Cal Tzedek: 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004

Monday, September 27, 2004

Compulsory Criticism

Four officers of the "Shaldag" Air Force unit, who "have conducted numerous operations, including ambushes, arrests and even assassinations" in the Occupied Territories, have released a letter highly critical of IDF actions in the territories, particularly in Gaza.

That active duty soldiers are launching criticism of their own actions is a relatively new trend. Such public denunciations --and campaigns of conscientious objection-- have traditionally been dominated by reservists. This has generally allowed the government to dismiss such actions as politically motivated publicity stunts.

According to the Haaretz report, "The fighting in Gaza is currently very different from that in the West Bank: Lacking the precise intelligence information available in the West Bank and confronted with a growing terrorist threat, the IDF has escalated its operations to the point of collective punishment [emphasis added]. In the West Bank, house demolitions are "pinpoint" operations, used to punish the families of suicide bombers. In Gaza, dozens of houses can be destroyed at a time, in an effort to move the front lines away from the settlements and IDF positions."

The gentlemen were "particularly disturbed by what they saw in Rafah during Operation Rainbow in May." That campaign was similar to what has just occurred in Khan Yunis. Even if the houses in both cases were destroyed for security, it is important to ask, for the security of whom? As the (mostly reservist) refuseniks have said, Israel is fighting a "War of the Settlements." True, seizing land and building exclusive colonies might not be nearly as bad as murderous suicide attacks, as the Law of Hasbara Equivalency goes. But given the cost of maintaining these settlements, given the resulting criminalization of being a Palestinian in one's own home, it is amazing that fighting to preserve these settlements can be seen as anything other than criminal.
-Ehud

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Another Refusenik Jailed

"G.S." will be in jail for 28 days for refusing to take part in what he, and many others, feel is an unjust application of military force. The South-African immigrant reservist said "I lived in a society where one group's survival translated into injustice for others. That's the situation in Gaza and I don't want to be part of that."

In an editorial from the same day, Akiva Eldar sarcastically recommends that a national referendum ahead of the Gaza Disengagement Plan (as demanded by the right) include the question: Are you for or against your son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter spending their military service accompanying the children of Netzarim to music lessons?
-Ehud

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A dim ray of light

Not that I'm a big fan of John Kerry, for his reactionary positions on Israel or for a whole lot else, but I’ve all but signed on to the idea that there is a Greater Evil, so articles like this, showing that Jews are still overwhelmingly not Bush supporters, are somewhat comforting. And maybe it says that American Jews really don’t like Bush’s policies in Israel/Palestine. Tracking the “Jewish vote” would be more interesting if Kerry were to take a reasonable stance on Israel/Palestine (e.g., supporting the Geneva Accords-- though I guess that would make him sound too much like Nader, which would scare the “swing voters”), because if Jews were to still vote for Kerry over Bush, it would provide a strong argument that being “pro-Israel” (in a right-wing sense) is not The Most Important Thing to American Jews. Imagine if it were clear that Jews supported Kerry despite him being more balanced (less Bush-style “Pro-Israel”) on the conflict. Too bad we won’t find out if that’s the case during this election season.
I found this line somewhat interesting:
“The Bush administration has been the most unabashedly supportive of Israel, culminating in Mr Sharon's visit to Washington last April, when Mr Bush broke with 30 years of diplomatic tradition by endorsing his Gaza withdrawal plan.”
Hasn’t American diplomatic tradition for the past 30+ years been that Israel should not be in the Gaza strip? So isn’t backing the withdrawal plan very consistent with American diplomatic tradition? Maybe in England, as opposed to the U.S., it’s already common knowledge that keeping parts of the West Bank is a key part of the withdrawal plan, even though the plan, for some shocking reason, isn’t called “The Gaza Withdrawal and West Bank Land Grabbing Plan.” That would certainly be counter to American policy to date-- at least the stated policy.
- Gidon

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More Refugee Rubble

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports that the IDF destroyed 54 homes in the Khan Yunis refugee camp over the weekend, totaling 502 homes destroyed since September 2000 in the camp alone.

Haaretz reports only that "the army demolished buildings already abandoned due to fighting, but believed to have been used as cover to launch Qassams that struck Neveh Dekalim the day before, killing a woman."

This is contradicted by PCHR reports that residents of destroyed homes had to flee quickly.

The PCHR version of events is similar to the pattern of Israel's house demolitions confirmed by Amnesty International in a rather lengthy report.

Needless to say, I find it incredibly doubtful that more than a few of these 54 homes were destroyed out of "military necessity."
-Ehud

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

New Jewish Politics

Check out this article in Dissent, "The Need for a New Jewish Politics," by Shalom Lappin.
And, happy Rosh Hashanah!
- Gidon

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Shana Tova

Happy New Year! This Haaretz piece seems particularly relevant during the Days of Awe.
-Ehud

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Expulsion in the West Bank

What exactly does Sharon hope to achieve by announcing to the world that Arafat will be expelled from the West Bank "at a convenient time" ? Clearly, this is an empty threat designed to make Arafat as compliant as ever. In the meantime, I'm sure Israel will "expose" Arafat's brutal, repressive, and undemocratic leadership style, as conscientious people should. But I doubt that a similar leader who was more compliant with Israel would get the same treatment.

-Ehud

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Meshuganeh Wordplay

The folks at the Zionist Organization of America are very precise in how they (and I have no evidence that they consist of anyone other than Morton Klein) communicate. Palestinians are always referred to as "Palestinian Arabs." In the ZOA's last five press releases, the term was used fifteen times. I do not deny that Palestinains are, in fact, Arabs, but why repeat this unwieldy term ad nauseum? My theories:

1. To remind us, lest we forget, that since Palestinians ARE Arabs, they can and SHOULD live somewhere other than Greater Israel.

2. To villify both Palestinians and the broader Arab population at once, as frequently as possible.

The press releases are very formulaic: First, the United States is villified for even the most meaningless and insincere "pressure" on Israel "to make one-sided concessions to the Palestinian Arabs." Then the following words are presented in one unit: Palestinian Arab Terrorist Homicide Killers. Then, once we are reminded that all Arabs are, in fact, Maimicide Horrorists, they are brought to task for what is really their biggest sin: building houses on their land without (Israeli-granted) permits!!! The U.S. State Department is then condemned to a fiery abyss for not noticing this, and the release invariably ends by quoting Morton Klein, who repeats everything, word for word, that had appeared up to that point unattributed to anyone.

Fortunately, most American Jews --even those associated with AIPAC-- distance themselves from Klein who, despite his flamboyant rhetoric, is not nearly as detrimental to a peaceful solution as AIPAC.

-Ehud

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Moral Clearasil

Here is a very interesting editorial from Sunday's Haaretz. The Oslo process was incredibly flawed from its outset, but an interesting point that Akiva Eldar brings up here is that the tendency of successive Israeli governments to exploit the Palestinian Authority's interim governmental structure in order to scapegoat Arafat for the process's failure has served mostly to pacify the left. The right never supported the process anyway, accusing the government of collaborating with, then importing and arming terrorists. When the process broke down (and I'd argue that Israel's unwillingness to fully withdraw from the territories was the main cause), it became convenient for Barak to parrot a modified version of the propaganda which the right had peddled for years: in this version, Arafat, the brilliant mastermind, was so thoroughly convincing in his "act" of moderation that the Labor party could in no way be blamed for his failed leadership. After six years in which to consolidate his power, however, he revealed himself for who he was, singlehandedly setting the peace process back ten years and masterminding the intifada, including its terrorism. Thus, armed with what Eldar calls "the conspiracy theory that was cultivated with extreme success in Israel and all over the world," Israel's government conveniently absolved itself in the eyes of both the left and the right.

I think it's important that we as Jews, Israelis, Americans, or whatever, be wary of such conveniently instantaneous self-absolutions by any leader of any body.

-Ehud

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