Don’t Talk Back To Bibi

by Dish Staff

Sarah Lazare explores Israel’s frightening crackdown on dissent during the Gaza war:

Journalists deemed critical of the war have faced job termination and censure. Prominent Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who has criticized the “dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians,” hired a personal bodyguard after being attacked while broadcasting live from Ashkelon. Israeli Knesset member Yariv Levin, chair of the Likud-Beytenu coalition, recently called for Levy to stand trial for treason—a charge that, during war, carries a death sentence.

Knesset member Haneen Zoabi—a Palestinian citizen of Israel—has been suspended from most parliamentary activities for six months due to a statement she made about the still-unidentified kidnappers of three Israeli teen residents of West Bank settlements who were found dead in June. She said of the kidnappers, “they are people who see no other way to change their reality, so they are forced to use these means…at least until Israel wises up, and until Israeli society opens up and feels the pain of the other.” Meanwhile, numerous Knesset members calling for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza and murder of Palestinian civilians have faced no formal censure from within Israeli government or the U.S.

In a sign of the times, young Israelis who elect to do national service – a civilian alternative to conscription in the IDF – will no longer be allowed to work at the human rights organization B’Tselem, which the national service chief has decreed “acts against the state”:

In a letter to B’Tselem director Hagai Elad, Sar-Shalom Jerbi said his decision came in the wake of the fighting in Gaza. B’Tselem, whose full name is B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, sought to broadcast the names of dead Palestinian children during the 29 days of fighting. “I feel obligated to exercise my authority and discontinue state assistance to an organization that acts against the state and its soldiers, who are literally sacrificing their lives in supreme heroism to ensure the welfare and security of all citizens from all sectors suffering for years from firing on their homes,” Jerbi wrote.

National civilian service has slots for volunteers at organizations on both sides of the political spectrum, such as anti-abortion group Efrat on the right and Hotline for Migrant Workers on the left. B’Tselem has one slot for a national-service volunteer, which it received in 2012. During discussions on a bill in January, Jerbi said national civilian service would be available “only to bodies that do not subvert the existence of the state as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Just Another Ceasefire, Or Something More? Ctd

by Dish Staff

The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza has been extended for five days, despite an exchange of fire last night that briefly threatened to unravel the truce. Negotiations over a longer-term truce are ongoing in Cairo, but it’s not clear whether they’re going anywhere. Haaretz’s live blog has the latest updates on the situation:

One of spokesmen for the Hamas leadership that resides outside the Gaza Strip asserts that Israel’s responses so far in Cairo have not met the Palestinians’ minimal demands, and no real progress has been made. He did not rule out the possibility that the fighting would be renewed “to force Israel to acquiesce to Palestinian demands.” In contrast, a member of the Hamas delegation, Khalil Al-Hayya, who returned to Gaza from Cairo, said just a little while ago that there is still a chance of reaching an agreement. He expressed hope that the Egyptian mediator would succeed with his intensive efforts to secure a deal.

Lest anyone forget amid Hamas’s bellicose rhetoric, Rami Khouri makes the point that Palestinians, by and large, want peace, too. Only that’s not all they want:

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups recognize that they will never destroy Israel. In their own way, they’ve even acknowledged the need to coexist peacefully — a reality they express in terms of a “long-term truce,” even while saying they wouldn’t themselves recognize Israel. So what does Hamas expect to achieve through continued fighting, and why does it enjoy, for now, almost unanimous Palestinian support?

It wants to force Israel to do two things: to honor the terms of the 2012 ceasefire agreement that would allow Gazans to live a relatively normal life, with freedom of movement, trade, fishing, marine and air transport, as well as economic development. And it wants to force Israel to address what are in Palestinian eyes the root causes of the conflict: the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing and displacement of the Palestinians.

Israelis are justified in demanding security and acceptance in the region. But that’s only half of the equation. Ending Palestinian refugeehood, occupation and siege is the other. The message Israelis should take away from Gaza is that if the Palestinians don’t see movement toward their reasonable goals within a framework of international legitimacy, the Israelis shouldn’t expect to rest in peace either.

But Daniel Gordis fears that Israelis are taking away another message, that they need to double down on the national security state:

Some Israeli villages surrounding Gaza are now ghost towns; many residents simply refuse to return home. They do not believe the IDF’s assurances that all the tunnels have been found and destroyed, and are beyond frightened that terrorists could pop out of the ground, quite literally, in their backyards. Israelis are united to a degree not seen in a long time, because they feel threatened as they have not in many years. And, many are pointing out, none of this would have happened had Ariel Sharon not pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Many are now convinced that if the pull-out from Gaza was foolish, a parallel move on the West Bank would be suicidal. Once again, as was the case during the Second Intifada a decade ago, Palestinian violence may have dealt the Israeli political left a death blow.

A.B. Yehoshua argues that Israel needs to stop calling Hamas a terrorist organization and start treating it as a legitimate adversary if it wants to talk seriously about peace:

In my own view, Hamas’s frustration derives from a lack of legitimization by Israel and by much of the world. It is this frustration that leads them to such destructive desperation. That’s why we need to grant them status as a legitimate enemybefore we talk about an agreement or, alternatively, about a frontal war. That is how we functioned previously with Arab nations. As long as we label Hamas as a terrorist organization, we cannot achieve a satisfactory cease fire in the south and won’t be able to negotiate with the Gaza government …

The skeptics among us will argue that Hamas would not sit with us for such open negotiations. If so, then we must propose meetings within the framework of the united Palestinian government. And should Hamas reject that proposal, then our war will become a legitimate war in every sense of the word, fought according to the general rules of warfare.

Previous Dish on the latest Gaza ceasefire here and here.

Just Another Ceasefire, Or Something More? Ctd

by Dish Staff

J.J. Goldberg passes along news from the Israeli press that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have come close to reaching an agreement on a long-term Gaza ceasefire during Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo. He relays the reported terms of the agreement: on the Israeli side, these include a halt to hostilities, Israeli control over border crossings between Gaza and Israel, and PA control over payments to public workers in Gaza. The Palestinian delegation is demanding an expansion of the coastal waters open to Gaza fishermen, the opening of the Rafah crossing into Egypt, and an expansion of amount and variety of goods Israel transports into Gaza. Other demands appear to have been set aside for the time being:

The Palestinians have agreed to drop for now their demands for a Gaza seaport and reopening of the Dahaniya airport in Gaza. Israel and Egypt had opposed the opening of a Gaza seaport out of fear that Hamas would use it to import weapons. Israel’s position is that it will not agree to opening a Gaza seaport until agreement has been reached on a verifiable, enforceable disarmament of Hamas and demilitarization of Gaza.

For the present, Israel is said to have dropped its demand for demilitarization of Gaza. There was never any chance that Hamas would agree to it, and as such it would require a complete reconquest of Gaza and defeat of Hamas. That, as the heads of the Israel Defense Forces warned the cabinet last week, would require a massive operation that would devastate Gaza and lead to Israel’s complete isolation internationally.

Yishai Schwartz expects these negotiations to come to nothing and the war to end in a stalemate, as neither party is willing to compromise much:

Given the incompatibility of the sides’ respective goals, it’s clear that negotiations are a bit of a farce. In the short term, Hamas seeks an arrangement that expands its legitimacy at the expense of the Palestinian Authority; Israel seeks to weaken Hamas and enhance the authority of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas seeks rearmament; Israel seeks demilitarization. In the long term, Hamas seeks Israel’s dissolution and replacement with an Islamist state. Israel seeks a reliable normalcy for its citizens, and is currently deeply divided over whether it wants, needs, or can even afford the creation of a Palestinian State. These objectives are simply not reconcilable. …

Instead, both sides will likely resign themselves to some sort of renewed modus vivendi that is only slightly less terrible than the status quo. Israel and Hamas will agree to a partial weakening of the blockade in exchange for a nominal effort at demilitarization.

In the meantime, activists are organizing another flotilla of boats to run the Gaza blockade. Dish alum Katie Zavadski can guess how that will turn out:

Like the one in 2010, this flotilla will come from the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish NGO, complete with very concerned activists from 12 countries. The group, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (which describes itself as “a grassroots people-to-people solidarity movement composed of campaigns and initiatives from all over the world working together to end the siege of Gaza”), told Reuters that this is being organized “in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza.”

Of course, since the seven-plus-year blockade of Gaza is a handy bargaining chip for Israel, we can already tell you how this will likely go: Tensions will flare as the ship(s) near Gaza, refusing to be inspected by Israeli forces. Eventually, the IDF will raid them. There may be casualties. And inevitably, the “humanitarian mission” will set back peace talks even further because this will be touted as another show of Israeli aggression.

Just Another Ceasefire, Or Something More?

by Dish Staff

Another three-day ceasefire went into effect in Gaza at midnight last night and appears to be holding for now, as negotiations resume in Cairo:

A senior Israeli government official had said on Sunday Israeli negotiators, who had left Cairo on Friday hours before a previous three-day ceasefire expired, would return to Egypt to resume the talks only if the new truce held. Hamas is demanding an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave – a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.

Ed Morrissey likes former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Perry’s proposal to turn the Gaza ceasefire negotiations into regional talks on a permanent peace deal:

Israel has to find a way to push Hamas aside without opening up a vacuum that will allow a worse alternative to take its place. Voila: the Arab League. The neighboring Arab nations hate Hamas too, and would love to see it expelled or at least marginalized in the region. A comprehensive regional peace plan would lock Iran out of Palestinian politics entirely and allow for a greater focus on the threat coming from Tehran rather than the constant irritation of Palestinian uprisings. They’ll never get the “right of return,” but the Arabs could gain some other concessions, especially on the West Bank wall and some of the settlements in exchange for purging Hamas from Gaza and getting the Palestinian Authority to take over its governance.

At least, that’ll be the theory.

And even if the talks can’t pull off the improbable, at least the effort will be a little more productive than listening to Hamas demand that Israel commit national suicide by reopening the border crossings under Hamas leadership.

Gershon Baskin thinks this might actually work, if the Arab states and Israel play their parts:

If King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia would issue an invitation to Netanyahu, Abbas, President El-Sisi of Egypt, and King Abdullah of Jordan to come immediately to Riyadh with Gaza on the table, it could very easily lead to the acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative.  The current war is a dead end; we need a brave initiative and a courageous Arab leader (and Israeli one) to get beyond the current lose-lose scenario in progress.

There is more Israel can do to move things in the right direction, without giving an inch to Hamas. Netanyahu’s government should reach out to the Palestinian population in Gaza with messages that move from the current language of threats to the language of promise and hope. Israel needs to articulate to Gazans what a peaceful Gaza could look like with an airport, economic development, and jobs. Gazans desperately want to hear concrete plans for how their basic needs for a normal life could be met, and Israeli officials should be the ones to tell them.

But Omar Robert Hamilton considers the trope that Hamas can’t be negotiated with preposterous:

Of course, a central tenet of Israeli spin is to always refer to “Hamas” and not  to “Palestinians” (Americans are sympathetic to Palestinians, but not to Hamas), to hit the word “terrorist” as often as possible and to stress that Hamas is “committed to the destruction of Israel.” It is never mentioned that in their 2006 election manifesto, Hamas dropped their call for the destruction of Israel and simply reaffirmed their right to armed resistance. Hamas is a political player that, like all others, is primarily interested in the acquisition of power and influence – they are very far removed from the theocratic death cult that Israel strains to see in its dark mirror. In 2006, as Hamas was engaging in the democratic process, it announced it would stop using suicide bombers. There has not been a bomb since. Israel claimed that the (still-incomplete) Wall was to thank. Again and again, Hamas have tried to play by the rules of the game as they are set by Israel, America and the International Community. Democracy is embraced and brings with it a siege. Israel’s existence is recognized but this goes unmentioned. Military resistance is halted and the siege deepens. Truces are agreed to and Israel violates them.

Whichever way this tentative new peace effort goes, Judis observes that the US isn’t leading it. That’s because, he asserts, it’s no longer in our interests to do so:

The pressure from surrounding Arab states to resolve the conflict has eased, particularly in the wake of the failure of the Arab Spring. Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are preoccupied with their own internal problems. Egypt’s el-Sisi is more sympathetic to Netanyahu than to Hamas’s Khalid Mishal. The Saudis are still committed to their own initiative for resolving the conflict, but like el-Sisi, have no affection for Hamas. And the threat of terrorism in the regiontypified by Islamic State in Iraq and Syriais no longer so clearly tied to the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So while the surrounding Arab states are always under public pressure to end Israeli attacks against Palestinians, Arab leaders have not displayed the same urgency.

The pressure that existed in 1975 or even 2005 doesn’t exist. As a result, Obama and Kerry do not feel the same urgency to act.

Back To War In Gaza

The ceasefire is over and fighting started again this morning:

Gaza militants resumed rocket attacks on Israel on Friday, refusing to extend a three-day truce after Egyptian-brokered talks between Israel and Hamas on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock. Israel responded with a series of airstrikes, including one that killed a 10-year-old boy and wounded five children near a Gaza City mosque, Palestinian officials said. Two Israelis were wounded by rocket fire, police said. The renewed violence threw the Cairo talks on a broader deal into doubt. Hamas officials said they are ready to continue talks, but Israel’s government spokesman said Israel will not negotiate under fire.

Walter Russell Mead wonders why Hamas is still pretending it can eke out some semblance of victory from a war it has clearly lost:

War is a tricky business, in which fortunes can switch overnight, but Hamas today seems in an extremely difficult position, demanding concessions its enemies have no reason to make. Under the circumstances, both Israel and Egypt appear to have solid reasons for sticking to tough negotiating positions and awaiting events. They have inflicted a major and perhaps crushing military defeat on Hamas. They are now trying to turn this into a decisive political victory that will force Hamas to accept substantially more Egyptian power over Gaza as the price of Hamas’ survival.

Hamas is now about one-third as strong as it was at the start of the war, and it faces enemies who smell its weakness and who loathe and mistrust it. Yet it is insisting on an agreement that would amount to a victory even as its political wing reaches out to Iran. One can admire the chutzpah but doubt the wisdom of a strategy rooted in desperation and fear.

“Hamas has accomplished none of its aims,” Hussein Ibish asserts. “Not one”:

For example, Hamas sought recognition as the primary diplomatic representative of Palestinians in Gaza. But the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have kept that role, including on matters regarding Gaza, despite the fact that Hamas has held the territory since 2007. Indeed, the recent “unity deal” between Hamas and Fatah, which led to the formation of a new government with no Hamas ministers that adopted the PLO’s policy of seeking peace with Israel, did nothing to enhance Hamas’s international standing either.

Hamas also failed to conduct any kind of dramatic attack on an Israeli target, notwithstanding repeated efforts. It failed in several infiltration attempts by land and sea, and none of its rockets hit any major target, whether civilian or military. Hamas was not even able to capture a single Israeli soldier whom it could exchange for prisoners. It did execute a few successful ambushes in Gaza in which it killed Israeli soldiers. But dead Israeli troops don’t translate into a direct benefit for either Hamas or any group of Palestinians.

But Jason Burke characterizes the group as “far from disabled”:

It does appear that dozens of sophisticated tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel, which could enable cross-border raids to kill or kidnap civilians and soldiers, have been destroyed. More than 3,000 rockets have been fired on Israel from Gaza – killing three people – which Israeli officials insist is at least half of Hamas’s total stocks of the weapons. However, few senior Hamas military commanders appear to have died. …

Khaleel Habeel, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, admitted casualties, saying that “if you take on the fourth most powerful army in the world then of course you lose people”. Ziad Abu Oda of the Mujahideen Faction splinter group told the Guardian that his organisation had lost 50 men, including fighters and political officials. But even top-end estimates of casualties would be a fraction of the strength of Hamas’s military brigades and other groups, which are believed to have 10,000 fighters permanently under arms, with another 10,000 in reserve.

For Israel’s part, Avi Issacharoff argues, neither war nor negotiations with Hamas will achieve its security goals:

It seems that the only way to change something in this equation (apart from conquering the Strip) would be for Israel to initiate a political process with the Palestinian Authority. There is not much that Israel can do with Hamas, except undermining it in the diplomatic sphere, by offering it everything — a seaport, an airport, a lifting of the blockade, a weekly pass to the amusement park in Tel Aviv… in exchange for the disarmament of Gaza and the destruction of the rest of the tunnels. In other words, to let Hamas’s leaders choose between the Gaza Underground they’ve built and the Gaza on the surface. Hamas would say no, and Israel would gain a few points. But if it really wants to harm Hamas, to weaken it internally and in public opinion, the government of Israel would have to renew the peace talks, even at the expense of a settlement freeze.

Meanwhile, The Economist runs the numbers on the war up to yesterday. Here’s a fun fact:

33. Proportion of respondents to online poll, by Israel’s most popular TV channel on August 3rd, who say the best birthday gift for Barack Obama would be peace in the Middle East: 20% [Israeli Channel 2 TV]

34. Proportion of respondents to Israeli poll who say the best birthday gift for Barack Obama would be the Ebola virus: 48% [Israeli Channel 2 TV]

A War Without A Winner

Israel may have technically “won” the Gaza war by weakening Hamas and destroying its tunnel infrastructure, but David Rothkopf argues that this “win” carries with it an even greater loss in terms of its image:

If Israel’s goal was to delegitimize Hamas, whatever it achieved during these last three weeks came at the expense of its own reputation. No matter how many articulate, pommy-accented spokespeople Israel rolls out to discuss human shields, they are trumped by the images of dead and wounded women and children, the stories of displaced families, the ground truth of an advanced, technologically sophisticated, militarily powerful nation laying waste to a land it occupies in order to root out a small cadre of fighters who pose little strategic threat to it. In short, Israel was waging a military action against an adversary that was waging a political campaign and thus adopted the wrong tactics and measured their progress by the wrong metrics. In fact, there is no denying that the Israeli tactics (it seems very unlikely there was any real strategizing going on) in this war do not pass the most basic tests available by which to assess them, those of morality, proportionality, and effectiveness.

Hamas’ defeat hasn’t been categorical either, Ishaan Tharoor observes:

Operation Protective Edge, as my colleagues report, has badly damaged Hamas’s operational capabilities, dismantling tunnels by which Hamas could launch attacks on Israel, destroying command centers and killing hundreds of supposed Hamas fighters. The group’s arsenal of rockets is also now considerably depleted. … But for Hamas, to mangle Clausewitz, the firing of rockets was politics by other means. “For Hamas, the choice wasn’t so much between peace and war,” writes Nathan Thrall, Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, “as between slow strangulation and a war that had a chance, however slim, of loosening the squeeze.” With Israel now at the negotiating table, there’s a chance that gamble paid off.

But Saletan suspects that many Gazans won’t soon forgive Hamas for putting them through another war unless they get something out of the ceasefire negotiations:

Gazans will judge the war based on postwar concessions. As things stand, they see the war as a loss. But that calculation assumes the continuation of the blockade. “All the industries are dying, and there are no jobs for the young,” laments a Gaza City man. “It’s a kind of suffocation. So if we can’t change that, this has all been for nothing.”

On the other hand, he admits, that will require Israel to be clearheaded about its strategic interests in easing the Gaza blockade:

[T]he cost of granting concessions is less than the cost of not granting them. Yes, if Gaza’s borders are opened, its people will celebrate. Yes, they might applaud Hamas, and they might conclude that belligerence works. But if the borders aren’t opened, the people might radicalize and explode. That’s the warning in those prewar surveys about the political effects of the blockade. Hamas and its violent inclinations might gain more support from the blockade than from its relaxation.

Whatever deal, if any, comes out of these negotiations, Matt Duss emphasizes that it could and should have been done months ago, before 1,800 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced:

In a press conference on Wednesday, Netanyahu indicated that he would be open to the possibility of the PA taking control of the Rafah crossing. It’s a tragedy that this option wasn’t explored earlier. At the time the unity government was announced, Israeli security analysts Kobi Michael and Udi Dekel recommended that Israel take the opportunity to empower the PA by “focus[ing] on rebuilding and developing the Gaza Strip, with the PA in charge of the Gaza Strip crossings” – precisely what’s being considered now, 1800 deaths later. Maybe the United States should have second-guessed Netanyahu earlier, and more forcefully, on this point.

Grading the parties to the conflict on how well they fared, Aaron David Miller gives top marks to Egypt:

Egypt’s new government under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi actually comes out of this round faring better than anyone else — in part, because it was only semi-invested. The Egyptians had no illusions about this conflict. They wanted to cut Hamas down to size, keep the Qataris and the Turks out of the equation, and marginalize U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, too, for that matter. Indeed, it was Egypt that produced what appears to be the successful cease-fire. And Cairo is now the venue for the follow-on negotiations at a longer-term agreement. Egypt once again demonstrated its centrality in Arab-Israeli politics by maintaining good ties with Netanyahu and the PA. Even Hamas understands that it needs Cairo’s assistance to maintain control of Gaza. That said, if talks in Cairo falter and Gaza spirals back into conflict, Egypt could lose some prestige. But Sisi still will have bolstered key regional ties with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and with the Israelis. And a successful outcome might improve delicate relations with Washington, too.

Dissents Of The Day

A reader writes:

With regard to your post “The Last And First Temptation Of Israel,” let’s dispense with all pleasantries and call these racist warmongers what they are.  There is no excuse for this sort of language and belief and even under the worst of circumstances, you cannot justify it away.

With that said, a few things.  One, Feiglin is one of eight deputy speakers.  So, let’s be ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-CONFLICT-GAZAclear that his power in Israel slightly less than you claimed. Second, while nothing can justify these comments, the fact remains that the government that controls Gaza outwardly supports the genocide of Jews and ethnic cleansing of Israel.  They were elected by the Palestinian people which, regardless of Israelis’ actions, means Palestinians voted for a party committed to genocide against the Jews.

Against this backdrop, I find it highly offensive that you are so narrowly focussed on the sins of Israel to the complete and utter exclusion of culpability of Hamas. Can you honestly say, given the sophisticated tunnels that were found, that there is no justification in Israel’s actions?  I know you’ll shoot back “but the settlements” and I will counter with “they should be dismantled, but, let’s protect lives while we wait for politicians to wise up.”

The idea that this blog has focused on Israeli sins “to the complete and utter exclusion of culpability of Hamas” seems to me a deluded function of how polarized this debate has become. I’ve repeatedly and vehemently used clear language to denounce Hamas’ tactics as war crimes and their ideology as poisonous. Yes, I’ve become deeply concerned about Israel’s lurch toward eliminationist rhetoric – but my focus on that is partly because the story is ignored by much of the US media, and also because Americans are financing Israel – and not Hamas – and Israel portrays itself as a Western society. Another reader notes:

I think you make too much of “deputy speaker” – here’s another person who currently holds that title:

Ahmad Tibi is an Arab-Israeli politician and leader of the Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al), an Arab party in Israel. He serves as a member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) since 1999, and currently serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Tibi was acknowledged as a figure in the Israeli-Palestinian arena after serving as a political advisor to the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat (1993-1999).

Another pulls no punches:

Andrew, your blog post was a total hack job and you should be embarrassed. I had a funny feeling during your postings about the latest Gaza conflict that you may have some cringe-worthy lapses in basic facts about both the Palestinian street and the Israel street. To exploit nutty extremists and malign Israelis in a rush job for your blog proves my theory that you really don’t know anything about Israel – and sadly, you probably don’t care because you’ve made up your mind.

The Times of Israel pulled the blog post from this asshole immediately, and nobody gives a shit about the deputy speaker or pays no attention to him. It’s like writing about David Duke and the late Fred Phelps to expose the real truth about Americans. If you actually knew about life in Israel you wouldn’t exploit these jerks or worse, take them seriously and somehow connect the dots to Israel character.

If you knew ANYTHING about life in Israel you would certainly understand that a majority of the population is secular, liberal and progressive (not at all like you portray in this blog post); including a very high profile and large LGBT community. You would also know that these very large moral issues, like what to do about about Hamas and civilian causalities, the occupation, etc, is front and center in the media, in coffee shop conversations and in the workplace. Most of the conversations include a firm rebuke of the nuts you’ve decided to highlight in your blog post.

You’re an idiot if you think this is Israel. You’re a bigger idiot if you’re exploiting this just to be provocative. You know you should go there and spend some time. See what it’s like to be living in a free and progressive society surrounded by utter lunacy and religious and sexual intolerance. It’s not fun.

On the other hand, another notes:

Speaking of voices in Israel advocating various forms of genocide: one you may have missed came earlier in the year in the Jerusalem Post calling the Armenian Genocide “permissible“:

Every nation has the right to employ whatever means it has to fight for its survival, and should not have to do so at the expense of its moral standing in the eyes of other nations. This is a belief both Israel and Turkey share.

Note that Haaretz recently published an article showing that the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide presented the Jews in Palestine a brutally clear picture of how far “whatever means it has” extends:

A telegraph recently uncovered in the Turkish prime ministerial archive reinforces these accounts. Sent by the Turkish interior minister, Nazar Talaat, to the governor of Beirut, who also oversaw Zichron Yaakov, the telegraph read: “In the village of Zamrin (Zichron Yaakov,) in the Haifa district, the Kamikam (governor) told the people that if they do not hand over the spy Lishansky, their fate will be like the Armenians, as I am involved in the deaths of the Armenians.”

Another reader:

I have a few Israeli friends and have always been against the casual slaughter of Palestinians. My own support for the end of the war and criticism of the death of Gazan children has been vocal in situations both virtual and in physical conversation. I have discovered that there seems to be a violent pushback from many Israeli and Jewish people against my opinion (what a surprise!), usually revolving around the idea that A) I don’t understand B) You have no right to criticize us C) those in government don’t represent their opinion. Those are never fair reasons, because A) I do read enough to know B) I am human, the dead and injured are human and thus I have every right to have an opinion C) Then what are you doing about it.

I don’t mean to rant – but it would be helpful to readers to have a thread about this experience …. to share responses outside the media coverage. The mainstream coverage has been distorted and nothing has been said about how, one-to-one, others have been grappling with this. America has a unique position on this, as I live in New York (say what you will) and there is a huge number of Jews that have opinions about the conflict, nuanced or not, right or wrong. Compared to any other conflict, there seems to be a closer, perhaps more personal relationship with how we carry a discourse and there might be something valuable that a reader out there can share with the rest, beyond my own.

(Photo: Israeli residents, mostly from the southern Israeli city of Sderot, sit on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip, on July 12, 2014, to watch the fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants. By Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The Troubling Triumph Of The Israeli Right

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

The Gaza conflict has fortified Israel’s right wing, Gregg Carlstrom admits:

Public opinion polls confirm the Israeli right’s gains during the current conflict. A survey conducted by the Knesset Channel last week found that the right-wing parties would win 56 seats in the next election, up from 43 last year. The center-left bloc would shrink from 59 seats to 48. Other surveys suggest that the right could win a majority by itself, without needing religious parties or centrists to form a coalition. But perhaps more striking is the public’s near-unanimous support for the Gaza war, from Israelis across the political spectrum. Roughly 90 percent of Jewish Israelis support the war, according to recent polls. Less than 4 percent believe the army has used “excessive firepower,” the Israel Democracy Institute found, though even Israeli officials admit that a majority of the 1,800 Palestinians killed so far are civilians.

Even scarier, Carlstrom adds, is that “this time, public dissent hasn’t just been silenced, it’s been all but smothered”:

A popular comedian was dumped from her job as the spokeswoman for a cruise line after she criticized the war. Local radio refused to air an advertisement from B’Tselem, a rights group, which simply intended to name the victims in Gaza. Scattered anti-war rallies have drawn small crowds, mostly in the low hundreds; the largest brought several thousand people to Tel Aviv on July 26. But most of the protests ended in violence at the hands of ultranationalists, who attacked them and set up roving checkpoints to hunt for “leftists” afterwards. Demonstrators have been beaten, pepper-sprayed, and bludgeoned with chairs.

In Assaf Sharon’s incisive reading of Israel’s recent history, this strain of ultra-nationalism has been years in the making:

The conventional wisdom is that Israel has moved to the right. But as public opinions and analyses of voting trends clearly show, this is not the case. Although the right has grown, its rise has been relatively small. Israelis remain evenly divided on peace and security, and the left enjoys a clear majority on social and economic issues. The deeper shift is not in the level of public support for the two political camps, but in their make-up.

On the right, the liberal and democratic elements have been overtaken by chauvinist populists. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party, Likud, whose members used to walk out on [Rabbi Meir] Kahane, is now populated by some of the most vocal inciters. The last remnants of its democrats were ousted in the last primary elections, and the remaining moderates pander to the pugnacious extremists that dominate the party. The prime minister himself has maintained utter silence in the face of growing racism and political violence. The left, on the other hand, has lost its political stamina and its moral courage. A depletion of ideas, debilitation of institutions, and putrefaction of leadership have left it politically inert. The social mechanisms that kept Kahane’s racism at bay have all but disintegrated.

When the philosopher and public intellectual Yishayahu Leibovitz called Kahane and his followers “Judeo-Nazis,” not everyone agreed, but everybody listened. More importantly, many understood the threat he identified and were willing to combat it. Breaking the moral siege demands active and resolute opposition to Jewish jingoism, not ignoring it and certainly not accommodating it.

(Photo: Police keep right-wing supporters of Israel separated from left-wing protesters during a rally held by the left-wing calling for an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for a ceasefire of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict on July 12, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel.At least one person was arrested and one person was injured. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Busting Hamas’ Nihilism

An Indian news crew managed to capture this rare video footage of a rocket being fired from a densely populated residential area in Gaza yesterday morning, less than an hour before the ceasefire went into effect:

Michael Peck discusses why this is significant:

The film clip doesn’t show an Israeli retaliatory strike. But if there was one, it would have struck a built-up area, possibly injuring civilians. And there’s no way Hamas could not have been aware of that. By the way, the Indian film crew didn’t release the film until after they left Gaza, apparently in order to avoid retaliation by an image-conscious Hamas.

What can we conclude? From a military standpoint, a rocket that can fit under a small tent is going to be tough to eliminate with an air strike or artillery barrage. It takes troops on the ground. … It also illustrates exactly why guerrillas and irregular armies so often can prevail, or at least endure, against superior forces. Rockets and mortars are easy to assemble and fire. The launch crew can vacate before warplanes or artillery responds. When the counter-bombardment inevitably comes, civilians get hurt and the guerrillas gain support.

But Seth Lazar doesn’t buy Israel’s argument that Hamas’ use of human shields justifies bombing civilians:

[O]ne might think that Hamas’ joint responsibility provides some grounds for discounting the weight of those innocent civilians’ lives when tallying up the bad effects of the IDF’s actions. Suppose that Hamas were to literally treat innocent civilians as hostages by advertising an intention to kill a certain number of them should the IDF not withdraw. Then many would think it plausible that those deaths should not receive the same weight in the proportionality calculation as those directly inflicted by the IDF, in part because of the ‘intervening agency’ of Hamas. Perhaps human shields are analogous to hostages in this way.

We should resist this conclusion. Innocent people’s lives have weight in the proportionality calculation because of their moral status—their right to life. This status, and these protections, cannot be diminished by the impermissible actions of some third party.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports possible Israeli war crimes in Khuza’a:

On the morning of July 23, Israeli forces ordered a group of about 100 Palestinians in Khuza’a to leave a home in which they had gathered to take shelter, family members said. The first member to leave the house, Shahid al-Najjar, had his hands up but an Israeli soldier shot him in the jaw, seriously injuring him. Israeli soldiers detained the men and boys over age 15 in an area close to the Gaza perimeter fence. Based on statements from witnesses and news reports, some were taken to Israel for questioning. Israeli forces released others that day, in small separate groups. As one group walked unarmed to Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing one and wounding two others.

Two older men whom Israeli forces briefly detained near the perimeter fence had been seriously wounded in earlier Israeli bombardments and died soon after being released, two witnesses said. The laws of war provide that wounded civilians and combatants should be given necessary medical care to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay. In another incident on July 23, Israeli soldiers fired on a group of civilians who had been told to leave their home in Khuza’a, killing Mohammed al-Najjar, a witness said.

Will They Cease The Fire?

Keating thinks the 72-hour truce that went into effect in Gaza yesterday morning may actually hold:

While it never pays to be too optimistic in this part of the world, there’s reason to believe this time could be different. Last week I wrote that any internationally negotiated cease-fire agreement would be irrelevant until Israel decided its military goals had been achieved. As Reuters reports, that seems to have happened: Israeli armour and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed. “Mission accomplished,” the military tweeted.

Signs point to Hamas also concluding that there’s nothing more to gain from fighting. Rocket fire into Israel had substantially diminished in the days leading up to the truce and, as the New York Times points out, the group has now agreed to an Egyptian-backed truce that is similar to “one that they had rejected earlier in the conflict.”

So both sides get their very own Pyrrhic victory. It’s win-win – over the corpses of 300 children. Beauchamp also gets the sense that both parties are ready to stop fighting:

Israel was very up-front about the primary goal of its ground offensive: destroy Hamas tunnels into Israel. It’s very close to having accomplished that:

Israel says that it has destroyed the tunnel network, presumably meaning all of the tunnels. Indeed, Israel is so confident that it’s telling evacuated Israelis who live in the south near Gaza to return to their homes because the tunnel threat has been “neutralized.” From Israel’s perspective, that’s a big win. … Moreover, Hamas may be in a position to win some partial concessions from Egypt during the Cairo ceasefire negotiations. According to Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, Hamas is “hoping to get Rafah [the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt] open, and they’re hoping to get the Egyptians to allow the transfer of Qatari and other money, which the Egyptians have been blocking.” Getting a lifeline out of Gaza that Israel doesn’t control would be a big deal for Hamas, as it would allow them to at least somewhat circumvent the Israeli blockade, no matter how much Israel tightens it. But why is Hamas ready to negotiate for these concessions now? It seems, quite simply, that Hamas has likely determined it has nothing more to gain from the conflict.

Mitchell Plitnick assesses what both sides have gained and lost … mostly lost:

The tunnels are very frightening to Israelis and Israel appears to have eliminated them. But there are two big problems with this narrative. Firstly, destroying the tunnels was the main focus of the ground operation, but Egypt managed to destroy hundreds of them without a military attack; they simply flooded them from the Egyptian side. The second problem is that, while Israeli fears about the tunnels are understandble, it’s worth noting that Israel has known about them for quite a while and Hamas hadn’t used them until this round of fighting began.

So what, really, did Israel achieve? It caused Hamas to use about two-thirds of its rockets, but those can be replenished, and at the point of the ceasefire, Hamas and other factions were still firing at will. Israel destroyed Hamas’ tunnels, but they had been there for years and were posing only a potential threat. Israel meanwhile failed to destroy the unity agreement, at least for now. These gains were bought by Israel at the price of Palestinian blood, and a higher domestic death toll than Israel is accustomed to (67, including three civilians). As much as it appears like Tel Aviv doesn’t care about that price, it is clear that Israel’s image took a major hit in this engagement.