EDITORIAL: Surf’s up… while the bombs fall

Surf’s up… while the bombs fall

President-elect Obama has an excruciating dilemma: If he opens his mouth, he feels compelled to lie; if he says nothing, he ends up looking like an ineffectual, indifferent coward. The only thing going in his favor is that his current moral torpor is shared by the majority of Americans who look at the Middle East and simply say, “Oh my, there they go again. The Jews and the Arabs just don’t know how to get along. Isn’t it a shame, but what can we do?”

To reinforce this comforting sense of helplessness, The Huffington Post‘s Karin Kloosterman – “a member of the press” in Israel – kindly published President Shimon Peres’ statement to the press on why Gaza now reeks from blood and explosives.

Peres begins:

It is the first time in the history of Israel that we, the Israelis, cannot understand the motives or the purposes of the ones who are shooting at us. It is the most unreasonable war, done by the most unreasonable warriors.

From that disingenuous opening there follows a litany describing how Israel, in all its saintliness, has done everything it could to improve the lives of those who live in Gaza.

No mention of course about the fact that Israel – with international support – chose to disregard the democratic will of the Palestinian people when they elected a Hamas-led government in 2006. No mention that the siege on Gaza has been condemned by the UN as collective punishment that “constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Before Hamas assumed power, Gaza was notoriously lawless. Under Hamas’ governance, law and order – even with such civil niceties as traffic control – have been established. But because Israel has been “pelted” – yes, that’s the apt term that’s used in the Israeli press – by Qassam rocket fire ever since Israel broke the truce on November 5, Israel is now engaged in Operation Cast Lead which is systematically destroying Hamas’ security structure in the name of preventing rocket fire. Oh, and never mind that most of the rockets were being launched by members of Islamic Jihad.

Just so that we can be sure that in the dwindling days of his tenure, Ehud Olmert is not being impulsive (no rerun of the 2006 war on Lebanon — that’s a relief!), Haaretz provides a highly informative description of the operation that was being planned even before Israel and Hamas entered an Egyptian-brokered “truce”. In front of all their critics who cried out that a truce would simply give Hamas time to rearm, Olmert and Barak can now grin with satisfaction, knowing that the truce was a ruse that Israel could use while it gathered intelligence in preparation for its next war. As Mechi Fendel, mother of seven in Sderot said: “What’s been happening in Gaza is fantastic” — although she still intends to vote for Netanyahu.

Now Kadima has demonstrated its willingness to start a new war, Israelis can be assured that Likud will remain committed to continuing the war — no matter who’s in the White House.

Does it matter who’s in the White House? (I’d still like to imagine so.)

And as the Arab world now vents its frustration at Israel’s brutality and the duplicity of its autocratic rulers, many observers will be taking note that — as Haaretz pointed out — two days before launching the operation, Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, went to Cairo to inform President Mubarak what was about to happen.

This might explain why Egypt is now engaged in its own propaganda campaign portraying Hamas as unwilling to let casualties be taken to hospitals in Egypt. Perhaps Hamas is holding back victims, but it would not be hard to understand their anger at a country that remained silent when forewarned of an attack and only rushed to “help” once it was too late. Indeed, this report suggests that Egypt has a deep level of complicity in the Israeli operation.

Egypt collaborated with Israel by deliberately misleading Hamas and allowing Tel Aviv to deal a blow to the movement, a report claims.

Citing diplomatic sources, the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi reported Sunday that Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman had deceived Hamas into believing that Israel would not launch an attack on the Gaza Strip in the near future.

According to the report, the misinformation lured Hamas into not evacuating its security compounds and headquarters.

Suleiman convinced a number of Arab leaders that Israel was intending to launch only limited operations into the Gaza Strip to mount pressure on Hamas ahead of signing a new ceasefire agreement, the report added.

So, back in Hawaii, what’s a president-to-be to do in the midst of this ugly mess?

Carry on surfing.

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4 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Surf’s up… while the bombs fall

  1. Karin kloosterman

    Paul –– Well, I am a member of the press… and Gaza reeks from “blood and explosives” out of Hamas’ own doings. How much longer can a country sit with mercy and absorb the rockets, upwards of one hundred a day, fired at it without retaliating? It’s obvious which side of the fence you sit on. But I accomplished what I intended: to get you to read Peres’ speech. Somewhere in your soul you know what is just and good.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Karin — Thanks for your comment. The reason I put the words “a member of the press” in quotation marks was not in doubt that you are a journalist but in order to underline your apparent unwillingness to apply critical scrutiny to political propaganda.

    As an Israeli (I’m assuming you are), you’re entitled to take on faith the words of your president, but as a member of the Fourth Estate in a country that professes to be democratic, you have a duty to test the validity of political statements when measured against the facts.

    If as Shimon Peres claims, Israel is so utterly mystified about what motivates Hamas, how could it even intelligently attempt to craft a solution to the attacks that afflict the residents of southern Israel?

    The philosophy that one must beat ones opponents senseless and then, perhaps, try to understand what drives them, is the mindset of a thug: hit first; ask questions later.

    (In actuality, Peres is surely not as mystified by Hamas’ motives as he claims to be. His problem — and that of the rest of Israel’s political leadership — is that he cannot accept Hamas as political reality that must be engaged — as opposed to an adversary that must be crushed.)

    Sure, I know in my soul what is just and good, but I don’t believe in faith-based politics or faith-based wars. Heartfelt convictions are not what brings the world together. If they did, we could all be relieved of the burden of thinking and struggling to arrive at an objective understanding of the conflicts that tear people apart.

    A journalist isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — a parrot. It’s not your job to get me or anyone else to listen to the words of your president as though they will be a salve for the soul. It’s your job to apply your own intelligence in applying critical analysis to his words.

  3. John Robertson

    Bravo, Paul! I can only second heartily your comments. For Mr. Peres to profess mystification with Hamas’ stance and actions is disingenuous at best . . . and Ms. Kloosterman or anyone else who claims knowledge or some modicum of understanding of Israeli-Palestinian history over the last several decades ought to know better than to accept Peres at his word.

  4. Rick Signor

    The farther we get from the election, it becomes all too apparent that we grow much closer to the behavior of the failed administration we were presumably replacing on the 20th of January 2009.

    I am an American citizen, Veteran, self employed farmer, whom is and has been been disgusted by our Nations leaders continual support for Israel, and it’s brutal and inhumane treatment of the Palestinans, whether they be from Gaza, The West Bank or Israeli Arabs. It’s a dehumanizing progrom they impose upon the residents of the Territories,

    Barak Obama needs to put his words into action. To para-phrase Walter Mondale Where’s the change?

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