After the debacle of its 2006 invasion of Lebanon – not only a military disaster for Israel, but also a political and diplomatic one – the government in Tel Aviv spent months laying the groundwork at home and abroad for the assault on Gaza with quiet but energetic lobbying of foreign administrations and diplomats, particularly in Europe and parts of the Arab world.
A new information directorate was established to influence the media, with some success. And when the attack began just over a week ago, a tide of diplomats, lobby groups, bloggers and other supporters of Israel were unleashed to hammer home a handful of carefully crafted core messages intended to ensure that Israel was seen as the victim, even as its bombardment killed more than 430 Palestinians over the past week, at least a third of them civilians or policemen.
The unrelenting attack on Gaza, with an air strike every 20 minutes on average, has not stopped Hamas firing rockets that have killed four Israelis since the assault began, reaching deeper into the Jewish state than ever before and sending tens of thousands of people fleeing. Last night Israel escalated its action further, as its troops poured across Gaza’s border, part of what appeared to be a significant ground invasion. And a diplomatic operation is already in full swing to justify the further cost in innocent lives that would almost certainly result. [continued…]
Jews worry for a living; their tragic history compels them to do so. In the next few years, there will be plenty to worry about, particularly when it comes to Israel. The current operation in Gaza won’t do much to ease these worries or to address Israel’s longer-term security needs. The potential for a nuclear Iran, combined with the growing accuracy and lethality of Hamas and Hizbullah rockets, will create tremendous concern. Anxiety may also be provoked by something else: an Obama administration determined to repair America’s image and credibility and to reach a deal in the Middle East.
Don’t get me wrong. Barack Obama—as every other U.S. president before him—will protect the special relationship with Israel. But the days of America’s exclusive ties to Israel may be coming to an end. Despite efforts to sound reassuring during the campaign, the new administration will have to be tough, much tougher than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush were, if it’s serious about Arab-Israeli peacemaking. [continued…]
The United States thwarted an effort by Libya on Sunday to persuade the UN Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after Israel launched a ground invasion, diplomats said.
Several council diplomats told reporters that the U.S. refusal to back a Libyan-drafted demand for an immediate truce at a closed-door emergency session had killed the initiative, since council statements must be passed unanimously. [continued…]
On Saturday night, one week after the start of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, the ground operation began. The Israel Defense Forces started deploying combat units to surround Hamas’ main power base. The goal is not to chase after and destroy every last rocket launcher, but rather to break the Hamas’ resistance and force it to agree to a long-term cease-fire whose terms are more reasonable from Israel’s perspective. [continued…]
As Israel has been preoccupied with Gaza throughout the entire week, nobody has asked whose blood is being spilled and why. Everything is permitted, legitimate and just. The moral voice of restraint, if it ever existed, has been left behind. Even if Israel wiped Gaza off the face of the earth, killing tens of thousands in the process, as a Chechnyan laborer working in Sderot proposed to me, one can assume that there would be no protest.
They liquidated Nizar Ghayan? Nobody counts the 20 women and children who lost their lives in the same attack. There was a massacre of dozens of officers during their graduation ceremony from the police academy? Acceptable. Five little sisters? Allowed. Palestinians are dying in hospitals that lack medical equipment? Peanuts. Whatever happened to the not-so-good old days of Salah Shahadeh? When we liquidated him in July 2002, we also killed 15 women and children. At least back then, moral qualms were raised for a moment.
Here lie their bodies, row upon row, some of them tiny. Our hearts have turned hard and our eyes have become dull. All of Israel has worn military fatigues, uniforms that are opaque and stained with blood and which enable us to carry out any crime. Even our leading intellectuals fail to speak out on what havoc we have wreaked. Amos Oz urges: “Cease-fire now.” David Grossman writes: “Hold your fire. Stop.” Meir Shalev wants “a punitive operation.” And not one word about our moral image, which has been horribly distorted. [continued…]
As a way to share time on the phone, while my friend Houda’s neighbourhood was under aerial assault for more than 40 minutes, she and I discussed at length comparisons between previous Israeli military sieges we had been under. The carefully planned and premeditated strategy of terrorising an entire population by intensive and heavy bombardment of both military and civic institutions – destroying the entire civic infrastructure of a people – was identical. What is unprecedented here is that in Gaza there is nowhere to evacuate people to safety: they are imprisoned on all sides, with an acute awareness of the impossibility of escape. Land, sea, sky: all will kill you. [continued…]
There is a word for the straightforward killing of enemies by a superior force where the victims are sparsely equipped and the odds one-sided. Much of the world is calling Israel’s actions in Gaza a massacre. By contrast the American press has been cleansed and euphemized. “3rd Day of Bombings,” said the New York Times headline on December 30, “Takes Out Interior Ministry.” Takes out. The Times paid an involuntary homage to George W. Bush: “I think it’s a good thing for the world that we took out Saddam Hussein.” Under that phrase are half a million Iraqis killed and a country destroyed. And for Israel in Gaza?
The U.S. and Israel share many things. A form of government, it is sometimes said; a set of ideals. But much more in the past ten years the U.S. and Israel have shared a fantasy. The fantasy says that the Arabs understand only force. It says we can end terrorism by killing all the terrorists. The neighbors of the terrorists will be overawed. No new terrorists will be created. Finally, when every face on the president’s fifty-two card deck is crossed out and the known composition of Hamas is dead, we can “address the social conditions” that foster terrorism. But perhaps there are no such conditions. Do the terrorists not hate for hate’s sake?
You can see the shape of the fantasy most distinctly in the writings of those journalistic enablers who move into position as soon as either country starts a war that needs interpreting. “It was Israel at its best,” writes Yossi Klein Halevy, a typical war broker, in a New Republic column posted on December 29. “In response to random attacks aimed at civilians, Israel launched precise attacks aimed at terrorists.” Halevy does not add that the precise attacks killed almost 400 persons and that one death in every four was civilian. [continued…]
Tony Karon: Many Jews, in Israel and in America, see Israel as surrounded by deadly threats, and would see the benign and peaceful world you describe as a dangerous fantasy. What do you say to your critics?
Avrum Burg: I have very low expectations of new thinking and insight emerging from the mainstream Israeli and Jewish establishment. Their role is to maintain the status quo. Israel is bereft of forward thinking. We are experts at managing the crisis rather than finding alternatives to the crisis. In Israel you have many tanks, but not many think tanks. One of the reasons I left the Israeli politics was my growing feeling that Israel became a very efficient kingdom, but with no prophecy. Where is it going?
My idea of Judaism can be represented through a classic Talmudic dilemma: You are walking along by the river and there are two people drowning. One is Rabbi [Meir] Kahane, and the other is the Dalai Lama. You can only save one of them. For whom will you jump? If you jump for Rabbi Kahane because genetically he’s Jewish, you belong to a different camp than mine, because I would jump for the Dalai Lama. As much as he’s not genetically Jewish, he’s my Jewish brother when it comes to my value system. That’s the difference between me and the Jewish establishment in Israel and America. [continued…]
“A war to the bitter end.” That is how Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak described his country’s latest military campaign in the Gaza strip. It is refreshing to hear an Israeli politician refer to what the western press routinely calls “a crisis” or “a cycle of violence” as a war, for that is in fact what is taking place in Gaza. But if war is in indeed an accurate description of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, then can we continue referring to Hamas’ attacks against Israel as acts of terrorism? If a government declares war against a terrorist group, does it not in effect transform the group’s members from terrorists into soldiers? In a battle between a state like Israel and a “non-state entity” like Hamas, are acts of terror distinguishable from acts of war? [continued…]