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Let’s End The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Once And For All: Towards A Ceasefire, An End to the Israeli Occupation, Towards A Negotiated Settlement of the Conflict

July 25, 2014
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Palestinian father carrying his dead child, one of many, killed by the IDF in a senseless war on Gaza with no strategic goal whatsoever

Palestinian father carrying his dead child, one of many, killed by the IDF in a senseless war on Gaza with no strategic goal whatsoever

(Note 1: This is the first of a series I hope to write on the current Israeli war on Gaza. There will be a follow-up piece specifically on U.S. policy. I also hope to be writing some stuff with dear friend and frequent co-collaborator, Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni.

Note 2: a few hours after I posted this a 12 hour cease-fire between Israel and the Gaza Palestinians was agreed by both parties. Today is “El Quds” Day…the last Friday prayer of the Ramadan month of fasting. It might not mean much to North Americans and Europeans, but in the Moslem World, it is an important day. It means “Jerusalem Day”…and today the West Bank blew up in opposition and anger to the Israel war on Gaza, so much so that Mohammed Abbas and his Fateh group fears losing control of the situation, greatly complicating the Israel’s position. It is also true, although essentially blacked out in the US, that the Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, gave an important speech today in which he pledged support for the Gaza Palestinians. In the West Bank already at least seven have died, hundreds arrested. For Israel it now means that it is opposing Palestinians on two fronts, [possibly three] simultaneously – Gaza and the West Bank – it is more than likely that this deteriorating situation for Israel is behind the call for a 12 hour cease-fire.

Note 3: the piece has been published at Foreign Policy In Focus.

cheers, rjp)

It goes on…now in its 19th day…Israel’s punishing military offensive against Gaza. Although it might happen – these conflicts have ended abruptly in the past –  at the moment there is no ceasefire in site. The asymmetrical blow-for-blow continues. As many have pointed out, it is not a war, but an Israeli premeditated killing spree of Palestinian civilians. Nor is this the first time. Each day the casualty numbers mount. The published statistics are at best only “guestimates”with the real figures being significantly higher. How many more Palestinian civilians will be pulled from the rubble in the months after the fighting stops? How many bodies will never be found?

At last count this morning (Friday, July 25, 2014) more than 850 Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded.Now massacres on the scale of Deir Yassin are now being reported, as in Khuza’a, on Gaza’s border with Israel where civilians are being summarily executed. Essentially all of Gaza has become “a military target,” from boys playing soccer on the beach, the Palestinian families breaking their Ramadan fast in the evening. Gaza, its infrastructure already seriously damaged by the Israeli attacks of 2008 and 2012, looks the Warsaw Ghetto after the uprising there was finally crushed – a smoldering heap; no infrastructure whatsoever left. If Israel has been “careful” it has been to destroy what is left of standing buildings, hospitals, schools, United Nations headquarters.

For its part Israel claims some 40 killed but the rocket fire from Gaza has added a new element into the equation: creating fear in Israel. The rockets themselves have done little physical damage, but they have created a new psychological tension in Israel. They appear to be mostly a homemade variety with some added booster capacity that permits them to fly deeper into Israeli territory. Several have landed close to Tel Aviv Airport and earlier in the fighting there were reports of rockets reaching Dimona, Israel nuclear weapon manufacturing plant.

The Obama Administration’s initiatives to achieve a ceasefire, crafted entirely in Israel, have produced no results, in large measure because neither Israel nor Washington is willing to talk to the Palestinians on the ground in Gaza involved in the fighting. John Kerry is coming off each day as a more pathetic and frustrated figure as he ferries back and forth between Israel and Egypt, occasionally talking to Mohammed Abbas in Ramallah who frankly, has virtually no influence over the events in Gaza. Very few voices are calling on Kerry – and the Israelis – to do the obvious: negotiate directly with the Gaza Palestinians for a cease-fire.

Regardless if Israel “wins” this round militarily it has already lost politically and morally. This has become something of an Israeli tradition, winning militarily and losing politically and ethicall y and they are at it once again. Lebanon, 1982, Lebanon, 2006 (actually one can argue that in this case Israel did not even win militarily), Gaza 2008, 2012 all follow this pattern. For its current Gaza assault, Israel will pay dearly; this military offensive that had no strategic goal whatsoever other than to punish the population of Gaza and to “teach the Palestinians a lesson.” It is not in Israeli lives lost or the human suffering that I speak, but in its legitimacy as a nation in the international community. If the media in the United States has given the conflict its usual one-sided pro-Israeli slant, in the rest of the world, Israel’s name is “mud”.

Besides its savagely cruel, viciously racist quality, this IDF attack on Gaza has virtually no strategic value for Israeli security whatsoever. Some elements in the U.S. peace movement have proposed that Israel’s strategic goal is to weaken the growing Palestinian unity between Hamas and Fateh in the aftermath of their having signed a unity statement. Perhaps, but that unity remains fragile and is far from being a threat to Israel militarily or politically. I am not convinced that this is the major impetus for the current Israeli military campaign.

Rather, the political impetus is much more vulgar, less strategic. It is coming from the decades-long growing political influence of the Israeli religious and political right-wing (the Liberman faction). It is concentrated in the settlements who did not want to limit the revenge for the killing of three Israeli settlement youth to the kidnapping and burning alive of a Palestinian youth (sanctioned by a settlement rabbi). This is a “revenge attack” pure and simple, the political goal of weakening an already weakened Palestinian unity is a secondary factor. Zbignew Brerzinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor under Carter, a hawk if there ever was one, understands this and has openly criticized Israel’s war on Gaza as a “major strategic error” on Netanyahu’s part.

In this morning’s news (July 25, 2014) Moshe Feiglin, a Knesset member from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, publicly called for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Gaza and their replacement with Jewish settlers, about as sparkling  a call for ethnic cleansing as can be imagined.  Not to be outdone, Rabbie Dov Lior, spiritual guide of the illegal settlement Kiryat Arba took matters a step further. In an article from the Israeli press (Haaretz) the ultra-Orthodox rabbi issued a religious ruling permitting the total destruction of Gaza if Israel’s military leaders deem it necessary. I believe that is called genocide. Yes, these are coming from the far-right of Israel’s political spectrum, but that element is growing and its demented vision resonates with a growing number of Israelis.

It is getting increasingly difficult for Washington and Tel Aviv to put makeup on this increasingly rotting corpse that is Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. One cannot bomb the Palestinian civilian population into smithereens and expect the world to accept the lame pretext that Israeli actions are “defensive.” A local Denver Jewish supporter of Israel (who supports the Gaza Offensive) was quoted as boosting that “the world stands with Israel” at this moment. Yes and no, mostly no.

True enough the AIPAC-bought and paid for U.S. Congress, the Obama Administration and the mainstream U.S. media generally support the IDF, but other than that, Israel – along with the Obama Administration – stands isolated and condemned throughout the world. Spontaneous demonstrations against the Gaza offensive are mounting worldwide from Chicago to Calcutta. They are becoming angrier and more militant with each passing day. Israel’s moral authority has, once again, collapsed; it has, in the past and only with the greatest of difficulties – and much help from Washington – been able partially resurrect its image as “the Middle East’s only democracy.”

Worse, imagine, that the Gaza Palestinians had the nerve not to turn the other cheek and die like flies. Using the meager means at their disposal, they fight back and continue to do so. That their tinsey-winsey military capability has been able to survive at all, and in fact, give the IDF a bit of a bloody nose, suggests a certain maturity in Palestinian military organization and tactics. If the Israelis with their highly polished war machine and ruthless targeting of the civilian population can do untold damage to Gaza, it is not without themselves taking more of a punishment than they are used to.

The casualty rates of 100 (or is it 200 or 300 by now?) to 1 (Palestinians to Israelis) is typical of other wars against Third World peoples…Vietnam, El Salvador, Iraq. The rationale is not novel: make the aspirations for liberation too painful, the price too high to pay so that the colonized and oppressed people will cry “uncle”. I asked a colleague of mine at the University of Denver, an expert on Southeast Asia, recently gone to greener (and less corporately controlled) pastures if the casualty figure of 3.5 million Vietnamese killed (versus some 56,000 Americans) was accurate. He suggested that the losses sustained by the Vietnamese were probably higher, in the 4-4.5 million range.

How different is that from what the Israelis, using American-made weapons with a green light from Washington D.C. and the American mainstream media cheering them on, are inflicting today on the Palestinians?

If a strategic goal lacks, the current Israeli onslaught does have a tactical goal: it is to force the Gaza Palestinians to accept a ceasefire which maintains the pre-fighting status quo. The Gaza Palestinians are insisting on a ceasefire that will end the political deadlock on their situation in Gaza…ie, open the borders to the free flow of people and goods, end the situation in which Gaza is no more than an open air concentration camp blocked and blockaded on all sides.

Are they any lessons to draw from this?

I think so. It all depends on whether those involved want to learn from experience and history or to continue with an ostrich approach.

The main lesson is very simple but clear: there can be no military solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s attempts to destroy the Palestinians militarily are a failure; this will continue to be the case. Every war Israel fights against the Palestinians will be bloodier, the outcomes less predictable for Israel both politically and militarily. For all their military might, Israel’s use of extreme force to break the will of the Palestinian people has failed and will continue to fail. It is a dead-end. For all the destruction wreaked upon Gaza, the Palestinian cause, battered and suffering as it appears, will emerge stronger from the ashes of Gaza than before. The status of those Palestinians engaged in confronting the IDF militarily will soar, both among the Palestinian people and throughout the region. While I do not doubt the demented sincerity of Moshe Feiglin and Rabbi Dov Lir to ethnically clean  and/or exterminate the Palestinian people in Gaza, such fascist calls – because that is what they are – would, if implemented, spell Israel’s doom as a nation. To repeat: this line of thinking is a dead-end.

From the Palestinian perspective, let us be clear. Used as a defensive shield against Israeli military might, their resort to armed struggle makes sense. Those who call on the Palestinians to pacifist solutions, however sincere, ought to have their heads examined. Who are you, sitting in faraway places, to lecture the Palestinians – or any other people – on what tactics they should employ to win their freedom and independence? Thou lectureth too much.

That said, it is quite clear that the Palestinian use to armed struggle, armed self-defense has its limits. It will not by itself, it cannot by itself, lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.  Put another way, the Palestinians cannot achieve their political goals uniquely militarily any more than Israel can, not in the foreseeable future, nor in the long run (from what I can tell).

So if neither side can achieve their goals militarily and if both can hurt the other party to one degree or another – the Israelis inflicting human and material damage, the Palestinians more and more inflicting psychological damage and more military damage on the IDF than in the past – what are the options open to resolving the crisis?

This crisis can only be resolved politically, through negotiations. There will be no military solution. Period. Of course Israel – and its U.S. supported – are tied to the hip with military solutions. Rather than understanding how their cause of assuring Israeli security has been damaged by the Gaza events, many of them are arguing a la Feiglin and Dor Lin for an even more savage use of force…if only the IDF had hit Gaza harder!…imagine.

I don’t know how to convince Israelis that such a line of thinking is a dead-end, a road to nowhere and in the heat of battle the current polarization – the growth of ethnic hatred – will only intensify. But there are in Israel some people who are not as stupid and bigoted as Igor Liberman and his fascist clique and they are beginning to have a more sober view of the situation. Too little too late? Perhaps.

I would like to put forth some suggestions, now in the heat of battle, to resolve the crisis, both short and long-term.

1. It must start off by an acknowledgement – already upheld by international law – that Israel is an occupying power and has conducted a military occupation of Palestinian territories (the West Bank, Gaza, E. Jerusalem) now since 1967. The Palestinians are a colonized and occupied people. Israel is a colonial power.

2. Any settlement of this round of fighting must have as its goal an end to the Occupation.

3. Concerning the current situation, there needs to be direct contacts between the IDF and the Palestinian fighters on the ground in Gaza to arrange a ceasefire. Serious negotiations take place between the key adversaries; not cherry picked opponents.

4. There needs to be an immediate end to the land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip; Gazans need to build a decent port and airport. Negotiations would of course include limits on the transfer of weapons

5. A process of mutual de-militarization of the border between Gaza and Israel, in stages, should be implemented.

6. Prisoner exchanges, promised in the past, should be honored. New ones should be implemented

7. The Palestinian Unity Government should be recognized by the entire world (through the U.N), free elections should in no way be impeded and the results should be respected, regardless of the outcome

8. All of these steps could within a specific timeframe determined by the parties to be reasonable, lead to an overall negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the Occupation. The negotiations should be based on 47 years of United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

As Uri Avnery, Israeli long distance runner for peace puts it: “Let’s put an end to the war once and for all.”





14 Comments leave one →
  1. Cathleen Krahe permalink
    July 27, 2014 5:49 pm

    Good article.

  2. July 28, 2014 7:56 am

    Thanks for your always honest and right-on analysis. What’s happening is very sad.

  3. aurelia aurita permalink
    July 29, 2014 2:12 am

    Reblogged this on Nuevas cartografías de la energía and commented:
    Después de más de un mes sin entradas, de regreso a Barcelona, aunque hablar de Palestina no sea el objeto de nuevas cartografías de la energía, ante la gravedad, inmoralidad e injusticia de lo que allí, ahora, acaece, he decidido rebloguear la nueva serie de entradas de mi amigo Rob Prince en mi blog.

  4. kerim permalink
    July 29, 2014 10:02 am

    There are a few more factors, in relation to why Natanyahu is still determined to carry on his genocide and destruction , and doesn’t know when or how to stop .
    Factor one, Natanyahu is granted a full support to crush Hamas – Not only from its ally, the USA – but from General Sissi himself . Who would ever thought that Egyptians would one day team up with Israel , against their own palestinian blood brothers ? To illustrate my point, there is practically no family in Gaza that doesn’t have egyptian relatives, of some sort , yet what does it say about Gen. Sissi and his altered state of mind ? You wouldn’t believe your eyes when you see egyptian TV-personalities & anchormen, praising Israel daily for its assault on Gaza, and calling Natanyahu a hero !!!
    Factor two : Although Sissi – broke as he is – is offering to Israel his moral support only, but acts on behalf of his “big Sponsors” , on the other side of the Red Sea, namely the KSA , the UAE & Kuwait . These are the guys who feared the Arab Spring, and did all they could to disrupt its course . They’ve ” hired” Sissi in, to topple a democratically elected president, and sponsered the coup, without any doubt . They sent Death Squads to Syria, to Libya, and even to Tunisia, thanks to our “wealthy” but mean brothers of ours ! They’ve decided, on a bad morning, that they don’t like these changes occurring all around them, and felt for a moment , that the winds of change is possibly coming their way . So they panicked and started shooting in all directions . Actually , they ‘re “paying” Israel to finish off Hamas ( for its relationship with Iran ? )

  5. kerim permalink
    July 31, 2014 5:06 am

    Rob, please no misunderstanding !
    All I wanted to say, is that other new parties are now involved in the conflict . Parties who switched sides, to make things worse for the palestinian cause, all together . And, unfortunately, as I’m typing, the number of deaths reached 1,390 , and will unlikely stop there . The humanitarian situation is beyond description…Gaza is being made a true death camp , and Gazans sitting ducks to missiles and canonballs, with nowhere to run to . I bet Natanyahu will go in History as the the cold-blooded Butcher of Gaza, breaking Sharon’s record when it comes to committing atrocities, that can be qualified as True War Crimes . Natanyahu makes the perfect-war-criminal, who learned nothing from what W W II had tought us .

    • July 31, 2014 6:29 am

      Kerin..Not sure to what you are referring…what misunderstanding?

      • kerim permalink
        July 31, 2014 7:39 am

        Rob, I gave my first comment, realizing I drifted off the main subject, but because of the latest developments happening in Gaza, and the “sadistic” attitute of the israeli leadership, regarding their desire to “over enjoy” this systematic destruction and indiscriminate mass killings, I forgot to comment on the subject . Rob. the images I’ve seen are heartbreaking, and beyond belief. The amount of destruction at Al Shujaya. is done almost – à la Hiroshima – where whole blocks were levelled, or perhaps a level4 – hurricane that would touch down on a city and level it .
        The Independent newspaper has on its site, a collection of some 170+ outstancing quality pictures, from the “Crime Scene”, but utterly moving pictures . It’s updated every few days, but worth gazing at…well taken & pretty expressive .

        • July 31, 2014 7:57 am

          Kerin…as always, appreciate the incisiveness of your comments and your humanity…yes, to call it heartbreaking is an understatement. words fail me (well maybe not – but i find myself unable to articulate in words the sadness and rage at the injustices Israel is perpetrating on the Palestinian people)

  6. kerim permalink
    July 31, 2014 8:56 am

    Speechless might be the right word…And if you add to the whole tragedy, that Egypt, and the Gulf Monarchies are waiting eagerly to hear the news that Natanyahu had promised to bring to them . A truly absurd situation where no logic can be found . Rather a mixture of greed for some, prestige for some, fear for others…the whole package is then sealed and funded by petro dollars, put by the monarchies at Natanyahu’s disposal to finish the job . It sounds fiction, but it is not . The Arab Spring is put on a death-row, as far as the petro-monarchies are concerned .

  7. Eugene Fitzpatrick permalink
    July 31, 2014 11:50 am

    Never till our dying day, and beyond, should we forget that the Americans are holding Israel’s coat while it carries on the butchery. Never forget Susan Rice’s celebratory glee as she announced in the last 48 hours the gift of more machinery of death that Obama, to her high praise, was sending to Israel. Two people of color aiding and abetting a nation controlled by the descendants of Caucasian residents of the former Soviet Empire as they carry on their pathologically frenzied obsession to purge a dark skinned indigenous people from their ancestral home. Dr. King and Frederick Douglass must be profusely weeping.

    • kerim permalink
      July 31, 2014 10:17 pm

      Eugene, there’s a Cause to every Effect .
      Robert Fisk wrote today an article in The Independent, tackling some of the questions you’ve raised, about the grip of the jewish Lobby .

      Here is the integral tekst :

      ” Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts .
      Robert Fisk
      Thursday 31 July 2014

      There was a time when our politicians and media had one principal fear when covering Middle East wars: that no one should ever call them anti-Semitic. So corrosive, so vicious was this charge against any honest critic of Israel that merely to bleat the word “disproportionate” – as in any normal wartime exchange rate of Arab-to-Israeli deaths – was to provoke charges of Nazism by Israel’s would-be supporters. Sympathy for Palestinians would earn the sobriquet “pro-Palestinian”, which, of course, means “pro-terrorist”.
      Or so it was until the latest bloodbath in Gaza, which is being so graphically covered by journalists that our masters and our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic, but fear of their own television viewers and readers – ordinary folk so outraged by the war crimes committed against the women and children of Gaza that they are demanding to know why, even now, television moguls and politicians are refusing to treat their own people like moral, decent, intelligent human beings.
      Yet still – every time another blood-soaked child appears on the screen – the news presenters talk about the “blame game”. BLAME GAME? Do they think this is a bloody football match? Or a bloody tragedy? It goes like this. Civilians are killed. Reporters call it “tank fire”. (Hamas has no tanks.) Israel says it is a misfired Hamas rocket. Hamas says it is Israel’s work. So it’s a “blame game”. No one can actually BE blamed – and thus we can shrug off the responsibility and shake our head at it all.
      And we must forget we did the same when US bombs killed civilians in Tripoli in 1986 (a “misfired Libyan anti-aircraft missile”, I recall, was to blame) or when the Nato attack on the Shuala district of Baghdad killed civilians in 2003 (a “misfired Iraqi anti-aircraft missile” was to blame, of course). Several Americans have called me to point this out, adding that the US Senate vote of 100-0 in favour of Israel sounds a bit like the 98 per cent that Arab dictators claim for their presidency – except that the US vote, which does not represent them, really was the true figure! Now to the get-out clause of all of us. Yes, Hamas is corrupt, cynical, ruthless. Most of its “spokesmen” are so stupid, so incoherent, so prone to bawling abuse at the top of their voices, that they far outdo the ever-so-gentle Mark Regev in turning the world against Hamas. But the world is turning against Israel, as EU ministers repeatedly (though ever so gently) tell the Israelis. And it’s turning against our politicians and media masters who go on insulting them.
      How many times does The New York Times expect its readers to tolerate editorials like last week’s pusillanimous effort? There had been “deadly attacks” in Gaza, readers were told. The total dead came to 750, “a vast majority being Palestinians”. And then the get-out: there were “competing charges” – Israel or Hamas or a Hamas ally – over the attack, and thus “what really matters now is that some way be found to stop this carnage”. So that’s OK, then. “Blame game” equals “no blame”.
      In France, there’s been derision at the way the government has reacted to Gaza’s calvary. François Hollande wanted Israel to “correct” its aim “a bit” (un peu)! He criticised Hamas’s aggression and Israel’s reprisals. But then an angry Benjamin Netanyahu came on the blower to the Elysée. Change of tune. Hollande uttered the usual mantra. “Israel has the right to take all measures to protect its people.” But then French Assembly members became so sickened by the “collective punishment” of the Palestinians that Hollande urged an end to the “escalation” in violence. Phew.
      In Ireland, traditionally pro-Palestinian, The Irish Times, alas, has been playing the same tune as its New York namesake. On the day after Israel bombed a UN school, killing 19 civilians, it ran a front-page article which began with Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire, continued with a paragraph of the truce details, then ran a paragraph that Hamas had no reaction – and then told its readers about the 19 dead. A reader castigated the paper for “balancing” its letters page with correspondence designed to make the Palestinians look as guilty as the Israelis. “Such disinterest is really a kind of moral apathy,” he said. And said it rather well. The world can at least thank the journos in Gaza – even if their bosses are still on the run. “

  8. kerim permalink
    August 1, 2014 8:15 am

    Rob, the very latest images and footages, show more shocking atrocities . In Khuzaya alone, tens and tens of dead bodies spread everywhere, for more than a week, and stench all over the place . Khuzaya is one of the parts of Gaza where the IDF did not allow any ambulance to enter, after blowing ambulances that have tried to give assistance, or to pick up the dead bodies ,This makes Sabra & Shatila look peanuts . A war crime, it is . Whether this will be the end of Natanyahu, remains to be seen, because this can also mean the 41st US veto, in favor of israeli war crimes . I would think that the Obama Administration will think twice, this time, before using its Veto .

  9. Eugene Fitzpatrick permalink
    August 2, 2014 3:47 pm

    Kerim: Your mentioning the Irish Times’ untoward manipulation of the news about Gaza raises a sore point with me, viz. the plethora of American politicians of Irish lineage who, all the time, vote the AIPAC line. As one somewhat familiar with the history of John Bull’s many-centuries long garroting of Ireland, I find it unforgivable that anyone with even an iota of Irish DNA would throw their lot in with a ruthless government revealing itself akin to, and often surpassing in savagery, the unlamented British Empire.

    • kerim permalink
      August 2, 2014 10:30 pm

      Eugene :

      I was quoting Robert Fisk (!) .

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