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November 22, 2012

 

BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!


THE DAY AFTER…

EDITOR: Where do we stand now?

After eight days of brital bombing of gaza, over 160 dead, over 1000 wounded, hundreds of houses flattened, roads uporooted, schools, offices, banks destroyed, and untold misery inflicted, where is the conflict finding itself? Where is Netanyahu and hius partners in crime? Let us go back a few months…

Summer 2011 has seen the most incredible scenes in Israel, the only non-Arab country in the Middle East. With The Arab Spring raging in most Arab countries with various degrees of success, Israel has experienced its own Social justice protest, on an unprecedented scale. Almost 500,000 people have marched through Israel on a number of key occasions, demanding a ling list of social reforms. Netanyahu used the well tried methods of killing social protest in Israel – he has called for elections, and like Olmert before him, went to war.

But this was a different time. Olmert went to war in the days of the Pharaoh Mubarak, while Netanyahu’s war is happening after the Arab Spring has changed Egypt. Partly he went to war to test Egypt, especially in the face ofa future attack on Iran. Partly he went to war to test Obama II, now that Obama is not so shackled to AIPAC for his re-election. On both counts he seemed to have miscalculated, like he did before when he put his money on Romney. So what is the result for him? It is clear that as far as Hamas is concerned, it won this round, against the mighty Israeli army, like Hizbollah has won in Lebanon in 2006.

On the face of it, Netanyahu has won. Over 90% of Jewish Israelis have supported the criminal massacre in Gaza, as they have done in 2008/9. But at the end of the day, when they return home, the old problems are still there, with a vengeance. Nothing has improved since summer 2011, but many things have got much worse, and the criminal war on Gaza has now exacerbated the social problems facing Israelis. Most Israeli Jews went to protest social inequalities, totally failing to see the biggest one – the brutal occupation. This also means that currently, there is no realistic solution to Israel’s social strife.

How will Israelis face Netanyahu, the man who said he will save them, and who has returned the bombs and missiles to the heart of Tel Aviv? How will they be able to support his ultra-nationalism and war-mongering, when it so clearly failed to deliver them security and social stability? How will they be able to ignore the simple truths they sang out in 2011?

The next few months will answer these queries. My own feeling is that Netanyahu will suffer for his attack on Gaza. No, not because he has killed so many Palestinians, but because, according to the Israeli public, he has not killed enough… becuase he agreed to the ceasefire, which 70% of the Israeli public was against, and because he called the reserves to Gaza, and then has not used them! Israeli society is sick, and the medicine for it is more killing, it seems.

I hope this reading is wrong, and that the social protest will start again, this time including the end of the occupation in its list of demands. But I also know this is not possible, and that the disease has struck at the heart of Israel’s social structure, and that fascism is rife as is extreme racism. In that sense, Netanyahu and Barak will reap what they sewed. What this means for Palestine only god knows, and as I am an atheist, I have no line to her…

Below I have included some of the Day After reactions in Haaretz. They obviously do not reopresent my views, as above.

Despite Gaza suffering, Hamas’ status is on the rise: Haaretz

Day after in GazaHamas declared victory after Cast Lead, but did not manage to convince the general public in the Gaza Strip. This time, however, even those who aren’t supporters of the organization respect its political achievement.
By Amira Hass     | Nov.22, 2012

Palestinian militants of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, on a truck, Gaza Strip, October 18, 2012. Photo by AP

Amira Hass

It’s natural that each of the two clashing sides would claim to be the winner in the cease-fire. Considering the balance of fatalities and the dimensions of the destruction, it’s clear who won – and there are those who are still making those cynical calculations, while blurring the large number of Palestinian women and children counted among the dead and wounded.

But if “victory” is measured by the support each side has for its leadership, apparently it can be said that the trophy indeed went to Hamas.

To the disappointment of many Israelis, there was no ground attack, and the cease-fire was achieved before the rocket launchers in Gaza showed signs of exhaustion.

This contrasts with the Palestinians in Gaza, who support the cease-fire – and not only because of the mark left by the IDF assault and the fear that the number of dead will continue to rise exponentially.

After Operation Cast Lead, Hamas also declared victory but then it did not succeed in convincing the general public in Gaza. ‘Another victory like this one and it will be possible to see Beit Hanoun from Rafah,” people joked bitterly, referring to the huge devastation the IDF left behind.

People also noticed that Hamas’ promise of surprises then, made before and during the ground attack, were empty boasting. Four years ago, too, Hamas demanded the lifting of the draconian blockade and the opening of the Rafah crossing point to free passage of goods and people – and failed.

What began at that time to crack the Israeli position and transform Gaza into an issue that doesn’t leave the international agenda was the shock at seeing the scenes of the attack along with the international solidarity, the height of which was the Mavi Marmara flotilla.

This time, even those who are not supporters of Hamas admire the political achievement manifested in the military surprises Hamas had up its sleeve. The ability to continue firing even under the intensive attack indicated the planning prowess of the movement, and its ability to learn from its mistakes.

The Palestinians saw not only heroism in the continuous firing of all kinds of rockets, but also identified long-term thinking in Hamas – a characteristic that many believe is lacking in the rival Fatah movement, especially since it became a corrupt ruling movement.

Thus, an important aspect in the Hamas victory is the clear strengthening of its standing among the Palestinians. It is not certain that Fatah would do well to insist on holding general elections for the Legislative Council in the near future.

Clearly, long-term thinking would not have helped Hamas had the Muslim Brotherhood not come into power in Egypt. However, part of the confidence that characterized Hamas in its move against the rule of the Palestinian Authority was the expectation of a popular Islamic uprising in the Muslim space.

In the Palestine Liberation Organization, they always say the Palestinian issue is central to the stability and peace in the region, if not in the whole world – but the organization has left this claim to the mercies of events over which it has no control.

Hamas relied on the bottomless capacity of suffering among the Gazans in particular while maneuvering the Gaza Strip as a separate entity that would open up to the Arab and Muslim world. As part of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is doing two things today: It is both returning the Palestinian issue to the center international attention and it is behaving like a regional power whose abilities and opinion have to be taken into account.

Winners and losers of Israel-Hamas cease-fire: haaretz

It is premature to assess whether the cease-fire is good or bad for Israel, but the winners and losers are already clear.
By Anshel Pfeffer     | Nov.22, 2012

An Israeli soldier stands atop a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip, November 17, 2012. Photo by Reuters

It would be a bit premature to assess whether the yet-to-be-signed agreement with Hamas is good or bad for Israel or whether it will guarantee a lengthy period of calm for the residents of the south. The cease-fire is still fragile and the next few days will be crucial. However, it is possible to point out at this stage some winners and losers.

Winners

The immediate winners from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on Wednesday to accept the cease-fire terms and call off a possible ground incursion into Gaza are both the civilians and combatants in Israel and Gaza whose lives have been saved by the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense. I open this list with them because it is important to remember that while we are speaking of winners and losers, this is not a football game.

Mohammed Morsi: Not long ago, U.S. President Barack Obama shamed Egypt’s new leadership when he publicly said that the country was neither America’s enemy nor its ally. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was seen as an oddball fanatic to be tolerated as long as he did not step out of line.

This week, Obama called Morsi three times a day, urging him to broker a cease-fire and now the administration can’t praise him enough. And it’s not just the United States; even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman publicly thanked Morsi at the press conference in which the cease-fire was announced on Wednesday night.

This was the week in which Morsi cemented his position, not just as the leader of the largest Arab nation, but also as a regional statesman. He hasn’t undergone a Zionist conversion and he still denounces “Israeli aggression,” but he knew he was acting in Egypt’s best interests when he made do with a limited diplomatic protest to Israel’s operation in Gaza and offered his services as a mediator. How Morsi uses his new role is up to him now. He also now has to deal with the unpleasant duty of being guarantor of the peace in Gaza.

Hamas’ political leadership: Even if the cease-fire agreement garnered them only part of their original demands, Hamas’ civilian leaders will be seen as having squeezed concessions out of Israel for the benefit of ordinary Gazans. The agreement is further de-facto recognition by Israel and the international community of Hamas’ government in Gaza. With Ahmed Jabari dead, Hamas’ civilian leaders also have one less rival in the behind-the-scenes power struggle going on within Hamas and these leaders’ deepening alliance with the new regime in Cairo strengthens their position.

The Defense Ministry’s Research and Development: The research and development directorate of the Defense Ministry had to battle the Israel Defense Forces General Staff to find funding for the Iron Dome system and was the target of a vicious smear campaign financed by defense companies that were passed over for the missile-defense contract. However, the Defense Ministry’s approval of the Iron Dome system has been vindicated by the 400 successful rocket and missile interceptions that have occurred in the past eight days. It wasn’t only their selection of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems system, but the entire concept of defense as a component of Israel’s tactical and strategic deterrence that was validated. It is a classic “Revenge of the Nerds” scenario that has major ramifications besides saving lives and preventing damage to property. This will strengthen the Israel Defense Forces’ technological branches’ efforts to secure a larger share of the defense budget at the expense of more tanks and combat jets, changing the way Israel will fight its future wars.

Ehud Barak: From his point of view, Operation Pillar of Defense could not have turned out any better. It was a swift military success for Israel that for once didn’t get bogged down or lead to a diplomatic setback. Swift and sophisticated is how Defense Minister Ehud Barak likes to do things and it will most likely attract voters seeking an experienced centrist in the upcoming elections. Barak is much closer now to ensuring that he stays around both in the next Knesset and as defense minister.

Losers

Benjamin Netanyahu: While Israeli pundits not usually among the prime minister’s fans complimented him on the measured way he conducted this operation and for ending it when he did, these are not his voters. Some commentators, mainly in the international press, have accused Netanyahu of launching the operation to help him in the upcoming elections, but chances are that he will lose votes from some of his more right-wing supporters who are exasperated with him for not going all the way in Gaza. Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, who throughout the operation called for a ground offensive, stands to gain these voters’ support.

Hamas’ military leadership: For over a decade the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades have relied on their primitive and inaccurate missiles to enforce a balance of terror against Israel, especially since the Shin Bet security service succeeded in breaking the back of the West Bank cells that produced suicide bombings. Now – with their arsenal depleted and Israeli towns relatively safe behind the Iron Dome – they have to come up with a new tactic and find a different Israeli weak spot. On Wednesday night they were firing in the air and rejoicing in the streets of Gaza, but in the cold light of day, Hamas’ military leaders know that they have not only lost their head, they have lost much of their leverage over Israel and their rivals in Hamas’ political wing.

Mahmoud Abbas: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both briefly visited the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah, but it was clear they were there only out of a sense of duty. Abbas still plans to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations next week but his thunder has been stolen by the other Palestinian leadership in Gaza. Hamas are the ones sitting in Morsi’s office and it is with them that Israel is holding meaningful – albeit indirect – negotiations. Abbas is as irrelevant as ever. Little wonder that the protests in the West Bank this week were directed as much against him as much as against Israeli occupation.

Barack Obama: The Gaza operation overshadowed Obama’s first foreign trip since winning re-election, including his historic visit to Burma. The fact that he had to urgently send Hillary Clinton off to the region and not to a football game was a reminder of how the Middle East has a tendency to suck in presidents. Obama is hoping to “pivot to Asia,” but he has found that the United States is still needed elsewhere.

To Gaza I did not go: Haaretz

I am a little journalist who partially misappropriates his role and betrays his mission. I run around the south, between the sites of destruction and traumatized residents, but to Gaza I do not go.
By Gideon Levy     | Nov.22, 2012

I am a little journalist who partially misappropriates his role and betrays his mission. Granted, I do run around the south, between the sites of destruction and traumatized residents. On hearing a siren I lay on the ground and cover my head with my hands, or find dubious refuge in some children’s clothes shop. I even gaze at Gaza from the highest hilltop in Sderot, but to Gaza I do not go, about its suffering I do not report. And as it is with me, so it is with every Israeli journalist.

The last time I was in Gaza was in November 2008. I reported then on an Israeli missile that hit the children of the Indira Gandhi nursery and killed their kindergarten teacher in front of their eyes. That was my last story from Gaza. Since then Israel has banned Israeli journalists from entering the Strip, and the journalists accepted this with typical obedience and subservience. Over the years they turned out to be the most loyal (and admired ) public servants: They know the beast’s soul. They know that their readers and viewers don’t want to know what is really happening in Gaza, and joyfully fulfill their desire. Not a word of protest from the journalists, whose government prevents them from filling their essential role.

Not that all are devoid of courage: The daring among them reported over the years from sites of war or natural disasters around the world. Heroes that they are, they were in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and even little me was in Sarajevo under a bombardment, in Japan when the earth shook and in Georgia went it went to war. The government of Israel did not express any self-righteous concern for our well-being, and we fulfilled our role, even when it was dangerous. Not only in Gaza, an hour and a quarter’s drive from our homes, a place that affects our lives immeasurably more than Fukushima.

During Operation Cast Lead, my colleague Amira Hass managed to get into Gaza via Egypt, thanks to her dedication, determination and second passport. This time no one even tried.

That’s how it is that Israel knows almost nothing about what is happening in Gaza. Somebody is making sure of that. The terrible killing of the Dalou family, for example, was covered as lip service to professional journalism, at the sidelines of the newspapers and news broadcasts. There is almost no tangible expression in the Israeli media of the destruction and death that Israel has sown and the great fear gripping one and a half million residents for a week, without a reinforced safety room, without Code Red alerts and without a shelter. They suffice with short, dry reports at the edges of the news. Occasionally, they bring some Ahmed or other on the line, and every report from there is accompanied by the words “according to Palestinians,” with hypocritical accusations that “the Palestinians are making use of photos of the horror,” as if this is the story and not the horror itself.

The issue has nothing to do with political outlooks, only with professional journalism: Israelis should know what is done in their name, even they really, really don’t want to know. That’s the role of journalism. Of course, the suffering in the south should be widely reported – I do it also – but we must not close our eyes to what is happening on the other side, even if it’s not nice to see a house blown up with all its residents.

Whoever wants to know these days what is happening in Gaza is invited to watch the international networks and read the newspapers of the world: Only there will they bring you the full story. Israel, and some of its journalists, will tell you that it’s hostile, slanderous and distorted journalism. They only want you to see Ashkelon and Rishon Letzion.

One needs to know what is happening in Gaza in order to know what is happening in Israel. Journalism that fails to do so, and doesn’t even protest, is conscripted hasbara. It’s nice when a military correspondent in a yellow helmet climbs onto a firefighters’ crane to show us the destruction of an apartment block; we can even somehow live with a military propagandist-commentator who only grunts for war. But reading out text messages from the authorities is not journalism. A real Israeli journalist should have been in Gaza right now. Without this, and with the negligible coverage from there, we are all little journalists.

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