation for Hamas through the Palestinian leaders under their control to persist in such escalation. Iranian Supreme leader Khamenei has just announced to would be Iranian volunteer fighters that there is nothing they could do and he advised them that they should go back to their homes. Now, if that is not betrayal of Hamas on the part of its staunchest ally, then I don’t know what betrayal is.
In addition, Syria’s position in some possible future talks with Israel will be much weaker. As Hamas disappears from the arena, there will be less pressure on Israel to offer concessions to the Syrians. In addition, there will be more incentives to follow the Israeli/Palestinian track rather than the so-called Syria/Israeli one.

If these gains are not strategic, then I would kindly ask Cordesman to provide a lecture on strategy.

January 11th, 2009, 4:44 am


norman said:

If Israel fails in achieving it’s goals , It can use that to convince it’s people that peace on equal footing is their only chance to survive and that militery power has no chance in achieving peace for Israel.

Any thoughts?.

January 11th, 2009, 5:21 am


Chris said:

It appears that the number of Qassam rockets has been declining so maybe it will all end fairly soon.

January 11th, 2009, 10:30 am


Joe M. said:

You are shockingly naive (again) if you think this attack has anything to do with Palestinian rockets. Also, there is nothing that can stop Palestinians from shooting rockets now, with the lone exception that we don’t know how large their supplies of rockets is(though they don’t seem hard to make, and will come back in due time). This is a battle about the existence of resistance to Israel. Israel can not tolerate any rejectionist group to become powerful/popular (they have worked too long and hard to gain their “legitimacy”). And in this way, Israel is digging it’s own grave by murdering so many palestinians. It will just formalize resistance even more.

Israel will not achieve its goals. 1) their goals are unclear, 2) they can’t stop rockets, 3) resistance groups will emerge more popular than ever. But this will not change Israel’s tactics in any way, because it has put too much effort into solidifying itself militarily. they simply can’t accept an explicit defeat, they believe they are facing an “existential threat”. So, regardless of what happens militarily, Israel will claim it succeeded enough. Then, we will watch what happens to Israel politically. The right will move together more (religious, nationalist and fanatic right-wing parties will come even closer together) and the center will try to present itself as the “peace” (more like desperation) camp (Labor and Kadima may even become a single party and argue for “negotiations”) and the moderate center will still dangle around as the new maretz or something…

But these forces are becoming increasingly intractable for Israel, and it is possible that the state simply implodes or pulls itself apart. And Avram Burg is looking more and more accurate every day (though, from a very arrogant perspective, and using too narrow of a view. But on the right track).

January 11th, 2009, 11:31 am


qunfuz said:

“Prince Turki has been the Saudi ambassador in both London and Washington. He has always been a leading voice of moderation. For years he has been a supporter of the Saudi peace process and an advocate of Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialog. Few Arab voices deserve more to be taken seriously”

It’s this kind of thing that really makes me sick. Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialogue? But Bibles are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and so is the very presence of Jews! There’s no religious dialogue, only a craven excuse for normalisation with the settler state. ‘Voice of moderation’? Saudi Arabia is the least ‘moderate’ state on earth. What the author means is ‘voice of collaboration.’

January 11th, 2009, 12:02 pm


qunfuz said:

O here we go again. The general idea of the article is fine, if obvious. But the usual rubbish about “moderate Arab states”. Does this really help anyone understand or achieve anything? And the IDF is “Lions led by donkeys.” I wouldn’t describe these spoilt war criminals as lions. I’d describe them as war criminals.

January 11th, 2009, 12:08 pm


Chris said:

Joe M,

You wrote:
You are shockingly naive (again) if you think this attack has anything to do with Palestinian rockets.

I really don’t appreciate personal insults. The strength of your argument does not come from the vitriol of your insults… About the rockets, or any violence by Hamas against Israel: I do believe that if Hamas said we will no longer engage in violence against Israel, Israel would have few reasons to attack it. That’s what peace is, making clear a desire to no longer to attack or destoy the other party, but rather, aiming to coexist. So, I do think this is about the rockets, or the suicide bombings.

January 11th, 2009, 12:17 pm


Averroes said:


Well said. Just look at the odds. These criminals are using jet fighters, chopper battleships, navy, heavy artillery, monstrous tanks facing a virtually unarmed people who have been besieged, hungered, and battered for years.

I think the donkeys are those rulers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, and I think that one lesson out of this war is that these rulers must be overthrown and changed.

January 11th, 2009, 12:31 pm


qunfuz said:

Chris – I don’t Joe’s was much of an insult – he was pointing to the naivety of your argument. And you might find people more willing to put up with your naivety and orientalism (what was that about the problems of the Arabs meeting the modern world?) if Palestinians weren’t being murdered on such a scale by American bombs. Gaza is occupied territory. The occupied have a right to resist. The occupier, however, does not have a right to defense. This is according to the principles of international law and lawfulness. True that the settlers were removed from Gaza, but Gaza remains occupied, surrounded by a fence, with no sovereignty. And even if there was no fence around Gaza, if there were no Israeli incursions, if the Gazans had their own working airport and port and passport, the Palestinians in the West Bank, and the Palestinians in exile, and the Palestinians with Israeli passports who live in ‘unrecognised villages’ in a state that declares itself as the homeland of the Jews, not of its citizens, would not have had their respective problems addressed.

I’ve made a resolution to speak plainly. So here it is: I, like the vast majority of Arab people and an increasing number of Jews and Westerners, do not recognise Zionist Israel’s right to exist in the land of the Palestinians. I recognise the existence of several million Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews who were born in Palestine and consider it home. It is neither possible nor morally right to drive out or kill all these people. Therefore, as soon as there is a serious attempt to settle the conflict, either on the basis of a one-state or two-state solution (I don’t think the two-state solution is viable for anything beyond a cooling-off period, but I’ll support it if it is seriously offered), I will support peace. But, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, there has never been a serious Israeli or US peace offer. There has only been ethnic cleansing, apartheid, occupation and massacres.

And the latest ceasefire, on point of fact, was violated by Israel, not Hamas.

Why should Palestinians stop firing rockets at the people who live in their homes while they are herded into camps, at the people who starve them, who think of them as untermenschen? They shouldn’t. They should fire more, and better. Any power with a conscious should be aiming to arm the Palestinians better, as the world should have armed the great fighters of the Warsaw ghetto.

But that’s enough. I must work.

January 11th, 2009, 1:23 pm


qunfuz said:


Coffee House
No Other Option?!

By Sam Bahour – January 10, 2009, 4:11PM
I watch in shock, like the rest of the world, at the appalling death and destruction being wrought on Gaza by Israel; and still it does not stop. Meanwhile, we see a seemingly never-ending army of well-prepared Israeli war propagandists, some Israeli government officials, and many other people self-enlisted for the purpose, explaining to the world the justifications for pulverizing the Gaza Strip, with its 1.5 million inhabitants. Curious about how Israel, or any society for that matter, could justify a crime of such magnitude against humanity, I turned to my Jewish Israeli friends today to hear their take on things. One after another, the theme was the same. The vast majority of Jewish Israelis has apparently bought into the state-sponsored line that Israel was under attack and had no other option available to stop Hamas’ rockets. More frightening is the revelation that many Israelis–including one person who self-identifies as a former “peace activist”–are speaking of accepting the killing of 100,000 or more Palestinians, if need be.

I have a problem with this logic.

I am a Palestinian American based in Al-Bireh, the sister city of Ramallah in the West Bank. I can see how an observer from abroad could be blind to the facts, given the blitz of Gaza war propaganda orchestrated by the Israeli military. But I know better. Like all other Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, I am not an observer from abroad. We live every day under the bitter burden of Israeli military occupation and we know that this question, presented as rhetorical–did we really have an option? –has a rational answer. Allow me, from my vantage point as an economic development professional, to touch on some of the other options that could have been chosen. Moreover, many of them will be forced on Israel anyway, sooner or later, whether after the next “war,” or in the coming days under the ceasefire agreement and the Egyptian-sponsored implementation mechanism being discussed as I write this. Meaning: all this death and destruction could have been easily avoided.

Dear Israeli citizen, short of ending the occupation, you could have:

1. Opted to agree on how to disagree: There are two bodies of law that deal with international relations in this world, International Law and the Law of the Jungle. Until today, your government–and maybe you–refuse to accept the global consensus that the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are all militarily occupied territory. The occupying power is Israel–as attested in dozens of United Nations resolutions over the past four decades. By ignoring this fact that Israel is an occupying power, thus removing (unsuccessfully, of course) any internationally recognized baseline for the conflict, you have created an environment that can only be described as the “Law of the Jungle,” where might is right and where, as we see in Gaza now, anything goes. You could have accepted international humanitarian law, as stipulated in the Fourth Geneva Conventions regulating occupations, and avoided many of the seemingly impossible positions you find yourself in today: from the albatross of the settlement enterprise to the reality of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.

2. Opted to allow for an international presence in the occupied territory: For over 30 years – yes, 30 years! – the Palestinians have begged the international community to create and maintain a serious presence in the occupied territory, something to stand between us and protect the civilians on both sides. Israel repeatedly refused to consider this. Instead your government chose to deal with the Palestinian territory as if it was its own, always behaving in line with its meta-objective: getting a maximum of Palestinian geography with a minimum of Palestinian demography. You could have avoided dealing directly with the natural reaction of any occupied people to resist their occupation, by allowing international players to get involved and serve as a sort of referee between you and those you are occupying militarily.

3. Opted to accept lawful non-violent resistance to your occupation: For over 40 years, Palestinians have tried everything to remove the Israeli boot of occupation from our necks (all documented, for anyone interested enough to do the research): tax revolts, general strikes, civil disobedience, economic development, elections, and on and on. Your response every time was to rely on violence, on control; your message was that you respect nothing other than your own desires. Your children on the front line in Gaza may be too young to recall, but you might remind them, so that they will at least be informed as they march ahead to your drummers: Let them know you deported duly elected mayors back in the 1980s; let them know that you closed down entire Palestinian universities for years on end; let them know that you have imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians since your occupation began, creating a virtual prison university for the resistance movement and stunning any possibility for a new leadership to arise; let them know that even after Oslo you prohibit, to this day, Palestinians from building fully independent utilities–not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. You could have tried a little harder to understand that people under occupation do not throw flowers and rice at their occupiers and resolve to surrender to a slow death.

4. Opted to accept the results of Palestinian democracy: For Palestinians, and believe it or not Israelis too, the best thing that happened in the recent past was when Hamas was chosen in peaceful elections to take over the governance of Palestine. Prior to those elections, where was Hamas? They were in their underground bunkers carrying out atrocities that were disrupting your daily agenda–and mine–with absolutely no accountability whatsoever. When they accepted the Oslo process and ran for office and were duly elected, they stopped, for all intent and purpose, attacking inside Israel (by which I mean, inside the Green Line). Your citizens become significantly safer! Your government (and the U.S.) responded by refusing to accept the results of our elections and imposed sanctions on the elected Palestinian government. This was long before any violent infighting took place in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah. How did the Palestinians react to your intransigence? They pressed Hamas to replace its Hamas-only government with a unity government that had all the significant Palestinian political factions represented. You were thus presented with an accountable body that encompassed all Palestinian political flavors. Your government again responded by refusing to accept the results of our elections and continued with sanctions against the Palestinian government, repeating over and over the mantra that “there is no partner.” Beyond that, the Israeli government intensified its campaign of assassinating and arresting Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and introduced a whole new range of draconian punitive measures against the Palestinian public at large. Like what, you ask? Well, one such measure was that your government began blocking foreign nationals–people like me–from entering or doing business in the occupied territory, thus hindering any real chance to create a new, forward-looking reality. You could have accepted Palestinian democracy instead of propping up your own version of a failed Palestinian leadership.

5. Opted not to interfere in Palestinian internal politics: When Hamas violently struck at Fatah in Gaza–for reasons that have been well documented elsewhere–your government chose to punish all 1.5 million Palestinians by installing a hermetic seal on Gaza and allowing only a trickle of normal traffic to go in or out, meeting only a small fraction of Gaza’s needs. Lest you suspect me of indulging in empty clichés, I shall explain. International agencies have estimated that Gaza’s daily basic needs amount to 450 truckloads a day. For 18 months prior to your aggression on Gaza, your government allowed 70 truckloads a day on average. Yes, seventy! And these were allowed to enter only when the border crossings that you control were open, which was only 30% of the time. You could have chosen not to use food, medicine, education, cement, water, electricity, and so forth, as tools of repression. If you saw yourselves accurately as the occupying power you are, you could have kept in place a lawful security regime on the borders without creating a humanitarian disaster which led to irrational acts (such as missiles being lobbed over the border) by those you tried to starve into submission. You could have made a firm distinction between your political desires and your humanitarian obligations as an occupying power.

This list could go on and on.

The fact of the matter is that you had a long list of options open to you! So many, indeed, that it boggles the mind that your government has apparently been able to blind you to all of them…so that today, as the bombs shriek over Gaza, you can say, and evidently sincerely mean it: We had no other option.

Nevertheless, even with all these options effectively invisible to you, there is nothing on this earth–not law, not politics, not even a desperate and lengthy campaign of rockets creating widespread fear and even some civilian deaths on your side of the border–there is nothing that can justify, by Israel or any other country on this earth, the decision to opt for a crime against humanity as your chosen response. Nothing!

You accepted your government’s path to separate unilaterally from occupied Palestinians; you accepted an illegal barrier to be built on confiscated Palestinian lands; you accepted a unilateral disengagement that simply redeployed your occupation from the heart of Gaza to its perimeter, on land and sea and in the air, rather than actually removing it; you accepted the continuing expansion of your settlements and their systematic harassment of their Palestinian neighbors while talking peace; you accepted, and sadly continue to accept, a consensual blindness to the fact that the majority of Palestinians live as refugees, far from your occupation (practically, not geographically), and feel much more rage than you have lately been creating in the Gaza Strip. I urge you to stop acquiescing in this policy of managed unreality. I urge you to open your eyes and wake up. If not for our sake, then for your own.

You may not see us over the Separation Wall you built; you may not see us from the cockpits of your F-16s or from the inside of your tanks; you may not see us from the command and control center in the heart of Tel Aviv as you direct your pilots to launch their ton of munitions over our heads. Still, I can assure you of one thing. Until you wake up and demand that your leaders choose a different path, a path toward a life as equals and neighbors instead of trampler-on and trampled-on, you and your warrior sons and daughters will continue to see us–all of us, living and dead–in your nightmares, where we will continue to demand peace with justice.

Sam Bahour is a management consultant and entrepreneur living in Ramallah; he is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians,” and blogs at epalestine.blogspot.com.

January 11th, 2009, 1:39 pm


Alia said:


You say you are a student. Then behave like one! Study with an open-mind and learn from the facts not from a prejudiced preconceived state of mind-

As I remember it, during your last visit to Damascus, you had no meaningful contacts to learn anything from, and you keep repeating the tired arguments of the Orientalists. What do you hope to achieve for yourself in the final analysis.. little ego victories on an internet forum?

Had you been a better sort of student I would have been more than happy to introduce you to people you could learn something from, for now keep it up with the sorry AP.

January 11th, 2009, 1:41 pm


qunfuz said:

A couple of texts for Chris: Avi Schlaim: The Iron Wall and Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

January 11th, 2009, 1:50 pm


Shai said:

Qunfuz, Sam Bahour is right. His article should be read by every single Israeli citizen.

January 11th, 2009, 1:53 pm


idaf said:

More on the strategic defeat from Zvi Ba’rel..

Where have our friends gone?
By Zvi Ba’rel

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked to speak with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert just before the start of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Olmert avoided Erdogan because he did not want to tell the Turkish premier about the coming attack. He did not want to be in Menachem Begin’s situation when Begin spoke to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat one time in 1981 and did not tell him Israel was about to attack Iraq’s nuclear reactor. As a result, Erdogan was enraged and insulted. Turkish sources say Erdogan’s campaign of insults against Israel in recent weeks is a reaction to this.

“Israel is the biggest provoker of terror in the world,” the Turkish justice minister accused. Erdogan no longer wants to talk to Olmert, ties between Ankara and the Israeli ambassador have been cut off, an Israeli basketball team was attacked by fans in Ankara and Israeli tourists are advised to hold off on trips to Turkey. “Being in Ankara feels like being in a hostile Arab country,” an Israeli official stationed in Turkey told Haaretz.

In Jordan, Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi gave a speech in parliament asking to “re-evaluate ties between Israel and Jordan,” the first time this has happened since the two countries made peace. No denials or corrections were issued. “Jordan and Israel have important mutual interests,” an Israeli foreign ministry official said indifferently. Do they? Does that argument take into account Jordan’s delicate position regarding the Palestinians, Hamas or its general public? How does that official respond to the Jordanian ambassador’s return to Amman?

Qatar, which is on the list of moderate countries, still allows in Israeli representatives and holds talks with Israel, but it is now closer to the Syrian-Iranian axis than the Saudi-Egyptian one. Of all the cease-fire initiatives, Qatar favors the one by Syria, which supports Hamas. Qatar favors this over the Egyptian proposal. Saudi Arabia, another moderate, has started to talk about “turning its back” to its peace initiative unless the international community stops Israel.

Just three weeks ago the regional leaders were euphoric. Turkey spoke about continuing mediation between Israel and Syria, and its president was about to visit Jerusalem; Syria talked about direct negotiations with Israel; Jordan was steadfast in its traditional position of guaranteed friendship with Israel; the foreign ministers of Qatar and Israel acted like best buddies; and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country had no intention of abandoning the Saudi peace initiative just because the Israeli right was benefiting from it.

Such scenes have disappeared. Even our friendly partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has cut his ties. Israel is again in a familiar situation: a threatened state, not speaking to any of its neighbors and not willing for anyone to waste its time with talks.

Short-term tactics – that’s all Israel is capable of. On the issue of relations with Turkey? They’ll need us when the U.S. Congress debates the massacres of the Armenians. Upset Jordanians? They get water from us and signed a free trade agreement with the United States thanks to us. Qatar? It leans on our U.S. ally for support. Now it wants to join the axis of evil? And Syria too is turning its back on us? We’ve told everyone there is no partner for peace. Our key industry is war, not peace or talks with our neighbors. We want only want Arabs as enemies.

For a moment it seemed like we convinced ourselves that ties with the Arabs were not important until it turned out we needed Egypt’s help to solve our “problems” with Hamas, and that Qatar helped solve the crisis in Lebanon. And Jordan is able to keep the border safe and until only recently we wanted so badly to meet with the Saudi king.

And there’s one more small, pestering problem keeping us from enjoying our indifference toward our neighbors. Who has gained so far from the situation? So far it is Hamas, which can claim to have undermined greatly Israel’s ties with Turkey, Jordan and Qatar. And it has only just begun.

January 11th, 2009, 2:24 pm


Idit said:


Keep up.

You are a light in this dark and hatefull blog.

January 11th, 2009, 2:39 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Why don’t you enlighten us as to where and who has been tainting this blog with darkness and hate?

January 11th, 2009, 2:52 pm


Chris said:

You wrote:
Chris – I don’t (know?) Joe’s (comment?) was much of an insult – he was pointing to the naivety of your argument.

Joe said earlier:
“Chris, You are shockingly naive (again)…”

So Qunfuz I must say that calling someone “shockingly naive” is always an insult.

Qunfuz you also wrote:
A couple of texts for Chris: Avi Schlaim: The Iron Wall and Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

I read, Avi Schlaim’s “The Iron Wall” in August and September of 2005. It was a very interesting read, so good pick! I got a Ilan Pappe’s book “A History of Modern Palestine” for Christmas last year, and while there were some interesting parts, I didn’t really get into it because it seemed more like a piece of advocacy than scholarship. Benny Morris has strongly criticised his scholarship.

So, needless to say I won’t be reading “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” I would suggest to you “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” by Benny Morris a groudbreaking work with real scholarly merit.

Alia you wrote,
“As I remember it, during your last visit to Damascus, you had no meaningful contacts to learn anything from, and you keep repeating the tired arguments of the Orientalists…”

I learned a lot of meaningful things in Damascus. Of course, what one finds meaningful others might consider not so meaningful… You might call learning the slogan “ya nasrallah la tehtem, 3ndak shiaa tishrab dem (hey nasrallah, don’t worry you’ve got blood drinking shiaa) not meaniningful. Others might call the unbelievable amount of hospitality extended to me, as not being meaningful. I do find it meaningful.

Alia you also wrote:
Had you been a better sort of student I would have been more than happy to introduce you to people you could learn something from, for now keep it up with the sorry AP.

Now that’s quite a confident statement. You could introduce me to some people, eh. It sounds like name-dropping, but without the names. Thanks for letting me know that you could introduce me to people, but have decided not to, because I am not a good student. I feel like I’m back in Los Angeles, “you know, I could introduce you to some people, big people, who could take you a long way in this industry.”

January 11th, 2009, 3:50 pm


Chris said:

you wrote:
The occupied have a right to resist. The occupier, however, does not have a right to defense. This is according to the principles of international law and lawfulness.

I assume you are referring to Hamas’ violence against Israel, of course. Since Hamas, to my knowledge, has never stated or conveyed its desire to avoid civilian harm and in fact aims for cafes, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, I can only infer that what you mean by resistance includes violence against civilians, women children, old men. International law or any system of law for that matter in no way justifies harm against civilians for political purposes, absolutely not. Never!

January 11th, 2009, 4:00 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

expanding this conflict is the only way to end it .

January 11th, 2009, 4:24 pm


Akbar Palace said:


cc: Alia

What Alia is trying to say, I think, is that you’re suppose to intellectually permit the Arabs and their terrorist heroes to do whatever they want because the Israelis stole their land.

I think many in academia support this line of thinking (Professor Josh being one of them).

Perhaps by the time you graduate you’ll “get with the program”;)

Interesting POV from an Arab that you won’t read about from the “authors” here, and you certainly won’t see in the liberal American press:


January 11th, 2009, 4:40 pm


Chris said:


You wrote:
expanding this conflict is the only way to end it .

Alright Majedkhaldoun, how many more “martyrs” would satisfy you. Yesterday, you pleaded for Syria to increase the number of people supporting the “resistance” in Iraq. Of course, the Iraqi “resistance” has manifested itself through massive suicide bombings of Muslims blowing up other Muslims and Mosques being blown up. Today, you want more death in Israel and Gaza.

In this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0wJXf2nt4Y&eurl=http://www.facebook.com/home.php? , the Hamas spokesman states “we value death, as you value life” is this your sentiment as well?

January 11th, 2009, 4:50 pm


Shai said:


Israel has only itself to blame for having to deal with Hamas today. We helped create Hamas, when it was convenient for us, and now we regret it? There’s a saying: “You cooked it, you eat it!”

January 11th, 2009, 4:57 pm


Yossi said:

With a planned deficit of a trillion dollars a year the US is a dead man walking. It may still sell arms to Israel but not much more. The Northern Arc countries: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Iran and Pakistan are going to lead the Muslim world. Israel’s mad dog policy is not wise.

January 11th, 2009, 5:01 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Israel is killing hundred palastinean every day, I want this to stop, Israel is bloodthirsty, I do not want any one to die,but Israel is not stopping,it is Israel to blame.if the war expands,there will be pressure on Israel ,internationally,to stop this massacre,and holocaust against arab,by Israel.

January 11th, 2009, 5:01 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Chris I have figured out from your and others comments you are an Christian American who is studying orientalism. Correct me if my conclusions are not right.

Well now it doesn’t make any more wonder the rather poor achievements of CIA if and when they recruit students with your world view. Like your predecessors in CIA as analysts who could not predict the downfall of the Shah, which was obvious to all, you seem to be out of big picture completely.

By the way why are you studying orientalism when your obvious loyalty and interest seems to be more on the Jewish side. Surely I understand that it is easier to be employed in USA with your line of studies, interests and opinions as an “orientalist” (Guantanamo Bay, CIA, etc) than as an expert of “Israelism” (AIPAC, Camera.org etc).

January 11th, 2009, 5:01 pm


Chris said:


I have a long list of criticisms for Israel and I have an long list of criticisms for the Arab states and Palestinian terrorist groups. If that makes me one sided then so be it.

I’m not a Christian.

January 11th, 2009, 5:06 pm


Alia said:


Your response is once again indicative of your state. Jad, I and others here remember the sad specimens you met and quoted at your last visit to Damascus. One or two lost souls you met in Damascus and here you go making generalizations.

All I was trying to say is that with your a priori closed mentality it would be worthless for me to introduce you to anyone because you already have closed your mind. I find it that terrible in a student; yes I know some wonderful and learned people but I will not expose them to the like of you. It would be a waste.


Do me a favor, do not interpret my thoughts for me, you are having trouble enough uttering coherent thoughts of your own as you repeat and rehash nonsense.

January 11th, 2009, 5:10 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Chris may I ask are you then a Jew? I am a protestant Christian.

If you are a Jew do you have Israeli passport? If not have you participated in the IDF and Mossad trainings for foreigners and/or to those summer camps in Israel?

January 11th, 2009, 5:17 pm


Chris said:


No Simo, I should not have responded to your earlier claim that I am a Christian nor will I respond to your question of whether or not I am a Jew. This is not a theology blog. I’m not interested in discussing religion and my religious background and beliefs are irrelevant.


When I related to you a while back people’s expressions of fondness for Hitler during my 10 months in Damascus, I told the forum about specific instances. That is not generalizing. I was there for ten months! It wasn’t one or two, as you may recall. more than a couple Germans told me about people’s excitement when they informed people that they are German. It is the fact that a teacher believed that is is acceptable to laugh about Hitler burning Jews in front of a large group of people ( a class ) that is meaningful. Mein Kampf was in the window display (a very small window display with not much room for other books) in the Armenian-Christian bookstore near Bab Touma. I could go on. These are not generalizations. Again, I love Syria. But that doesn’t mean that I should be expected to sweep things like this under the rug.

Another commentator on this blog, from Syria, had at that timed, affirmed what I said and said that it was largely because of what was happening to the Palestinians.

In any case, just because we are fond of Syria doesn’t mean we should pretend like certain things don’t exist.

January 11th, 2009, 5:37 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Would US educational institutions be encouraaged to do same?

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime
The Sunday Times

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers

Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London

Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University

Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago

Professor Christine *****in, LSE

Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University

Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University

Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University

Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo

Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University

Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University

John Strawson, University of East London

Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Michael Kearney, University of York

Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews

Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario

Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

Source > TIMES | Jan 11

January 11th, 2009, 5:43 pm


Akbar Palace said:


You’ll have to excuse Sim. A
He has nervous habit of “Jew Surfing”. Whereas a tolerant observer of the ME understand the are pro-Israelis and pro-Palis from all religions, Sim needs reassurance that only Jews are pro Israel.

Anyway, everything will be good once President “Hopenchange” takes office.

January 11th, 2009, 6:22 pm


Chris said:


I was a bit nonplussed.

Oh and about President hopeNchange:

Obama: Countries must protect citizens

Jan. 11, 2009
US President-elect Barak Obama rebuffed recent criticism of his relative silence on the conflict in Gaza on Sunday, and defended his assertion that when it comes to national security, “we cannot have two administrations at the same time simultaneously sending signals in a volatile situation.”

He added, however, that his team is preparing to get involved once he takes office. “What I am doing right now is putting together the team, so that on January 20th, starting on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole,” he said.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC news, the president-elect stood by comments he made on a trip to Israel last July, when he said that “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. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

When asked if he would say the same in Israel today, Obama said, “I think that a basic principle of any country is that they’ve got to protect their citizens.”

Comparing his approach to the Middle East to that of previous administrations, Obama suggested that he would not be making a clean break from the Bush policy. “I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach.”

January 11th, 2009, 6:33 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Reading your previous posts, what criticisms do you have for the GOI, and what advice would you give?

The “Big Secret” Obama has wrt his ME policy is that he can’t do much to improve the chances for peace.

Personally, I think making Shai the new ME envoy between the US and Hamas would be our best chance for beace.

January 11th, 2009, 6:46 pm


Chris said:

Israel should do and should have done a lot more to free up movement in the West Bank, while there has been some progress on this front in the past year, it has been miniscule compared to what could be have been done. The potential to create progress in the everyday, economic well being of those in the West Bank is tremendous and can easily be accomplished by lifting more checkpoints and roadblocks. Israel’s security concerns should be able to be dealt with given the wall. The benefits tremendously outweigh the possible, including likelihood, costs. It’s important to show people that there are tangible benefits through refraining from fighting.

January 11th, 2009, 7:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Thanks. That would be my goal as well. I am encouraged by the decline of terror in Israel, and I would offer my thanks to President Abbasif I knew this was of his making or not. Also, I would do more to encourage cultural exchanges.

OTOH, it may be violence is on the decline more due to the separation wall and the roadblocks. I will find out more about this when I visit Israel in March.


January 11th, 2009, 7:14 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Repost of earlier entry which had been delayed for moderation. It is, in my opinion, an eloquent and masterfully condensed “bottom-line” summary of what is expected to happen — modulo completely unnecessary death and suffering until then…

How many more must die till the known solution is finally put in place?


Plan of Attack For Peace

With Gaza in flames, the prospects for a Middle East deal seem minuscule. But there is a way out, and both sides know what they must do.

Daniel Klaidman


From the magazine issue dated Jan 12, 2009

In the remorseless logic of the Middle East, war is diplomacy by other means. This was true when Anwar Sadat launched a surprise attack on Israel in October 1973, a move that gave him the credibility and stature in the Arab world to make peace six years later with the Jewish state. It is also true today as Israel continues its assault on Hamas in Gaza, attacks that were prompted by Hamas missile strikes on Israel. The recent violence has reportedly cost more than 400 lives and left over 2,000 wounded; on Saturday, Israeli ground forces began moving in. Much of the outside world, not without justification, views the Gaza campaign as yet another atavistic explosion of Arab-Israeli violence that will, once again, set back the efforts for peace. But these strikes were not simply a reaction; they were a calculation.

Indeed, an Israeli source intimate with Olmert’s thinking, speaking anonymously in order to speak freely, says the prime minister went into Gaza with a two-tiered set of objectives. The first was simply to stop the missiles Hamas was sending into Israel and to force a renewal of the ceasefire that existed until Dec. 19. Olmert’s second goal, the source says, is far more ambitious—and risky: the prime minister wants to crush Hamas altogether, first by aerial attacks and then with a grinding artillery and infantry assault. The hope, however faint, is eventually to allow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government to reassert control in Gaza, clearing the way in the future for a return to serious peace negotiations. With Hamas out of the way, Olmert believes there is a chance that Israel and the Palestinians can put flesh on the outlines of a comprehensive peace plan he negotiated with Abbas over the past year.

Wishful thinking? Probably. After so many failed attempts, the phrase “peace process” has little meaning. Olmert’s own motives in Gaza may have as much to do with domestic politics as foreign policy. Badly weakened and facing possible corruption charges, he has been grasping to rescue his tarnished legacy. But the fact that Olmert wants to negotiate, and that Abbas wants to negotiate, underscores the stubborn, maddening fact about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship: there is only one path to peace, and both sides know what it is—and yet neither side has been willing to take it. The violence, the bombings, the threats and counterthreats are all the more exhausting and senseless because they are, essentially, an elaborate delaying tactic. The broad contours of a peace were laid out eight years ago when President Bill Clinton brought the two sides together at Camp David and tried to broker a historic deal. The current Olmert “shelf plan” is remarkably similar to the Clinton parameters: a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians make painful compromises on the core issues of territory, security, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. The 2000 talks collapsed partly because time ran out on Clinton’s term and partly because neither side had the political clout to sell the deal back home. Bush, fixated on Iraq and terror, has paid little mind to the conflict until recently.

There are many difficult details to be worked out: the exact borders of a two-state compromise; the fate of Palestinian refugees; the future of Jerusalem. President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will now inherit these challenges. They cannot simply pick up where Bill Clinton left off. The strategic context in the region has changed profoundly—for the worse. George W. Bush’s war on terror has diminished American credibility in the Arab world. Moreover, the leaders of those Arab states that are closest to the United States have lost legitimacy, challenged by popular opposition at home. Meanwhile a Shiite government in Baghdad, the first in half a millennium, along with the rise of Iran, has increased Shiite-Sunni tensions throughout the Middle East. (On the bright side, Iran’s enhanced influence in the region means that the West has a powerful incentive to break up the alliance between Tehran and Damascus. Real progress with Syria could have a positive effect on Israeli-Palestinian talks.)

At the moment, the greatest impediment to peace is Hamas, the terrorist group that won power in Gaza through elections in 2006. The rise of a rejectionist “Hamastan” in Gaza has left Palestinians divided between Abbas’s more moderate Fatah government and radical Hamas leaders who encourage violence and believe Israel itself should not exist. Hamas rose by exploiting the misery and grievances of the Palestinians. The challenge for Palestinians and Israelis who desire peace is to make Hamas irrelevant in the eyes of its supporters by offering them something more tangible than revenge.

The suspicion of many Israelis—sometimes justified—that Palestinian leaders are interested not in peace but in Israel’s destruction has been another powerful obstacle. Israelis warn against becoming freiers. The word is Yiddish for “suckers,” but it carries deeper psychological freight in a country that grew out of the ashes of the Holocaust and has absorbed “never again” as its mantra. The Palestinians harbor similar resentments at having repeatedly drawn the short stick of history. As many of them see it, the land of Israel is land that the world stole from them in 1948, leaving them without a home. At Camp David, Yasir Arafat refused to finalize a peace agreement with Israel, claiming that to do so would be to court assassination by his own people.

There are no options other than a comprehensive agreement that creates two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, warily coexisting side by side. Lately, some Palestinian intellectuals have been making the case for a single, binational state—an idea that could have even more currency in the aftermath of Israel’s military action in Gaza. But from the Israeli perspective, such a one-state solution would be disastrous, for it would terminate the founding principle of the country as a Jewish homeland.

President-elect Obama may have hoped he would have time to develop an approach to peacemaking in the Holy Land. But as usual, the schedule is dictated by facts on the ground. It is unclear how engaged Obama can be in the Middle East in the early months of his administration; his first priority will be fixing the American economy. What Obama can’t delay once he takes office is forcefully recommitting the United States to a two-state solution and the basic framework for peace that already exists.

During the presidential campaign, Obama’s detractors tried to cast doubt on his loyalty to Israel. It was a political ploy, since Obama has spoken out forcefully in Israel’s defense. Yet many Israeli and American Jews hope Obama will be willing to deliver the sort of tough love to the Israelis that Bush, reflexively defensive of Israel, refused to do for eight years. The president must be willing to pressure the next Israeli prime minister to make difficult concessions for peace. The Israelis may be more open to such pressure now than they were in the past. Time is no longer on their side. Arab birthrates are rising. By most estimates, if Israel insists on maintaining control over the West Bank, the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea will be majority Arab in years to come. Thus, the only way for Israel to stay a Jewish state is to make way for a Palestinian state. Early signs are that Obama intends to play this role of loyal but critical friend—and in that sense will be, as the joke goes, “good for the Jews.”

The new president and his team will be able to rely on ideas derived from the work of negotiators who have struggled, with the patience of Job, to find a middle ground. There is room for refinement and improvement. The haggling will be epic. But in the end (if there ever is an end), any lasting agreement for peace will probably look something like this.

Article I: Territory
Ever since Israel blitzed the Arabs in 1967’s Six Day War—taking the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank from Jordan—”land for peace” has been the guiding principle of any comprehensive deal. It remains the only option. Israel has already withdrawn from Gaza; it must now pull out of the vast majority of the West Bank. Palestinians will establish their homeland in these two swatches of land. In return, the Palestinians and other Arabs will formally renounce their claims on the Jewish state and recognize its right to exist. But there will have to be some adjustments to the pre-1967 borders. Israel and the Palestinians should swap equal amounts of land, allowing a majority of the roughly 270,000 Israeli settlers now residing in the largest of the West Bank settlement blocks to stay where they are while remaining under Israeli sovereignty. Israel in turn would give up a land corridor connecting Gaza to the West Bank and allowing for the free flow of people and commerce between the two. There is one additional challenge that did not exist when Clinton laid out his original proposal in 2000: the Israelis have erected a security barrier that puts a full 8 percent of the West Bank on their side of the fence. It has already changed the way Israelis think about the borders of their nation. “The security barrier is creating new conceptual and spatial contours in the Israeli imagination,” says Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator and now a senior fellow at both the Century and New America foundations. But for any deal to succeed, the barrier would have to be torn down or, at the very least, moved.

Article II: Security
Back in 2000, this was the most straightforward of the issues to be worked out. Both sides generally agreed that the new Palestinian state would have to be largely de-militarized. Palestinian forces would be allowed to maintain light arms to enforce domestic law and order but would not have an offensive capability that could in any way threaten Israel. The Palestinians would have sovereignty over their airspace, but it would be limited to civilian aviation. Yet the violence of the last eight years—not only between Palestinians and Israelis but also between Fatah and Hamas forces—complicates the security equation. The Israelis are now more skeptical that Fatah is strong enough to assume responsibility for security. A more feasible approach would be to put a NATO-based international force in the West Bank that would later transfer control to the Palestinians. Obama might well go for this; his designated national-security adviser, retired Gen. James Jones, developed the idea while serving as Condoleezza Rice’s envoy for Palestinian-Israeli security issues. As far as Israeli forces are concerned, they would be able to withdraw from the strategically important Jordan Valley over a longer period of time, perhaps three years. Israel would be allowed to maintain a number of warning stations on Palestinian territory. Finally, Israel would allow the Palestinians to have sovereignty over their borders and international crossing points. But these borders and crossing points should be monitored by an international presence.

Article III: Jerusalem
The sacred “City of Peace” is at the very heart of the 100-year conflict: how to divvy up rights to a holy place with too much history and not enough geography. In 2000, Clinton’s deft diplomatic skills helped demystify Jerusalem. He asked Israeli and Palestinian mediators to come up with a list of 60 basic municipal responsibilities they could share, from garbage collection to mail delivery. There was remarkable consensus. By moving the conversation from the sacred to the mundane, the exercise isolated the practical issues of running a city from the abstract and emotionally fraught issue of sovereignty. Clinton’s seductively simple notion was this: in occupied East Jerusalem, he said, “What is Arab should be Palestinian and what is Jewish should be Israeli.” This is just as relevant today. So is the principle from Camp David that Jerusalem must be divided—but shared, and it must serve as a capital to both states.

One of Clinton’s solutions will likely have to be dialed back. His concept of split-level sovereignty for the holiest parts of Jerusalem are too incendiary. Jews know the area as the Temple Mount, the site where the ancient temple once stood. It is revered by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the place where Muhammad ascended to heaven on a white steed. Clinton proposed Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram and Israeli sovereignty over the entire Western Wall, part of which runs beneath the Muslim quarter of the Old City. Today, it is very unlikely that either side would accept such a division. But there are other creative solutions. One is a proposal in a new book by Martin Indyk, Clinton’s ambassador to Israel at the time of the 2000 summit. Indyk recommends that the Old City be placed under a so-called “special regime,” with Israeli and Palestinian governments sharing sovereignty over the territory. But the religious sites inside the Old City walls would remain under the control of the respective Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious authorities without any actual designation of sovereignty. Alternatively, Indyk suggests, the entire Holy Basin—the Old City and religious sites—could be placed under international supervision, with religious authorities controlling their holy places.

Article IV: Refugees
This may be the most difficult problem to solve. What will become of the Palestinians who fled or were forced from their territory in 1948, and their descendants? There are as many as 4 million refugees living in camps on the West Bank and Gaza and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. They are poor, stateless and angry. For half a century they have waited, believing that one day they will return to their homes. Throughout the years of negotiations, Palestinians have demanded a “right of return.” But to Israelis, the notion implies an admission that they are responsible for the refugee crisis and the historical injustices leveled against the Palestinians. Israelis, offended at the suggestion that their country was born in sin, have drawn a clear line.

Israeli leaders have been willing to accept a partial solution: some refugees living in the camps would make homes in the newly established state of Palestine. A small, symbolic number would be permitted to move to Israel. For this to work, refugees living in camps in Syria and other foreign states would have to be allowed to stay if they chose, and be granted citizenship in their adopted countries—the Arab host countries could not demand that all of the refugees return to Palestine, where they would overwhelm the budding state. And the refugees must be granted a window of time—perhaps three to five years—to petition international courts for compensation for what they have lost, perhaps as part of a massive regional redevelopment plan.

But how to salve the wounds of Palestinian grievance? One intriguing solution is offered by writer Walter Russell Mead in an essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. Mead argues that though Israel must take some responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy, the entire nakba, or catastrophe, “cannot simply be laid at Israel’s door.” Israel must acknowledge its part in the events of 1948, but the international community must take “ultimate responsibility” for the 60-year-old crisis. In this way, the world would acknowledge that the Palestinians have indeed suffered a historic injustice, but obviate the need for Israel to bear full responsibility. “This is a way to confer dignity on the Palestinian people,” says Levy—a crucial step toward securing an elusive peace.

With Dan Ephron, Christopher Dickey and Michael Hirsh

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/177840

© 2009

Posted first on January 10th, 2009, 11:57 am

January 11th, 2009, 7:16 pm


Joe M. said:

First, it is pretty clear that you are naive about the nature of Israel and zionism.

Second, I was going to respond to your post about “what peace is” but it would simply take too much energy. It was so wildly wrong, and so empty of analysis that it would have taken too much detail to fill in your gaps. But quickly, it is amazing that your zionist mind doesn’t see Israel itself as an act of violence against the Palestinains, and primarily considers the Palestinian fighting to be perpetuating the conflict.

Also, let me give you an concrete analogy explaining why this fight is not “about” the rockets:

If we look at the situation from your perspective, it is similar to looking at the L.A. Police beating Rodney King, and asking why Rodney King was resisting, and you would say he brought the beatings on himself. But clearly, those police beat him for reasons other than his meek resisting, and his resistance was just used as a justification. Because no amount of resistance by Mr. King would have justified that type of beating if the police were not operating with preconceived notions about the situation. The same is true of Israel. The preconceived notion Israel applies is zionism, it’s legitimacy, a the logic of using military force to maintain that legitimacy. And just as the racism of the LAPD was more fundamental to the beating of Rodney King, these zionist preconceived notions are more fundamental to their current attack on Palestine than any rocket Hamas fires.

And there are many specific examples of actions by Israel that show this; like their attacks against Palestinians artists and non-violent resistance (for example, Mubarak Awad, or Mahmood Darwish), their efforts to compromise every Palestinian party that rejects zionism, their violence against the UN and their envoys (most recently Richard Falk) and on and on and on.

But yet again, you never answered my question about why you are so keen to support a racist and theocratic state at all? What investment do you have in zionism, when any non-partisan observer would say that it is more pragmatic to dismantle Israel than to perpetuate it?


Also, benny morris is a blatant racist and his book only scratches the surface of what really happened. An explicit example is that, on the first page he says that Palestinian oral sources are not trustworthy enough to be included, but he manages to include many Jewish oral sources. Additionally, even though he tries to justify it by the fact that he didn’t have access to Arab archives, he exclusively (if i remember correctly, if it is not absolutely exclusive, it is extremely imbalanced that way) uses Israeli (and pre-Israeli) archives. He doesn’t even try to understand the situation from the other side, which has a different story than he presents.

Also, I did not read your article that quotes Arabs who praise Hitler, but I will refer you to the below article on the matter. While it’s true that it is not particularly uncommon, it is not a reflection of the holocaust itself, but a reflection of Arab interactions with the Jewish state:

I would like to engage your comments 238 and 240 from the previous thread, so don’t move on from those ideas yet…

January 11th, 2009, 8:34 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

So good to see you back! Good article you posted. But a question for you: Israel is clearly attempting to weaken Hamas, and re-establish some sort of PA rule in Gaza. While I believe everything my country is doing in Gaza is and will achieve precisely the opposite (i.e. Hamas is only getting stronger, and the moderates weaker), how do you see things developing once there’s a ceasefire? Is there a chance Fatah will return to Gaza in some fashion (without being seen as riding into Gaza on Israeli tanks)? If not, is it possible for anything to happen on the political front, without reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas first? Can the Israeli-Syrian talks resume, after a ceasefire is reached, given the current circumstances?

January 11th, 2009, 8:45 pm


Chris said:

Joe M.,

You asked:
But yet again, you never answered my question about why you are so keen to support a racist and theocratic state at all? What investment do you have in zionism, when any non-partisan observer would say that it is more pragmatic to dismantle Israel than to perpetuate it?

I never answered your questions because I do not agree with the premises of your questions. I do not believe that Israel is a racist theocracy. I do not have any investment in zionism. I do not believe “any non-partisan observer would say that it is more pragmatic to dismantle Israel that to perpetuate it”. In fact, I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli and I do not believe that it would be pragmatic to dismantle any country.

January 11th, 2009, 9:49 pm


Joe M. said:

You are a zionist, and thus not in a position to consider yourself non-partisan (as your last sentence implies). You may not be an “israeli” but you primarily identify with them. That you “do not agree with the premises” of my question is proof you are either an extreme partisan or shockingly naive.

It is clearly not pragmatic to maintain a concept like zionism at the expense of so many lives, livelihoods and the entire Palestinian society (even though they are lives that you consider less valuable than Jewish lives). That is obvious to all but zionists. The weight of evidence is clearly on my side, as zionism has only brought war, destruction, racism and hate to the region.

Do me a favor habibi, since you reject my premises, explain how you can think that zionism is not a problem? is not racism? is not theocratic? I bet your explanation would not differ in any way from a 19th century slave holder explaining how slavery have improved the economy of the southern USA.

January 11th, 2009, 10:25 pm


Chris said:


You wrote:
You are a zionist, and thus not in a position to consider yourself non-partisan (as your last sentence implies).

I believe in the two-state solution. So, I believe Israel does exist and that it ought to continue to exist alongside a Palestinian state. If that makes me a zionist then so be it, but that would also make many Palestinians, zionists.

You also wrote:
That you “do not agree with the premises” of my question is proof you are either an extreme partisan or shockingly naive.

Many people who are not zionists or extremely naive do not believe that dismantling Israel is more pragmatic then letting Israel exist. Most Americans and most Europeans believe that Israel should continue to exist. They do not agree with that premise of your question and they are not “extreme(ly) partisan or shockingly naive.”

You said:
explain how you can think that zionism is not a problem? is not racism? is not theocratic?

I really don’t have time to get into all that. To think that zionism is a problem is to say that Israel shouldn’t exist. I don’t believe that in the year 2009 we ought to be saying that countries should be eliminated. Let’s leave that to the middle ages.

January 11th, 2009, 10:41 pm


Joe M. said:

be absolutely clear. “Countries” are just political arrangements. Many Israelis, including party leaders in the zionist parliament, argue for a presidential government, rather than a parliamentary one. By your logic, this could qualify for arguing that “Israel should be eliminated”.

And again, you are ignorant of the reality. There is no fundamental political or legal difference between calling for Palestinian equality within Israel, and calling for a Palestinian state to be established. For example, if we colonized the moon, we could write a constitution that establishes it as having one or two states. So there is no practical difference.

The difference is what is on the ground. And there is no practical way to achieve a two-state solution. It is not by accident that it has not been achieved yet (and basic principles of justice will prevent it from ever being achieved, as Palestinians will not accept it as defined by the zionists). While, alternatively, there is currently only one state that could be integrated with a stroke of a pen.

And many people support the two-state solution out of ignorance, bigotry, or because they had a gun to their head for so long. In the case of the Palestinians, to quote gandhi, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” In the case of Europeans, maybe it is some twisted historic guilt or ignorance or fear to invest in a sincere fight for justice. In my opinion, for you, I am pretty sure it is because you believe in the concept of zionism and are invested in zionism. it is not some abject pragmatism as you try to claim.

January 11th, 2009, 10:52 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Dear Shai,

I greatly appreciate your warm welcome. I’ve been following, on and off, the blog. I do have to start again with a giant disclaimer about my not being an expert in these matters. However, you asked and I’ll give you my opinion as observer and based on what my instincts tell me.
I see the equation on the ground changing. Much as in South Lebanon, despite all the claims of divine victory by HA, the fact is that there are no more HA rockets being launched from there, HA is closely monitored in the region by the UN force, and a slow but certain transformation is likely to morph HA – as I believe Josh predicted – into a purely political movement; similarly, I do see the decisive (albeit cruel) action by the Israeli government is likely to effectively end the danger that Hamas rockets pose to southern Israel. For sure the peace process will be slowed somewhat but I certainly concur with the Newsweek authors that what they outlined is pretty much what everything is going to asymptotically converge towards. The only question is how fast is the convergence going to be and, as I started the earlier post, how many more lives need to be lost until the conclusion. As far as the detailed steps – whether the PA will be back in control of Gaza or not – I really don’t have clarity there other than a hunch that if free elections were held again it is unlikely that Hamas will win again. Despite the rhetoric most people do embrace life more than death. At some point the injustice that the Palestinians have suffered will have to be classified as such in history and a workable arrangement agreed to among the new generations. It is very well spelled out in the Newsweek article.

All the Best

January 11th, 2009, 11:00 pm


alia said:


you stated:
[But that doesn’t mean that I should be expected to sweep things like this under the rug. ]

It is the issue of how you analyze the information you are receiving and how you fit it in the general framework of the culture you are learning about, if you really are going there without prejudice.

If I told you about the several months I spent in some area of Michigan where guerrillas armed to the teeth and speaking against big government as my impression of the U.S. you would find my statements preposterous; equally you would find my life in Manhattan’s lower East Side surrounded by drug dealers and transvestites as summarizing my impression of the U.S. biased and unacceptable…etc.

Since I did not come here with a negative agenda none of these things is worth highlighting alone in order to discredit the country that I have come to as a foreigner.

I simply do not think you can learn and love when you are prejudiced.

January 11th, 2009, 11:22 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Chris if we would be speaking about world’s economics or some technological “problem” your ethnic – religious background would be irrelevant, but not your educational and professional background. Surely you or I would not hesitate in that “example” to say are “we” economists or engineers to increase our credibility in the debate.

But coming to this blog pretending to be a neutral western novice expert on oriental studies and then beginning with a machine gun speed produce extremely pro Israeli and less oriental (which would suite better to your primary interests as a student studying orientalism) opinions of course the audience has to ask fair questions of your general background on a “high level”. You had no problems in answering before that you are not Christian. But you refuse to answer to the natural follow-up question are you a Jew? Strange.

Personally it doesn’t interest me a bit or chance my opinion of you if you would be a Jew. Naturally I understand that every (well most) Jew is sympathetic towards Israel, tries to portray its actions in a “better light” and tries convince us of it’s right to exist. I do understand Akbar’s and AIG’s opinions as a hard-line Jewish Zionist and also Shai’s opinions as a peace lowing Israeli Jew (naturally I do not agree with all off their views). The question of ethnic/religious background is simply asked to clarify for the reasons for your opinions. Nothing else.

I have noticed the tendency in USA press to have numerous “surprising” pro-Israeli articles which then are used widely in many usable contexts as a proof of “wider western” view. Like that Christian Monitor’s article referred a couple of days ago which described how pro Israel Europe is nowadays. Of course it is relevant to know the reporters personal ties to the problem “area” in order to evaluate how neutral the reporters view point is or is the article more or less “hidden propaganda”.

Let us imagine somebody would write an extremely pro Al Qaida (or Hamas or Hizbollah) and one sided article to a mainstream media. Of course the first thing the readers (some of them and certainly you) would check the personal neutrality and ties of the reporter. Of course we would check is he/she a Muslim, the country where he/she comes from, previous articles etc. Certainly you know that reporters are also human beings who have besides orders from the employer also personal interests and ties, like media companies have owners interests and ties. Everything that is printed even in the biggest and most respected newspapers isn’t the absolute truth.

January 11th, 2009, 11:29 pm


chris said:


You are very right. There is a lot more to Syria than affection for Nazis. Of course! I lived there for 10 months, that is as clear as day. We all know that!

I was surprised by all the sentiments I heard expressed about Nazis and the holocaust. I haven’t been to another country where I noticed that it was okay to openly appreciate the holocaust or hitler or to deny the holocaust. It was a little disturbing… Now we can be patronizing and condescending and say its because of lack of education, or culture, or whatever else, but Syrians aren’t idiots. Of course, there’s more to Syria than that, anyone on this blog would know that.

Really, though this isn’t really that significant. I’m not really sure why we are discussing thist

January 11th, 2009, 11:49 pm


chris said:


You wrote:
But you refuse to answer to the natural follow-up question are you a Jew? Strange.

Fine. I’ll answer you question, although, indirectly. My real name is Christopher. Does that answer your question?

January 11th, 2009, 11:54 pm


alia said:

I haven’t been to another country where I noticed that it was okay to openly appreciate the holocaust or hitler or to deny the holocaust. It was a little disturbing


Very funny!! Have you ever been to Germany among private citizens ?

Why are words disturbing? Are bombs and dead children and helpless trapped people not infinitely more disturbing ?

January 12th, 2009, 12:11 am


Chris said:


You wrote:
“Have you ever been to Germany among private citizens ?”

No. I’ve really only been to the airports. But I’ve met many Germans and their knowledge of the holocaust is impressive.

You wrote:
Why are words disturbing? Are bombs and dead children and helpless trapped people not infinitely more disturbing ?

One does not negate the other. Supporting genocide, with words, can be disturbing while dead children can also be disturbing. Yes, dead children and helpless people are more disturbing then words.

Simply because I do not support the destruction of Israel or the one-state solution does not mean that I am happy about the human catastrophe in Gaza.

January 12th, 2009, 12:18 am


alia said:


There are young Germans who are very contrite and that is the position of their country; but in private believe me there are those who think and say that Hitler did not do enough. And yet there is a very content Jewish community living in Germany.

It is not about words, it is about actions.

The few losers that you met in Damascus who are talking about the holocaust admiringly are not the people who are committing murder in the name of the Holocaust and in the name of their fictional right to a land that never belonged to them all the while having created a corrupt political system that has nothing to do with the Holocaust survivors.

January 12th, 2009, 12:32 am


norman said:

Joe M , Sami D,

Do you still want to live with these people, look at this,

Print Back to story

Rights group: Israel uses incendiary bombs in Gaza
By JASON KEYSER, Associated Press Writer Jason Keyser, Associated Press Writer
55 mins ago

JERUSALEM – Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Israel’s military has fired artillery shells with the incendiary agent white phosphorus into Gaza and a doctor there said the chemical was suspected in the case of 10 burn victims who had skin peeling off their faces and bodies.

Researchers in Israel from the rights group witnessed hours of artillery bombardments that sent trails of burning smoke indicating white phosphorus over the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. But they could not confirm injuries on the ground because they have been barred from entering the territory.

The chief doctor at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza said he treated several victims there with serious burns that might have been caused by phosphorus. He said, however, that he did not have the resources or expertise to say with certainty what caused the injuries.

The substance can cause serious burns if it touches the skin and can spark fires on the ground, the rights group said in a written statement calling on Israel not to use it in crowded areas of Gaza.

Military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich refused to comment directly on whether Israel was using phosphorus, but said the army was “using its munitions in accordance with international law.”

Israel used white phosphorus in its 34-day war with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. The U.S. military in Iraq used the incendiary during a November 2004 operation against insurgents in the city of Fallujah.

An AP photographer and a TV crew based in Gaza visited Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis on Sunday and recorded images of several burn patients.

One of them, Haitham Tahseen, recalled sitting outside his home with his family in the morning when something exploded above them.

“Suddenly, I saw bombs coming with white smoke,” said the man, whose burned face was covered with medical cream. “It looked very red and it had white smoke. That’s the first time I’ve seen such a thing.”

His cousin, in another hospital bed, was more severely burned, with patches of skin peeling off his face and body, and had to be wrapped with thick white bandages.

The hospital’s chief doctor, Youssef Abu Rish, said the burns were not from contact with fire, but he couldn’t say what sort of substance caused them. He said information he collected on the Internet indicated it could have been white phosphorus.

White phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon, and militaries are permitted under laws of warfare to use it in artillery shells, bombs and rockets to create smoke screens to hide troop movements as well as bright bursts in the air to illuminate battlefields at night.

Israel is not party to a convention regulating its use. Under customary laws of war, however, Israel would be expected to take all feasible precautions to minimize the impact of white phosphorus on civilians, Human Rights Watch said.

“What we’re saying is the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas like a refugee camp is showing that the Israelis are not taking all feasible precautions,” said Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the rights group. “It’s just an unnecessary risk to the civilian population, not only in the potential for wounds but also for burning homes and infrastructure.”

Garlasco was among researchers on a ridge about a mile (1.5 kilometers) from the Gaza border who observed the shelling from a 155mm artillery unit on Friday and Saturday.

Some of the burning trails of smoke caused fires on the ground that appeared to go out after a few minutes, said Garlasco, who formerly worked at the Pentagon where he was in charge of recommending high-value targets for airstrikes during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Each 155mm shell contains 116 of what Garlasco described as wafers doused in phosphorus that can be spread over an area as large as a sports field, depending on the height at which it detonates. The phosphorus ignites when it comes in contact with oxygen.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm whether there have been any civilian casualties from phosphorus. The group has a consultant working for it inside Gaza but he has been unable to move around due to the danger. Foreign journalists have also been barred from entering Gaza.

Garlasco said photos published Thursday in British newspaper The Times showed Israeli units handling American-manufactured white phosphorus shells with fuses on them.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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January 12th, 2009, 12:55 am


Alex said:

Interview with Syrian first lady Asma Assad on CNN

January 12th, 2009, 1:40 am


Akbar Palace said:

So, I believe Israel does exist and that it ought to continue to exist alongside a Palestinian state. If that makes me a zionist then so be it, but that would also make many Palestinians, zionists.


I see you’re catching on. Now that we have established that you are a Zionist, perhaps you should have toned down your shameful acceptance of the “Zionist Project” (i.e. “Science Project”).

I’m thinking you could have made yourself more credible here if you made your acceptance of Israel contigent (at a minimum) on Israel withdrawing from occupied land. Of course, no recognition of Israel under any circumstances would make you honored and unserstood here by all the participants except me and AIG.

This is why Shai is so popular, because Shai “understands” that only when his violent people (the “Zionists”) withdraw from their shameful their occupation, will the Palestinians and Arabs kiss and make up with the Israelis.

Chris, I’m making this simple for you only so you can gain more popularity here. BTW – NEVER EVER post anything from MEMRI or CAMERA. And never ask for a verification of a translation from MEMRI. I suppose I should have warned you.

I was surprised by all the sentiments I heard expressed about Nazis and the holocaust. I haven’t been to another country where I noticed that it was okay to openly appreciate the holocaust or hitler or to deny the holocaust.


Don’t be surprised. The government-controlled Arab Media is anti-semitic by choice. It makes people happy, and if foments violence against Israel. And if there is no violence against Jews (any Jews – terrorists do not discriminate), the Israel-hating public becomes aggitated against the home government. So in short, its the food that keeps the Arabs alive and so economically successful.

OK enough of that;)

Alia said:

There are young Germans who are very contrite and that is the position of their country; but in private believe me there are those who think and say that Hitler did not do enough.


And did you agree?

Apparently there are still a few good apples in Duisburg, Germany like Sebastian M.:


The few losers that you met in Damascus who are talking about the holocaust admiringly are not the people who are committing murder in the name of the Holocaust and in the name of their fictional right to a land that never belonged to them all the while having created a corrupt political system that has nothing to do with the Holocaust survivors.


This may come to a surprise to you and your German friends, but bombing Gaza and bombing Lebanon has nothing to do about the Holocaust. It only has to do with defending one’s own country.

Furthermore, you can tell your German friends that Jews in Germany were not firing missiles into German population centers nor claiming any part of Germany for Jews.

Just my suggestion if you haven’t yet responded to them.;)

January 12th, 2009, 2:32 am


Shami said:

Alex ,Your cnn link doesnt work ,here is a valid one:

I like her on this video ,she seems very saddened by Gaza tragedy and my hope is that through her influence on bashar she could help lessen the pain of thousands of Syrian,Palestinian,Lebanese and Arab mothers by uncovering the fate of their kidnapped /disappeared sons.

January 12th, 2009, 4:09 am


Chris said:

Good news! Things in Gaza look like they are approaching an end. From the New York Times:
Three rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday morning, Israeli Army radio said. Two exploded near Beersheba, wounding several people. The third hit empty land. Mr. Diskin, the Shin Bet chief, told the cabinet that Israel had estimated that up to 200 rockets a day were being fired from Gaza once the operation started, but that the numbers fired now were in the 20s.
( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/middleeast/12mideast.html?pagewanted=2 )

January 12th, 2009, 8:26 am


why-discuss said:

No wonder Isreal wants a stop … I guess the new US administration is not sympathetic to phosphore bombs and mass massacre of children.
Hamas is playing with time and Israel is in an rush to claim victory while rockets are still falling on Israel, even in lower numbers. What numbers of rockets is acceptable to Israel and what number of killed children is acceptable to Livni and her gang? What kind of victory is that? Pathetic.. Bibi will elected for sure

January 12th, 2009, 9:20 am


Akbar Palace said:

What numbers of rockets is acceptable to Israel…

Hopefully zero is the number of rockets acceptable to Israel.

I know it is for every other country in the world.

January 12th, 2009, 11:53 am


Shai said:


You are so right. Do you see the absurd in all this? The Left and Center-Left are doing Likud’s “dirty job” for them. And, in less than 30 days, Likud will be elected… It is the only “clean” party right now. Bibi keeps telling everyone “You see, we told them (Labor & Kadima) to do this already 8 years ago…”, smiling all the way to the bank. And in the end, he’ll give more to the Arabs than Livni, Barak, or Olmert could, combined.

January 12th, 2009, 1:24 pm


offended said:

are you serious? do you seriously think things are coming to an end?

What if, after a couple of days of calm and no rockets; IDF pulls out from Gaza, and then lo and behold, the standard-issue grads are coming at the basis of 200 rockets a day again?

how do they guarantee that won’t happen?

January 12th, 2009, 2:01 pm


qunfuz said:

Ok, Chris. The right to resist does not include attacks on civilians. For a more nuanced view than yours (or mine) read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/12/gaza-palestine-israel-peter-beaumont

I would point out that Britain bombed civilians in the second world war. This is an ‘understandable’ example of when the danger facing a nation is so great that it strikes in every way. There are many examples of Western powers using violence against civilians which are not understandable – Vietnam, Iraq, etc.

So neither side has the right to use violence against civilians, OK. But Israel uses far far more violence against civilians, and always has. Yet your focus is on the Hamas rockets. If they stop, you think, there’ll be peace.

At least you seem to accept that Gaza is occupied. Understanding the fact of occupation leads to understanding that the violence of the occupied is a symptom of occupation. It’s an effect, not a cause, of the terrible situation. This seems to me to be a non-partisan observation, an observation of fact. We can disagree about the moral, political, philosophical and legal rights and wrongs of violence, but there is no point expecting the Palestinians to stop. They won’t. Perhaps for a month or year or two, but not for more than that. Can you not see that? Can you not imagine yourself into the minds of the refugees in Gaza and Jenin? (Zionism is characterised by a remarkable lack of imagination).

They won’t stop. Not until there is some kind of a solution. Something viable. I am writing against ‘peace’ at the moment because I am so angry (I’m aware my positions may be influenced by strong emotion) about the massacre and about the magical talk about returning to a ‘peace process’ which doesn’t exist. I don’t think the situation requires ‘balance’ – I take the side of the ethnically cleansed, the occupied, the victims of apartheid. But I would accept a real peace process. I don’t think the two state idea is viable as more than a cooling off stage, but I would support it. However, it isn’t being offered. It is my belief that the Arab states and the Palestinians, even including Hamas, have offered peace to Israel, and Israel and the US have continually rejected it in their search for maximalist gains for the Jewish state and, perhaps more importantly, through the internalistaion of the ‘iron wall’ principle – Jabotinsky’s idea which will be the undoing of Israel. I’ve written before in more detail about the ‘offer’ to Arafat, the Arab peace initiative, the way that Israel wants peace with states which surrender their independence, at least in foreign policy.

Benny Morris’s work brings us to many of the same conclusions as Pappe’s, but Morris, after establishing the fact of ethnic cleansing, holds that Zionism must do still more. This is a morally bankrupt position and I would suggest that any person of any ethnic group who can’t understand that is also morally bankrupt. This isn’t an ethnic thing, but a question of values. Ethnic cleansing is wrong, no matter who does it, Israeli Jews, Iraqi Baathist Arabs, Serb nationalists, it’s always wrong.

I said I’ve decided to speak plainly, and I’ll do so on anti-Semitism in Syria as well as on Zionism. Anti-Semitism exists in Syria and it is deplorable. There is a history to it, of course. Jews and Christians and Shia groups were second-class citizens in the pre-modern middle east, just as non-Christians were in pre-modern Europe. At times, in various places, things got bad for the Jews, though never as bad as in Europe. There are verses in the Quran concerning battles between the Muslims and the Arabian Jews, and these verses are decontextualised and generalised by many contemporary Islamists. And there is sectarianism, the curse of the Arab world, which has effected all communities. Once the struggle with Zionism began, these anti-Jewish cultural starnds were reinforced, and were added to with anti-Jewish material from Europe, the Protocols etc. Wrong, and to an extent comprehensible: the Zionists don’t represent the world’s Jews, but they speak as if they do. They conquered and killed the Arabs, and some Arabs generalised their pain – the Jews aren’t just committing crimes here, they’re doing it everywhere. In a similar way, many in the US believed Islamic terrorism to be THE global issue (bigger than global warming or the rise of China or the debt crisis) after the US was hit on 9/11. They generalised their pain. One reason why they’ve made so many mistakes since, and have lost so much standing. I’m going on too long. The point is, not everyone in Syria is anti-Semitic. My Muslim uncle in Syria married a Jew (who was proud to be Arab). All of my many Syrian friends are able to distinguish between Jew and Zionist. And there is also a tradition of tolerance in the Arab world, of Arab Jewish success, which could be reestablished if we had peace.

January 12th, 2009, 2:19 pm


qunfuz said:

Chris said, “I really don’t have time to get into all that. To think that zionism is a problem is to say that Israel shouldn’t exist. I don’t believe that in the year 2009 we ought to be saying that countries should be eliminated. Let’s leave that to the middle ages.”

– But Palestine has been eliminated.

– Speaking for myself, when I say Israel shouldn’t exist, I mean Israel in its current reality shouldn’t exist. I was against apartheid South Africa, but am happy for whites to live in a democratic south africa. I don’t think we should have a ‘Jewish state’ or an “islamic state’ but a state for its citizens. The constitutuion of a democratic Palestine should of course include guarantees of collective as well as individual rights, so no community fears being ‘voted out of existence’ by the other. Plus, where are the borders if this state we’re meant to recognise? That isn’t clear yet. When immigrants come and uproot an ancient people from their land it is natural for those people and their friends to aim to fight until the invaders have been driven out, however long it takes. But I’m not calling for that. I want the Jews to stay, IF they live as equals with the Palestinians.

but GOD I should be working

January 12th, 2009, 2:28 pm


qunfuz said:

Harvard scholar Jerome Slater on Philip Weiss’s blog: “No, the proportionality issue aside, Israel has no such “right.” An oppressor is not engaged in “self defense” when it uses force in order to annihilate resistance to its repression, and that holds true even if the form of resistance–attacks intended to kill civilians–is itself morally wrong.”

January 12th, 2009, 4:14 pm


Shai said:


Your last comment #63 is one of the more important ones I’ve seen here in the past 2 weeks. It is a point you don’t hear about in the media – in the discourse taking place – and that’s a shame I think. If Israel had to defend itself against such a claim, I think it would be quite hard for her to do so. It would, of course, remind the entire world that it no longer occupies Gaza, but I think pointing to the blockade should more than suffice in nullifying this counterargument. To be honest, I haven’t thought about using this case, and from now on I will. I’ve been focusing on the past – talking about our attempts to delegitimize Hamas after the elections, etc. But pointing to the case against “self-defense” is very important.

January 12th, 2009, 4:38 pm


offended said:

Qunfuz, I am curious: what do you think of Azmi Bishara?

January 12th, 2009, 4:39 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Every country has the right to self-defense, Israel included.

Please tell Professor Slater the next time you talk with him.

January 12th, 2009, 4:41 pm


idaf said:


Jerome Slater is a well-respected historian. You might want to learn a thing or two from his earlier publications:

Maybe it would be easier for you to understand if you think about it this way: One would accept that Israel would have the right to self defense against Hamas rockets (in the means of killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians), only if you accept that Taliban had the right to self defense against US rockets in Afghanistan (by killing thousands of civilians in New York in 9/11).

January 12th, 2009, 5:59 pm


Alia said:


you seem to “think” that it is about rockets. Read this:

Blueprint for Gaza Invasion was Planned Long Ago
Israel Ponders the Third Stage



As Israel rejected the terms of the proposed United Nations ceasefire at the weekend, Israeli military analysts were speculating on the nature of the next stage of the attack on Gaza, or the “third phase” of the fighting as it is being referred to.

Having struck thousands of targets from the air in the first phase, followed by a ground invasion that saw troops push into much of Gaza, a third phase would involve a significant expansion of these operations.

It would require the deployment of thousands of reserve soldiers, who are completing their training on bases in the Negev, and the destruction and seizure of built-up areas closer to the heart of Gaza City, Hamas’s key stronghold. The number of civilian casualties could be expected to rise rapidly.

A fourth phase, the overthrow of Hamas and direct reoccupation of Gaza, is apparently desired neither by the army nor Israel’s political leadership, which fears the economic and military costs.

An expansion of “Operation Cast Lead” is expected in the next few days should Israel decide that negotiations at the UN and elsewhere are not to its liking. Israeli warplanes have dropped leaflets warning Gaza residents of an imminent escalation: “Stay safe by following our orders.”

Last week Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, warned that the army had still not exhausted its military options.

Those options have long been in preparation, as the defence minister, Ehud Barak, admitted early on in the offensive. He said he and the army had been planning the attack for at least six months. In fact, indications are that the invasion’s blueprint was drawn up much earlier, probably 18 months ago.

It was then that Hamas foiled a coup plot by its chief rival, Fatah, backed by the United States. The flight of many Gazan members of Fatah to the West Bank convinced Mr Barak that Israel’s lengthy blockade of the tiny enclave alone would not bring Hamas to heel.

Mr Barak began expanding the blockade to include shortages of electricity and fuel. It was widely assumed that this was designed to pressure the civilian population of Gaza to rebel against Hamas. However, it may also have been a central plank of Barak’s military strategy: any general knows that it is easier to fight an army — or in this case a militia — that is tired, cold and hungry. More so if the fighters’ family and friends are starving too.

A few months later, Mr Barak’s loyal deputy, Matan Vilnai, made his now infamous comment that, should the rocket fire continue, Gazans would face a “shoah” — the Hebrew word for holocaust.

The shoah remark was quickly disowned, but at the same time Mr Barak and his team began proposing to the cabinet tactics that could be used in a military assault.

These aggressive measures were designed to “send Gaza decades into the past”, as the head of the army command in Gaza, Yoav Galant, described Israel’s attack on its opening day.

The plan, as the local media noted in March, required directing artillery fire and air strikes at civilian neighbourhoods from which rockets were fired, despite being a violation of international law. Legal advisers, Mr Barak noted, were seeking ways to avoid such prohibitions, presumably in the hope the international community would turn a blind eye.

One early success on this front were the air strikes against police stations that opened the offensive and killed dozens. In international law, policemen are regarded as non-combatants — a fact that was almost universally overlooked.

But Israel has also struck a range of patently civilian targets, including government buildings, universities, mosques and medical clinics, as well as schools. It has tried to argue, with less success, that the connection between these public institutions and Hamas, the enclave’s ruler, make them legitimate targets.

A second aspect of the military strategy was to declare areas of Gaza “combat zones” in which the army would have free rein and from which residents would be expected to flee. If they did not, they would lose their civilian status and become legitimate targets.

That policy already appears to have been implemented in the form of aerial leafleting campaigns warning residents to leave such areas as Rafah and northern Gaza. In the past few days Israeli commanders have been boasting about the extreme violence they are using in these locations.

The goal in both Rafah and northern Gaza may be to ensure that they remain largely unpopulated: in the case of Rafah, to make tunnelling to Egypt harder; and in the northern Strip, from which rockets have been fired at longer ranges, to ensure they do not reach Tel Aviv.

In a third phase such tactics would probably be significantly extended as the army pushed onwards. Swathes of Gaza might be declared closed military zones, with their residents effectively herded into the main population centres.

As Mr Barak was unveiling his strategy a year ago, the interior minister, Meir Sheetrit, suggested that the army “decide on a neighbourhood in Gaza and level it”. If a third phase begins, it remains to be seen whether Israel will pursue such measures.


*****Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.

January 12th, 2009, 6:21 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Jerome Slater is a well-respected historian.

And Edward Said was a well-respected English professor.

So when I have questions about history, I’ll make sure to email him.

When there are questions about law, Dr. Alan Derhowitz is probably a good enough authority.


…only if you accept that Taliban had the right to self defense against US rockets…


The Taliban has about as much right to “self-defense” as the Unibomber. They represent no one but themselves. They are not a government. It seems to me Al-Queda falls into this category as well. Considering their history, they’re all lucky to simply be alive. Ahhh, what a life of “adventure”!

The elected government of Hamas is a different case. I think they would have a good case if they didn’t fire rockets indiscrimately into Israel. But I do look forward to their case when it is presented to the International Court in The Hague. Until then, I think you and your followers are barking up the wrong tree.


Hello again! Did you answer my questions about your German friends who thought Hitler “didn’t do enough”? I trust you put them in their place.

Anyway, who is Jonathan Cook? Why are his theories special? Perhaps your theories are more accurate.


I would hope Israel had planned for attacking Gaza and Hamas. This is something Israel should have taken care of years ago. As I’ve stated before, I am sure Israelis and the IDF are not happy about the loss of innocent lives. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to fight an enenmy that hides among the civilian population (which is against international law).

Perhaps we should give Jonny a Merkava tank, lots of ammunition, a machine gun and some food and have him do the work for Israel. I’m suree he could do a better job. The next time you see Jonny, ask him if he knows the Nazerite families that lost their loved ones due to Hezbollah rocket fire.

January 12th, 2009, 6:52 pm


Chris said:


“But Israel uses far far more violence against civilians, and always has. Yet your focus is on the Hamas rockets. If they stop, you think, there’ll be peace.”

(I do not want to affirm the premise of your question, but I’ll answer the question anyway)

First of all, yes Qunfuz, I believe that if Hamas made clear that it wished to live in peace with Israel and stop firing rockets at Israeli civilian population centers, there would be peace, between the two sides. If Hamas was generally interesed in Israelis’ ability to live securely, Israel certainly wouldn’t be too preoccupied with the fact that Gazans have an Islamcic government. After all Israel does not want Gaza. But given, Hamas’ actions and statements it would be impossible for Hamas to make clear to anyone that it wishes to live in peace.

You see, Qunfuz that is a big “if” because we all know that Hamas will never stop, it has no desire for peace, it wants victory. It wishes to continue the fight to the very end, until either they are martyred or Israel is destroyed. They desire to fight so much that even in the face of tremendous suffering in Gaza and overwhelming firepower from the IDF, it continues to fire rockets into Israel. This is one of the reasons why I focus on Hamas.

Imagine you were living in Cuba and the government started firing rockets at Miami because of the U.S. blockade. Then the government, your government, that is the Cuban government, said “we will continue fighting and never stop fighting. We will never recognize their right to exist. No matter what we will continue fighting (resisting).” Now, the U.S. naturally, in an effort to stop the attacks on its cities, would respond, they would invade, and many would die, because of the foolish adventure that the Cuban government would have engaged in. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. would have to neutralize an enemy that aims to destroy it (which means in reality to harm it as much as possible), especially an enemy that makes clear that it does not wish to compromise, but rather achieve total victory through attacking civilians (the liberation of all of Palestine). Now, no one doubts that people would die, and no one would doubt that Cuba would be defeated, it’s people would suffer because its government is aiming for military goals it could never achieve, but alas, the elite is comfortable, or drunk with their ideology (jihadism), so the lives of the people that their military recklessness destroys does not concern them. So, in other words: it is the lack of concern for their own population (or really human life in general)which is tied up with their fanaticism that forces me to focus on them.

That kind of fanaticism, and their very words, indicate that they are not interested in making peace with Israel. That is a reason why I focus on them, because without them and their fanatical desire for victory, the prospects for peace would be much better.

Another reason why I focus on Hamas is because I believe that they aim for civilians. When they see an Israeli civilian being killed by one of their Qassam’s or suicide bombers they feel victorious.

Israel on the other hand, fired a highly decorated general because he didn’t PROTECT ENEMY CIVILIANS from their compatriots during a civil war. Now I think he should have been fired. Sharon just sat by and did nothing when Arab Christians killed Palestinians. Israel was right in firing him (from his post as agriculture minister, I believe) for not protecting the Palestinians. I just can’t envision Hamas firing one of their terror operatives, because he (she?) didn’t do enough to protect Israeli civilians.

Although, I can see the PA developing into an organization/government that would prosecute someone for not protecting enemy civilians (like say a police commander not protecting Jews from a mob in Hebron) or for harming enemy civilians.

As this ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0wJXf2nt4Y&eurl=http://www.facebook.com/home.php? ) or this ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i08L09V0_sg&eurl=http://www.facebook.com/home.php? ) video indicates, Hamas is a mass-murdering, suicidal (which by the way is strongly forbidden in every religion that I know of), martyrdom-worshipping, death cult. Please, please, please, I’m begging you, do not let your sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people delude you into thinking that there is anything okay with Hamas.

As an aside, please let me know if there are any translation errors in the above videos. That is these videos:
Hamas & Human Shields: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0wJXf2nt4Y
Hamas in their Own Voices: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i08L09V0_sg&feature=channel_page

January 12th, 2009, 6:58 pm


alia said:


Why are you sure that the Israelis and the IDF are not happy about the loss of innocent life? All evidence points to the contrary, since they do not think of the lives of Palestinians as human in the first place. The Israelis are the ones actually using Palestinians as human shields in Gaza – look it up.

It seems that you are getting quite giddy on what is going on in Gaza…

For the rest, I will leave you to your fantasies.

January 12th, 2009, 7:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Why are you sure that the Israelis and the IDF are not happy about the loss of innocent life?


Because I know quite a few Israelis, most who have done military service. Many of them have seen their friends die, even under “friendly fire”. None of them gave me the slightest indication they were happy killing the enemy let alone civilians.

But if you have a video or link showing Israeli soldiers (or Israeli civilians) dancing in the streets and giving out candy, I will be the first to repudiate them.

All evidence points to the contrary, since they do not think of the lives of Palestinians as human in the first place.

Show me the evidence Alia. I know no Israeli who believes Palestinians are not human. Not even “monkies and pigs” as some Arab media outlets describe Jews.

The Israelis are the ones actually using Palestinians as human shields in Gaza – look it up.

I didn’t realize the Israelis were placing their missiles batteries on Israeli-Arab school grounds or holding meetings inside Israeli-Arab medical clinics. If you have proof of this, I’d like to see it.


I have an open mind if you do.;)

January 12th, 2009, 7:21 pm


Chris said:

You wrote:
Understanding the fact of occupation leads to understanding that the violence of the occupied is a symptom of occupation. It’s an effect, not a cause, of the terrible situation

Fist of all Qunfuz, there’s only one problem your analyis Qunfuz: the Zionist-Arab conflict predates the Israeli occupation. Have you ever heard about the Hebron Massacre in 1929 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre)?

More importantly though, it sounds like you are trying to justify the violence Hamas’ violence, by saying “well they’re only resisting occupating, trying to be free.” No, no, blowing up Pizzerias ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sbarro_massacre ), Hotels ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_massacre ), and firing Qassams at cities should not be glamorized by referring to such acts as “resistance” to occupation. Occupation does in no way justify mass murder.

January 12th, 2009, 7:24 pm


Shai said:


I agree with much of what you wrote, but life isn’t always full of choices we prefer. I believe the Palestinians voted for Hamas, and might again vote for them (although Honest Patriot’s post yesterday, of the Newsweek article, had certain logic for suggesting the opposite would occur), because of two main and very significant reasons:

1. They are the only party to resist / fight Israel’s occupation, suffocation, and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

2. They are viewed as being far less corrupt than their alternative, Fatah.

Btw, having just read your last comment #73, what in your mind constitutes a legitimate use of force by someone resisting occupation? Is it only targeting soldiers of the occupation? What if, and especially, the occupier is a democracy, and you know that any leadership has been elected by the people, and not established by force?

January 12th, 2009, 7:29 pm


Shai said:


I am here in Israel, so I don’t need to rely on newspaper articles or TV reporting. I’ve been living here for a good part of my life, and I do think I know what most Israelis feel. As you know, I disagree with many, if not most of them on matters we are discussing now for nearly a year.

But Akbar is right, most Israelis are certainly not happy to see innocent lives lost, certainly at the hands of their sons in the IDF. You are right, however, that most Israelis ARE happy that the IDF is “finally doing something” about the 8 year-long Qassams. There are indeed some in my country that are happy to see Arabs die and, yes, even innocent ones. But not most. You could claim that there is a contradiction between what I just said (if most in Israel are happy to see the IDF in action now, then most are necessarily happy to see innocent Palestinians die), but I again stress the word innocent. If tomorrow’s paper read “IDF kills 8,000 Hamas combatants”, you’d find most Israelis happy…

But Akbar is also wrong, there certainly ARE Israelis that have referred to Arabs as “dogs, monkeys, etc.” He probably doesn’t know this, but the religious Shas party spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, often uses precisely these terms when referring to Arabs.

January 12th, 2009, 7:44 pm


Chris said:


First off, I’ve also heard that much of Hamas’ support during the election was due to the perception that it is or would be less corrupt and/or better able to provide services than Fatah. Okay. But Palestinians are not dumb, and they were familiar with Hamas, they knew Hamas’ stand. Now, that doesn’t mean I think they, Palestinian civilians or Palestinians who voted for Hamas, deserve what is going on right now. But those individuals who voted for Hamas knew exactly what Hamas stood for, and what it desired. They knew that it was a mass murdering, suicidal, martyrdom loving, death cult.

But Shai, it is important to keep in mind that Hamas controls Gaza, not because they won a plurality, 44.45%, of the vote in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January of 2006, but because they violently usurped power from the PA in July of 2007. They violently overthrew the system which allowed them to have obtain a majority of the seats in the legislature.

Shai you wrote:
“Btw, having just read your last comment #73, what in your mind constitutes a legitimate use of force by someone resisting occupation? Is it only targeting soldiers of the occupation?”

I really am not an expert on the laws of war. And of course it would take a long time to really develop a coherent theory. But I can tell you that blowing up Pizzerias
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sbarro_massacre ), Hotels
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_massacre ), nightclubs
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphinarium_massacre ) , is never permissible.

You wrote:
“What if, and especially, the occupier is a democracy, and you know that any leadership has been elected by the people, and not established by force?”

Shai I do not believe that simply because the government was chosen by the people that every individual in that country should be held personally responsible, to the extent that they can be blown up, for the decisions of the governmnet. To put it another way, a person should not be killed for voting for Israel Beiteinu or Bibi. I also don’t believe that a person should be killed for voting for Hamas.

January 12th, 2009, 7:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Yes, and Rabbi Meir Kahana was also another racist. Shas’s rabbi should put on a uniform and join an IDF unit – the retard!

In any case, post the link showing dancing in the streets and the handing out of candy (PS – Purim festivities don’t count!) like we witnessed on 9-11.

If tomorrow’s paper read “IDF kills 8,000 Hamas combatants”, you’d find most Israelis happy…


Maybe because they are combatants. If 8000 IDF were killed by Arabs, I’m sure they’d be happy too. Even I wouldn’t begrudge them their victory. Egyptians celebrate their Yom Kippur War victory…this doesn’t bother me.

Anyway, another point-of-view not seen very often on this website:


January 12th, 2009, 8:00 pm


Peter H said:


I do not approve of Hamas’ ideology or use of violence against civilians. But to echo what Shai said, a lot of Hamas’ strength is due to the brutality of the occupation and the sense among Palestinians that negotiations do nothing to achieve Palestinian rights. If Israel wants to weaken Hamas, then it should uproot the settlements, eliminate the checkpoints, re-route the Separation Barrier so that it no longer falls within Palestinian territory, enter into negotiations with the Arab League based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, etc.

The end result of this offensive against Gaza will be to empower groups that are even more radical, violent, & uncontrollable than Hamas. There is already talk about Al-Qaeda gaining a foothold in Gaza.

January 12th, 2009, 8:02 pm


Alia said:


We should not deconstruct these matters to the point of insanity.

If Israelis are unhappy about something then they have had many decades to show it. The present government, the present shape of things, the situation of the Arabs within Israel and outside it are a reflection of the WILL and DESIRE of the Israeli majority. There is no escaping this conclusion, not even through the brain-washing excuse. Israel is an open society where people can inform themselves, they can study history, they can study the sciences that critique history….they can influence the course of things in their country. If they have not, then they have no excuse.
You can use your internal critique of the way things are run and the way people are misled with your own people but no longer with us because things are beyond this point now for a lot of us. The word peace in this context has become a bait, a dirty word, to mean its opposite.

January 12th, 2009, 8:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Haniyeh concluded his speech with a prayer: “Allah, grant us victory over the infidels.”

Eeriely close to a Bushism…

January 12th, 2009, 8:08 pm


Shai said:


That Hamas is ruling Gaza legitimately or not, is not for Israel to decide, judge, or participate in any way shape or form. That is up to the Palestinian people to decide. I hope you agree with me on this. Because Hamas took over the Gaza strip with violence, indeed even overthrew Fatah, does NOT give Israel ANY right to collectively punish the Palestinians in Gaza through the blockade, NOR even to punish Hamas! I don’t particularly like Hamas, but it is an internal matter for the Palestinian people to deal with, not ours or America’s.

I of course agree with you that an innocent person should not be killed for voting Bibi, or Hamas. In fact, an innocent person should not be killed for any reason, period. Innocent Germans, who stood by and watched their leader and the huge Nazi party grow (those that didn’t participate in its activities) into what it did, also did not deserve to die. But perhaps there are times, when something that is generally true, is not to be expected in a special case. For instance, should a child ever kill her father? Most would say no. But of course, there are special circumstances, when a court of law would not send the girl to prison for killing her father. For example, if the father had been abusing this girl terribly her entire life, in a way that was extreme to anyone’s view. You could argue that the “father” here is the IDF, and not the Israeli public. But is it really the case? Who sends the IDF in? Who makes up the IDF? Etc. While I would never justify a terrorist blowing himself up in a cafe, killing innocent civilians, I can’t pretend I don’t understand why he/she did so. That’s not to say I would not fight this as hard as I can – I would. But one needn’t accept a behavior, while understanding it.

To be very honest with you, I’m not sure you or I (or even Akbar) could say what WE would be willing to do, had we been in the Palestinian’s shoes. Let’s not forget – they didn’t exactly start blowing themselves up in the streets of Tel-Aviv during the first 40 years of our existence. They suffered a lot, before the began resorting to such horrific means of fighting our occupation. I seriously doubt Palestinian children would become suicide bombers, if they had their own state. Don’t you?

January 12th, 2009, 8:13 pm


Shai said:


I do not excuse my people for the fact that they support what the IDF is doing, or for electing the leadership that gives the orders to the IDF. You’re right, if things bothered my people enough, they certainly had plenty of opportunities to change this reality. But they did not.

I still hope you’re wrong, however, about peace. I believe, perhaps naively, that most in Israel still want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. I realize that I’m describing a very sick society, if I am correct, that pretends to want peace, yet does as much as one can, to the contrary. I’m sorry that I keep repeating this – I know it is annoying for you to hear – but I guess I want you to keep some tiny shred of doubt in your heart, no matter how hard that might be, and not lose all hope whatsoever.

January 12th, 2009, 8:58 pm


qunfuz said:

Chris – do you immediately and without reservation condemn the mass murder of millions of Vietnamese, Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese and others in American and Israeli wars? Don’t tell me ‘we don’t target civilians’ because I don’t believe you. Since World War Two, every war has involved the use of terror tactics on civilian centres. If you are going to pull out Palestinian-Arab “terrorism” as a unique evil, you are so full of hypocrisy there’s no point speaking.

Justify the pizza parlour bomb, etc? Alright, then. It bothers me as little as the firebombing of Dresden (actually quite a lot less).

Read up on the Abrams Plan and the Dahlan gangs before you embarrass yourself with ‘Hamas coup’ nonsense. But I’m not talking. I’m not. I thank Shai for his comments, always intelligent and imaginative and compassionate and nuanced, even if we are often in disagreement. But the rest of you Zionists, and their collaborators, I’m going back to my screen, damn it, to the screaming and the bereft and the wretched and the maimed.

January 12th, 2009, 9:00 pm


offended said:

Akbar asks:

But if you have a video or link showing Israeli soldiers (or Israeli civilians) dancing in the streets and giving out candy, I will be the first to repudiate them.

Here Akbar:

Now do you repudiate them? or do you need to see candies too?

January 12th, 2009, 9:09 pm


ugarit said:

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.


January 12th, 2009, 9:12 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Now do you repudiate them?

I would if I knew they were “dancing over the loss of innocent life” like the Palestinians were after 9-11.

I couldn’t hear any soundtrack, so I couldn’t tell. However, in the context of this war, I think their actions are infantile and inappropriate.


Sorry you couldn’t make it…


January 12th, 2009, 9:26 pm


Shai said:


Excellent point! In the documentary “Fog of War”, ex-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara talks of General Curtis Lemay’s views on much of his own command’s activity against the Japanese civilian population during WWII. He mentions that Lemay told him in the past, that had the U.S. lost the war, he had little doubt that he, and many others, would be tried in court as war criminals.

McNamara then asks, “Well, what makes it moral if we win, but immoral if we lose?”

January 12th, 2009, 9:26 pm


ugarit said:


Now I understand why you favor Benny Morris over Ilan Pappe. Benny Morris favors ethnic cleansing while Ilan Pappe does not. If you agree with Benny Morris then you favor ethnic cleansing.

January 12th, 2009, 9:28 pm


offended said:

Akbar Palace,
‘inappropriate’ is fine for now. ; )

But Akbar, if they weren’t dancing over loss of innocent life, what aspect of this war were they happy about?

I don’t hate them, though. I think they’re sick and sick people deserve my sympathy.

And are you trying to tell me that your own posts nowadays don’t drip with glee over this war?

January 12th, 2009, 9:36 pm


Chris said:


Murder is a morally charged term. It means an immoral killing. So, I condemn mass murder in any war.

I condemn what happened in My lai. I condemn what happened in Haditha. I condemn what happened at Qibya.

Many countries somberly reflect on their past, but I don’t think the fact that other countries have done x in the past justifies anything. Especially not Hamas suicide bombings and rockets.

January 12th, 2009, 9:37 pm


ugarit said:

Chris said: “I don’t think the fact that other countries have done x in the past justifies anything.”

Then I suppose then you don’t think Israel should have come into existence, because the Holocaust ended in 1945 and Israel came into existence in 1948 on top of the ashes of Palestine.

The “re-creation” of Israel is based on 2000+ year old history and legend, does that mean that you don’t believe that Jews shall not return to their “Promised Land”?

Are you the one who’s going to decide at what point history is not relevant?

January 12th, 2009, 9:53 pm


Shai said:

Peres gets a letter signed by his own daughter, and 250 others:

“President Shimon Peres received a petition on Monday calling for the immediate evacuation of injured Palestinians in Gaza to Israeli hospitals.

The petition was filed on behalf of the Council for Peace and Security and was signed, among others, by Peres’ daughter Zvia Valdan, as well as by Israel Prize laureates, retired IDF generals and prominent physicians.”


January 12th, 2009, 10:26 pm


Joe M. said:

The zionists on this blog are disgusting. It’s hard to believe that anyone can support Israeli crimes as they do.

For one, Israelis dancing at the bombing of Gaza:

Also, to deny that Israel is a racist state is plain stupid. Now Arab parties have been banned from running in elections.

It is a clear fact that Netanyahu is planning epic murder of Palestinians. That he will win the election, form a right-wing coalition and slaughter Palestinians like dogs. There is no doubt. That you support him is violence. That you think otherwise is utter ignorance. You should agree to never to post again when/if he starts slaughtering Palestinians.

January 12th, 2009, 11:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

But Akbar, if they weren’t dancing over loss of innocent life, what aspect of this war were they happy about?


I think going into war, the soldiers try to psychologically try to cheer each other or “pump” themselves up. Going home, they’re probably not as “happy”.

I don’t hate them, though. I think they’re sick and sick people deserve my sympathy.

That’s your opinion and I understand your feelings. I don’t think they’re sick, and I don’t know the context of their mood. I just saw another website showing a group of Israeli soldiers preparing for war – as they were smiling and acting “non-chalant”. As I said, I think this is to pump themselves up as they prepare to meet some very heavy fighting. Hamas fighters are not cowards.

And are you trying to tell me that your own posts nowadays don’t drip with glee over this war?


You may think my feelings are incongruent. I feel this war was badly needed. Hamas will not negotiate with Israel and will continue “resistance” as they repeatly say. It has to be done, yet I am sad for all those who have been wounded and killed.

Usually when I am FOR a war, it is because I think in the long run it will prevent more people from being hurt and injured. The other factor is that Israelis can’t continue to run to bomb shelters month-after-month. This is no way to live.

January 13th, 2009, 1:54 am


norman said:

Joe m,

Can you tell me how you expect the Palestinians to live with people like that in one country , I just do not see it.

January 13th, 2009, 2:06 am


Joe M. said:

I understand that it is hard, and I am with you. But I don’t want a transformed state to be as racist and violent as the Jewish one. And I know that, unlike the zionists, when we get our freedom we will act with dignity and humility. And if they continue to fight us even then, at least then we can use a mutual legal system to fight back. It will not be perfect, but it is most fair…

January 13th, 2009, 2:23 am


norman said:

Hi Joe m,

What would you say to people like Shai who wonder how the Arabs will treat the Jews if they are a majority while there is no Arab country where the minorities have the same rights as the majority, Look at KSA, do you think that the Shia have the same rights , look at Egypt where Christians can not build a Church and they have their religion written on their ID card and not able to hold any high level government job , God forbid if somebody is Shia in Egypt , Even Syria where minorities have the most preveliges still Christians can not be presidents no matter how qualified a person is.

January 13th, 2009, 2:57 am


Akbar Palace said:

What would you say to people like Shai who wonder how the Arabs will treat the Jews if they are a majority while there is no Arab country where the minorities have the same rights as the majority, Look at KSA, do you think that the Shia have the same rights , look at Egypt where Christians can not build a Church and they have their religion written on their ID card and not able to hold any high level government job , God forbid if somebody is Shia in Egypt , Even Syria where minorities have the most preveliges still Christians can not be presidents no matter how qualified a person is.


Can I take a crack at your question? Thanks.

I would say, “You’re in deep Doodoo, Habibi! I can’t say I didn’t warn you!”

January 13th, 2009, 3:30 am


offended said:

Akbar said,
I think going into war, the soldiers try to psychologically try to cheer each other or “pump” themselves up. Going home, they’re probably not as “happy”.

well, those were not only soldiers; they were citizens too. I don’t see how people, even those who proclaim that loss of civilian life in this aggression was inevitable, could just cheer for what’s happening. Unless; given the long braided beards, this was all a part of some divine promise.

January 13th, 2009, 5:06 am


Shai said:

Joe M.,

I’ve already gathered by now that to you I’m nothing but a disgusting, naive Zionist that supports violence. So of course it doesn’t surprise me that you’d like me to stop posting. Perhaps out of some last remaining respect for you (which by the way I’ve taken the liberty to reiterate time and again, of course not to have the same reciprocated), I will oblige you by no longer posting comments to you.

Please do not patronize me with your continued condescending voice. You might have a fancy-shmancy degree from a top-notch academic institution, but you still do not understand everything, you are far from understanding the complexities of Israeli society and Israeli politics, and your (perhaps understandable) blanket generalizations might help you in lectures, and even in this forum, but they certainly will NOT help your people in their justified struggle. It is naturally your right to give up on peace and on us “naive Zionists”, and to spread that conclusion. But you are, in the process, reinforcing every bit of hatred and distrust those racist Israelis had towards you. You are doing nothing but contributing to this century-old cycle of hatred and racism. The byproduct is, of course, violence.

I have tried to remain somewhat humble, when speaking to you. I have not claimed to always “know” the truth, to fully understand everything around me. I suggest to you, adopt the same. Otherwise, your inflammatory generalizations will categorically define you as an extremist, and likely deny you much audience that could otherwise truly benefit from your wisdom. I will respect your request, and no longer share with you any of my thoughts.

January 13th, 2009, 5:22 am


offended said:

And yes, Israel is as much racist a state as can be.

Israel was established on the claim that the 2000 years old kingdom of Judea and Samaria should be revived and be kept exclusively to Jews; Arab native population notwithstanding. Even if that meant the expulsion of the native population.

Another frequently used reason is that Jewish communities around the world should be given a state exclusive to them so that they can protect themselves and prevent a repetition of ethnic cleansing or Holocaust. Which is fine by me except that I don’t see why a Palestinian peasant should part with his old olive grove so that this cocoon of protection could be provided: I think establishing Israel on what’s now called Germany (or part of it) would have made much more sense.

Maybe the Europeans should have a taste of the Israeli method of self-defense?

January 13th, 2009, 5:24 am


Akbar Palace said:

I don’t see how people, even those who proclaim that loss of civilian life in this aggression was inevitable, could just cheer for what’s happening. Unless; given the long braided beards, this was all a part of some divine promise.


The pic you showed me didn’t give any context for their celebration. I’m not even sure if the pic was taken during this current war.

In any case, I feel the same way you do regarding the Palestinians who cheered after 9-11 where 3000 non-combatants were murdered, and when 2 captured Israeli reservists under PA control were lynched.




January 13th, 2009, 12:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Which is fine by me except that I don’t see why a Palestinian peasant should part with his old olive grove so that this cocoon of protection could be provided…


You seem like a nice person, however, I get the impression you’re not getting your information from all the outlets at your disposal.

Some Israeli-Arabs aren’t “peasants”. A lot of them are MUCH better off than a majority of Israeli Jews.

Enjoy the views, they’re incredible…



January 13th, 2009, 1:11 pm


J Thomas said:

Maybe the Europeans should have a taste of the Israeli method of self-defense?

They had more than a taste. It was called World War II.

Germany needed defensible borders, that included ethnic germans and their land. Faced with unremitting hostility germany broke through the enemy lines in brilliant blitzkrieg attacks. Etc.

Europe really doesn’t need to face all that again.

January 14th, 2009, 3:39 pm


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