All My Little Words

UN Launches $613m Aid Appeal for Gaza

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 29, 2009

If anything speaks to the United Nations’ impotence as an international political actor it’s this.

You do know that it was Israel, the 25th richest country in world, that destroyed all those buildings and killed all those people, right? Seems to me it wouldn’t be impolite to ask them to put their hand in their fucking pocket…

Why, Hillary?

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 20, 2009

I’ve been wondering, since Obama named her his Secretary of State, less why he offered it to her and more why Hillary Clinton accepted. As a Senator representing one of the most populous states in the nation she was position to be a powerful national voice with a job, ostensibly, for life.

Sully offers a very reassuring answer:

‘…my sense is that she would not have taken the job if she were not convinced that she has a chance to go down in history as an architect of a breakthrough Middle East peace agreement.’

Of course this doesn’t mean it will happen but it does, at least, suggest that Obama is serious about tackling the subject. There is no doubt that Hillary is an intelligent individual, savvy as they come (although her campaign management might suggest otherwise) but also determined to secure for herself a legacy on a par with her husband’s. She could not claim the crown but this would surely be the next best thing. Let’s just hope she knows her history.

An Interesting Counterfactual

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 16, 2009

from Stephen Walt:

Imagine that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had won the Six Day War, leading to a massive exodus of Jews from the territory of Israel. Imagine that the victorious Arab states had eventually decided to permit the Palestinians to establish a state of their own on the territory of the former Jewish state. (That’s unlikely, of course, but this is a thought experiment). Imagine that a million or so Jews had ended up as stateless refugees confined to that narrow enclave known as the Gaza Strip. Then imagine that a group of hardline Orthodox Jews took over control of that territory and organized a resistance movement. They also steadfastly refused to recognize the new Palestinian state, arguing that its creation was illegal and that their expulsion from Israel was unjust. Imagine that they obtained backing from sympathizers around the world and that they began to smuggle weapons into the territory. Then imagine that they started firing at Palestinian towns and villages and refused to stop despite continued reprisals and civilian casualties.

Here’s the question: would the United States be denouncing those Jews in Gaza as “terrorists” and encouraging the Palestinian state to use overwhelming force against them?

Here’s another: would the United States have even allowed such a situation to arise and persist in the first place?

The latter question, in my opinion, almost renders the former irrelevant. In 1967 the US was so entrenched in Vietnam that it would not have had the means to prevent an Israeli defeat, even if it had the will. Following Vietnam however the US would, I am sure, have continued to provide political and material support to the hardline ‘freedom fighters’ Walt mentions and would have acted as it did in South America in the 60s and 70s. In order to destabilise any Palestinian regime trade embargoes would have been introduced – IF the US even assented to recognize Palestine as a state – while provided the Jewish militants with weaponry and special ops training. Full access to the upper echelons of government would have been accorded and freedom to fundraise in the United States would have been allowed. While it might be argued that the Palestinians would have received similar support from the neighbouring Arab states, I think this is a flimsy position to hold. There has been little evidence to indicate that either Lebanon, Syria or Egypt have ever been all that bothered about the Palestinian refugees and could easily have been co-opted by a few juicy American carrots or the odd pointy stick.

I’d guess that any Palestinian state would have been overrun within a decade. Simply put, this situation simply could not have happened in reverse.

A View From Israel

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 12, 2009

Interesting editorial from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

Alongside reports on the number of dead and injured are reports of doctors being denied entry, the inability of aid groups to reach refugees and give them food, and a serious shortage of medicine and supplies. Blame does not rest with the Israel Defense Forces for all these issues. Hamas and other Palestinian organizations deliberately fired at a food convoy heading to Gaza because it sought to enter the Strip through a different crossing than what Hamas had desired. Hamas also liquidates its adversaries at home and is not ready to adopt the Egyptian cease-fire initiative. But these cannot serve as a pretext for a cruel, all-out war against 1.5 million Palestinian civilians.

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Resistance is Fertile

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 11, 2009

My housemate Mike tells me that by his estimate there were “well over one hundred thousand people” in attendance at yesterday’s march against Israel’s actions in Gaza. In terms of its capacity to change anything I think a protest against Israel is an absolute waste of time; the Jewish state scales the concept of unilateralism almost beyond recognition and has rarely, if ever, heeded the opinion of any external actor – let alone a mob of peaceniks 2000 miles away. There is nothing the Americans can do nor, as we have seen, the United Nations; the only actor with the power to alter the course of this war is Israel.

I think demonstrations can serve a purpose but primarily when the target is the domestic government and not a foreign one. Typically little is achieved – the Iraq march in 2003 would be an example of such futility – but besides the ballot box – and the X Factor voting lines – it is the only outlet for mass expression we have. I myself attended two last year: one against the Chinese genocide in Tibet when the Olympic torch came through London; the other against the genocide in Darfur. The purpose of both was to place pressure on the British government to pay more attention to the human rights issues involved; no-one expected either the Chinese or Sudanese to observe the banner-wielding crowds and suddenly become national sponsors of Amnesty International.

All that being said I do respect the right of the people to express themselves even if it is to no practical end. While I suspect the vast majority of attendees have very little understanding of the complex issues that lie behind and within the Israeli operation in Gaza, I also believe that very few people do and there is no quantity of information that people must reach before they are entitled to an opinion. Having studied it in some depth at university I think I have a better grasp of the history than most but wouldn’t for a second consider myself an authority. I also believe there are certain absolutes at stake, and those alone are worth protesting against.

UN ceasefire call goes unheeded

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 9, 2009

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Shocking. Especially consider the weight of words wielded by the UN.

I’m not normally one to agree with W but he’s right about the United Nations (the Security Council arm at least) being increasingly irrelevant.

Human Shields, and the Pornography of Propaganda

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 7, 2009

Jeffrey Goldberg makes a valid point about Hamas’ use of civilian areas as defensive cover for their fighters which, Israel believe, is what they were doing when forty children were killed yesterday at teh UN school. It’s  a despicable betrayal of a people that they claim to represent, based on a bet that Israeli morality and respect for International Humanitarian Law is stronger than their own.

The thing is, and this is what goes unmentioned by Goldberg, it should be. The Israeli armed forces know the coordinates of all the hospitals, schools and other civilian safety zones in Gaza and knows they must never even be viewed through the scope of a rifle. If that means sacrificing military advantage and letting the bad guys go, well, tough shit.  You do it because you claim to be on the side of “right”; once you start saying “fuck ’em”, you forego any claim to that position.

As for his perspective on the open display of the bodies of dead civilians and his belief that “Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people” I think Goldberg again misses the point. Of course moral judgments shouldn’t  be based on double standards and we should demand that Hamas play by the same rules of combat but there’s very little that we can say or do to make sure that happens. We should not and must not damn the (mostly) innocent, stateless Palestinians to the same fate as a band of self-interested terrorists.

A Proportional Response

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on December 31, 2008

I don’t really know what to make of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. No one is arguing that Israel does not have a right to defend itself or to protect its people. The charge, it seems to me, is that the level of force it is employing to successfully achieve its publicly stated aims far exceeds that which would be described as proportional.

The problem with proportionality, as far as Israel is concerned, is that it lacks value as a future deterrent.

I am reminded of this scene from the West Wing episode entitled “A Proportional Response”. A US military aircraft carrying Bartlet’s personal physician has been shot down in the Middle East and the president is facing his first real foreign policy test.

So a case can be made. However, as Bartlet learns later in the episode and Israel should really have learned itself at some point in the past sixty years, once you lose all sense of perspective you also lose legitimacy among your peers and the right to consider yourself the victim, more sinned against than sinning. And that is before we even begin to consider whether Israel will actually achieve anything in the long term. It might be argued that should Israel sufficiently weaken Hamas, with which it will not negotiate, Fattah, with which it will, can increase its political influence in Gaza. However, even if this were to succeed would it not likely dangerously divide the  Palestinian people and take us further away from the possibility of a Palestinian state? Or might that possibly be Israel’s true intention?

It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

As ridiculously simplistic as it is to say, someone needs to sit these two down and politely but firmly inform each that neither is going to be driven into the sea any time soon. A job for Hillary and Obama?

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