It's the same in any lingo

בַּת-בָּבֶל, הַשְּׁדוּדָה: אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם-לָךְ-- אֶת-גְּמוּלֵךְ, שֶׁגָּמַלְתּ לָנוּ
אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיֹּאחֵז וְנִפֵּץ אֶת-עֹלָלַיִךְ-- אֶל-הַסָּלַע

How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the master's bidding. He may torture me, break my bones to atoms and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obedience. Ultimately, therefore, it is I who am the victor and not he, for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? If not now, when? ~ Rav Hillel, Pirke Avot

This Red Sea Pedestrian Stands against Judeophobes

This Red Sea Pedestrian Stands against Judeophobes
Wear It With Pride

28 December 2008

Lions, Lambs, Shams, and Scams: The Israeli/Palestinian Morass, An Introduction

At the outset I will say that this is a difficult subject to present, and is a touchy subject for many. I am not addressing all aspects in this post. I am simply setting the stage for a broader examination of the problem. Matters of history are complex, and not very well known by much of the public. A good primer for the setting of the stage that is this mess, one should read David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace. The Middle East is an international relations disaster that European powers are very much responsible for making. I hope to shed some light on the current situation. You will be asked to challenge your assumptions and move beyond bias, regardless of what side you think you are on. Peace and human rights must be the goal, and those rights are universal. They are not meant for Arabs or Jews. They are meant for both.


With the renewed violence in Gaza, initiated by increased Hamas rocket fire and shelling over recent weeks, I have been thinking about how to approach the issue of addressing this chronic problem. The biggest psychological barrier for people is realizing that while it is true that the Palestinian people are some of the most screwed people on earth, it is an uphill battle attempting to get people to realize that it is the Palestinian leadership that is very much responsible for the decline of the conditions in the territories since Oslo, and prior.

The Israeli government has allowed its own set of human rights violations in the territories which is not helping matters. One need only go to WITNESS to see video of Israeli soldiers using Arabs as human shields against rock throwers. Olive groves are torn up. Houses are bulldozed. The human rights violations by both sides is the subject of another post.

There is a tremendous sense of powerlessness that is felt by ordinary Palestinians. They are unwilling to turn to the Israelis as they are raised to hate them, don't trust them, or would risk being seen as collaborators, for which you will be openly executed in the streets. At the same time, they cannot turn to their so-called leaders as they force them to live life at gun point, embezzle the financial, and material aid they receive (Israel was the largest supplier of same until after 1993), and use their induced poverty as a propaganda weapon to raise more money from the international community; the PA received $7.5 billion in pledges last year from the international community. Has that money gone anywhere other than into the PA's pockets, used as bribes, kickbacks, etc? It was accepted that if Israel did not loosen travel restrictions the economy would continue to collapse, regardless of the aid. But could restrictions be lifted when Mahmoud Abbas was not disarming the Al Aqsa Martyrs, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP...? Michael Eisenstadt writes that the Palestinian Authority suffers from, "the four Fs": fawda (chaos),fitna (strife), falatan (lawlessness), and fassad (corruption)." If you look up the word "screwed" in the dictionary there would be a picture of Palestinians.

Then you have towns like S'derot in the Negev which has been under constant Hamas rocket fire. Fatalities are not very high considering, but this is a community that lives in a state of perpetual post traumatic stress. Having to run to bomb shelters every day when you have precious little warning that rockets are coming is how the children of S'derot are being raised, much like the children of the kibbutzim in Northern Israel were raised for a generation; sleeping and being schooled in bomb shelters to stay protected from Syrian shelling from the Golan Heights.

The latest fiasco is the reports from Gaza that medical necessities are in short supply, even though Israel, and the Red Cross have delivered medical essentials over the past several weeks, and Israel, though it has kept the border crossings largely closed, has coordinated medical convoys with the Palestinian Authority, and the WHO for quite some time. In the meantime, Egyptian medical personal are reporting that Hamas has sealed the border with Egypt and is not allowing any wounded to go there to seek medical attention. Why would you deny access to treatment to your own people if supplies are so limited? And why, if supplies have been delivered, and Hamas has them, are people wanting to go to Egypt for treatment? Supplies were delivered. Where are they?

Reports tonight state that the Gaza border has been breached in 5 areas along the Egyptian border. The Egyptian military is hard pressed to control the flood. Mahmoud Abbas is stating that his Palestinian Authority (Fatah) is responsible for the Palestinians, not Hamas according to the linked article. I have suspected that this move to crush Hamas by Israel is part of a plan to reinstall Fatah in Gaza. Though Fatah is corrupt, and is also theologically dedicated to destroying Israel, it is friendlier to Egypt (Hamas has been supporting the Islamic Brotherhood against Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt), and Abbas is willing to quell violence against Israel, if it's beneficial to him. So in the end this is not a solution, it is a door to more of the same, which includes no peace, and the Palestinians continuing to be screwed by Fatah. Are you confused yet? This is a bona fide mess.

Then there is the constant anti-Jewish propaganda machine in the territories. The only thing I can really compare this to is Czarist Russia. The Czars absconded with any and all wealth, while keeping their people poverty stricken. In the meantime there was government-generated propaganda against the Jews like the blood libel story of how Jews kill Christian children so they can take their blood to use in making matzah. Pogroms were also government sanctioned. All of this made the Jews the enemy, not the aristocracy. The legend lives in Russia today. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas do the same things. The blood libel story is reenacted on television on children's shows in Lebanon (it seems to no longer be available, but I watched a couple years ago and it is gruesome, I will try and find it), and appears in Arab print media. I will elaborate on the propaganda machine later in the week.

How is Israel supposed to deal with a body politic that has, from its inception, been solely dedicated to her destruction, which is, on its own TV, raising the next generation of suicide bombers and Jew haters? Easing border restrictions and lifting roadblocks has consistently lead to more Israeli dead, which leads to more restrictions, which leads to more difficulties for the Palestinian people. Meanwhile the Palestinian leaders drive their BMW's and wear their Italian suits. Yassir Arafat's widow lives off of embezzeled money in a Parisian penthouse.

There is no black and white in this conflict. It is hard to know how to present this. Perhaps the first thing to do is deal with an issue that we are all familiar with: media bias.


Anonymous said...

Shtuey, I'm happy to have found this, linked from the Confluence. I'm also happy to see your comments on NQ. Thanks for trying to shed some light on this issue. I know it isn't easy. I'm just glad Israel is finally taking decisive action while seeming to have learned some lessons from the 2006 war. Whether or not it'll do any good is another issue but I think that doing nothing is more dangerous.

Shtuey said...

Apparently Israel has diminished Hamas' rocket launching ability for now. 130 rockets on Saturday down to a little over 20 on Sunday.

But like you said, it remains to be seen what good any of this will do. Inept leadership on both sides has screwed everyone so far. I see no sign this will change any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Shtuey, for your well written, interesting post which inmpressed me because only few will write unbiased about this. The topic is, to me and I am sure many others, emotionnally so "loaded" because of the hopeless prospect of gaining territory for peace.

May I say that I am confused at a higher level now?

What mostly provokes my sometimes angry sorrow is how Hamas uses his own people:

Hamas has located their supply of weapons in residential areas in houses where regular people live. Who would do this to their own? This is to victimize Palestinians, when Israel retaliates, to stir the anger against Israel (of Palestinians and in other countries); they use their own people as targets. Of course, many countries are outraged by the dimension of Israels retaliation - this is exactly what Hamas wanted.

Now I read here that they will not allow help get to their own people, for the same reasons I assume. It is just very difficult indeed to keep a clear picture of both sides, you are doing a good job at it and I will follow your writings. Thanks again.

Shtuey said...

Mirlo, thank you for your comment. If there is going to be a resolution to this conflict people are going to have to learn to shed their biases and see that freedom is a universal right, one that both Israelis and Palestinians desire.

Your characterization of Hamas tactics is sadly correct, and is one that has been employed by the PLO in the past. The exploitation of the Palestinian people by their leaders in mind, body, and spirit, has been an ongoing crime that has never really been addressed by the world community. Israel has not done well advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people on this score either, though it does comprehend the problem.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Shtuey. What a hopeless situation at this time!

Anonymous said...

I just went through the comments over at Confluence; will you post on this sight and then crosspost at Riverdaughters?

Shtuey said...

I will be putting up the posts at the Confluence and here at the same time, but will be at the Confluence as that is where most of the dialogue is happening, but please feel free to post here. There are quite a few readers here, but not as much dialogue so if you want to engage here that's fine too.

The next post will go up tomorrow evening.

Anonymous said...

I'm appalled at Larry Johnson's posts about this at No Quarter. I have no idea why he refuses to understand what's going on. I'm also appalled at some of the comments he gets there from lunatics and ignoramuses.

One thing that needs to be clearly spelled out is that Hamas is the enemy of peace. It's an obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. There can be no peace as long as Hamas remains in charge of Gaza. They've been doing nothing but prove that.

So, those on the peace-loving left want Israel to stop this campaign against Hamas? They want to stop the elimination of the enemies of peace? What utter nonsense.

I'm no great fan of the peace process since it led to the launching of the bloody intifada by Arafat after Oslo failed. Israelis are divided. Some don't want Judea and Samaria to be a part of Israel because they don't want a million more Arabs among Israel's population. Some don't want a 2-state solution because it could be a long-term threat to Israel's existence.

The only thing that's certain is that Hamas is a threat that needs to be eliminated. Iran has been trying to turn them into another Hezbollah by sending in arms and munitions. Israel is finally taking out the tunnels to Egypt's Sinai and underground rocket launchers.

Shtuey said...

I find it interesting, and very disturbing that a blog like No Quarter, which regularly condemns radical islamists, offers sympathy to Hamas when they represent the same values, commit the same acts of terror, and are in league with regimes like Iran that supply weapons and training to Islamic terror groups.

The world is full of hypocrisy. Why should No Quarter be any different?

Anonymous said...

great post schtuey. I think that too many people look at this issue through the prism of left/right politics in both the US and Europe. Too many so called "liberals" automatically assume that the Palestinians are the victims because the right in this country has always been such a staunch supporter of Israel (well, so has the left actually, but not as vocally I guess--and not in tandem with the religious right).

As for the left in Europe, I find that they regularly play favorites with the palestinians, and after living there for 3 years, its not difficult to understand why. Anti Semitism is alive and well in almost all of the so called socialist/liberal societies of Europe. Even enlightened ones such as Spain, where even gay marriage is legal. I was constantly being told by people that were educated, liberal, and "progressive" that the problem with America is that it was being run by a Zionist cabal, and while not overtly publicized, this belief seemed to be held by large numbers of people I met. If you ever wondered how the holocaust could have happened, you only need to live for a while in Europe to get a sense of the culture of anti-semitism there. It could have happened(and did happen) in any european country. Germans may have had the anti-semitism pounded out of them (I haven't been there in about 20 years, but the deep sense of shame felt by people I spoke to then was a stark contrast to other European countries), but sadly anti semitism continues to thrive on the rest of the continent.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you, garychapelhill. While there may be antisemitism present in Europe, as elsewhere, it is not generally prevalent and especially not in Spain. There is, however, quite a bit of anti Americanism, which has increased dramatically with the Bush reign. But if we try to refrain from such generalisations, we will contribute to less prejudice against countries and its people, we will enhance understanding of complex situations and not take the easy path of constructing concepts of enemy.

I agree with you that to look at everything as from left or right does neither help to understand the problems nor does it solve anything. IMO Palestinians *are* victims, Hamas seems to have every intention of keeping it that way, it enhances the outrage against Israel among the Palestinians as well as from people outside.

Anonymous said...

Mirlo, I lived for 3 years in Spain and am merely reporting my experiences, not generalizations. I found that in the educated, liberal university community that I was a part of, that many (and in my case, the majority) of these people did believe that much of what they did not like about America is because of Jewish and Israeli influence. I heard things that you normally would only hear from fringe hate groups in this country--about Jews controlling the banking system, handpicking US leaders, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love Spain, otherwise I wouldn't have stayed there so long, but I will not excuse bigotry when I see it, and I stand by my assertion that Spain has a problem with antisemitism (they also have problems with bigotry when it comes to other marginalized groups as well, in particular gypsies). I applaud Spain for the leaps and bounds that it has made as a liberal progressive democracy since the death of Franco, and I have every intention of spending my retirement in a luxurious villa on mallorca (with my husband), but I will not pretend that what I experienced there did not happen.

As for the Anti American sentiment, you and I can agree. I was last there in 2001-2002 (I arrived on Sep 9th, two days before 9/11). I happened to be travelling through Europe at the time and was astonished by the outpouring of good will and solidarity from Europeans from the Netherlands to the Czech Republic. This after prior experiences of attitudes towards americans ranging from rudeness to outright hostility. Unfortunately, within about 3 months Bush had squandered all of that good will and the anti american sentiment was worse than ever. I don't think that a lot of americans know how large of an opportunity was lost during that year to be a force for good in the world. That is one of Bush's crimes that I will never forgive.

Anonymous said...

garychapelhill, Thank you for your honest, yet civil reply. Where in Spain did you make these experiences? Isn't it a generalisation though if you draw from an experience with a group or several groups the conclusion that Millions of others think alike or even have the same tendency? I am also aware that many people here in Spain think that Israel is the bad one in this conflict. I am convinced though that it is more the result of victim identification (the weaker always appears to be seen as the victim)and hence the construction of a certain concept of enemy than it is antisemitism, IMO. It happens easily when there is need to relieve oneself from the pain and powerlessness of unsolvable conflict, when having to witness immens human suffering without being able to contribute to a solution.
Maybe we can meet when you come to Spain again and talk about our diverse experiences? This would make a very interesting discourse indeed.

Anonymous said...

Mirlo, I lived at varying times in Madrid, Sevilla, and Valladolid, and I have travelled to just about every province in the country (including canarias, ceuta, and mallorca). I have a masters degree in Hispanic Literature, and did as much of my studying as I could in Spain, mainly because I love it there so much.

I'm afraid that using your conception of a generalization, that everything I say based on my life's experience would be considered as such. I am not saying that that everyone in Spain is antisemitic, just that in the intellectual circles that I was in, stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews were quite mainstream, even though I'm sure the people that espoused them would swear that they are not anti-semitic. The argument is largely moot in Spain anyway, given the relatively tiny Jewish population. I found that the attitude was in line with a certain amount of xenophobia that I would say is present in Spain as well. And that also goes down to the level of comunidad autonoma. I think that attitudes about Catalanes held by Vallisoletanos, for example, are just as xenophobic as say anti-american attitudes by Spaniards in general (although I will say that I found that the sentiment is less than in other European countries) Of course this is largely reactionary due to the forced centralization of the country under Franco (imo of course) not to mention the varying liguistic and cultural differences.

My point is that Europe has a long history of using jews as scapegoats, and in fact as I am sure you know, the reason that there are no jews in spain today is due to their forced expulsion/conversion in 1492. Spain's birth as a nation state was based on Christian hegemony. You still hear today phrases such as "hablame en cristiano" in reference to the language. Interestingly there seemed to be a thriving black market in the middle ages for "new christians" (ex-jews and moors) to buy papers proving their lineage as "old christians", which makes it difficult to determine how many of todays spaniards are actually of jewish descent, which I would say is probably a significant amount. It is accepted in most academic circles today, for example, that Cervantes was of Jewish descent.

Anyway, I'm taking up way to much space here. I apologize if I offended you in any way. I think that the point I was trying to make is that the whole ME situation is difficult to look at objectively due to the many other prejudices that all of us bring to the discussion, no matter where we are from.

Anonymous said...

garychapelhill, interesting read, thank you. I agree with you about xenophobia in Spain, including between autonomies as well, a big need for scapegoats and also still a lot of residue from the Franco regime (they made huge leaps though in other areas)

But then I find the same within "little" Switzerland between Zürich and Basel and other areas.

I haven't found any maistream antisemitism here in Spain and I live in circles of intellectuals of different areas, artists, as well as farmers, fishermen and workers.

Oh, my family was part of the expulsion of Arabs and Jews from Catalunya, subsequently they moved on to Switzerland. Our family was from the Arabic decent.

I hope Shtuey doesn't mind our little discourse here!