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Gaza redux January 15, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Israel, Palestine.
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Reading Vincent Browne in yesterday’s Irish Times was a frustrating exercise. It’s not that he’s incorrect in his article. For he notes that a ‘Monstrous Injustice [was/is] inflicted on Palestine’ and noted the machinations that underpinned the latest UN resolution on Gaza, in particular the craven way in which the United States having sponsored the resolution chose to abstain. As he notes:

[The President of the UN Council] then put to the vote the resolution drafted by the US, Britain and France. All members of the council voted for it, except the US, which abstained.

Rice read a statement expressing total support for the resolution and said the US had abstained because it wanted to see the outcome of the peace talks in Cairo, involving Israel and the Palestinians. CNN thought this was a significant breakthrough.

He parsed the text of the resolution noting too that:

The US, British and French resolution stressed “the urgency of and [called] for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”.

The al-Jazeera people observed that the resolution was essentially meaningless, for how could there be an “immediate” ceasefire that was at the same time “durable” and “fully respected”?

They said this allowed Israel to continue the bombing, the destruction and the slaughter of people in Gaza because there would never be “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire”.

Then there was the word “leading”: “leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”. “Leading” could mean an immediate withdrawal or a withdrawal anytime in the future.

They predicted Israel could continue doing what it had been doing, which of course was precisely what happened.

And all this is true. The US abstension provided a space which the Israeli government was able to use to continue to prosecute their campaign.

Browne continues by arguing that not merely has Israel, and effectively the international community, ignored previous UN resolutions (most notably 242) but that the “UN’s role in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has been inglorious from the outset”.

He continues:

it was the UN that played a large part in igniting the conflict at the outset by calling for the partition of Palestine and the creation of Jewish and Arab states, without any regard to the wishes of the people of Palestine.

At the time, Arabs constituted more than two-thirds of the population of 1.78 million.

The state of Israel was declared on May 14th, 1948. There followed a war, during which 700,000 Arabs were driven or fled from their homes.

More than three-quarters of the territory of Palestine was incorporated into the new state of Israel.

The international community was guilt-ridden by the then recent revelation of the Holocaust and its appreciation of its complicity in the pogroms against Jews over the centuries. The infliction of another historic injustice, this time on the Palestinian Arabs, was the means whereby that guilt was idly assuaged.

And concludes:

That monstrous injustice lies at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East since then.

The refusal of the international community to acknowledge the origins of the state of Israel is the obstacle to a resolution of the conflict.

The problem is how to take his final sentence and use it as a basis from which to proceed. Because Israel does exist and will continue to exist. Its population, the majority of whom were born well after the events of 1948, and its societal dynamic have assumed a direction that has it’s own intrinsic internal self-legitimation. Israel has a right to exist. But that its existence may become essentially entirely insular and arguably paranoid as it attempts to find ‘security solutions’ that depend upon force rather than negotiation and persuasion with its neighbours – and may not necessary find itself receiving upon the largesse of the US in the mid to long term future – makes the current issues more rather than less intractable. And with that right comes further responsibilities still.

Or to put it another way, yes it is true that a monstrous injustice was committed against Palestinians, a result in part of a monstrous injustice committed against Jews in Europe that resulted in the displacement (and death of many) of the former, but that doesn’t much help us as we try to chart a way forward. What should, but probably won’t happen, is that the international community and the United States should exert genuine pressure on Israel to understand that it has responsibilities as well as rights and that primary amongst those former is the necessity to address the issue of those who were forcibly displaced and their descendants. That responsibility has been entirely lacking in the relationship between Israel and the truncated Palestine that now remains. Across four decades the consistent Israeli policy appears to have been to limit and constrain and curtail Palestine and its political and social expressions, and where ‘concessions’ were given to keep these as minimalist as possible. And all this when by any reasonable criteria it had absolutely no right to do so.

The Guardian referenced this in its editorial yesterday when it noted that:

The Times’s chief leader writer last week attempted a measured explanation of why international pressure on Israel often seems so futile and inadequate. The experience of Jews in the first half of the 20th century, he wrote, meant that Jews no longer felt safe as the wards of world opinion. “When Israel is urged to respect world opinion and put its faith in the international community the point is rather being missed,” he wrote. “The very idea of Israel is a rejection of this option.”

There may well be a psychological truth in this, but it will plainly not do in other respects. It does scant justice to the noble, democratic and broadly admirable ideals of the founders of a Jewish homeland and it is impossible to reconcile with Israel’s obligations as a member of a wider community of nations. This wish to join the world on equal terms was, after all, the aspiration of the first Zionist leaders. The question – as Israeli tanks grind into Gaza City – is what actions or arguments the rest of the world can take or make that will have any resonance in a country which now gives every appearance of having turned its back on global opinion.

And it continues…

The final area for discussion is Israel’s obligations as a member of the community of civilised nations. Israel should take no comfort from the protracted wrangling that led to last week’s UN resolution calling for a ceasefire, nor from ­America’s abstention or Britain’s hand-­wringing. All the signs are that the Obama administration is not going to be sympathetic to a future of failed blockades or the intransigent refusal to talk to Israel’s enemies.

I think both the Guardian and Browne may be touching upon something that is very noticeable at the present time. The criticisms of Israel in our parliament this week have been of a level that to me seems unprecedented. The direct criticism of the Israeli ambassador and the calls for his expulsion as a response to the events in Gaza appear to represent a significant change in attitude to that conflict and to the Israeli government. And this isn’t restricted to this state but is seen in varying degrees internationally. It is as if a consensus is emerging that the actions overseen by the Israeli government have reached the limits of toleration. And this is intriguing.

Because I’d hazard that the Israeli government did not expect such a response. Indeed I’d bet that they supposed that during the transitional period between the end of the Bush White House and the arrival of the Obama Presidency they were offered a perfect opportunity to deliver a message to the latter (and to see how he would respond) that they were going to exercise their self-perceived prerogative to exercise their military might as a means of subduing Gaza and that they would also seek to destroy Hamas as a functioning political entity.

However, it seems to me that they chose precisely the wrong time to do this, or rather that circumstances were not quite as they might have wished. For far from the transition providing a period when they could operate without criticism due to the lack of focus in Washington what has happened has been a remarkable concentration by the media on their actions in Gaza. Perhaps even an unprecedentedly critical concentration. It’s difficult to pin down precisely the reasons for that. In part I suspect its because what they’re doing is simply too redolent of what has been seen in the last eight years in Iraq and that there is a general sense that such actions are most likely counterproductive. Also the studied and rather ambiguous messages emanating from the Obama camp, tied into the generalised lofty rhetoric of his campaign (whatever about his tactical shifts on the issue of Israel and Palestine during that campaign) seem to hint at a more optimistic way forward. Sure, that’s all hot air until it is made manifest, but it seems to have informed at least some of the discourse albeit at second hand. This appears to have allowed the media to operate ‘off the leash’ as it were in a way which otherwise might not have happened. Thirdly the very circumstances of the current events, or rather their lead up, make the Israeli case harder to make… there was a cease-fire, it was effective, the breaching of it by whatever side and the media seems to be pinning this on Israel, makes the current actions appear self-interested. Which they most evidently are. And then added to that is the clear impetus given to them by Israeli domestic political concerns. Finally there is the unbelievably counterproductive nature of the actions and most importantly their impacts on the inhabitants of Gaza. And all this played out in the international media. Of course there are other elements, but it is remarkable how strong the critique of the Israeli government is, and indeed it is heartening.

It is less heartening to see the reductionist arguments of some of those both abroad and closer to home who have championed Israeli government and military actions in a manner which would be laughable in another context. To hear the earnest analyses of Hamas as an ineradicable evil (and let’s be clear, Hamas is an organisation that few progressives would or should feel comfortable with) and to further hear this as a justification for the current events merely points up the futility of the exercise. That Israel and Hamas have, and will again, dealt to construct ceasefires – or indeed the dismal pragmatism of the reality that Israel and Hamas are probably already in contact to construct the next ‘twelve month’ ceasefire – is curiously omitted from the narratives we’re presented with as is the absurd notion that if Hamas could be eradicated in some fashion then all would be well. That merely demonstrates an inability to distinguish – or to deliberately confuse – symptom from cause. The wellsprings that Hamas has drawn upon run far deeper than any individual organisation or movement. They will continue to exist long after Hamas is but a memory and will remain active unless Israel eschews military force and moves to deal with the underlying problem in a manner which sees it living up to its responsiblities. And these aren’t responsibilities limited to a notion duty of care – which has been abrogated on far too many occasions – but a responsibility to see that the events of the 1940s which saw a disaster for two peoples are remedied to the greatest extent possible. And in that Vincent Browne is very right indeed.

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1. Eagle - January 15, 2009

They will continue to exist long after Hamas is but a memory and will remain active unless Israel eschews military force and moves to deal with the underlying problem in a manner which sees it living up to its responsibilities. And these aren’t responsibilities limited to a notion duty of care – which has been abrogated on far too many occasions – but a responsibility to see that the events of the 1940s which saw a disaster for two peoples are remedied to the greatest extent possible. And in that Vincent Browne is very right indeed.

Do you believe Hamas is a reaction to Israeli behavior or the very existence of Israel? I think it’s the latter.

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2. ejh - January 15, 2009

That’s fortunate, because otherwise you’d have to consider the position in which their supporters found themselves and ask how that came to pass.

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3. skidmarx - January 15, 2009

I would have thought it’s noticeably a reaction to Fatah’s behaviour, notably its corruption and emasculation by U.S./Israel.I remember talking to an Israeli woman called Adi in about 1995, who said it was impossible to negotiate with Yasser Arafat because he couldn’t be trusted. I suggested to her that if Israel didn’t do a deal with him they’d have to deal with people they really didn’t like.[I'm passing over the hoops the Israelis made the PLO jump through, the years they refused to acknowledge the Palestinians existence at all, then their insistence that the Palestinians would have to be part of a Jordanian delegation].

Robert Fisk told the BBC World Service that during the 1982 Lebanon War he thought he’d wind up some Palestinian fore-runners of Hamas in Lebanon by telling them he was going to Israel the next day. “Do you want Shimon Peres’ home phone number?” one of them asked. Fisk said there are always direct contacts. How else did they exchange bodies with Hezbollah?

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4. Eamonn - January 15, 2009

Skidmarx: Indirect negotiations via the ICRC and the exchange you refer too involved a very much alive Samir Kuntar looking very well and much better educated – thanks to the Israeli taxpayer – than when he went into the can

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5. ejh - January 15, 2009

Wouldn’t you pass through a hoop rather than jump through it?

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6. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

If I may come over all-‘Decent’ about this: any comments on the frankly bananas calls over on Indymedia for a boycott of Marks and Spencers, and the widespread practice of burning Israeli flags and equating the Star of David with the Swastika at pro-Palestinian demos? I see Johnny Guitar at Yourfriendinthenorth has a piece on an incident in Belfast last Saturday. It makes me quite uneasy to be honest, particularly as some of the posters at Indymedia seem to be fuckwits (to use a technical term). Just probing the opinions of your good selves.

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7. WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2009

Omar, for myself that’s why I seek to clearly distinguish between the acts of the Israeli government/military and the broader nation/society. I think the elision of the two is a profoundly dubious practice, not least because it shuts down space within Israel for countervailing viewpoints, but also because it can shift into a completely different and very very unpleasant discourse.

I’m also not entirely sure about expelling the ambassador. I thought the way in which he had to justify the acts of his government is no harm (not least because he was seated beside the Palestinian rep). Boycotts have to be finessed (Re M&S, I completely agree with you). But a fair point was made in the IT today that there was little hesitation in imposing arms embargoes in the FYR whereas its softly softly with Israel.

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8. Garibaldy - January 15, 2009

As I understand it the call to boycott M&S is on the basis that they source stuff from Israel, trying to suggest a parallel with Dunnes Stores and South Africa I assume. Not bananas altogether I’d have thought.

I don’t really see the point of burning flags, screaming at workers, or calling the Israelis Nazis. Having said that, the idea of Gaza as a concentration camp or a ghetto is hard to argue with.

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9. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

All the major chain stores source food from Israel. Boycotting Israeli goods is one thing but the fixation with Marks and Spencer (a well organised union shop by the way, in Dublin anyway) is because they are Jewish owned. Seems that way from the stuff on Indymedia anyway. Plus I was involved in Anti-Apartheid and I can’t ever remember the fixation with hating white South Africans that some people have about Israelis.

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10. Garibaldy - January 15, 2009

Well then the boycott and protests should be extended to all the major stores, otherwise the appearance of anti-Semitism can be given. I haven’t seen the stuff on Indymedia, and am too depressed at the thought of it to head over there. I did get the feeling that one or two anti-Semites were posting on the thread on Slugger.

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11. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

Theres also been a long discussion on it on Socialist Unity. The point being that there seems some determination to single out M & S. To be honest its a depressing discussion all round…at times becoming a competition to see who can claim the first place in the oppression league table.

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12. Garibaldy - January 15, 2009

It’s pathetic. A race to the bottom at times all right. And a lot of infantilism comes out. Having said all that, we must resist the anti-Israel = anti-Semitic argument

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13. Mark P - January 15, 2009

Omar:

The burning of Israeli flags and the use of signs equating the Star of David with Swastika may be “widespread” in the sense that they have happened on quite a few anti-war marches, widely dispersed around the world. They are not however “widespread” in the sense that they are burnt or carried by very many people on those marches.

On the large Dublin march last weekend, I walked up and down the length of it a few times handing out leaflets. I saw precisely three signs or flags of an anti-semitic nature. One of the people carrying one of the signs told me to “Fuck off” and scurried away when I approached to tell him he was being an asshole. One of the other people (waving an Israeli flag with the Star of David replaced with a Swastika) had actually been surrounded by other marchers who were shouting at him to put his flag away.

It is simply not accurate to assume that this kind of thing reflects opinions that are even vaguely mainstream in the anti-war movement. If you get a few thousand angry people, you’ll get a few idiots too. The concentration on such idiots by pro-war elements (including what remains of the vile Eustonite/Decent camp) is a deliberate propaganda decision.

That said, there are many things on these marches that I disagree with. People chanting religious slogans. Liberal idiots waffling about the UN or international law. People who want to see Israel and the Occupied Territories replaced with a single bi-national state. There’s an endless list, including by the way the idea of a boycott.

I’m not against a boycott in principle, but for tactical reasons I think that it will have no positive impact in practice and may have some negative consequences.

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14. WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2009

Can I add that if it were a boycott on Israeli goods that was universal (i.e. across all stores) I’d have little problem with it (although I’d agree on readng them with MarkP’s proviso’s).

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15. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

I’d support a general boycott of Israeli goods in protest over Gaza, and certainly of military supplies, and I believe there was a protest about this at Rayeton in Derry yesterday. I’m glad to hear from Mark P that Anti-Semitism was not in evidence last Saturday. But elsewhere (and I know Zionists play it up) there has been demands for boycotts of ‘their’ businesses, singling out M & S and Starbucks (owned by a Jew, apparently, who knew?) as well as some physical attacks. I struggle to remember an anti-apartheid march where people chanted ‘death to the Boers’ or who suggested that the Afrikaners controlled the media and the USA.

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16. WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2009

It’s astounding how there can be a regression to some of the basest instincts in this context. It makes it all the more difficult to chart a serious course forward.

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17. Mark P - January 15, 2009

Omar:

You are clearly not a Microdisney fan. And I certainly recall that there was a certain suspicion which any white person with a South African accent could expect to encounter amongst those of a leftish disposition abroad.

I’m not at all denying that sometimes people can argue things or suggest things that move from a perfectly justified hostility towards the policies of the Israeli state into anti-semitism. And we should be on our guard against it. But the fact is, any idiot can turn up to a demonstration and carry a nasty sign or hand out a pretty dubious leaflet. I’ve seen no evidence that anti-semitism, as opposed to a sometimes confused, sometimes badly aimed, sometimes counter productive, desire to support the Palestinians against oppression and mass murder motivates any mainstream part of the anti-war movement.

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18. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

Fair enough. And I remember ‘we hate you white South African bastards’. It wasn’t as good as ‘only losers take the bus.’

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19. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

By the way, do the SP have a sister organisation in Israel and/or Gaza? Any news of their activity?

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20. Mark P - January 15, 2009

Yes the Socialist Party has a sister organisation in Israel, called Ma’avak Sozialisti (in Hebrew) or Nidal Eshteraki (in Arabic). It’s a small organisation, of less than 50 activists. There’s also a group in Lebanon.

The Israeli group has been out helping to organise protests. Doing street stalls and the like at the moment is a pretty hairy business at the moment and they have to do them in fairly big groups to avoid being attacked (by right wing Zionists normally). They distribute their material in three languages, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian and have been busy calling for an Israeli withdrawal from not just Gaza but the entire Occupied Territories.

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21. Mark P - January 15, 2009

Here is an English translation of one of their recent leaflets. It gives a pretty clear picture of where they stand:

http://socialistworld.net/eng/2009/01/1403.html

I forgot to say that their name in English is something like Socialist Struggle Movement.

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22. Omar Little - January 15, 2009

Thanks for that. Fair play to them.

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23. WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2009

Seconded.

Re that, Microdisney fan that I am got to say I think I prefer only Losers take the Bus too…

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24. Wednesday - January 16, 2009

M&S apparently has a formal, explicit policy of support for Israel. The issue is not merely that they are “Jewish-owned” (which frankly sounds like the usual rubbish Israel’s apologists trot out to suggest that any criticism of them is based on anti-semitism).

It’s interesting to see how the Labour Party are trying to play both sides of the fence on this one. Last week there was the refusal of their Dublin City Councillors to support a motion condemning the attacks on Gaza because it didn’t also condemn Hamas. Yesterday Joanne Tuffy made a similar complaint about the motion before the Oireachtas EU committee. Wonder what’s going on behind the scenes there.

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25. WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2009

Hmmm… I can’t find any such policy articulated on sources available the web, but I’ve only just had a brief look. What I did find on Norman Finkelsteins site (very good one too and a great writer too) was information saying that last year M&S had withdrawn all produce originating from settlements. As regards policies of ‘support’ for Israel, surely if one such existed it wold depend on the nature of that support. Support for its existence I’d think was reasonable. Support for every action? Clearly not. And I think that there is a point where actions against people who hold the first view do shade into a functional anti-semitism.

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26. Phil - January 16, 2009

Support for its existence I’d think was reasonable

Actually, I’m not sure about this line. Israel means four million people living on UNRWA reservations, a Law of Return which grants citizenship to any Jewish person in the world who wants it, and (for forty years) the illegal occupation and piecemeal incorporation of the West Bank. I don’t support the existence of Israel any more than I support the existence of capitalism – I’m very much in favour of both of them being replaced by something better. But I don’t think mass murder is a good means of achieving either of these goals – and I find it a bit objectionable to be asked to defend myself from charges of believing something which I don’t, and which nothing I’ve written would make a reasonable person think I do believe.

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27. ejh - January 16, 2009

You are clearly not a Microdisney fan

Also see

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28. anarchaeologist - January 16, 2009

I’ve always though the proposed M&S boycott to be a bit dodgy when undertaken in isolation. The anarchaeologist household has been writing and talking to store managers in Tesco (Crumlin) and Superquinn (Sundrive) for several years about their continued retailing of goods from Israel and I’d imagine a more concerted effort in this direction might be more effective (who shops in M&S anyway?). In the case of Superquinn, this approach seemed to work for a few months last year but I see they’re stocking Israeli basil again…

We spoke to a manager in Superquinn last week about this and the conversation was interrupted by a well-dressed bloke (well, suit and tie) in his 30s who said we were wasting our time due to the amount of, and I quote here, ‘Jewmen’, who shopped there. As this is an expression I’d associate more with my father’s generation (articulated in a slightly anti-semitic fashion) I was rather taken aback, but it certainly got me thinking about the casual use of words which was followed by the asinine debate about O Snodaigh’s comments. For the record, the manager couldn’t do anything about it himself but was quite sympathetic and promised to talk to his boss. For what it’s worth, we continue to get basil at the Dublin Food Co-op, good,clean Irish stuff, none of your tainted foreign produce.

Regarding Indymedia and the ‘fuckwits’ who post there, there are stringent and transparent guidelines regarding what stays up on the site. The site is being inundated with the opinions of both sides of the conflict with a concerted effort being made by the Israeli lobby to put their side across in ways which contravene the guidelines. Similarly, the site is also getting hateful anti-semitic crap from the anti-Zionist lobby and bad stuff does gets through from both sides but it’s usually hidden after a few hours (there’s a facility to report abuses directly to the mods if they miss it on the newswire). Due to the nature of open publishing you rarely get the type of analysis enjoyed by readers of CLR, but it’s there if you look for it. It’s certainly been a good portal for getting information out of Gaza and the attack on the UN compound was reported there yesterday several hours before RTÉ got to it.

BTW Microdisney released the mini-lp originally as ‘We Hate You South African Bastards’. The ‘White’ bit was added when the back catalogue was re-released. The blurb on the sleeve referred to Zola Budd, an English athlete who became a RSA citizen at the height of apartheid to run in the Olympics. Anyway, the music within is to my mind much more interesting than the bastard rockabilly of Losers (not that I’ve anything against bastard rockabilly), and it brings back a certain sense of cultural claustrophobia I associate with the early 80s each time it gets a spin. Second best after The Clock…

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29. ejh - January 16, 2009

<i<an English athlete who became a RSA citizen at the height of apartheid to run in the Olympics.

Ah, other way round (and British rather than English).

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30. anarchaeologist - January 16, 2009

Apologies ejh, quite correct on both counts…

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31. splinteredsunrise - January 16, 2009

I’m unconvinced either way about boycotting M&S, but it’s the sort of thing you would need to be quite subtle about in terms of the impression given. The problem we had at the Belfast march is that eirigi, well, subtlety isn’t their strong suit and they don’t seem to think very much about the impression they might give. And at the top table NIC-ICTU keeping the platform as safe and dull as possible.

What’s more to the point up here is that the unionists have gone into master race mode on this issue. Sort of makes you glad Stormont never had Apaches or white phosphorus, if they’re taking the IDF as an example of how a state should treat a rebellious minority.

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32. Garibaldy - January 16, 2009

There’s a lot in what you say about unionists SS, but is it not as much they are trying to position themselves with international neo-cons and defenders of ‘democracy’ as opposed to pure master race mode?

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33. D. J. P. O'Kane - January 16, 2009

Garibaldy – no, I’d say the unionist sympathy for Israel is a straightforward big shout out to the fellow settler society. That could be parlayed into an alignment with international neo-con-ism, but that would require a level of ideological subtlety which I don’t think is in fashion north of the border.

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34. ejh - January 16, 2009

I think I’ve mentioned it before but the one time I went past Cullybackey on the train, the Old People’s Home was flying Israeli flags all over the place. I didn’t think this had much to do with neoconservatism.

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35. Garibaldy - January 16, 2009

DJP and EJH,

No it was to annoy the taigs who were putting up Palestinian flags – and don’t think that represented a superior level of political nous when it comes to international politics. Nevertheless, the support for Israel goes way beyond the backwoodsmen to the elements within unionism that are capable of producing coherent thought (and not just the delectable Gail Walker whose portrait hangs in SS’ bathroom).

On a slightly different note, I don’t think unionists are settlers 8 to 3 centuries after the arrival of their forefathers, and nor do they see themselves as such, by and large.

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36. John O'Farrell - January 16, 2009

For your general information, here is the “safe and dull” top table at last Saturday’s demo.
The rally was chaired by John Corey, Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU and addressed by the following speakers:

ICTU President Patricia McKeown
Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Tom Hartley
Bishop Donal McKeown
Archdeacon Billy Dodds
Rev Dr Mark Gray
Rev Derek Johnston
Dr Mamoud Mobayed
Sue Pentel
ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting
Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

When we said that over 5,000 people turned out for a rally that we had three days to organise, we were not exaggerating in the classic Trot/Cop maths formula (we double it, so when the cops halve the turnout it will be about right).
Since then, we have been flooded with emails ranged from the serious and concerned to the cranky and racist. I am not getting into another bunfight here, but I thought that you may be interested in the (short) speech by Peter Bunting, which articulates Congress policy on this matter:
“The Palestinian people of Gaza deserve your support as does everybody who lives in fear of violence. If it is one message that has to come from Northern Ireland today it is that violence is the greatest impediment to a just solution for the people of Israel and Palestine.

There are some politicians who attempt to portray the Israel and Palestine issue as a mirror of the sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland.

As Northern Ireland turns its face to the world, we really have to get over viewing complex international issues through the prism of our sectarianised politics. These politicians ought to remember the advice of Albert Einstein: “Remember your humanity and forget everything else.”

It is our humanity which is affronted by the images from in and around Gaza, not our narrow identities in divided Belfast.

We are here today not to criticise the people of Israel, many of whom are our comrades for peace and justice. We act in solidarity with the Israeli workers, Israeli human rights groups, Israeli military refusniks, and the Israeli physican groups – groups such as Breaking the Silence and B’tselem.

This protest is against the actions of the government of Israel and those western political powers complicit in their actions.

So why are these atrocities being committed? The Israeli Government and their propagandists in the West will tell you that they are fighting in Gaza for us, for our western ideals, for our security, for our safety and for our civilised standards.

This is an attempt to conscript us into their cause. They are not doing this in our name.

We are here today as trade unionists, as people of all faiths, and none, as people who desire a peaceful solution to the permanent crisis in Israel and Palestine. We are here to express in a peaceful and democratic fashion what is and is not done in our name.

They are not building a huge and illegal separation wall in our name.
They are not building fortress sized illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land in our name.
They are not reducing the people of Palestine to serfdom through an economic blockade and a permanent state of fear in our name.
They are not shelling women and children in our name.
They are not preventing civilians from escaping the violence in our name.
In pursuit of a political resolution to all of the above, no group has the right to murder or maim Israeli civilians – not in our name.

Everybody here is capable of acting in their own name. You can watch what you eat for example. We can, in our name, organise a mass peaceful campaign demanding a stop to all violent actions and use our collective clout as ethical consumers for justice.

Congress has a policy of applying economic pressure on the Israeli Government. The actions that we have witnessed in Gaza this week make the case for economic pressure more vividly than any words that I can say.

Primarily we are here to call for an immediate ceasefire. When we visited Palestine and Israel we called on the Israeli defence forces and Hamas to stop violent acts. We said that to their faces and from Belfast today we are repeating this plea.

Talks and not bombs are the only way forward to achieve a two state solution, independent of each other, peacefully co-existing and governed by those elected in a democratic process whether or not we in the west or anywhere else agree or disagree.”

In an adlibbed conclusion, he called on everyone present to dispearse peacefully. If people have a problem with the behavior of eirigi supporters, I suggest that they express it on their website.

A group of trade unionists are organising an event in Newry tomorrow (Saturday 17th). If you can attend, please do so.

Newry Friends of Palestine are calling for the people of Newry and surrounding areas to join them in a vigil on Saturday 17th January at 12 noon in Marcus Square. The goal of the vigil will be to show solidarity with the people of the Gaza strip and to call for an immediate end to hostilities and to the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine.

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37. ejh - January 16, 2009

On a slightly different note, I don’t think unionists are settlers 8 to 3 centuries after the arrival of their forefathers, and nor do they see themselves as such, by and large.

Up to a point. On the other hand, I think the Brits in (say) Kenya exhibited a settler mentality right up to and after independence, and we’d been there absolutely ages.

If you still keep having to kick the under-people on the grounds that if you don’t, you’ll be overrun, there’s still a fair bit of “settler” going on upstairs.

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38. Garibaldy - January 16, 2009

Thanks for that John. Some good stuff in the speech.

EJH,

The scale of intermarriage, cultural assimilation and common cultural background, not to mention the absence of a colour difference, make the NI case different to European interactions with African and Asian societies. I also think that the fear of being overrun was different in the two places, though there is something in what you say. Rome Rule though was a European phenomenon.

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39. splinteredsunrise - January 16, 2009

Thanks from me too John. I was being a bit flippant, but the speeches from the top were very reasoned and balanced, not a radical demagogue in sight. Which is what annoys me about this whole discussion about the march – if people have a problem with eirigi that’s something to take up with eirigi, but they were a very long way from setting the tone. To pretend otherwise is just basic dishonesty.

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40. Omar Little - January 16, 2009

Good points and I must admit being slightly influenced by Johnny Guitar’s hysteria. There is a way of raising the issue of Israeli goods. leaflet the shops concerned in the morning when the workers go in, use your union contacts to try and talk to the shop stewards and try and convince them to refuse to handle the goods. This happened in Dunnes Stores famously (and I know in the end that was down to one or two activists actually acting on a union instruction that the union hoped nobody would notice). In the 1980s Quinnsworth, Dunnes and everyone else stocked Outspan etc. There was never a demo where we all marched in and started shouting at the staff and the customers that they shouldn’t be doing what they were doing (working and shopping). It would have been counter productive. And doing this today is also, in my view, counter productive.
Plus Arhnacologist, you will find that your upwardly mobile worker does like a bit of M & S at the weekend.

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41. Per Una - January 16, 2009

A director of Marks and Spencer once said that they supported Israel. However they have shops across the Arab world.

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42. WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2009

Thanks John. Much appreciated. Phil, I sort of know what you mean, and sort of agree with you. That said of the three issues you point out, each of which is appalling it strikes me that forty years ago only two were extant and both they and the third could be dealt with politically and therefore are hardly intrinsic to the state of Israel (any more than articles 2 and 3 were per se intrinsic to the RoI or the Government of NI Act was to the UK). I’d very much agree that something better would be preferable, but significant improvements including bi-national arrangements even with two extant properly sovereign states of Palestine and Israel would go more than some way to remedying the issues you raise. And that is achievable within the the current dispensations.

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43. Tim Von Bondie - January 16, 2009

I’ve checked out the Irish Palestine campaign site and they list the following who stock Israeli goods: Tesco, Dunnes, Supervalue, Woodies, Atlantic Homecare, M and S, and so on…essentially every big shop. So happy boycotting. Ffye bananas as well.

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44. Mick Hall - January 17, 2009

Comrades,
Please, the anti semitism route has been number one in the Zionist book since 1948. When ever they start killing there neighbors their gofers start muttering about anti-semitism.

How sick are they to trade on anti semistm and the dead of the holocaust when they themselves are behaving like violent, brutal and heartless scum.

Read any thread on any site that posts critical comment on Israel’s war on the Gazan people; and the old chestnut anti semitism soon takes over the debate; and 9/10 it will have been raised by a non regular on the site.

To those who argue against economic, social and military sanctions against Israel I ask you this. What alternatives can you suggest to makes Israel accept UN resolutions and with-draw from the West Bank and cease blockading Gaza.

For 41 years they have been doing this against the will of the international community. If you cannot offer an alternative and still refuse to support sanctions, what this means in reality is the acceptance of Israel forcing a Bantusland on the Palestinians; and make no mistake once they feel they are strong enough to act, Israel will drive the Palestinian’s across into Jordon. That is clearly their long term game plan.

After 20 days of Israel’s armed forces ghastly and brutal behavior in Gaza, what I find remarkable and encouraging is that there is so little anti semitism about, for example the Jewish Socialist Group had there banner on the London march(3.01.09) and were welcomed by the islamic groups present and conversations took place between Jews and muslims.

The problem is the Occupation and people should not allow themselves to be sidetracked into other issues, for the longer it goes on the more likely anti semitism is to raise its ugly head.

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45. D. J. P. O'Kane - January 17, 2009

I have to disagree with you there. The existence and persistence of anti-semitism is precisely what makes Israel different from other cases of settler societies. No one ever tried to subject Afrikaners or Ulstermen to the kind of existential threat which a large segment of the world’s Jews experienced within living memory. This makes the dynamic of Israeli society and politics different from other cases, and this in turn means that if we want to contribute to the formation of a new dynamic within Israel and between Israel and its neighbours we have to take anti-semitism seriously. By that, I don’t mean that we should bend the knee to anyone who tries to exploit the Six Million for political purposes; I mean that we have to recognise that that exploitation would not be possible without the prior existence of this problem. Maybe you think that there’s been remarkably little anti-semitism since this latest episode flared up, and I hope you’re right; but with all due respect I think you may be being a bit complacent.

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46. Mick Hall - January 17, 2009

D.P. P’Kane,

I am disappointed that you made no attempt to answer my questions, in case you have failed to notice it Israel is not the victim here.

Anti semitism before the Zionist State came into being came mainly, if not almost exclusively from within Christian nations. Within the islamic world the western virulent form of anti semitism hardly raised its ugly head, not least because islam has always accepted Jews as part of gods children, [so to speak] whereas until post WW2 most Christians saw the jews as christ killers. As a former Archbishop of Canterbury once said, without Christianity there would have been no Holocaust.

Yes I do feel it is quite wonderful and remarkable that despite recent events muslims can march with the Jewish socialist group as brothers and sisters.

You are asking those who oppose the zionist States occupation of the West Bank etc etc to make allowances for Israel’s behavior, whilst the Israeli state is not prepared to give an inch. Life is just not like that.

I can assure you someone like me needs no reminder about anti semitism, time and again I, like many lefists have made allowances for this when Israel behaves like a bunch of nazi thugs. [if the cap fits] I still support a two state solution despite Israel’s complete dishonesty, but in the end, if Israel refuses to negotiate like civilized people, many will return to the original PLO program of one state for Jews and Palestinians.

The choice is Israel’s, but it is totally unjust and immoral to expect the Palestinian people to spend another 41 years living in a Bantustan or in exile, where every time they build a political leadership that they find acceptable, the Israelis find an excuse to destroy them, along with the infrastruture they have begun to put in place to make life more comfortable.

First Israel told us Arafat was the stumbling block, after they destroyed him it is now Hamas, I am absolutely certain without massive western pressure, Israel would find God almighty unacceptable and a blockage to peace.

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47. Dunne and Crescendo - January 17, 2009

You have every right to be angry Mick, but DJP made some valid points. One of the reasons that the majority of the left, including the Communist Parties supported Israel to some extent in 1948 was because of the Holocaust. This makes the situation different from colonisation in Africa and elsewhere. As for a people who were oppressed, oppressing another, whats new?

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48. Dunne and Crescendo - January 17, 2009

Mick, I also think you have a slightly rosy-tinted view of the relations between Jews and Muslims in the Islamic world pre-1948.

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49. yourcousin - January 17, 2009

D&C,
As for a people who were oppressed, oppressing another, whats new?

While D.P. Kane may be quite correct in that the Israeli/Jewish people faced unprecedented threats to their very existence, it does not excuse their treatment of the Palestinians. It may explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it. The fact that due to many factors Western powers have supported Israel due to what could be termed Holocaust guilt doesn’t mean jack shit to your average Palestinian who never had a damn thing to do with WWII let alone the Holocaust. Again it may explain alot of things but it doesn’t excuse any of them. If many on the left supported Israel at the expense of the Palestinians due to the Holocaust then that is an endightment of the left not a acquital of Israel. Do Jews have a right to exist? Most certainly they do, but not inherently at the expense of others. Nor does any group for that matter. And one of the corner stones of Zionism is that Jews cannot wholly exist anywhere else in the world except in a Jewish state. Now I know people of Jewish faith, they’re no less American than I am. So to say that they must have race and space is just ludicrous.

Also to deny or relegate the fact that from the very beginning the Palestinians got the short end of the stick from other Arab states, Europe, the US, and Israel is to fudge the question and say that well while we acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinian people we find it to be secondary to that of the Jewish people. Which then makes it into a numbers game instead one of principles.

This is only partially the problem, most people say that a sustainable ceasefire and security for Israel is a must in any future is a must, but very few if any say that decent living conditions and a token amount of justice for Palestinians is a must for peace. Like so many peoples before the Palestinians once they realized they weren’t really going to get a larger piece of the cake decided then why not go for bakery? They may never get it, but fighting and losing beats beggings and being kicked by the well fed as they pass by.

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50. Mick Hall - January 17, 2009

yourcousin

Spot on,

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51. Dunne and Crescendo - January 17, 2009

I don’t think the above negates DJP’s points. Its possible to walk and chew gum at the same time you know. To be opposed to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, to want justice for the Palestinians, but also to be aware that the burden of history means throwing around claims that the Israelis are Nazis, or worse than Nazis, or are like Goebbels etc, is politically silly and weakens the Palestinians argument.

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52. Dunne and Crescendo - January 17, 2009
53. PamDirac - January 18, 2009

” and make no mistake once they feel they are strong enough to act, Israel will drive the Palestinian’s across into Jordon. That is clearly their long term game plan.”

Nope. I’ll bet Egypt is the destination, at least for the Gazans. The Israelis won’t ‘drive’ them out — all this is being done in the name of ‘self-defense,’ mind — but make their existence so unbearable that they will have to leave. Just wait till they open the border. This is going to be interesting.

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54. Mick Hall - January 18, 2009

Dunne

How does it weaken the Palestinians argument by telling the truth? In any case as far as I am aware no one said Israel is worse than the Nazis, I certainly did not. However they are behaving in Gaza like Nazis led WW2 German solders and Israel’s spokespersons are acting in the mould of Goebbels, by barring from Gaza the international media and lying to the international media outlets that foolishly remain in Israel.

Tell me do you believe firing missiles, artillery and tank shells into one of the most densely populated areas on earth is not behaving like nazis. If jews or anyone else behaves in such a way for me they are behaving like Nazi’s and should be told so. For the life of me I cannot understand where you are coming from.

We are long past the time when we could have an intellectual debate over this matter, your other with the Palestinian in there moment of need or the Israelis, chose and act accordingly.

Pam

You’re a sweet one alright, why not admit it, you do not even believe there is any such thing as a Palestinian, now do you? Otherwise you would not have called them Gazan’s, when they are Palestinians living in Gaza, which is completely different, the more so in the current context..

Such racism dates back to 1969 when Golda Meir said basically we[Israel] do not have a negotiating partner to hand the west bank back to, as “there is no such thing as the Palestinians.”

You really are a peach, over 1000 dead, almost half women and children and you lick your lips in anticipation of tens of thousands of Palestinians being driven from their homes across an international border.

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55. yourcousin - January 18, 2009

D&C,
I don’t think I was trying to negate anyone’s points simply expounding upon them. I would agree that Israel=Nazis isn’t the best way to forward the Palestinian argument but then again I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone complain when anyone compared Bush to Hitler however infantile that analogy might be. For better or for worse (normally worse) the Hitler/Nazi analogy is the 20th century’s equivalent of political bankruptcy. That kind of analogy has been made many times for many causes, most probably not deserving of the title but being used to portray the bankruptcy and cruelty of a state, belief, or political system. To see it invoked by Palestinians or their supporters is not beyond the pale nor should it be. Israel is quite comfortable invoking the Holocaust in favor of their existence and even a member of the Israeli government have at points made the comparison or at least something comparable. I think in terms of a picture in which an old Palestinian woman was standing amidst the ruins of her home run by the AP and an Israeli official said that it reminded him of his grandmother standing amongst the ruins of her homes destroyed by the Nazis. The furor was tremendous and he later resigned IIRC. Using the Holocaust to point out the irony of the current status is not silly. Though I admit the way in which it is often invoked leaves me cringing.

As I reflect upon DJP’s point and D&C’s insistence upon it I find they are both correct, we have not an issue of negation but of transferrance. As we (the Western powers) were guilty of crimes which we were not willing to admit to, let alone deal with so we have made the Palestinians the sacrificial lambs so to speak. Sure we hung a few Nazis at Nuremberg but we failed to deal with the substantial anti-Semitism that existed within both pre and post war Europe. So instead of tackling that problem we just shipped off the Jewish remnants to the Holy Land and called it good, except it wasn’t. The very idea that the Palestinians were a people in their own right with the inalienable values of self determination and liberty is automatically put beyond their reach due to our behavior and decisions. I know this is all elementary stuff, but it deserves restating. And it may not do any good because Israel exists and isn’t going anywhere. But just because where we find ouselves in a moral pit doesn’t mean we should keep digging by pretending that this situation is the end run of some natural occurance when it is quite obviously something different.

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56. Wednesday - January 18, 2009

I can’t find any such policy articulated on sources available the web

Wikipedia says: “Former Chairman of M&S, Lord Marcus Sieff, wrote that support for the economic development of Israel was one of the fundamental objectives of Marks and Spencer.” Cite: Management: The Marks & Spencer Way, Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1990.

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57. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2009

I’m not entirely convinced that a statement in 1990 by a ‘former Chairman’ about ‘economic development’ of Israel indicates what you termed “formal, explicit policy” support for the Government of Israel in 2009 in political terms. And is this codified in any documentation issued by M&S in the contemporary era or was this the ‘former Chairman’ expressing his own view? Again note Finkelstein asserted that M&S were no longer selling produce from settlements…

yourcousin, I’d complain when people compare Bush to Hitler for a variety of reasons – none of them supportive of Bush. Re the Holocaust and usage of it… it’s a tricky one. I don’t think its unreasonable to suggest that the memory of the Holocaust has shaped Israeli state actions into a sort of brutalism which stops short of the actions seen during it but has resonances of it. I still think Baruch Kimmerling’s term ‘politicide’ is close to the mark. What’s telling is that the memory of it is invoked more and more by those who had no personal experience of it.

I’m not sure it’s possible to say that the Western powers shipped off Europes Jewish populations (or part thereof) to Palestine. The pull factor was very strong at that point, indeed had been for decades previously. And the confluence of that happening simultaneously with the latter stages of colonial oversight of the Middle East is more than partially responsible (if one can ascribe resposibility to historical and socio-economic forces) for the current situation.

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58. Mick Hall - January 18, 2009

Surly the whole point about sanctions is you do not single out individual companies unless they break the sanctions, then no matter who they are they should be targeted. I am mindful of the campaign in the 1970s-80s against Barclays Bank, who behaved in the most deceitful manner by setting up supposedly independent subsidiaries in SA, when in reality they were nothing of the sort.

It seems to me what those who targeted M@S were doing was attempting to place Israeli sanctions on the public agenda. That is fine by me, if they went further and decided to place sanctions on this company due to its jewish history I would oppose that. Like most multi-nationals M@S is now a public company (surly?) and if and when the campaign for sanctions grows legs one would expect it to stop sourcing Israeli products, if the refuse then so be it, they would have to face the consequences.

yourcousin,

Once again agree completely.

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59. yourcousin - January 18, 2009

Okay this may not be the most cogent argument as I was just putting on the finishing touches a large post when I accidentally erased it all. I’m too stubborn just leave it alone but my time is a little shorter for this one. So here we go again.

WBS,
I would agree that “shipping them off” is a simplified term for what happened, but we’re in a comments section I try to keep it somewhat short. I think can all agree that the rise in anti-Semitism leading up to the Second World War caused a significant increase of immigration into British Palestine causing increased friction with the Palestinians living there. This coupled with the continued anti-Semitism after the war especially in Eastern Europe made it impossible for many Jews to return to their original homes, at least in any communal sense. And I do chaulk that one up to the Western powers (including the USSR). I also draw inference from the French refusal to let the Exodus dock and be unloaded there as indicative of that mindset, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”. IE Europe became a “cold house” when it needed more than at any other time in history become a place where Jews would be welcomed.

As for politicide. We should remember that when Lemkin wrote “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe” which was where he coined the term genocide he did include persecution of political groups in his definition. I would state that Israeli disruption of Palestinian life goes far beyond the political into spheres covered the genocide convention. Now whether or not one wants to argue that genocide is being committed, thats another argument for another day, I do think (for what it’s worth) that it could be argued from that point of view. So “politicide” even used in a critical sense is still a weasel word because what it describes is already covered by the word genocide and its use is simply being used as a less controversial word. Actually that word makes me think back to Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”.

I agree with your point about the Holocaust being invoked more and more by those who have no memory of it and it seems that it is quickly passing into myth right up along side Masada which I just an interesting story on on the BBC website this week. It is odd though that Masada is being invoked in modern day and yet no realizes (or voices) the irony that the Jews holed up inside Masada were the Zealots.

As for the confluence thing. I’ve already talked about the immigration factor related to continued anti-Semitism in Europe which pushed the waves of Jewish immigration and in my mind contributed to a harder edged Jewish outlook in regards to their new homeland. But the British rule in Palestine and the Post WWI divying up of the Ottoman empire were all choices that were made and mishandled by the British amongst others. They are now historical and to knit pick them can fairly infantile but we should acknowledge their flaws and shortcomings and that these things (such as Allied handling of dismembering the Ottoman empire and Anti-Semitism) are not natural happenings like the rain but choices that were time and time again made by people and as such are fair game to revisit as long as its handled somewhat reasonably.

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60. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2009

yourcousin, I’d disagree that politicide is a weasel word which somehow encompasses genocide but is more polite. I don’t believe, and I think evidence is scant on the ground, that the majority of Israeli’s want to exterminate Palestinians, or that this is a goal of their political elites. What it seems to me is that they want the Palestinians to go away, or to be beaten into submission. It’s simply not on a par with other examples of genocide. Nor, and here we have to part company, do I agree with Lemkin’s definition of genocide where he incorporates persecution of political groups. If we go that route then almost any political group in any state could argue that its persecution was genocide. It seems to me that politicide is the perfect term for what is happening here, the effort to remove as a political entity Palestinian autonomy using an arrayof tools from the most mundane to the most brutal, but not to exterminate them.

But there are other problems. Well before the 20th century groups within the Jewish peoples were turning, quite naturally in view of the cultural and historical heritage (including savage discrimination) toward Palestine. That’s not just a construct of 20th century anti-semitism… indeed one can argue that ability to go to Palestine, and I mean quite literally technological and freedom of movement was as important as the other factors we note. To put it another way Israel as an ideal across centuries elided with Israel/Palestine as a feasible destination.

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61. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2009

I should add have you read Kimmerling? His text is excoriating as regards Israeli culpability.

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62. Garibaldy - January 18, 2009

Why exterminate the Palestinians when they are such a useful source of cheap labour? What the Israelis seem to want is to reduce them to the status of helots.

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63. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2009

Which is pretty much Kimmerlings thesis.

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64. Garibaldy - January 18, 2009

Ok. Who is this guy?

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65. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2009

Israeli sociologist and historian. He died the year before last. Wrote Politicide which blamed Sharon for pursuing a policy of annihilating Palestinians as a politically autonomous people. It’s actually quite a short book. Here’s the wiki page.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Kimmerling

The Times obit is actually the most detailed… it makes interesting reading….

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66. yourcousin - January 19, 2009

WBS,
I will confess that I haven’t read Kimmerling and so I won’t try to act as if I’m an authority on this matter. I googled him and read some of his thoughts. Perhaps I should’ve clarified a little there (part of the whole lost post thing), it’s not that I feel he was intentionally trying to cover something up, but I had to look up “politicide” to find out what you were talking about which to me says alot. I’m not trying to paint Kimmerling into a corner but to take his thesis on politicide,

By politicide I mean a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity

And Lemkin on what he intended genocide to mean,

“Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groupsGenocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.”

Now you’ll excuse if I draw lines of connection between the two and being that Lemkin got there first, if I use his word. Though I think that this is a common misconception in terms of the language genocide and ties into the Holocaust in terms of the extreme version of genocide as essentially alluding to industrialized death camps when in truth it is far more nuanced than that. As for Lemkin’s definition of genocide. Being that he invented the word and is solely responsible for it ever becoming anything at all, let alone the cornerstone of international law I’m going to give him leeway (spelling?) on this one. The UN adopting it was due solely to his efforts and we would do well to remember that the US didn’t even ratify it until after Reagan visited Bitburg so it has become fairly politicized, which is why I try to go back to Lemkin instead of the UN conventions.

It also has very little to do with the idea all Israeli’s want the Palestinians to be totally destroyed. Look, time and time again we see that it’s not that everyone is totally evil but they are extermely pliable to societal manipulation. It also ties into the whole genre of German literature which attempted to answer the question thrown out by the baby boomers of “where were you when?”. I don’t believe that the average Israeli wants to see the Palestinians “destroyed” anymore than the average Turk wanted to see the Armenians “destroyed”, but actions carried in a systemic manner by a government especially over a period of time need to be called out for they are. And again I am not trying to argue that the Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinians, only that one could make that argument with some validity if they wished to.

I would also pull back say that while I can appreciate the emergence of Zionism as a political ideal we should also remember that at its birth it was treated as reactionary doctrine. And at it’s root is the belief that Palestine was there for the taking as a land just waiting for the Children of God to come home which it quite obviously was not. Look there are no easy answers to the issues which we have raised, but my feelings is that we have to keep raising them, even and especially when we lack the answers to them, that’s all.

[And as a post script due to the fact that I enjoy the level of debate on this site and as sort of a cover my ass mechanism I'll admit that my books are still packed away in boxes in the basement and the quotes are from online and in terms of the Lemkin quote come from wiki. So while I'm pretty positive that I've read it before I'm still going for transperency in terms of sources and trying to keep everything above board]

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67. yourcousin - January 19, 2009

And you Garibaldy,
While I’m well that this is the pot calling the kettle black you need to stop commenting and start blogging again damnit.

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68. yourcousin - January 19, 2009

ahem, should “While I’m well aware….”

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69. Wednesday - January 19, 2009

And is this codified in any documentation issued by M&S in the contemporary era or was this the ‘former Chairman’ expressing his own view?

I dunno, but it’s a hell of a lot different from targeting it because it’s “Jewish-owned”, which is the allegation that was made here.

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70. WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2009

yourcousin, I’m genuinely unsure of the point you’re making. You agree that the Israeli’s don’t want to exterminate the Palestinians, but you want to use the term genocide (or in a way you don’t) despite that term being freighted with meanings that are a result of the Holocaust. I avoid genocide because I think it’s the wrong term but also because in the context of that history it can only be tossed around in a partisan fashion by those involved. To be honest I don’t see politicide as very much *lesser* than genocide in terms of its appallingness. To remove autonomy from a people is a crime in my book. End of story. But at least it has the benefit of describing the situation as we see it extant today between Palestine and Israel and that I think is more important than making arguments – such as those who do argue this is a genocide – which appear to me to be fundamentally incorrect and only play into Israeli hands. Let’s just say that Israeli actions are unconscionable and intolerable. That the scaling of violence is counter productive and utterly cynical. That its linkage to Israeli domestic politics is revolting (how do they sleep at night) and that the old saw about an ‘existential threat’ should be discarded. That the Holocaust must not be invoked by them in completely inappropriate and entirely different circumstances. That they should be forced by the international community and the US to do the right thing. Er… what exactly are we disagreeing about here?

Wednesday, got to say that forget the anti-semitic connotations and think about the issue of justice and the use of a quote twenty years out of date by an ex-Director of M&S who states support ‘economically’ for Israel not politically, and it seems to me to be pretty incredible that anyone would seriously use that as the basis for a boycott of M&S in 2009. Christ, people have been sent down for membership of the IRA on more. And that was equally wrong.

As it happens I can, and sort of do, support Israel economically (but not politically) – with all the obvious caveats about the abuse of Palestinian labour etc – since I suspect that a better off Israel, as with most nation states, will be more pliant than an impoverished and fearful Israel, and more open to pressure and persuasion.

It’s not that a case couldn’t have been made that M&S should be singled out for a boycott due to the use of produce from settlements (I hate the word illegal since they all are) is a big warning flag… but since they’ve stopped that it’s more difficult to see a rationale for just them.

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71. skidmarx - January 19, 2009

WbS – repeated rogue apostrophe in “Israelis”.

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72. Eamonn - January 19, 2009

“Tell me do you believe firing missiles, artillery and tank shells into one of the most densely populated areas on earth is not behaving like nazis.”

blazing away with the heavy stuff at a built up area is a tad broad as definitions of behaving like Nazis goes . As well as Israel, it would catch the allies in WW2, Hamas in the present conflict, Iran and Iraq in their big to do in the 1980s, the Russians and the Georgians last year and other examples over the last 150 years too numerous to mention

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73. Garibaldy - January 19, 2009

Your cousin,

Your wish is my command, pathetic though the post may be.

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74. yourcousin - January 19, 2009

WBS,
At this point I believe we’re disagreeing over semantics, and where a normal person would say, “well we basically agree” and call it good. Fortunately I’m not a normal person and think that the semantics are extremely important here. I take issue with an author taking someone else’s ideas, almost verbatim and through a little cutting and pasting representing it as something new and different. One of the cormer stones of genocide law is that it is something that instantly recognizable. Where when you hear it dropped in a conversation you turn your head. Now I’m not stupid but I had to google “politicide” and it still doesn’t really mean anything for me other than as a talking point.

As for genocide being directly tied to the Holocaust. Lemkin’s text in which he coined “genocide” was published in 1944 and had been written in the years prior to that, before the Holocaust had come to be known. He cited the examples of German laws decreed throughout occupied Europe (hence the title) and looked at past incidents in terms such the Armenian genocide and the Assyrians in Iraq. So while the term came to be known almost synonymously with the Holocaust it is not intrinsically tied to it. It is also not tied to the total destruction of a group, but of the things that make them a distinct group or nation (which is why I included that paragraph from Lemkin).

Indeed if it has come to be politicized and rendered almost meaningless from misuse we ought not to discard it for a new word that would take its place but we ought to rescue the word (and so much of our language) from the clutches meaningless drivel. Indeed if there was ever a word that needed to be rescued from such a fate it is this one.

As for me advocating the use of the word genocide in this situation. If I have not done it explicitly it is because to label something genocide invokes a moral duty to actively do something about it, which I am unwilling to do (not complimentary but honest). Also the situation is somewhat different in that the destruction of the “Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity” has taken place over fifty years and has been accomplished using a softly, softly approach which does not resemble the classic cases of genocide. And this is actually why I am so passionate about this and refuse to let it go. We need to need to keep up the discussion around genocide and the ways in which it keeps rearing its head. As the ways in which we are cruel to one another change and morph so to must the law with which we would combat such things. To forever set the bar for genocide with the Holocaust is to forever find instances wanting in one aspect or another and missing the point in which Lemkin gave his all to get across.

Sorry don’t mean to go off on a tangent but this is something which I’m passionate about.

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75. WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2009

My problem with Lemkin’s broader definition is that by that token *any* attack on *any* group can be a genocide. But that’s clearly wrong for obvious reasons and in a way drains the term of meaning. And that’s why I dislike the use of the word except in very clear instances. To me Rwanda was a genocide, the Holocaust too, I can’t say about the Armenian situation but it certainly looks like it and so on and so forth. The Famine doesn’t seem to me to be a genocide, but it does strike me as a politicide – at least in part. I don’t think the term Holocaust, or its significance in world-historical terms, is really pertinent to this debate one way or another.

I don’t really understand why you consider the term genocide so significant in relation to this debate when in fact your understanding of the Palestinian situation would actually arrive more closely at Kimmerlings use of the term politicide. And to be honest I think you do Kimmerling a huge injustice if you think his analysis was based on a repackaging of genocide in slightly less pointed clothes.

A further thought, Kimmerling is important because he is/was of and in Israel. For his voice to say what he did is hugely important.

It seems to me you want to use the term genocide in regard to the Palestinians because of your perception of the import of the situation, but you draw back for some reason. If you think it’s a genocide fair enough, term it as such, if not no-one is forcing you to use Kimmerlings formulation and no-one is discarding genocide, and I’d entirely agree with you if you’re saying that its wrong if it can only be restricted to use in regard to the Holocaust.

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76. yourcousin - January 20, 2009

WBS,
Lemkin’s broader definition is only a paraghraph from a larger tome. The addition of “political” to his definition would cover things such as the horrors committed by the Khmer Rouge which “technically” are not covered by genocide law due to the fact that the deeds were done intra-ethnically. I would add that I am not trying to do injustice to Kimmerling and he has been added to my reading list, perhaps for discussion later on.

Though I would ask the same of you and ask if you had read Lemkin or at least about him? I am torn between the fact that Kimmerling is an Israeli levelling criticisms against the Israeli government. On the one hand it is always beneficial to have someone as such Kimmerling who can level such barbs from within the camp just as Susan McKay or yourself in regards to NI and the ROI respectively, but on the other hand I don’t feel like we need to wait for a response from within Israel (or anywhere else for that matter) to criticize if we see a reason for doing so.

Probably the reason I feel strongly about this was due to the offhand nature in which in which I came upon politicide and how it struck me. I looked it up and once I read Kimmerleng’s “thesis” I knew I had read it somewhere before and so I felt the need to dig a little deeper and lo and behold I came back across Lemkin’s writings. And so I felt that Kimmerling was trying to sneak something through the back door, even if unintentionally.

I understand that no one is forcing me to use “politicide”, but the entire point words like either “politicide” or “genocide” is raise awareness and/or outrage. If you need to sit down and explain what it is and then hand someone a book to fully explain it then the effect is somewhat lost.

I’m passionate about this because oddly enough internaitonal humanitarian law and war crimes/genocide are a hobby of mine. Perhaps that’s the wrong word which convey’s some sort of enjoyment from the subject (which it doesn’t) but it is one of the few things which really animates me. I also think that until I read Kimmerling I’d be unable to comment fully on him and his writings and withdraw under that banner.

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77. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2009

I have read Lemkin as it happens. And it’s worth pointing out that Kimmerling doesn’t ignore the issue of genocide in his book but merely seeks to describe what he believes is being inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I genuinely don’t think there is any real difference between our positions on this matter, even semantically. OUr differences revolve around the point that I’m somewhat dubious about Lemkin extending the definition of genocide as widely as he draws it in that particular piece and you’re somewhat dubious about the use of politicide rather than genocide. But we both feel a sense of outrage about these events.

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78. PamDirac - January 20, 2009

“Pam

You’re a sweet one alright, why not admit it, you do not even believe there is any such thing as a Palestinian, now do you? Otherwise you would not have called them Gazan’s, when they are Palestinians living in Gaza, which is completely different, the more so in the current context..”

Um, I referred to them as Gazans to distinguish them from the Palestinians in the West Bank not currently under attack and because they were the specific group of Palestinians I was referring to in my post. My tone was too flippant, however.

“Why exterminate the Palestinians when they are such a useful source of cheap labour? What the Israelis seem to want is to reduce them to the status of helots.”

Reminding me of Rahm Emanuel’s father’s remark about his son’s appointment as chief of staff: “….obviously he’ll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.” (For which Emanuel duly apologized.)

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