Monday, May 24, 2004


In Japan, news of the Western imperialist adventurism is rather filtered. As I mentioned earlier, the big news was the secret summit between the Japanese PM and Kim Jong-il, with barely any focus on the middle east aside from highly detached news summaries from the wires. Of course I was limited to seeing front pages of english media and the evening english broadcast of news, wo it was a filtered sample. For all I know the Japanese are left moonbats or jingo chickenhawks in kanji.

But the news of the Rafah incursion did break through, as passing mention. But only today after checking out the web did I find that there was serious tragedy involved, above the usual level of collateral damage. Imshin says it best:

I am so sorry that an Israeli tank killed those children in Rafiah, even if it was by mistake. I think of their mothers. My worst nightmare has come true for them. I can hardly begin to imagine their terrible anguish.

In the Intifada in the late 80’s, friends fresh back from reserve duty told that in some Palestinian homes that they had entered to conduct searches, they had come across little kids chained to their beds, to keep them from going out to throw stones, and maybe get shot or arrested. Can you imagine trying to bring up kids in such conditions?

Today’s Palestinian mothers must be the sisters of those kids. I wonder if they still chain them to their beds or if they’ve just given up.

(Note that Imshin has effectively answered Diana's question). Jonathan wonders if this is Israel's "Algeria moment", pointing out that what is really at stake is Israel's soul. What worries me even more, is the fate of my own nation's soul in our own occupation experiment. The parallels, and anti-parallels, between the occupation of Gaza and the occupation of Iraq are too radioactive for me to want to dwell on. But the boundaries of what do distinguish the two cases seem sometimes to be actively blurred by the present Administration, or at least their ideological foot soldiers - which is what worries me most of all.

UPDATE: via Diana, this article by Meron Benevisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who echoes the concern over the effect of occupation on Israel's collective identity:

Something basic has gone awry. If commanders, the sons of the fighters of 1948, send the grandchildren of the fighters for independence to "widen the route" - which means the expulsion of the grandchildren of the refugees of 1948 - on the pretext of existential threat, then there was something defective in the founding fathers' vision.

If, after half a century, their enterprise still faces existential threat, this can only mean that they condemned it to eternal enmity, and there is no community that can for years on end survive a violent war for its existence.

And if this is merely a pretext (and Operation Rainbow in Rafah was an instinctive reaction that evolved into second nature), we must reflect deeply and sadly on our responsibility for the enterprise that at its start embodied so many exalted ideals.

Is there some "original sin" that lies at the foundation of the Zionist enterprise?

While the concerns are well-founded, the answer to the last question is probably "No." I think it's a mistake to ask whether Zionism - defined as the vision of a Jewish homeland - is a flawed concept. Rather, the flaw lies in the execution, and there is a liberal, progressive Zionism whose architects have yet to assert themselves (or in the case of Rabin, perhaps paid the ultimate price for asserting it).

The lens by which I view the conflict has been forever altered by the Iraq War - so this is no longer an academic issue to me of an abstract conflict in a distant land, it's now a canary in the coal mine of our foreign policy. America is not Israel; I believe it is something better because it can be a homeland for Jews, as well as any other ethnic or religious group, without recourse to legal exclusions or preferences or defining values in a proprietary sense. The basic values upon which a successful society is built are not "Jewish" or "Christian" or "Muslim" or "Eastern" - they are universal to mankind. If there is an original sin to Israel's founding, it is in the assumption that for a homeland for Jews to prosper, it must reflect "Jewish values" to the exclusion of others - which is a false dichotomy under whose moral ambiguity the Occupation has been allowed to drift in purpose.


  1. I'll tell you that on preview the post looks neat with spaces and returns in the correct place. And then when it posts on the site it loses all the indentations and double spaces.

    AZIZ ON JONATHAN'S POST -Jonathan wonders if this is Israel's "Algeria moment", pointing out that what is really at stake is Israel's soul.That's not exactly what Jonathan said -disasters like this are impossible to avoid in counterinsurgency warfare. I'm beginning to think the Rafah campaign may turn out to be Israel's Algeria moment - that is, the moment of realizing that no matter how many military victories the IDF wins, it has become involved in a war that's impossible to win politically and is corrupting Israel's soul. It's past time to build a strong fence on the border, dig a canal along the Philadelphi corridor to prevent tunnel digging, and get the hell out.LATER HE CLARIFIES IN AN UPDATEThe Israeli foreign ministry has posted a communique (map) saying that the IDF didn't fire at civilians deliberately and that the casualties may have been caused when a shell set off an explosion in a nearby building.As I said above, I didn't think it was deliberate - if it wasn't a nearby explosion, it was probably a warning shot that went wrong (not that firing warning shots with tanks is a particularly good way of making a point). That only underscores the fact that it's impossible to fight this kind of war without disaster, even with the best of intentions. Gaza is a trap, and Israel has fallen in.What's notable is that what they did in Lebanon and that's what Sharon is proposing now, and the buildup of missiles on the border, power and standing of Hezballah, and the level of hot and cold conflagrations are much worse now.

    Imshin agreed that withdrawal will gain Israel nothing politically and will not mean Israel will not have to go back into the Gaza, in fact quite the opposite.

  2. "I believe it is something better because it can be a homeland for Jews, as well as any other ethnic or religious group, without recourse to legal exclusions or preferences or defining values in a proprietary sense."

    In your bombast, Aziz, you forgot to mention that non-Americans, aliens, are excluded; mainly because the idea of citizen/alien is a fundamental concept of the modern nation-state.