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« Brief interval | Main | Aesthetics and opera »

November 09, 2003

Comments

Richmond

I caught the CBS 60 Minutes report tonight. The interviews with Rashid and Dennis Ross were absolutely damning. Arafat is a plain gangster who views the PA as a fiefdom and the Palestinians his loyal serfs.

huw

There were two other very important points that were aired on Jeremy Bowen's documentary.

1) The policy of demanding Arafat's removal has been a total disaster for all concerned. Whether it is the best thing for the Palestinians or not, demands by outsiders have simply shored up Arafat's position.

2) The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade explicitly said that the suicide murders didn't do anything for the Palestinians politically and that they were simple acts of revenge for Israeli killings. As far as I know this is the first time that they have admitted that they stand to gain nothing whatsoever from blowing up innocent people.

As for Oliver's opinion of Arafat, I agree entirely, but with one caveat. Ariel Sharon's death count is higher, he has done just as much damage to his own people's standing as Arafat has to his, and, to paraphrase, he has been a moral, political and financial disaster for the Israelis. Yet this goes unmentioned these days. It is fine to pin the tail on Arafat, but he is not solely culpable.

The Barak offer was not contiguous, the Gaza strip was completely cut off from the West Bank. The map of the offer itself shows quite clearly that the Israeli government's itentions were to castrate any future Palestinian country into Bantustans, little pockets of Palestinian territory in amongst the settlements - many of which were scheduled to remain. I agree that Arafat should have counter-offered but it ought to be remembered that what was offered was not the marvel that some commentators would have us believe. The Palestinians have a cast-iron claim on the pre-'67 borders, as many moderates in this will attest. If they had turned that kind of offer down, then I'd be more inclined to condemn.

huw

Clem Snide

Why do arab apologists keep insisting on some ridiculous "claim" that the "Palestinians" have? There has NEVER been a sovereign arab "Palestine" - that was the name the Romans gave to the Jewish state after they expelled the Jews. The "Palestinian" nationality didn't exist until modern Israel's independence, and was manufactured by the arabs through a policy of deliberate exlusion to deprive Jews of a homeland. The arabs already have most of Palestine under the name "Jordan", in additional to all their other, oil-rich territory. Much of their self-inflicted backwardness and suffering is due to their inability to live and let live. It seems to be part of modern leftist pathology to dogmatically insist that both sides are always at fault in a conflict, or even to blame the victim exclusively. But it is no crime to defend yourself against genocide, particularly for Jews, particularly for a democracy, and particularly when you're a democracy fighting against imperialistic totalitarianism. The "Palestinians" deserve nothing except to be treated with the same tolerance, compassion and respect they show to others. What anyone sees in these irredeemable arab butchers is truly beyond me.

ilana

Huw: I'm fascinated by this parallel universe you seem to inhabit where Sharon is not condemned. Maybe not on this blog, but Oliver is not the BBC with an obligation to give every side an equal hearing. But take the blogosphere as a whole - Sharon is a Nazi, the Israelis are the new pariah nation, to blame for all the world's ills, everything they do is apparently illegal or immoral. Perhaps you can direct us to a pro-Palestinian blog where they have some kind words for the Israelis?

Israel might do some things wrong and make mistakes, but when you get right down to it, Israel is not to blame for the ongoing hostilities. The Palestinians could have peace any time they decided to go for it honestly. Maybe they wouldn't get everything they want, but then neither would the Israelis. Sharon is not the point - Sharon has only been prime minister for a couple of years, the conflict has been going on for 50 years, and Arafat has been the Palestinian leader for many of those years.

Huw

Ilana, I'd look at that another way, personally. If Israel went honestly for peace at the same time as the Palestinians then the peace would be more likely to emerge and more likely to be workable.

As for Oliver not being the BBC: I don't expect BBC style equivocation. I find it all about as nauseating as you do frankly - especially over Iraq where Iraqi opinion was ignored. However I do expect intelligent and impartial comment on the facts as they stand - in this case it seems that the Middle East is the only subject where rampant abuse of the truth is allowed. I also expect people to give ground where they can be shown to be wrong. What I don't want is dogmatists like Clem to come on here saying Palestinians don't exist and that Israelis are the just defenders of this or that. That is bunkum. The real world gives no quarter to that kind of Playschool history.

I might ask also, on what grounds do you infer that the Palestinians are to blame for the current hostilities? I see no evidence that they are to blame alone. Or have I mistaken the Israeli government for a bunch of law-abiding Corinthians in woolly jumpers giving alms to the poor?

Huw

ilana

Huw:
The Palestinians are to blame for the start of hostilities because they rejected the 1947 UN partition plan.
They are to blame for the breakdown of the Oslo process because most people now recognize that they (or at least Arafat) were never serious about it in the first place, and violations began almost immediately.
They are to blame for the current intifada because they abandoned the process at Camp David (and all the subsequent justifications are just that), and launched an Intifada for which Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was just a pretext.
However you look at things, you cannot show me a single piece of evidence that Palestinians were ever seriously prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state on any part of the land between the Jordan River and the sea, and it is this intransigence that has fuelled a paraellel growing Israeli intransigence. You will still find plenty of Israelis who support a 2 state solution (i.e. Jews in one, Arabs in the other and no "right of return" for Arab "refugees") - can you find me a Palestinian who supports that? I suggest you compare the way the Israelis and the Palestinians have greeted each apparent step forward in the process - the euphoria on the Israeli side, the grudging criticisms or outright rejection on the Arab side (look at Egypt and Jordan). I suggest you compare the Israeli media (in Hebrew) with the Palestinian media (in Arabic) to see which side is perpetuating hatred. Your would-be sacrcasm about the Israeli government is misplaced - they may have reacted wrongly to things, but that's what it was - a reaction.
And if you're wondering why I put "refugees" in quotes: that's because no other people displaced by war (or whose ancestors were displaced by war) are considered refugees 55 years later. The UN made a special definition of refugees for the Palestinians.

Huw

The best way that I can express this is by taking up a cariacatured position of a typical anti-Palestinian poster on some of the blogs I frequent (the Indy for example). Surely you can see this position is absurd?

"OK, I think I'm finally getting it now. Palestinians are craven terrorists, overt or otherwise, and the Israelis might have done some bad stuff, but they didn't mean it. The Palestinians rejected the 1947 partition plan that pushed hundreds of thousands of them off land that they had a fair claim to - their families had been farming there for hundreds of years - when actually they should have said "Yes, come and take the land we have lived on for centuries, we gladly give it to you. The fact that you have more advanced farming methods that irrigate the desert gives you more of a right to the land than us." And they should have agreed to allow the massive increase in settlements which, whatever those pesky pro-pals say, was meant in good faith by the Israeli government who were totally committed to the Oslo Accords, despite the bit about abandoning settlements.

Yes, the world is so much clearer to me now. Refugees aren't refugees, they're people who just hang around trading guns and explosives. Also, why are they complaining? They've got a state next door in Jordan haven't they - where 70% of the population are Palestinian refugees descended from those of 1948? Why don't they just shove off there? I mean to say, us jews were on this land well before the Palestinians, although to be fair there were probably other people on it before us. And no I don't feel the slightest guilt that Palestinain arabs used to live in the house I live in now, the UN said we could have all this, so now it's ours - the fact that the same UN demanded we pull out of the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai is neither here nor there, or the fact that they condemned our nuclear programme, I like the UN when it likes me.

Some people say that we're culpable. They look at the way we mythologise the battle of '48, creating it into a stirring tale of derring-do against the venal arabs, and the massacres that took place and the fact that members of jewish terrorist groups became heads of state in Israel, adn they say "You were just as bad, and in many ways worse." But they're forgetting one crucial thing, Israel is a democracy, so if we decide to kill a terrorist and take out half his apartment block too then it's an accident, or collateral damage, but whatever they do in return is bad before it's been done, because they're not democratic.

And one thing you have to understand, all you pro-pals out there, is that we're not interested in any historical facts you bring up to back your arguments, especially mention of Chaim Weizmann negotiating with the Nazis, Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatila etc. The simple fact that some brainwashed Palestinians blow themselves up in crowded restaurants, full of innocent people means that we don't have to think rationally about this problem anymore. We can simply hold our noses over it in the knowledge that the unfortunate population of the Occupied Territories, who have been manipulated, tortured, incarcerated, robbed, betrayed and murdered by both Israelis and Palestinians over the years will remain in this position for the forseeable future, until they sit down and sign their future away on a bit of paper that we agree with. Our consciences, in sum, are clear."

huw

ilana

Careful, Huw: your distortions are showing where you're really coming from.

huw

You've lost me. I'm quite open about "where I'm coming from". Are you?

lee

what a load of rubbish. Refugees 50 years later in camps no less. No mention of course of the close to 800,000 jews who were kicked out or chased out of all the arab lands since 48. Who exactly has done the ethnic cleansing? who has a multicultural society? And why didn't they create a state between 48 and 67? what stopped the arabs?
Lee

Jono

huw, stop carrying on. I think people are getting sick and tired of people counting every misfortune and hardship that the Palestinians endure and idiotically attribute blame to the past and present Israeli governments.

I love the way you use your distorted language below:

"Palestinians over the years will remain in this position for the forseeable future, until they sit down and sign their future away on a bit of paper that we agree with."

Its one of the most bitter and sarcastic representations of reality that I have read. You have a strange way of describing how Israel offered the Palestinians everything they had asked for, within the tightest acheivable margin, and Arafat stormed out.

You sound like you are trying to echo Hamas' statements where they announce that the Palestinians have no right to give up an inch of land and that negotiations with the enemy are not the way to acheive their goals.

huw - you make it sound as if the Palestinians have to acheive a perfect outcome or else violence is fair and legitimate.

Do you think it was wise for them to continue (and even escalate) the violence against Israel rather than sign a piece of paper which "we" like (and happens to offer the Palestinians the best outcome and a state of their own) ?


huw

Jono,

I urge you to re-read what I wrote and think about why I write things like that. I have said before on this thread that Arafat should have counter-offered Barak, but you're forgetting the crucial point, that what was offered certainly was not contiguous and that whether it was the "best option" is a matter of opnion. Certainly it was the best thing that the Palestinians had been offered up to that point, but that doesn't preclude their acceptance of it, considering that they believe that the pre-'67 land is their entitlement, not something under negotiation.

I don't believe in perfect outcomes; and on the subject of violence - I believe that the Israeli military are occupiers, so violence directed at them is perfectly fine, and also legal by the way. I deplore violence against civilians no matter what the cause - my uncle had his leg blown off by the IRA. It hasn't stopped me supporting, broadly, the nationalist cause, but it won't stop me condemning, at every turn, the terror groups in Northern Ireland.

I don't like your insinuation that I support Hamas. Never have, never will. I can't say it often enough, I'm not a raving terrorist supporter, I don't sympathise with islamo-fascists, I believe Israelis have a right to security. You're mistaking me for a loony because you associate people who try to take the Palestinian side with tyrranical antisemitism, and because it suits your argument to claim I'm beyond the pale, as it does Ilana. You couldn't be more wrong.

Above all else I'm interested in truth and vigorous debate. I deplore the type of bloggers, and they exist in all camps, who insist that they are the fount of truth and integrity, then go and say somehting like "zio-nazis" or "Sharon and Hitler: the same" or whatever. And, if you read my posts carefully, you will see that I'm trying to break up that blogger's cartel, where people either slap each other on the back in full brimming agreement, or go for each other's throats as though killing was fashionable.

You say that you're sick and tired of me listing everything that has happened to the Palestinians and blaming it on the Israeli governments. Well I feel a little traduced. I deliberately didn't do that you see Jono, which is why I know you actually skim-read my post. What I was trying to do was satirise the "Joan Peters" point of view that prevails on this blog and others, where the Israelis are never, and I mean never, held accountable for anything, where islamic terrorism gets its due, but where only it is condemned, as though every one else was a saint; and where someone could be so indisputably stupid and callous as to insinuate that the Palestinians don't really exist. This is laughable, intellectually dishonest and truly not worthy of people who, by definition, ought to be interested in the complexities of truth, in each other's opinions and in casting their minds across the world, applying the standards of the oft-quoted but little-followed Orwell.

I don't equate Hamas with the Israeli military. Some Israeli military actions are contemptible, utterly brutal and destructive of any hopes of peace. Some are not. A tiny few actions could certainly be seen as terroristic, but, contrary to the PA, these are brought through the courts, and there have been a fair few soldiers that have gone to prison for their actions - though, like the UK, it seems politicians and heads of state can get away with anything.

I'm not asking you, or any other posters, to constantly list side by side the wrongdoings of both peoples, as if there would be any point to such a thing. What I do ask though, is that when people see Oliver writing about how awful Arafat is, and we all agree there, that we give a moment's thought to the people who have not been condemned on this blog, and probably never will be - Sharon in particular. I challenge anybody to maintain, in an argument, the line that "Ariel Sharon is an acceptable head of state". I truly cannot believe that people who care for politics and for truth would think such a thing.

It is crucial in international diplomacy, when you sit down opposite Colin Powell or Madeleine Albright or whoever, that you're negotiating from a position of strength. No quarter is given on the basis of charity. Countries, by and large, are out for what they can get. This system will always count against those who are stateless, those who are unsure of their underpinnings (i.e. undemocratic) and those who have AK 47s instead of nuclear armaments. That is a very easily understood thing, is it not? In the case of the Palestinians they have so many problems that negotiating from a position other than subservient, weakened and undermined is extremely difficult. They must pursue other forms of leverage on their counterparts in Israel. Sadly for some Palestinians this means terrorism - which, in the final assessment, will have not much to show but headstones - indeed we can conclude as such now. Then there are those who try resistance against the military - you can count most of the Palestinian population in that group - whose efforts are also largely doomed, and often self-defeating. Then, finally there are the peace camp, always at the mercy of the thugs on the block, the sheikhs and the brainwashed. The peace camp are the most easily undermined, the most idealistic and the first to be betrayed. But they are the only route to a solution. Can you see from this rather simple analysis that the Palestinians will always be the loser in these negotiations, these offerings? If it's not one of the above things that stops them then it'll be stupidity and callousness in government - Arafat not counter-offering Barak for example - that will finish off their hopes for another five years.

Anyway, I'll keep criticising Sharon and the Israeli government on this blog. I am unrepentant in that. I will also continue to speak against my friends and family who don't stop to think, don't read anything, or analyse anything, and who glibly support "the desperate" in their efforts to bomb irredentist islam onto the world. I think that's a fair enough position.

Huw

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