The Facts, the Law and the Table

Reading Shaul Magid, Kevin Jon Heller, MJ Rosenberg, Leon Wieseltier, Daniel Gordis

Gershom Gorenberg

An older journalistic colleague of mine, now retired, studied law in his youth. He regularly quoted the advice of one of his professors: “When you have the facts on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound on the table.”

The Gaza flotilla affair has produced some excellent reading for those interested in the law and facts. It has also led some of the usual suspects to pound even harder on the table. A brief guide:

At Zeek, Shaul Magid makes a strong argument that Israel’s leaders are undermining the argument against an anti-Israel boycott  by maintaining the blockade of Gaza:

One reason ordinary Gazans have turned to smugglers is that Israel determines what does and does not constitute “humanitarian aid” and can be allowed through the blockade to reach Gaza. While to my knowledge there is no exhaustive list of items refused entry into Gaza, UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, has compiled a list of items that have been refused entry at one time or another, including light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, shampoo and conditioner. …

… Israel claims to be innocent of human rights abuses, yet strictly controls all items in and out of Gaza, including items that are necessary for a war-torn society to function (and may items that have nothing to do with security). In other words, Israel is creating or at least contributing to a human rights crisis while claiming to be innocent of human rights abuses.Israel’s counter-argument that it needs to blockade Gaza to protect its own security is real and should not be minimized by the international community. However, one can also justifiably question its sincerity when it turns down an offer of diplomatic relations with a moderate Arab country over the quantity of cement that country wants to import. …

Shaul is right to stress the point about Israel’s right to protect itself. The argument is over the means that the government has chosen toward that end – the blockade of Gaza in general, and the raid on the ship in particular.

As I noted in my American Prospect article, the Israeli government is arguing that stopping civilian vessels in international waters is legal under the laws governing naval blockades. Australian legal scholar Kevin Jon Heller doesn’t dismiss this argument, but he raises some very serious questions. Key point:

If the conflict between Israel and Hamas is an international armed conflict (IAC), there is no question that Israel has the right to blockade Gaza. …  The 1909 Declaration Concerning the Laws of Naval War (the London Declaration), the first international instrument to acknowledge the legality of blockades, specifically recognized the right of belligerents to blockade their enemy during time of war.  Article 97 of the San Remo Manual does likewise.  And there is certainly no shortage of state practice supporting the legitimacy of blockades during IAC (the US blockade of Cuba, for example).

However, this rule applies to wars between states. Heller says there’s little evidence “to support the idea that a blockade is legally permissible” in a conflict between a state and a non-state actor. In fact, when the Union used a naval blockade against the Confederacy during the Civil War, it led to European recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent state. Is the Netanyahu government ready to take the risk that the Hamas government in Gaza will gain recognition as an independent state?

At Media Matters, MJ Rosenberg shows his usual ability to cut through the nonsense:

The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade.  Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.

In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served.  Their goal was not really to get breakfast.  It was to end segregation.

That fact is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the “pro-Israel” lobby is using it as an indictment.

MJ cites “the facts about life in Gaza today — facts that only can be changed by breaking the blockade.  These data come from the American Near East Relief Association (ANERA), which provides relief to Gazans to the extent permitted by the Israeli (and American) authorities.” Some selected points:

8 out of 10 Gazans depend on foreign aid to survive.

The World Food Program says Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to meet basic nutritional needs – yet an average of just 171 trucks worth of supplies enters Gaza every week,

95% of Gaza’s water fails World Health Organization standards leaving thousands of newborns at risk of poisoning.

Anemia for children under the age of 5 is estimated at 48%.

Maybe, if Humpty Dumpty gets to define “humanitarian crisis,” this isn’t a humanitarian crisis. But I think you have to pound on the table, rather than the facts, to make that argument.

Leon Wieseltier looks at the psychology of the Netanyahu government, and the particularly pernicious tradition that underlies it:

It is hard not to conclude from this Israeli action, and also from other Israeli actions in recent years, that the Israeli leadership simply does not care any longer about what anybody thinks. It does not seem to care about what even the United States—its only real friend, even in the choppy era of Obama—thinks. This is not defiance, it is despair. The Israeli leadership seems to have given up any expectation of fairness and sympathy from the world. It is behaving as if it believes, in the manner of the most perilous Jewish pessimism, that the whole world hates the Jews, and that is all there is to it. This is the very opposite of the measured and empirical attitude, the search for strategic opportunity, the enlistment of imagination in the service of ideals and interests, that is required for statecraft.

The complication … is that there is a partial basis in the actually existing world for a degree of Israeli pessimism. There are leaders, states, organizations, and peoples whose hostility to the Jewish state is irrational and absolute and in some cases murderous….  I do not see how any of this can be denied, or shunted aside, or explained entirely in terms of Israeli behavior. But it is emphatically not the whole picture, except for those Israelis and Jews whose political interests and ideological inclinations prefer it to be the whole picture. For there are forces in Israel, and in its government, that have a use for Jewish hopelessness.

There is a verse in Numbers that Jewish pessimists like to cite: “the people shall dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations.” It is Balaam’s divinely inspired description of the Israelites—Balaam, who came to curse and stayed to bless. But I have always regarded it as a curse, this promise of loneliness…. It chills me to the bone. It is a locution for prophets, not prime ministers. The Jews cannot dwell alone. In fact, their history shows that they never did dwell alone. It is not a tale of insularity and isolation. The apartness of the Jews was never a complete secession from their environment. The engagement of the Jews with the world was a matter not only of practical necessity, but also of theological conviction. And not even the darkest and most dire adversity succeeded in driving them entirely into themselves.

What I particularly like here is that Wieseltier has demolished the claim that pessimism is realism. It is the opposite. It is a pathological refusal to see reality and the opportunities that reality offers.

Now if you want to see someone pound on the table, read the Shalem Center’s Daniel Gordis in the New York Times. Gordis writes with more sincerity and coherence than the official propagandists defending the raid, but he is reciting the same arguments.

Gordis comments that the era of international sympathy for Israel  is “gone, of course, because of the world’s impatience with the ‘occupation’ of the West Bank and Gaza.” Why, precisely, does he put quotation marks around occupation? The arm of the State of Israel responsible for the West Bank is the military. A military panel recently ruled that the Basic Laws of Israel don’t apply to settlers because they are living in territory subject to the international laws of occupation. But if the West Bank isn’t under military occupation, what – in Gordis’s view – explains the fact the Palestinian residents do not enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens? Would he prefer to define the territory as a colony or protectorate? Or to label it as part of the state, and justify the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians within that state?

Gordis asserts that “most Israelis want peace with two states — one Jewish and one Palestinian, living side by side,” which is probably true. He fails to note that the Netanyahu government is dedicated to continued construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlements intended to block the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Gordis notes that the Hamas regime in Gaza is repressive. He does not remember the argument of  the French Jewish philosopher-journalist Raymond Aron in his classic 1957 essay, “The Algerian Tragedy”: The fact that independent Algeria would be undemocratic did not justify France’s attempt to continue to rule that country by force. It was impossible to defend imposed rule of another nation in the name of liberal ideals, Aron said. The same is true of Israel’s attempt to control Gaza indirectly.

Most importantly, Gordis writes as if the blockade of Gaza has been aimed solely at interdicting arms, with no limitations on civilian goods. He asserts that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza…” He does not give any source for this assertion. It appears that he believes it so because the government says it’s so.

Israel most definitely has the right to defend itself. In a wide strategic view, the defense of Israel includes Israel’s relations with other nations and the pursuit of peace. No matter how much you pound on the table, the economic blockade of Gaza is failing as means of defending Israel.

21 thoughts on “The Facts, the Law and the Table”

  1. Several thoughts spring to mind…

    I recently read a bio of Albert Einstein. He backed Zionism but he was very anxious that, rather than producing a spiritual home it would result in a nation/state that would exercise power the bad way shown by so many others – literally – that the bad stuff goes with the territory.

    If one takes the view you mentioned, that the world hates Israel and always will, then why not do with the occupied territories as one wishes? Under this philosophy, since there couldn’t be any more hatred than there already is, disregard it and move on. But this is made possible only by The Bodyguard with Deep Pockets, aka, the U.S.

    Which brings me to the right to self defense. The House recently approved HR5327 “United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act”. Could there be any greater need for such defense than in Israel? Makes sense. I approve. But why am I and all other Americans paying for it to the tune of $200 million+ ? Dear Israelis: we are hugely in debt here, many have lost their homes and jobs. Detroit is becoming a ghost town. It’s looking very bad in the Glop, I mean the Gulf, of Mexico. Do you think you folks could pay for this round?

  2. I suggest there are two points one should conisder in this existential crisis, one in Israel, one in Gaza, mostly, but the West Bank as well.

    1) The suicide bombers are gone, but not their memory. The Wall worked. There has, to my memory, only been one mostly futile suicide bombing in Israel, and I believe that bomber came from the southern boarder. One should not, in my view, underestimate the success of the Wall in realized Israeli life. One can go to cafes now, ride buses, much like most Westerners do–oblivious to any calculated fear.

    The Wall, which I thought could not work, has nutured the view that isolation is necessary for enjoyed life. The Israeli Supreme Court is hated for altering the track of the wall, as though the Court refuses to acknowledge how safe civil life in Israel has become thereby. Whatever socio-economic costs to the Wall, the Wall insulated against noticing them. This same attitude is evident in the Gaza blockade. But I venture this warning: Israel has Arab citizens, and they feel silenced in grievance as well. The Wall may become a symbol for them, for they sometimes have connections on the other side, family, friend, business. There are walls within Israel, as in any society; and they are usually useful to some, so harmful to others. The Wall symbols a fundamental social tool, but one we would rather not see in entirety. Once again Israel, child of the Holocaust, may be forced to see what most elsewhere say is not.

    2) The Gazan blockade operates as the Wall, just less effectively. And, as the Wall alters social possibility in the West Bank, the blockdade obviously alters social structure in Gaza. Gershom quotes a statistic that 8 of 10 Gazans require foregin aid to survive. Reduce that in generosity to 50%. This aid must be distributed, and distribution itself becomes a contended resource. Strategies to control people will evolve, daily effort devoted not to productivity as we usually see it, but to channelling resources magically delivered. We on the outside may call this dictatorship or fanatism; even so, it is survival. And what comes out of this strange social economic structure may be new to us. I saw a car (!) being pulled through one of the Gazan tunnels. Such a bizzare images suggests how privileged some in Gaza are, and how such privilege is contingent on the blockade. We (Israel, the West) will have to deal with the consequences of this evolved social structure once the blockade is loosened if not removed.

    Israeli security measures, the Wall paradigmatic, are creating new variants of social structure, their consequences framing our future. Without doubt suicide bombing as a tactic entered the Islamist r’epertoire via the Palestinian conflict. Life avoids being crushed, as Jews have demonstrated repeatedly. So too may others show the lesson.

    Israel, this is not just your conflict, even excluding the usual war on terror frame. We have no idea where new variants of life evolved here may travel. Confrontation with Israeli policy is confrontation with the future of us all. And I freely admit there is risk in this. The Bibi’s of the world are rarely completely wrong.

  3. Events unfold, sadly for us all, tragically for Palestinians and Israelis. And those who’d help in the cause of justice. Just how tragic, witness the maiming of a young and forthright 21 year old Jewish activist, shot in the eye during a non-violent demonstration against the flotilla massacre. This young lady of courage will recover, and like Rachel Corrie will become a symbol for the struggle against the inhumanity of oppression everywhere. rachel has a boat name after her, yet even to say the name of a boat is beyond the IDF spokespersons. It is the name they dare not speak in Israel because it is the name of shame. Much denied, but as Macbeth tells it, some blood never washes off, because there was no acknowledgment that blood was spilled. Wantonely.

    The ship formerly known as “linda” says the IOF spokes”person”. Would the spokespeople of the world say – some day, not too far off – the land formerly known as Palestine when referring to Israel? If that is where events lead, we have only started to discern just what tragedy is still to unfold.

    According to the bible, it was god who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Even those who are not religious in the slightest are beginning to wonder whether there is, in fact, something like a god, for how else to explain Israelis hard, hardened hearts?

  4. An interesting item appears in the news per my earlier lament about the U.S. buying things (missile defense) for Israel. This appeared today in the N.Y. Times speaking of Netanyahu on tour: “He started (the tour) in Paris to take part in celebrations of Israel’s acceptance into the club of rich countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development…”

    So one country with a very slack economy is giving money to another rich country with a healthy economy, and the vote to do so in the U.S. House is 401 for, 4 against?

    May this humble American citizen, whose questions to his legislators on this go unanswered, wonder what is going on and why it has been going on for decades, so much so that it is considered routine and passes notice in the news without comment? May this humble citizen confess to just a tiny bit of anger about it?

  5. On Gregory Pollack’s above:

    The blockade is Israel’s response to Gaza militancy/resistance as checkpoints and walls are a response to West Bank militancy/resistance. That they “work” they also work to harm Israel: Jews become inured to Arab suffering and go about their merry way- rationalizing, reinforcing their narrative to each other, not paying attention to the other narrative, the one that impedes Israel, physically, socially, economically morally… existentially.

    The wall is working only in a sense and temporarily. In the meantime the war goes on. But from Israeli side it seems like there is no hurry to work on the basic problem… just more excuses why it’s impossible now.

    The Flotilla like the Siege and the Gaza War. Operation Cast Lead, call the world’s attention to the direness of the situation on the other side always in danger of being forgotten. Thus there were the desperate attempts at getting attention while spoiling Israel’s party by using suicide bombers. Then Palestinians realized it backfired on them; it went too far, turned everyone off, brought more sympathy to Israel.

    As long as resistance is passive and confined to that, Palestinians are going to win this. I say “win”- I also mean for the good of Israel ultimately as well.

    I would be very surprised, if there was a fair investigation,if there could be one. But more importantly I would like to know from a fair investigation if ANY material will be found on these boats that could really harm Israel’s security, or threaten it’s existence. I mean threaten it’s existence more than the blockade and the occupation itself. This round, Israeli thinkers, those in charge, have been out smarted.

    I am hearing now, for the first time, about how lacking Israel’s defenses are in strategy and execution. The evidence being the Lebanon War of 2006, the Gaza War or 2008/9 and this Flotilla incident- ( add the Dubai assassination ). This does not bode well for the strategy of force and more force.

    I think we are witnessing Israel’s self-destruction.

  6. From Suzanne:

    “The Flotilla like the Siege and the Gaza War. Operation Cast Lead, call the world’s attention to the direness of the situation on the other side always in danger of being forgotten. Thus there were the desperate attempts at getting attention while spoiling Israel’s party by using suicide bombers. Then Palestinians realized it backfired on them; it went too far, turned everyone off, brought more sympathy to Israel.”

    The suicide bombings motivating the Wall were before the events you list, being c 2000-2. I do not think we may discount the possibility of renewed bombings, as I do not think the groups engendering these bombings represent the Palestinian “people.” I do believe that, with care, Palestinians themselves could dismantle these groups, better, removing the forces generating them–with an opening, controlled, of the various blockades.

    I think it likely, though, that some new bombings will occur if the Wall is lifted; that is, it will take time to dampen the accumulated hatred and ideology in some quarters. To claim that no new bombing will recur does not honor the fears of one’s opponents (say, Bibi, etc.). These fears have a basis in fact.

    But I would also note this: back in 1996 or so, before Oslo had completely fallen, an Israeli pointed out that the Northern Ireland conflict hand been going on for centuries, and would continue. Since then NI has had a home government composed of two leaders who earlier hated one another, perhaps wishing the death of one another.

    We do not understand how peace is formed, or who can make it happen. We can only keep groping forward. I would not, though, disrespect the true fears of the Bibi’s, even of the Bush’s–although I would indeed oppose them. Peace is a risk and, as in all previous nonviolent campaigns, some will likely die if attempts to create peace are made. And the peace that emerges will likely be incomplete. Because of the cell nature of suicide bombing groups, I think even under optomistic scenarios we must expect some such bombing for awhile. Crucial will be how “we” respond to it. I believe some responses can engender even more such bombing.

    I doubt suicide bombing is now a tactic removed by the Palestinian people, for there is no single such people, and there are competing groups within the occupied territories. What “we” do not seem at present know how to do is help some groups dismantle these other, bombing groups; such dismantling is not by force alone, but by providing new options in life, bleeding the violent group members away. We will have to guess, risk. Confront the real fears of one’s policy opponents. Those fears, and their uses, are why one’s opponents are there.

  7. GP- I was not paying attention to the order of occurrence- just making the point. I don’t think the walls and checkpoints, blockades and sieges coming down will stop the flood if there is no agreement to end the conflict, mutually and justly, each side conceding what we know they must. You are right the suicides and rockets might not be completely stopped. BUT the difference will be that you will have all those who have a lot to lose on either side, but especially on the Palestinian side where normal life, building a state will take energy and getting used to. They will like independence and normality. Israel would have less risk than it does on the current descending path. I can’t imagine that Palestinians will not want to work very hard to control their extremists and avoid repercussions. The key is an end of conflict agreement and support of it. Unilateral withdrawals and lifting of blockades and closing a few checkpoints still leaves the conflict unsettled and something to resist, to fight for or against.

  8. MJ Rosenberg’s comparison of the “Free Gaza”folks with civil rights demonstrators in offensive!
    Anyone really concerned about Gazans would ask why so many still live in poverty although billions of dollars in aid were given to Yasir Arafat’s goverment. Any true peace person would shy away from all contact with the terrorist murderers of the Hamas. Why did the Free Gaza folks accept huge amounts of aid from the IHH group? Didn’t they know they had an agenda which isnt
    exactly non-violent and serves the geopolitical ambitions of the Turkish and Iranian governments?

    And as a woman, I know my sisters
    (I still hope that some day we will live
    together in peace, although I doubt it will happen in my lifetime) in Gaza
    need to be freed from the tyranny of a Hamas Islamic state which is opressive to women.

  9. Some point to a sea change in the Palestinian, and even the Hamas, leadership, saying that they have finally discovered the advantages of propaganda and statesmanship over violence and terror. Instead of encouraging and wholeheartedly adopting this approach, Israel, which hasn’t changed its thought patterns for decades, is “caught by surprise” and even dismayed. ‏(Recently an intelligence official actually called the absence of Palestinian terror a “propaganda problem”‏).

    from Doron Rosenblum/ Haaretz
    Israel’s Commando Complex

  10. Suzanne,

    What you say makes sense to me. I think it will be necessary to own the possibility to likelihood of attacks upon boundary openings, and to prepare a social response to them. I would say, as a political principle, peace is a form of risk. Own the risk so that, when a violent eruption ocurrs, those wanting a return to violence and pure containment do not have a righteous monoploy of mourning and revenge. Risk should be acknowledged, and talk of possible response begun before violent events.

    The Israeli State has done such a fine job of preventing violence (at high cost to others) that it now appears the sole aggressor. I am certain that the Israeli Administration is fuming over this. But it is inevitable, as once one’s violence quashes all reply, only one’s violence can be seen.

    I, for one, would like to know why that young Arab Israeli woman who sits in the Knesset was on the convoy. I mean an interview with her. Why she did it, events in her past, what it was like meeting those on board, and what she sees for Israeli Arab activists in the future. Really, here is where change can come, through people who live the social/political tension. Israeli electorial outcomes are about what lies in the country as well as what surrounds the country.

  11. Gregory, the wall is only about 60% complete (or was, as of last July: There are thousands of undocumented Palestinian migrant workers apprehended in Israel every month. If the unfinished wall is no serious obstacle to these, how would it prevent a would-be suicide bomber from reaching Israel?
    The reason there have been no suicide bombings for some time is that their main perpetrator back then, Hamas, reordered their priorities to first winning the intra-Palestinian power struggle with Fatah and transforming Palestinian society.

    If Israelis *feel* safer because they buy their govt’s kool-aid that would be fine with me if it wasn’t for the very real damage the wall inflicts on Palestinians, damage that has nothing whatsoever to do with security.

  12. Fiddler- the damage also is inflicted on Israeli’s themselves- allowing an illusion and fostering obliviousness to Palestinian suffering. So drinking the Kool-aid is as empty and non-sustaining as the imbibing that drink itself.

    The marked decrease/lack of violence coming from Gaza and the West Bank towards Israel does seem about a change in tactic/strategy which I would bet will work if it gathers momentum, if anger is controlled. So for some who don’t want peace, it would be in their interest to stir up more anger. Part of that equation also has to be support from the rest of the world, and, I think the inclusion of Hamas in talks ( no preconditions) is essential.

    Gregory- The headlines today in Haaretz – the Knesset members continuing to gang up on Arab MK Zoabi, called a traitor for her participation in the flotilla- shameful. Now members of the Knesset want to revoke her privileges ( a panel voted 7 to 1). It’s obvious that she did it because the people of Gaza are suffering…to protest the blockade.. a moral duty and her duty as a Knesset member, in a democratic state.

    Watch this if you have not.

    And today Knesset Panel Recommends Revoking Arab MK’s Privileges

  13. Citing Raymond Aron, and in response to Gordis, Gorenberg’s writes “…The fact that independent Algeria would be undemocratic did not justify France’s attempt to continue to rule that country by force. It was impossible to defend imposed rule of another nation in the name of liberal ideals, Aron said. The same is true of Israel’s attempt to control Gaza indirectly.”
    I can agree that it is difficult to justify imposing democracy on a neighbouring nation, as France tried to do in Algeria…However, the France-Algeria analogy is invalid:
    Firstly, in democratic elections that were apparently fair and transparent, the majority of Palestinians chose the leaders they now have. How can it be claimed that Israel is imposing democracy on Gaza?

    More importantly, this same democratically elected regime is dedicated to destroying Israel! Did Algeria ever pose a threat to French citizens that was even vaguely similar to the threat that the Aza regime poses to Israelis?

    Gorenberg’s conclusion that it is “…impossible to defend imposed rule of another nation in the name of liberal ideals…” may have been true with Algeria. It certainly is possible to defend a policy aimed at control of a regime bent on one’s destruction. Indeed, it is more than possible, it is preferable!

  14. Fiddler, glad to see I am wrong; I assumed that the bombing silence implied completion. I suspect Abass’ regime is policing well; they were getting money transfers, held up for years, from Israel. Your logic on Hamas, though, suggests that bombing, at least one or a few, might recurr under high tension. Nothing happened during the Gaza bombardment. Something is missing here, but I do not know enough to have a guess as to what it could be. What you say about the economic migrants focuses the question: exactly why are they not being used as cover? Why did the bombings stop? I really don’t know, I guess.

    Suzanne, thanks for the links and info. I do not know Hebrew. Sometimes I wonder about English, too. I am not surprised she is being treated this way. But this is how civil resistence can, not will, just can, begin. I have long thought that Israel’s greatest hope would be in its Arab citizens, if rights articulation began with them. Such a movement would be diffiuclt, prolonged. More reason to have articles about her in Hebrew, Arabic, English. The video shows a woman of some composure.

    Thank you both for the corrections, info. I really am a silly aging man (in the Amercian SouthWest) who just hates to see this conflict continue. Real actualized thought is possible. Keep thinking, keep typing.

  15. Gregory- there is a translation in English but I think the faces and the emotions and actions speak for themselves even without words.

    Here is the video with translation ( subtitles)
    Knesset Members Attack Zoabi”

    (I don’t see her being physically attacked, but she was in every other way)

    So many believe that because Hamas has the destruction of Israel written in their decades old charter and you hear angry occasional outbursts, that this trumps all other signs that they are willing to deal and agree to a peace. ( See Fawez Gerges article in the Nation- ” The Transformation of Hamas April 2010). Threats ( including the right of return issue) are a necessary stance for them, something they have to bargain with ( along with Gilad Shalit) in exchange. Where is the idea that Hamas could be encouraged to moderate They are only enemy to be defeated- which will never happen. What if Hamas’ threat of violence (and support of it) is really based on the occupation continuing, upon Israeli assaults? Their rockets have decreased to a practical halt, or markedly, while their offers have been rejected. Israeli’s telling themselves that this a more non-violent period is because of the siege and blockade while they suffer increasingly strong international criticism and loss of support.

    There are demands from the Israeli side for recognition, and the renouncing of violence while at the same time Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of Hamas ( they were elected democratically!) and does not let up on it’s own violence.

    Concessions are the result of negotiations. So to keep this conflict going, demand a priori what you must negotiate for and don’t budge. Israel in the meantime gets to say ( and opinionators get to repeat) that Hamas are all hardliners bent on Israel’s destruction. Never mind that Hamas cannot do that better, if that is really so, than allowing Israel to self-destruct.

  16. Gregory, I suspect you’re right that policing by Fatah might be one factor, though I couldn’t imagine that to be 100% effective if Hamas or PIJ were hell-bent on taking up suicide bombings again.

    I don’t know Hebrew either, but the Knesset video with English subtitles is here:
    Note the peculiar role of the Speaker: on the one hand he’s trying to restore order, on the other he and the hecklers use up most of the five minutes allotted to MK Zoabi, so she’s hardly able to say anything at all.

  17. The Knesset session video in English translation has brought tears to my eyes. I think of Jim Crow in the American South, when darky was yelled into submission when he opened his mouth (please, I mean no disrespect to Zoabi’s skin color; “darky” was a demeaning term applied to African Americans in pre Civil Rights America). Yet the mix necessary for advancement is there: Zoabi was elected; she with more grace than I would have tried to speak. Those who attacked her as “terrorist” having a “knife” (“chainsaw”?) have wounded themselves. There is a quote from one of my heroes, M. K. Gandhi:

    First they ignore you
    Then they laugh at you
    Then they fight you
    Then you win

    It is up to Zoabi and any throughout Israel who support, believe, her right to stand to themselves become present, to not hide, to risk charge of traitor, terrorist. Perhaps she is a terrorist, forcing us to look at ourselves in the mirror of our purported values. Such actions as hers can break our rhetorical prisons. She acted as one in the Israeli State, not without; she employed the liberty granted under law to alter the political landscape. She can not fail, after her stand; but others, in Israel, can fail her.

    The implicit analogy to the election of Hamas is the election of Nazis in the Weimer Republic, ultimately leading to the legal devolution of all power to Hitler through parliamentry approval. We continue to fight the Nazis, then watch them is envy fascination in film. I recall leaders of Hamas offering a 10 year truce when considering the formation of a government; I also recall some of these saying they wanted to first focus on internal social issues before addressing the question of final peace. Make no mistake: addressing internal issues first would, if successful, improve their political base; but that is what state politics is. We will never know what Hamas might have become back then. There would have been internal fighting, for some do indeed want to eradicate Israel–the point being some, who must contend with others who place priorities elsewhere. What the West failed to understand is that by affirming our belief in elections we might well have improved the hand of those who would ultimately abandon the destruction of Israel as first principle. And by blockading Gaza after the internal takeover of Hamas, snowballed by the prior failure to bow to (obviously fair) electoral outcome, we bled our democratic values of legitimacy. We failed to risk for democracy, because we did not like, feared, where democracy had gone. It would have been a risk to accept our principles. It always is.

    In what I think was the first large outdoor civil rights meeting of Martin Luther King, Jr, in Detroit, I think it was, King began his address by saying something like “let me first say that at this gather not one instance of violence has been reported.” True statement or not, who knows (that is, whether there was no violence on the margins). The point is that nonviolence first polices those it would help before confronting ostensive opponents. One of Gandhi’s major fasts, I think I already somewhere mentioned, focused on untouchability, and internal hindu issue, unreleated to British control. Principles begin at home.

    What has happened in the Knesset is opportunity. Only Israelis can make actuality from it. And that making will undoubtedly be a difficult road of travel.

    I conclude by suggesting that someday we will have to leave the Nazis behind us.

  18. Gregory- right.

    and true: “We failed to risk for democracy, because we did not like, feared, where democracy had gone. It would have been a risk to accept our principles. It always is.”

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