Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Gaza

The following are my excerpted comments from a discussion board debate (since deleted). The debate started in response to a facebook note quoting the lyrics to a rap which compared Israel’s strike against Hamas to an older brother (Israel) reluctantly responding to repeated unprovoked harassment from a younger brother (Hamas). The chorus of the song asks “what would YOU do?”

The debate was combative, but for the most part I thought, constructive, or at least evolving. Points were being read and thoughtfully (and emotionally) responded to. The poster of the original note decided though to take down the note (and with it the comment thread) for legitimate fear that it was getting a bit too close to the borderlines of civility. Anyway, I wanted to post my comments just because I spent a lot of yesterday evening writing them. I’m leaving out those of the other participants in respect for their privacy, hence the bizarre nonsequiturs (which all are direct responses to the other participants’ posts).

~
Don’t really have time to read everyone’s posts and considering the number I’m sure this point has been covered, but in case it hasn’t, there’s far less of an actual consensus on who the aggressor was than one should not be faulted for thinking based on the coverage in N. American news, especially in Israel. Read the opinion pages of Haaretz for, ironically, a far more balanced set of perspectives.

3 additional points:

Hamas was talking long term truce in the spring: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24235665

Israel broke the terms of the cease fire with an unsubstantiated justification while the world was distracted by the US election:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-israel-gaza_greenbergnov17,0,7989972.story

And since withdrawing has left Gazans with no reasonable prospect to create a state with the capacity to control extreme factions:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n21/roy_01_.html
http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/MENAEXT/WESTBANKGAZAEXTN/0,,contentMDK:21694302~menuPK:294370~pagePK:2865066~piPK:2865079~theSitePK:294365,00.html

Not to mention that the blockade–which has knowingly and devastatingly blocked medical supplies and food aid–can easily itself be construed as sustained aggression. But if you don’t want to accept that then there’s these:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/30/israelandthepalestinians-middleeast

It’s a cycle of violence and facile analogies about brothers punching each other do nothing to capture it, and are, if anything, destructive for being reductive. And even if my little brother did punch me in the nuts, I don’t think sewing his mouth shut, locking the door, and then beating the crap out of him would be justified.

——

I don’t think that it’s ironic that Israel has a balanced news media, it is ironic that Israel is more balanced in its coverage of a conflict in which its existence is on the table than the US.

——-
PS – ironic and admirable.

—–

Like other countries it oughtn’t, however, get a blank check to do so. This incursion goes above and beyond anything that can be justified along those argumentative lines, especially since the same argument can be applied in reverse: Israel went to war with Egypt in ’56 over a blockade not even remotely as harmful to its citizens as that which it has imposed on Gaza from the first: http://www.btselem.org/english/Gaza_Strip/Medical_System.asp. What does that justify?

My point is that criticism really can’t stop there because it gets no one anywhere. And being non-critical of a liberal democracy when it seriously fucks up isn’t good for that liberal democracy

——-

I do care about the plight of aboriginals. A lot. My grandfather was Metis and hid it because of the stigma in Canadian society such that my family only found out recently. If you’re serious and you want to talk about it send me a msg.

Why I also care about Gaza:
-The Arab-Israeli conflict is a world conflict hot-spot and has major ramifications for global peace and military and economic stability (considering how it’s used by dictators and terrorists to legitimate themselves).
-I have friends from both Israel and the Palestinian territories whose well being and whose family’s well being I care about.
<Additional to my original post but to add to the list: -I also care because my government has taken a public position that I find overly one-sided – http://www.jewishtribune.ca/TribuneV2/content/view/1233/53/>

Plenty of uncritically pro-Israeli opinions are being voiced in Canada. If you’re serious, I encourage you to ask them the same question.

On your 3rd par: enough with the counterfactuals that ignore the context of the current crisis. The war measures act was enacted in Canada in response to FLQ terrorism rightly or wrongly, but it had the reasonable prospect of quashing it, and successfully did so without destroying Quebec’s social stability. 497 were arrested. No one was killed by military action.

——–

Those comparisons are equivocations.

Yes, the issues surrounding the conflict are complex and hard to resolve and I wouldn’t venture what a fair solution to the conflict as a whole would be. But the upshot of the complexity is that it’s pretty clear when the justification for a proposed “solution” (e.g. the military action in Gaza) is based on the assumed ignorance (on the part of who it’s being ‘justified’ to) of said complexity.

——-

Re: Participant A

My point in bringing up Egypt was not that Hamas was right to respond with indiscriminate rocket fire but that facile analogies used as excuses don’t get you anywhere. I think Participant D’s point about Old Testament reasoning is sound. So no, I don’t think it’s equivocation because I was making a negative point. And the omitted discussion of the grossly different circumstances don’t, to my mind (though I could be wrong), call its validity into question. I also think that the circumstances are considerably less different than, say, between the current crisis and the FLQ crisis.

Re: Participant B

True, Israel is in unique geopolitical circumstances, but I stand by that this completely overblown assault doesn’t serve its interests. As lame as Olmert has been in this interview I think he hit the nail on the head:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22112

Going down this road, (1) the prospects of Israel remaining a liberal-democracy are slim; and (2) Israel hands Iran another PR win.

——

I actually need to stop arguing pretty soon (and go back to reading) and so I didn’t want to fan an argument with yet another person. But if you insist…

Re: Participant C

You’re right, that’s some crazy shit, but again it’s a two way street. I was told in all seriousness by an acquaintance (fresh from birthright) in first year that the only solution to the conflict was to kill two generations of Palestinians. And that the Palestinians were basically animals.

Also, I don’t buy ancient hatreds arguments. See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Modern-Hatreds-Symbolic-Politics-Security/sim/0801487366/2

Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to convince you if I haven’t already, and unless you bring up a radically new line of argument I doubt if you’ll convince me that Israel should be uncritically egged on in this. So I’m going to leave it there.

Peace!

———————————————————————-

I made an additional post in response (in spite of what I said in the one previous) though I made it from a library computer, and lost it because the above are all drawn from the page I left open in a tab on my computer before that post was made (and since the thread was deleted it’s I don’t know of any other means to access it).

My final post was in response to a participant’s post quoting a series of baldly anti-semitic statements calling for the destruction of Israel drawn from Hamas’ charter (authored in 1988). I wanted to make the point that Jordan and Egypt were spouting comparably loaded rhetoric in the years before they recognized Israel and signed peace accords.

A second point I wanted to make was that, on the topic of Israel’s long term status as a liberal-democracy worthy of the name, the following does not bode well:

“Despite a recent [Israeli] Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to allow a limited pool of journalists, the army continues to block their entry. On Thursday, two Israeli channels and the BBC were permitted to briefly accompany ground forces, but there has been no indication that the government will allow journalists unfettered access to Gaza in the near future.”

Drawn from: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-israel-pr9-2009jan09,0,2766501.story

UPDATE: Very good essay from Bill Moyers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efm9uAnUU00&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.salon.com%2Fopinion%2Fgreenwald%2F2009%2F01%2F10%2Fmoyers%2F

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