This article originally appeared at LobeLog.
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
Rabbi Brant Rosen leads a congregation in Evanston, Illinois and is co-chair of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. He is the author of the new book, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity and blogs at Shalom Rav. He stresses that the views, both in his book and in this interview, are his own and do not represent his congregation. We spoke on Monday December 4 in Washington, DC where he was promoting his book. An abridged version of this interview was published by Inter Press Service.
How has your personal view of Israel changed in the past four years?
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Co-Chair of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace
I think I’ve shifted from a liberal Zionist approach—viewing the conflict as two peoples who have two legitimate claims to the land and the only way out of the morass is two states for two people. I believed in the importance of a Jewish state and identified with Israel as a Jew; that was my narrative growing up. I have deep familial relationships in Israel, visited there many times, considered moving there…it was a gradual thing, but the breaking point was Operation Cast Lead in 2008 (Cast Lead was the code name given to Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza). I came to realize this was not a conflict between two equal parties but an essential injustice that began with the birth of the state of Israel and continued since that time. It is a case of one very powerful party bending the other to its will.
Once I spoke out about Israel’s outrages in Cast Lead, the dominoes really started to fall for me. At first I didn’t know where that brought me, and wasn’t sure where I stood. As a congregational rabbi I was in a difficult place and people looked to me for guidance. About a year after that, I really reassessed my relationship as a Jew to Israel, to the entire issue, not just Gaza, about Zionism in general. In the blog pieces I wrote for the book I wrote very extensively about my thoughts and my activity during this time. Brian Walt and I started Jewish Fast for Gaza, and we found a number of rabbis who stood with us to launch the initiative to end the blockade of the Strip and search for a just peace. I become more involved in Palestine Solidarity work, reaching out to Palestinians, some of whom were friends and others who were activists in this area, moving beyond my fear of them as “other.” So many of them reached out to me when I spoke out on Gaza, and I wanted to learn from them what their experience of this issue was. Continue reading
At Alternet, I argue that Israel’s own behavior is finally breaking down the walls for liberals all over the world, even in the US. The long-held epithet “PEP” (Progressive Except for Palestine) tried to shine a light on the difficult tension between liberal values and support for Israel’s excuses as to why it expands settlements and tightens its occupation. But now, Israel has stretched that to such a point that it is becoming impossible for liberals to ignore the reality of Israeli human rights abuses, rejectionism and land grabs. This wave overtook Europe some time ago, but now even US liberals, even Jewish ones, are moving away from their support for Israeli actions. AIPAC’s influence will become even more expensive as a result.