1 August 2014
Rally started off modestly. Bit of rain, but never enough to prompt everyone to put up umbrellas (I took mine down every now and again to take pictures). As I said, I truly hate dealing with this issue as I have friends on both sides of it.
Israel launched 'Operation Protective Edge” on 8 July 2014. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in place for a long time, since Hamas took power in the summer of 2006, which in turn followed Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. “Operation Cast Lead”, lasted from the end of 2008 to a little into 2009. In late 2010, several groups funded a Ship to Gaza that tried, unsuccessfully, to deliver supplies through the blockade. In March 2012, there was some bombing of Gaza. That November, “Operation Pillar of Defense” took place, where Hamas successfully applied many lessons from previous wars.
Clearly, support for Israel in Congress and the Senate is very strong, as seen by their voting 100% to support Israel against Gaza, but for Europe and America's younger demographic, support for Israel is hard to come by (Americas over 50 support Israel, but for those under that, and especially for those under 30, support is really thin), My theory on that is that the “David vs. Goliath” narrative, the tale of the plucky, brave, determined underdog battling against the big, ugly heavy, the hero of the narrative has now switched from Israel to Gaza. Israel used to be the sympathetic figure, battling enormous odds with bravery and determination. The larger Arab world has now faded from view and Israel is now battling the much smaller and weaker Gaza. As I pointed out earlier, sympathy is immensely important in a heavily political war.
In reading this Mondoweiss piece, it's pretty clear that the traditional media is swinging around to be against Israel. CNNs' Erin Burnett has hardly impressed me as a liberal, but her reports here were hard-hitting and must have caused AIPAC a lot of concern. Looking through my Facebook news feed for what the Gaza supporters among my friends say, I see complaint after complaint over Israel's heavy-handedness, it's denial of Gaza's ability to interact with the world, the four young boys on the beach who died on July 16th (Fair.org pointed out that US media felt obliged to soft-pedal that particular story after first having described it accurately) There may not have have been an explicit warning to stay off the beaches during “Protective Edge,” but Palestinians certainly interpreted it that way.
An August 1st tweet from NBC News Foreign Correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin suggested that beaches had been cleared for nearly a month: “Gaza Beach, Gaza. Incredible scene. 2nd hour of ceasefire, dozens of kids swimming and playing along the beach. And for the first time in nearly a month, Gaza's fishermen en masse are casting their nets. Hopefully, it will be a good catch.”
Shortly after, Mohyeldin added: “Gaza Beach, Gaza. Haunting. The beach has cleared out as shelling and fighting resumes across Gaza 4.5 hours into a 72 hour ceasefire. I took the same picture two hours ago. What a sad difference.”
Also, Juan Cole, who has stated in the past that no, it is quite normal for life to continue during wartime and during guerrilla conflicts, with people going to the beach, shopping and other daily activities, concluded here that perhaps Israel did not have such precise control over their weaponry as they claimed to have. So for Palestinians to have stayed off of the beaches and to cut back their usual daily activities still made sense from their perspective.
This piece from the Huffington Post is, I think, pretty fair to both sides (I certainly agree with its characterization of Hamas). The part that I really disagree with is the thought that opposition to Israel is largely based on racial Anti-Semitism. I should add that I've never believed that American domestic opposition to Obama was ever primarily a racial thing either. Racial feelings certainly play a role in both instances, but the right wing here believes that they should run the country and that Democrats and liberals are simply wrong. They oppose the black President, but first and foremost, I believe they oppose the Democratic President who wants to institute liberal policies. I believe that the opposition to Israel comes from applying higher, more civilized standards to Israelis than to ISIS or to Bashar al-Assad of Syria. We think Israelis are capable of more. Yes, that might show a sort of reverse-racism and it might downplay Assad's humanity to hold Assad to a lower standard, but just as with the American black and Democratic President, I don't think straight-up Anti-Semitism is really the problem here.
If Israel did as the blogger suggests and withdrew all the way back to their 1967 borders, would Hamas be satisfied? Probably not, but the real issue here is: “Would Palestinians in general be satisfied?” If the general population finds a solution acceptable, then it isn't really important what the small group of die-hard fanatics feels. The fanatics need the larger, general population on their side in order to wage war. If Israelis buy them off by making reasonable accommodations, then the die-hards become irrelevant. In the current situation, the die-hard fanatics are highly relevant because the population feels that Israel is out to get them and will be satisfied with nothing less than driving them into the sea.
A blog post was published, and then withdrawn, by the Times of Israel. It was titled “When Genocide is permissible.” It's an open question how many Israelis are thinking the same thing, but the fact that it saw the light of day in the first place confirms for Palestinians that Israel won't be satisfied until all Palestinians are dead. With 1,400 Palestinians having been killed in Gaza over the past month, many of them children and many while in schools or hospitals, it's hard for Israel to exploit any kind of break between Hamas and Palestinians in general. Also, as the Huffington Post blog post says, Israel's settlements policy is completely inexplicable from a vantage point that says Israel isn't out to create an apartheid state or to simply obliterate Palestinians.
Is Israel committing war crimes? In the sands of Northern Africa in 1942 or on the steppes of Russia in 1943, war could be waged without many civilians involved. The fighting area was largely confined to the uniformed military of both sides. Can that be done in the Gaza of 2014? No. The place is simply too small and the weapons used so destructive and inaccurate, that it's simply impossible to wage war there without massive civilian casualties.
Will Israel win its fight against Hamas? Possibly, but “For all the devastating firepower of Israel's air force, tanks and artillery deployed against a few thousand Hamas gunmen, it is unlikely to permanently eliminate them and thus win a military victory. And, even if it did, the victory would not be conclusive since the Palestinian sense of oppression is so great that some other armed group, possibly in the shape of Isis (the self-tagged Islamic State), would soon take its place.”