Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, who has written in the Guardian of the effects of Israel’s policies and attacks on Gaza.
“I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line.”
“Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.”
“In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion’s share of the scarce water resources.”
“America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.”
“Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel’s entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza.”
“A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria.”
Nancy Kanwisher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues have analysed the statistics on Israeli and Hamas attacks. The stats suggest that Hamas is able to reduce attacks nearly to zero when it wishes. The stats also seem to show that in most instances it is Israel that breaks ceasefires.
Indeed, of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96%, and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days.
First, Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest. The data shows that ceasefires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time. Second, if Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill.
The US Army War College released a report this week that argues that Hamas is badly misunderstood by both Israel and the US.
“Negotiating solely with the weaker Palestinian party-Fatah-cannot deliver the security Israel requires. . . . The underlying strategies of Israel and HAMAS appear mutually exclusive . . . . Yet each side is still capable of revising its desired endstate and of necessary concessions to establish and preserve a long-term truce, or even a longer-term peace.”
A 2005 letter from Human Rights Watch to President Bush adds some context on the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a policy which would probably be considered aggressive if deployed by, say, Mexico, in southern Texas:
You said, [President Bush], on October 20, 2005, following your meeting with Palestinian President Abbas: “Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations, or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion.” Israel has acted contrary to these obligations, escalating the building of settlements in 2005. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, in the first half of 2005, there was a 28% increase in settlement housing starts compared to the same period in 2004. Israel now proposes to further expand West Bank settlements in the coming year.
Going back a little, Vanity Fair explains how the Bush Administration’s attempts to manipulate Palestinian politics led to Hamas getting the upper hand:
How could the U.S. have played Gaza so wrong? Neocon critics of the administration—who until last year were inside it—blame an old State Department vice: the rush to anoint a strongman instead of solving problems directly. This ploy has failed in places as diverse as Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, during its war against Iran. To rely on proxies such as Muhammad Dahlan, says former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, is “an institutional failure, a failure of strategy.”
Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Sara Roy agonises over the deaths of Palestinian children and questions what Israeli victories mean for Jews.
As Jews celebrated the last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating our resurgence as a people, I asked myself: How am I to celebrate my Jewishness while Palestinians are being killed?
The religious scholar Marc Ellis challenges us further by asking whether the Jewish covenant with God is present or absent in the face of Jewish oppression of Palestinians? Is the Jewish ethical tradition still available to us? Is the promise of holiness – so central to our existence – now beyond our ability to reclaim?
The pictures are licensed Creative Commons, from Amir Farshad Ebrahimi; here’s his Flickr photostream.