Two reviews of “Waltz with Bashir”

February 10, 2009

There are a couple of good reviews of the film “Waltz with Bashir” which recently won the Golden Globe for best foreign film.  The New York Times calls it “a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power,” while’s Gary Kamiya writes about the parallels between Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982 and the recent massacre in Gaza:

Folman’s film is not political. It does not preach or pass judgment. Yet in its artistic integrity, it unintentionally reveals the grim parallels between Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and its complicity with the Sabra and Shatilla massacre and its current onslaught — parallels that, if Israel and the U.S. heeded them, would lead them to understand that the Gaza campaign is both morally appalling and politically self-destructive. Israelis justifiably regard their leaders’ role in enabling the Sabra and Shatilla massacre as one of Israel’s darkest moments, a permanent stain on its character. Of course, Israel’s moral culpability for the 1982 massacre is not the same as its moral responsibility for the civilians killed in the current war. But there are painful similarities. …

Then as now, Israel went to war in the deluded belief that it could defeat a nationalist movement by smashing it into submission. Then as now, America signed off on this wrongheaded tactic. Then as now, Israel won a short-term tactical military victory that ultimately weakened its security and severely damaged America’s interests. And then as now, both Israel and America justified massive civilian casualties by incessantly invoking “terrorism” and dehumanizing the Palestinians.

One thing that strikes me in reviews of this film (I haven’t seen the film itself) is the focus on the psychological and moral impact of war on Israelis, an important topic which gets neatly elided by jingoistic celebrations of war as “defense.”  Would anyone who has seen the film like to comment?

–L.L. Wynn


Oz protests against the Gaza carnage

January 15, 2009

Dr Gennaro Gervasio asked me to post the below information about scheduled protests all over Australia — Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, Newcastle — against the war on Gaza.  Sorry I’m so late in doing so, but most of the Thursday protests are scheduled for this evening so there’s still time to mobilize and attend.

–L.L. Wynn

Time: 5.30PM TO 6.30PM
We invite ALL WOMEN to join a silent vigil of mourning.
We condemn the ongoing military attacks on Gaza.
We stand with thousands in Israel and around the world who seek peace with justice for Palestinians.
The vigil is initiated by representatives of Women in Black-Sydney. Read the rest of this entry »

Glenn Greenwald on terrorism and tribalism

January 13, 2009

In, Glenn Greenwald discusses the definition of terrorism:

Former McCain-Palin campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb notes that Israel, a couple of days ago, dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a Gazan home which killed a top Hamas leader . . . in addition to 18 others, including his four wives and nine of his children.  About the killing of those innocent civilians, Goldfarb writes (h/t John Cole via email):

“The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.”

… There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than “Terrorism,” the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term.  But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing:  slaughtering innocent civilians in order to “send a message,” to “deter” political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and — best of all, from the Terrorist’s perspective — even their own children and other family members.

He goes on to discuss modern tribalism: the self-professed liberals who keep

self-righteously insisting that I imagine what it’s like to live in Southern Israel with incoming rocket fire from Hamas, as though that will change my views on the Israel/Gaza war.  Obviously, it’s not difficult to imagine the understandable rage that Israelis feel when learning of another attack on Israeli civilians, in exactly the way that American rage over the 9/11 attacks was understandable.  But just as that American anger didn’t justify anything and everything that followed, the fact that there are indefensible attacks on Israeli civilians doesn’t render the (far more lethal) attacks on Gaza either wise or just — as numerous Jewish residents of Sderot themselves are courageously arguing in opposing the Israeli attack.

Read the entire article here.

The link in Greenwald’s quote directs us to an article by Adam Horowitz in the Huffington Post that points out that the simplistic argument that this attack on Gaza is all about protecting Sderot falls apart when you realize that the citizens of Sderot are petitioning for negotiation, not attacks on Gaza:

Like Dershowitz I’ve been to Sderot: just over a year ago in November, 2007. Like him, I saw the devastating effects of the missiles from Gaza. Even though there had not been a death from these rockets in recent memory when I was there, I was not surprised to find that the missiles had inflicted an incredible mental wound on the residents. But I was surprised to find that although the people of Sderot who I met wanted the missiles to end they understood that militarism would not protect them. The people I met with were not calling for war, they were calling for negotiation. They knew that they would be the ones to catch the brunt of an attack on Gaza, not Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

Both articles are well worth a read.

–L.L. Wynn

Commentaries on Gaza attack in the Independent

January 6, 2009

The Israeli ground assault puts to rest any claims about the humanitarian Israeli military minimizing civilian casualties as they continue to attack Gaza.  The pictures I’ve been seeing of little dead babies with their tiny mouths open are heartbreaking.

The Independent is featuring commentary by five authors. Links and headlines below. After that are some more links to worthwhile coverage of the ongoing massacre.

Mark Steel: So what have the Palestinians got to complain about? The Independent
John McCarthy: If it was your home, what hope ‘restraint’? The Independent
Johann Hari: The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling, The Independent
Mohammed Dawwas: Life in Gaza: ‘Hungry, freezing, and terrifying’, The Independent
Sami Abdel-Shafi: Israel puts security before peace, The Independent

Other coverage of the Gaza assault:

Gideon Levy: And there lie the bodies, Haaretz
Chris Hedges: Party to Murder, TruthDig
Akiva Eldar: White Flag, Black Flag, Haaretz
Guardian editorial: When victory is a hollow word

The Huffington Post reports that Israel is using chemical weapons in Gaza.

And see this plea from Human Rights Watch for Israel to allow media and human rights monitors into Gaza, which they are currently refusing.  If their war was so humane, as some commentators on this site have alleged, then why are they refusing human rights monitors access to the battlefield?

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:

To view and sign the Avaaz petition protesting Israeli action, go to 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

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:

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.

Call to action to end the siege of Gaza

November 19, 2008

Here’s an alert we received from a coalition of U.S.-based organizations with some suggestions on how to protest the siege of Gaza:

Action Alert: End the Starvation and Siege of Gaza

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee of NY
Brooklyn For Peace
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

November 17, 2008

Take Action

With Gazans already impoverished and struggling to survive, on November 5, Israel completely sealed Gaza’s border crossings. This followed an unprovoked Israeli attack on Gaza that killed six Palestinians, despite a ceasefire, and Palestinian rocket fire in response. As a result of Israel’s closure, the United Nations has been forced to stop food distribution to 750,000 needy people, and 70% of Gaza is now without power due to a lack of fuel.

According to reports, even candles are now in short supply. “Let’s see this for what it is.” said UN spokesman Chris Gunness . “Fifty-six percent of the Gaza Strip are children. Let us not cause suffering of innocent children.” Blocking witnesses, on November 13, Israel denied the entry to Gaza of 20 senior EU diplomats.

Israel also has refused to allow foreign journalists to enter Gaza. Foreign Press Association chairman Steven Gutnik called the ban “a serious violation of freedom of the press” and said “it is essential that journalists be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip since it is the foreign media that serves as the world’s window into Gaza. Read the rest of this entry »

Siege on Gaza as the U.N. runs out of food

November 17, 2008

One has to read between the lines of the usual “balance” in this piece (below) — suggesting parity between the starvation of a civilian population and the rocket fire from Gaza — to see that what is taking place is the medieval technique of laying siege to a population and starving them.  But whereas in medieval siege warfare the purpose of starving a civilian population was to make them capitulate and to rule over them, the last thing the Israelis want is to resume direct control over (and hence daily responsibility for) the beleaguered civilian population of Gaza.  So this seige is not a means but the end in itself of Israel’s “Gaza strategy.”

Starvation is, of course, in this day and age subject to strict prohibition under the laws of war (which include the laws governing foreign military occupation) since it fails the first test of humanitarian law — distinguishing between civilians and combatants.  But to the Israeli tactician’s eye, perhaps all Gazans are enemies at some fundamental level.  And so a total blockade on Gaza, which excludes from Gazans even the passage of food and humanitarian aid through United Nations channels, continues to the deafening silence of the watching international community.

Against their own record of war crimes, the Israelis are afforded not only impunity but a generous hearing as the “victims” of purported Palestinian offenses.  So the UN closes shop and leaves the 750,000+ Gazans dependent on UNRWA food relief with no options and the world continues to blame the victim.  At least in this part of the world, hope and change are just two more empty slogans and two more commodities denied to Gazans starving under Israel’s siege. Read the rest of this entry »