Sunday, July 16, 2006

This isn't Chess

I made a resolution, a few months back, not to write unless I had something to say. I decided not to give into the pressure to write about something just because it was happening. What this means is that I'm not going to write a lot about Israel and Palestine. I'll link to stuff I think are interesting or useful, but my thoughts aren't necessarily that original.

But today I've got something to say, although it's more about the way the conflict is discussed than the conflict itself. I've been reading a lot of liberal blogs that treat Israel and Palestine as two equivalent sides that need to be evaluated equally. (most recently - talking about Lebanon as well as Palestine - at Feministe and No Right Turn but it's not rare). Israel is occupying Palestine. They're not playing tennis, or in a a political debate, or anywhere else where you can write process stories and evaluate the moves of the two sides as if they're playing the same game.

The Viet Cong and the US government, GAM (the free Acheh movement) and the Indonesian government, the ANC and the South African government, the Nazi government and the French resistance - take whatever position you want on these struggles, but you have to acknowledge that the two parties are different. To treat the Israeli government and army as equivalent to any party in Palestine is to ignore that Palestine is under occupation.


  1. Thats something I've noticed too Maia, and is one of the main reasons I've started posting heavily on the conflict recently (after a long break) on Anarchia.

    Resistance can never be evaluated under the same framework as oppression, and that is perhaps the biggest difference between liberal and radical leftist critiques.

  2. I just find the whole thing bewildering and depressing.

    I don't understand why there seems to be no will from the international community to step in, especially as there has been a multinational force on the border between Egypt and Israel for years - doing basically nothing.

  3. span - FYI, there's also a UN led team (traditionally with many NZ'ers) on the border between Syria and Israel, and another team based in Lebanon (again, usually with many NZ'ers). Both teams focus mainly on removing/marking the hundreds/thousands of land mines in the border areas.

  4. I met one of the Australians who is in the defence force on the border with Egypt when I was at Gallipoli. It sounded like there are a lot of troops there, from many places, and yet the risk is incredibly low. Makes you wonder if they would be more useful in Gaza...

  5. Who said Palestinian resistance were anarchists? I haven't seen anyone suggest that. Palestinian resistance is made up of a number of groups and individuals with differing political views, from communists to Islamic fundamentalists to ultra-nationalists to liberal democrats and a thousand things beyond that.

  6. Incidentally, one of the most active Israeli anti-occupation groups ARE anarchists - a group called Anarchists Against The Wall. They work with Palestinian groups, the vast majority of whom are NOT anarchists, doing solidarity work :)

  7. Yes, there would be plenty of room for free speech in a world run by Hizbullah. Great friends of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of women and men to live their lives the way they choose. Nice people too, lobbing rockets onto Israeli towns unprovoked, shooting them from the middle of residential areas - backing suicide bombs on restaurants and school buses.

    Nothing like being a New Zealander living far away from it all to point the morally superior finger at one side. There are no angels in this - but gee, maybe if Hizbullah wasn't focused on eradicating Israel and Lebanon didn't provide shelter for its terror attacks, this might not be happening?

    Israel is committed to a Palestinian state, has been trying to negotiate for it, but neither the Palestinian government nor Hizbullah and Hamas have acted to stop terrorist attacks on civilians.

    In fact they both think wiping out Israel is still a legitimate goal, and act accordingly. Perhaps you think Israel should withdraw to the old borders and just put up with suicide bombings, rocket attacks and shelling from Palestine and Lebanon?

  8. libertyscott - Unlike you, I have lived in Israel, and yes, I have had to deal with frequent haunts of mine being bombed (such as Cafe Hillel in Emek Refaim in Jerusalem, where I went 3-4 times a week for 4 months, until it was blown up). Additionally, a large number of my family members (including my sister) still live there. So don't accuse me of pointing the finger without having to deal with consequences.

    Lebanon does not provide shelter for Hizbollah. Rather, Lebanon, acutely aware of it's devastating civil war which occured in living memory, (and I won't go into Israel's role in starting that civil war here), does not want another civil war. Given Hizbollah's strength, any attempts to disarm it by the Lebanese military would undoubtably bring on another civil war.

    Clearly, the Israeli response to the kidnappings has been WAY the fuck over the top. Even the G8 agrees with that! In the (recent) past, even the warmonger Ariel Sharon did not respond to the occasional Hizbollah attack with the same degree of severity as Ehud Olmert (Prime Minister) and Amir Peretz (Defense Minister) have responded to this one. Why? Because he knew that if he only gave a very light response, Hizbollah would take an extended break, as they have continued to do since the Israeli withdrawal from occupied South Lebanon under Ehud Barak. Even Ariel Sharon, no stranger to disproportionate responses and severe attacks, did not act in the way that Olmert and Peretz have.

    Other than all the death, pain, misery and suffering caused in these Israeli collective punishments, perhaps the saddest part is the fact that a large contributing factor to the severity of these attacks is politics. Olmert and Peretz are regarded by military society as being "weak" politicians. The army, which is undoubtably the most powerful force in Israeli politics, has put great political pressure on them. So, when given a chance to prove they weren't "weak" politicians, they grasped it with both hands, in order to enhance their own political clout. Pathetic.

    As for your comment "Israel is committed to a Palestinian state, has been trying to negotiate for it", I'll leave that for another day, but suffice to say, it couldn't be further from the truth.

  9. Thanks for this post. I'm too tired to join in the debating fun, but I'll say that it's refreshing to read something (the original post) that makes sense.

  10. > Palestinian resistance is made up of a number of groups

    Indeed - some potentially worthy of moral suport and some not.

    I would tend to say the kidnappers of the soldiers are in the NOT catagory.

  11. Genius - As I wrote on a post on Anarchia

    "Israel has systematically destroyed Gaza over a long period of time. Poverty and disease are rife, unemployment is high and still, Palestinians yearn for self-determination. While I would argue that kidnapping is not the way to go about achieving it, and in fact will likely result in an even worse situation for Gazans, when you are backed into a corner with seemingly no hope, it doesn’t surprise me. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and times are definately desperate in Gaza."

    ( )

  12. Plenty of fair points Asher. Lebanon is unable to act against Hizbullah, and yes it is clear that Olmert is trying to flex muscles that nobody thought he had.

    Israel would dearly like to withdraw to secure boundaries (it wont give up Jerusalem, that's for another day). The biggest issues are setting those boundaries and the Palestinian state not continuing to be a base for attacks on Israel.

    It would be good is Hizbullah could be obliterated, but sadly this is unlikely and it is impossible to do without enormous civilian casualties. Hizbullah will make sure of that.

  13. It doesnt surprise me that poeple attacked by terrorism consider bombing the terrorist a good idea (even if they are wrong) and that people being bombed consider terrorism a good response (even if they are wrong).

    Not being surprising doesn't cut it as an excuse for me. Somthing being surprising says a lot about the person being surprised and very little about the person doing the act.

  14. Scott: "The biggest issues are setting those boundaries and the Palestinian state not continuing to be a base for attacks on Israel."

    I would've thought the biggest issue would be justice for a people who have suffered from a brutal occupation, many for their entire lives.

  15. If enemy soldiers aren't a valid target for a resistance movement, I'm curious as to what _would_ be worthy of moral support.

  16. 'Soldiers' are not automatically "cheep lives" or people you are morally obliged to kidnap/kill (no matter how much Israel and others might like to think so)

    And even if killing soldiers is a righteous thing to do I doubt these people are the ones who's moral code covers only killing Jewish soldiers or only soldiers.

  17. "I would've thought the biggest issue would be justice for a people who have suffered from a brutal occupation, many for their entire lives."

    It's a parallel issue, but Hizbullah has little interest in that, unless you think an Islamist state gives people justice. Israel has exchanged land for peace before, and will do it again. If you accept Israel has a right to exist, then the occupation makes some sense given the attitude of its neighbours which unanimously until the late 1970s wanted it eradicated.