Finally, a liberal American Jewish group has gotten it right. Till now, most have rather timidly called for a new ceasefire and resumption of “humanitarian aid” to Gaza. This, of course, is precisely the ceasefire proposal Israel offered Hamas, and which the latter refused because it did not include a lifting of the 18-month Gaza siege, which has imposed a punishing, bleak existence on the area’s 1.5 million inhabitants. In my opinion, it doesn’t take much courage for a liberal group to advocate a position embraced by Israel before it launched its assault against Gaza. It takes courage to see this situation as it is and declare that Israel (and Hamas) needs to live up to its share of the bargain.
This is precisely what Meretz USA** has done in its current statement opposing the Gaza debacle:
Meretz USA calls for the immediate and absolute cessation of violence between Israel and the Hamas.
Understanding that only such a result can forestall a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, preserve Israel’s security, and maintain space for diplomatic progress, Meretz USA urges all parties concerned to engineer an urgent and complete cease-fire that will be accompanied and reinforced by the following elements:
1. Sustained diplomatic talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Such talks should be aimed, in the short term, at easing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza in order to reduce tension and strengthen Palestinian moderates; and, in the long term, at the achievement of an equitable two-state solution which hardliners on both sides – Hamas being one of them – continue to oppose.
2. The verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The cease-fire should not serve as a respite during which the Hamas expands and improves its armaments and military capability.
3. The lifting of the economic blockade on Gaza.
The consistent provision of humanitarian aid must be guaranteed and the security situation must not be exploited by Israel to collectively punish the Palestinian people through the smothering of their economy.
For the sake of comparison, here is a statement from Brit Tzedek:
Tell President-elect Obama that his strong voice is needed now. He must call for an immediate ceasefire that ends the attacks by all sides and facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
I am in favor of any statement by any group that voices opposition to the Gaza conflict and I’m certainly in favor of calling for Obama to get up off his tush and speak out on this madness. But why can’t liberal Jewish groups call a spade a spade? Gaza needs more than “humanitarian aid.” It needs a lifting of the siege. Completely.
When I reported my criticism to a Brit Tzedek staff member, I was told I wasn’t being a supportive ally. Solidarity is a good thing no doubt. But it’s imperative in the face of moral madness that we speak out forthrightly. That we not pull punches for the sake of how some in the Jewish community might perceive what we say. We have to speak truth in this time of depravity. To do any less is doing a disservice not only the Gaza victims, but to our own sense of Jewishness and Zionism.
Remember, it was Israel which refused to lift the siege, though that was part of the earlier ceasefire to which it agreed. It was Israel by the way, which launched a massive assault on Gaza tunnels on November 5th which killed five Hamas operatives. It was Israel which broke the last ceasefire. This act was answered by Hamas rockets fired at southern Israel. When Livni and Barak talk about how intolerable the rockets are they forget that it was they who brought the rockets down on their own citizens head by breaking the ceasefire.
I say these things not to place all blame on Israel because there is always blame to go around in these situations and Hamas is not blameless. Terrorizing and killing civilians is never blameless no matter who is the perpetrator. But we must not fall prey to the political-historical amnesia in pro-Israel propaganda voiced by apologists like Benny Morris in today’s N.Y. Times.
**It should be noted that Meretz USA is entirely independent of Israel’s Meretz political party, which by the way has temporized its opposition to the Gaza assault.
Jerry Haber says
From my latest post on the Magnes Zionist blog:
Israel should not make the cessation of weapons smuggling a condition for a cease fire, or for indirect relations with Hamas. I am sorry to see that Meretz USA, which came out with a fine statement otherwise, has called for “the verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip” as a condition for a cease-fire. I have no problem with that, provides that it calls for an arms embargo on Israel as well. Jews smuggled weapons to Palestine before there was a Jewish state, and the idea that Gaza and the West Bank should be left at the mercy of Israel, or NATO, or whatever, is immoral as well as stupid – immoral, because it says that one side has a right to self-defence and the other does not, stupid because it reinforces the Israeli narrative that the Palestinians are the aggressors, which plays into feelings of Palestinian resentment, and which encourages the extremists.
Jerry Haber says
Notice, Richard, that Meretz USA did not call for an end to the siege in Gaza UNTIL the current war, and the current war would not have occurred WITHOUT weapons smuggling by the Gazans.
It is sad to say this, but it appears that Meretz would not have made such a statement had Hamas been without weapons. That is the way the world goes. Empowering the Palestinians — and that includes a Palestinian military — must be a sine qua non of any two-state settlement.
Unfortunately, Meretz USA and its Israeli counterpart, still believe that the Palestinians will — or should — be satisfied with a state without military capacities that can seriously harm Israel. This is a serious error for those who believe in a two-state solution.
The Benny Morris article is essential to understanding the mindset. I would not dismiss it so.
Also I agree Palestinians who are demonstrably willing to live in peace with Israel in their own state which would a monopoly of power over radical elements aiming to destroy Israel, should have some weapons- but we are not there yet.
Refer back to the mindset that Morris describes ( not necessarily his own as I read it.)
Jerry Haber says
Suzanne, you wrote:
“Also I agree Palestinians who are demonstrably willing to live in peace with Israel in their own state which would a monopoly of power over radical elements aiming to destroy Israel, should have some weapons- but we are not there yet.”
This sounds like typical Zionist paternalism: the Jews had a right to smuggle weapons into Palestine, unilaterally arm itself, and wrest the country from the Palestinians *by force* — but the Palestinians first have to prove to the Jews that they are willing to live in peace, and only then will they be given a mini-state with “some arms”.
When did anybody say that the Jews cannot have a state unless they keep their violent extremists in check — and actually enforce that as a condition of Israel’s independence? (Given the level of settler violence against Palestinians, maybe we should rethink Jewish statehood — the Israelis are doing a lousy job of keeping their extremists in check.)
By the way, Morris’s piece in the New York Times repeated the outrageous lie that several hundred Hamas fighters were killed in the Saturday attack. Channel Two is reporting that 250 of the 390 Gaza fatalities were members of Hamas (Channel 2). Since over fifty of these were Hamas policemen, and not fighters against Israel, it appears that –even according to Israel’s media — less than half of the people killed are Hamas fighters — and on Saturday, that would have been considerably less than “several hundreds.”
More hasbarah lies.
Your comment about Israel supposedly breaking the cease fire because of the Gaza Tunnels is misleading. The tunnels were NOT the ones between Gaza and the Sinai. This was a tunnel meant to go under the border between Israel and Gaza. Such a tunnel was used in the past to carry out the attack where Gilad Shalit was captured and two others soldiers (who have been otherwise forgotten) killed. I can not imagine any justification for digging such a tunnel and Israel has every right to kill those involved. This was NOT a violation of the Tahadiya.
“Remember, it was Israel which refused to lift the siege, though that was part of the earlier ceasefire to which it agreed.”
Would you mind backing this up. I don’t remember this being part of the deal and couldn’t find any reference to this through googling.
” It was Israel which broke the last ceasefire. ”
No it wasn’t. Over fifty rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza before the single incursion (not a massive attack on Gaza) on a single tunnel which was leading towards ISRAEL, not Egypt. Israel never relinquished the right to protect itself.
It’s even questionable how many of the remaining <200 dead were militants, as these and cops combined don’t comprise 100% of Hamas members. There’s also the entire civil administration and the charities, which according to Jonathan Cook may be the next target:
But when people start to believe their own propaganda that Hamas is no more than a terrorist organisation, then lies like Morris’ are inevitable, without even any malicious intent on part of the author.
Richard Silverstein says
Under normal circumstances I would do this research for you. But under the circumstances, I have bigger fish to fry with writing blog posts and other activities to oppose the Gaza incursion. You’ll have to either believe me or not as you choose.
As usual, you provide no source to back up this claim. I just looked at a foreign ministry graph showing monthly missile fire and the months preceding the Nov. 5th Israeli attack which massively broke the ceasefire show very few rockets fired. I wish I could remember where I saw this graph. But I doubt yr claim of 50 rockets. And at any rate, it wasn’t Hamas firing those rockets as it is now. It was Islamic Jihad or the PRC most likely.
Israel never provided ANY evidence that the tunnel it attacked was being prepared for an attack against Israel or that it was even a danger to Israel. Even Israeli journalists noted this skeptically at the time. Many believed even then that Israel was provoking just such a situation as what turned out to be w. Hamas retaliating, giving Barak the opportunity to mount this offensive, etc.
Richard Silverstein says
@bar_kochba132: Do pls. provide any credible media source which documents in any way, shape or form that this tunnel was being prepared for an attack against Israel. Israeli journalists at the time were deeply skeptical of the IDF’s claims that hitting the tunnel was a necessary operation considering it was a massive ceasefire violation.
There were 38 missile attackas against Israel between June 19 and November 4 (start of Tahadiya until attack on tunnel). That’s 38 massive violations. That’s 38 times frightened children ran to shelters. Since Hamas didn’t take any legal action against those who took responsibility for the attack (and I remind you Islamic Jihad was part of the Tahadiyah) these are violations by Hamas and their allies. Hamas neber condemned these attacks let alone try to prevent them.
After the attack on the tunnel, which I agree was a violation of the tahadiyah (a legitimate one, but the first one after 38 violations by Hama et al) there as a period of three days of increased attacks. Neither side claimed the Tahadiyah was over, so that should have been the end of that. Then in mid-November there was another barage of missiles fired at Israel, I don’t remeber what was the pretext. From mid November to mid-December the firing of missiles was sporadic. In late December the missile attacks became intense again AND Hamas declared the Tahadiyah was over – six months were over. The end of the Tahadiyah was Hamas’s doing and it had nothing to do with the tunnel Israel destroyed and had everything to do with them trying to use terrorism to bully Israel into giving in to their new demands.
Richard, lifting the siege was never part of the tahadiyah. Opening the crossings was and the crossings were open most of the time from June 22 to Nov 4 with an average of 80-90 truckloads of goods crossing them every day. The crossings were closed after every violation by Hamas et al for a few hours to a few days. After Nov 4 the intensity of Hamas violations increased (this time balatantly by Hamas) and the crossings were closed most of the time.
Richard, the graph is here: http://warincontext.org/2008/12/29/editorial-silence-has-become-complicity
From July-October there were merely 12 rockets and 14 mortar shells fired.
That’s a lot of Hutzpa.
There was merely one incursion by IDF troops into Gaza duringt the whole time. And while the missiles coming in from Gaza were aimed at civilians, the IDF incursion was a clear act of self defense and was against armed men.
Richard Silverstein says
@amir: “Merely” one bombing by Israel which had more of less been honoring the ceasefire. When there is calm and you drop a bomb on a tunnel & it kills 5 Hamas people that isn’t a “mere” anything. BTW, Hamas had controlled the rockets and things were relatively quiet until the Israeli bombing.
The IDF incursion is not at all “self-defense.” If Israel really wanted to ensure the security of the south it would negotiate a real ceasefire with Hamas in which rockets would stop AND Israel would completely lift the siege. That is the ultimate act of “self-defense.”
I repeat once again, even Israeli journalists & security analysts questioned the idea that the Nov. 5th bombing had any serious security objective or served any meaningful purpose.
Richard Silverstein says
@amir: “Massive violations?” Howso? Those missiles, while heinous, didn’t kill or injure anyone. You bleed for Israeli children running to air raid shelters but seem to lack basic human empathy for over 100 women & children murdered by Israeli missiles. I wonder why that is?
The reason there were only a few missiles attacks during the ceasefire was precisely because Hamas was intensively policing such attacks & preventing them. If it had not been there would have been many more. And Hamas did not violate the ceasefire as you state. Hamas observed the ceasefire. There are other elements in Gaza who did not observe it & they were responsible for the rockets.
You don’t seem to remember that the barrage of attacks was a direct response to the Israeli tunnel attack. Perhaps that’s a bit of “tunnel” vision on yr part??
Hamas made perfectly clearly what it would take to renew the ceasefire: end the siege and end the rockets. Those were the terms which Israel refused. Israel acquiesced in the end of the ceasefire by neither negotiating the new terms or accepting them.
YOu claim that Hamas’ demand that Israel end its strangulation of Gaza is “bullying??!!” Bullying to demand that a foreign power stop starving your children and allowing your sick & elderly to die without proper medical care. Bullying??? You’ve truly shown yr colors.
Richard Silverstein says
When 80 truckloads cross the border you claim that constitutes the border being “open???” 80 truckloads to feed 1.5 million people? And that’s open?
“Open” is when truckloads of food, medicine and emergency goods can arrive & cross freely.
Not to mention the fact that terminally ill patients could not cross nor could anyone wishing to leave or enter unless the stars were alinged properly in the firmament, which they almost never were.
The Israeli siege is a great shande. One that you’re perfectly content with.
The terms of the Hudna were that the Hamas would not fire rockets nor would they allow the other groups to. They violated the tahadiya 38 times. The reason there was relative quiet was that the Israelis did not respond to these provocations. The one time Israel violated the tahadiya led to increased violations by the Hamas. So it is Hamas that chose when and to what extent the fire would rise. The reason few Israelis have been killed is not only because some of the rockets are inacurate but also because of he many precautions Israel and Israelis have taken to safeguard themselves. The first rocket violation of the tahadiya hit a home right in their living room. Fortunately, nobody was in the room.
Don’t forget that wheb the crossings were open the Hamas and their aallies would target them with their mortars. In any case, it was the Hamas who declared an end to the tahadiya and they did not use the tunnel attack as the pretext. Israel sent a representative to Egypt to renew the tahadya but Hamas refused.
Of course Israel is not going to agree to an end of “the siege” and allow the Hamas to bring in even deadlier weapons. Until their is a peace agreement, Israel will want full control or supervision of what goes in or out of Gaza.
Also, Gazans weren’t starving. Write malnutrution in google images and you will see what starving people look like. Then look at the people gathering around in Gaza and you will see well fed, well nourished people and well dressed people. The so called humanitarian crisis (before the present war) is a propaganda hoax. Look at the pictures on your blog. There’s a picture of a guy wearing a nike hat holding a baby with colorful socks with flowers on them. Now look at pictures of people in Africa in famine and war ravaged regions, and you will see the difference.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s boloney. THEY didn’t violate the ceasefire. Other parties did. Hamas cannot possibly prevent every person who wants to fire a rocket from doing so. It can certainly prevent most of them and has done so. But those 38 rockets caused precisely NO Israeli casualties. While Israel’s single military (I use that word to distinguish from its ongoing economic violations via the siege) violation of the ceasefire caused the death of 5 Hamas members.
Ridiculous. Israel was monitoring all the crossings when they were open. No weapons could be smuggled in via the crossings. Maintaining the siege has NOTHING whatsoever to do with protecting Israel from weapons. If you don’t know this then you should.
To make such a statement shows that either you are willfully ignorant or a liar. Every major humanitarian agency serving Gaza says that Gazans are starving. Yet you, in yr infinite wisdom, choose to believe otherwise. They are there. You are not. Yet you sit blissfully unaware of suffering happening almost right under your nose. It’s shameful really for someone to be so callous. But this is what being an Israeli must mean these days for far too many Israelis. Cut yrself off fr. the suffering of everyone but yr own kind–Israeli Jews, that is.
A point could be made that the siege even contributed to Gazan militants acquiring more weapons in that it created a compelling incentive to dig that many tunnels for bringing in food, fuel, medicine, and other vital items. If the flow of civilian goods had not been wilfully impeded, most, if not all of the tunnels had never been dug.
Most of the credit for the missiles fired was taken by Islamic Jihad which was also a party to the tahadiya. Hamas could have had them arrested and persecuted. It could have dismantled their plants. They could have made an effort. Bu they didn’t.
About the starving Palestinian, pictures speak better than, words.
For example, Hamas could have had Awad al-Qiq arrested. He “was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.”
“In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq’s work with explosives. And his family denied he had any militant links at all, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home.
But militant leaders allied to the enclave’s ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad’s “engineering unit” — its bomb makers.”