Friday, 9 January 2009

An Israeli view on the war in Gaza

Or perhaps I should say "the view of an Israeli," given that Israelis have about as diverse an opinion on contemporary issues as any healthy democracy (CNN interviewed a girl from Sderot yesterday condemning the current invasion). Hadassah Levi, author of the blog Zionism and the State of Israel, kindly offered the following information in response to my post What's going on in Gaza?:

Hamas has been raining rockets down on Israeli citizens for EIGHT years. They have shown no signs of returning Gilad Shalit and the Hamas government actively and publicly supports terror.

The Israeli economy benefits from open borders with Gaza and only keeps them closed when security concerns overwhelm economic ones.

The Israeli army does its best not to harm civilians in this attack on Hamas. It is focusing on destroying munition factories, Hamas offices and tunnels used for smuggling ammunition into Gaza from Egypt. Occasionally civilians do get hurt, just as they are getting hurt on the Israeli side (and that's not by accident).

Israel simply wants to prevent Hamas from shooting rockets at Israel by taking away its capability to do that (after all diplomatic avenues have failed).

Even with all the lies Arab propaganda is spewing, the international community has been fairly understanding of Israel's position. Israel does not go to war lightly and it is paying a fairly high price - the endangerment of all the civilians in the south of Israel as well as Israeli soldiers in Gaza and all over the country. But this is a necessary reaction.

An important thing to note: Hamas complains of lack of food, medicine, etc. Israel has been allowing humanitarian aid in to Gaza and Hamas gunmen have been stealing it in order to sell to the citizens of Gaza! Palestinians wounded in Gaza have been treated in Israeli hospitals. While all this has been going on, a Palestinian baby was brought to an Israeli hospital for a life-saving heart operation.

It doesn't get much more humanitarian than that!

For a different view check out this "on site" blog: In Gaza, repleat with photos, reports and a little video footage. See also the comment threads of Laila's latest post, there are links to two troubling articles by Avi Shlaim and Robert Fisk. Old Testament Passion links to an article by an Arab Christian on the issue. Here's an excerpt:

So, what is our role as believers in this situation? How can we be a model ofMessiah as we move forward in the reconciliation process? Are we too busychallenging the moral and ethical position of the other side that we areunwilling to take responsibility? Because our societies have chosen war andviolence, there is a great need for reconciliation. We can accomplish thisthrough taking on a priestly role of intercessor and prophetic role ofspeaking the truth.

2 comments:

steph said...

"The Israeli army does its best not to harm civilians in this attack on Hamas." Really?

Yes, Robert Fisk's article 'why do they hate us' is "very troubling" and common sense. Also Juan Cole's blog "Informed Comment" is very troubling and common sense. Worth a visit.

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Steph, thanks for the link. I updated the last post you commented on by posting the Youtube video (along with another "pro-Israel" one from Hadassah).

Dear Hadassah,

thank you very much for your thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time. For me as an outsider, it's very hard to make informed judgements on these kinds of things. I also personally love Israel, so critiquing it requires an added effort on my part to try and stay objective. I'll share my thoughts with you, but I hope they don't become a source of division between us ... I'm concerned about the truth and justice. Oh, and I've posted these comments in an independent post here:

Hamas has been raining rockets down on Israeli citizens for EIGHT years. They have shown no signs of returning Gilad Shalit and the Hamas government actively and publicly supports terror.

I agree with all of this and personally think that Hamas is probably as evil as it is made out to be by the West (in fact more so, as the West's commitment to political correctness inhibits it from calling a spade a spade). My issue at the moment is not the legitimacy of Hamas—any organisation which uses suicide bombers is illegitimate in my view, whether democratically elected or not—but rather the appropriateness of the current onslaught in Gaza. There seem to me to be two options for evaluating it: either Israel is totally innocent and is finally defending itself after eight years as a passive victim, or Israel has crimes of its own. If the first option is true, then I can imagine that the onslaught may be legitimate … It's terrible, but perhaps something like this is the only solution, something along the lines of what happened to other sick regimes such as Nazi Germany and Japan in WWII.

I want to believe the first option. I love Israel and it actually hurts to see it in this situation. But I have a responsibility to strive to get over my emotional ties and see things objvectively.

The problem is that I can hardly believe that Israel is so innocent. I think Avi Shlaim's article contains enough to demand a response by those in favour of the war. If his article is accurate, then regardless of the evil of Hamas rocketing Sderot, Beersheva, Ashkelon etc., Israel does not have a clean enough slate to give it the moral authority to treat this invasion as pure self-defence. Rather, Israel ought instead to be working on addressing the issues raised by Shlaim before it can be justified in creating the current traumatic catastrophe. If you, or anyone, has an informed response to his article I'd be grateful—grateful because I don't want to believe it.

The Israeli economy benefits from open borders with Gaza and only keeps them closed when security concerns overwhelm economic ones.

Shlaim's article puts this in a totally different light. He calls it “a classic case of colonial exploitation” and gives evidence. I'd appreciate a response.

The Israeli army does its best not to harm civilians in this attack on Hamas. It is focusing on destroying munition factories, Hamas offices and tunnels used for smuggling ammunition into Gaza from Egypt. Occasionally civilians do get hurt, just as they are getting hurt on the Israeli side (and that's not by accident).

I've always believed this and had a lot of respect for the IDF for the way they go about their operations. But I'm being so overwhelmed with information to the contrary at the moment— informed insider information and not the typical rhetoric of those for whom the “Palestinian cause” is a convenient cypher for their own agenda—that its becoming increasingly more difficult for me to defend it … Here, Robert Fisk's article needs to be responded to. I can't just ignore it.

I should add that the Israeli government representative who attempted to defend the recent bombing of the UN school was so obviously following a script that it just dents their credibility. All governments do it, of course (e.g. Britain during the Rwanda crisis), but that doesn't make it right.

Also, Shlaim's article has a more cynical take on the agenda behind the invasion. He needs to be responded to.

Finally, surely “occasionally” is an understatement … What are the latest statistics?

Israel simply wants to prevent Hamas from shooting rockets at Israel by taking away its capability to do that (after all diplomatic avenues have failed).

I keep returning to Shlaim's article. According to him, this is the declared aim of the war. But, “The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.” He gives further information on timing, etc. He may be wrong, but how do I find out?

Even with all the lies Arab propaganda is spewing, the international community has been fairly understanding of Israel's position. Israel does not go to war lightly and it is paying a fairly high price - the endangerment of all the civilians in the south of Israel as well as Israeli soldiers in Gaza and all over the country. But this is a necessary reaction.

I agree that Arab propaganda is sickening, and I agree that most of the world has been understanding (even Egypt). But I'm coming to learn that the official statements of nations on issues like this have less to do with humanitarian concerns and more to do with realpolitik. In other words, their statements are worth listening to but still needed to be treated with the greatest of caution. It doesn't clinch the argument for me.

Also, I'm not sure if you are not exaggerating a bit when you say that “all the civilians in the south of Israel as well as Israeli soldiers … all over the country” are endangered by this invasion … Shlaim calls it "pin pricks" in Israel ...

But this is a necessary reaction.

As I said above, this depends on Israel's innocence concerning its behaviour during the last eight years of Hamas bombing.

An important thing to note: Hamas complains of lack of food, medicine, etc. Israel has been allowing humanitarian aid in to Gaza and Hamas gunmen have been stealing it in order to sell to the citizens of Gaza! Palestinians wounded in Gaza have been treated in Israeli hospitals. While all this has been going on, a Palestinian baby was brought to an Israeli hospital for a life-saving heart operation.

I wasn't aware of Hamas' actions here. As I said, I have little respect for the organisation, but that isn't the issue for me. The issue is the appropriateness of this invasion given the circumstances which brought it about. Concerning the baby, I know that Israel does such things. Claims that it is an Apartheid regime, racist against Palestinians (as claimed here) are, as far as I can see, ludicrous.