Thursday, February 21, 2019

One reason as to why the Israeli Palestinian conflict has not been resolved, and nine irrelevant ones

Commentary on Bradly Burston’s Opinion piece from Ha’aertz of June 20th 2018.

There is only one reason why the Israeli – Palestinian conflict hasn't been resolved in nearly 100 years; and one reason alone. The constant rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state by the Palestinian leadership, historic and current. From the rejection of the first partition plan in 1937; Until the refusals of Mahmood Abbas's to even enter the negotiation room and talk with Benjamin Netanyahu. And this is during and under the auspices of the Obama administration, the most anti settlements president in US history.

None of this is new. And a lot of excuses were made for Abbas's conduct. The problem with those arguments is that they only prove the opposite. If Mahmmod Abbas was truly bothered by Israeli policies such as settlements, checkpoints, security barrier, etc., he should have entered that room and tried to get an agreement that among other things would have ended those policies. With both the US administration and the world public opinion lining to his side, even a failure would have worked for his advantage. Instead, he walked away, not allowing the talks to even begin.

This is a simple and obvious fact. But to the political Left, including the Zionist one this is more than an inconvenient truth. It is an identity crisis, one that has not been resolved since October 2000.

One example is Bradly Burston confused opinion piece in Ha’aertz of June 20th 2018. There he names nine other reasons for the protraction of the conflict. Those reasons get the title 'both sides suck' suggesting equal share of the blame. The problem with those reasons is that they are not nine, and they are all not relevant to the inability to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The equivalence they suggest is an absurd, and morally problematic.

Reasons 1, 4, and 5, are different expression of the same thing, street rhetoric. Reason 1 refers to the content of that rhetoric, 4 to the tools of expression, and 5 is a suppose profile of those that spread this language. To be clear, street rhetoric is indeed counterproductive. When political leaders use it, it is known as demagogy. It is then that it is harmful enough to prevent a resolution of a conflict. But this is not what Bradly Burston is talking about in those three reasons. He is talking about nameless and faceless individuals. These are the folks that make up that street. And they can do and they do inflict a lot of harm. The most painful examples are the assassinations of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin. But even after those horrific tragedies, the peace process continued. Mubarak Kept the Camp David accords, and Netanyahu, the Oslo accords. He even evicted the greater part of Hebron. Both did it reluctantly, but they did it. And yes, Netanyahu has used demagogy in more than one occasion. And it was foolish and nasty for no reason. But he did not use it against Gaza. He used it internally, once against Israeli Arabs, and a few times against the Israeli left.

Bradly Burston also gets the street mostly wrong. Accusing Israel of been a Nazi does not come from Hamas. Hamas, like the PA, advances the story that Jews are related to apes and pigs. Hamas, like the PA, indoctrinate children to welcome the day when all Jews are gone from the land of Israel. And both see those that do murderous violence in the service of that cause as heroes and patriots. And when they die in the process they are martyrs, 'shahids'; in the eyes of both PA and Hamas. Accusing the Israeli side of Nazism, or Nazi like activity comes mostly from the European left, and the American left. The Palestinian side does find it useful, but they have other messages for their people.

Yes, there is a "who was here first debate?" but god is not the authority on both sides, facts are. Those on the Israeli side point to the archaeological record. Those at the Palestinian side point to a mixture of real facts and appropriated facts. Their real facts are the cultural and commercial lives Arabs had in the land of Israel prior to 1948. These cultural and commercial lives did not stop with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. And they did not stop with the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The appropriated facts include the soccer match between the all Jewish, Zionist soccer team of Maccabi Palestine vs Australia in 1939, introduced as the evidence for the existence of an Arab Palestinian state prior to 1948.

The problem with Bradly Burstun's analysis is not only that he gets the street wrong, or mostly wrong. The street talk is not the cause of the perpetuation of the conflict. It is another symptom of that cause, bigotry. Historically it did not stop the peace process, not with Egypt, not with Jordan, and not even with the Palestinians. Only the actions of the leaders had an impact on it. And they have the power to choose if to make street language a tool of policy or not.  

Another thing Bradly Burstun gets wrong is social media. Bradly Burstun set out in his piece to explain why this nearly 100 years long conflict has no end in sight. The problem is that social media, like Bibi Netanyahu, and Donald Trump did not exist 100 years ago, neither did Hamas for that matter. As for the current role of social media, the idea that armchair keyboard activists from long distance are contributing to the deadlock is so 2009. We are in the era of Russian hacking, fake profiles, and uncontrolled data mining. Within the context of this conflict, in this present day of age, late 2018, social media has two demonstrated roles. One, is as another venue of expression of street rhetoric, there it has the same effect as it had with previous tools of expression. It does a lot of harm on occasions, but not enough to derail the resolution of the conflict. The other function is as a part of a recruitment mechanism for terrorist organizations and/or the encouragement of "lone wolfs" to conduct terrorist activities. Best examples are the Jewish terrorist attacks against Israeli Arabs and Palestinian civilians that came under the banner of 'tag mehir,' price tag. These attacks picked with the mass murder of most of the members of a Palestinian family in the village of Duma on July 31st, 2015.  There is also the so called 'knifes intifada' of Palestinian teenagers targeting mostly Israeli civilians on both sides of the green line. This intifada gave us a 13 years old stabber, the killing of a pregnant woman in front of her children, killing a teenage girl in her bed, and the killing of an entire family in Halamish on July 21st 2017. And the more recent tragedies, at Gush Etzion, and Barakan, and those that followed, from both sides; show us that this phenomena has not stopped. And the final example, Daesh, (ISIS); they used social media to recruit people into their organization, and to inspire "lone wolfs'" attacks across Europe and North America.

Bradly Burston demonstrate a strange and surprising lack of the concept of time. He shows a lack of understating of both history and the present day. That makes his argument irrelevant in the most fundamental way. And it does not stop there.

In reason 6 Bradly blames the corruption of both sides. First corruption is not an impediment to peace, or to sound judgment in managing a conflict. Sa'adat was corrupt, Begin was no saint, and King Hussain of Jordan was no role model in the eyes of human rights organizations. And if I have to detail their contribution to the peace process to Bradly Burston, ot to anyone else, then this whole response is a waste of time.

Second, comparing Netanyahu to Hamas is a false parallel. No one in the Gaza strip is investigating Hamas for their corruption. And the corruption Bibi is suspected of is not ripping off the country's infrastructure. Hamas's rule in the Gaza strip most certainly does that. In the first part of his article Bradly Burston describes the ecological disaster the Gaza Strip had become. The main cause of it is the loss of the water aquifer beneath the Gaza Strip. The facts show that Hamas is the only one responsible for this situation. Instead, Bradly Burston alludes to a shared blame with the Netanyahu government. There is no shared blame here. If Israel had attacked the water infrastructure of the Gaza Strip none of its residents would have been able to use it to pump the water out of the aquifer. Because Israel and the IDF remain true to their high moral and ethical standards; that infrastructure remained mostly intact. And that is despite recurring hostilities. This allowed Hamas to manage the use of water as they saw fit. In this case, allowing the residents to pump dry the aquifer. Now it is salinized with sea water and contaminated with sewage that permeated into the empty aquifer. And yes, Israel is under an ecological threat because of that. And no, no one saw this coming. Even the biggest critics and opponents of the disengagement from Gaza did not predict that Hamas will be this criminal in its negligence of its most basic civilian responsibilities. And since they are capable of this level of indifference to the needs of their civilian population, one that had turn most of the Strip into an open sewage dump, be certain that they are capable of lesser monstrosities. Those monstrosities been the confiscation of material sent to the Gaza Strip for civilian purposes and using it for military ones. The best example is the concrete used by Hamas for their attack tunnels.     
Bradly Burston's false parallels are bewildering. He makes a comparison between Hamas' encouragement of the use incendiary kites and balloons against Israelis, with Netanyahu discussing the future of TV broadcasting in Israel. This is like comparing acid with milk; albeit not a very tasty milk. TV broadcasting is not a violent activity that causes a massive destruction of property. Not to mention that there is nothing unusual for heads of states in times of conflict to find time for civilian matters.
Reason 6, along with reasons 2, 7, 8, and 9, are a part of his Netanyahu reasons. For obvious reasons he is getting the greater share of the blame. Reasons 2 and 7 are also the same thing, hardline political stand. Is talking tough an impediment to peace or a necessary tool in negotiations between arch enemies? That is open to debate. Negotiating with Hamas has its unique problems. First most of the negotiations that do take place are wartime negotiations. In wartime, enemies on both sides, no matter how bitter, negotiate prisoners' exchange, cessations of violence, arms control, and the welfare of civilians affected by the conflict. In the mad realities of war, any war, this is normal and not unusual. And so is talking though.
And this is war. There are frustrations. And there is a lot of pain, a lot of bitterness, a lot of anger. But Hamas is not just talking though. They are giving orders to do harm.  One good example that was caught on tape: Yikhya Sinuar, head of Hamas' military wing, encouraging the people around him, to attack the border fence and take out the hearts of the people they meet on the other side. Israeli politicians do talk tough on occasions, sometimes as deterrence, sometime as a talk to their base, but never as orders to the troops on the ground.  We do not have to like any of these talks. As a matter of fact it is a good thing that we don't. But when we lose the distinction between the two different examples we lose our moral clarity. And a lack of moral clarity is a key characteristic of Bradly Burston's piece.
Reasons 8 and 9 are also the same thing, both sides are out of control. Israel, because the UN opposes its policies and president Trump support those policies. And Hamas is out of control because the UN takes there side, and Trump takes Israel's side. First, Hamas does not need the UN, Trump, or anyone else to relive them from their constraints. They do not believe in constraints. And they have a charter and an ideology that justifies all forms of violence. Second, Netanyahu does not need to show that the UN is hostile to Israel. The UN has been doing it on its own long before Bibi's political career had begun. Do you remember David Ben Gurion Um Shmum remarks?
Third, what constraints has Israel released itself from? It took the IDF several weeks before it begun to respond to the arsonists sending incendiary kites and balloons into Israel. Those are legitimate military targets, using a tool of war used continuously since ancient times, fire. And they use it to attack Israelis by torching their properties. Yet Israel avoided harming these arsonists, for nearly a month.
Even the image of the IDF troops firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters, does not verify his claim that Israel is out of control. This is from the simple fact that it is not true. During June and July 2018 there were a lot of protesters near the border fence, in the tens of thousands of them, day after day. They were overwhelmingly unharmed. Those that were harmed by Israeli live ammunition were engaged in an activity distinctively different than protest. They were attacking the border fence. This fence serves as an obstacle, preventing terrorists from infiltrating Israel, and attacking and murdering its civilians. Hamas’ intentions and commitment to murder Israelis is an undisputed fact. We all saw that the spates of suicide bombings that took place in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. We saw it in the rockets raining down on the Israeli communities in vicinity of the Gaza Strip. And we see it in the incendiary kites and balloons send repeatedly into Israel, by these “protestors.” The only difference between those methods is their success rate. Israeli defenses along the Gaza Strip make sure that success will be kept at a very poor level. Without that fence, and its protectors that success rate will increase. And it does not matter by how much. The duty of the Israeli army is to defend the lives of Israelis and in these cases that duty demands the defense of that fence; even if it is attacked by an unarmed horde. But it was not attacked by an unarmed horde. It was repeatedly attacked by organized groups, armed with rocks, Molotov cocktails, demolishing devices intended to remove the fence, and occasionally firearms, and those assisting them. (That is as of June 2018, since then thing got a lot worse in the firearms department). And the IDF repelled most of them by using teargas. Only when there was a danger to the fence live ammunition was used, selectively, by snipers. First to wound, and later to kill, when the breach was inevitable. We already know that most of the dead were members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. None of them wore a badge that identified the organizations they belonged to. They were killed by Israeli snipers because they were engaged in activities that threaten the fence and the Israeli civilians living behind it. Those are the kind of activities that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have committed themselves to. It is therefore not surprising that most dead were man, and most of them were members of known terrorist organizations. Those that were killed and those that were wounded were hurt in the same circumstances. Therefore the idea that the wounded are of a different category does not make sense. Since the whole world believes in this irrational perception, debunking it requires another article. One that will be published alongside this one.