Jan 12, 2009

The Right to Defend

I am not trying to convince anyone that Israel has no right to defend itself against attack. It does. All countries do. That is why we are in trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, though we have refused to admit it (and continue to do so). Nor am I particularly defending Hamas, but I am defending the Palestinians' rights to defend themselves against aggression. After all, if Israel has a right, doesn't the Palestinian state, as politically inchoate as it is, also have a right?

Someone took it a step further and mentioned Israel's right to "total war." And what exactly does that mean? Bomb them back into the stone age? Annihilate them all? I mean, genocide? Isn't that in fact getting a bit too close to Rwanda, say, or (dare I bring it up?) the final solution?

I mean, we do have International laws about occupying the other country's land, and I don't think that "total war" is one of the allowable actions. For sixty years now, documented Israeli aggression has been the case. The facts don't lie. Be assigned a major portion of a country and move the inhabitants under the auspices of a world governing body; do it violently and with well-planned ethnic cleaning and population transfer, then occupy the rest and continue to get a pass on violations of Geneva Conventions, and whenever you are put at the point of really serious negotiations, start a war . . . well, no wonder Israel continues to get bitten.

Knowing what I do about that history from both sides I am more and more impressed with the persistence of most of the Palestinians to keep on demanding justice apart from any violence that their more radical groups have committed. They protest like hell non-violently all the time. Moderate Israel's problem is that they keep hoping the Palestinians will pack up and leave. Radical Israel's problem is they can't finish the ethnic cleansing, population transfer, and total takeover neatly and without really pissing off the rest of the Middle East. You would think that 60 years would have taught them.

Any one of us Americans, if we were Palestinians, would have gone over the deep end by now if we found ourselves getting reamed with the settlements, olive tree uprootings, house demolitions, arrests without charges, destruction of farmland, checkpoints, military violence or military inaction when violence takes place, a separate set of laws applied, appropriations of land, the illegal blockades, the collective punishments and that's off the top of my head and excludes extreme military actions, assassinations, and violence that never gets justice.

As an exercise in empathy, anyone who wants to educate himself should watch this short movie called "Ex-Communicated: Enclosure Landscapes in Palestine," produced by a Professor of Communications down at UC San Diego, Gary Fields. It is not a screamer, just a well-documented report. Fields is calm and careful and unemotional and presents facts you can see for yourself. And believe me, most Israelis and almost all Americans don't know about this. Walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine trying to live as if you were a Palestinian. Empathize, please.

I can guarantee that if you empathize at all with any folks who get screwed by all kinds of powerful people, you will be as pissed as anyone can be about oil prices. I seriously think you will not find an Israeli documentary trying to justify the settlements, the ecological damage, the settlers' violent behavior, the midnight digs to cover a third rate road or the "flying check points." Try to carry on a business or send your kids to school under those conditions. We are trained through repetition and severe omission to empathize with the Israelis, but very little empathy for Palestinians is expressed in the mainstream media.

As the death toll nears 1,000 from this stupid violence from Israel, peace be with you. I devoutly wish for a ceasefire and peace, but I think Israel has unleashed the dogs of war and will not, in the long run, win.

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