Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaza II: the ground invasion

13/01: An Amnesty researcher apears to suggest that higher precision capabilities bring with them a higher level of a duty of care.

They have extremely sophisticated missiles that can be guided to a moving car and they choose to use other weapons or decide to drop a bomb on a house knowing that there were women and children inside. These are very, very clear breaches of international law.


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8/01: An Israeli writes of how he was shocked to learn that the government has allowed in humanitarian aid as a way of fending off international pressure to stop the assault: 'Not unlike raising animals for slaughter on a farm, the Israeli government maintains that it is providing Palestinians with assistance so that it can have a free hand in attacking them.'

Any hope that the silver lining in the current crisis might have been a hastily forged unity among the Palestinian factions is belied by this account of how Hamas is continuing its crackdown on Fatah members, in addition to executing collaborators and 'common criminals'.

It was chilling and disturbing to hear the Israeli Ambassador to the UK on BBC Hardtalk, contrast what he seemed to regard as the hellish fanatical Gaza with the prosperous booming West Bank. Listening to him, it became increasingly clear that this is Israel's game plan. In public, Israel denies that it wants to bring about regime change, insisting only that it wants rocket firing to stop. But sometimes spokespersons slip up and suggest much more maximalist designs: the elimination of Hamas - either ontologically (they simply don't exist any more) or by rendering them politically irrelevant via the discontent of the people of Gaza (who, it is hoped, will restore their allegiance to Fatah - which the Israelis now speak of as if it were a model interlocutor).

I really have no sense of what is happening in the West Bank. I was disturbed to hear, from dear S, of reports that there had been minuscule protests in Ramallah. There could be many reasons for this. People may simply be too preoccupied with the imperatives of life to have the luxury of protest. Or Fatah may be actively discouraging any meaningful expressions of solidarity. But it boggles the mind to think the Fatah may actually be pleased by the decimation of Hamas. I think I have a very naive view of national liberation politics in which I assume that despite all their differences, the factions in the liberation struggle manage to forge a tactical alliance till the big goal has been achieved. Then they fall upon each other to share the spoils of victory. In the case of Palestine, the big goal has not been achieved. Instead, Oslo heralded a sort of half-victory, or what Edward Said (I think) called, much more cynically, the right to kill mosquitoes and collect garbage in an archipelago of bantustans. Which is what leaves me incredulous: *this* is what they are fighting over?

But perhaps that is a misstatement of the situation. Perhaps running the PA is enough of a prize, enough of an incentive to engender this sort of infighting and disunity. After all, even before the carrot of the quasi-governmental authority of the PA was dangled before the liberation movement, there had been much infighting between factions. Arafat was able to triumph in that struggle through a combination of ruthlessness and cunning. (Unfortunately he seemed to believe that the skills that served him so well in the liberation struggle could also be useful in government - hence the encouragement of factionalism and his own position as a sort of Caesarist figure who was indispensable, could mediate, take final decisions. The result was chaotic, incompetent, clientilistic government. This is all *very* familiar stuff. The tragedy of Palestine is that it happened too early. Before the prize was won.)

There are other things to be depressed about: UNRWA has suspended aid operations in Gaza, and the ICRC reports a horrible incident in which four children were found abandoned and crying near the dead body of their mother.

And I have had more stray thoughts about the laws of war. It's well known that Katyusha and Qassam rockets are crude weapons that cannot be targeted at anything. Hamas fires them in the full knowledge that they will hit civilian installations, but it doesn't - can't - target anything in particular because these weapons aren't guided projectiles. It is therefore incorrect to suggest, as Israeli spokespeople have been saying, that 'Hamas targets our kindergartens'. Again, it's worth repeating that while kindergartens have been hit, it's wrong to say that they have been targeted. Israel on the other hand has sophisticated technology that enables it to punch in GPS coordinates before firing. The UN says that it reported the coordinates of all its facilities, and they have still been hit. Given this great discrepancy in technological capability, it seems to me that Israel bears a higher degree of moral culpability for civilian deaths because it has a greater capacity to avoid them. If you think this is a spurious argument, I would appreciate being told. It's possible that anger has sent my moral compass spinning out of control.

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7/01: Hugo Chavez is the first head of state to have lodged a decisive public protest against this.

If Israel thinks that our suffering from this siege will make us hate Hamas, they are wrong.

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6/01:

21.21: THIS is absolutely despicable. Even if Israel thinks Hamas is cynically positioning its fighters behind human shields in civilian locations, it cannot be right under any moral framework to go ahead and bomb those locations in the full knowledge that there are civilians there, and then to simply say 'It's Hamas's fault'. This is not 'collateral damage'. There is an intentionality and a certainty to these acts that puts them closer to wanton murder. I am aware of the doctrine of double effect, which just war theorists will no doubt use to justify these acts. But I think this incident dramatises everything that is sickening about the very doctrine.

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What we are witnessing is nothing less than the toppling of a democratically elected government (by another democratically elected government - it will be interesting to see how democratic peace theorists worm their way out of this one). It looks like Israeli objectives are hardening even during the course of the campaign.

I have been wondering about the marketing of this campaign: Tzipi Livni is of course in the forefront, as is Avital Liebowich. It's interesting how the Israelis tend to trot out blonde blue-eyed US/European accented spokespeople to explain their utterly reasonable actions to the world (e.g. the Australian accented Mark Regev). When was the last time you saw Mizrahim representing Israel on international TV? See here for more on the gendered marketing of the IDF (sexy women on the English website, praying men on the Hebrew website).

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5/01: Joseph Massad on ei on the long history of Israeli-Arab collaboration, of which the Gaza massacre is only the latest episode. Why have we heard nothing out of Mahmoud Abbas and the PA?

'When Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was asked point blank by al-Jazeera's anchorman if Israel had an arrangement with Arab regimes to commit the Gaza massacres, she refused to answer and finally denied such an arrangement existed but could not help but affirm that there are those in the Arab world who "think" as Israel does and that Hamas is their enemy as it is the enemy of Israel.'

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