Zizek on settlements and peace

August 19, 2009

From Zizek: Why and how settlements are a long-term obstruction to peace.

“When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations”.

Read the rest of the article here.
“Quiet slicing of the West Bank makes abstract prayers for peace obscene”

George Mitchell and the ‘peace process’.

February 3, 2009

The appointment of Mitchell by the Obama administration as Middle East envoy brings renewed hope of an even-handed approach with regards to a peace settlement. There are, however, several substantial obstacles to overcome.

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos –- like Gaza –- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.

Read the rest of Ali Abunimah’s article here.

The intentional humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

January 21, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion in the press, not to mention on this board, about the Israel’s motivations in Operation Cast Lead. Many will claim that Olmert, Barak and Livini’s main aim was to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel and threatening its population. “Security for Israel” and “Israel has a right to defend itself” are the most often repeated mantras from Israeli officials, their sympathisers and allies. Others on this blog, including myself, have made a case that this war was not about the rockets given that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had worked effectively and put an end to hostile fire across the border. Other secondary Israeli motivations include its upcoming elections in February, the outgoing US President Bush and the need for the IDF to restore its reputation after it failed to defeat Hezbollah in 2006.

This 22 day war produced a staggering number of dead civilians – over 1300 – and scores more wounded (estimates range between 4000-5000). Just like the thousand-plus Lebanese civilians who died in 2006, Gaza’s dead have also been reduced to a sad consequence of the war. Casualties are to be expected during such periods of hostility and if they are not intentional then it is somewhat excusable. Following this logic means Israel is, yet again, immune from condemnation and, worse still, from being held to account for its war crimes. Again I have elsewhere argued, following Mirko Bagaric, that the only thing that matters in war are the consequences. This includes the dead civilians even if they are accidently caught in the cross-fire.

Israel and its supporters would like the world to believe that the 1300 dead Gazans are the unavoidable costs of the war. This, however, is not the case. It seems, as Ben White writes in The Guardian, that Israel did deliberately target civilians as part of its war strategy. He writes:

There is . . . no shortage of evidence available that points to rather different Israeli aims [for the war other than Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence] . . . Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to – in the best colonial style – teach the natives a lesson.

White goes on list “three alternative purposes” behind the operation in Gaza which move beyond the generic explanations. His three findings are summarised below:

1. The first aim is to humiliate and weaken Hamas. On the one hand, this seems obvious, but contrary to how the goal is often understood, this is not primarily to protect the Israeli public – as pointed out previously, ceasefires and negotiations are far more likely to deliver security for Israeli citizens – but rather it is a political goal. Hamas had withstood isolation, a siege, mass arrests, and an attempted western-backed coup. Moreover, cracks were appearing in the international community’s resolve to parrot Israel’s line on Hamas. The group, with its resilience and ability to deliver on negotiated ceasefires, was threatening the chance to make a deal with the Ramallah “moderates” [i.e. Abbas and the PA].

Read the rest of this entry »

Paul McGeough on the Gaza siege

January 5, 2009

It is generally difficult to find a comprehensive article on the Middle East, especially with regards to Israel and Palestine, in the Australian press.  It can be argued that for a conflict that has gone on for so many years more detailed articles that engage with the immediate causes along with the historical context of the crisis taking place are impossible.  Journalists are constrained by deadlines, word length and limitations in their own knowledge of the political and historical setting.  However, Paul McGeough’s contribution to the Sydney Morning Hearld illustrates that it is not impossible to write an article that fleshes out the debates and context surrounding the Gaza siege …….   


Israel takes little comfort from Obama

Paul McGeough
January 3, 2009


In July Barack Obama sought to boost his Jewish vote back in America with an emotional stump-speech in Sderot, a community in Israel which is a target for much of the Palestinian rocket-fire from Gaza.


Referring to his children Malia, 9, and Sasha, 7, the then US presidential candidate said: “If somebody is sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that – and I’d expect Israelis to do the same thing.”


This week, however, Obama had no such words of comfort for Anwar Balousha. A 40-year-old father from Gaza who describes himself as a factional agnostic, Balousha had to bury five of his daughters – Tahrir, 17, Ikram, 14, Samar, 13, Dina, 8, and Jawaher, 4 – after they were killed when their home was destroyed in an Israeli missile-strike on a nearby mosque.


Obama was monitoring the situation “along with other global events”, a spokesman said. Monitoring? It sounded like a line from the Bush school of loose linguistics, where “immediate” and “ceasefire” are coupled to be heard by one audience as an instinctive, human appeal to halt a brutal war, while the meaning conveyed to others is approval to press their attack. Read the rest of this entry »

More Gaza analysis and links to petitions

January 2, 2009

Below are some links to analysis on the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza and its representation in the media. Following that is a section with links to petitions being circulated by a variety of groups and info to help you draft your own letter to your local media and elected representatives. And finally, a poem for the New Year.


First, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi analyzes the Israeli public relations myths that are being used to justify this and other acts of oppression in Palestine. Note Barghouthi’s sixth point (Israel claims to be attacking Hamas, not Gaza or the Palestinian people) and notice that the American media now uniformly describes these Israeli atrocities as an action in self-defense being taken against Hamas. Another common trope, notable for its sheer racism, is that the events are part of a pattern of brutal violence that is routine in the Middle East and that Palestinians (and Arabs more generally) only understand violence.

Second, the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis argues that “Israel’s illegal airstrikes against the population of Gaza have little to do with protecting Israeli civilians…. They are used for internal Israeli politics and are also meant to push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration’s plans.”

Petitions and letters to elected representatives

The Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (FFIPP)-International is circulating a petition condemning the bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza. To sign the petition and see a letter from Dr. Kamalain Shaath, the President of The Islamic University, go to: http://office.ffipp.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=23869&qid=16080.

To view and sign the Avaaz petition protesting Israeli action, go to http://www.avaaz.org/en/gaza_time_for_peace/?cl=162597052&v=2609. If you’re on Facebook (i.e. those of you not in Syria!), you may also consider joining the Avaaz Facebook group.

J-Street, a Jewish-led progressive Israel lobby calling for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire, has a petition you can sign at http://action.jstreet.org/t/3251/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=508&tag=gaza-fwd.

At the website of Princeton Committee on Palestine, a student group I used to belong to, you can find a sample letter that you can personalize, sign, print and send (or fax) to your local elected representatives to ask them to protest Israel’s attack on Gaza: http://www.princeton.edu/~pcp

Also, the ADC has drafted a set of talking points to help people write about and discuss the issues.

Fri Jan 2, 12:55pm UPDATE:  March in Sydney

If you’re based in Sydney, like most of the contributors to this blog, you might be interested in participating in the  Protest for Gaza, Sunday 4th January at 2:00pm.  Meet at Town Hall, march to the Egyptian consulate and then to Belmore Park.

…and a poem for the New year

Finally, in honour of the New Year and all of our wishes for peace, and because I thought all of our souls could use a bit of poetry to give us strength in the face of the depressing barrage of news about war, I thought I would reproduce this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which is a favorite of mine. I had always sung it as a hymn at church, but recently found the full text of the poem which includes several stanzas not included in the hymn version.

Ring out, wild bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Panties from the Axis of Evil and other holiday gift ideas

December 22, 2008

It’s been a busy time of year, with the holidays upon us, so we haven’t been as lively as usual here at Khaldoun.  I thought I’d provide a few links to some interesting little tidbits:

– Review of a book that showcases playful Syrian lingerie: “Panties from the ‘Axis of Evil’

– In Haaretz, Akiva Eldar interviews Rashid Khalidi on a number of important political issues, including the Palestinian leadership, US foreign policy towards Israel/Palestine over the last 8 years of Bush, Israeli intellectuals, the two-state solution, and the next US administration

– Since Eid has just passed, Hanukkah started last night, and Christmas is coming in just a few days, it is a season of family, food, spiritual reflection, and shopping.  Here are a few places where you can find gifts:

  • The Sydney Jewish Museum has beautiful gifts, but you have to go into the museum to buy, they don’t have them on mail order.
  • If it’s online Judaica-themed shopping you want, or just a really flash challah cover, try Odem.
  • The Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign offers some fabulous gifts by mail order, from football/soccer jerseys in the colors of the Palestinian flag to beaded flag wristbands.
  • For stocking stuffers, I’ve been shopping at Oxfam’s fair trade shops, but if you’re looking for their delicious chocolate covered Brazil nuts, I’m afraid I’ve bought (and eaten — so much for stocking stuffers) all of the stock at the Macquarie Centre store!
  • And finally, since we started this post with Syrian lingerie, here you can buy Fitnah lingerie online (but it looks like they are catering to wholesale buyers).

Happy Eid, happy Hannukah, and merry/happy (depending on whether you speak Commonwealth or American) Christmas everyone.  Peace on Earth!
— L.L. Wynn

Free Gaza Movement

August 19, 2008

Just received the following info about a human rights campaign being run by an Israeli activist and thought it was worth publicizing…

on Free Gaza Campaign

Israeli Government Recognizes “Humanitarian” Mission to Break the Siege of Gaza
19 August 2008

NICOSIA, CYPRUS (18 Aug. 2008) – In a letter today to the Free Gaza Movement, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that the group of international human rights activists attempting to break the siege of Gaza were “humanitarian,” and stated that the Israeli government “assume[s] that your intentions are good.”

Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement stated that, “Since the Foreign Minister’s office responded to our invitation to join us, and said that we have good intentions, we now fully expect to reach Gaza.”

According to recent reports in the Israeli media however, the Israeli military is preparing to use force to stop the nonviolent campaigners from reaching Gaza. It’s not clear if the letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signals a change of policy, or is simply an attempt to open up an official dialogue between the state of Israel and the Free Gaza Movement regarding the current blockade.

The Free Gaza Movement is preparing to sail two ships into Gaza carrying 40 human rights workers from 17 different countries. They will also deliver hearing aids for children who have lost some or all of their hearing due to Israeli sound bombs and sonic booms. Read the rest of this entry »