Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israel

The appalling events of the last couple of weeks have moved incredibly quickly, far outstripping my slow attempts to say something of substance about them. In any event, the message is clear, and should be familiar: Israel feels that it can do whatever it wants with impunity. This is because the past has shown this to be effectively true. Israel repeatedly gets away with the most horrible atrocities, the grossest violations of the most basic ideals of peace and justice and international law. They get away with all of this because they are closely allied with the United States. The attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, on the lamest of pretexts, lay bare the true nature of the Israeli state. Israel's claim of self-defense is usually nonsense, but in these cases it is utterly laughable. Israel's claims are bullshit, its aims criminal.

It is argued that Israel must be allowed to secure itself. If it really wanted to do this, it knows exactly what to do, and has known for nearly 40 years. It's simple. At minimum, Israel should withdraw completely from the Occupied Territories and sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In addition, the US should sever its long-standing but altogether counter-productive (for both the US and Israel) alliance with Israel. Taking these steps would be both obvious and common sensical, which means that they will never happen.

Every once in a while, Israel does those of us living our quiet, complacent lives a twisted favor. It acts in such a gratuitous, disproportionate manner that it is nigh-impossible to miss the message. And yet miss it people still manage to do. It's also useful to remember that even that use of the word "disproportionate" itself concedes too much to Israel, buys into Israel's preferred narrative. Since Israel precipitated the Gaza disaster when it abducted two Palestinian men on June 24 (link via Flagrancy to Reason; I first read about it in this Democracy Now! interview with Chomsky), it hardly seems unpredictable that there would have been a response, which there was, in the capture of Shalit. Using the word "disproportionate" to describe Israel's subsequent re-invasion of Gaza implies that there could have been any justifiable, proportionate military response to the capture.

Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers looks thornier on the face of it (many, Chomsky included, have called it at best stupid and irresponsible). Except that Israel was obviously ready and waiting to mount an attack on Lebanon (link via Lenin's Tomb). At the time, I couldn't help wondering whether Israel had staged the capture; it fits a little too nicely into its plans. I haven't seen any evidence of that, but the likelihood that the Israeli soldiers were in Lebanese territory seems pretty high, if undiscussed. I saw this point raised by the excellent Stan Goff, in this comment to this post:
The border of Southern Lebanon and Israel is a seamless web of intervisible Israeli outposts with night vision devices, tied together with ground surveillance radar, plowed-flat and raked daily to see footprints, and backed by quick reaction forces. Israelis routinely make incursive patrols into Lebanon. It is nearly impossible for an organized group of Hezbolla or anyone else to cross the border south, much less capture prisoners there. The very notion that this was an incursion INTO Israel is propped up solely by the credulity of the general public that knows nothing about military operations. In reality, the idea is as ludicrous as the Easter Bunny.
But all talk of who did what first here is finally a distraction from the larger point, which is that Israel has the power to end this whenever it wants to, and has had the power to resolve the main issues endangering any prospects for peace for decades. Neither Hamas, nor Hezbollah ( nor Lebanon) has this power, as the rest of the world knows full well.

It's taken me this long to post anything about this because I don't write quickly, particularly about news stories, and because all I could muster at first was a sputtering "what the FUCK is the matter with Israel?" email to my wife. But a lot of other people have been doing a lot of great work on it. For one thing, I've been addicted to Antiwar.com, the newslinks and the commentary, both of which have been indispensable. Beyond that, it's been a lot of the usual suspects. Lenin, not surprisingly, has been amazing:
Let's be clear about this - Israel has been engaging in activity on the Lebanese border ever since it was kicked out of the south of the country by Hezbollah fighters in 2000. The strategy has long been to target Hezbollah, Syria and Iran via Lebanon. This assault was planned well before the incidents that supposedly precipitated it. Israel has long wished to terminate its regional enemies all the better to finish off the Palestinians as a people and as a polity. They intend to take the whole of the West Bank, and Gaza will be maintained as an ever-shrinking open air prison which can now be bombed freely since there are no settlements there to defend. Time is running out for the Palestinians, and yet the only thing that matters to Western reporters and politicians is Israel's right to 'defend' itself. And as with apartheid South Africa, the right to 'self-defense' of a viciously racist sub-imperial state amounts to the right to threaten, do and dare anything, and present whatever contemptuous excuse can be devised.
See also here, here, here, and here for more from Lenin. Richard at American Leftist has written some very informative, wide-ranging posts on the crisis, as well. First was a post on what he sees as "The End of Zionism":
As for Zionism, each bomb that explodes in Gaza and Lebanon further shatters what remains of the edifice of its legitimacy. Challenged by demographic and social change within Israel, and confronted by those it has occupied and brutalized, Zionism has lost whatever idealism it originally possessed and abandoned its utopian sensibility, having been reduced by its proponents to an intellectual justification for militarism and the conscious use of unrestrained violence in order to perpetuate Israeli dominance of Palestine and Lebanon. An ideology stripped of its clothes of respectability will not long survive the cold of winter.
See here and here for two more outstanding, extensive pieces from Richard, with excellent links and analysis galore. I have also been reminded of the blog Jews Sans Frontieres, which I had nearly forgotten about.

Among the many articles and columns I've read on this have been this one by Jonathan Cook, in CounterPunch:
Several Israeli armaments factories and storage depots have been built close by Arab communities in the north of Israel, possibly in the hope that by locating them there Arab regimes will be deterred from attacking Israel’s enormous armory. In other words, the inhabitants of several of Israel’s Arab towns and villages have been turned into collective human shields -- protection for Israel’s war machine.
And this one from Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in the Guardian (link via Ellis Sharp):
The regional significance of the abductions has also been misconstrued. To suggest Hizbullah attacked on the orders of Tehran and Damascus is to grossly oversimplify a strong strategic and ideological relationship. Historically there has been an overlap of interests between Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. Together they form a strategic axis - the "axis of terror" to Israel - that confronts US-Israeli designs to redraw the map of the region.

But the nature of that relationship has changed much over the years. Since Syrian forces left Lebanon, Hizbullah has become the stronger party. It has never allowed any foreign power to dictate its military strategy.

It is ironic, given Israel's bombing of civilian targets in Beirut, that Hizbullah is often dismissed in the west as a terrorist organisation. In fact its military record is overwhelmingly one of conflict with Israeli forces inside Lebanese territory. This is just an example of the way that the west employs an entirely different definition of terrorism to the one used in the Arab world and elsewhere, where there is a recognition that terrorism can come in many forms.

Speaking of Sharp, at his blog The Sharp Side, he has some excellent posts, largely related to the media coverage of the crisis (for example, here, here, and here).

See Jim Lobe at MRZine for a survey of the rabid neo-con response to all of this:
The cover of the July 24, 2006 [Weekly] Standard blazes "Iran's Proxy War," and the issue featured no fewer than four articles stressing Iran's sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas and the belief that the United States must stand with Israel, if not take independent action against Tehran and/or Damascus, as Kristol recommended.

The new campaign's prime targets are the more conciliatory "realist" policies toward Syria and Iran pursued by the State Department, which the neoconservatives argue have backfired by making Washington look weak.

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