You'll never read this in the U.S. press about the Middle East
01/02/2009 7:43 AM
12/13/2010 9:35 AM
Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East corresponent for the London-based Independent newspaper, is one of my few journalistic heroes.
Here's one reason why:
And here's another take on the Israeli assault on Gaza--again, you'll have to search high and low to find anything close to this in the American press. Dyer is a Canadian with a Ph.D from the University of London in military history and Middle Eastern history.
/> By Gwynne Dyer
/> Yosef Sheinin, the chief rabbi of Ashdod, was understandably
/> distraught at the funeral of Irit Shetreet, one of four Israelis to be
/> killed by Palestinian rockets since Israel launched its bombing campaign
/> against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Sunday. However, he was wrong to say
/> that her death was "the latest manifestation of 3,000 years of anti-Jewish
/> hatred." The hatred is real, but its sources are a good deal closer both in
/> time and in space.
/> Western media coverage of current affairs rarely goes into the
/> origins of those affairs: even what happened last year or ten years ago is
/> treated as ancient history. So the fury and despair of the million and a
/> half residents of the Gaza Strip can easily seem incomprehensible -- the
/> "bottomless hatred of wild beasts," as Sheinin put it. Why do these
/> Palestinians fire murderous rockets at innocent civilians in Sderot,
/> Ashkelon, Ashdod, even Beersheva?
/> Because that's where they come from. Only about a fifth of the Gaza
/> Strip's population is descended from people who lived in that barren
/> stretch of land before 1948. The rest are people, or the children or
/> grandchildren or great-grandchildren of people, who were driven out of what
/> is now Israel during the 1948 war, or simply fled in fear and were not
/> allowed to go home again afterwards. Their former homes were mostly in the
/> south of former Palestine, in places like Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and
/> This does not give them the right to launch rockets at the people
/> who now live in those towns, of course, any more than Israel has the right
/> to use its massive air power to pound the crowded Gaza Strip. But it does
/> provide some context for what is happening now -- and indeed, happens every
/> year or so. This struggle is still about what it has always been about: the
/> land. And the fact that Israel is killing a hundred Palestinians for every
/> dead Israeli does not mean that the Israelis are winning.
/> Israel cannot actually lose this fight, since Hamas, the Islamist
/> organisation that now controls the Gaza Strip, is distinctly short of
/> F-16s, tanks and UAVs carrying Hellfire missiles. Israel will not lose a
/> lot of soldiers -- more than a couple of dozen -- even if it invades the
/> Gaza Strip on the ground for a while, because Hamas is not like Hizbollah,
/> the Shia militia in south Lebanon that fought the Israelis to a standstill
/> in the 2006 war.
/> Hamas does not have the discipline or the weapons that Hizbollah
/> had. It cannot even prevent Israeli infiltration of its own ranks, which is
/> why its leaders die like flies in Israeli air strikes and "targeted
/> killings," whereas Hizbollah successfully purged its ranks of informers and
/> has not lost a single senior leader to Israeli assassination for more than
/> a decade. The Israelis can do pretty much what they want to the Gaza Strip
/> -- but they cannot win.
/> Ehud Olmert, Israel's interim prime minister, and Tzipi Livni, his
/> successor as head of the Kadima party, and Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the
/> Likud party and her principal rival for the prime ministership in next
/> month's Israeli election, all know that. They are all old enough to have
/> watched Israel try to bash the Palestinians into submission half a dozen
/> times before, and they know it does not work. But that is strategy, and
/> this is politics.
/> For Israel's political leaders, this is mainly about looking tough
/> in front of an electorate that just wants someone to "do something" about
/> the Palestinians and their rockets. Nothing much can be done, short of a
/> peace settlement generous enough to reconcile them to the loss of their
/> land, but Israeli politicians have to look like they are trying. Hundreds
/> of people are dying in the Gaza Strip to provide that show.
/> The Hamas leaders are equally cynical, since they know that every
/> civilian death, and even every militant's death, helps to build popular
/> support for their organisation. The dead are pawns, and the game is
/> politics. No wonder there is such lack of enthusiasm elsewhere for spending
/> much effort on trying to persuade the two sides to agree to a ceasefire.
/> They will stop when they have achieved their (purely tactical and
/> short-term) political goals.
/> There is a more profound issue behind all this, which is Israel's
/> right to exist versus the right of the Palestinians to their homeland, but
/> we shouldn't get carried away with the unique moral dimension of all that.
/> It's just one more conquerors-versus-previous-inhabitants conflict, like
/> the European settlers versus the Indians in the Americas in the eighteenth
/> century -- or, for that matter, the Israelites versus the Canaanites three
/> thousand years ago.
/> Those earlier conflicts were all settled by force, but the world
/> has changed and force doesn't work so well any more. Israel has the power
/> to hammer the Palestinians endlessly, but they don't give up and go away.
/> They cannot, and neither can the Israelis. Neither side can eliminate the
/> other, as has been amply and repeatedly demonstrated.
/> That doesn't necessarily mean that this conflict will ultimately be
/> settled by peaceful negotiation and compromise. It may mean that there will
/> be no solution of any sort for the foreseeable future, just an endless
/> series of bloody, indecisive clashes like the present one. Happy New Year.
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