Battle of Wrongs: Israel and Gaza

An inhumane and flawed Israeli policy literally had holes blown into it in Gaza. The reverberations of that policy and its failure are only beginning to be felt, and all the while, qassam rockets continue to rain down on southern Israel.

Some are trumpeting the destruction of the barrier separating Gaza from Egypt as the uprising of an oppressed people who finally threw off the yoke of an occupying power and took for themselves what they were entitled to and had been deprived of. While the image is romantic and alluring, the reality is that this was not a popular action, but one that was very much enacted by the ruling party in Gaza, Hamas.

The ordinary people of Gaza have found themselves even more in the middle of fighting between Hamas and Israel since the election of Hamas in 2006. Hamas has encouraged, and occasionally perpetrated, rocket attacks on southern Israel towns almost from the day of the elections. Apologists call the rockets retaliation, but there is no escaping that they are targeting innocent civilians for purposes that cannot be reasonably connected to self-defense.

The response to that 2006 election, which, it must be noted, was universally judged to be free and fair, began a chain of failed responses that came from most of the world. And the rockets, on the one hand, and the international isolation and increasingly draconian closure of Gaza by Israel and Egypt on the other, took the already impoverished Gaza Strip down the road to complete economic collapse, while international and Israeli isolation of Hamas only increased the risk to Israeli civilians. Continue reading

The First Step: Confronting the Settlements

The famous idiom from Abba Eban, that the “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” has often been turned back on Israel. Yet it is no truer in any arena than it is with regard to the diffuse Israel-Palestine “peace movement.” It is happening again right now, and one of the best chances to turn the tide, not to mention one of, if not THE last chance to save the two-state solution is once again being missed.

It’s a presidential election year in the US and the Israeli Prime Minister is bracing for the release of a report which could stand a chance of bringing down his government. And what, in these days, are President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert saying?

Bush is saying that settlement outposts “ought to go.” Olmert said the presence of those outposts is a “disgrace.” Were these empty words? Absolutely. Bush even said that Israel needs to end its occupation of the Palestinians and Olmert is fighting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the removal of some few settler outposts. Is this mere political posturing? You bet it is.A settler and a soldier

But the words are still sign of the times. Right-wing Israelis, fearful of both a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank as well as some arrangement to share Jerusalem, called a rally to protest Bush’s visit to Israel. But they were unable to bring large numbers of people to the demonstration. Israel is battling the (correct) perception that it has not undertaken the tasks it has agreed to in the past. Removing outposts, sharing Jerusalem, even removing established settlements are part of the political discourse in a way they have not been in the past.

What would it take to at least start turning these words into actions? The answer is the same as always: political pressure. And that, both in the US and in Israel, is sorely lacking. Continue reading