With a 72-hour truce apparently holding and Israel also apparently having ended its ground operation in Gaza, it seems a fair time to assess where things stand now. Has anyone emerged from this in a better position than it was in before? Is there anything that can, at least in a cynical and Machiavellian sense be called a victory?
It goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of the physical destruction was borne by the people of Gaza. At this point, the numbers are just horrifyingly grim. 1,968 dead, of whom 1,626 were civilians. 7,920 wounded, and while there is not a precise percentage of civilians among the wounded, we do know there were 2,111 children and 1,415 women among them.
The already damaged and sole power plant in Gaza was damaged even further, leaving most of the Strip without electricity. The United Nations Development Program estimates between 16 and 18,000 homes were severely damaged or destroyed and over half a million Gazans (out of a population of roughly 1.8 million) have been internally displaced. Continue reading →
An edited version of this piece first appeared at LobeLog.
When Israel, or any country, engages in armed conflict with a guerilla group, even if that group controls significant territory and resources, it is a virtual truism that the longer the fighting goes on, the greater the gains for the non-state actor. In Gaza, Hamas’ quasi-governmental position still leaves it in the role of the guerilla enemy. And with the events of the past few days, it is worth asking if Israel is not losing this “war.” Continue reading →
Israel seems to be failing to make the (false) case that it is not trying to harm civilians in Gaza. People aren’t buying it this time. True, the politicians haven’t changed. But the public response has been sharp. There are still plenty of people to whom Palestinian life has no value, and they fully support what is Israel is doing, but that now seems to be the dividing line. I explore today at LobeLog.
It is with a heavy heart that I report here of the passing of Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj. His loss is a blow to all of us, and most of all to the
Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj
Palestinians living in Gaza.
Dr. el-Sarraj did groundbreaking work on the long term traumatic effects of occupation. Yet he never wavered in his belief that Israelis and Palestinians could live together in a brighter future.
Here is how he described the occupation:
“Among other thing, it means:
an identity number and permit to live as a resident which will be lost if one leaves the country for more than three months;
a traveling document which specifies that the holder is of an undefined nationality;
being called twice a year by intelligence for routing investigation and persuasion to work as an informer on “your brothers and sister,”
leaving your home in the refugee camp in Gaza at 3 a.m.,going through road-blocks and checkpoints to do the work that others won’t and returning home in the evening to collapse in bed for few hours before getting up for the following day;
losing repect from one own children when they see their father spat at and beaten before their own eyes;
seeing the (name of the) Prophet being spat on by Israeli settlers in Hebron.
We were exhausted, tormented and brutalized.”
Dr. el-Sarraj was committed to non-violence, despite his unwavering criticism and documentation of the abuses and horrifying effects of the occuaption. Though he never wavered in his criticism of the occupation and identifying it as the root of so much hardship, he was also able to maintain his vision of Israelis as not evil, but flawed humans like everyone else. In the midst of Israel’s devastating onslaught on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead of 2008-09, he wrote: ”
Brute force and carnage in Gaza on the scale of today is a dangerous omen. Israel must restrain its military might and face up to the consequences of dragging the region into such a serious and intensified path of violence. Palestinians must stop all forms of violence and unite in the pursuit of peace and justice.”
Dr. el-Sarraj will be sorely missed. When there are more like him throughout Israel as well as Palestine, there will be real hope.
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been greeted with the expected polarized commentary. Chavez was a man both vilified and idolized outside and, to some extent at least for a while, inside Venezuela. It’s worth taking a look at the man now.
Chavez was a populist, socialist leader who wasted little time alienating both the United States and the Venezuelan upper class after he took office. Chavez became a global
The Late Hugo Chavez
hero for the left, and with good reason. He didn’t just promise to help the poor, he took action. He spent Venezuela’s revenue on education and health care. He pulled the country away from US influence. On the local level, Chavez set up groups – the Bolivarian Circles and Communal Councils – that were decentralized community boards of sorts that had real influence on local issues, a hallmark of participatory democracy that is very significant and rarely seen. And through nationalization of oil, agriculture and other business, Chavez both alienated major investors and substantially grew Venezuela’s GDP, at least for a while.
But while Chavez stuck to his guns when international investment plummeted, he, like most leftist leaders before him, was unable to figure out a way to contend with this. The US isolated Venezuela in the wake of his program of nationalizing the oil and other major industries in the country, costing US investors a lot of money. And Chavez welcomed that isolation; it allowed him to lead the fight against US imperialism, and he surely reveled in the role. And, while Chavez has kept the economy steady in recent years, it has been a patchwork project.
In his later years, Chavez followed an all too familiar pattern, vesting more and more power in the executive. Of course, after the failed coup attempt in 2002, and the ongoing efforts to destabilize his regime, there were real reasons for this. That’s the Castro argument, and the effects were the same. Chavez became more repressive, even earning some opprobrium from the left a few years back after he imprisoned a judge because he issued a ruling Chavez (and many Venezuelans) disagreed with. Continue reading →