Victory for Israelis: you all think we're the victims UPDATE No we don't!

November 22, 2012
Sarah Benton

Latest update: 13.56, 25 November.

Palestinians celebrate what they call a victory over Israel in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 22 November. Photo by Issam Rimawi/APA images.  From Palestinians in Gaza celebrate victory, mourn those lost, Electronic Intifada.

In this post
There has been surprisingly little comment on Israel’s de facto recognition of Hamas and Ismail Haniyeh as the government of Gaza .  But apart from Amira Hass’s perceptive but despondent piece, 1st, the tone outside Israel is quite different.

This is seen in the summary of commentaries by Editorial Intelligence — ei digest; 2nd, Owen Jones’ remarks about the Israel/Gaza conflict on Question Time in a youtube clip and Liz Lockhead’s defence of cultural boycott on Radio 4 ; 3rd, Chris McGreal, Guardian, 4th, the poll reported in the Huffingon Post – showing the familiar gulf between support by the elderly for Israel and uncertainty or divided opinion amongst younger people – 5th, and a BBC report of jubilation in Gaza, probably because they had held Israel to a ceasefire.

These all show that, for the first time, Palestinians and Gaza have forced their way onto the world stage and international recognition.

There are also doubts outside Israel about whether Israel’s onslaught on Gaza can legitimately be regarded as self-defence. See Israel/Gaza, an enclave where laws of war do not reach

Israel’s ‘right to self-defense’ – a tremendous propaganda victory

By supporting Israel’s offensive on Gaza, Western leaders have given the Israelis carte blanche to do what they’re best at: Wallow in their sense of victimhood and ignore Palestinian suffering.

By Amira Hass, Ha’aretz
November 19, 2012

One of Israel’s tremendous propaganda victories is that it has been accepted as a victim of the Palestinians, both in the view of the Israeli public and that of Western leaders who hasten to speak of Israel’s right to defend itself. The propaganda is so effective that only the Palestinian rockets at the south of Israel, and now at Tel Aviv, are counted in the round of hostilities. The rockets, or damage to the holiest of holies – a military jeep – are always seen as a starting point, and together with the terrifying siren, as if taken from a World War II movie, build the meta-narrative of the victim entitled to defend itself.

Every day, indeed every moment, this meta-narrative allows Israel to add another link to the chain of dispossession of a nation as old as the state itself, while at the same time managing to hide the fact that one continuous thread runs from the 1948 refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, the early 1950s expulsion of Bedouin from the Negev desert, the current expulsion of Bedouin from the Jordan Valley, ranches for Jews in the Negev, discrimination in budgets in Israel, and shooting at Gazan fishermen to keep them from earning a respectable living. Millions of such continuous threads link 1948 to the present. They are the fabric of life for the Palestinian nation, as divided as it may be in isolated pockets. They are the fabric of life of Palestinian citizens of Israel and of those who live in their lands of exile.

But these threads are not the entire fabric of life. The resistance to the threads that we, the Israelis, endlessly spin is also part of the fabric of life for Palestinians. The word resistance has been debased to mean the very masculine competition of whose missile will explode furthest away (a competition among Palestinian organizations, and between them and the established Israeli army ). It does not invalidate the fact that, in essence, resistance to the injustice inherent in Israeli domination is an inseparable part of life for each and every Palestinian.

The foreign and international development ministries in the West and in the United States knowingly collaborate with the mendacious representation of Israel as victim, if only because every week they receive reports from their representatives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip about yet another link of dispossession and oppression that Israel has added to the chain, or because their own taxpayers’ money make up for some of the humanitarian disasters, large and small, inflicted by Israel.

On November 8, two days before the attack on the holiest of holies – soldiers in a military jeep – they could have read about IDF soldiers killing 13-year old Ahmad Abu Daqqa, who was playing soccer with his friends in the village of Abassan, east of Khan Yunis. The soldiers were 1.5 kilometers from the kids, inside the Gaza Strip area, busy with “exposing” (a whitewashed word for destroying ) agricultural land. So why shouldn’t the count of aggression start with a child? On November 10, after the attack on the jeep, the IDF killed another four civilians, aged 16 to 19.

Wallowing in ignorance
Leaders of the West could have known that, before the IDF’s exercise last week in the Jordan Valley, dozens of Bedouin families were told to evacuate their homes. How extraordinary that IDF training always occurs where Bedouin live, not Israeli settlers, and that it constitutes a reason to expel them. Another reason. Another expulsion. The leaders of the West could also have known, based on the full-color, chrome-paper reports their countries finance, that since the beginning of 2012, Israel has destroyed 569 Palestinian buildings and structures, including wells and 178 residences. In all, 1,014 people were affected by those demolitions.

We haven’t heard masses of Tel Aviv and southern residents warning the stewards of the state about the ramifications of this destruction on the civilian population. The Israelis cheerfully wallow in their ignorance. This information and other similar facts are available and accessible to anyone who’s really interested. But Israelis choose not to know. This willed ignorance is a foundation stone in the building of Israel’s sense of victimization. But ignorance is ignorance: The fact that Israelis don’t want to know what they are doing as an occupying power doesn’t negate their deeds or Palestinian resistance.

In 1993, the Palestinians gave Israel a gift, a golden opportunity to cut the threads tying 1948 to the present, to abandon the country’s characteristics of colonial dispossession, and together plan a different future for the two peoples in the region. The Palestinian generation that accepted the Oslo Accords (full of traps laid by smart Israeli lawyers ) is the generation that got to know a multifaceted, even normal, Israeli society because the 1967 occupation allowed it (for the purpose of supplying cheap labor ) almost full freedom of movement. The Palestinians agreed to a settlement based on their minimum demands. One of the pillars of these minimum demands was treating the Gaza Strip and West Bank as a single territorial entity.

But once the implementation of Oslo started, Israel systematically did everything it could to make the Gaza Strip into a separate, disconnected entity, as part of Israel’s insistence on maintaining the threads of 1948 and extending them. Since the rise of Hamas, it has done everything to back up the impression Hamas prefers – that the Gaza Strip is a separate political entity where there is no occupation. If that is so, why not look at things as follows: As a separate political entity, any incursion into Gazan territory is an infringement of its sovereignty, and Israel does this all the time. Does the government of the state of Gaza not have the right to respond, to deter, or at least the masculine right – a twin of the IDF’s masculine right – to scare the Israelis just as Israel scares the Palestinians?

But Gaza is not a state. Gaza is under Israeli occupation, despite all the verbal acrobatics of both Hamas and Israel. The Palestinians who live there are part of a people whose DNA contains resistance to oppression.

In the West Bank, Palestinian activists try to develop a type of resistance different from the masculine, armed resistance. But the IDF puts down all popular resistance with zeal and resolve. We haven’t heard of residents of Tel Aviv and the south complaining about the balance of deterrence the IDF is building against the civilian Palestinian population.

And so Israel again provides reasons for more young Palestinians, for whom Israel is an abnormal society of army and settlers, to conclude that the only rational resistance is spilled blood and counter-terrorizing. And so every Israeli link of oppression and all Israeli disregard of the oppression’s existence drags us further down the slope of masculine competition.

Gaza Ceasefire: Top story in UK and US commentaries
By ei digest, London
November 23, 2012

The FT’s Philip Stephens thinks the time has come for Europeans to leave the sidelines. Instead of whispering behind their hands, they should say publicly what they agree privately. After all, they need do no more than take Mr Olmert’s script: Israel’s security and democracy cannot indefinitely survive the subjugation of Palestinians. One way to start would be to offer European backing for Palestinian statehood at the UN. If there is a single lesson from the tumultuous events of the past few years, it is that the era of the armed reactionary is coming to a close.

In the Daily Telegraph Jane Kinninmont, the senior research fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, believes that another round of conflict between Israel and Gaza has killed more than 100 people and caused immense destruction. But there may be an unlikely winner: Egypt.

In the Guardian author Joshua Sobol says the Israeli left’s task now is to question why our government did not work out a better agreement with Hamas after it bartered 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit a year ago. This may also be an opportunity for the left in Europe to encourage friendly parties in the Arab world to use the current momentum to promote a comprehensive peace.

In The Times Philip Collins says the worst aspect of Israeli economic policy is that, by closing down Gaza’s exports to Israel and the West Bank, the blockade is destroying the emerging independent business class. This is, over time, a tragedy.

In The Wall Street Journal Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society, thinks the only winners of this latest round have been the now considerably legitimized Muslim Brotherhood. The losers are all those who believe that in a war between a nation-state and a terror group, the nation-state should be allowed, even once, to do what it needs to win.

The International Herald Tribune’s Roger Cohen says another Gaza flare-up is over — for now. At least 150 Palestinians are dead. Five Israelis are dead. More bloodshed and scars have been inscribed in the 64-year-old conflict’s Book of Unforgiving. To what end?

Follow Editorial Intelligence @eidigest for daily UK comment summary.

Loud applause for panellist putting Palestinians’ case
BBC1 Question time/youtube.
November 22, 2012

The four person panel was asked if Israel was justified in their response to months of rocket fire from Hamas. The first response was from Charles Kennedy, LibDem MP who gave the establishment view: Israel had a right to defend itself but the only answer was negotiation for a 2-state solution.

The audience applause for Owen Jones began with his first remark – that he was disappointed in what Kennedy had said. And continued loudly through his short and succinct laying out of the Palestinians’ case.

Watch/hear Owen Jones breaking with the establishment consensus on BBC Question Time –

Owen Jones is a columnist for The Independent. He was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport. After graduating, he worked as a trade union and parliamentary researcher. His first book, ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’, was published in June 2011. He is currently working on his second book, on the British Establishment, for Penguin.

Liz Lockhead defends cultural boycott
PM, BBC Radio 4
November 24, 2012

Not on the Gaza conflict, but worth listening to: a dance enthusiast who admires the Batsheva dance company contacted Radio 4’s Saturday PM (which takes up listeners’ suggestions for news stories) to put the case against cultural boycott (culture brings people together). The programme invited Liz Lockhead, Scotland’s National Poet to respond. She explains why after a visit to Palestine she found the condions so oppressive she had changed her mind and now supported cultural boycott. She has made the case before in the newspaper Herald Scotland.

Hamas emerges stronger from Gaza war after Israel ceasefire deal

The Islamist group is perceived by many Palestinians as the victor of a war provoked by Binyamin Netanyahu, and is being embraced by leaders of a new Arab world after years of isolation

By Chris McGreal in Gaza City,
November 22, 2012

It might not look like victory. Dozens of dead children among nearly 100 civilians killed. Hundreds more injured, some condemned to a life of struggle by terrible wounds. Houses flattened. Bridges, offices and stadiums blown to bits.

But as life returns to what passes for normality on the streets of Gaza – once again clogged with people and traffic even as the Israeli drones continue to buzz overhead – many Palestinians regard the ceasefire that put an end to more than a week of incessant bombing and shelling as an Israeli surrender.

The victor, they say, is Hamas, which faced down Israeli aggression and has emerged from years of diplomatic isolation to be embraced, if tentatively, by the leaders of a new Arab world. The lesson learned is that standing up to Israel delivers results that years of concessions under US peace plans and drawn-out negotiations have not.

Western leaders from Barack Obama to David Cameron rushed to blame the bloody upsurge of violence in Gaza on Hamas and other armed groups firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, but Palestinians have a different take. The common view in Gaza is that the conflict was a war of choice by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Mkhaimer Abusader, a political scientist at Gaza’s Azhar University, said there was a widespread belief that Netanyahu ordered the killing last week of the Hamas military chief, Ahmed al-Jaabari, to provoke a confrontation and launch a military operation in order to make himself look strong in the runup to elections in January.

Opinion polls showed many Israelis favoured an invasion of Gaza to follow the air and sea bombardment. That Netanyahu did not order one is regarded in Gaza as evidence he was deterred by the scale of resistance by Hamas and other armed groups, even in the face of much larger Israeli retaliation, which surprised Palestinians.

“Palestinians were very happy to see rockets landing on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time. It may be crazy but there’s admiration that Hamas was able to manufacture long-range missiles and deter Israel,” said Abusader. “Palestinians believe the Israelis were begging for a ceasefire. The conclusion Palestinians reach is that the way to get results is resistance, is to make the occupation costly to Israel.”

The ceasefire deal may not have got Hamas all that it wanted, but there is a commitment by Israel to ease the blockade that was imposed to break the Islamist group, and to end the kind of “targeted assassinations” that killed Jaabari. There is plenty of scepticism that Israel will deliver or that the truce will last, but the crisis has shifted the diplomatic ground by breaking the international isolation of Hamas imposed by the US and Europeans.

Change was in the offing, driven by the Arab spring, not least in Egypt, where there is a new government more openly critical of Israel than its US-allied predecessor. Israel has alienated its only real friend in the region, Turkey, over the Israeli military’s attack on the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in which eight Turks were killed.

It was no coincidence that the first stream of regional political heavyweights to visit Gaza in more than a decade was led by the Egyptian prime minister and the Tunisian and Turkish foreign ministers. Scenes of the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, shedding tears in a Gaza City hospital over dead children, and saying he stood in “solidarity with the Palestinian nation’s suffering”, were read in Gaza as proof they were no longer alone.

Talal Okal was for many years among the leaders in Gaza of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, a secular leftwing organisation decidedly different from Hamas. “I am anti-Hamas. I am democratic. I am secular. But I admire what Hamas has done because they showed they were working underground secretly to challenge the Israelis,” he said. “Now we are facing Israel from a better position. We don’t have a balance of power with Israel. But now, because of Hamas, we have influence in the region and that makes a better situation.”

But Okal said Hamas was still divided over how to take advantage. Its external leadership, led by Khaled Meshaal, has embraced the Arab spring as an opportunity for Gaza to declare autonomy. Hamas leaders in Gaza, led by the prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, remain allied with Iran and Syria, with an eye on extending power to the West Bank.

Okal said that from his conversations with Haniyeh he thought there was growing confidence in Hamas that it could widen its support among Palestinians. “I used to think Hamas is going to have a state in the Gaza Strip. But now I think Hamas is headed toward reuniting the Palestinian establishment pushed by the hope it will be in control [of Gaza and the West Bank],” he said.

That may be wishful thinking given the growing disillusionment among many people in Gaza with Hamas before the latest fighting. “Before the war erupted, Hamas was under a lot of criticism,” said Abusader. “Hamas was accused of corruption, smuggling, mismanaging revenues, issues of land management. That’s why Hamas had a government reshuffle a month ago.”

But that criticism has been silenced for now, and there was open support in the West Bank – where the Palestinian leadership there is often seen as weak for its emphasis on negotiation – for Hamas for fighting back against Israel.

Hamas’s political gains are at the expense of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Hamas’s rival, Fatah. He was all but irrelevant in the recent crisis, with Hamas centre stage in the Arab world. On Thursday, Abbas was forced into a humiliating call to Haniyeh to congratulate him on his “victory”.

The past week has been a severe blow to Abbas’s strategy to bring about a Palestinian state. He has renounced violence and committed to a negotiated peace with Israel. He has followed the obstacle course laid out by the US and Europeans, and supervised by Tony Blair, of “institution-building” and security co-operation with Israel, with the promise of a Palestinian state dangling at some undefined point in the future.

The result, as many Palestinians see it, is that Netanyahu has ignored and humiliated Abbas and continued Israel’s expansionism with yet more Jewish settlement construction and measures to reaffirm Israeli control over all of Jerusalem and great chunks of the West Bank.

The lesson many in the occupied territories have taken away from the past week is that standing up to Israel brings results. “The model that the US, Europe and Israel promote of giving the Palestinian Authority financial support to build institutions hasn’t worked. What you see is more Israeli settlement expansion, more measures to make a two-state solution more difficult,” said Abusader.

The latest crisis puts pressure on Abbas over his plan to ask the UN general assembly to effectively recognise Palestinian statehood next week. Washington and European governments, which blocked a similar move at the UN security council a year ago, are telling Abbas the move will damage the prospects for peace. Israel is threatening to annul all or some of the Oslo peace accords if he goes ahead.

But after the past week, the greater danger to his leadership may be how Hamas will exploit the situation if he does not. “I think that if Abbas fails to upgrade Palestinian representation at the UN, that will be the end of him,” said Abusader.

Israel-Gaza poll: American Opinion Divided On Conflict

By Ariel Edwards-Levy, Huffington Post
November 21, 2012

Israel and Hamas announced a cease-fire Wednesday after a week of intensified violence. But the cease-fire may do little to quell the conflict’s partisan dimensions in the U.S., where attitudes divide sharply along age and party lines, a HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. Americans support Israel over the Palestinians by a 27-point margin, but while Republicans and those over 65 are steadfastly supportive of Israel, others are less inclined to take a side.

The online poll, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday before the announcement, found deeply divided opinions and little certainty about Israel’s recent military action in Gaza, with 40 percent supporting it, 23 percent opposing it and 37 percent not sure. Reactions were similarly split to the possibility of an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza, with Americans about equally likely to back the idea, oppose it or have no opinion.

More broadly, 36 percent of Americans said they sympathize more with Israel and 9 percent more with the Palestinians — roughly the same as in an Economist/YouGov poll from March, when Israeli worries about a nuclear-armed Iran made headlines. Another 13 percent said they sympathized with both sides, while 24 percent said neither side and 18 percent were unsure.

Two-thirds of Republicans said they sympathized with Israel, and just 2 percent with the Palestinians. Democrats, by contrast, were equally inclined to support Israel, both sides or neither, and only slightly less likely to sympathize mainly with the Palestinians.

Americans over 65 were also firmly in Israel’s camp, while those under 30 were most likely to express no opinion or sympathy for either group.

Americans who stood behind either side were likely to suspect the president disagreed with them. A majority of Israel’s supporters said President Obama sympathized with the Palestinians, while a plurality of Palestinian supporters said he backed Israel. Half of Republicans thought Obama was closer to the Palestinian side, compared to 4 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independents.

Overall, an identical 22 percent of Americans said that Obama sympathized more with Israel, or more with the Palestinians.

Speaking to reporters last weekend, Obama said the U.S. was “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself,” but warned against further escalation, which he said could seriously derail any peace process.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll interviewed 1,000 adults online between Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, with a 4.5 percent margin of error. It used a sample that was selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

Gaza and Israel begin to resume normal life after truce

By BBC News
November 22, 2012

The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza City says the city was transformed overnight, as people who had spent days sheltering from air strikes and shelling flooded into the streets, some of them firing weapons into the air in celebration.

Hamas declared Thursday a public holiday to mark what it called a victory over Israel.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniya told a large rally in Gaza City: “The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return.”

However, he also urged militants to respect the truce.

There were traffic jams on the streets, shops opened for business and queues formed at banks and cash machines. Cleaning and repair work was also being carried out on the many buildings damaged by air strikes.

“The situation is very good today, we’ve returned back to work as normal,” vegetable stall owner Hani Hamadeh told Reuters.

Ashraf Diaa, an engineer from Gaza City, told Associated Press: “Today is different, the morning coffee tastes different and I feel we are off to a new start.”

The BBC’s Ben Brown, in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, says the mood on that side of the border was more subdued; he says one television opinion poll suggests 70% of Israelis were against the ceasefire.

Both sides have said they will retaliate if the other breaks the truce.

“If Israel complies, we are compliant. If it does not comply, our hands are on the trigger,” said Hamas’s exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, at a news conference in Cairo.

Israeli media quoted Defence Minister Ehud Barak as saying that the truce was not a formal agreement but a set of understandings.

It “could last nine days or nine weeks or more but if it doesn’t hold, we know what to do and of course, we will consider the possibility of resuming our activity if there is any firing or provocations”, he told Israeli public radio.

Israel’s armed forces chief of staff, Lt Gen Benny Gantz, said the campaign had “hit Hamas hard” and had “accomplished its purposes and goals”.

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said on Thursday that the Tel Aviv bus bomb suspect had been arrested and was “an Arab-Israeli from Taybe and a member of Hamas”.

Israel’s separate arrests in the West Bank followed a series of angry protests over Israel’s operation in Gaza. Two protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the arrested people were all affiliated with terror groups and included a number of “senior level operatives”.

The arrests, including 13 in Hebron, were part of efforts to “restore calm” to the area, said the IDF.

In its first statement since the current flare-up began, the UN Security Council on Wednesday called on Israel and Hamas to uphold the agreement, and commended Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and others involved in the diplomatic effort.

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