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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Some Thoughts on the Current Crisis in Gaza

I had a friend recently state that she was "pro-Palestinian." 

I am not sure exactly what that means any more than to say that I am, for instance, “pro-Irish” (I go there a lot, both of my daughters do Irish dancing, and one speaks a bit of Gaelic, has performed twice at Doolin and was the front singer and bodhrain-player in an Irish band, etc.). 

This seems a silly statement since it begs the question of how can you be pro or con any nationality per se. 


The only exception would be if you believe that a country does not have the right to exist. Then you can be "anti" whatever. I am, for example, anti-Confederate States of America (e.g., I don't want the South to rise again).

I am in this context, pro-Palestinian too I suppose since (unlike the government in Gaza) I support a two-state solution that ensure the right of both Palestine and Israel to exist. I am opposed to the current Israeli government’s actions in building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I support Israel's right to self-defense but believe they have made a muck of it by responding with such overwhelming force in response to a few hundred rockets fired on Israeli cities. They have responded with a gun in a knife-fight essentially.

Old enough to decide on his own?
I should note that I am opposed to indoctrinating the very young into political issues. I am disturbed when I see little children waving "Free Palestine" flags or banners that read "Hamas is a terrorist organization." Personally, I don't think they are old enough to decide... and this plays to emotion rather than reason. It is rather sad really.

Israel has not done well in securing public opinion.  Gaza is seen through the lens of its long-suffering Palestinian civilians rather than a brutal, ineffective and self-serving regime under Hamas. Both are true. 

Palestinians in Gaza are living in unbearable circumstances, but those circumstances are, in my view, a result of the misrule  of the Hamas government.  Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization not only by Israel and the United States, but also by Australia, Canada, Japan, Jordan and – since 2003 – the European Union. Egypt has been on again off again on this (they are on now as listing Hamas as a terrorist organization).  It strikes me as odd that among these, only the EU nations are demanding that Israel negotiate with an organization with whom their own government’s prohibit negotiation.

While I find it unlikely that -- without responding -- France or Britain would allow themselves to be the subject of two rocket attacks let alone over a hundred (the number that hit Israeli civilian targets before it attacked back), I recognize that Europe holds Israel to a different standard than it holds itself. 

Many supporters of Israel bemoan Europe's higher standard for Israel than anywhere else (see the Dry Bones cartoon at right). Bemoaning this makes little difference generally only serves to make Europeans defensive. The double standard, to me, is less important than its reality... and it is a reality that should affect Israeli policy.

There are a number of reasons for the European double standard. These include
  • guilt over past colonial rule in the Arab-speaking countries (especially on the left)
  • the importance of the Muslim community as a voting bloc (especially in France) and politicians' perception that Muslims must be anti-Israel as a whole (rather than perhaps a highly vocal minority)
  • a tendency to favor the underdog in conflicts (especially the case in England, Ireland, Sweden and Norway) and Israel is the strongest military and economic power in the region, and
  •  an intractable anti-Semitism of both the old right-wing variety and the new Zionism as racism variety. As Martin Luther King said, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism here." 

Gaza gas field
Though less important, I should add here the sometimes-stated issue of natural resource dependence (both the oil and gas from the Gulf which opposes Israel’s right to exist, as well as the desire from European oil companies – notably BP – to tap the natural gas field discovered off the coast of Gaza).
Finally, it is possible that European guilt over the Holocaust contributes to the allowance of Israel conducting genocide accusations (a form of projection that is absurd on the face of it and amazingly unleveled at actual genocides in Cambodia, the Mayans in Guatemala (1966-96), the Timorese in Indonesia (1975-1999), Kurds in Iraq (1988), the Mbenga (Pygmies), in DRC (1998-2003), or for that matter the Yazidi in Iraq by the IS (so-called Islami State) right now.  

The Palestinian situation is not acceptable as it stands. There is much suffering not only now during the Gaza fighting but before then in both the West Bank and Gaza (though much worse in Gaza due to its misrule). Notwithstanding this, that world opinion focuses more the Palestinian issue than on similar issues in other regions/countries is to me inexplicable unless prejudice against Israel as the Jewish state is put into the calculations. I certainly don't believe that all criticism of Israel even remotely constitutes anti-Semitism. The policies of Israel are hotly contested within Israel and it seems unlikely that Israelis themselves would be motivated by anti-Semitism. That said, there is a double standard with regard to Israel that smacks of Jew-hatred.

First, as mentioned above, I find it beyond belief that France, Belgium, the UK or other EU nations would allow themselves to be attacked by several hundred rockets without a similar response. That is a double standard. The fact that there is a pre-existing situation of helplessness on the part of the Gazans or of outrage over the killing of Jewish and Palestinian children (the supposed trigger this time) does not take away from this point as one of bias.

Second, there are currently a dozen disputed regions, each with considerable suffering with thousands of refugees and meriting our attention as much as that of Palestine. That is NOT to say that Palestine merits less of our attention but the focus on Palestine relative to the inattention to the equally important suffering of others here is hard to explain. While the suffering endured by the Gazans under attack make the current situation different from those I am about to list, my point here is that even without the Gaza crisis, the Israel/Palestine situation receives far more attention than any of the following:
  • The division of Northern Cyprus and Greek Cyprus (part of the EU no less!)
  • The former Spanish Sahara (Polisario) occupied over the wishes of its residents by Morocc
  • Abkhazia’s occupation of/rightful claim by Russia
  • South Ossetia’s occupation of/right claim by Russia
  • Chechya’s occupation of/rightful claim by Russia
  • Transnistria’s occupation of/ rightful claim by Russia
  • Tibet’s disputed occupation of/rightful claim by China

On a less territorial plane, the Myanmar attacks on its Muslim Rohingya population and the deportation of the Roma from France (as well as the ongoing persecution of Roma communities in Hungary, Romania and other EU nations) have left many refugees with great suffering, a virtually no world outcry. There are more but the point here but that is not the point. The point here is that Israel is the focus of much greater scrutiny than any of these other situations. 

Again, that does not mean that I condone any mistreatment of Palestinians. I don’t. It does mean that something is amiss with world attention.  

 I have written on this before on my blog (see http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2011/11/some-musings-on-palestine-israel.html ) but it merits repeating perhaps.

My own position is that the world believes that when Israeli civilians are attacked, Israel should not respond in kind. I actually agree if the goal is to make Israel safer and to force Palestine to recognize Israel’s right to exist.  Non-violence I believe is probably more effective here since any use of force here transforms Israel from victim to aggressor in world opinion.   

I am a firm believer that violence begets violence in an unending cycle. You kill my daughter and I can never forgive you and I seek revenge. I kill your son who killed my daughter and you can never forgive me until you seek revenge. Now multiply this by the thousands killed in Gaza. This is unwinnable. As Martin Luther King taught, nonviolence is the only solution to such problems, as the only means for us "to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence."

Israel can only win the war of public opinion through taking the position of non-violence. This is NOT to play the part of the helpless victim but to recognize the power of nonviolence, whether with civil rights in the US, overthrowing the British Empire in India or, yes, finding peace in the Middle East. In my own lifetime, this worked after 400 years of conflict in Northern Ireland (and, yes, I was a supporter of the Irish Republican side, but I still believed in nonviolence).

In the Israeli context, though, nonviolence in the form of unanswered missile attacks or kidnapped, unarmed teenagers echoes the long history of playing the role of the victim. This means ironically for the most-persecuted group in history needing to take on once again the role of victim. This is all hte more grating because this is the role that Europeans in particular want Jews to hold as their traditional role.  That is blunt but I would be hard pressed to give another reading from the Israeli perspective. That said, I DO have one: nonviolence. Nonviolence is NOT victimhood. It is the tool of a brave, committed and powerful belief that has at its foundation, as Dr. King reminds us, "a method of love."
Hatred and open conflict have not much worked. I believe that this will.

As for the link of anti-Semitism to Jew-hatred, this is not absolute... but there IS a connection.

Newsweek made this clear in their August 8 cover story "Exodus: Why Europe's Jews Are Fleeing Once Again":  “These people were not attacked because they were showing their support for the Israeli government. They were attacked because they were Jews, going about their daily business." 

What is happening this time and what happened previously is that Israel is seen not as defending itself but as crushing a weaker opponent, which in reality is probably the truth. If Israel’s goal is to be safer (and I believe that this is a legitimate goal), its invasion of Gaza has not achieved that end. Israel clearly can win any battle with Gaza but has made its position more precarious.  The hatred of Jews that lies just under the surface in Europe and that is official policy in Palestine (and unofficial policy in several Gulf states) is a factor here. Israel is not judged as a nation. It is judged as the country of the Jews – hence the pro-Gaza demonstrations in Paris, Toulouse, Brussels, Antwerp, Berlin and more that  had posters and group cries with the slogan “Death to the Jews”, “To the gas chambers” and so on. Posters bearing the images of the most hate-filled variety tend to delegitimize legitimate posters calling for Israel to stop its attack in Gaza.

Free Gaza rally, Stuttgart, July 29, 2014
Hence fact that mobs carried out the desecration of the ancient Great Synagogue in Rome with Jew-hatred slogans (not anti-Israel ones), the burning of a synagogue in Germany, the trapping of Jews in 8 synagogues in Paris (not just one but two weeks in a row). Jewish-owned business without any political statements were attacked across France.
Parisian Jewish-owned pharmacy gutted in solidarity with Gaza

Hamas logo
Finally, there is the issue of Hamas. Even though I support an independent Palestine and a separate Israel, I do not support Hamas, even as the elected government of Gaza. Why?

\     Articles 7, 22 and32 of the Hamas Charter are appalling in their Jew-hatred, and prohibit the allowance of Israel’s right to exist. By contrast, I support a two-state solution and believe in Israel’s right to exist.

      Hamas restricts freedom of the press, and has been condemned not only by the non-Hamas press but by Reporters Without Borders (see, http://en.rsf.org/palestinian-territories-hamas-disbands-journalists-union-06-09-2007,23565.html ). Both the PA and Israel allow freedom of the press (it may be biased, but there is no restriction from the government). I support freedom of the press and distrust governments that do not.

           Hamas has one of the worst human rights records in a region famous for poor human rights records. Hamas in 2012 was roundly condemned in a 42-page report by Human Rights Watch (which by the way is no friend of Israel and has called that government out for abuses as well, just nowhere as egregiously so). I admit that neither the PA nor Israel have clean human rights records, but they appear to try to correct these abuses rather than – as Hamas systematically does -- suppress them by attacking the press or others who bring complaints into the light. http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-israeloccupied-palestinian-territories

I have more reasons, but I think those are enough to give you an idea of my position.

I am not expecting everyone to agree with me on what I have said here, but I thought it was easier than writing a series of emails or Facebook responses to people who have asked me my views. Let me also state that this position does not reflect anything to do with anywhere that I work, and is only my own opinion. That opinion is not set in stone, and I am only indicating how I see things at present.

That said, I am praying for peace in the Middle East... not only in Gaza but in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Mali and more. I hope that you will join me as well.

Clip Art Sources: 
Ireland Forever:http://i209.photobucket.com/albums/bb55/HarborWholesale/Stencils/IrelandForever4x20.jpg

Old enough to decide on his own? http://previous.presstv.ir/photo/20110602/asadi_s20110602022210670.jpg

Two-state yin-yang: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/Israel_Palestine_one-state_binational_flag.jpg

Two-state ties: http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/uploads/image/14/41652.jpg

Dry Bones double standard cartoon: http://media.cagle.com/49/2012/11/15/122423_125.gif

M. L. King on Zionism: https://www.facebook.com/wjc.org/photos/a.10150309946314805.363449.130945114804/10152572537859805/?type=1&theater

Gutted Jewish-owned pharmacy in Paris: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas#mediaviewer/File:Small_hamas_logo.gif

Stuttgart pro-Gaza anti-Jewish rally, http://mystical-politics.blogspot.com/2014/07/anti-semitism-at-pro-gaza-rallies-in.html

Gaza gas field: http://www.globalresearch.ca/is-israels-operation-protective-edge-really-about-natural-gas/5393103

Hamas logo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas#mediaviewer/File:Small_hamas_logo.gif

Jerusalem hug: https://www.facebook.com/hugjerusalem

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