Saturday, July 26, 2014

168.8 - Middle East and Gaza: Israel does not want peace

Middle East and Gaza: Israel does not want peace

The are times, moments, occasions, periods, when I have trouble dealing with things. Not things, things. Not the me, the my life stuff, the get up, go to work, do errands, read a book, chill out, walk the dogs stuff. The whole world stuff.

Sometimes, the awareness penetrates the cynicism, the emotion penetrates the intellectualizing, the reality penetrates the analysis, the whole penetrates the parts. I have an expression for such times: I say "the world is too much with me."

I don't know if I came with that phrase on my own or if I heard it somewhere, since it can be found in a sonnet by William Wordsworth that dates from about 1802:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours; ...
So maybe I came across it somewhere. Or maybe I made it up for myself. I have no idea and it doesn't matter. What is means for me is those moments when I am too aware of the sheer enormity of pain and suffering in world and how small and pointless any effort you - I - came make in the face of it appears to be. It's not good place to be because if it persists too long it can be debilitating.

I was finding the world too much with me recently. What brought it on was noticing a news story about two rival Libyan militias were fighting for control of the Tripoli airport and another about a battle between the Libyan army and Islamist forces in Benghazi. And it reminded me that fighting in Libya has never really ended since the fall of Qaddafi.

So there is near anarchy in parts of Libya. There is civil war in Ukraine, there is civil war in Iraq, there is civil war in Syria - and of course there is butchery in Gaza. And it was too much. I wanted to hide. I still do.

But I can't, at least not yet - because there is something I have to say:

Israel does not want peace.

I don't know how else to say it except that bluntly and directly. Israel prefers the status quo; Israel prefers having Hamas as an excuse to avoid a final settlement; it prefers the occasional Hamas rocket, very few of which actually do any harm, to having no rockets at all; it prefers to drive the people of Gaza into the arms of Hamas to doing anything that would undermine Hamas's popularity - such as lifting the blockade of Gaza, which has turned it into the world's largest-ever outdoor prison.

Why? Because real peace would mean a real Palestinian state and that would require the hard right of Israel to give up it's dreams of a "greater Israel," a nation standing astride the Middle East with the power and reach of King David in all his glory in the most grandiose of tellings of the tales. It would mean treating Palestinians as equals and as regarding themselves as one among equals - and for too many among the Israeli right, the politically powerful Israeli right, the politically powerful religiously-conservative Israeli right, that just can't be allowed.

But Israel can't do this, it can't maintain this, without the active support of the United States, which is now paying for about 25% of Israel's annual military budget. So we have to be flooded with Israeli propaganda, propaganda which depends for its success on Americans knowing little about Gaza, an ignorance driven in turn by the heavy pro-Israel bias of the US news media, a bias so extreme that on July 21 MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal accused her own network of being "disgustingly biased," saying that the network might have on a Palestinian “maybe for 30 seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu, and half an hour for Naftali Bennett."

(Benjamin, nicknamed "Bibi," Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel; Bennett is minister of the economy.)

As if to prove her point, Jebreal later said on Twitter that her upcoming TV appearances had been canceled.

You want an example of how that ignorance works? How many times in the past several days have you heard it said that Israel blames the hundreds of civilian deaths, including over 150 children, the thousands of civilian casualties, its attack on Gaza has caused on Hamas, on claims of Hamas using civilians as "human shields?" How many times have you heard it claimed that Israel is doing everything it can to not hit civilians?

Indeed, on Monday, Netanyahu said that the Palestinians "are responsible for all the civilian deaths," because, he said, "they don't care ... [they want to] pile up the bodies."

Here's where the ignorance comes in: The population of Gaza is about 1.8 million. The area of Gaza is about 140 square miles. That's about 12,900 people per square mile.

The population density of the city of Boston: 12,900 people per square mile.

Gaza is as densely populated as the city of Boston. And remember, the people of Gaza can't leave: They are blocked in on one side by the Egyptians and on the other by the Israelis.

Okay, so you tell me: Where are those civilians supposed to go? Where is it they can go where they will not be targeted by Israeli bombs?

Consider this leaflet, which the Israelis dropped over Gaza. The other thing here is that it's easy to forget - because damn well the US media never mentions it and the Israelis will consciously avoid mentioning it - is that Hamas is not just a military organization: It is the elected civil leadership of Gaza. It's the schools, the police force, the fire protection, it has day-care centers, hospitals. So where do those people go to not be near anything "Hamas?"

Israel knows this. It knows those people have nowhere to go. The Israeli government knows - it cannot not know - that its attacks will indiscriminately kill civilians. It knows - and it doesn't care. We know it doesn't care because it keeps doing it, keeps doing what it knows will kill large numbers of civilians and then lies about whose fault it is. It knows - and it doesn't care. What it cares about is that we do not know.

We have to be aware. We have to learn. We have to know. And one thing we do have to know - now - is that it is time, it is long past time, for a complete end to all US military assistance, aid, and sales to Israel. Not one plane, not one gun, not one bullet, not one dollar. Not until Israel formally, overtly, and specifically recognizes the Palestinians' right to an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza and reaches an actual agreement to that end and I do mean formally and specifically: none of the "maybe sure someday kinda in some form yup sort of" doubletalk that has been the Israeli government's pattern for years - a pattern, we now know, which is nothing short of a lie:

At a press conference on July 11, Netanyahu made it explicitly clear that he would never agree to a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. Quoting him,
there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.
At that same press conference, he also said, in the combination of inflamed self-importance and paranoia that increasingly marks Israeli government policy, that he sees Israel as standing almost alone on the frontlines against Islamic radicalism, while the rest of the as-yet free world does its best not to notice.

Well, okay: If the leadership of Israel likes to see their nation as standing alone, maybe we should allow it to do just that. Until there is an actual settlement including an independent Palestinian state - which any real settlement will have to include - not one US penny should go to the Israeli military. We may not be able to stay the hangman's noose, but we can at least stop paying for the rope.

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