I want to march for Gaza, but I can’t


8:28 am - January 7th 2009

by Daniel Z    


      Share on Tumblr

I would like to march against Israel, really. I don’t think that bombing campaigns like the one we currently see are the answer at all. I am appalled by its dead, especially the innocent victims within it.

I am a member of the Left Jewish bundle, and was a long standing supporter of parties such as left wing Israeli Peace party Meretz and organisations like the shared Arab / Jewish village Wahat al Salam ~ Neve Shalom. I have Palestinian and Israeli friends and they expect me to march.

However I will not march in London against the war. The reason is that inspite of my opposition, I feel highly uncomfortable amongst the demonstrating crowd, for it appears somewhat suspect to me. The burning of the Israeli flag as quoted here at end of a London demonstration and the atmosphere of unidirectional violence are just confirming this.

Were I in Tel Aviv, I would instantly join in, but here in Europe other factors are preventing me to go. The problem is that I don’t understand what mobilizes people to march especially and every time it involves the Israeli / Palestinian problem and how the damage and terror imposed onto my Jewish friends in Israel is belittled and marginalised.

There is of course a difference if somebody is terrorised and another is killed, if one side has a hand full of dead and the other 100s, but there seems to be something in the opinion out there that suggests that Hamas somehow was right sending rockets on an almost constant basis (except the fragile ceasefire of a few months before the recent war eruption) onto Israeli towns across the border. Supposedly it is OK because Israel was and still is an occupying or controlling force.

I agree that the coup against Hamas, who were and factually still are the democratic elected representatives of the Palestinian people, is wrong. But two wrongs don’t make a right – an anti war demonstration necessitates speaking out against both parties at war, even be it more firmly against Israel as its armed forces power is more devastating.

Only yesterday I listened to the speech by a senior Hamas leader broadcasting from Gaza (I saw it on Yoman News Magazine 2nd. Jan 08 which showed it in its original Arabic recording). According to this senior figure, the current war supposedly is and I quote “against the sons of apes and pigs” a much misused extract from the Quoran from an episode when Jewish people at the time of Muhammad refused to convert to Islam and ridiculed the prophet – angering him. What about the other sura that states that if one party offers peace you should not refuse, and in that way the prime minister of Israel did state he wanted to offer peace if the rocket shooting stopped? And the ones that speak at length about the Jews as people of the book?

So if we demonstrate for peace, we must address the Hamas militant ideology and their deadly rockets, home made or not as well. Not just little home made rockets as Alexei Sayle remarked on BBC News 24 ( who described himself as a Jew who would not sanction the war). Home made they may be, but they can be deadly and their new generation are filled with grade rated explosives and spiked up with nails etc just to make sure they will injure or kill.

Further not choosing between Palestinians, regarding Hamas supporters alike all other Palestinians is a terrible insult to many Palestinians. It disregards efforts of 1000s of courageous violence rejecting Palestinians (MEND, Political arm of Fatah, Palestinian members of Combatants for Peace and Women in Black to name a few). Hamas as an Islamist movement by definition also is not the representative of the many Christian Palestinians, a point often forgotten, as many assume that Arab equals Muslim.

So here I pledge (once again) my stances:

  • I am opposing this war and believe the entire area must begin to reconcile (including Fatah and Hamas, Egypt and Syria). I believe that the U.S. is just as guilty as Iran in propping up conflict in the region.
  • I believe the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza ought to end, all Jewish settlement in these areas should either be dismantled, or “traded” to be kept in exchange for concessions to Palestinians (elements of Right of Palestinian Return for example). The time for this is yesterday!
  • I believe that neither a Jew-free-Palestine nor Arab-free-Israel is right, but that both should be diverse. A peace settlement must include consideration also of Arab peace with Jews in general, which must take account of the voids of former Jewish populated Arab speaking lands.
  • I believe that Islamism can inform politics but at the same time must come to terms with others in the region, be they Jews, Christians or people of other faiths. I believe the same is true for Jewish or Christian fundamentalism. That coming to terms with, means but one thing, accepting the others, and ceasing to fight them but using their supposedly God given brain and intellect to find compromises that achieve world peace.
  • I believe that it is right and proper for the Israeli state to exist, based on ethnic, religious, historical and cultural rights, and that likewise Palestinians have a legal claim to the same land, which means that it is important to promote compromise.
  • I believe that it is overdue time for the state of Palestine to come into existence – alongside Israel.
  • Because many demonstrators will not accept Israel’s right to be (but perhaps just as much as Israel seems to not allow Palestine to be), I feel that I can today not join the demonstration in London today, even though I would attend one in Israel. As one of my Israeli friends put it who read an earlier drafty of this article put it, “I also wanted to go to the demo, but I sort of knew it would be a march for Israel bashing Hamas rather than for peace.”
  • I am likewise appalled by the self centred view of Israelis that see the Qassam rockets only and not what they did to Palestinians over many years and also now. This is symbolized by the hysterical obsession with Gilad Shalit, that fails to compare with the 100s and 1000s of arrests, torture and illegal incarcerations that Israel committed. It saddens me that only about 20 percent in Israel were calling for an immediate ceasefire a couple of days ago (Haaretz Poll).
  • In this sense I would like to hear from other Jewish people who feel affiliated and loyal to the left and peace, but who likewise felt that they could not join the British general anti-war demo bandwagon, unwilling to be company to “We are all Hezbollah” Galloway and Ken Livingstone amongst others. Perhaps we should organise our own demonstration. We’d first go to the Israeli Embassy and then to the Iranian.
    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post. Daniel blogs at Daniel's counter about Middle Eastern issues.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East ,Realpolitik

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Moral in Gaza

Moral Clarity in Gaza

washingtonpost
— Associated Press, Dec. 27
Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.
Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis — 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years — deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.
This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage — or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb — will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.
For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children’s program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey’s path to martyrdom).
At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible — also on both sides. It’s a recurring theme. Israel gave similar warnings to Southern Lebanese villagers before attacking Hezbollah in the Lebanon war of 2006. The Israelis did this knowing it would lose for them the element of surprise and cost the lives of their own soldiers.
That is the asymmetry of means between Hamas and Israel. But there is equal clarity regarding the asymmetry of ends. Israel has but a single objective in Gaza — peace: the calm, open, normal relations it offered Gaza when it withdrew in 2005. Doing something never done by the Turkish, British, Egyptian and Jordanian rulers of Palestine, the Israelis gave the Palestinians their first sovereign territory ever in Gaza.
What ensued? This is not ancient history. Did the Palestinians begin building the state that is supposedly their great national aim? No. No roads, no industry, no courts, no civil society at all. The flourishing greenhouses that Israel left behind for the Palestinians were destroyed and abandoned. Instead, Gaza’s Iranian-sponsored rulers have devoted all their resources to turning it into a terror base — importing weapons, training terrorists, building tunnels with which to kidnap Israelis on the other side. And of course firing rockets unceasingly.
The grievance? It cannot be occupation, military control or settlers. They were all removed in September 2005. There’s only one grievance and Hamas is open about it. Israel’s very existence.
Nor does Hamas conceal its strategy. Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world’s opprobrium on Israel. Force it into an untenable cease-fire — exactly as happened in Lebanon. Then, as in Lebanon, rearm, rebuild and mobilize for the next round. Perpetual war. Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.
Israel’s only response is to try to do what it failed to do after the Gaza withdrawal. The unpardonable strategic error of its architect, Ariel Sharon, was not the withdrawal itself but the failure to immediately establish a deterrence regime under which no violence would be tolerated after the removal of any and all Israeli presence — the ostensible justification for previous Palestinian attacks. Instead, Israel allowed unceasing rocket fire, implicitly acquiescing to a state of active war and indiscriminate terror.
Hamas’s rejection of an extension of its often-violated six-month cease-fire (during which the rockets never stopped, just were less frequent) gave Israel a rare opportunity to establish the norm it should have insisted upon three years ago: no rockets, no mortar fire, no kidnapping, no acts of war. As the U.S. government has officially stated: a sustainable and enduring cease-fire. If this fighting ends with anything less than that, Israel will have lost yet another war. The question is whether Israel still retains the nerve — and the moral self-assurance — to win.

2. Green Socialist

Understand your concerns, but there are many Jewish Groups supporting these demo’s its important also to confront Anti Semitism when it raises its ugly head.
Indeed seeing British jewish opposition to Israel’s actions will expose and isolate anti semitics elements in the anti war movement.

Hi Daniel

Thanks for your post – it expresses pretty much what I’ve been thinking. I’ve e-mailed you pivately to see if we can take things forward.

Well I want to march for Israel, and I can at this coming Sunday’s Israel Solidarity Rally in Trafalgar Square.

The reasons to do so are here – http://theorator2009.blogspot.com/2009/01/israel-solidarity-rally-sunday-11th.html

I am likewise appalled by the self centred view of Israelis that see the Qassam rockets only and not what they did to Palestinians over many years and also now. This is symbolized by the hysterical obsession with Gilad Shalit, that fails to compare with the 100s and 1000s of arrests, torture and illegal incarcerations that Israel committed.

I would invite you to come on the march and actually see for yourself, rather than reading about it from afar on Harry’s Place and Iain Dale’s diary. You aren’t going to agree with everyone there on anything but whilst that might be a condition of support on the blogosphere, it isn’t one for building broad coalitions in real life.

In actuality, of all the stances you mention, most protestors there would agree with them. It is not that people do not want Israel to exist: they just want it to stop behaving in a way that prevents peace and the formation of a Palestinian state.

Er, Jews and Muslims aside, isn’t a bit odd for British people to be marching either for or against Israel?

I know we don’t tend to ask this question but – why on earth do you care? Sure, there is injustice in the Middle East, but there’s injustice in half the countries in the world.

Right at this moment the Sri Lankan army are crushing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They are, depending upon your POV, either horrible terrorists or brave freedom fighters. Where are the marches for or against them? Why do people care about Israel and not about Sri Lanka? Seven times as many people have died in Sri Lanka’s civil war than have died in the Middle East since the 1980s.

Don’t make me accuse you all of racism because Sri Lankans are browner than Palestinians… you must have a good reason right?

…and don’t even get me started on the fact that preventable diseases kill more kids every day than IDF bombs and Hamas rockets have ever killed in total. That would be too much.

I’ve marched on demonstrations against inaction on climate change, which has already caused severe destruction to many people’s lives around the world and will kill a lot more than any war can if left unchecked. Does that satisfy your checklist? Will you stop using the tired argument that just because we don’t all march against Ugandan rebels slaughtering people in the DRC, we are being selective and don’t care about them because we have marched against Israel’s war on Gaza?

I would like to see more conflicts brought to the media’s attention, and for more groups to organise peaceful actions such as demonstrations to put pressure on our government to stem the tide of violence wherever it rises. The question is, why don’t HP et al organise such demonstrations? Do they actually care about people being killed, or are they using those conflicts to silence critics of Israeli aggression?

Daniel Z: I would like to march against Israel, really. However I will not march in London against the war. The reason is that inspite of my opposition, I feel highly uncomfortable amongst the demonstrating crowd, for it appears somewhat suspect to me.

My sentiments exactly. Hizbollah and Hamas are a major part of the problem, which is that on both sides there many religious extremists with hate and bigotry in their hearts.

In this sense I would like to hear from other Jewish people who feel affiliated and loyal to the left and peace, but who likewise felt that they could not join the British general anti-war demo bandwagon, unwilling to be company to “We are all Hezbollah” Galloway and Ken Livingstone amongst others. Perhaps we should organise our own demonstration. We’d first go to the Israeli Embassy and then to the Iranian.

I think you should open this up to non-Jews as well, in fact to anyone who is against the extremists on both sides. If I still lived in London I’d be interested in joining such a demonstration.

Woobegone: I know we don’t tend to ask this question but – why on earth do you care? Sure, there is injustice in the Middle East, but there’s injustice in half the countries in the world.

One selfish reason to care is that conflict in the Middle East is more likely to break out into a nuclear war than conflict in Sri Lanka.

Personally I’d rather not end up as a radioactive cinder.

However I will not march in London against the war. The reason is that inspite of my opposition, I feel highly uncomfortable amongst the demonstrating crowd, for it appears somewhat suspect to me. The burning of the Israeli flag as quoted here at end of a London demonstration and the atmosphere of unidirectional violence are just confirming this.

I think Phil ‘Brookside’ Redmond would describe this as the Scouse Wedding Argument: ‘Well, I’m not going if she’s going to be there.’ If you allow any demo to be defined by the most extreme element (or by one-off nutters) – especially if opponents of the demo want to characterise protest by such actions or people (as we saw over the Iraq war protests) – you’d never get to go on any demos at all , or you’d have to organise one of your own and be careful whom you invite.

“…and don’t even get me started on the fact that preventable diseases kill more kids every day than IDF bombs and Hamas rockets have ever killed in total. That would be too much.”

So if that’s your attitude, then why are do you care why people care? Surely people sitting back and saying “Well it’s not as big as other problems I don’t hear about in the media so I’ll ignore this as much as them” is worse?

You’re also not quite correct. Per day 0.000121% of the population of Gaza has been killed since the Israel attacks started due to the attacks. Every day 0.0000044% of the world’s population dies in the form of children (under 5yo I believe the reports come from). So, really, for what you’re saying to be correct then 28x more children need to die a day to be comparable to this conflict.

That’s not to say that he other ongoing conflicts around the world don’t deserve our attention, but it’s hardly a bad thing, disproportionate maybe, to specifically make a fuss about this one crisis.

Lee : People aren’t percentages. More kids die of diseases than die of Israeli bombs, even if a greater %age die from the bombs.

Rayyan : “Will you stop using the tired argument that just because we don’t all march against Ugandan rebels slaughtering people in the DRC, we are being selective and don’t care about them because we have marched against Israel’s war on Gaza?”

No I won’t, because while it may be a tired argument (is it? I’ve never seen it used before here, so I don’t know how it got tired, but OK) it’s valid.

Cabalamat : Fair enough, but people don’t march for selfish reasons. They march because they care. Which is a perfectly good reason to march, but I’m just curious as to why people (except Jews & Muslims) care about Gaza more than Sri Lanka.

@13 Woobegone,

The stuff you attributed to me wasn’t said by me. Please get your attributions right.

Cabalamat: Please get yours straight. Read #13 again and you’ll see that I was responding to your #10. Thanks.

“People aren’t percentages.”

They’re people…and whether from preventable diseases or preventable bombs, they’re dying. You can’t sit here and claim that one is more important than the other, especially given the percentages, that’s what we call hypocrisy. Either say we should be marching and complaining about every travesty and tragedy in the world, or none. You can’t have it both ways.

“More kids die of diseases than die of Israeli bombs, even if a greater %age die from the bombs”

This is why percentages are more important. As an instance of an event the Israel conflict is more devastating than diseases right now. If you’re just going to use time unlimited totals then let’s start arguing about how the devastation of the plague is more important to moan about that Palestinians dying, as it’s just as relevant when talking about importance of action.

I think this is a good post and appreciate Daniel’s points but think that to be honest isolating yourself from the movement because of the unsavoury elements is wrong, Daniel. How else will they be combatted if you don’t take a stand alongside and argue your case?? I think in wanting to take a ‘two-sided’ approach to the question you would find you have alot of support…

Er, Jews and Muslims aside, isn’t a bit odd for British people to be marching either for or against Israel?

Surgical strike Woobegone . Sudan got through a Lebanon every ten days but I did not see the Labour Party getting its knickers is remotely a proportionate twist. Cholera in Zimbabwe is a greater problem and equally political .Hardly a mention . Its not symmetrical thing either , while odd bods like Tim Montgomerie and Stand point may enjoy playing with their maps most Conservatives are comfortably indifferent to abroad unless it effects them directly .Should anyone suggest this or that adventure will be mindful of the cost .

What is it with the Left and Israel then ?. Partly it is a hangover from the cold war days when the arena was a proxy for the Soviet Union and the US . Mostly , in my opinion , mostly jejune posturing fun days out a sort of tribal chest thumping. The PLO the IRA inter alia used to be part of broad revolutionary front that silly lefties enjoyed living vicariously exciting lives through. . The last sputtering of that old nonsense perhaps? I suspect myself its not much more than a fashion statement in many cases

Hi Daniel

I’m Jewish and left but would not even consider marching for Gaza because a march for Gaza is a march for Hamas and Hizbolla and (more importantly) the power and money behind those that insist on firing rockets. All palestinian arabs around the world and in Gaza know that allowing rockets to be fired into Israel is only going to lead to one thing – and its not going to be pretty. What I would love to see is a massive demonstration against Hamas for firing the rockets and a call to all those with information and evidence linking persons to anything related to those rockets.

Noone gets any help or democracy from shooting rockets – not Mandela, not Ghandi – I’m sure there are other examples. Lets try and find out who is behind this horrific war agenda, who insists on using these poor people in Gaza as pawns in their own game.

Woobegone – you make such wonderful points especially the ones which ask why there are no marches for Zimbabwe, Sudan, Angola etc etc etc. It can only point to anti-semitism – and if you march, you just become another self hating jew. March for Israel – as for better or worse, its the side you were born on and moreover its a march against Hamas and its benefactors.

Lilliput

This is why percentages are more important. As an instance of an event the Israel conflict is more devastating than diseases right now

Oh come on ONS shows that 23740 pensioners dies from cold related illnesses between Dec 2007 and March 2008. 12 an hour which is up 7% on the previous year and likely to be way up this year , that’s 281 a day. Why are you not running around with soup and woolly jumpers ? You could actually achieve something.
It is , contrastingly , ever so slightly unlikely that Israel is going to decide not to defend its citizens because of your moral outrage .
Soup and woolly jumpers does not a groovy demo make though does it . Same thing with AIDS .Diarrhoea was always a far bigger killer but I do not recall many brown ribbons . Is there an element of sexual display ? Drawing attention to yourself ,fluttering your plumage so to speak . Young single men are certainly always assertively noisy with their big manly concerns about world conflicts.

“Surgical strike Woobegone . Sudan got through a Lebanon every ten days but I did not see the Labour Party getting its knickers is remotely a proportionate twist.”

“You make such wonderful points especially the ones which ask why there are no marches for Zimbabwe, Sudan, Angola etc etc etc.”

I don’t know why we bother to lobby or march on anything really. Let’s just find the one “most devastating thing in the world” that we can all agree on due to the highest figure of deaths (natural causes and unpreventable disease, probably) and all promise we’ll hold hands and only concentrate on that, as clearly that is the only rational thing to do.

It is interesting that you here are trying to compare what are largely internal struggles and civil wars with declarations of war against a different country, just think about what political pressure can be exerted against a nation warring with itself compared to against a country haphazardly bombing another. You’re also wrong to claim that no-one marched for Sudan or against Mugabe, assuming you include protests, vigils and demonstrations in your terminology. Perhaps the media didn’t pick up on them as much, but they happened.

The burning of the Israeli flag as quoted here at end of a London demonstration and the atmosphere of unidirectional violence are just confirming this.

Didn’t that happen AFTER the main march by a small break away group that headed for the Israeli embassy? Couldn’t you go to the march but not to any ensuing embassy protest?

“Same thing with AIDS .Diarrhoea was always a far bigger killer but I do not recall many brown ribbons .”

You really lack the context of our argument. We could march against poor economic planning and infrastructure development in the developing world…but we all know that is going to do little to nothing, instead we give to charity on this sort of issue, generally. AIDS protestation is more than not about religious and country leaders that put barriers up, particularly for uneducated people, to have access or knowledge of prevention or treatment of the disease.

One is a political problem, the other is a moral outrage. Likewise, people dying of preventable diseases is a disgusting situation to be in, but it is a political issue of resources, aid, etc, etc…trying to show our government that we want them to stop the immoral devastation of innocent civilian lives is because of a moral conflict.

It doesn’t mean it’s more important or necessarily more devestating in the long term…but it does mean on some level some people feel it is more wrong than anything else that is currently happening. Let people act as they want, just be happy they’re acting at all, don’t knock them down for making a stand or you wont’ have any allies for helping with your fight against less media focused stories in the future, will you?

Lee

Are you kidding when you say:

” It is interesting that you here are trying to compare what are largely internal struggles and civil wars with declarations of war against a different country, just think about what political pressure can be exerted against a nation warring with itself compared to against a country haphazardly bombing another.”

because I think the chance of Mugabe listening to anyone marching against his governing policy is slightly less then zero. The only way we will get him to listen is if someone gets into one of his palaces and arrests him for crimes against humanity.

but there is real truth in:

“I don’t know why we bother to lobby or march on anything really”

The only reason we march is to show solidarity with the concerned party – eg we marched for Aids against the stigma involved. In the Israel/Palestinian march so we can show the parties involved we feel you. Unfortunately, not that many people feel for the Zimbabweans as they don’t have such a diasporah population.

“because I think the chance of Mugabe listening to anyone marching against his governing policy is slightly less then zero. The only way we will get him to listen is if someone gets into one of his palaces and arrests him for crimes against humanity.”

I don’t think I suggested anything to the contrary, doesn’t mean that people haven’t though.

hang on, Newmania and Lilliput. While I appreciate the kind words, I wasn’t accusing anyone of anti-Semitism. What I said applies to anyone who feels strongly either for OR against Israel – as Newmania puts it:

“What is it with the Left and Israel then ?”

…but the exact same could be asked of the Right (especially in the US, but also over here) – what is it about the Right and Israel? The answer is not that right-wing parties are controlled by a “Jewish Lobby” – this is especially true because Jewish people have long tended towards the left on most issues – which makes it even more odd that so many right-wing Christians and atheists seem almost obsessed with Israel…

Lee : “I don’t know why we bother to lobby or march on anything really. Let’s just find the one “most devastating thing in the world” that we can all agree on due to the highest figure of deaths (natural causes and unpreventable disease, probably) and all promise we’ll hold hands and only concentrate on that, as clearly that is the only rational thing to do.”

Well actually that’s not a bad idea. If Western nations made a concerted & urgent effort to stamp out, say, diarrhea, it would be a great thing. If there were million-man marches in London, Paris & Washington that might even happen. I’m not optimistic because who would march against diarrhea? You can’t get angry at diarrhea. Whereas you can get angry at a Jew or a Muslim all too easily.

28. Henning Sieverts

Daniel, I agree with virtually everything you say, and congratulate you for saying it so well.
Henning

Daniel Z,
extrmely well put. I agree with your ideas.
However, the comment left by Red Pesto (#11) about the “Scouse Wedding Argument” is also very good. Like previously against the Iraq war you don’t want to leave opposition to the war an exclusive of people like George “Most Arrogant Person in the UK” Galloway.

“If Western nations made a concerted & urgent effort to stamp out, say, diarrhea, it would be a great thing”

What can you do? Make a firm commitment as a set of nations to give a set amount of cash to charities to prevent it? How many people in this country that are already pent up about “foreigners taking our jobs” are going to be happy with income tax being increased to save lives they’ll never see?

The crux is not about what we do and do not get angry about, it’s about what we can or cannot stop without having to detriment ourselves. It’s why charity will always be the best route to helping to solve these problems, at least people then make a conscious choice to do so.

which makes it even more odd that so many right-wing Christians and atheists seem almost obsessed with Israel…

True true there is sometimes an acnoid brlliantined twerp in the corner playing what he imagines is a contemporary “Great game “. The overwhelming majority are not much fussed unless our security or interests are fairly tangibly threatened . Whe Iain dale accompanied David cameron on a hand wrining session to Africa , the reaction was almost universal mirth.

I don’t know how much faith I put in charity anymore. Its not the giver that’s the issue – its where the money ends up?

I say this on the basis of the gazillions sent to Gaza and Africa – more then enough to make sure that Gaza residents enjoy a good enough standard of living and eradicating the cause of fatal diarrhea forever!

This ideological purity crap is really rather tiresome. All movements and organisations contain people who you won’t agree with on everything but who share more or less the same common objective, which in this instance is an end to the attacks on both sides, but especially the outright slaughter which Israel has visited on Gaza. If you either can’t turn a blind eye to those who you don’t like while still agreeing with the principles of the march, or can’t criticise them to their faces over their stance on it, then I don’t think anyone is going to miss you much and your agonising over it which achieves precisely nothing except your own self-aggrandisement. And yes, I am being deliberately combative because this is worth being combative about.

The march on Saturday is a march for peace in the Middle East and an end to violence, and a show of solidarity with the people of Gaza, who have overwhelmingly suffered the most in this conflict. Add in the effect of the blockade, and you will see why the focus is on the people of Gaza.

With that in mind, I cannot see why someone who wants peace in the Middle East would not attend. The media will just make the march on Sunday look like a pro-IDF march – which is what it actually looks like, right now.

Lilliput: Are you confusing aid (which is sent to governments) with giving money to charities (which, unless you’re being a moron sends money to people actually investing money in helping people and providing resources)? It’s precisely because of this that Charity is important, and why promising to give aid from the countries coffers needs to be done with extreme caution.

Well you guys were all fantastic and gave good food for thought. I will consider next Saturday – don’t have a problem with standing my ground. Mind you Saturday demos are difficult for religious Jews, and there are some that are quite progressive believe or not. I also considered applying for a separate demonstration license in my own right but MET wants 6 days in advance and frankly I hope the circus of death is over by then. Also, when is that demo against war in Sri Lanka happening?

Another comment not published on Liberalconspiracy but on my own blog spoke about the right to resist. This was very applicable I thought. My answer to “Kim” whose post this point was, was that it is not the question that Palestinians or Hamas may not resist, but what method they use. Combatants for Peace and MEND make very clear points that violence only yields more violence, regardless what it may say in Mao’s urban war fare manual,or that Che’s, copied in different versions by many movements from Robert F Williams and Malik el Shabazz in the U.S. to Baader Meinhof and in a colonial context by Franz Fanon. Those who are familiar with urban guerillia war fare manuals, also know that fighting from within the civilian population is part and parcel of the tactic, because mighty armies can not battle these and the victims if they are one’s own innocent civilians can be used as a tool to pressurize the opponent. In that sense Hamas is not a barbaric Islamic movement out of Arabia, but loyal to the movements that preceded it around the world. Now my issue is with violence on both sides.

Peace Demonstrators who march because they supposedly object to violence must consider the ideological inspirations of peace or peaceful resistance. They are above all in the context of the oppressed and liberation Ghandi and King.

The same point motivates Israel’s peace movement leader Gush Shalom’s leader Uri Avneri, an ex combatant himself .MEND in Palestine subscribes to Kingian non violent resistance. Israeli and Palestinian “Combatants for Peace” have lived the path of violence and reject it.

Violence does not only yield violent response in the opponent, it also brutalizes and obscures values and sober thought in ones own society. This is what in aspects happened in my opinion in much of Israel (we shall exclude the 20 percent who oppose the current war), where Jewish people got to caught up with the promise of victory by the means of an armed response, based on the fear and traumatic history of being weak. Such victories, if they ever happen, seldom lead to a long lasting peace and even if they do – the human costs are immense. What does work in most human communities though is direct inter-personal engagement, listening and negotiation skills and these can not only solve an ad hoc crisis but enable people to come by with new problems as they may arise. There are some people who never may change their mind on something, but often people can be convinced that it is well worth reconciling with a former enemy and seeing the human in her or him.

On a level much closer to home I have done so not only in national conflict work, but take a neighborhood dispute I was in a good while ago. A neighbor of ours and us got into an argument over something small regarding the shared hall way. There was miscommunication, then shouting and then no communication. Both sides bedeviled each other, shouted made complaints to the landlord etc… until one day I thought enough, I am just gonna send them a nice card and re-engage. It was something that I would not do before, but attending a work shop on non violent imagination encouraged me to try the one thing I hadn’t tried before – it was speaking with the neighbor again and treating him as a human being. We never had conflict again. The desire to live in peace was greater than the conflict and hate that build up to make us both narrow minded. However we likewise could have continued the warfare and throw things against each other etc…

What do we promote when we demonstrate for peace then?

Rayyan, please let me enlighten you:

Saturday is the sabbath for jews and therefore many of those that want to attend the march would not be able to. I believe that this is exactly what the powers that be want. A seggregated show where the muslims come out in support for the Gazans on Saturday and then the jews come out on Sunday and it is easy to make it look like an IDF parade.

If people really want peace – they have to start at the minimum of making sure both religions are accomodated.

Scepticisle, I don’t think anyone expects idealogical purity as such – I generally agree with the “broad church” argument and I’m usually happy to make common cause with people with whom I disagree on most issues. I think there does have to come a point though where you look at certain people and think they are beyond the pale and you do not want to be associated with them in any way. Unfortunately, arguments about I/P do tend to bring out some very nasty people and it seems at least a few of them were in attendance last Saturday. And I’m not going to kid myself that I would be brave enough to actually challenge them personally. It’s also a bit disenchanting to see the likes of Galloway given a platform.

Therefore I sympathise with Daniel’s position. I can’t make it personally on Saturday and couldn’t last time but my inclination would be to go along, take a placard condemning both Israel and Hamas. See if you can find other similarly minded people on the day (and persuade those you know to go with you) and march alongside them. Try to show you’re demonstrating against Israel and Hamas but also against the nutters who support terrorists and burn Israeli flags.

39. Shatterface

Death by disease is – unless resulting diirectly from a biological attack – the result of inaction rather than action and naturally produces less revulsion. It’s a variation on the ‘trolly problem’: we attribute guilt according to direct culpability, not according to a ballance sheet.

Your comparison of Sri Lanka and Israel-Palestine is flawed.

Sri Lanka is fighting an insurrection (and yes, it is doing so brutally). Tamils are Sri Lankan citizens. This conflict is analagous to Kurds in Turkey (and perhaps Iraq one day…) They are fighting for a homeland, or at the very least cultural recognition (e.g. oppression of Kurdish culture in the name of “Turkishness”).

Palestinians are not Israeli citizens. They never have been. They do not have rights from the Israeli state afforded (however imperfectly) to Tamils in Sri Lanka or Kurds in Turkey. They do not have any state to appeal to which is meant to protect them.

Instead, Palestine is an occupied territory and has been recognised as such by the ‘international community’ at large. And Israel is the occupying power. Not Sri Lanka.

However, I can understand your general unease at protesting alongside people who are really only interested in one side “winning”, not genuine efforts at justice or peace.

And, I would add that, Israel-Palestine inspires more concern because it is probably seen at the last instance of ‘colonialism’.

Dear Thabet, actually near 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish of whom 18% percent are Arab, discounting some Druze and Bedouins, there are at least 15% of the populus you may call Palestinians with Israeli citizenship within the total populus. They are discriminated against and many other things can be said about their minority status. Only last year there were riots in Acre due to misunderstandings and tensions.
I am not trying to bluff or feel good or bad about this fact. But the point you made is hence not true.

I am not sure if Palestine / Israel is in deed the last stop of colonialism / anti colonialism. If you take the perspective of neocolonialism, the reign of Mugabe, the inability for poor South Africans to ascend, and the lack of stability in so many other fornmer colonies (often down to continued exploitation by their own elites in unison with Western exploitation) the last chapters are still being written all over the place. And it was Professor Stuart Hall, then Britain’s first professor of Caribbean background (as far as I remember) who stated famously that the last colony to be decolonized is………….. the island of……. Great Britain! I think that was an intersting statement too.

shatterface: You’re right. But that doesn’t explain the contrast with Sri Lanka

thabet: OK, the parallel is not exact, but it’s pretty close. I think you’re right about “Colonialism.”, but that’s my point, something being the last bastion of colonialism isn’t necessarily a good reason to care about it, if there are much worse things going on elsewhere…

“if there are much worse things going on elsewhere…”

Let me ask again, I don’t think we quite got there…but can you explain why it is we should ignore the slim though apparent prospects at stopping the persecution of one set of people at the decision of a separate government, and then somehow try to change the persecution of people by their own government or a splinter group?

One way or another (maybe sooner, thankfully…well done Egypt and France for doing something rather than sitting on your hands like Mr Brown), Israel-Palestine will die down and stop, if not only for a while…and in that down time we could and should shift our gaze. But when we do, to places like Zimbabwe and such, how can we do anything other than try to offer aid to those that are in an impossible situation for anyone but the country itself to sort out, and *should* we do anything other than offer aid?

People dying of diarrhoea is equally, as Shatterface puts it, because of inaction. Because not enough aid is received or because their governments can’t actually do what is required within their power or resources. We can give more aid, we can certainly make more of a fuss…but aren’t these situations of “worse things” just situations where we can only push money at the problem without radical global political change?

At least with Israel nothing radical, or financial, needs to happen…just enough public pressure with the right individual voices of power can stop the deaths, we’d be fools to pass up and ignore that because of other things happening in the world at the same time.

Daniel: “…actually near 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish of whom 18% percent are Arab…”

You misunderstood my point.

The people in the West Bank and Gaza who self-identify as Palestinians are not Israeli citizens. We are talking about Israeli violence against Palestinians, not discrimination sufferred by Israeli Arabs.

If Israeli Arabs took to arms then appealing to the example of Sri Lanka might make sense as this could be an insurrection.

Palestinians who live in the occupied territories, and who take to violence, is not the same — these people are fighting an occupying force (one may argue that their tactics, e.g. targeting Israeli civilians with suicide bombings are flawed).

The colonialism argument isn’t that easily refuted. I am not entirely convinced by it, but the ever-expanding settlements on the West Bank need some kind of explanation.

Woodbegone: “something being the last bastion of colonialism isn’t necessarily a good reason to care about it”

Clearly, others disagree. I don’t see how we can create some kind of objective test to show if some other instance of killing or death is ‘worse’ than Israel/Palestine. As is usual there are probably several factors that motivate people to march/protest.

I’ve come to this a bit late, but wanted to make the point, as several people have, that I think there is merit in going as the journalists that we are, to talk to others about the reasons why they’re attending. I did that myself last weekend and everyone I talked to on the march said they were there to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. I posted those comments on my own site. I think at the very least, it’s worth attending as many events as possible and reporting the things that people say. Those things may not always be palatable, but if they’re there, they’re there, and should be reported.

Even later. Two sets of points but I will do one post because they are interrelated.I am very glad to see this kind of discussion going on (including Sunny’s earlier post on CiF).

I definitely will not attend any demonstration organised in London: I do not want to give weight to this kind of politics. I am too old in the tooth to be relieved and reassured that the official slogans and most protestors don’t call for the destruction of Israel (but actually that is what the slogan Free Palestine originally meant and still means to very many) or display overt anti-Semitism.

I think one of the major problems with protest and progressive campaigns here in the UK is that they are inevitably ‘captured’ by the mentality and organisational death-grip of the tired old trotskyite/trotskyist male left; whether SWP or not, the approach to issues and organisation is fundamentally drawn from that to formulate the form of political action, the slogans, and the choice and style of speakers.

Hence while a million people marched to Stop the War, the anti-war movement ended up as a rump of Islamists and their soi-disant anti-imperialist allies shouting “we are all Hezbollah.”

I know many people for whom the Iraq war was a galvanising moment, but, who in the end, decided that the anti-war movement was just an inversion of Bush’s simplicities. It shut down discussion rather than opening it up, it became a ritual of smaller and smaller marches and meetings. Similarly with the Social Forum …instead of developing it became a sectarian playground. I could name a vast number of campaigns and projects that have suffered the same fate – including the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Noq allied with this political force is Islamism (the left found the working class not revolutionary enough, Tariq Ali wrote about how the Vietnamese betrayed its supporters, etc.) — the current hope of the soi-disant anti-imperialists (a term pretty vaguely framed so that it can morph fairly comfortably into a discourse about Zionist plots).

So Darrell, I am very happy to be isolated from the ‘movement’ but then face the dilemma of how to register my objections.

So (if you agree with that), we need to think about new forms/way of talking about/organising responses/campaigns that are truly progressive…. but I no longer know what to do about that other than focus on small scale campaigns that the tired old men of the ‘left’ and their current allies find uninteresting. So yes, I always go on demonstrations about Darfur and Burma because (as they told us about East Timor) these are not the “important issues” and there the body count on a demonstration really matters. (Although I have been told many many times that Darfur is just a US/Zionist distraction from the real issue of Palestine).

I think we need to think about new forms/way of talking about/organising responses/campaigns that are truly progressive…. but I no longer know what to do about that other than focus on small scale campaigns that the left’ find uninteresting. So yes, I always go on demonstrations about Darfur and Burma because (as they said about East Timor) these are not the important issues and there the body count really matters.

At the risk of being considered a troll, I must bring up East Timor again. It is important and linked for three reasons: firstly it was largely dismissed as ‘unimportant’ by the organised left here (except that its arms sales to Indonesia could serve as a footnote in the critique of the Tories); secondly, the Timorese suffered a real (not metaphorical genocide) and yet rejected terrorism and finally, they actually did effectively resist occupation and achieve freedom.

East Timor was invaded and occupied in 1975 by Indonesia. It was not the outcome of a war between Indonesia and anyone else (unlike the 1967 war which gave rise to the Occupation of ) and no Indonesian nationalist movement ever claimed East Timor as part of Indonesia – so there was no historical claim however far-fetched to hook on to. It was a very straightforward illegal invasion and occupation.

They suffered a real – not a metaphorical – physical and cultural genocide: between 1/4 and 1/3 of the population were killed; the use of their own language forbidden except in Church; their history denied, etc. The International Red Cross and various UN agencies never made anything except the most feeble attempts to get access to provide relief to people who were starved and starving; they provided no food aid or educational faciliities … and so it goes on (I could give some examples of quite callous comments from the ICRC) …. despite it being an unequivocal situation of invasion and occupation and recognised as such by the UN.

Fretilin – the resistance/ liberation movement – after a few nasty months of internal fighting in which some civilians were killed in utlimately came up with a strategy that utterly rejected terrorism: internal or external, that also rejected attacks on Indonesian civil adminisrators (ie occupying powers) because of the brutal and brutalising effects of such tactics. Fretilin actually survived and grew into a wider coalition; there were guerilla attacks on Indonesian military in the mountains (although captured soldiers were often disarmed and released) and build up an underground student movement as well.

The leadership made a choice and led on this issue: and the population which was/is desperately poor, traumatised (I have yet to meet an East Timorese who did not have a relative, neighbour or friend killed by the Indonesians), largely illiterate with no access to any experience of political participation via Portuguese colonialism or Indonesian occupation (no UN/NGO food aid for them – let alone schools during the occupation) by and large followed this approach from 1975 – 2000 and voted for independence from Indonesia – with quiet determination and extraordinary bravery in September 1999.

In response, the Indonesian military and its Timorese militia assassinated thousands and literally burned down 90% of the schools,destroyed the university, many villages and almost all of the infrastructure – electrical and irrigation, the UN abandoned them- fleeing to Australia for almost three months.

There were a handful of people utterly dedicated to the issue here and worlwide, especially in the USA, Australia and Ireland. Aside from John Pilger(who made films about it), there was never really any interest on the organised left here (thank God) Certainly some of those prominent figures of the left at the last ‘anti-Israeli invasion ‘ rally either refused to do minimal things on the East Timor issue at critical moments (Benn has since explained how he was misled by the Foreign Office!!) or simply said ‘It is hopeless and not important’

The nature of the ‘solidarity’ campaigns mattered: the media was banned by the Indonesians from entering East Timor but a few brave journalists such as Max Stahl (and Pilger) and in the UK and two US journalists were able to smuggle out material on massacres. Here in the UK a few NGOs kept it on the aid and human rights agenda, but it was also the work of individuals inspired by the East Timorese who managed to build solid resources for campaigning: for example, relentless quality documentation kept up by the UK based TAPOL – Carmel Budiardjo, systematic lobbying of US congress, and the imaginative campaigns launched by an Irish bus driver – Tom Hyland on Dublin buses). Other actions include UK women peace activists who tried to disable Hawke jets and who were then acquited by a UK jury, etc. I personally did very little after the mid-80s, but even in the darkest days when the issue was ignored by everyone, there were people who kept on working.

I don’t want to romanticise this. East Timor has experienced some violence since independence. This is partly due to the development of a culture of impunity: people have not been brought to justice; the overwhelming emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation pursued by some of the leadership ( eg Ramos-Horta – the President – forgave those who shot him last year more or less as soon as he awoke from his coma) can be counterproductive. For their own reasons, the UN and other international bodies also never really pressed for war crimes and crimes against humanity to be pursued against the Indonesians although all judicial experts agree the case is overwhelming. There are many economic, cultural and political factors that make its road quite rocky. But the East Timorese won and they never resorted to terrorism; the leadership did not arouse passions through hate-filled rhetoric or injunctions to take revenge. .

Okay, why is this relevant? I guess because it is another story, another trajectory, about another way of doing politics, about leadership of a reistance making other choices. We must all learn from one another.

In the end, I guess that while I feel enormous sympathy for the Palestinians, I find the claims for their ‘exceptionalism’ unwarranted and ultimately annoying,

Palestinians suffered the triple whammy of decolonisation (which created artificial states throughout Europe, ME, Asia and Africa), the fall-out of WWII (which created mass displacement, refugees, as above) and being used as a political pawn (by their Arab brothers, by Israeli politicians and by Palestinian leaders) in power games.. and since 1967 occupation and a lack of self-determination. So there have been tremendous injustices and suffering for the Palestinians, but other peoples suffered similar fates at that point in history and faced or face horrific problems and injustices now; they too make choices about how they will fight for their rights and address their problems.

Dear Elaine, thank you very much for sharing your insight on East Timor in your response to my article. Firstly it is deeply fascinating and I take it based on many years of observation. Your argument about the emasculated decision makers is likewise quite stunning, although you haven’t elaborated too much on that. In any case this is very much proof of a geo-political vision that is clearly lacked by many. I myself studied African politics and History of the Modern Third World over a decade ago at SOAS. You know what I actually went there to deepen my knowledge of the Middle East, having been a self acclaimed expert on Israel. I soon realized not only did I not know much about the Middle East and Islam but neither did my education or interests tell me much about the world at large, After one year on a BA in Middle Eastern History, I changed it. I am much better informed now but am still learning. I wished that people will read your response and that it will make them think. As a Jew I have of course personal reasons to care about Israel / Palestine. The supposed rational of the war worries me, and as a Jewish person from an anti violence background. My father was a shoa slave worker, and his family was nearly completely butchered. He suffers until today from post traumatic stress disorder and behavior abnormalities. Because I know what violence does to people I am troubled by the unquestioning ideologies of Military led Israel. It ‘s militant ethos is understandable but not healthy. Not for Jewish society and even less for Palestinians. Again questions of emasculations play a role here – for the men are usually the ones who fight these wars. An Israeli organization by the name of New Profile (they have a website http://www.newprofile.org) has taken this issue as their main work. I support their thinking in many ways, and especially in times like these.

Beyond that we all should care more what happens in many other places. Isn’t it shocking how many years there has been fighting in Congo too, with few caring? Perhaps “the Zionists” who “own the media” have interests there….???

Peace marches should have multiple themes and be informed by these.

Thank you very much for taking your time!

“In the end, I guess that while I feel enormous sympathy for the Palestinians, I find the claims for their ‘exceptionalism’ unwarranted and ultimately annoying,”

Great comment Elaine. However, regarding the paragraph above, do you not feel that how a set of people react to persecution or violence is down to their leaders, and thus down to the ability of a set of individuals to be “the better person”? It sounds very much in cases where peaceful ends to conflicts have been found it is through inspiring individuals or sets of individuals that have the fortitude to act against what some may say is natural instinct. Can we be surprised (if not ashamed) that some Palestinians will act this way, or indeed that Israel will retaliate as it does?

What about the other sura that states that if one party offers peace you should not refuse,

Hamas have offered Israel a decade of piece if they retreat to the 1967 borders, perhaps longer.

and in that way the prime minister of Israel did state he wanted to offer peace if the rocket shooting stopped?

The Israelis breached the ceasefire. See here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=KntmpoRXFX4 but also bear in mind that a full blockade was resumed on November 4th by the Israelis, remember that date. That’s a full month before it was due to end, and clearly breached its terms.

As for the rocket-fire: that largely came from Islamic Jihad, the Safalists or other assorted even-more-extremist groups that Hamas has no control of. So far as can be told Hamas honoured the ceasefire, while Israel did not. Note also that Israel began the bombardment during a 48 hour truce and shot a member of the UN during their 3 hour truce.

Now tell me, Mr. Z, that considered, which faction here has respected calls for peace thus far? Which side has even issued them in concrete terms?

Unbelievable as this may seem, even the dreaded Islamist nationalists can be nationalists first and Islamists second. It should be fairly obvious that the present campaign is, in no way, good for Palestine.

A very quick, off the cuff response to Daniel and Lee

Thanks for responding to my post.

There is one point in Daniel’s article that actually set me off on my train of thought and that I think needs re-emphasising:

>>>Further not choosing between Palestinians, regarding Hamas supporters alike all other Palestinians is a terrible insult to many Palestinians. It disregards efforts of 1000s of courageous violence rejecting Palestinians (MEND, Political arm of Fatah, Palestinian members of Combatants for Peace and Women in Black to name a few). Hamas as an Islamist movement by definition also is not the representative of the many Christian Palestinians, a point often forgotten, as many assume that Arab equals Muslim.>>>

And yet we will not hear their voices at these demonstrations or on these platforms. So it is very helpful for you to name these groups as well as the many initiatives in Israel. It is also useful to mention J Street – the American pro Peace, Pro Israel organisation.

To be clear, I did not mean to imply that we can or should set aside acting on the Israeli/Palestinian issue and only turn to other issues. I simply no longer have the will to participate in the kind of UK-based politics within which these discussions are framed and action taken. A couple years ago I started to time how long it takes before some one talks about how utlimately it is because the ‘Israelis’ control US foreign policy because the Jews (or at best ZIonists) control the US foreign policy establishment/media/electoral system: 7 minutes was typically the maximum (a few big exceptions) and with (to varying levels of applause) . I even used to try to discuss Mearshemer/Walt vs Mead seriously, but no more…

As a non-Jew, I am deeply concerned about the growth in the extent and depth of anti-Semitism indulged and licensed amongst UK liberals and leftists (and I do not use the term lightly to cover appropriate criticism of Israel) and how it has become part of mainstream political discourse. I have come a long way from my hippy-happy-hazy days of thinking that a ‘single state’ solution was an ‘ideal’ and practical solution to now supporting Israel as constituted as a Jewish homeland (and therefore not accepting the ‘right of return’ of Palestinians) – despite retaining concerns about discrimination (I do not accept that it is an apartheid state). In my experience, the constant questioning/denial of Israel’s ‘right to exist’ is at best disingenuous and almost always (there are exceptions) linked to anti-Semitism, simply because there are equally valid questions that can be put about a large number of countries. And fighting against anti-semitism and supporting the right of Israel to ‘exist’ is one of my responsibilities as a human being.

Daniel’s other point about ‘fundamentalists’ is also something that gives a lot of food for thought.

Best wishes in your work, but do remember that there are non-Jews who for progressive reasons feel similar responsibilties (and even emotional resonance) with many of the issues you are confronting.

I think Lee’s point is quite important and we need to figure out what fosters/allows such leadership -whether individual or group to emerge and develop and how we can contribute to enabling it. Maybe that is exactly what we should be doing in relation to Israel and Palestine? Lee — what do you think about this?

Off the top of my head, what distinguishes those who we value as truly progressive leaders of ‘resistance’ – whether Martin Luther King or Mandela or some of the East Timorese leadership – is the emphasis on a positive, humane and inspiring vision for the future that does what you say — asks people to be better and to dream better and to work together on the long road to achieve it. But who also ensure that their methods do not undercut their message.

However, I am not a pacifist (Daniel -are you?) and do accept the legitimacy of certain forms of violence to achieve aims. But even within that, there are ways to frame it and to execute (bad choice of word) actions that minimises the brutalisation of people and distortion of the purposes.

Throughout 25 years of resistance, the East Timorese leadership were emphatic that ‘derogatory racial statements’ about Indonesians were not permitted, that Indonesian civilians were never to be subject to violence (and there was never even any question of attacking US UK or Australian targets); despite the incendiary attacks on Catholic churches (ie you can still see the bullet holes in many where actual – not metaphorical – massacres occurred), significant jihadist rhetoric (not least Bin Laden’s numerous statements about East Timor), there was and has been tremendous effort put into combating anti-Muslim attitudes.

East Timorese regarded Gusmao as quite a charismatic figure: he could hold people rapt for hours, and I never heard of him calling for revenge or of him stoking up hatred — and believe me, the crimes to which the East Timorese were subjected to covered the full range of horrors – aerial bombings, massacres, executions, actual human shields (fence of legs operations), rape, torture, forcible resettlement, starvation, etc. etc, There was more of a sense of ‘sorrowing’ and facing the future with even more determination.

However, I don’t want to paint some rosy picture, there are problems with violence in East Timor, alongside other problems. There are also serious questions about balancing justice and reconciliation. I personally think that the occupation left the country traumatised and that this has never been addressed enough.

“I think Lee’s point is quite important and we need to figure out what fosters/allows such leadership -whether individual or group to emerge and develop and how we can contribute to enabling it. Maybe that is exactly what we should be doing in relation to Israel and Palestine? Lee — what do you think about this?”

Well…I’m no expert by a long stretch of the imagination. But I’m not sure that sort of leadership can be fostered. Ghandi lead a people rather fearful of British military (I’m being purposefully broad here), MLK was offering an alternative to the beginnings of violence in the name of civil rights after rising on the crest of a wave of building resentment for illiberal law. I don’t know East Timor so I don’t know the environment that surrounded their leaders, nor how their people were in their constitution.

I believe that Palestine is a lost cause in the short term (say… a few generations?) unless they are actively ceded to by Israel or wiped out. Their leadership have violence in the blood it seems, and the brutal way those leaderships treat each other is not going to breed any kind of environment to see a peaceful leader rise. It could happen with Israel, but whereas in India, with the US civil rights, and in East Timor the people were facing persecution and striving for freedom, Israeli’s don’t really suffer that. As terrible as the Palestinian militant rockets are, the Israeli’s are not in anything other than a dangerous environment…not one that pushes them to look for inspiration, I believe you only have to look at their approval for this current conflict to see that.

So without Israeli’s being in the situation of seeking out a new leadership because they (generalising, I accept not everyone in Israel will be) have a big eye on security, and without Palestinians having a hope of an inspirational and peaceful leadership that isn’t born from huge civil strife and bloodshed, I just can’t see it happening on either side.

Essentially I think the time frame for that type of leader being able to emerge has passed, and it’s going to have to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. If I’m wrong about Hamas or Fatah then perhaps they could let someone rise, maybe in their own ranks, but to me they seem too bent on control and violence rather than freedom and reason. Although maybe we should be hopeful and see this latest conflict in similar terms as to when the IRA devastation reached it’s height here, and urge more nations to get involved (especially the US, and maybe that’s why we can be hopeful now?) in mediation.

To James: You are right!

🙂


Reactions: Twitter, blogs




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.