Reacting To Ahmadinejad’s Speech

I do not understand the uproar against the words used by President Ahmadinejad at the UN Racism Conference in Switzerland. And what I specifically do not understand is why people feel compelled to add to the uproar, when it is as clear as daylight that he went to Geneva with the one and only goal of… causing an uproar, in order to go back home as a national hero right in the middle of his re-election campaign.

The most appropriate reaction to President Ahmadinejad’s outrageous remarks is therefore not a theatrical walkout in front of the TV cameras, nor a flurry of comparisons to Nazi Germany or calls for the “free world” to “wake up”.

We just have to call President Ahmadinejad’s behavior for what it is: electoral posturing, if not outright buffoonery. And far from an episode for the annals of Persian pride, just another of his “pickaxe blows” against the good international standing of the great people of Iran.

Fate’s Unrelenting Twists of Irony

A brief history of suicide bombing in the Muslim world, as reported on the Suedeutsche Zeitung starting from Gilles Kepel’s book “Die Spirale des Terrors” (French original: “Terreur et martyre“):

  1. In the 1980′s, during the extraordinarily long Iran-Iraq war the almost-exhausted Islamic Republic started sending children to clear out minefields (using their bodies that is), following an establish Shiite tradition of self-immolation
  2. Around 1993, Iranian propaganda spread news and use of the technique to Hezbollah, their (Sunni) Lebanese allies, of course only and just to fight the Israeli occupation of Palestine, shifting therefore the phraseology from “self-immolation” to “martyrdom operation”
  3. Initially, Sunni scholars were not in favor of “martyrdom operations”. That all changed around 1996, with the “added bonus” of Israeli civilians being thrown in the lot of “legitimate targets” (you know, most of them were and still are bound to serve in the military at some point in their life)
  4. After a series of bloody suicide bombings afflicting Israel for quite some time, the top was obviously reached with the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers
  5. Tragedy (ironic, but still tragedy) struck the  “suicide bombing appreciation society” in the Muslim world after Iraq was invaded in 2003, and Sunni terrorists started to use suicide bombings against…Shiites!

So it has all gone around full circle. Supreme sense of irony from Fate (or God), isn’t it?

One ray of hope to conclude: despite the Madrid and London bombings, plus others in Kenya and elsewhere, suicide bombing organizers have seen things going downhill since.

It must be quite hard to argue for the legitimacy of an originally-Shiite technique to be used to kill Shiites. And what kind of “Islamic freedom fighter” can think in his right mind that the way to free Muslims is by killing them?

Gaza: All Obama’s Fault?

No surplus of scruples, in the Israeli Government…now they are not even trying to hide the fact that all 22 days of Gaza bombing may have been a last-chance effort at pounding Hamas and the Palestinians, before Obama could stop everything.

JERUSALEM (CNN) — Israel plans to have its troops out of Gaza as soon as possible [...] The official, who declined to be named, said that the withdrawal could be complete before U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes his oath of office in Washington at noon ET Tuesday — 7 p.m. in Israel — though commanders have not been given that deadline.

Israel and Gaza again (2)

A chance for some clarification on previous blogs of mine. Having written about Israel, here’s more on Hamas.

I have already made the point that Hamas (and Fatah) have singularly failed to protect/improve/do anything good about the lives of the Palestinian people they are at least pretending to lead. This makes the life of an inhabitant of Gaza worth more or less nothing, not only in the eyes of the “enemy” (Israel) and of the “bystanders” (USA, Europe, etc etc), but paradoxically also in the mind of Hamas (and Fatah).

One important point concerning the above is that it is too easy to explain it as an “act of evil” by “terrorist” or “quasi-terrorist” organizations such as Hamas and Fatah. It should go without saying that any strategy long-sustained by different persons must have an underlying logic (however twisted). And one of the reasons why Hamas (and Fatah) are not even trying to lessen the number of Palestinian deaths makes perfect, twisted sense considering the particular situation in Palestine.

When Armenia attacked Azerbaijan to keep control of Nagorno-Karabach for example, there was an Armenian side, an Azeri side, and a piece of land they were fighting about. Likewise for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, where the piece of land was the whole of Kuwait; and for Argentina trying to regain the Malvinas/Falklands.

In the case of Palestine, it’s the weaker side that yells about grabbing the enemy’s land, and all of it, but without a “motherland” where to start from. And such an idea has become such an overwhelming goal, that everything else is getting absolutely disregarded: including the tiny piece of land they actually do have.

The Palestinians under Hamas are being lead into pretending they don’t have a land (Gaza), in order to get a land (Israel). Nothing gets built, and living conditions deteriorate. True, there is an Israeli blockade but (a) if weapons are routinely smuggled in, there should some sign of at least of an attempt at doing something; and (b) it’s not by shooting rockets at random that you’ll free yourself from a blockade.

What I am saying goes even beyond that, though. Fatah (and Hamas) clearly do not see Gaza or the settlement-free areas of the West Bank at all as their homeland, and are bound to ruin and pillage them all as the “real thing” is either East Jerusalem and/or the whole of Israel.

Like the driver of a rental (therefore, temporary) car, they will do very little to keep their own stuff clean. And to protect their own people.

In fact, I cannot see any bigger threat to the existence of Hamas (and Fatah) than if peace were to happen: suddenly, after decades focused together by a common enemy, the various forces on the Palestinian side will feel absolutely and finally free. I do not think that’ll be a good spectacle to watch.

Right now instead, with Gaza the wrong side of hell, Hamas is comfortably certain that no Gazan will dream of the status quo: and further war (and power to Hamas) is guaranteed.

Can a sane solution to the Palestine problem be found among Gaza (and West Bank) inhabitants? Only if a miracle will happen. Still, it is not impossible. If your neighbor is polluting whatever land you’ve got: if you don’t clean it, who will?

Israel and Gaza Again (1)

A chance for some clarification on previous blogs of mine. Let’s start from the Israeli side.

I do consider myself a “friend of Israel” (as if any Israeli would care) as I do not find any other meaningful way for a European born in the 1960s to relate to the Jewish state. It’s not that anyone in my family has participated in the killing or even the persecution of Jews in the 1930s/1940s (none has, as far as I know…but then, few if any of them had any chance to do bad, or good at the time).

So it’s not a matter of atonement as much as a point of decency: if the culture I was born in as European killed itself and six million Jews in the process (plus a lot of Russians, homosexuals, roma etc etc), it has to be beyond me to make any judgement against the right of the Jews to live in the one state where they would not feel persecuted.

That said, it is as a friend of Israel that I feel great sadness in seeing a country built upon such an ideal, to end up persecuting a people. Something has gone very wrong, as it is obvious when the main reason for a war and 1,000 dead are two democratic elections: the one bringing Obama to the White House, and the one taking place in a few weeks in Israel itself. The former, providing the Olmert Government with the incentive of doing something before the new US President vetoes anything; and the latter, providing it with the incenting of doing something in order not to appear weak next to the fiery intentions of Bibi Netanyahu.

I do not believe your sanity can survive your willing brutalization of somebody living next door. Such a blatant show as these days’, of electoral prowess built upon hundreds and hundreds of corpses, is for me the most recent evidence that, if the state of Israel were a person, it would have been long diagnosed with a plethora of neuroses.

I am ware of the fact that peace may be dangerous for the very existence of Israel as the one State for the Jews, as it would “call the bluff” on many contradictions of the Israeli society. Still, with all its collective mental illness Israel is a democratic nation: as such, it’s the only place where a sane solution to the Palestine problem could surface without any divine intervention (=miracle).

Somebody, please, rise to the challenge, before the brutalization bite back. If you keep teaching your guys how to kill their neighbors physically and politically, you run a very high risk that some of them will start killing their own people, physically and politically.

Abraham, Israel and Gaza

23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” [...]
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

Well, there are at least two righteous people between Sderot and Gaza

(via”Oca Sapiens“)

Why Israel Is Not The Palestinian Problem

Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):

David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.

True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.

But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.

Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.

Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.

That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.

In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930′s, China famine in the 1950′s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.

Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.

As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).

Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.

Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?

I am not saying that I disagree (and I don’t) with David Brooks’ definition of how to find a meaning in each Israeli-Palestinian act of terrorism or war (“The confidence war“, IHT, January 7, 2009). But what is missing from Mr Brooks’ analysis is the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli Governments, the PLO and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so, with one side casually bombing crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical “sorry” press releases afterwards; and the other either sending youths to suicide missions or armed with stones against armored tanks, or proclaiming without a second thought that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists”.

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local Government is clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that until negotiations get centered around politicking rather than the basic rights of individual human beings, Palestinians (and Somalis, and Darfuris, etc etc) can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

The Middle-Easternalization of Israel

A multiethnic, multireligious State, where:

  • An “ethnic group” dominates all others
  • The sense of belonging to one’s group vastly exceeds “civic loyalty”
  • Some political parties are defined by ethnicity and / or lack any interest in the plight of “the others”
  • Entire villages have been practically abandoned for decades without any State help, because “inconvenient” to the Government
  • Most if not all the national boundaries are completely artificial
  • The military are a little too important and their work a little too secret
  • There is no shortage of fundamentalists
  • A ”State religion” controls many parts of life and death of all citizens, including those of another religion

That is the Israel described by Adam LeBor in commenting in the International Herald Tribune the new book “The Hebrew Republic” by Bernard Avishai.

In summary, after 60 years of existence Israel has sort of middle-easternalized itself, like its neighbors a society undermined by its own history. The “only” characteristics distinguishing the Jewish state from the States immediately nearby remain its independent judiciary, free and vocal press, and a robust civil society.

Would those characteristics survive an internal war like those afflicting Lebanon, or even a conflict between the hard-core settlers and the (jewish) rest of the country?

Too Weak and Confused, the Unbearably Light Political Thinking of “Islamic Jihad”

This is a commentary to the interview given by Ramadan Shallah, Secretary General of “Islamic Jihad”, to the newspapers Watan (Oman) and Sharq (Qatar), on 19 May 2008.

The complete interview (translated into French) is available at the CIREPAL (Centre d’Information sur la Résistance en Palestine, Information Center on Resistance in Palestine). Unfortunately I have been unable to find other sources, and so I will have to trust that translation as true.

Note that the CIREPAL itself, in the preface to the translation, doesn’t fully endorse Shallah’s arguments, a mixture of terrible and desperate considerations, ironically appearing more than once as mirroring what Shallah accuses Israel of doing.

Does Shallah see himself in the Jewish State. One wonders: what if the modern Jihadism is actually not the enemy, rather a descendant of Zionism?

======

R. Shallah : A notre avis, concernant la vision israélienne relative à l’existence de l’entité israélienne dans la région, nous pouvons distinguer trois étapes essentielles : la première est celle du refus absolu d’Israël, où le conflit était dénommé conflit arabo-israélien. Cette étape fut caractérisée par l’unanimité de la nation à refuser l’existence d’Israël, malgré les failles [...]

Here Shallah is realistically describing the situation. However, he’s considering the “Arab Nation” as one, despite all the history behind that concept. Later, he will add non-Arab Iran to the mix.

Mais il y a aussi une autre étape…celle de l’admission d’Israël volontairement…comme un Etat normal, voisin, ami, comme tout autre pays arabe ou musulman [...] le projet de règlement dont il a rêvé pour parvenir à la troisième étape [...] l’étape du refus absolu d’Israël. [...] l’entité sioniste a reçu des coups douloureux lors de la victoire de la résistance au Liban en 2000, le déclenchement de l’intifada al-Aqsa en 2000 et la défaite cuisante lors de la guerre de juilllet 2006, au Liban [...]

First hints of Ramadan Shallah being victim of his own ideology. It is true that Israel has not won in Lebanon in 2006, and its army should not be proud of its results…however, there has been no defeat, and Israel is as powerful as before.

Le sentiment d’être étranger dans la région et la peur de l’avenir rendent Israël incapable de payer le moindre prix pour la paix à laquelle les Arabes ont appelé par le biais de l’initiative arabe. [...]

Perhaps…but he said before, did he not, that Israel is ready to “pay the price” in order to become a “Normal State” in the region…

réaliser un alliance américano-israélo-arabe pour faire face aux forces de la résistance et du refus, représentées par l’Iran, la Syrie, le Hezbollah, Hamas, le Jihad islamique et les autres organisations de la résistance en Palestine [...]

Shallah is kind of losing the plot here, mixing in Iran and Hizbullah. And let’s not forget that Syria’s policies are not automatically in favor of the Palestinians.

En résumé, nous pouvons dire qu’Israël, soixante ans après sa création, se prépare à mener de nouvelles guerres, non à faire la paix. [...]

This is a gratuitous statement, with no evidence to support it apart from the “logic” of Shallah’s ideology. And it’s way too vague to be useful: it doesn’t take a genius, a clairvoyant, or a politician to guess that Israel will fight a war in the next few years.

le projet sioniste, qui est un projet de déni de l’autre, qui a fondé son entité d’une part sur des mythes, et de l’autre, sur le feu, le fer et le sang, la violence et la terreur. [...]

I don’t want to argue if this is or is not a realistic assessment of Zionism…still, it is interesting to note that this “denying the other” built upon myth, conflict, terror is a fundamental aspect of Ramadan Shallah’s political thinking: as if by his own definition, Shallah were somehow Zionist-like.

Israël refuse la paix, comme l’a prouvé l’expérience. Il a refusé tous les projets de règlement malgré leur bas niveau et les concessions obtenues. [...]

This is rather unclear. Shallah is convinced that Israel refuses all peace offers, even the ones most favorable to itself. Why would it behave like that? What further advantages are for Israel in avoiding peace?

Is anybody arguing that Israel’s strategical objectives are the same as the Islamic Jihad’s?

il est devenu clair que « l’Etat palestinien » supposé dont ils parlent est « l’Etat des intérêts sionistes » [...]

Would Ramadan Shallah then expect to see Israeli negotiators argue in favor of Palestinian interests?

L’image du Super Israël, implanté dans la terre comme si cela était un décret divin auquel nul ne peut s’opposer, dans l’esprit de ceux qui en ont peur, de lui et des Etats-Unis [...]

Once again, the ironical situation of the “Zionist thinking” mirrored in Ramadan Shallah’s: the head of an organization called “Islamic Jihad” and therefore likely to be an expert in “divine decrees”.

il ne nie pas être entré dans la phase de vieillesse, dont les signes apparaissent dans les défaites, même limitées, qu’il a subi au Liban et en Palestine [...]

Another sign of Shallah losing his grip with reality. Instead of finding a way to strengthen his position, he’s hoping Israel will get somehow weaker in the future. The end result is that Shallah is politically a dependent of Israel…

Goldberg dans une série d’articles, disant : « je suis inquiet sur l’avenir d’Israël au cours des dix ou quinze prochaines années » [...]

Are these signs of decline?? Somehow I doubt Ramadan Shallah sia is used to follow a democratic society’s inner debate.

« Pour Israël, la confiance en la possibilité de demeurer est devenue très mince » ! [...]

One doesn’t have to be too smart to imagine taking advantage of these “signs of weakness”, for example establishing contacts with non-Zionist Israelis…alas, there is no trace of that.

Le puissant Israël, qui possède la plus forte armée dans la région, y compris les armes nucléaires, a perdu et a été humilié au cours de la guerre de juillet/août 2006 face à la résistance des combattants du Hizbullah et de la résistance islamique. [...]

This is beyond imagination. An Israel going from the Nile to the Euphrates. Is Ramadan Shallah a Zionist through and through???

After all, if he wants to live in a fantasy world, who would and could stop him?

Israël aujourd’hui n’est plus celui de Ben Gourion, de Dayan, de Rabin et des autres, mais c’est un Israël qui n’a pas de dirigeants politiques et militaires. Certains ont affirmé que Sharon fut le dernier roi d’Israël, et après lui, le pays est tombé… [...]

Does that mean it would have been possible to deal and negotiati, with the young Israel of 1948?

Si l’armée israélienne a perdu son prestige, que reste-t-il d’Israël ? Nous savons qu’Israël est une caserne militaire, un Etat militaire dans son organisation et sa vie, l’armée est la population, et la population est l’armée [...]

In the meanwhile, on the other (Palestinian) side, everybody’s an angel…

Cet unipolarisme est cependant en train de craquer et les rapports de force changeront ; le rêve de l’empire américain, après son échec et sa défaite en Iraq, [...]

Now Shallah is portraying himself as dependent from America: as all his actions will only be reaction to the USA’s.

Le refus absolu de sa présence se développe de pair avec le développement des courants islamistes, des mouvements de la résistance islamique en Palestine, au Liban et en Iraq, et du soutien dont ils bénéficient dans la région. [...]

Another parallel with Zionism…it’s just one religious point of view built in front of another.

Pour nous, Israël subira le même sort subi par toutes les entités étrangères implantées par les guerres des Francs, les croisés, dans nos pays et il disparaîtra comme elles ont disparu. [...]

This is an important myth. The Latin Kingdoms in the Holy Land lasted 200 years after the First Crusade. Israele has been around only 60 years. Perhaps another century and a half will be needed, before some will consider the possibility that Israel will not disappear.

En d’autres termes, si la nature du pouvoir en Israël était dictatorial ou fasciste, est-ce que cela change notre vision, nous, les Arabes et les musulmans ? Et à l’intérieur du système démocratique lui-même, quelle est la différence pour nous si arrive à la tête du pouvoir Olmert, Barak ou Netanyahu ? Ceux qui ont parié sur l’arrivée de Barak après Netanyahu ont récolté l’amertume de l’effondrement des négociations de Camp David II [...]

And so…if Barak had agreed in Camp David II, and Arafat had agreed too, would that have satisfied Ramadan Shallah? And if all Israelis are the same (an idea dangerously close to racism), why waste any time, a few minutes before, citing a crisis within Israel?

Est-ce que la démocratie à l’intérieur peut-elle coexister avec un esprit expansionniste et belliqueux envers l’extérieur, qu’Israël met en pratique depuis sa fondation? [...]

Finally, a good question…can internal democracy survive alongside external expansionism/colonialism?

Israël est-il conforme à la manière occidentale et coloniale pratiquée par les Etats occidentaux coloniaux, [...]

It must be noted that relatively democratic United Kingdom had no trouble in becoming the largest colonial Empire in the history of the world.

Israël est-il un Etat pour tous ses citoyens ou un Etat pour les citoyens juifs seulement ? En d’autres termes, Israël est-il réellement un Etat « démocratique » ou un Etat «religieux » ? [...]

Is Israel democratic, or democratic to the Jews only? A very interesting question. Rabin’s assassination shows how much there is to “sort out” within Israel. But that doesn’t mean the Jewish State is going to end anytime soon.

After all, even the USA survived a fully-fledged Civil War.

les Etats-Unis, dans leur comportement avec les autres, considèrent que leurs propres intérêts constituent le premier critère pour formuler leur politique… [...]

Here Ramadan Shallah is right. Way too often the USA (and others) have supported internationally only their interests, and not democracy. But once again, this shows how it is possible to be democratic at home, and despotic abroad, without self-destroying oneself?

Finalement, il est probable que la démocratie permet à l’entité israélienne d’avoir un mécanisme meilleur pour la passation du pouvoir et l’administration de son conflit dans la région… [...]

Finally, he’s recognizing Israel can be stronger than previously described.

que si Israël et les Etats-Unis ont accepté la solution de deux Etats, avec les conditions israéliennes évidemment, c’est par crainte d’arriver à l’Etat unique, surtout que l’équilibre démographique en Palestine sera bientôt favorable aux Palestiniens, certainement et clairement, à partir de 2010, selon certaines estimations. [...]

It doesn’t take much to agree with Shallah here. The two-state solution is feasible but rather artificial.

D’abord, elle accorde à Israël et aux Juifs la légitimité de leur présence sur la terre de la Palestine, légitimité qu’ils n’ont pas. La nation a lutté, dès le début, sur la base de l’illégitimité de la présence sioniste en Palestine. [...]

As I mentioned already, some people will cling on to this dream for another century and a half.

propager cette alternative supprime la culture de la lutte et de la résistance, et propage la culture de la soumission au fait accompli et à se préparer à vivre avec Israël, au moment où Israël refuse cette question [...]

As above

notre terre et notre patrie la Palestine deviennent une seconde Andalousie, où Israël se consolide sur ses ruines en tant qu’Etat stable et sûr, en n’ayant pour d’autre but ou espoir que le fait d’y être acceptés, en tant que sujets, même de dixième zone ! [...]

Wasn’t Israel senile and in crisis?

je ne pense pas que la laïcité peut régler ce conflit saturé de symboles religieux, des deux côtés… [...] Le bagage religieux constitue, pour les deux parties, une force de mobilisation importante dans le conflit, du côté [...]

Is he implying that Israelis and Palestinians are very similar? Why then continue the conflict?

Que fait la laïcité de l’Etat unique avec l’arabité et l’islamité de la Palestine dans les cœurs et les consciences arabes et islamiques ? Comment se débarrasse-t- elle de « la judaïté » de l’Etat dans la conscience israélienne et le projet sioniste ? [...]

This looks like a good argument in favor of the two-state solution, Poor Shallah!

La solution est, à notre avis, de poursuivre le conflit, même par les moyens les plus simples, jusqu’à relever la nation et modifier le rapport de force.. [...]

Sounds like a sad joke. “Since the wall hasn’t budged despite all our headbanging against it, let’s keep banging our heads“…

que nos enfants ont lapidé Israël avec des pierres et le châtiment de la lapidation, dans notre culture et notre loi, est réservé à l’adultère. Israël est, aux yeux des peuples de la région, celui qui a commis l’adultère envers notre géographie, notre histoire et il mérite la lapidation et le châtiment jusqu’à la mort et la disparition de la carte de la région, pour que la Palestine revienne dans la géographie et l’histoire. [...]

Little wonder Israel finds it necessary to have nuclear weapons…

Je ne pense pas que les Etats-Unis, dans les conditions régionales et internationales actuelles, puissent être autrement que dans le rang israélien et je doute qu’ils puissent l’être dans tous les cas, [...]

hence, no contacts with the USA either. Even if “victory” depends on Washington.

Israël est presque le 51ème Etat américain au Moyen-Orient. [...]

I do not think this is too far from truth. And so Shallah further undermines any idea of a ”Israeli crisis”.

le régime arabe, dans sa majorité, se pose lui-même dans le panier américain et constitue avec lui une alliance et un partenariat dans la région, dont la principale priorité consiste à protéger l’existence et la sécurité d’Israël. [...]

Just in case he had too many friends, Shallah has called “Zionist” all the Arab states apart maybe from Syria (an Arabicized, more than an Arab country).

Il n’y a pas, malheureusement, de stratégie palestinienne ou arabe pour affronter Israël [...]

Nice for him to notice that but…where has he been all these years?

positions, nous devons d’abord parler de la stratégie israélienne en cette étape… [...]

For the umpteenth time, Shallah shows no ability to act, only to react. Every thought is subordinated to Israel’s.

Celui qui souhaite faire la paix ne doit pas laisser tomber le choix de la guerre, mais doit s’y préparer, comme le fait Israël ! [...]

That’s why I think that somewhere, perhaps in the unconscious, Shallah is an admirer of Israel.

La stratégie américano-sioniste est un projet colonial pour faire exploser la région… La liquidation des forces [...]

This make no sense…why let a region explode if you want to occupy it?

que le déluge est prochain, le moment de vérité et l’explosion de la région sont prochains. Celui qui conscience arabe. C’est le premier pas réclamé pour formuler une stratégie arabe et palestinienne officielles [...]

As always, Shallah is hoping Israel would be do something so badly, the “resistance” would be capable to win. Shallah’s future is absolutely in the hands of Israel.

L’essentiel au début est de définir où poser les pieds, tu es avec ton peuple et ta nation ou avec ses ennemis ? C’est la question posée et qui attend la réponse de toutes les parties dans le régime arabe, aujourd’hui. [...]

Let’s try to summarize it all then: “who knows, I don’t know what I should be doing, let’s hope Israel gives us some hints“…

Iran and the Rationality of the First Nuclear War

Iran is right in trying to develop the Bomb: what else they should do, when violent foreign-sponsored political upheavals in Tehran appear in the news twice a month if not more often? (An example in Italian and another in English).

People like Michael Leeden are so preoccupied of the “Iran Bomb”, they are trying their best to make it explode.

What if they’d focus their minds not on the 1930′s and Hitler, rather on 1914, and on how a climate of distrust plus a longing for a resolutive war led many nations in a war with millions of dead (including European civilization).

How “enticing” (not!) will it be when Tehran or Tel Aviv will be pulverised, a few atom bombs will go off in other places, and then fifty or more years later flocks of scholars will be able to build their careers in the attempt of explaining how, even if all the “actors” in the crisis behaved rationally, the end result was the most gigantic idiocy in the history of the world, the First Nuclear War.

Palestinian Politicide – aka Israeli Suicide

(a previous version of this blog “Sad Word of the Day: ‘Politicide’“ was published first on Sep 4, 2003)

It was almost five years ago when cruising through a Books etc bookshop I finally found a word I had been looking to invent myself for quite some time.

In fact, on the one hand I know from several first-hand sources, plus plenty of newspaper reports and analyses, of the systematic destruction of the Palestinian identity by Israeli policies. On the other hand, I do not think this can be described as a “Palestinian Genocide“.

Unless there is a massive media cover-up including, the situation in Palestine simply does not reflect the common definition of Genocide. For example, there is no killing of Palestinian people for the mere fact of them being Palestinians. The risk is that to talk about a “Palestinian Genocide” means to demean both the victims of genocide (a word that would be watered down), and the Palestinians (whose situation would be completely misunderstood, with the cause fought not even theirs)

Politicide” is the right word instead: that is, the destruction of the political identity of a group of people .

The word “politicide” of course comes from what looks like a long tirade against Ariel Sharon, published by Baruck Kimmerling as a book. It is originally defined

[...] a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution—or, at the very least, a great weakening—of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity [...]

Kimmerling, who has died in 2007, was by the way a complex figure if there ever was any: a self-proclaimed Zionist with leftist views, critical of Israeli policies and outspoken in considering Jewish settlements in the West Bank as colonialism).

Kimmerling’s book has been reviewed and criticized a lot, of course. But in the case of the Palestinians, “politicide” does explain many an action by current and past Israeli governments, including the cancellation from history of Palestinian villages, the delegitimisation of Palestinian institutions, the demeaning treatment of migrant workers, and so on (I understand the dividing wall has been painted in places to make Palestinians literally disappear from view).

Importantly, the concept of “politicide” as defined above is not limited to a war, or even a crisis situation. It has nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist, or its internal political system. And it harms both the victim and the perpetrator.

In fact, as commented by Jonathan Freedland on The New York Review of Books on Dec 21, 2006 (my emphasis):

[...] [Sharon] saw desperately late the threat that his pursuit of the settlement project posed to the very Jewish state he had devoted his life to protecting. Even putting aside the morally corrosive effect of occupation on the occupier, Sharon understood only at the end the problem represented by Israel ruling over a territory that would eventually contain equal numbers of Jews and Arabs. Either the state would be democratic and no longer Jewish or it would have to become what Kimmerling calls a Herrenvolk democracy, an apartheid term used to describe a regime in which citizens enjoy full rights while noncitizens enjoy none. Sharon apparently did not see the simple demographic realities until his final years in office [...]

As he prepared to tell the Likud central committee in September 2005, before his opponents cut off his microphone and prevented him from speaking: “We cannot maintain a Jewish and democratic state while holding on to all the land of Israel. If we demand the whole dream, we may end up with nothing at all. That is where the extreme path leads.” [...] 

As things stand at the moment, Israel does not look sustainable at all: even if there were a complete military victory tomorrow, with Hamas and Hizbullah routed out into the Arabian desert and Fatah reduced to the rank of a puppet government, there would be a painful choice to be made between transforming Jewishness into apartheid, or embracing full democracy by losing its identity to include hundreds of thousands of people with no social, political and economical identity.

And a non-Jewish or a non-democratic Israel would be no Israel any longer.

(for the record, I do believe in the continuous existence to this day of a clear-and-present-danger of Genocide (and I mean it!) against the Israeli population)

Israel at 60: Celebrate or What?

Among all the postmodernist rubbish, there may be one good idea: “what we say about any given subject is always constructed, and there are only partial truths“. All the more so about Israel and the whole Palestine, where if there is one thing that never changes, is the conviction of people on both sides to be speakers of the whole truth, completely disregarding the others’ arguments: and thereby guaranteeing there will be no progress whatsoever.

I have my own ideas on what should be done and by whom. But there is little point in arguing who’s wrong and who’s right. Personally, I believe they are right those (where they come from) whose actions bring less suffering, less deaths, and less instability.

The Moral Equivalence of Hamas and Israel (and us)

Another day, another series of reports on tens of dead, dying and injured people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I’ll leave the sorting out of who’s to blame to anybody wishing to waste their time.

Sure, there are more victims on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli, indicating an overwhelmingly disproportionate response as if the value of human life really depended on nationality (a consideration unfathomably shared by the Palestinian leadership too: prisoners exchange usually involve a handful of Israelis to tens of Palestinians).

On the other hand what purpose can it be in the launching of aimless rockets by Hamas, randomly towards civilians? Apart, that is, from killing if not terrorizing them on purpose, because they are civilians: as if that has ever won anybody’s war.

The height of mutual stupidity is that people in charge on the two sides are determined to brutalize each other. At the same time, retaliation after retaliation, they have kind of abdicated all hopes of recovering their own humanity…to the sudden appearance of virtuous behavior in the other camp.

It’s fairly obvious that whatever the causes of their madness, they are all directly responsible for untold miseries that will befall on their own children.

=========

What should be done to bring peace to Israeli and Palestinians alike? It’s more than obvious, it’s actually boring. Stop wishing the others could go away. Realize the land is for the two of them, and for the rest of humanity as well. Decouple Israel from the messianic undertones, by getting it into the European Union.

But that doesn’t look like in anybody’s interest. The main hope is that the situation has worsened since the quasi-agreement with President Clinton in 2000, because when everybody knows peace is tantalizingly near, everybody rushes to settle the last scores.

=========

But that’s still too easy an analysis.  

Who else is brutalizing civilians in the futile attempt of getting a military and thus a political advantage in a never-ending war, worsened exactly because and by that brutalization?

It’s us from NATO.

The civilian victims are in Afghanistan, nowadays, and likely but less evidently in Iraq.

And it’s no novelty. Leaving aside the famously useless killings of tens of thousands in Dresden during World War II, just fifty years ago the French Government tried almost casually to defend the bloody bombing of a Tunisian border village, in the Algerian war.

Despite our illusions, things have not changed since. We are still eliminating fellow human beings without much of a thought. Here’s NATO proudly using American and European taxpayers’ money to kill road building workers. Never, or almost never, big news in our media.

=========

It is high time we leave aside idle discussions about other peoples’ business to mind about our own idiocy.

If Ahmadinejad were really smart…

…the President of Iran would conclude the Conference on the Holocaust by stating that: (a) it happened; (b) it was as big as it is said it was and (c) post-War reparations were woefully inadequate, with Europe finding the easy way out by shipping its Jewish population off to Palestine

In other words, Ahmadinejad would call for rich Europe to spend billions and billions to support the Palestinian nation (in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere)

That would go down very well with the vast majority of people on the planet…

Some hope!

Think the Unthinkable: Make Bombing a War Crime

Lives of enemy civilians have already little importance but in hypocritical declarations for the media.  

The progressive increase in the ratio between civilian and military casualties has been a sad trend during the history of war. Together with the overall rise in our weapons’ killing efficiency, it will only mean that in a few decades if not years, wars will be fought with zero dead among the warriors, and millions among the rest of humanity

Actually, the fact that wars mainly kill and maim people with no weapon, no intention to use weapons and posing absolutely no danger whatsoever to the enemy, is considered sound and sensible. It is accepted. 

But it really makes no sense

———-

I was surprised actually this week at my relief when finally Israel soldiers marched into Lebanon, instead of just the usual rounds of military airplanes trying to “surgically” act and killing hundreds of bystanders in the process (not to mention the distorted lives of countless children living in terror of the sound of bombers flying nearby)

Finally, I thought, there will be real people fighting each other directly, not through bombs far away

And so there will be the hope that a soldier won’t kill groups of children, like an airplane pilot does: perhaps, by the mere fact that the soldier will have to look at whom he’s killing, whilst the pilot gives his soul away to a robotic murderer.

————

Can bombardment be anything but a war crime?

In fact, say you are a Hizbullah fighter shooting rockets towards Israel. Are you aiming them at anything in particular? If not, anything and everything is your “target”. But then what are military advantages gained in killing mothers and children, something that is bound to happen? And if there aren’t what are you doing shooting those rockets but an indiscriminate killing, a crime then against the rules of war?

Say you are instead an Israeli pilot releasing a smart bomb to destroy a building where you’ve been told Hizbullah wdfd shooting rockets from. Imagine now the bomb actually hits that building, and not one nearby. Say, tens of children are killed. Even if somebody would be able to demonstrate the military advantages gained in doing that, who is going to do that? What independent tribunal will check your behavior? And still, if you were sorry about those children, what will make you less liable than a just-as-sorry person guilty of manslaughter?

This is not limited to Israel and Lebanon. The US and other forces have periodically justified the bombings of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a justified way of targeting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Just as in Vietnam, we terminate lives in order to free them

————

The above does not even cover the use of cluster bombs, merrily floating towards the ground while luring little children to get near them toy-like killers

What do we do with killers and people committing manslaughter in “normal” life? Why would that have to be any different in war, apart than when all the people involved in the war are consciously doing so?

————

What kind of civilization are we talking about: one that has learn its ways out of the Nazi’s destruction of
Guernica in Spain during the local Civil War?

Are we willingly equating ourselves to the supposedly despised Nazis? Has any other Nazi policy or strategy been accepted in any other part of life?

And yet for some reason we all espouse the idea of “total war”, where every pram and every hospital bed in the enemy’s hands is to be bombed like an aircraft carrier or a dirty-bomb production facility

Instead, for the sake of safeguarding our lives, we give the Governments we have freely elected the power of taking out somebody else’s, however innocent, however young or old. How nice to sleep soundly with our consciences bloodily clean

Truly the Pearly Gates will open only for a few elected people!

————

What should a State do then, to fight another State or militia? Use a “novel” approach: send infantry with the precise aim of finding, routing, destroying the enemy soldiers.

You’re going to lose plenty of soldiers (if you can’t stomach that, surrender at once): but you will concentrate your fire power onto getting rid of the enemy’s ability to harm you and your country.

————

How can anything else be taken as reasonable?

What would you think of a racing driver wasting fuel in knocking down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, instead of focusing on winning the race with the minimal effort?

A more complete analogy would be: what would you think of a racing driver intent at (1) knocking out down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, (2) making the other drivers’ racing easier, and (3) lining up his own mechanics for the others to eliminate?

Because bombings have always elicited a stronger fighting mood in the enemy. And any civilian that dies as “collateral damage” is an argument in favor of exploding terrorist bombs among innocent bystanders

————

And so the Geneva Conventions must be expanded to prohibit all kinds of remote warfare, starting with bombing, but in the most exceptional circumstances (such as the targeting of military compounds)

We must protect civilians for our own sake. Because the idea that children and the elderly can be considered legitimate targets or even acceptable collateral damage surely is repugnant to anybody but mass murderers. Because it’s our lives that are becoming more and more cheap and expendable.

We must go back to the old ways of military confrontation between military forces. Anybody touching any person not actually fighting should be considered a war criminal and treated as such

————

Is this feasible? We know we could win wars by slaughtering each and every one in our enemy’s population. That’s what happened for thousands of years, and yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity.

Many nations could have access to chemical arms of untold horror and killing potential. Many have used them, in World War I and up to the Second World War. And yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity too

Ditto for nuclear weapons

————

The only thing preventing us from seeing bombings and all other kinds of “remote warfare” for the crimes they are, is the same thing that prevented our forebears to understand that wars need have rules too: and so until the Red Cross was founded, wounded enemy soldiers were left to die, and bayonets were badly-shaped for un-necessary harm

————

Think the Unthinkable: Make bombing a war crime

The 2016 Middle Eastern terrorism recruitment campaign is in full swing

There’s been plenty of analysis of the current crises around Israel, both in the Gaza strip and Lebanon, surely many of them more meaningful than anything I can write myself

That said, in my not so humble opinion (also, as a student of International Relations) I can see multiple games being played, and multiple strategies on several fronts, including the international media and public opinion at local, regional and global level.

This is seldom if ever talked about on TV and in print. I find the vast majority of interviews misleading at best.

And any comment blaming the crisis on one or the other side is pea-brained, or misinformed, and even dishonest

I’ll simply list then a few ideas and issues I am mostly concerned about:

• It is apparent that nobody cares about civilian lives, especially Lebanese lives

• We have yet more confirmation that lives have different values. That looks like something everybody agrees on. During the 2000-2005 Intifada, one Israeli dead every 3.4 Palestinians. Nowadays it’s one Israeli dead every 10 Lebanese. This is supported by the fact that the freedom of one Israeli soldier has been bargained for the freedom of around 133 “Palestinian” prisoners

• We are a few lives away from the “Perfect XXI Century War”, with no military casualties at all (thus completing a trend started hundreds of years ago, when most of the dead and injured were instead military personnel)

In fact, classic military infrastructure is hardly being touched

• The phrase “disproportionate response” is disingenuous when pronounced by politicians and experts. Everybody’s response is perfectly rational and proportionate from their point of view.

The key to their “rationality” is lack of care for civilian casualties especially if Lebanese

• Israel had been preparing this for years. No major military intervention, especially when being fought on the second front, can be organised overnight. One may hazard the buildup started at least one year ago, as an alternative fighting front to keep “warm”.after the Gaza pullout

• Hizbullah had been preparing this for years too. Instead of the usual short-of-target missiles (the kind wasted around by Hamas nowadays) they have a truly impressive set of different rockets, with an underground transportation, collection and distribution network that does not care of the existence of roads and bridges. All wonders helped a lot by plenty of oil money from Iran

• Before the current crisis, Hamas was in a weak position: a failure as a Government, a failure economically, a failure politically with the Jul 26 referendum risking to delegitimise its very Charter, if the Palestinians had recognised Israel’s right to exist. Now that referendum is postponed indefinitely

• Israel was in a weak position too: blatantly unable to defend (and find) his own soldiers, sitting lamely watching Hizbullah arming itself perhaps for an invasion, and in danger of being outmaneuvered by the Jul 26 Palestinian referendum too.

The new Prime Minister, lacking military credentials, can only show himself ruthless and militaristic, giving free hand to the Generals. The difficult promise to get out of some West Bank settlements was quite risky to fulfill, so it is much easier now as it can be shelved for a long time.

The weakness of Israel’s position is confirmed every time an Israeli utters the overused words “Israel cannot do otherwise”. Hardly the stuff of a regional Power: why and when did it let itself get cornered like this?

• And Hizbullah was not in a strong position either: not yet ready for a full-scale war, with the threat of UN Resolution 1680 calling for its disarmament, always on the edge of being cancelled out by a political crisis in Tehran or Damascus, or even in a nuclear deal between Iran and the rest of the world

All in all, military and political commanders on all sides have no interest in ending the conflict in the short term. Or even medium

• Stock traders may think the same as the markets in Israel and Lebanon are not suffering as one would expect in a time of war

• Sadly this is not an intifada, fought to get oneself in best position for an upcoming permanent peace settlement. This is a war of political annihilation

• First to be annihilated is Lebanon as a State. There is no effort to defend its own citizens, for example. And Hizbullah, in theory part of Beirut’s Government, launched on a campaign on its own without agreeing or alerting anybody. In other times we could have called it a Hizbullah Protectorate, but as they have no intention to protect anything in Lebanon, the nearest similarity may be Germany during the Thirty Years’ War: a playground for somebody else’s wars

• Negotiations cannot go anywhere. There is nothing to negotiate between Hamas and Hizbullah., and Israel. One can only see them negotiating about the others’ embarking on a one-way trip to the moons of Saturn

• Anybody not directly touched by this war has little to worry about. Witness the US’s sluggish reaction: Condi Rice may go there as “early” as next week

• The fact that Iran is behind Hizbullah means not one of the states around Lebanon and Siria will want to be involved in any conflict. They would all have very little if anything to gain by intervening, and a lot to lose

• Much easier for the whole world to let the fighters pummel each other into stupidity, and get ready to make the most of whatever the outcome.

• It is hard to conceive any ending that will not see Israel getting the upper hand once again, as in every war from 1946 apart from 1956 and 1973 (perhaps!)

• On the other hand, just like the 1982 invasion helped create Hizbullah, the 2006 war will mean yet another terrorist recruitment campaign “supported” by Israel

The terrorists of 2016 that is.

In an alternate, happier reality, Israel is showing the strength of its democracy by actually caring at least a iota about civilian Lebanese (not just in words; but then, in this universe the UK and USA have taught the lesson, with their disregard for Iraqi lives). Hizbullah is showing the strength of its Islamic credentials by allowing compassion to all civilians, rather than none.

Hamas and Hizbullah have learnt that there is no point complaining if the lion living next door starts mauling your children, after you hurt him, poke him and finally woke him up. And at least one Leader of non-violent attitude is helping all the inhabitants of Historical Palestine to learn to live together.

In a different alternate reality, also happier than ours, the international community is going to stop the unstoppable war by drying up its financial resources. Nobody can shoot if they don’t have the money to buy the bullets. And enough people are thinking there, how idiotic is to pass one’s hate down to their innocent offsprings

But this is what we’ve got. As Steve Hackett wrote and Phil Collins sang for Genesis 30 years ago:

Let’s skip the news boy (I’ll make some tea)
Arabs and the Jews boy (too much for me)
They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep)
And the thing I hate – oh lord!
Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation’s fate.