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”

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 Salon.com’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

Israel admits: NO Hamas rockets during ceasefire

January 15, 2009


For 18 days the Israeli Government has justified to the world that their decision to unleash a massive military campaign against the people of Gaza was as a direct result of Hamas’ breach of the ceasefire brokered by the Egyptian Government.

Hamas has always stated that between June 2008 and November 2008 they did not fire a single rocket into Israel.

In a recent interview given to Channel 4 News, the Israeli Government’s official spokesman Mark Ragev finally admitted that Hamas did not break the ceasefire.


So by their own admission the Israeli Government broke the terms of the ceasefire first and in doing so have slaughtered almost 1000 people and injured over 3000, not to mention wantonly destroying the infrastructure of Gaza.

Who ends ceasefires, Israel or Hamas?

January 14, 2009

Some interesting research from a group at MIT, led by Nancy Kanwisher, Nancy the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT.  The team plots out and graphs who it is that breaks the peace when there has been a lull in killing between Israel and Palestine.  A quote:

We decided to tally the data to find out. We analyzed the entire timeline of killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and killings of Israelis by Palestinians, in the Second Intifada, based on the data from the widely-respected Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem (including all the data from September 2000 to October 2008).

The answer?

Thus, a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.

The lessons from these data are clear:

First, Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest. The data shows that ceasefires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time.

Second, if Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill.

Check out the original argument for the graphs.  Also, check out this discouraging news report that makes it look like Bush is Olmert’s marionette, with Israel pulling the strings of American foreign policy…

Glenn Greenwald on terrorism and tribalism

January 13, 2009

In Salon.com, 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: 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.