Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israeli voices for peace

Amy Goodman, host of the radio/TV program "Democracy Now!" talks with Israelis opposed to their nation's invasion of Gaza in a post on Truthdig. Among those featured is Neve Gordon, chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel:

Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. ... The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”

Gordon's comments cut through the bankrupt moral equivalency that blames both the oppressed and the oppressors in the same breath, even when the death toll on one side is 100 times that of the other (this was the essence of Barack Obama's comments on the war, when he finally broke his silence yesterday.) Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was growing and the white supremacist government criticized the African National Congress as "terrorists," some of used to say that the oppressor had no right to criticize the tactics of the oppressed. I would not go quite that far today, but you get the point.

Photo: Neve Gordon

Afterthoughts: Despite my criticisms of Obama's position, I do harbor some hopes that he will pursue a much more active campaign to bring peace to the Middle East once he is in office. Nothing could be worse than the hypocritical, one-sided statements of Bush and Rice, who have left the Palestinians to rot for 8 years while Israel turned Gaza into a prison, expanded settlements in the West Bank, and generally lived off the fat of a land that does not belong to it alone.

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. An article in the Guardian by Oxford professor of international relations, Avi Shlaim.

The greatest greatness of George W. Bush. In an eloquent and remarkable post on Truthout, William Rivers Pitt tells Bush, "May you live forever, you son of a bitch." Be sure to read Pitt's scathing commentary on Bush's legacy. Thanks to AG for alerting us to this.


terryt said...

The real irony is that many dismiss African wars as being 'tribal', as though 'we' are somehow superior. Surely the present conflict is nothing more than tribal. The two groups are basically the same people, simply separated by their religion.

Anne Gilbert said...


Yes, in a certain sense, that is true. Furthermore, Arabic and Hebrew seem to share a good deal of their vocabulary(both are Semitic languages, after all), and since Israel is firmly planted in the Middle East, they also share things like similar foods(and food taboos). But there are also some differences. While the Zionists who formed Israel in the first place, were motivated by a very 19th and eary 20th century understanding of the idea of a nation, the Palestinians basically, for hundreds of years. Western ideas about nations and states had begun to seep in there, too, so the germ of the idea that there should be some kind of "Arab nation" was very appealing, at least among the educated classes. There was a good deal of difficulty over exactly what this Arab nation should consist of, so it never quite got off the ground. What was even worse was, after World War 1, the European powers essentially drew a bunch of lines on maps and said to various parts of the Arab world "Here are your nations"(this is one reason why Iraq is such a mess today). They didn't really bother with the Palestinians, but at the same time, there was a great push to see Jews settled there(some people, even then, were thinking "biblically"). In any case, after World War 2 and the horrors that occurred in that period, the creation of an Israel was considered an absolute necessity. There were a lot of Jewish refugees with basically no other place to go for a variety of reasons, and the early Zionist settlers were quite well organized. Again, this wasn't quite as true of the Arab world, but that's another story. What is true, however, is that the seeds of the conflict were set from the moment Israel became a state, because both sides essentially wanted the same territory. And unless the European powers and the US government intervene again, this time for the good of everyone, this conflict may last untl the last Israeli kills the last Palestinian, or they kill each other. I'm frankly not very hopeful at the moment, but am willing to be surprised.
Anne G

terryt said...

It's my understanding that the Palestinians are not really Arabs, although today they do have some small percentage of Arab ancestry. This Arab input is basically the only thing that separates them genetically from Jews, along with some European input into the Jewish gene poll.

Ahmedinejad said way back it would be better for Middle East peace if Israel did not exist. That statement is proving to be very true.