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”

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 »

Inter-Palestinian reconciliation proposal

October 22, 2008

Below is an English-language translation of the full text of Egypt’s draft proposal for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which was published today in the Lebanese daily, al-Akhbar. The translation is taken from Mideast Mirror’s Arab World section for October 21, 2008. The proposal specifies the date for a comprehensive inter-Palestinian dialogue, before moving on to the clauses of the agreement that the Palestinian factions are meant to sign on November 29th. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 10 August

August 12, 2008

This week’s selection begins with coverage of carnage of Palestinian civilians at the hands of armed Israelis. As included in last week’s summary, not only did Israeli forces shoot live ammunition at the head of a 10-year old child at point-blank range during an anti-Wall protest in the village of Nilin, they also shot an 18-year old in the head during the first boy’s funeral. That second victim died at the beginning of this week according to the BBC in the first piece below. The second completes the gruesome pair by noting the extent to which Israel makes miserable the lives of Gazans. Here the Guardian offers an account of the Israeli refusal to allow disabled and chronically ill Gazans access to medical care unless they agree to serve as collaborators with the occupation.

Sadly, the selection of articles below also includes the painful news of Mahmoud Darwish’s untimely death. The eloquent voice of Palestinian dispossession, Darwish’s poetry has been a beacon of the Palestinian struggle for independence, peace and dignity. Other links to obituaries for Darwish have been posted elsewhere on this blog, but this selection concludes with the simple, sad news of his death.

In between, the selection covers the major items of the week including U.S. pressure on donors to funnel money to America’s chosen faction in Palestine and the final revocation of Fulbright grants to three Gazans after Israel refused to allow them to travel to be interviewed by the U.S. for visas and the U.S. acquiesced in Israel’s “security determinations” about these scholars. Electioneering was in full-swing in Israel this week — it is in this context that one should read Ehud Barak’s promise of new raids in Gaza and Shaul Mofaz’s pledge to keep all of Jerusalem. Gideon Levy’s article (#18 below) mocking the Israeli media’s penchant for treating Netanyahu as the only bogeyman on the Israeli political spectrum is spot-on, especially in light of the nature of the war-mongering-as-electoral-politics being undertaken by Livni, Barak and Mofaz with the blithe acceptance of the Israeli (and indeed world) public. There are a couple of articles covering new announcements of settlement activity (#9 and #16), a reflection by Israeli novelist Avraham Yehoshua on the adverse effects of occupation on Israel’s democracy.

Perhaps the most curious piece from this week’s media coverage of Israel-Palestine is Tanya Gold’s story in the Guardian (#6) following the lives of “Nazi-descended Jews living in Israel,” as it is captioned in the paper. The story reports on relatives of Waffen-SS men and even of Hitler who converted to Judaism and now live in Israel. Also included is coverage of Hebron settlers’ attack on a convoy of British diplomats. Finally, the Israelis have introduced a new tactic following fatalities from the use of live ammunition to disperse Palestinian crowds on the West Bank. They are calling the device the “skunk” — the description from Ynet (#19) is another monument to Israeli ingenuity in evolving more and more sophisticated weapons to dehumanize and pacify Palestinians. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 3 August 08

August 4, 2008

The most momentous development of the week — at least according to the English-language press — in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the announcement by Olmert that he plans to step down after the Kadima party selects a new leader. In reality, the more important events may have taken place in Palestine — whether in the explosion last Friday (7/25) in Gaza that killed Hamas personnel and a 6-year old child and set off the worst intra-Palestinian fighting in a year (pushing factional talks of national unity back to square one), or in the escalation of violence by the IDF attempting to force nonviolent Palestinian protesters in Bilin and Nilin to a tipping point that will trigger the collapse of nonviolent protest.

The nonviolent protests of Palestinians, at any rate, generally receive no coverage unless the Israelis shoot and kill children at them. So it is that Nilin made the news this week when the IDF shot live ammunition at an 10-year old boy, killing him with a head wound. The Israeli response to this atrocity was to also fire live ammunition at his funeral and then to barricade the village itself. Also today, in an unexceptional parallel, Haaretz is reporting that Israeli settlers hurled a brick injuring a 7-year old Palestinian girl.

The selection of press coverage below reflects more comment on the Olmert resignation and its implications for the “peace process” than anything else, since the only significant commentary in English on the situation this week had that focus. There are also pieces giving an overview of the pretenders to Olmert’s throne — Shaul Mofaz and Tzipi Livni — neither of whom is the least bit desirable as the articles below make clear. Still, it remains a telling characterization of the PA leadership that they appear to be the only ones willing to mourn Olmert’s passing from the Israeli political scene (according to one piece below, the PA negotiators see Olmert’s departure as a “heavy blow”).

Finally, in a week when Obama — fresh from his rock-star reception abroad — has engaged in further back-pedaling on his positions of “principle” (some offshore drilling is acceptable; the military option against Iran must remain on the table, etc.), the selection closes with a fitting analysis from Al-Ahram Weekly that the Candidate of Change represents nothing but the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestinians document the violence of occupation

July 31, 2008

Few things can get across a visceral sense of the reality of the occupation better than the images captured by Palestinians themselves documenting their experience.  In this short film (5 mins.) and article by Peter Beaumont on the Guardian website’s front page, there is a compilation of precisely that — using cameras provided to Palestinians by B’Tselem, the great Israeli human rights group.

Palestine coverage through 23 July 08

July 23, 2008

The news of the beginning of the week has been dominated by Obama’s visit to the region and the coverage of an IDF soldier shooting at the leg of a blindfolded, handcuffed and bound Palestinian non-violent protester in Nilin. Though the Israelis initially detained the soldier in question when footage of the incident emerged, he has since been sent back to his unit. Moreover, at the time of the incident, no one in the unit took notice or intervened, suggesting that contrary to the Israeli government’s assertions, such actions are entirely part of the IDF protocol when dealing with unarmed Palestinians.

Also included is coverage of British PM Gordon Brown’s call for Israel to halt settlements during his visit to Israel, ongoing Israeli abductions and detentions of Palestinians from the West Bank — this time including an elected woman legislator — and leaked information suggesting that Israel is contemplating a prisoner swap of Marwan Barghouti (they have long been seeking a basis to release him) for Gilad Shalit. Mahmoud Abbas reportedly has complained of Israel’s departure from the Annapolis commitments, and on a similar note Haaretz reports that Israel is worried that even the Bush administration will give it poor marks for its West Bank policies. Read the rest of this entry »