In the spring of 2011 there was a call for Hamas to renounce violence by many powerful people including Barack Obama; for most of these people, this was not accompanied by a request for Israel to renounce violence as well; although there were some exceptions. At that time I posted the following Blog, which has been expanded at the end with a brief update on current events.
I agree with Barak Obama and others that Hamas should renounce violence; however I don’t see any reason why this should only apply to Hamas. They have offered no reason why they should apply one standard for one side and another for the other; instead they act as if it should just go without saying. If there is a good reason for this then they should make it however based on what I have heard in the past I suspect their reasons may be based on an enormous amount of propaganda that may not be backed up by a rational look at history and the principles required to implement democracy.
There is no doubt that Hamas has a violent history and they’ve killed many people which I don’t condone; however the Israelis have routinely killed many more than Hamas and other organizations they’ve been fighting against over the past fifty years. In most of these conflicts the Israelis have probably killed at least three or four people, innocent or not for everyone that their opponents have killed. That is a rough estimate but I know I have read several reports from credible sources that have provided better numbers. Also I have added a few links below from other sources, some of whom are much more familiar with the subject than me, for those that are interested in searching for more details. It is also true that the most extreme members of Hamas and other organizations have used extreme rhetoric about driving Israel into the sea; which I don’t condone either. However this isn’t the entire population of Palestine; in fact the main targets tend to be the poor that may be much less likely to be angry if they aren’t being occupied. The poor are the ones that have been caught in the middle of this since it began and the most powerful on both sides are the ones making the decisions and maintaining the constant state of war. In 1998ish they were making a lot of progress; there were organization like the Seeds of Peace working with the moderates on both sides to come to a compromise. There was a lot of potential to at least discuss and work out their differences at that time. Then Ariel Sharon made a trip to the Temple Mount on September 28 2000 with a armed escort of 1,000 Israeli police officers and the tensions flared up and they have been much worse since then. The moderates have for the most part been marginalized since then. They could have discussed their differences peacefully but instead they raised the stakes and created a situation that was much more volatile by using a major threat of force that was largely backed up with American military assistance. This wasn’t the beginning of course the history of this problem goes back at least to the creation of Israel in 1948, WWII or perhaps as far back as when they were ousted from Israel almost two thousand years ago.
They were actually first defeated militarily by the Roman Empire. One of the last battles they fought was the battle against the Israeli sect called the Zealots. At that time they were considered terrorists. This is typical for the rebels that are out of power; those that are in power are rarely ever referred to as terrorists even when they use the same tactics. They have often been considered fanatics, because they committed suicide rather than surrender, although I’m not sure this is an accurate portrayal. Some reports of this incident have indicated that they may have used desperate tactics because they were in a desperate situation. At the time they knew that if they were taken alive they would have been slowly tortured to death by the Romans which was the typical way they dealt with rebels at that time. The Zealots may have had legitimate complaints and justification for fighting to the death at that time but that was almost two thousand years ago. Since then they have been persecuted of course but these were mainly by those in power, which were for the most part the Christians; although at times it did include the Muslims. Many reports that I have read seem to indicate that the Muslims didn’t treat them any worse than they treated the Christians until after Israel was recreated; in fact the Jewish people may have been persecuted much worse by the Christians especially at the peak during WWII.
After WWII ended they of course created Israel on land that was for the most part occupied by Palestinians and at time they have often been at war with the Lebanese as well. One fact that is rarely ever mentioned is that it wasn’t the Palestinians or the Lebanese that was responsible for WWII which was their primary complaint at that time. When the Jewish people first fought for independence they were also considered terrorists; their conflict was with the British as much as it was with the Palestinians. Since then many of their wars have been preemptive and the people who paid the price were primarily those with the least power while those with the most made the decisions. Not only are the poor on the Palestinian side paying the price but so are the poor on the Israeli side. According to Naomi Klein in the Shock Doctrine, “In 2007, 24.4 percent of Israelis were living below the poverty line, with 35.2 percent of all children in poverty—compared with 8 percent of children twenty years earlier.” (p.439/529) She goes on to say, “The Palestinian economy, meanwhile, contracted by between 10 and 15 percent in 2006, with poverty rates reaching close to 70 percent.” (p.440/530) If the United States and Israel were holding the high ground they should put much more emphasis on protecting and educating those children and the moderates than they do on using weapons of mass destruction to intimidate the most extreme elements which isn’t working. The fact that they spend so much money to subsidize weapons in Israel and remain silent while money is diverted from the social programs that could reduce the poverty of both the Israelis and the Palestinians should raise some serious questions. The fact that on top of that some of the leaders from both countries including Benjamin Netanyahu have often been investigated for corruption; these charges usually don’t result in conviction but they often do indicate some degree of wrong doing which is often not addressed properly. While they are at war the public is often much less likely to pay attention to these things, perhaps due to emotional responses. Both the United States and Israel have a long history of relying primarily on force and economic pressure than they do on methods that are truly designed to advance democracy as they claim.
When the Israelis were out of power they often used the same tactics that the Palestinians use when they’re out of power and when they are in power they often use their ability to control the propaganda machine to portray their enemies as terrorists in the same way they have been portrayed in the past. This may not be an exact role reversal; things are rarely that clear; but it is way too close. The Palestinians have been living in poverty dependent on the Israelis for way to long and the most powerful Arab countries have for the most part abandoned them except when it suits their propaganda purposes. If the USA and Israelis want Hamas to renounce violence they should stop using economic apartheid tactics that are being designed to intimidate them to submit to authority without any real representation. Others including John J. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, Jimmy Carter, James Zogby etc. have done a better job describing the history of how the Israeli conflict has happened over the last few decades so I have included some links below for those of you who would prefer to check for yourself the details assuming you’re not already familiar with them. I have found that these sources seem quite reliable and if they have presented some of the facts differently from me they are probably right although I did the best I could without extensive research or rereading to keep the facts straight. I have also included a link to one of Abraham Foxman’s books where he presents the opposing view which I am a little skeptical of but you’re welcome to check the facts yourself.
The point I’m trying to make is that they should focus on protecting the children and preventing the long term conflict from continuing without end and they aren’t doing this by adopting a position that indicates that those with the most military might and control of the propaganda machine should be able to dictate terms to those without military might or access to a media outlet to get their points across. They cannot change the fact that it wasn’t the poor Palestinians or the Lebanese, especially the children, which were responsible for WWII and they are the ones being run out of their homes. By keeping them in a constant state of oppression the Israelis have been maintaining a breeding ground full of angry people that have little or nothing to live for the same way many Israelis had little or nothing to live for under the oppression of the Romans, Catholic Church and the Nazis. Ironically one of the biggest allies that are backing the Israelis now are the so-called Christian Zionists who believe they should back the Israelites because this will bring the “second coming” and then they will convert them to the “true religion.” These Christian Zionists are decedents of those that were the persecutors of the Jews and if they succeed in accomplishing their goal, or something close to it, there is the potential that they could just as easily become their new persecutors once they decide they want to “convert” them; which in the past has always involved violence to force beliefs on others.
Neither Israel nor Hamas will end this conflict if they keep teaching their children to continue the fight and to hate each other indefinitely from one generation to another!!
Before preparing this blog I Googled the title to see if anyone else was making the same pioint and was pleased to find that Linda McQuaig beat me to it.
Linda McQuaig “If Hamas Must Renounce Violence so Should Israel”
John J. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, “The Israeli Lobby”
Jimmy Carter, “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid”
James Zogby, “Arab Voices”
Richard Gabriel “Operation Peace for Galilee”
Abraham H. Foxman “the Deadliest Lies
The following are a few of Judy Mandelbaum’s past blogs on Israel; she is more familiar with the situation than I am and she has posted dozens of blogs on the subject which I recommend.
"Jews for Justice" set sail to challenge Gaza blockade
Rachel Corrie crew to be deported from Israel
UPDATED: The "Rachel Corrie" boarded by Israeli troops
Won't anyone think of "the children"? On media hypocrisy
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
On Wednesday Israel conducted another assassination; this was followed up by rocket attacks. Sources: Hamas says 'gates of hell opened' as Israel kills military leader in Gaza (Guardian) and Israel's assassinations raise questions (Al-Jazeera) This is a part of a much bigger pattern of assassinations without judicial process that has been escalating dramatically in the past twelve years according to the Wikipedia List of Israeli assassinations. the United States has also declared that it now has the right to assassinate people without judicial process according to the New York Times, Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.
Benjamin Netanyahu has said that, “No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire.” He has also declared that his country should have the right to defend itself and of course Barack Obama has also declared that Israel should have the right to defend themselves. Once again they have declined to apply the same principles to the other side. If the other side conducted as many assassinations as Israel does would this be acceptable? Should the other side also be allowed to “defend itself?” Since when do assassination attempts have anything to do with self-defense?
According to one report that I heard yesterday there had been 66 Palestinians killed since Wednesday and 3 Israelis. Less than an hour after this report they came out with breaking news about a Palestinian family of ten that was killed. Most of these people were innocent bystanders. Some of these reports in the USA have indicated that Hamas should bear the brunt of the blame when they put their rocket batteries in areas occupied by civilians. There may be some legitimacy to this claim but it still doesn’t change the fact that the Israelis are killing more people at a ratio of at least 22 to 1 and they initiated the escalation of this conflict with another extra-judicial attack and the timing of this seems to be heavily related to the election. This isn’t the first time that this has happened; as I wrote previously this also happened when Ariel Sharon made a trip to the Temple Mount on September 28 2000 with a armed escort of 1,000 Israeli police officers. This also led to an increase in tensions and the Israelis responded by electing the same person that escalated the tensions. In the nineties after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by his own people Benjamin Netanyahu stirred up tensions then as well and this led to another escalation in violence which led the people of Israel to elect one of the people responsible for stirring up violence; although Shimon Peres also led the violence after Netanyahu contributed to stirring up resentment. Apparently 5 of last 7 elections took place after IDF ops but they haven’t always worked out well for those in power at the time.
If the Israelis respond out of anger again by reelecting Netanyahu this will only lead to an escalation in violence and the continuing of the past tactics that have never made them any safer. As described in Gaza redefines election talk , “The rise of the social protest movement, the transformation of the Labor Party's focus from peace to social change and the growing disaffection among working-class Israelis, many of them conservative Likud voters, with the government's economic policies - it seemed like Israel would finally enjoy a political season like that of any normal country.” But now it appears as if they may be deciding it on the threat of violence once again.
Benjamin Netanyahu has a history of angry and corrupt behavior; he has been involved in several financial scandals including one where Edna Arbel recommended in 2000 that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud and breach of trust and another incident where his wife was accused of abusing her housekeeper and perhaps had a history of abusing other housekeepers as well.
The practice of initiating attacks is clearly not making Israel any safer; nor is it any more effective when the United States does it. As I indicated in several previous post including Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? violence starts early, often with early child abuse and corporal punishment, and escalates. In the long run if more people understand that then they may be much less likely to vote for someone that supports policies like Netanyahu. Fortunately Israel has already taken steps in the right direction in preventing this; In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled against all violence in childrearing (Natalie Bako v The State). Source: endcorporalpunishment.org Whether this has an impact on the upcoming election will be difficult if not impossible to determine but even if it doesn’t it may eventually lead to a less violent society. Palestinians have also taken steps in the right direction on banning corporal punishment but they may still need to do more according to the report from endcorporalpunishment.org. If this contributes to the election it will almost certainly not be recognized since only those that have looked closely into it would recognize that it might have an impact but it could have a positive impact at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.
However this will be much less likely if they’re still teaching their children to hate the Palestinians as indicated in the photo above from 2006.