Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Collection of Discourse on the Current Israel/Palestinian Conflict

President-elect Barack Obama has finally weighed in on the conflict that continues to wage between Israel and Palestinians today, stating that he "deplores" the civilian deaths on both sides of the conflict. He also stated that he will have "plenty to say" after January 20th on the issue. These statements come as Israel continues their assault on Gaza and amid new claims that UN schools have been hit in the attack. Yesterday it was reported that Israel has been using white phosphorous to screen their attack. This element, which can cause severe burns, is illegal if it is used as anything other than smokescreen.

There are many viewpoints that are being expressed about this current situation and instead of writing up a lengthy piece of my own at this point, I will use this entry to point your attention to a few of the pieces which can better help us understand this conflict and put it in a context that can be more helpful than we are usually subjected to.

First and foremost, I would like to point your attention to a Palestinian journalist, on the ground in Gaza, who has been bravely reporting during these times of violent clashes. His name is Sameh Habeeb and the link to his blog that he is updating is here. He is giving daily updates and first hand accounts of the events that he is seeing on the ground and yesterday, he posted that he may stop blogging if he either has to flee or if he dies due to the attacks. He has since resumed and his time is limited due to the Israeli power cuts to the region. A sample of today's entry:

1-Bombings in Jabalia Refugee Camps, 5 killed and several wounded. Many houses were damaged in the camp while hundreds of people leave their houses into some schools and safer places.2-Israeli F16s bombarded two adjacent houses for Al Shorafa family in Toffah area. The houses were hit without previous notification. Many people killed and several wounded.3-A massare against house of Al Daya family southern east of Gaza City. The father was killed, the mother, his son Fayez, his daughter in law Rawans, infant

I have attempted to contact Habeeb for an interview, but have so far been unsuccessful in reaching him. I will continue to try and post the interview here should he manage to reply. He has given an interview to Democracy Now!, which you can find here.

For some other views and productive discussion about this issue I recommend reading this article from the Nation entitled "To Live and Die in Gaza". The author is Laila Al-Arian and here is a clip of the piece:

With Israel's draconian blockade of Gaza, imposed as punishment for the election of Hamas and backed by the US and Europe, my grandfather's life was transformed yet again. Medication to treat his diabetes was in short supply and
because of a shortage of gas and electricity, his family was forced to use primitive kerosene burners for cooking. Bakeries now had to resort to baking bread with animal feed and sewage treatment plants were crippled as fuel ran out, forcing the water authority to dump millions of liters of waste into the Mediterranean Sea. Electricity was scarce, with homes receiving an average of only six hours a day. Unemployment shot up to 49 percent.

I will also point you to the views of Tariq Ali in his recent piece, "From the Ashes of Gaza". A clip:

The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little
more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

and in perhaps one of the most interesting discussions that I have seen as of late, journalist Glenn Greenwald was interviewed on the right-wing talk radio program hosted by Hugh Hewitt. You can find a full transcript here and the discussion quite substantive considering the forum. Here is a sample of one of the exchanges:

HH: Let’s come back to that, but pause for a moment on Hamas. Do you think Hamas is a threat to the United States?

GG: No, I don’t think Hamas is remotely a threat to the United States. I think Saddam Hussein was more of a threat to the United States, and I don’t think he was a threat to the United States.

HH: Do you think Hamas is an extension of Iran?

GG: No, I don’t think Hamas is an extension of Iran.

HH: And do you believe Hamas is a terrorist organization?

GG: I mean, every person has their own definition of terrorism. The definition I use would include probably a lot more things than you would include, but I would include things like sending people to blow themselves up in pizza parlors and buses inside Israel to be acts of terrorism, sure.

HH: And does Israel have a right to exist unqualifiedly?

GG: Absolutely.

HH: And so given that Hamas is a terrorist organization that denies Israel’s right to exist, how do you think Israel ought to deal with the Qassam rockets, the 7,200 rockets, I believe, that have landed in Israel in the last many years?

GG: Well, I think that in order to answer that question, you have to look at the broader context, which is the fact that while I think Israel has a right to exist, I think the Palestinians have the right to autonomy over a land that virtually everybody outside of a few extremist religious sects in the United States and Israel recognize does not belong to Israel, recognizes it and should be Palestinian land. And so it’s not just a one-sided question, which is what should the Israelis do about rocket fire, the question also is what should the Palestinians do about the fact that they’re essentially occupied for a foreign army for four decades, and have walls built around them, and blockades imposed on them. And I think all these issues need to be resolved in order to have a real resolution. I think dropping bombs in a densely populated civilian area like the Gaza Strip isn’t going to solve any of it. It’s just going to exacerbate it.

The interview is very interesting and well worth your time. This is all for the time being, but I am sure that there will be much more to speak about as this situation continues to unfold.

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