Gaza open thread, mid-Jan

Here’s Cordesman’s excellent strategic analysis to start you off.
And here’s some excellent legal analysis from Shamai Leibowitz, on “Israeli Soldiers’ Duty to Prevent the Commission of War Crimes”.
Here, also from Shamai, is an Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers on their responsibility to do this.
… So friends, I know that many people’s emotions are getting run ragged with what’s happening. But please try to stay civil and respectful in your comments here. Some of them have been getting close to massive group stereotyping or even hate speech. You might want to go and re-read the JWN commenters’ guidelines.

22 thoughts on “Gaza open thread, mid-Jan”

  1. I’m coming from antiwar. Here’s something you said that I find puzzling:
    The war that Israel launched on Gaza Dec. 27 is the seventh war of choice Israel has launched against its neighbors since 1973, the last year in which it fought a war that was forced upon it.[1]
    I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. Certainly, the war was launched by others than Israel, but it could have been avoided, it wasn’t forced upon it. Israel continually refused all the peace offers from other countries, such as Egypt. And Sadat died for it.
    Here’s a quote from Sheldon Richman’s piece on Cato, “Ancient History”:
    The war was launched to regain not only Arab territory but Arab pride as well. That explanation, which is true as far as it goes, gives a distorted picture. Often overlooked are the Arab leaders’ efforts to make peace with Israel before 1973. In November 1967 King Hussein offered to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security in return for the lands taken from Jordan in the Six-Day War. (Israel had de facto annexed the old city of Jerusalem shortly after that war.) In February 1970 Nasser said, “It will be possible to institute a durable peace between Israel and the Arab states, not excluding economic and diplomatic relations, if Israel evacuates the occupied territories and accepts a settlement of the problem of the Palestinian refugees.” (Israel had allowed only 14,000 of 200,000 refugees from the Six-Day War to return.)
    Then, in February 1971, Anwar Sadat, who had succeeded to the Egyptian presidency on Nasser’s death in 1970, proposed a full peace treaty, including security guarantees and a return to the pre-1967 borders. That was not all. Also in 1971 Jordan again proposed to recognize Israel if it would return to its prewar borders. Egypt and Jordan accepted UN Resolution 242, passed in November 1967, that called for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in return for peace and security. Both Arab states also accepted the land-for-peace plan of Secretary of State William Rogers and the efforts of UN representative Gunnar Jarring to find a solution.
    Israel turned a deaf ear to each proposal for peace, rejected the Rogers plan, snubbed Jarring, and equivocated on Resolution 242. At that time Israel and Egypt were engaged in a war of attrition across the Suez Canal. Israel flew air raids deep into Egypt and bombed civilians near Cairo. Soviet pilots and missiles participated in the defense of Egypt.
    [2] Ancient History

  2. Israel is now focusing its military and diplomatic efforts on pressuring Egypt to work toward the Israeli and international demand to deploy an international force to combat smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, largely through tunnels deep under ground.
    Good luck.
    For the residents of Gaza, the tunnels bring far more than arms. The territory’s borders have largely been sealed since Hamas took control in 2007. The tunnels are the main conduit for normal commerce and a lifeline for food and medicine. Smuggling through them is also a primary source of income for Bedouin tribes long neglected by the Egyptian Government. In fact, there have been recent clashes between Egyptian security forces and the Sinai Bedouin tribes. On December 16th the Bedouin tribes in Sinai gave the government an ultimatum to heed their list of demands by Jan. 15.
    Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda’s Zawahiri has exhorted the Egyptian people to rise against their president, Hosni Mubarak, and has called for the tribes of the Sinai to break the siege of Gaza.

  3. Don:
    have you any comment to make on the Hamas failure to build bomb shelters for the people of Gaza at the same time it was building its tunnels and underground HQ’s? Do you think the Gaza Palestinians might be cogitating on this lack of planning for their protection as they bury their dead? Or are the Gaza Palestinians acquiesent in being the Hamas front line fodder for a greater purpose?
    If the latter, what is the greater purpose?

  4. Don Bacon, could you please clarify your viewpoint. As I understand from your comment, there are mutual purposes you would like to mention.
    rpy belmont,It’s unfair to judge a resistance this way.Israel now is using chemical weapons against civilians. The first to blame is not Israel that you belong but the Arab leaders.
    God bless the resistance.

  5. bb, my take on bomb shelters vs tunnels…bomb shelters for 1.5M people simply aren’t possible; it’s a false argument. There is no bomb shelter that Israel can’t pierce. There is no safe haven to be found or built in Gaza. All that can be done is to keep the arteries open, the social lifeblood flowing, and that indicates tunnels. Israel seems intent on clamping off all Gaza’s lifeblood. Having all the advantages, Israel appears to wish only to smother a supine and confined population. There is no culture on earth that does not consider this act murder, though there are temporary governments that try to justify it. Israel the culture will bear, or may succumb, to the moral burdens and backlash placed on it by this Israeli government.
    The continual conflation of “Israel” and the current Israeli “government” is most unhelpful. However, as shown by the American public versus Bush, continued public acquiesence to the bad decisions of a poor leader will surely reap an international harvest of distrust and exclusion, and it will become ever more difficult to excuse a people accepting barbarism in its own government. This is not a recipe for success.

  6. Failure to build bomb shelters? With what, dust or garbage perhaps?
    The primary objectives of the tunnels is to reduce human suffering and avoid starvation by breaking the unlawlful and immoral 2-year siege. The tunnels are used to smuggle in food, fuel, money, medicines, and other necessities of life. They are also used to smuggle in weapons.
    The brave residents of the Warsaw ghetto, weren’t worried about building bomb shelters either. They too smuggled in food and weapons and put up a valiant resistance.
    Like all peoples of the world, the Gaza ghetto residents have a right to defend themselves from the those who besiege, imprison and invade them.

  7. re: bomb shelters — Were there bomb shelters in Warsaw in 1943? There are 1.5 million besieged people crowded together in Gaza who are now the targets of an Israeli holocaust.
    For Gaza, Egypt seems to be the key, but an imperfect key it is.
    Egypt is the apparent mediator between Hamas and Israel, however many feel that Egypt was complicit with Israel. Although President Hosni Mubarak’s government has condemned the attack, many skeptics have alleged that Egypt secretly endorsed the Israeli strike to get rid of Hamas.
    Protests over the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip have reignited tensions between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has close ideological ties to the militant group Hamas, has arranged several demonstrations at which hundreds of protesters called on Arab armies to defend the Palestinians, cut off relations with Israel and stop exporting natural gas to the Jewish state. According to one source, 1,400 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested since the Israeli army launched its offensive on Gaza last week.
    Then there is the Bedouin/tunnel situation which I mentioned.
    Meanwhile there is an utter lack of democracy in Egypt, a favored US ally. Last October Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Dostour, together with three other chief editors, were sentenced to a six- month jail term for publishing false information concerning the health of President Hosni Mubarak.

  8. 12 January 2009
    The United Nations Human Rights Council concluded its ninth Special Session today by adopting a resolution on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip in which it strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli military operation which had resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people and systematic destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.
    In the resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 33 to 1 with 13 abstentions, the Council called for the immediate cessation of Israeli military attacks throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory; demanded the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its military forces from the occupied Gaza Strip; called upon the occupying power to end its occupation to all Palestinian lands occupied since 1967, and to respect its commitment within the peace process towards the establishment of the independent sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital; demanded that the occupying power stop the targeting of civilians and medical facilities and staff as well as the systematic destruction of cultural heritage; demanded further that the occupying power lift the siege, open all borders; and decided to dispatch an urgent independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Council also requested the United Nations Secretary-General to investigate the latest targeting of UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including schools, that resulted in the killing of tens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.

  9. JERUSALEM (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday.
    The United States, Israel’s main ally, had initially been expected to voted in line with the other 14 but Rice later became the sole abstention.
    “In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour,” Olmert said
    “I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now’. He got off the podium and spoke to me.
    “I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour.”

  10. Right on regarding bb’s characteristically silly comment on shelters vs tunnels, JamesL!
    Sadly, I must take some issue with you on the remark below, and on at least two levels:
    Israel the culture will bear, or may succumb, to the moral burdens and backlash placed on it by this Israeli government.
    1. This Israeli government is hardly the first to test the morality of Israel the culture. Sadly, Israel the culture has failed the test nearly every time. In fact, it seems to bear ever-increasing moral challenges with less and less concern. 70% of the population supports what their government is doing now, and a significant percentage is down right giddy with celebratory delight.
    2. Given past history and present attitudes, I do not believe Israel the culture is very likely to ever feel any kind of moral burden from anything their government does.

  11. And now we have Olmert doing his best impersonation of Ben Gurion — and the stale, tired, language of the “iron fist.”
    As diplomats struggled for traction in truce efforts, Olmert said Israel would only end military operations if Hamas stops rocketing Israel, as it has done for years, and is unable to rearm after combat subsides.
    “Anything else will be met with the Israeli people’s iron fist,” Olmert said. “We will continue to strike with full strength, with full force until there is quiet and rearmament stops.”
    Ah yes, because in the end, we know they will hate us, we must always threaten them with the “iron fist.”
    Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose?

  12. So, the U.N. Human Rights Council made a strong resolution, and some demanded this and that. And nothing will come of it because no one will do a bloody thing to enforce it – not sanctions, not military intervention, not anything. Completely useless.
    And the U.N. send their delegation, which Israel will incarcerate at the airport for a few hours and then expel just as they did Richard Falk, and the U.N. will cluck its tongue and do nothing.
    And you know, I would not even put it past them to refuse entry to Ban Ki Moon, or at best take him on a tightly controlled tour, during which they will feed him their usual lies. And the U.N. will cluck its tongue and do nothing.
    It is all so completely useless. What’s the point?

  13. Olmert said Israel would only end military operations if Hamas stops rocketing Israel
    Yes, military violence by Israel has worked so much better than anything else to stop the rockets, after all. I mean, keeping a cease fire was clearly ineffective since it only reduced the number of rockets by about 99%.

  14. Understand the profound frustration Shirin…. on multiple levels.
    You may have also caught this laconic Ha’aretz essay, along similar lines, that Helena tagged on the sidebar:
    “Israel has not yet decided whether to be a normal member of the international community and pay the price of normalcy, or to remain isolated on the outside… the disturbed child of the international community.”
    Condi Rice operates at a similar level of “ambifliguousness” — before coming into office, she wrote in foreign affairs of how there was “no such thing” as international community. When it became useful, then she’d tout how the very thing she denied was “on our side.” But now, gasp, in her final days in office, she got slapped down by W & Olmert — and was forced not to go along with the recent obvious expression of the international community….
    I’m still the Jeffersonian, it’s far better to have “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Thumbing our noses at it will cost….

  15. Jan 12: Tony Blair, special envoy of the Quartet* to the Middle East, said in Cairo that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is within reach.
    *The Quartet are the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The group was established in Madrid in 2002 by the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

  16. 1. Somehow I do not have confidence in anything Tony Bliar says.
    2. What does “a ceasefire is within reach” even mean? Sounds like a lot of politician’s speaky-speak to me.

  17. I caught something of this in the wind when P.M. Olmert, when not speaking the bluster of the iron fist, was talking of Israel’s objectives being within reach…. (never mind we’re still unclear on what those objectives were)
    But if it helps for “us” (or Blair) to show him a way to “declare victory and go home,” well… make it so.

  18. Israel will declare MISSION ACCOMPLISHED a few days before Obama’s inauguration, so as not to spoil the president elect’s party.
    They will continue to bomb the Gaza Ghetto in the name of “self defence”.
    In breaking news, the Sydney Morning Herald reports…
    “An Israeli army patrol came under gunfire from inside Jordan early on Tuesday, the army said, adding that no one was hurt in the rare attack that comes amid Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.”

  19. Israel will declare MISSION ACCOMPLISHED a few days before Obama’s inauguration, so as not to spoil the president elect’s party.
    They will continue to bomb the Gaza Ghetto in the name of “self defence”.
    In breaking news, the Sydney Morning Herald reports…
    “An Israeli army patrol came under gunfire from inside Jordan early on Tuesday, the army said, adding that no one was hurt in the rare attack that comes amid Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.”

  20. Don, JamesL, Shirin et al …
    Are you saying these tunnels and bunkers have not protected Hamas fighters from Israeli bombing? In which case, is the casuality toll much higher than has been reported?
    If not, ie if Hamas’ bunkers and tunnels have protected the majority of its fighters from Israeli attack, why wouldn’t the Gazans wonder why bomb shelters weren’t constructed for them?

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