Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Field of dreams

However you may choose to characterize the three-week program of killing and destruction that rounded out the Bush-Olmert administration of that region, it is at least clear that the war-crimes/excessive-force theme is not something that is having any effect on Israeli public opinion ahead of their national elections on Feb 10, or on American public opinion either. One Israeli example in place of many, is this YNet op-ed piece that asks: "What happened to us?"
How did Israel shift from being the spiritual center of Ehad Ha’am and Ben Gurion’s light unto the nations to the “neighborhood bully?” How did it all happen without us noticing it? ...

There is a direct and problematic line that connects the “death to the Arabs” chants at soccer stadiums, the disqualification of Arab parties from the upcoming Knesset elections, and the indifference of an Israeli woman who interrupted and slammed a Palestinian doctor who lost three of his daughters.

We are all at fault because we remained silent...
And you can search the American op-ed pages and not find even that level of soul-searching.

As a result, the Israeli public debate is mostly on the short-term question who benefits from the war, Netanyahu or the "left"; and the American debate is about a question that is similarly short-term-- and even more absurd--namely how to restart the negotiations between the killer and his victims. Arab writers, by contrast, focus on a couple of longer-term aspirations: First of all, there is an expectation that investigations and preparations for war-crimes proceedings will no doubt be going ahead, in spite of obstacles. Here is Mohammed Krishan, writing in AlQuds alArabi:
The next stage will be the stage of specialized investigative councils that will be sent to Gaza in spite of all the obstacles that will be put in their way, for the gathering of evidence, witness statements and documentation, and the analysis of what evidence remains in the specialized laboratories, in order to have definitive scientific proof that war-crimes were committed. And then the lodging of cases with the International Criminal Court and other Western courts against the Israeli political and military leaders, so as to tighten the noose around them in the whole world, and so that one day they will be compelled to appear before the judge, to put an end to the limitless quarrelsomeness and arrogance of this state that is outside the law and yet enjoys the protection of the United States and the European countries in this screaming case of opportunism.
Also writing in AlQuds alArabi Lebanese lawyer Assam Naaman focuses on another relatively long-term objective: The need to develop political and military coordination and leadership among the resistance factions including Hamas, and the emerging group of Arab/Islamic states that support them and oppose the Zionist attack on them. His piece isn't a cookbook for unity, but mostly just a reminder that in the face of fine-sounding talk about "reconciliation", it should be remembered that there are two clearly-defined sides here, one of them being the resisters of the American/Israeli front, and this resistance should be understood in a region-wise sense.

He says there are five lessons from the Gaza war that can be built on: (1) The steadfastness and survival of Hamas in the face of military superiority; (2) the political achievement of the Doha summit which included Iran and Turkey in addition to Syria and Qatar and a number of other Arab states, and laid out a clear region-wide "resistance" stance; (3) the fact that Saudi and Egypt were compelled to abandon their openly anti-Hamas rhetoric; and (4) the effectiveness of popular pressure, reflected in the demos and so on, in highlighting the ways in which Arab states were being pressured by the West to toe the line, a level of popular awareness that strengthened the resistance.

Maybe you could have toted up those factors on your own, but his fifth point is one you might have missed. He writes:
The fifth lesson of the war is that ideology has a role no less important than interests in determining political positions. In the case of Iran and Turkey, both Islamist, and with them the government of Iraq, there is no doubt that support for the resistance was a factor, along with the religious and cultural factors, in their decision to support the resistance in Gaza. And this is something that throws into disarray the regional lineup ["moderate" Arabs versus Iran and its allies] that Washington has been trying to strengthen in order to protect its own interests and support the security of Israel.
The slow advance of war-crimes accountability; greater unity for the resistance throughout the region as a whole--those are dreams that may well come true.

Then we have the American Dream: "For one day, for one hour, let us take a bow as a country," without any indication before whom--before which grateful and admiring sector of the world?


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