Why I care about Israel?

Map of Israel Flag of Israel

This is a hard topic, one because it is personal, and two I’ve never really confronted it head on before.

I think there are several factors.

Here are my initial thoughts.

First and foremost I admire Israel, minus the militarism and the racism. Otherwise I think it is a great country.

The revival of Hebrew, the founding of a democratic state, the quality of that democracy, the freedom and quality of the press, and so on, I admire greatly. On the other hand the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the brutal occupation, the discrimination and racism, and the wars of aggression for territorial expansion, I do condemn, often, and publicly, but almost invariable neither harshly nor heatedly. But that is enough to paint me as a critic of Israel, and biased against Israel.

But to return to the subject: I admire Israel but criticize its failings, just as I admire America, although I criticize similar negative aspects.

Second is the fact that Israel could conceivably nuke Iran and get away with it (I would estimate there is a 1% chance at present that this will occur). Or if not this, then Israel could encourage a war that would destroy Iran, like Iraq was pretty much destroyed (I would estimate there is a 10% chance of this at present). So this is a huge concern.

I think most Canadians or Americans reading this will be surprised by the above statements, since it is Iran which is always painted as a great danger to world peace, but the fact is that Israel has at least 50 nuclear bombs (possibly as many as 200), and has almost unconditional US support. Iran on the other hand has as of yet 0 nuclear bombs, and is more or less a bitter enemy of the US. Given the fact that the two countries are competing for power and influence in the Middle East, I don’t think the above scenarios are unthinkable.

(As an aside given the above facts if Iran had a nuclear bomb and used it first, it would be vaporized nearly instantly. I think that if Iran does want a nuclear bomb, besides the usual irrational reason of national pride, much of it is as a deterrent to Israeli nukes.)

I am an Iranian-Canadian. Though I am Canadian first and foremost: I was born in Iran, but came to Canada with my parents when I was 10 months old. On the one hand I went to Iranian school on Saturdays for 9 or 10 years and can read and write Persian (though I read better than I write). On the other hand none of my close friends are Iranian, and I have visited Iran once since I left (when I was 13). So again while I am pretty much Canadian, I still care about Iran about a million times more than the average Canadian. And by extension for that reason alone, I care about Israel much more than the average Canadian as well.

Third is the fact that as long as Israel is perceived as being a “bad guy” in the Middle East (little Satan), it will hurt the cause of democracy in the region. As democracy can be painted as being a foreign imperialist/crusader thing. I don’t know how much I really buy this.

But I think the converse is very much true: if Israel was perceived positively in the Middle East it would do much to help promote democracy. And I would very much like to see democracy and human rights triumph in the region.

And on this topic, and more personally, while Israel is perceived as evil by Iran, and Iranians it is very hard for me to publicly express any sympathy with or interest in Israel.

To me it seems that it is easier for an Iranian to declare absolute and unconditional love for America, Canada or Great Britain than it is for him or her to declare genuine sympathy and concern for Israel. Mind you this is not for any particularly sinister reasons. It is simply that there are a great many Iranians living in these countries, so they have ties to them and so these countries are much more important to Iranians in a day to day sort of way. Israel from this perspective (economically and socially) is absolutely irrelevant (though militarily it punches above its weight), being much too small and having practically no non-Jewish Iranians living there.

Finally I have some interest in Judaism. Not in the sense that I would want to convert, but as in I would like to learn more about its history, its principles, and how it differs from Christianity and Islam, etc. Hard to explain but it is something like being curious to learn about what is different and unknown. Like in sex education, where prepubescent boys find female anatomy much more interesting than their own, just out of curiosity (and of course vice versa for little girls).

My biased view of the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict

I had a lot of trouble coming up with today’s post, but then I got into an interesting facebook discussion and will simply edit my comments from that discussion into a unified Post.

Disappearing Palestine 1947-2014

Q: Both sides have not compromised enough.

The problem in this case is that one side is much stronger than the other, and doesn’t need to compromise. They can just get what they want. Especially if the most powerful country in the world supports them (followed by Canada, and Australia and unopposed by the rest of the Western world).

Q: Fair enough but the Palestinians have not been good at compromising either. Very little has changed in the past 60 years or so.

Here’s my view of the past 60+ years (apologies for the long post, I kept it as brief as I could, and I fear it will be one-sided, but it is hard to be objective in this conflict). In November 1947 UN decides to divide Palestine in two. Give 55% of land to Jews who are 30% of population. This causes a war in which the Israelis have an army and the Palestinians do not. Resulting in the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians (more than half the Arab population), and Israel getting 78% of the land. The armies of several Arab countries do join the fighting in May 1948 after the state of Israel declares independence and they are basically the reason that Israel didn’t get 100% of the land.

In 1967 Israel attacks Egypt, Syria and Jordan and captures the remaining 22% of the land (Gaza and the West Bank), plus the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai from Egypt (which they eventually give back to Egypt a few years after the 1973 war with Egypt). Israel then starts building settlements on this 22% to make it part of Israel and eventually end up with 100% of the land. A process that is continuing and if not stopped will result in the West Bank ending up like a bunch of disconnected Gaza like prisons.

Some time in the 1970s the Palestinian national movement comes into being and there is a drive for a two-state solution. Israel is unwilling to consider it, until after the first intifada when they realize it is too difficult to rule the Palestinians directly. So they signed the Oslo agreement, making the Palestinians enforce security in areas with large Palestinian populations and the Israelis continue to build settlements in the West Bank.

In 2000, Arafat is willing to give up the right of return, in exchange for the a state in West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as the capital, but doesn’t accept Israel keeping any settlements. (He insisted that the Palestinians should get the 22% of the land). Israel wanted to keep the major settlements, which the Palestinians thought would cripple their state.

In 2005 Israel realizes that having 8000 settlers in Gaza taking up a bunch of land, with over a million Palestinians crammed together right beside, is not a good idea, and they pull out. I am unclear what the border control situation is like immediately after, but once Hamas takes power in Gaza 2007, after the elections in 2006, Israel blockades Gaza, and that leads to the conflict in 2008-9, 2012 and today.

So I don’t see when the Palestinians didn’t compromise. Except 2 cases:
1. 1947 when they didn’t accept the 45% of the land for 70% of the population. And I am convinced that sooner or later the Israelis would have attacked anyways, because their 55% of the land had only a slim Jewish majority (55% Jewish, 45% Arab, vs the Arab 45% of the land which would have been 99% Arab and 1% Jewish, Jerusalem was to have been an international city part of neither state).

And 2. in 2000-2001 when they could have accepted Israel keeping the settlements. For most of the rest it was Israel not compromising because they didn’t need to.

On a side note is the right of return. The Jews claim a right of return based on a return after a 2000 year absence, but denied every single Palestinian ethnically cleansed the right to come back to their very own homes, from 1948 until today. These are people who still have the keys and the deeds to their houses, which have been taken over by Israelis or the whole villages destroyed or whatever, and if they are no longer alive it is their direct descendants who want to come back but are denied this right. It’s an amazingly racist point of view, which the Palestinians have for the most part accepted as a reality they can’t change. Again I don’t see the lack of compromise.

Q: Wait wasn’t it the case that the Arabs rejected the 1947 partition, attacked and then lost?

As to 1947-48, between November and April the Arabs carried out terrorist attacks, which were responded to in kind by the Jews. From April to mid-May (once the British had pretty much left), the Jews went on a major offensive. They had an army of 40,000 and the Palestinians had no organized army. Also the Jewish population was much younger, as they had focused on getting as many able bodied young men as possible to Israel. There were several massacres like in the village of Deir Yassin, carried out by the Jews and used as propaganda to get rid of the Arabs. Several hundred villages were destroyed. Etc. Then from mid-May after the declaration of the state of Israel, the outside Arab armies came in and the result of the fighting was the 78%, 22% split.

To be fair if the Palestinians did have an army they probably would have done the same thing. They did ethnically cleanse the old city of Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc of kibbutzim.

But my point is the Jewish side knew they would win, it was not a miraculous surprise victory. They had better arms, more men, a real army, etc.

Israel Shahak’s books on the ideological and strategic bases of Israeli policy

Israel Shahak

Here I will present three books by Israel Shahak each with one or two extensive quotes, to give an idea of the subject matter, though each book deals with several related topics. I consider the first book to be especially well written and informative. It deals with the influence of Orthodox Judaism on the Jewish state (and some of the negative aspects of Classical Judaism). The second deals more with strategic consideration, as they relate to foreign policy, mainly in the Middle East. The third deals with the way Jewish fundamentalism affects Israeli politics.

First book:
Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

Jewish History Jewish Religion

pages 1 and 2

[Chapter] 1
A CLOSED UTOPIA?

I write here what I think is true, for the stories of the Greeks are numerous and in my opinion ridiculous.
(Hecateus of Miletus, as quoted by Herodotus)

Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas — Plato is a friend but truth is a greater friend.
(Traditional paraphrase of a passage of Aristotle’s Ethics)

In a free state every man can think what he wants and say what he thinks.
(Spinoza)

This book, although written in English and addressed to people living outside the State of Israel, is, in a way, a continuation of my political activities as an Israeli Jew. Those activities began in 1965-6 with a protest which caused a considerable scandal at the time: I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behaviour was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century. I reported the incident to the main Hebrew daily, Ha’aretz, whose publication of the story caused a media scandal.

The results of the scandal were, for me, rather negative. Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile. They added much sanctimonious twaddle to the effect that if the consequence of such an act puts Jews in danger, the violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake. It became apparent to me, as drawing on knowledge acquired in my youth, I began to study the Talmudic laws governing the relations between Jews and non-Jews, that neither Zionism, including its seemingly secular part, nor Israeli politics since the inception of the State of Israel, nor particularly the policies of the Jewish supporters of Israel in the diaspora, could be understood unless the deeper influence of those laws, and the worldview which they both create and express is taken into account. The actual policies Israel pursued after the Six Day War, and in particular the apartheid character of the Israeli regime in the Occupied Territories and the attitude of the majority of Jews to the issue of the rights of the Palestinians, even in the abstract, have merely strengthened this conviction.

By making this statement I am not trying to ignore the political or strategic considerations which may have also influenced the rulers of Israel. I am merely saying that actual politics is an interaction between realistic considerations (whether valid or mistaken, whether moral or immoral in my view) and ideological influences. The latter tend to be more influential the less they are discussed and ‘dragged into the light’. Any form of racism, discrimination and xenophobia becomes more potent and politically influential if it is taken for granted by the society which indulges in it. This is especially so if its discussion is prohibited, either formally or by tacit agreement. When racism, discrimination and xenophobia is prevalent among Jews, and directed against non-Jews, being fuelled by religious motivations, it is like its opposite case, that of antisemitism and its religious motivations. Today, however, while the second is being discussed, the very existence of the first is generally ignored, more outside Israel than within it.

excerpt from pages 63 and 64 about one of the three main features of classical Judaism

[Chapter] 4
The Weight of History
[…]
1 Classical Jewish society has no peasants, and in this it differs profoundly from earlier Jewish societies in the two centres, Palestine and Mesopotamia. It is difficult for us, in modern times, to understand what this means. We have to make an effort to imagine what serfdom was like; the enormous difference in literacy, let alone education, between village and town throughout this period; the incomparably greater freedom enjoyed by all the small minority who were not peasants — in order to realise that during the whole of the classical period the Jews, in spite of all the persecutions to which they were subjected, formed an integral part of the privileged classes. Jewish historiography, especially in English, is misleading on this point inasmuch as it tends to focus on Jewish poverty and anti-Jewish discrimination. Both were real enough at times; but the poorest Jewish craftsman, pedlar, landlord’s steward or petty cleric was immeasurably better off than a serf. This was particularly true in those European countries where serfdom persisted into the 19th century, whether in a partial or extreme form: Prussia, Austria (including Hungary), Poland and the Polish lands taken by Russia. And it is not without significance that, prior to the beginning of the great Jewish migration of modern times (around 1880), a large majority of all Jews were living in those areas and that their most important social function there was to mediate the oppression of the peasants on behalf of the nobility and the Crown.

Everywhere, classical Judaism developed hatred and contempt for agriculture as an occupation and for peasants as a class, even more than for other Gentiles — a hatred of which I know no parallel in other societies. This is immediately apparent to anyone who is familiar with the Yiddish or Hebrew literature of the 19th and 20th centuries.[9]

Most east-European Jewish socialists (that is, members of exclusively or predominantly Jewish parties and factions) are guilty of never pointing out this fact; indeed, many were themselves tainted with a ferocious anti-peasant attitude inherited from classical Judaism. Of course, zionist ‘socialists’ were the worst in this respect, but others, such as the Bund, were not much better. A typical example is their opposition to the formation of peasant co-operatives promoted by the Catholic clergy, on the ground that this was ‘an act of antisemitism’. This attitude is by no means dead even now; it could be seen very clearly in the racist views held by many Jewish ‘dissidents’ in the USSR regarding the Russian people, and also in the lack of discussion of this background by so many Jewish socialists, such as Isaac Deutscher. The whole racist propaganda on the theme of the supposed superiority of Jewish morality and intellect (in which many Jewish socialists were prominent) is bound up with a lack of sensitivity for the suffering of that major part of humanity who were especially oppressed during the last thousand years — the peasants.

Note [9] above reads:

Nobel Prize winners Agnon and Bashevis Singer are examples of this, but many others can be given, particularly Bialik, the national Hebrew poet. In his famous poem My Father he describes his saintly father selling vodka to the drunkard peasants who are depicted as animals. This very popular poem, taught in all Israeli schools, is one of the vehicles through which the anti-peasant attitude is reproduced.

Second book:
Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies

Open Secrets

from page 54:

[Chapter] 4
Israel versus Iran
24 February 1993

Since the spring of 1992 public opinion in Israel is being prepared for the prospect of a war with Iran, to be fought to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat. In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence. A manipulation of public opinion to this effect may well be considered too phantasmagoric to merit any detailed description. Still, the readers should take notice, especially since to all appearances the Israeli Security System does envisage the prospect seriously. In February 1993 minutely-detailed anticipations of Iran becoming a major target of Israeli policies became intense. I am going to confine myself to a sample of recent publications (in view of the monotony of their contents it will suffice), emphasizing how they envisage the possibility of ‘persuading’ the West that Iran must be defeated. All Hebrew papers have shared in advocacy of this madness, with exception of Haaretz which has not dared to challenge it either. The Zionist ‘left’ papers, Davar and Al Hamishmar have particularly distinguished themselves in bellicosity on the subject of Iran; more so than the right-wing Maariv. Below, I will concentrate on the recent writings of Al Hamishmar and Maariv about Iran, only occasionally mentioning what I found in other papers.

[…]

from pages 60-61:

Anyone not converted to the Orientalistic creed will recognize that Iran is a country very difficult to conquer, because of its size, topography and especially because of fervent nationalism combined with the religious zeal of its populace. I happen to loathe the current Iranian regime, but it doesn’t hinder me from immediately noticing how different it is from Saddam Hussein’s. Popular support for Iran’s rulers is much greater than for Iraq’s. After Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran, his troops were resisted valiantly under extremely difficult conditions. All analogies between a possible attack on Iran and the Gulf War are therefore irresponsibly fanciful. Yet Sharon and the Israeli Army commanders did in 1979 propose to send a detachment of Israeli paratroopers to Tehran to quash the revolution and restore the monarchy. They really thought, until stopped by Begin, that a few Israeli paratroopers could determine the history of a country as immense and populous as Iran! According to a consensus of official Israeli experts on Iranian affairs, the fall of the Shah was due solely to his ‘softness’ in refraining to order his army to slaughter thousands of demonstrators wholesale. Later, the Israeli experts on Iranian affairs were no less unanimous in predicting a speedy defeat of Iran by Saddam Hussein. No evidence indicates that they have changed their assumptions or discarded their underlying racism. Their ranks may include some relatively less-opinionated individuals, who have survived the negative selection process which usually occurs within groups sharing such ideologically-tight imageries. But such individuals can be assumed to prefer to keep their moderation to themselves, while hoping that Israel can reap some fringe benefits from any western provocation against Iran, even if it results in a protracted and inconclusive war.

From pages 125-126:

[Chapter] 11
Israel and the Organized American Jews
20 September 1993

The politically prodigious and financially unprecedented support which Israel has received from the United States since the early 1960s can be attributed to two factors. On the one hand, Israeli policies serve American interests, not only in the Middle East but all over the world. Whenever the United States finds it inconvenient to get directly involved in something particularly unsavory, for example in supporting a regime or an organization whose reputation is particularly opprobrious, Israel comes in handy to do the job on the U.S. behalf. On the other hand, however, Israel wields tremendous influence within the United States, in my view, regardless of whether Israeli policies match U.S. interests or not. Although to some extent this fact can be attributed to the support Israel receives from many strains of Christian fundamentalism, there is no doubt in my mind that its primary reason is the role performed by the organized Jewish community in the United States in backing Israel and its policies unconditionally. The proportion of organized Jews within the body of U.S. Jewry can be roughly estimated as close to one half. This article will describe the newly emerging relations between the organized American Jews and the Rabin regime, and their impact on possible shifts of Israeli policies.

Why should some American Jews be inclined to pro-Israeli chauvinism, while others be free of any such leanings? The first factor is the exclusivism of Jewish organizations. They admit no non-Jews into their ranks, and draw social and therefore also political power from that fact. Those who can be called “organized Jews” spend most of their after-work time in the company of other Jews, thus upholding Jewish exclusivism and, as a natural consequence, reinforcing their Jewish chauvinism. Amounting to no more than 3 percent of the U.S. population, it would be impolitic of them to express their real attitudes toward non-Jews in the United States openly. An exercise of their influence in support of Israel as the “Jewish state” compensates them for this constraint upon their freedom of expression.

Third book:
Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel
by
Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel

From page 5:

[Chapter] 1
Jewish Fundamentalism Within Jewish Society

Almost every moderately sophisticated Israeli Jew knows the facts about Israeli Jewish society that are described in this book. These facts, however, are unknown to most interested Jews and non-Jews outside Israel who do not know Hebrew and thus cannot read most of what Israeli Jews write about themselves in Hebrew. These facts are rarely mentioned or are described inaccurately in the enormous media coverage of Israel in the United States and elsewhere. The major purpose of this book is to provide those persons who do not read Hebrew with more understanding of one important aspect of Israeli Jewish society.

From page 96:

[Chapter] 6
The Real Significance of Baruch Goldstein

The story of the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein in the Patriarchs’ Cave in Hebron on February 25, 1994, is well known. Goldstein entered the Muslim prayer hall and shot worshippers mostly in their backs, killing 29, including children, and wounding many more. In this chapter we shall not describe that massacre; rather we shall focus upon Goldstein’s career prior to the massacre and upon the reactions of the Israeli government and fundamentalist Jews to the massacre a short time after it occurred. This should provide a vivid illustration of Jewish fundamentalism. We shall extend our discussion of some details until the summer of 1998.

One important background fact about Goldstein exemplifies the influence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel: long before the massacre, Goldstein as an army physician repeatedly breached army discipline by refusing to treat Arabs, even those serving in the Israeli army. He was not punished, either while in active or reserve service, for his refusal because of intervention in his favor. Political commentators discussed this story in the Hebrew press even though not a single Israeli politician referred to it. This story deserves detailed exploration in our analysis of Jewish fundamentalism.

Links to the books on amazon.ca:
Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (on amazon.ca)

Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policie (on amazon.ca)

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (on amazon.ca)

The books are available in print as well as in kindle eBook format. They are also available on the kobo books store.

Finally here are the only two videos of Shahak.

One of an interview with Harold Channer in New York:

and one of lecture he gave at MIT with Noam Chomsky (in 2 parts):

Two of the best in-depth videos on Israel/Palestine

Since both videos are long I will give an outline of the various sections so you can pick and choose what you find most interesting.

First one by Noam Chomsky who supports a two-state solution in the short term (this video is sorely under-appreciated):

0-3:37 about Chomsky’s involvement in Zionism in the 40 and 50s.
3:37-6:47 Chomsky as a supporter of Israel
6:47 – 9:10 Discriminatory laws inside Israel
9:10 – 29:22 One State / Two State solution
29:22 – 32:25 Settlers/IDF having left Gaza
32:35 – 36:30 Rights of the refugees to return
36:30 – 41:00 Back to One State vs a Binational State
41:00 – 50:00 BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions)
50:00 – 52:25 South Africa Comparison (Boycott and Pariah State)
52:25 – end Back to BDS movement

Second one by Miko Peled who supports a one-state solution as being the only possible choice:

1. 0:00-0:30 Introduction and preliminaries

2. 0:30-1:30 disclaimer about him not being balanced

3. 1:30-5:37 myth and double standard about this issue
3.a. 1:43-4:04 The right of return Jews vs Palestinians (double standard)
3.b. 4:04-5:37 King David and his descendants (myth)

4. 5:37-26:50 A little bit of history
4.a. 5:37-12:30 1947 United Nations partition plan and 1948 war
4.b. 12:30-23:00 1967 6 day war (erasing Palestine from the map)
4.c. 23:00-24:30 Mid-1970s genesis of the two-state solution
4.d. 24:30-26:10 1993 when the Israeli government became willing to negotiate with the Palestinians
4.e. 26:10-26:50 year 2000, camp David

5. 26:50-27:55 Myth that Palestinians are not willing to make concessions

6. 27:55-31:30 Death of his 13 year old niece at the hands of Palestinian terrorists

7. 31:30-47:00 Doing something about it
7.a.31:30-33:50 Learning about the truth from Palestinian community
7.b.33:50-37:04 Becoming active (area A forbidden to Israelis, racism and hatred, and maintaining priviledge)
7.c.37:04-39:10 Legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle
39:10-40:40 How do two nations share a country? (one-state vs two-state)
40:40-42:10 Three sets of laws (Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in occupied territories) and racism
42:10-44:00 Israeli army as a terrorist organization
44:00-47:00 How we go from here, example of Apartheid in South Africa, example of racism in Southern American States

Who is to blame for Operation Protective Edge? (Kenyan vs Canadian perspective)

Here are two articles about the causes of the current conflict in Israel/Palestine.

First from Kenya:
Israeli incursion in Gaza manifestly unjust

vs the following from Canada:
Iran’s fingerprints all over Hamas-Israel conflict

In brief the Kenyan article blames the blockade of Gaza, which was in effect before Hamas come to power, and the occupation of Palestine which has been going on for over 60 years, and American and Israeli rejectionism.

The Canadian article blames Iran for financing and arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad, without a word about American financing and arming of Israel, the blockade of Gaza or the occupation of Palestine.

I find the Canadian article doubly shameful because it is written by an Iranian-Canadian who considers herself a human rights activist.

Denouncing human rights violations by others (Iran) is hypocritical when we ignore human rights violation by one’s own side (Israel, and its supporters America and Canada). In this case it is worse, since we are using the former to hide the second.

Why Hamas Shoots Rockets

Note/Warning the following was published on Wednesday July 16th 2014. As of now there are over 200 Palestinian fatalities, and 1 direct Israeli fatality and 1 indirect fatality (heart attack from bomb siren). If things change in any way the thoughts below will not be relevant. And I expect there will be a change in public perception.

This article is my attempt to answer the puzzling question: Why does Hamas fire rockets, when it basically just confirms that they are terrorists, and isn’t this one of those few situations in life where they would be better off just doing nothing?

Basically I think the Hamas rockets have to do with Gandhi’s strategy of non-violence.

According to a short book that Norman Finkelstein wrote about Gandhi, he is very much misunderstood today. He didn’t mean by non-violence that you should be passive and hold a sign or something. He thought you should walk towards soldiers unarmed and with a smile on your face and get your brains blown out. And if you couldn’t do that, then you should fight.

Basically in politics there are two things that matter to get people to support your cause:
1. They have to approve of your cause.
2. They have to approve of your methods.

For example you can go on a hunger strike and no one will say that your methods are immoral, or that the ends don’t justify the means. But if they deeply object to your cause (say you’re going on hunger strike until homosexuality is re-criminalized), they will be happy to watch you die.

Now the ideal thing would be for the Palestinians to taunt the Israelis in a non-violent way or minimally violent way (throw rocks at soldiers or something). The problem is that the people who do that are young men, and the Israelis grab them, throw them in prison, throw away the key and no one hears about them. (Also in Gaza there are no Israeli soldiers within reach, they are policed from the outside).

But what they are doing now is perhaps the next closest thing.

In a strictly logical way attempted murder is as bad as murder. The fact that you fail to kill your intended victim, shouldn’t logically make you any less worthy of punishment. At least if the purpose of criminal punishment is to prevent further crimes. However this is not how human morality works. As is evidenced by the huge difference in jail time for the two crimes in almost all places. In a very rough way the rule is though shalt not kill, not “though shalt not try to kill”.

So when there are about 200 Palestinians killed 77% of which are civilians, with 1390 wounded. But on the Israeli side there’s 1 civilian killed and 27 wounded (21 of which are civilians). No matter how the media plays it they just can’t get any sympathy for the Israeli side, from a person who would naturally be sympathetic to the Palestinians. Remember the two points about politics above, people have to 2. approve of your methods, but first they have to 1. approve of your cause. People who view Israel as a new crusader state (as a positive thing) ridding the world of Muslim terrorists (I exaggerate but you get my point) are not going to care, but people who view Israeli rule of the Palestinians as fundamentally unjust will be moved.

I think an important point is a contrast with the 2006 war with Lebanon. I remember watching the round the clock CNN coverage of that conflict where each rocket landing in Israel was shown on the screen (with the Lebanese casualties, almost entirely ignored). But then 44 Israeli civilians died, (while about 1191 Lebanese civilians died). I think at least to me, most people are willing to believe that their government would go to war for 44 deaths in their country, but that their government would not kill 200 people for 1 death (which might well not have happened if the war had not been started).

In this sense I think the intensive promotion of the Iron Dome missile defense as an incredibly effective game changing system is counter-productive to the Israeli struggle to win in the court of public opinion. Because the perception that most of the rockets are getting shot out of the sky completely eliminates the cost of this type of war in the eyes of the international public. And in fact turns it from a war, into something completely different, a kind of one sided murder. So the question becomes, how many people living under your oppression would you kill to keep your citizens from being woken by bomb sirens? A question that makes you want to throw up. (although to be fair bomb sirens did lead to an Israeli lady having a fatal heart attack.)

Which is the only way I can explain the dramatically different coverage of the current conflict. It is hard to find a “hard” pro-Israel line in the mainstream press, e.g. Time Magazine, The New York Times, CNN, etc. (I basically can post the first hit I find on Google news onto Facebook, without having to sift for a “fair” article). It simply can’t be spun that way without lying. I mean they try to word titles a certain way, play with sentences a little, but the basic facts don’t lead to any kind of heroic narrative. (well except for CBC here in Canada, which still seems a little too biased to me)

For example compare Time Magazine:
http://time.com/2986107/israel-gaza-hamas-ceasefire/
Title: Why the Israel-Gaza Cease-Fire Failed
Subtitle (and reason for Hamas rejection): Hamas felt it wasn’t
consulted properly by the Egyptians brokering the truce — and that it
could have been offered more

With CBC:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/hamas-mortar-kills-1st-israeli-in-renewed-gaza-conflict-1.2707102

Title: Hamas mortar kills 1st Israeli in renewed Gaza conflict
Subtitle: Hamas claims responsibility for deadly attack after man
delivering food to soldiers is killed
Reason for Hamas rejection: Pretty much the same but halfway through the
article:
“Hamas officials on Tuesday rejected the Egyptian plan as is, noting
they weren’t consulted by Cairo. Some portrayed the truce offer as an
ultimatum presented to Hamas by Israel and Egypt.” and:
“Hamas seeks blockade easing”

The Pro-settler Perspective on a Solution to the Current Conflict in Gaza

This is the pro-settler perspective on a solution to the current conflict:
Roughly kick out all the Gazans into Sinai in Egypt, conquer Gaza (with no consideration other than minimizing Israeli casualties) and finally repopulate with Jews.

“Conquer – After the IDF completes the “softening” of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.”

“Sovereignty – Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15326#.U8W_b_ldVBl

Incidentally this is written by Israeli MK Moshe Feiglin (the Wikipedia page is worth a read):
“He is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Knesset Member, and head of the Manhigut Yehudit (“Jewish Leadership”) faction of Israel’s governing Likud party. ”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Feiglin

BBC Interview with Norman Finkelstein on Gaza

BBC Persian did an interview with Norman Finkelstein (an American author) about the current conflict in Gaza, and despite their promise to publish the interview on the English language website, they have refused to do so, citing technical problems. Originally they claimed they didn’t have the audio. Then when Finkelstein suggested subtitles they said they didn’t have anyone to translate back to English. So I translated it to English and added in the subtitles. I still doubt whether they will publish it
after all.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they chose not to air the interview at all, but to publish it in Iran, and in Persian, and not in English, makes it into a sort of propaganda to make BBC look better in the eyes of Iranians (more critical of Israel) while having their regular coverage at home (less critical). (kind of like a VOA style thing)

In any case the video is available here (if you are interested):

The full transcript is available in the comments.

But here it is anyways:
Here’s the updated English transcript:
0:00-3:10

Q: Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science and author of the book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, from New York.

What’s the reality of the current conflict? What is Israel’s goal in this high casualty war?

Norm:
The attack against Hamas started because Hamas joined the Palestinian Unity government.

Hamas had accepted the conditions stipulated by the US and EU.

Hamas accepted these conditions and agreed to form a National Unity government.

Prime Minister Netanyahu exploited the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers as a pretext – – it’s a pretext because no one knows who was behind the abduction and killing – – to attack Hamas and break up the Unity government, so as to give Israel a new excuse not to pursue peace negotiations.

At first Israel said it couldn’t negotiate with the Palestinian Authority because the PA didn’t represent all of the Palestinian people.

But if the Unity government went ahead, then this excuse would have been removed.
An Israeli political scientist once termed this sort of panicky Israeli reaction, the fear of a Palestinian “peace offensive,” because it eliminates Israel’s excuse for not negotiating a settlement.

That was phase one, we are now entering phase two.

The Israeli government knows that if it launches a ground invasion, it will face a big dilemma, because Israeli troops will suffer a large number of casualties.

During the 2008-9 Israeli massacre in Gaza, it destroyed everything in sight in order to avoid combatant deaths.

But if Israel once again tries to destroy everything in sight, the international community won’t allow it…[interrupted by question]

3:10-5:10:
Q: [interrupted by question]
Mr Finkelstein you are pointing out that Israelis don’t want peace when in fact it is these Israelis who see themselves as being targets of Hamas rockets which people, which country in the world doesn’t want peace and doesn’t want to live in peace and quiet?

Norm: Israel wants peace. Every country wants peace.

Every aggressor in history wanted peace.

The question is what kind of peace? Peace under what conditions?

Israel says it has a right to defend itself.

The British government and the BBC support this right of self-defense in the face of Hamas’s primitive rocket attacks.

But Israel is not demanding the right of self-defense.

Israel is demanding the right to maintain the occupation, and the right to kill Palestinians who resist the occupation.

The first right is, the right to continue the occupation, and the second right is to kill Palestinians who resist the occupation.

On the other side, Palestinians are given two rights, the right to die slowly under the blockade of Gaza, the merciless, cynical, heartless blockade of Gaza, or the right to die quickly under Israel’s murderous assault

[interrupted by question, translator stops]

5:10-7:18:
Q: Mr. Finkelstein before this interview we had an interview with a Hamas spokesperson the Hamas spokesperson said “we don’t recognize Israel.”

Many Israelis and Israeli officials say how can we live beside a group that is armed, and has a territory under its control and doesn’t recognize our right to live.

Norm: I think you’re having a problem listening to me, but I think my English is pretty clear. We can surely both agree that a Unity government was formed.

Hamas agreed to the conditions of this Unity government, conditions that were stipulated by the US and EU.

So what’s the problem with negotiating with them?

The problem is Israel doesn’t want to negotiate.

This is why Israel went on a rampage in the West Bank after the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers.

They arrested 750 Palestinians, killed 11 civilians, including 4 children, wrecked people’s homes.

All this was to evoke a reaction from Hamas, so that Israel could avoid negotiations.
Now I ask you, If the Unity government was formed, and the US and EU agreed to negotiate with the Unity government, what prevented a settlement? You say it was Hamas. But that just makes you an apologist for Israel, because the US and EU agreed to negotiate with the Unity government. Why are you being an apologist for Israel? [interrupted by question]

7:18-end
Q: Mr Finkelstein I brought up the Israeli point of view, we are not in a position to take sides, to support or denounce either side, we’re an impartial source. You have written books about the conflict between Israel and Palestine and have worked and researched in this field. This current situation what effect could it have on Israel? Please answer briefly, thank you.

Norm: If Israel launches a ground invasion, it has to destroy everything in sight, because Israeli society won’t tolerate combatant casualties.

Israelis like high-tech massacres, they don’t want an actual war and to see their own casualties.

But Israel can’t destroy everything in sight, because after the 2008-9 massacre — when 1400 Palestinians were killed, up to 1200 of whom were civilians, while on the Israeli side 13 were killed, and only 3 were civilians– the international community will not tolerate such a bloodbath on the part of Israel. Israel can’t stop the Hamas rocket attacks without an invasion, but it can’t invade without causing massive death and destruction, which the international community won’t allow.

Here I want to echo what Amnesty International said. First, there should be a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel and Palestine.

Second, there should be an international investigation of the war crimes committed on both sides.

And third–this is my suggestion, not Amnesty’s, and it’s the most important–the international community should impose sanctions on Israel until and unless Israel agrees to end this conflict, once and for all, under the terms of international law.

This demand is simple, clear, and unassailable. Israel must end the conflict under the terms of international law.

Israel does not have the right to go into Gaza every few years and – – to use their hideous expression – -“mow the lawn.”

The days of Israel mowing the lawn must end. And Israel should be subjected to sanctions until and unless it ends the conflict on the basis of international law.

Q: Norman Finkelstein American political scientist and author of the book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, I thank you for your presence on
this show.