lunes, 29 de diciembre de 2008

RE: A variety of Perspectives on the Israeli Assault on Gaza


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From: lbarrios@jjay.cuny.edu
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2008 08:02:55 -0500
Subject: A variety of Perspectives on the Israeli Assault on Gaza


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Posted Saturday, December 27 2008 @ 10:31 PM PST

http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner

From Tikkun Magazine (www.tikkun.org)


A variety of Perspectives on the Israeli Assault on Gaza
Posted Saturday, December 27 2008 @ 10:31 PM PST

Rabbi Lerner, Gideon Levy, Bradley Burston on the attack on Gaza. And then: The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for genuine negotiations to end the occupation.

Editor's note From Rabbi Michael Lerner, then Two Perspectives on Gaza, a note from Uri Avnery on his 85th birthday, and a call for an immediate end to the hostilities in Gaza.

{Editor's Note: The NSP joins with the Committee to End House Demolitions in calling for an immediate cease fire in Gaza and a return to negotiations with Palestinians, this time including Hamas, toward the goal of ending the Occupation. There is much truth in both Gideon Levy's article attacking Israel's actions in Gaza and in Bradley Burston's critique of the critics of that attack. We at Tikkun have responded to our readers request to not deluge them with daily reports on the daily assaults by Israel on Palestinians suspected of being "militants" or Hamas activists that have been going on all through the past years, or on the cutting off of food and supplies to Gazans that has led to starvation for some, malnutrition for most—and all this while Israeli proclaims how it "left Gaza" (instead of acknowledging that it turned Gaza into a large prison camp). But because we didn't give you that daily information, it can now seem as if the refusal of Hamas to return to a cease-fire, and its charges that Israel consistently broke the cease fire, seem extreme, and its return to minor shelling in the past few days (killing no one—because its rocket supplies are pathetic and incapable to reaching most Israeli cities, thank God!) seems to supply Israel with its justification for a renewed war (in which it killed over 250 men, women and children in one day of indiscriminate bombing raids of Gazan civilians). Yet the fundamental context of Occupation and massiv Israeli power lends plausibility to Gideon Levy's account of Israel as "the Neighborhood Bully." Yet on the other hand, Hamas' reliance on violence, not only against Israel but against the more peace-seeking Palestinian Authority associated Palesitnians, must also be unequivocally condemned, even while saying, as Burston does, that it does n ot follow from such a condemnation that a new war is the appropriate response.. Indeed, this is another voluntary war by Israel, and seems to be motivated more by dishonored Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minnister Barak's desire to not leave office without somehow erasing the memory of their failed Lebanon invasion two years ago—and since Gazans have none of the military capacities of Hezbollah, the Israeli politicians who chose to do this war two months before the election are likely to get higher esteem in Israel for this shooting fish in a barrel type war than they did when they faced enemies who had some way of defending themselves. From the standpoint of Tikkun, war is the wrong response. If Israel wants peace with Palestinians, it can achieve it by negotiations based on the Saudi peace initiative; it cannot achieve it by killing more Palestinian civilians or even by wiping out the current generation of Hamas activists. There is no path to peace—peace is the path. Ånd if Israel wants to destroy Hamas, it has one clear way: rebuild Gaza and the West Bank with a massive Marshall Plan type enterprise—adopt our Strategy of Generosity and renounce the strategy of domination. Trust in God,, trust in love, trust in kindness, trust in generosity—and give those strategies a ten year chance to work and Israel will get far more security than it will achieve by this latest violation of international law, Torah ethics, and common sense. I invite our readers to respond to this and to the statements below. I'm particularly interested in inviting the Reform, Conservative, Reconstrucitonist and Renewal rabbis on this list to see how many believe that trusting in God is a ridiculous strategy, that loving the stranger or the Other is irrelevant, and that all those good Torah values really have no relevance to "the real world." It remains the case that we who trust in the power of love and generosity, and hence in the message of Torah and the tradition of the Jewish people that "not by might, and not by power, but by my spirit , says the Lord of poiwer the Lord of hosts" are largely vilified by many of those who claim to be the current representatives of the Jewish tradition. And our response: stop being "realistic," because the realism of military force and power has not brought you peace—so how about trying a different strategy, a strategy of love and generosity and caring for others, and start by applying that to the Palestinian people. –Rabbi Michael Lerner

The neighborhood bully strikes again
By Gideon Levy
Tags: gaza strike, israel news

Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"

Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.

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What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History's bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment - today nearly everyone acknowledges as much - embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.

In the interim, the loftiness of peace was on the tip of the tongue of Ehud Olmert, a man who uttered some of the most courageous words ever said by a prime minister. The loftiness of peace on the tip of his tongue, and two fruitless wars in his sheath. Joining him is his defense minister, Ehud Barak, the leader of the so-called left-wing party, who plays the role of senior accomplice to the crime.

Israel did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking yesterday on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin. The Qassams that rained down on the communities near Gaza turned intolerable, even though they did not sow death. But the response to them needs to be fundamentally different: diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire - the same one that was initially breached, one should remember, by Israel when it unnecessarily bombed a tunnel - and then, if those efforts fail, a measured, gradual military response.

But no. It's all or nothing. The IDF launched a war yesterday whose end, as usual, is hoping someone watches over us.

Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily spilled on our side. In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel's overreaction.

The history of the Middle East is repeating itself with despairing precision. Just the frequency is increasing. If we enjoyed nine years of quiet between the Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War, now we launch wars every two years. As such, Israel proves that there is no connection between its public relations talking points that speak of peace, and its belligerent conduct.

Israel also proves that it has not internalized the lessons of the previous war. Once again, this war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public dialogue in which only one voice was heard - that which called for striking, destroying, starving and killing, that which incited and prodded for the commission of war crimes.

Once again the commentators sat in television studios yesterday and hailed the combat jets that bombed police stations, where officers responsible for maintaining order on the streets work. Once again, they urged against letting up and in favor of continuing the assault. Once again, the journalists described the pictures of the damaged house in Netivot as "a difficult scene." Once again, we had the nerve to complain about how the world was transmitting images from Gaza. And once again we need to wait a few more days until an alternative voice finally rises from the darkness, the voice of wisdom and morality.

In another week or two, those same pundits who called for blows and more blows will compete among themselves in leveling criticism at this war. And once again this will be gravely late.

The pictures that flooded television screens around the world yesterday showed a parade of corpses and wounded being loaded into and unloaded from the trunks of private cars that transported them to the only hospital in Gaza worthy of being called a hospital. Perhaps we once again need to remember that we are dealing with a wretched, battered strip of land, most of whose population consists of the children of refugees who have endured inhumane tribulations.

For two and a half years, they have been caged and ostracized by the whole world. The line of thinking that states that through war we will gain new allies in the Strip; that abusing the population and killing its sons will sear this into their consciousness; and that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.

Hezbollah was not weakened as a result of the Second Lebanon War; to the contrary. Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary. In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.

In the meantime, let us now let the IDF win, as they say. A hero against the weak, it bombed dozens of targets from the air yesterday, and the pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the entire world that the neighborhood bully's strength has yet to wane. When the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.


The first five are arguments of the anti-Israel left, claims which are, curiously, as tired as they are unflagging.

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Leftist 1: Israel's true motive in bombing Gaza, is genocide against the Palestinian people and extermination of their right to statehood.

Israel's genuine interest in this campaign is strikingly similar to Hamas' interest in firing scores of rockets into Israeli population centers: Forcing a cease-fire on better terms than the one just ended.

For Hamas, this largely means easing Israeli economic sanctions against Gazans. For Israel, this centers on ending shelling by Qassam and Grad missiles and mortar shells. For both sides, this means a prisoner exchange, centering on Gilad Shalit and hundreds of jailed Hamas members.

Leftist 2: The Palestinians have no recourse but to defend themselves, and the makeshift rockets they fire are nothing compared to the world's most advanced warplanes and munitions, which the IDF is using against them.

The Human Rights Watch organization has been unequivocal in condemning the use of Qassam rockets as a direct violation of international humanitarian law and the laws of war. The firing of Qassams and mortars against civilian populations also constitutes collective punishment against hundreds of thousands of innocent Israeli men, women and children.

Moreover, the firing of Qassams began not as a response to the siege against Gaza, but as a marathon celebration by armed Islamic fundamentalist groups following Israel's withdrawal of its troops and settlers from the Strip. To purposely add insult to injury, Islamic Jihad and other organizations used the ruins of settlements as launch platforms.

Leftist 3: All that Hamas is asking, is recognition as the democratically elected government of Gaza, and an end to the Israeli economic embargo. Were they to attain these goals, there would be calm on both sides of the border.

It is both unrealistic and dangerous to believe that Hamas has abandoned its clearly stated and often reiterated goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in all of the Holy Land, including all land claimed, annexed by, or in any way occupied by Israel.

Beyond that, Hamas has strong alliances with the Egyptian opposition Muslim brotherhood, as well as working partnerships with the Iran-dominated Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Israeli restraint, when practiced, has been met with contempt and additional Hamas and Hamas-tolerated strikes against civilian populations.

Leftist 4: The Israeli blockade against Hamas is state terrorism and any means to fight it are legitimate.

There is every reason to believe that Israel's economic siege against Gaza is misguided, but not for an essential cruelty, rather because Hamas taxes collected on the influx of goods imported through tunnels from Egyptian territory have subsidized and cemented Hamas rule.

Leftist 5: The world overwhelmingly sympathizes with the Palestinians against Israel, and unreservedly backs their struggle for independence.

In an era of global revulsion against radical Islamic terror, Hamas' protracted program of suicide bombings, drive-by murders and shelling of civilian populations, coupled with its refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel, or accept past peace agreements, coupled with its ideology of militant jihad, have drained the Palestinians of international sympathy and have, in fact, legitimized Israeli arguments of military self-defense.

Nothing has been more instrumental in harming the cause of Palestinian independence than Hamas, with its brutal take-over of Gaza in a war with brother Palestinians, and its frank efforts to build a large-scale regular army force in the Strip.



Uri Avnery
27.12.08

"Gush Shalom" has acceded to my wish to mark my 85th birthday not with a public celebration, as on my 80th, but with a brain-storming session devoted to the main issues concerning Israel.

The event took place on the morning of Sunday 21.12.08 in Tel-Aviv's prestigious Cinematheque hall, under the headline "Until [White] Smoke Comes Out – Views and Confrontations". It consisted of two debates: "Two States for Two Peoples – Realistic or Impossible?" and "The Media: Do They Serve Political Power and Money or the Public?"

In the first confrontation, moderated by former Haaretz editor David Landau, Israela Oron (of the Geneva Initiative) and Gilad Sher (former advisor of Ehud Barak and senior Israeli representative at the 2000 Camp David conference) argued that the Two-State solution is viable, while the historian Meron Benvenisti argued that it is impossible, and Dr. Menachem Klein (Bar-Ilan University) took an intermediate position.

In the second confrontation, senior journalists Ron Ben-Yishai (who appears in the memorable film "Waltz with Bashir") and Rina Matzliach argued that the Israeli media are free, while Prof. Yaron Ezrachi and senior journalist Ofer Shelach argued that they are shackled.

At the close of the event, I was given the floor. This is what I said:

A Congress of Peace Seekers

DEAR FRIENDS, DEAR PARTNERS,

I have to admit that I am moved. Throughout my long life I have not been pampered with expressions of affection. I am much more used to manifestations of hate. Therefore, please excuse me if I am a bit embarrassed.


PEOPLE ASK ME: How does it feel to be 85?

Well, it is strange. After all, only yesterday I was 42, the youngest member of the Knesset. I don't feel any older or wiser than I did then.

85 is (in the old Hebrew way of numbering by letters) PH. PH can mean "poh", here - and yes, I am here and fully intend to remain here for a while to come – first, because I enjoy it, and second, because I still have some things to finish.

PH can also mean peh, mouth – the mouth that enables me to voice my thoughts. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the thoughts that are occupying my mind today.

What is special about 85-year-olds in Israel? First of all, we are the generation that founded the state. As such – I feel – we bear an additional responsibility for what is happening here. If our state is not what we imagined it should be – it's our duty to act to change it.

AND HERE we face a strange paradox. We are partners in a historic success. And we are partners in a dismal failure.

Perhaps only members of my generation can fully grasp the extend of our success in the transformation of the national consciousness.

Many people ask me: where do I draw my optimism from when the situation becomes very bad, when good people are seized by depression and despair? At such moments I remind myself - and remind the people who listen to me – where we started from. I bring this up again and again for those who did not live through it, and those who have forgotten:

On the morrow of that war, the '48 war, when some of us said that there exists a Palestinian people and that we must make peace with them, we were a tiny handful here and in the whole world. We were laughed at. There are no Palestinians, we were told. "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!" Golda Meir was still asserting much later.

Is there anyone today who denies the existence of the Palestinian people?

We argued that in order to achieve peace, a Palestinian state must come into being. They laughed at us. What? Why? There is Jordan. There is Egypt. There are 22 Arab states. That's enough!

Today it is a world-wide consensus – two states for two peoples.

We said that we must talk with the enemy, and the enemy was then the PLO. Four cabinet ministers demanded that I should be put on trial for high treason when I met with Yasser Arafat in Beirut during the siege. All four of them later met with Arafat, and the State of Israel signed official treaties with the PLO.

True, the treaties were not implemented and did not lead to peace. But the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, between Israel and the Palestinian people, became a fact. That was a revolution, and it cannot be reversed.

Today we are saying: we must talk with Hamas. Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian reality. And this idea, too, is gaining ground.

What an uproar we caused when we said that Jerusalem must become the capital of the two states! Today almost everybody knows that this must happen, that it will happen.

I have devoted 60 years of my life to this struggle, and it is still in full swing. But we have defeated the idea of a Greater Israel and put forward the alternative of the two states, which has carried conviction in Israel and throughout the world. So much so, that even those in the successive Israeli governments who strongly oppose the idea are now compelled to pretend to support it in order to attract votes.

Think about this when you feel despair. Look at the whole picture, not only at the nearest small part of it.


BUT AS BIG as our victory is our defeat.

It is enough to look at these coming elections: the three big parties talk almost the same language, and not one of them puts forward a plan for peace.

There are small parties which say good and honest things, but at this juncture we simply need more than that. What is lacking is a major political force that is ready to come to power in order to make peace.

It is quite clear that the results of this coming election will be bad – and the only question is whether they will be just bad, or very bad, or even worse.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons, many pretexts. We criticize – and rightly so - many things, the media, the education system, all our successive governments, the President of the United States, all the world.

But I miss one criticism – the criticism of ourselves.

My father used to tell me: if the situation is bad, the first thing to do is to ask yourself if you are alright. So I am asking: Am I alright? Are we alright?

Yes, we have voiced the right ideas. Our ideas have won. But what have we done to realize these ideas in practice, on the political battlefield?

Politics is a matter of power. What have we done to create a progressive political force in Israel? How did it happen that the Left, the camp of peace and progress, has almost been eradicated from the political map? Why don't we have political power, why don't we have, for example, even one newspaper, radio or TV station? How did the Israeli Left lose, in the last generation, all its levers of power?

We in the peace camp include many wonderful men and women, who confront the army every week in the fight against the Wall, who monitor the checkpoints, who refuse to serve in the occupation army, who fight against the occupation in dozens of ways. Many of us, of all ages, take part in these actions.

But while we stand and protest, the settlers rush ahead. Another goat and another dunam (1000 square meters), another hill and another outpost. Sometimes I, too, have the feeling that the dogs bark and the caravan moves on – and I am not content with being the dog. We chase the mosquitoes, but the swamp that produces the mosquitoes gets bigger and bigger.

The swamp is political. Only a political force can drain it. In other words: only a force that can confront the ruling powers, influence the decisions of the government and the Knesset.

That is a historic failure, and we bear the responsibility for it.


IF I may be permitted to voice a birthday wish: the day after the elections I would like us to start thinking about the next elections.

We have to think anew. From the ground up. Examine everything we have done up to now and find out where we went wrong.

Why did we not succeed in convincing enough of the young, of the Oriental Jewish community, of the immigrants from Russia, of the Arab community in Israel, of the moderate religious sector – that there is somebody to talk with, that it is possible to bring about change, that indeed – we can! Why did we not succeed in touching the heart of the young generation that is disgusted by politics – by the politics they know?

What is needed is something completely new, a new act of creation. I would say: we must prepare the ground for an Israeli Obama.

Obama means: to kindle hope where there was no hope before. To demand a change from the foundations up and believe that it is possible to bring about this change. To ignite the enthusiasm of masses of young people for a message that stirs the heart, a message of ending the occupation, of social justice, of caring for the planet. The longing for a different system – secular, just, decent, seeking peace.

The new message must address the mind and the heart, speak to the emotions and not only to the intellect. It must arouse again the idealism that is hiding in many a heart and dare not show its face.

The great obstacle to such an explosion is despair. It is so much easier to despair. So much more comfortable. It doesn't demand anything. It is easier to say that everything is lost. That they have stolen our state. But pessimism, as is well known, does not give birth to anything, it just leads to internal or external emigration.

I refuse to be pessimistic. In my 85 years I have seen too many unexpected, surprising, amazing, things – both good and bad – for me not to believe in the unexpected. Obama was unexpected, and here it happened before our very eyes. The fall of the Berlin wall was unexpected, and nobody could even have imagined it a moment before it happened. Even the victory of the Greens in the recent municipal election in Tel-Aviv was like that.


I WANT to propose the start of a new endeavor a day after the elections. I would like the best of the intellectuals and the peace activists, the social activists and the fighters for the environment to gather and start thinking together, in order to bring about the Israeli miracle.

Perhaps there should be a grand congress of those who want change, a Sanhedrin of peace and human rights activists, a kind of alternative Knesset.

From the heights of my 85 years I want to call all those to whom our future here is close to the heart, Jews and Arabs, and especially the young, to mobilize for a joint effort to prepare the ground for the big change, for the Other Israel, for a state where it will be fun to live, an Israel we can be proud of.

This is not a game that can be played between existing organizations, but a completely new political creation, that will speak a new language, that will bring a new message.

I believe that this will happen, if not tomorrow then the day after. I wish for myself, and for all of you present in this hall, that we shall see it with our own eyes, that we shall be partners, that we shall be able to say: we have succeeded, we are entrusting the state to good hands.


AND NOW I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you, my friends, who have come to mark my birthday with me by exchanging views and debating the issues that are so important to all of us.

Heartfelt thanks to the moderators and the speakers, who have bared the issues for us, to the organizers of this beautiful event, to the members of Gush Shalom who made it possible. Thanks to all of you, who have come from near and afar, and thanks for the good wishes you have showered on me.

I couldn't imagine a more enjoyable and exciting birthday. Thank you.

ISRAEL: END THE ATTACKS ON GAZA IMMEDIATELY!
ENTER INTO GENUINE NEGOTIATIONS TO END THE OCCUPATION NOW!

A Press Release from The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
December 27, 2008

Let's be crystal clear. Israel's massive attacks on Gaza today have one overarching goal: conflict management. How to end rocket attacks on Israel from a besieged and starving Gaza without ending the impetus for those attacks, 41 years of increasingly oppressive Israeli Occupation without a hint that a sovereign and viable Palestinian state will ever emerge.

Indeed, the Occupation, in which Israel controls Gaza under a violent siege which violates fundamental human rights and international law, is not even mentioned in Israel's PR campaign. Speaking to the international community, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni insists that no country would tolerate its citizens being attacked, a seemingly reasonable statement were it not for Israeli sanctions on Gaza supported by the US and Europe - sanctions that preceded the rocket fire on Israel - or the fact of Israeli Occupation in general. Solely focusing on the rocket attacks conceals the political policy that led to them: "The Hamas government in Gaza must be toppled," Livni has said repeatedly. "The means to do this must be military, economic and diplomatic."

The responsibility for the suffering both in Israel and Gaza rests squarely with successive Israeli governments, Labor, Likud and Kadima alike. Had there been a genuine political process (remember, the closure of Gaza began in 1989), Israelis and Palestinians could have been living together in peace and prosperity already for 20 years. After all, already in 1988 the PLO accepted the two-state solution in which a Palestinian state would arise on only 22% of historic Palestine, alongside the state of Israel on the other 78%. A truly generous offer.

In Israel, however, the effort is to hide its preference for control over peace. Framing its attacks as a response to rockets from Gaza, exploiting an immediate trigger to effectively conceal deeper political intentions and policies, does that. It also conceals Israeli violations of the cease-fire. The fact that the rocket attacks could have been avoided altogether through a genuine political process means that the people of southern Israel are being held hostage by their government as well. Their suffering, and the suffering of the people of Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Territories, must be placed squarely at the feet of the Israeli government.

Israel cannot expect security for its people and political normalcy as long as it occupies Palestinian lands and continues its attempt to impose its permanent rule over the Palestinians by military force. We call on the Israeli government to end its aggression immediately and enter into genuine political negotiations with a united Palestinian leadership. We call on the international community to end its sanctions on Gaza immediately in accordance with international law, initiate an effective political process to end the Israeli Occupation and bring about a just peace - which reflects the will of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.


The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
www.icahd.org

Luis Barrios, Ph.D., BCFE

Chair & Professor

Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies

Joh Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York

445 West 59 Street, Room 4115-N

New York, New York 10019

Office: (212) 237-8747

FAX: (212) 237-8664

Email: lbarrios@jjay.cuny.edu

Web Page: www.jjay.cuny.edu

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