Monday, June 30, 2008

Blood Drunk Views on the Israeli-Hamas Cease Fire

By: Harry Waisbren

A recent article in the Jewish Standard exposes all that is wrong with the extremely limited debate in America regarding Israeli foreign policy. This article attacks an ad in the New York Times created by J-street, a pro-peace, pro-Israel organization founded specifically to broaden the debate over how to make Israel safe beyond the dominating right wing narrative.

This ad notes how "When Israel Goes to War, Supporters Rally. When Israel Negotiates, Why the Deafening Silence?" Very regrettably, Josh Lipowsky, the author of this Jewish Standard piece, not only failed to take this message to heart but continues to suggest that "supporting Israel" means nothing more than calling for unending war in the Middle East.

To his credit, Lipowski notes how "we agree with J Street that the pro-Israel community should wholeheartedly support Israel in its moves toward peace. However, we must question the cease-fire with Hamas in its current form." Unfortunately, despite supposedly supporting Israel's moves towards peace, I fear that Lipowski and his ilk will continue the constant questioning and undercutting of any attempts to do just that.

Lipowski justifies this swift rebuttal of the Israeli cease-fire with Hamas that the J-street ad highlighted by claiming it was doomed to fail from the beginning. He first argues that "Israel should have known better than to trust Hamas’ promises" and then states explicitly that "as long as Israel refuses to respond to these attacks, Hamas will grow stronger militarily and politically, creating a slippery slope that will lead it to completely replace the Palestinian Authority."

My first question to Josh is who is he to make such assertive predictions regarding the most unpredictable region in the world? His pronouncements that any attempts to negotiate with Hamas are futile from the get go resemble the claims of the Bush administration that war with Iraq was the only reasonable option---a theory that has certainly been debunked and then some since.

Although he might not know it, he is arguing AGAINST the majority view of Israelis themselves regarding what will keep them safe. Constitutional lawyer turned blogger Glenn Greenwald analyzed this reality in an important post from a few months ago:
But a new poll of actual Israelis -- the people who have to live with the consequences of their choices as opposed to those who can beat their neoconservative, protected chests from a safe distance -- reveals:

Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks.

The figures were obtained in a Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted Tuesday under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University.

According to the findings, Israelis are fed up with seven years of Qassam rockets falling on Sderot and the communities near Gaza, as well as the fact that Shalit has been held captive for more than a year and a half. An increasing number of public figures, including senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces' reserves, have expressed similar positions on talks with Hamas.

Lipowski is attacking the method Israelis themselves believe is most likely to achieve an actual peaceful resolution. As he calls to "look at the realities on the ground without rose-colored lenses" he is viewing such realities with the same blood drunk incoherence that has led our country to decide that Iraqis' views on stabilizing their own country do not matter.

The manichean nature of Lipowski's views can be seen at the end of the article, which he closes with an explicit call for war:
Rather than allow Hamas to reap the benefits of the quiet from Israel, Israel should issue an ultimatum to Hamas and the world. As Israel eases the blockade, it should announce that every rocket from that point forward will be treated as an act of war, indisputably laying the blame for the consequences on the shoulders of Hamas.

Israel, the Middle East, America, and the world at large do not need more war, especially war that can be avoided through diplomacy. What we really need is a true attempt at peaceful reconciliation, which apparently is something that Lipowski is not even willing to rationally consider. This article is not a serious rebuke of Israeli policy, rather, it is an explicit example that J-street's ad is truly correct in highlighting how desperately our country needs a wider discourse regarding how Israel, and the world, can achieve peaceful prosperity.

This discourse needs to be opened up, as the pitfalls of diplomacy (seen in the post-cease fire bombings) are NOT a repudiation of a non-military based strategy. Lipowski is merely calling to continue the failed policies of unending war promoted by the Bush administration, and the horror in Iraq should be a prime example of how such a strategy fairs in reality.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I have got to say, your take on Josh Lipowsky's article, let alone the conflict between Israel and Hamas itself, is unbelievably myopic and full of errors. Let's break down the errors one by one, shall we?

First off, statistics from February of all months, doesn't begin to take into account how public opinion in Israel on the issue of the cease-fire has changed given more recent and quite pivotal current events, especially the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where eight young men were murdered in cold blood, in late March, and the even more recent Talanski scandal and Barak distancing himself from Olmert, stating that Olmert has no business making any decisions along the lines of a cease fire while he’s being investigated by the police. If you're going to use statistics to counter someone's argument, it'd behoove you to look up the most recent data available, or at least any data more recent than approximately five months ago. A simple Google search can do the job easily. Here’s what I found by doing just that.

Two notable opinion studies of both Palestinians and Israelis have been conducted since the Haaretz poll you cited. The first was conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah between March 12 and 17, 2008. The study found the following: “57% of the Israelis oppose and 40% support the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state. 44% of the Israelis support and 54% oppose talks with Hamas if needed to reach a compromise agreement with the Palestinians. However a sizeable Israeli majority (62%) support and only 34% oppose talks with a national unity government composed jointly of Hamas and Fatah if such a government is reestablished. Similarly, 45% of the Israelis support and 51% oppose the release of Marwan Barghouti from prison and negotiation with him, if needed to reach such an agreement. 53% of the Israelis believe that the meetings between Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are not beneficial and should be stopped while 39% believe they should continue. 66% among Israelis and 68% of the Palestinians believe that the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state during the next five years are non-existent or weak. Only 31% of Israelis and 30% of Palestinians believe chances are fair or high. 59% of Israelis oppose full evacuation of the Golan Heights in return for a complete peace agreement with Syria, and 25% support it. Among Israelis only 27% believe that if the shelling of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip continues, Israel should use primarily diplomatic rather than military steps, 29% of the Israelis suggest that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there and 41% think that Israel should carry out ad-hoc operations against the shelling and get out. Surprisingly these figures did not change from three months ago.”

The second study was done between late May and early June by the same research team. Here were the findings: “Assuming that Shalit’s release was part of an agreement, the Israeli public is split in supporting an accord in which Hamas will cease the violent attacks and Kassam launching from the Gaza Strip, and Israel will stop its military operations in the Gaza Strip and remove the closure. The figures were: 50% opposing and 47% supporting such an agreement. If the agreement does not include Shalit, 68% oppose and only 30% support such an agreement… There is also a noticeable decline in Israelis’ support for concessions to the Palestinians as embodied in the Clinton parameters or Taba negotiations. These parameters have been considered to be the most realistic framework for a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. For the first time since December 2003, support for Clinton’s package decreased below 50% (49%), whereas in previous polls, support reached as high as 64%.”
You tell me, with numbers like those, does it sound like Israelis support just going into diplomatic talks with Hamas, at any old cost for peace? If you think they do or want to stubbornly stick by the stats given months ago that you’ve been clinging to thus far, then you really need to take a good course in probability and statistics. Yes, everyone wants the bombings of Sderot and other parts of the country to stop. But not at just any old price. We’re talking about bargaining with people who have said time and again that Israel has no right to exist and that they’ll go to any lengths to destroy the country. Sure, Hamas would like a cease fire. It will give them plenty of time to get their hands on more Kassams! The Israeli people know that and hear the cries of the citizens of Sderot, who are feeling more and more abandoned and ignored by Olmert due to his lack of action on the issue, and who are finding their children suffering because the only reality they have ever known is having to run for cover constantly because of incoming Kassams attacking their home town.

The idea that Bush is the only one supporting war between Israel and Palestine is laughable, by the way. I see that you have declared your support for Barack Obama on your blog. Barack Obama has made it clear that he supports Israel unconditionally and firmly believes in its right to exist, as well as the need to allow Israel to defend itself through military means. This is from his own campaign website: “During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly for Israel's right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks, cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria's involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He believes strongly in Israel's right to protect its citizens. Barack Obama has consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel. He defends and supports the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and has advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. He has called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.” So guess what, it’s not just Bush who supports Israel defending itself through military means. Does this mean you’re going to revoke your support for Obama’s campaign, now? Unless you decide to run off and support Ralph Nader or some other darling of the radical Left who has zero chance of winning the Presidential election instead, you’re going to be awfully hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t support Israel and its use of military force against the people who want to end its existence.

Oh, one more thing that you really need to be more thorough about when writing stuff like this up – when you cite someone, especially with the goal of ripping up their opinion on a given issue, spell their name right! The guy’s last name is Lipowsky. It has a “y” at the end, not an “i”. If you decide to go for that probability and statistics course, you may want to consider taking a refresher course as well in language arts.