Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Three Views of Middle East Crisis

David Hirsch

Since before it even existed, Israel has been engaged in two wars with its neighbours. One is a just war, waged by Palestinian Arabs for freedom - which became a demand for Palestinian national independence; the other is a genocidal war that aims to end Jewish life in the Middle East.

The job of the left is to insist on the reality of this distinction and to stand against those who recognise the reality of only one or other of these two separate wars.

we must keep fighting against those who think that the only real war is an Israeli war of survival, as we keep fighting against those who think that the only real war is against the Israeli oppressor. The left has to think differently, and it has to create a different reality. We have to know which side we are on. We're on the side of the Palestinian struggle for independence and we're on the side of the Israeli struggle against the jihadists (not to mention the Palestinian, Iranian, Syrian, Egyptian and Lebanese struggle against the jihadists, as well as the trade union, socialist, democratic, lesbian and gay, feminist and secular struggles against them).

Eric Lee
No socialist group in Britain is saying what needs to be said today about the crisis in the Middle East. All the groups on the organised Left are busy denouncing Israel for its "aggression" against Gaza and Lebanon. Many are expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. None are saying that Israel needs and deserves the support of the Left.

But that is exactly what they should be saying.

Israel is under attack -- unprovoked, brutal attack. Attack by forces such as Hamas and Hizbollah with which socialists have nothing in common.

And Israel is responding in the way that any state, even a state with a workers' government, even an ideal socialist state, would respond. It is hitting back with all the firepower at its disposal, but doing so in a way to minimize civilian casualties. That is why it decided to flatten Hamas' foreign ministry building at 2:00 in the morning, when it was unoccupied. Or used targetted aerial bombardment to create craters in the runways of Beirut airport, rather than bombing terminals crammed with people. (Either way, they would have shut down the airport -- but they chose a way that saved innocent lives.)

Jo Ann Mort

As the well-respected Israeli journalist Avi Shavit recently wrote in Haaretz, the experiment of unilateral disengagement succeeded in confirming both that a majority of Israelis desire to end the occupation and that the republic is capable of acting on that majorities’ desire; but for the Palestinians and other Muslim populations in the area, the disengagement failed. “It strengthened the extremists among them, and weakened the moderates,” wrote Shavit. “It bolstered the ethos of an armed struggle, and brought Hamas to power; it undermined Israel's deterrence, and prompted Hezbollah to attack.” There are still voices of moderation in the region -- but they are not as moderate as Israel would like, nor as moderate as they once were. And they are in unlikely places.

Just as the situation in Gaza was escalating, many Palestinians were voicing support for a joint document, negotiated between factions of prisoners representing Hamas and Fatah, calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, set by the pre-1967 borders. The Fatah leader involved in the proposal is Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life terms for his role in the 2nd Intifada. These days, his name is on the tongues of many politicians, observers, and journalists, Israeli and Palestinian alike. There is hope that he may be someone with the capability to control the street while opening a political horizon for the Palestinians. Many are suggesting that the most useful prisoner exchange Israel could make would be one that frees Barghouti. One Palestinian businessman, close to the Fatah faction around Barghouti, told me that he thought the reason that actors in Syria -- and now Lebanon and perhaps Iran -- currently felt emboldened to strike was precisely because of the complete political vacuum in the Palestinian territories.

The dream of peace achieved unilaterally is clearly dead. Israel -- with international support -- must seek out voices in the region with which to engage, even ones that can’t quite accurately be described as “moderate,” and that discomfort Israelis. After all, an escalation of the current situation in the absence of such engagement -- with Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran all involved in the mix -- offers an array of possible scenarios that are considerably worse than discomforting.

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