Thanks to Leila Abu Saba for linking to such wonderful material in her blog today. I just blogged about Michael Ratner’s eloquent call for American Jewish engagement with Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. She’s also linked to Henry Siegman’s sweeping evisceration of all the major arguments Israel used to justify its Gaza assault. Better that you should read the entire piece. But a few excerpts are particularly telling:
Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’…than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:
A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.
In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.
It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’. It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood…
Siegman uses former Shin Bet director, Ephraim Halevy, to further torpedo other shibboleths of Israeli policy. Hamas is out to destroy Israel…not true. Hamas is an intransigent organization which can never change its fundamental principles to hate Jews and Israel…not true. Hamas is the same as Al Qaeda…again not true. And keep in mind this is not the “peacenik” Siegman saying this, but the hard-bitten Israeli spymaster, Halevy. This is a man who made a career out of sizing up Israel’s enemies, probing their weaknesses, evaluating their sincerity. To Israel’s apologists I say, doubt this man at your peril.
Siegman closes by quoting another hard-bitten, distinguished military analyst, Anthony Cordesman:
‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’
Keep in mind that this is not an enemy of Israel speaking. Anthony Cordesman is a friend of Israel just as Ephraim Halevy’s bona fides on that score cannot be doubted. When your friends are offering you hard doses of reality like these, you know something has gone terribly wrong.
The disconnect between Israeli public opinion and world opinion regarding the Gaza operation has never been greater than in all the years I’ve been blogging. At least in the aftermath of the Lebanon war both Israelis and the world largely concluded that Israel had lost. They may each have had different reasons for their judgment. But the judgment was basically similar. But now, it’s as if Israel is living in a padded cell, some sort of alternate universe. Gideon Levy wrote in yesterday’s Haaretz that he was certain that Israel would eventually wake up to the failure of this campaign, though it might take some time. I wonder. Never has the Israeli left been so quiescent. Never has the Israeli street been so triumphalist and with so little justification for it.
As Siegman urged the new Obama-appointed envoy, George Mitchell, there is only one way out of this mess. He must in as diplomatic a way possible knock some sense into Israel’s policymakers. He must firmly take the car keys away and tell them they’re too drunk to drive home. He must tell them they’ve been addicted to Occupation far too long and that the time has come to get off the hard stuff.