“It is amazing to see what Israel has become over the last several decades… To have scratched out of rock this incredibly vibrant, incredibly successful, wealthy and powerful country is a testament to the ingenuity, energy and vision of the Jewish people. And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival. ... I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions. How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel. And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians. ... You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.”
~ Barack Obama
The international community should devise detailed laws of combat when dealing with fighting in populated areas, where combatants hide among the civilian population, using them as protective shields, and where combatants operate from mosques, hospitals, schools and government buildings. This lacuna needs to be filled.
Reflections on July Newsletter
Operation Protective Edge
Rocket Fire on Israel
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Situation Overview
United Nations Human Rights Council Special Commission to Investigate Israeli actions during Israel-Hamas War
On Israeli Media
Haaretz survey: Israelis think neither side won, but approve of PM’s decisions
My New Article
Reflections on July Newsletter
Professor Christian Pihet wrote from Angers, France:
I read with great interest and also with compassion for the two imbricated nations your papers and tweets about the current and tragic crisis in Gaza.
In one of your tweets you quote Roger Cohen's paper in the NYT. It is a balanced and culturally interesting material, but I disagree with one of his remarks, "antisemitism is rising in Europe".
As for France I don't think it is the case and I simply want to give you some explanations about the state of opinion in France as I see it :
- there is obviously a small fringe of far-right extremists who are pathologically antisemitic. But I think their number decreases with their increase in age.
- the big and violent demonstrations you heard of in Paris were in name favourable to the Palestinian side. But to me they were and perhaps will be more related to the unsolved question of the integration of the Moslem important population in France. Since 2005, nothing has been implemented in their favour, specifically to their high percentage of unemployment. And when basic demonstrators shouted "we are all Palestinians" I think that they referred to their own situation of undercitizen in France. Racism is rising in France, not antisemitism.
- the French government is unable to produce a clear stance on the Gaza crisis. One day, it supports Israel's right to self defense and the following day it seems to move toward the Palestinian position. This is disturbing and clearly troubling for the citizenry.
- What is deeply true in Roger Cohen's comment is the strong downgrading of the Israeli government image in the French public opinion. Going back to "antisemitism" informed people don't confuse this government attitude with the broader reality of Judaism. However in the long term I fear that it could be the case among less informed citizens. That is why the French rabbis publicly insist on not confusing the temporary administration of the Israeli state with the Judaist faith which is 5000 years old and will be present in Israel and in others parts of the world for the future 5000 years to come. I think that their position is a real stronghold if we were to observe a "rising antisemitism" in my country. They often interact with Christian and Moslem officials in public conferences.
With the hope that this nightmare will end as soon as possible,
Dr Yoav Tenenbaum wrote from Tel Aviv:
Very interesting newsletter, Rafi! I was particularly interested to read your comments in the framework of a diary.
The images from Gaza are heartbreaking, no doubt. Every innocent civilian who dies in Gaza is a tragedy.
The problem with the media reports, particularly TV, is that they tend to concentrate on the outcome rather than the cause. Thus, images of destruction and death cause distress. Media consumers are told that these images are a result of Israeli attacks.
Unfortunately, the whole process whereby the Hamas has been using Gaza's civilian infrastructure as a shield behind which it launches its attacks on Israeli civilians is hardly shown. That is the cause I was referring to above. Well, that and the fact that the Hamas and the other "militant groups," as they are usually called in the Western media, attacked/attack intentionally Israeli civilian centers.
The Iron Dome saved many lives in Israel, but it also helped create a media image of Israeli culpability for few Israeli civilians were hurt or killed in Israel. The intention to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible on the part of Hamas and the other "militant groups" may have logically explained the cause of the Israeli response, but it was rendered almost irrelevant by the Iron Dome. Again – the media looks at the outcome rather than the cause.
Actually, imagine if Israel had not invented the Iron Dome system, what would have been the outcome?
If for every rocket/missile launched from Gaza at least one Israeli would have died (a modest number, to be sure), the number of Israelis killed would have been far greater than those killed in Gaza.
Of course, I don't think that numbers as such can actually apportion blame or indicate who is right and who is not. After all, many more Iraqis died during the first Gulf War than Allied soldiers. So what? Does it mean that Saddam Hussein was right? More Germans were killed during World War II than British. So what? Does it mean that Germany was right?
Also, why did Israel invent the Iron Dome system, to begin with? If Israeli civilians had not been attacked, why would Israel have created it?
How would Britain have reacted if hundreds of missiles had fallen on its cities? Imagine that those missiles were launched from within populated areas in an adjacent territory? Would Britain have remained passive?
I also liked the poem by Stevenson.
I miss your book reviews…
Dr Alan Roth, London, shared with me a letter he wrote to the media. Here I publish parts of it:
It is not at all surprising that gullible swaths of public opinion around the world voice criticisms of Israel when they can count on many publications such as yours to misinform and mislead them.
Under your proverbial veneer of pseudo-objectivity, you spectacularly fail to make even the slightest reference to three (3) paramount facts about the Gaza situation, obviously with the sole intention of harming Israel’s image and standing, In journalism, it is not only what you write but also but what you choose to withhold that matters.
1. Use of human shields by Palestinian terrorists. It has been documented ad nauseam that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups deliberately store and operate rocket launchers as well as attack tunnels in/near civilian residences, schools (UN or other) and hospitals.
2. The Israeli Defence Forces have the highest moral standards of any military force in the world. The second fundamental point you clinically omit is that Israel chooses to put its own soldiers in mortal danger in order to save as many innocent Palestinian lives as possible.
3. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. You finally also failed to mention that the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (whom you extensively vilified in his time) ordered Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza nearly 10 years ago.
This was all so that Gazans would help themselves to a huge kick-start and build their own economic prosperity as quickly as possible. What better neighbour than the one who is prosperous, independent and happy with his lot?
Does the population of Gaza want to make their own way and manage their own economy? Well, we Israelis leave you to it and give you the working means to build your own success from there onward.
But what did the Gazans do after the withdrawal? Instead of carrying on where the Israelis left off using the turn-key agroindustrial infrastructure, they practically let all of it become derelict. They set about destroying synagogue buildings which they could have easily turned into mosques or madrassas. They turned the produce storage facilities in artillery ammo depots. They converted blooming fields into terrorist training fields and rocket launching areas. They elected a terrorist organization to lead them into corrupt, administrative chaos and unprovoked bloodshed. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Again, economically, it made no sense to have withdrawn from Gaza only to turn back the military personnel which was taken out of there - ideally for good - now to make sure the terrorists in their midst did not build hostile or military infrastructure.
The Gazans left Israel no other choice. Though Gaza markets were as full of produce as any in London or Paris, the Israelis needed to control the shipment of every single good entering Gaza by land, sea and air to ensure there was no smuggling of hostile materials – such as rockets – to be used against them.
Now the whole world was able to see that essential goods which are used for peaceful purposes in the hands of any civilised leadership – such as cement and electric cables – in Gaza they needed to be strictly rationed by the Israelis because otherwise the Palestinian terrorists would use it to build rocket launchers, construct ammunition stores under schools and hospitals and dig up tunnels in private homes to attack Israeli civilians.
That was obviously the exact opposite of Sharon’s idea when he ordered the Gaza withdrawal. But this all leads to an important closing point for next steps.
Israel withdrew from its western Palestinian neighbouring area only for its terrorists to have immediately convert it into an aggressively hostile area, showering rockets and building murder tunnels aimed to kill indiscriminately as many Israeli civilians as possible.
And the ‘true friends of Israel’ you mention continue to insist that Israel must now unconditionally withdraw also from its eastern neighbouring Palestinian area, namely the West Bank? Why? Just so that the Palestinian terrorists replicate exactly what they did in Gaza and ‘sandwich’ the thin strip of Israel with more rockets, more tunnels and more suicide attacks from both its western and eastern sides? That is true invitation to destabilising the region forever.
Operation Protective Edge
Sanity returned on August 5. First day to wake up early in the morning, checking the news, and my heart is relieved. Relatively normal news.
In the 29 days of violence, the IDF attacked 4,000 targets in Gaza, resulting in 1,860 Palestinian deaths, 9,130 injured, mostly civilians. At least 250,000 people became refugees. The devastation is horrific.
More than 3,000 rockets launched at Israel from Gaza. 67 Israeli deaths, most of them (64) soldiers.
August 8: The 72-hour lull expired. Israel announced it will continue the lull. Hamas announced that it insisted on its demands and if these were not accepted, fire will be resumed. Israel did not accept the demands (lifting of the siege, opening a harbor, release of prisoners) and at 8 am, rockets were fired on towns in the south of Israel. No one was hurt. Despite the heavy fire, Israel refrained from retaliation for about 2 hours, and then resumed its fire.
1,922 killed, including at least 1,407 civilians
1 Thai national in Israel
(Source: OCHA; 0500 GMT on 8 August)
August 13, 2014: I would expect leaders to be able to restrain themselves and avoid making militant declarations for political motives when human lives are at stake. I wonder whether Lieberman, Bennett and Saar would have made their threats about returning to Gaza if their own children were in the line of fire.
I sincerely hope Israel will cooperate with international inquiry committees on its war conduct. History does repeat itself, but it does not mean leaders should repeat gross mistakes.
Not cooperating with international inquiry committees means that the information will be fed only by Hamas. This certainly is not going to serve Israel’s cause.
Do Israeli leaders have something to hide? Is it possible to hide one-month war conduct? Leaders should reflect and think about the consequences of their actions.
Establishing an Israeli inquiry committee comprised of people of the establishment will also disservice Israel as it lacks credibility as an impartial body, free of conflict of interests.
Leaders of Israel and Hamas should reflect and ask themselves: Was it worth it? Did they achieve their aims? Is Israel more secure? Is Gaza freer? Is there a silver lining in this celebration of violence?
The core causes for the violence remain. Thus, I suspect that this won’t be the final round of violence. Unless world leaders, including Arab countries that can influence Hamas and Abu Mazen, united in pressing for a formula: Gaza reconstruction for demilitarization.
Leaders should differentiate between tactics and strategy, leaving the tactics to the army. Leaders should outline aims and identify principles.
The prime aim of this war was to provide the Israeli people with security, with the ability to lead life free of terror. By “people” I refer to all Israelis, combatants and non-combatants alike. As for combatants, officers should strive to bring all soldiers home, safe and sound, at the end of hostilities. Direct engagement with the enemy should be limited to absolute necessity. Officers should strive that no soldier will fall in the hands of Hamas.
The second aim was to isolate Hamas, making this terror organization the world pariah, drive a wedge between Hamas and the Gazan population, and strengthen Abu Mazen at the expense of Hamas. Israel should strive to strengthen the position of Palestinian moderates who recognize Israel and are willing to negotiate with it.
There is a dual battle: on the ground is the military battle. No less important is the battle in world public opinion. Israel should be complimented for its struggle against terror. Israel has every right to protect its citizens. Its leaders have an obligation to the Israeli people to provide them protection and defence against terror.
Winning the military battle while losing the public battle will not strengthen Israel. Israeli victory should be perceived as just. If not, Israel’s position in the world will deteriorate. Hamas will receive sympathy instead of condemnation.
The principles that guide Israeli leaders should include the avoidance of hurting innocent civilians to an absolute minimum. Indiscriminate killing and vast collateral damage undermine Israel’s position.
I would expect the prime minister to step forward and explain each and every day the situation to the Israeli public and to the world at large. The Israeli public pays a very high price. It deserves to know their leader’s thoughts and appraisal of the situation as it unfold.
Israeli leaders should be encouraged to show sympathy to the enemy. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls (Proverbs 24:17).
A patient comes to the doctor with severe inflammation. The doctor prescribes an anti-inflammatory cream and a plaster. The patient continues to suffer because the doctor failed to address the cause for the inflammation. Similarly, the eruption of violence is a symptom. Leaders should address the core issues that lead to violence. Without addressing the core issues, violence is likely to erupt again, and again, and again.
What is the long term objective? What is the plan to provide security to the people of Israel?
August 16: 10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, and end the occupation Some 10,000 Israelis flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square under the slogan “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war” in the largest anti-Gaza war demonstration in Israel since the outbreak of hostilities more than one month ago.
The major left-wing parties, Meretz and Hadash, as well as Peace Now and other left-wing organizations, joined the demonstration, calling for a wide range of demands, from continuing negotiations between Israel and Hamas to an end to the occupation and Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Many who have demonstrated throughout the past weeks of hostilities expressed disappointment at Meretz and Peace Now for their refusal to support anti-war demonstrations until now.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal’on addressed the protest, affirming that her party was against the Israeli military operation in Gaza all along. She lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not immediately recognizing the Palestinian unity deal and instead choosing war.
Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh stated in Hebrew and Arabic, “We are building a partnership against the occupation, for a free Palestine.” He continued, “We are here for a two-state solution, for life and a future for people in Gaza and the South.”
Israeli author David Grossman whose clear voice represents many, including mine, said: “Neither side in this war has a victory picture. There are only indescribable images of death and destruction. Every image depicts defeat for both peoples”. He maintained: "There is no military solution for the conflict between Israel and Hamas. There is no military solution that will end the suffering of Israelis in the south and the inhumane suffering of people in Gaza. People in Israel won’t be able to breathe freely either, until the stranglehold on Gaza is lifted."
Rocket Fire on Israel
Rocket terror has tormented Israel. It is not merely a nuisance. Rockets kill. When a rocket hits populated areas, it creates a lot of damage. It is an effective form of terror because you never know where the next rocket will fall. It might fall on your head. Rockets make life miserable, abnormal, fearful.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are capable of making rockets themselves. One or two men go outside, fire a rocket, and seek immediate shelter. And we, with all the mighty technology and war capabilities, look dismayed. There is little that the IDF can do about this. The rockets continued until the last day of this war. So simple. So effective.
Rockets are likely to continue tormenting Israel from the south, and from the north, if no political solution is found.
The Iron Dome proved to be effective in intercepting medium range and long range rockets. It was far less effective in providing defence against mortars and rockets for civilians in the Gaza vicinity. I do not envy the Israelis living outside Gaza.
In red: number of rockets per day.
In blue: number of intercepted rockets by the Iron Dome.
Ynet, August 6, 2014
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Situation Overview
Over 85 per cent of Palestinian fatalities since the start of the emergency are believed to be civilians (excluding those whose bodies could not be identified or their status determined); child fatalities exceeded 400.
Nearly 30 per cent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, including about 65,000 people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair and have nowhere to return.
Insecurity and overcrowded conditions fuel frustration and anger among IDPs hosted in UNRWA shelters; multiple incidents of violence against shelter staff and between families have been reported.
Lack of adequate transportation arrangements impedes the transfer of patients to medical facilities outside of Gaza, needed for lifesaving treatment and to free up beds for casualties.
United Nations Human Rights Council Special Commission to Investigate Israeli actions during Israel-Hamas War
That the UN will appoint such a committee was expected. One had to look at Ban Ki-Moon’s body language during his futile trip to Israel attempting to achieve ceasefire, as he was listening to Prime Minister Netanyahu who more or less told him: Thank you for coming. There was no need. We are determined to protect the best interests of Israel as we see fit. No organization in the world will tell us what to do. This includes yours.
The international human rights community is relatively small. But small as is, it is still possible to nominate three people who have no prior history in dealing with Israel and Palestine. To appoint someone controversial to head the committee undermines the committee’s credibility and its potential impact.
Professor William Schabas has made anti-Israeli statements, and little sympathy for the Jewish nation and its security needs. In the past, the Israeli media reported he had called to bring Benjamin Netanyahu to justice at the International Criminal Court. One can assume that Netanyahu will receive particular attention in his report. Schabas was also quoted saying that Iran's call to destroy Israel was mere "political views" and not "a call for genocide." Would he have said the same if Iran were to target England for its “wiping off the map” agenda and at the same declare its determination to pursue nuclear power?
The U.N. statement said the independent team will investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law ... in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014." I hope the inquiry committee will investigate all Palestinian claims against Israel, and all Israeli claims against Hamas and the other Palestinian factions that escalated the situation into a full-fledge war.
I am certain that human rights organizations will cooperate with the committee. But they do not have all the details that the Israeli government has. In order to protect its name, Israel should produce evidence about Hamas’ alleged criminal war tactics. Israel claimed that Hamas does not care for human lives; that it prohibited the Gaza population to run from their homes following IDF warnings; that it fired from homes of civilians; that it intentionally mixes its fighters among the population; that it used the population, including children, as human shields; that it used schools, hospitals and mosques to stockpile its ammunition and rockets; that the UN bases were used for terrorism.
All these allegations should be looked at carefully by the committee. It should not scrutinize only Palestinian allegations.
The panel is to report by March 2015 to the UN Human Rights Council.
For further discussion, see Anne Herzberg, “Schabas is the perfect choice for Goldstone 2”, Jerusalem Post (August 17, 2014),
I am concerned about the deterioration in the relationships between the two countries. On August 14, the White House did not authorise shipment of Hellfire Missiles to Israel. Hellfire missiles are fired from Apache helicopters to take out heavily armored ground targets. The US administration does not trust Israeli discretion in its war conduct and now distinguishes between defensive weapons and offensive ones. At the same time it denied the Hellfire shipment it also authorized enlarged support for the Iron Dome batteries.
Israel and the USA have shared interests, but not identical interests. Israeli interests are much narrower compared to those of the Super Power. President Obama is concerned about the implications of this round of violence on the Middle East at large, and on the radicalization of the region. He expects Israel to calm the very volatile atmosphere rather than contribute to it. President Obama has no appreciation for Israel’s settlement policy, as he thinks it will only worsen the situation and is likely to produce more conflict. President Obama was very unhappy with the war's conduct, especially after July 19, and more so after August 1, when Israel tried to retrieve IDF officer Hadar Goldin and used the “Hannibal procedure” (you can read about this procedure at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2723575/Israeli-tactic-stop-soldier-capture-criticized.html).
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu do not share the same values and world-views. The tension between them is well-known and documented. Israel has tried to bypass the White House by direct appeals to Congress. This maneuver does not serve Israel’s best interest. It is short-term, short-sighted, and is likely to impact the relationships between future American and Israeli leaders. No leader likes to be ignored and bypassed. Leaders have the power to affect history, for better and worse. Prudence and calculated decision-making is very much in need.
On Israeli Media
The Israeli media at large usually support the government at times of war. I have shown this in an article I co-authored with my student Marc Biano (R. Cohen-Almagor and Mark Bianu, "Israeli Wars as Seen by Haáretz Newspaper", Kesher (Connection), Vol. 35 (winter 2007), pp. 15-30, Hebrew). This was certainly true during this recent war. I have been following five media outlets from the start of the hostilities and the picture was staggeringly similar. Most of the time, the government enjoyed support while the army enjoyed overwhelming support. There were hardly dissenting voices. In Israel, the muses are almost dead silent when the guns are firing. The voice of the Gazans was hardly heard, and paled in comparison to the hard-hitting war drums. Difficult questions were hardly raised as the number of non-combatant casualties in Gaza increased exponentially. All the outlets relied on the same sources. The fingerprints of the government, and especially some ministers in the government, were noticeable (Netanyahu, Yaalon, Saar, Lieberman, Bennett). The IDF voice came out loud and clear. Thus the news was similar in all outlets. All played into the hands of their sources, providing them with forums with little questioning or criticisms. All danced to their tune, even when the sources changed the war conduct from one direction to another.
I was waiting for questions like: Why is it necessary to use the artillery against Hamas? Where do you expect people of Gaza to go when you tell them to go? What are the 4,000 targets that the air force attacked? Is it a good policy to attack any place from which Hamas fires, including mosques, hospitals and schools? How do you measure collateral damage? Where do you draw the line? Do you care about world opinion? How do you know that you destroyed a third, or half of all the rockets? Doesn’t Hamas manufacture its own rockets?
The only exception was the Haaretz newspaper, by far the more critical voice about this war, and the only outlet that attempted to give a voice to the other side. Not to Hamas, of course, but to the people of Gaza.
I receive the newsletters of human rights organizations in Israel. They did raise questions, queried the IDF tactics, and reiterated the principles of proportionality and distinction. I never saw them invited to speak. They did not fit the chorus.
Sam Lehman-Wilzig, professor of media studies, notes that all media, in all democracies, almost unilaterally support the government/military during wartime, except when the war goes on for years. Israeli media is not unusual. Just put the words “circling the wagons during wartime” in Google Scholar and see the results.
Haaretz survey: Israelis think neither side won but approve of PM’s decisions
Haaretz published a poll on August 6, 2014, according to which the Israeli public doesn’t view the war as a victory, but nevertheless overwhelmingly approves of the troika that led Operation Protective Edge: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
A decisive majority of respondents proved unimpressed by the claims of victory made by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Had they been asked to sum up the month-long campaign in one word, it would have been “tie.” Fully 51 percent said neither side had won, while 56 percent said the goals laid down by the government – destroying Hamas’ tunnels and dealing Hamas a severe blow – were achieved only partially.
Asked whether Israel should renew negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and take steps to “bolster” him, a clear majority said yes. Three months ago, Abbas was the devil. Today, Hamas has replaced him in this role, and he is suddenly a white knight by comparison.
On the one hand, Israelis’ have bitter feelings about the war’s outcome. On the other hand, Israelis tend to unify at time of crisis and support the government in power. Most Israelis put the blame on Hamas, perceiving this terror organization as the source of all evil. They are aggravated by the string of events which they see as follows:
Three Israeli youth were kidnapped; Israel was justified to try and find the three young men;
when the bodies of the slain boys were found, Israel was justified to retaliate, targeting Hamas terrorists;
Hamas responded with indiscriminate terror rockets on Israeli civilians; no country should come to terms with such attacks. Israel opened a military campaign to stop the rocket fire.
Hamas intensified the violence and also resorted to terror infiltrations from the sea and via terror tunnels that reached well into Israeli territory. Not only that it did not accept proposals for ceasefire, but with its violent actions Hamas also forced Israel to expand military operations and brought upon itself, and upon the people of Gaza, more devastation.
As Hamas mixes its terrorists with civilians, there are many casualties on the Palestinian side. This is unfortunate, yet it is Hamas’ fault.
Thus, Israeli level of satisfaction with the performance of Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz is unsurprisingly high. 83 percent approve of Gantz’s performance; Israelis perceive him as the ultimate general – not, as some ministers recently charged, someone with no fighting spirit who just wanted to “return home safely.” Netanyahu and Ya’alon also received whopping 77 percent approval ratings.
I wonder what the approval rate of Lieberman and Bennett is.
Hamas planned this all along. Hamas wanted to escalate the situation in order to push for some of its objectives: lifting the blockade on Gaza; press for a naval base; release of prisoners; stopping the air attacks on Gaza against identified targets. Hamas understood that only by force, by tormenting Israel with its rocket fire, it could achieve this aim. From 2006, Hamas knew how sensitive Israel is to kidnapping. It knew that the kidnapping of the three young boys will drive Israel to retaliate, and then hell broke. Thus while Hamas had clear ends and knew its endgame, the Israeli government was deciding while moving, with no clear picture in mind.
Hamas planned this all along. Hamas wanted to escalate the situation in order to push for some of its objectives. It planned to attack Israel in September, during the Jewish holidays and to torment the nation during its most sensitive period of the year. The kidnapping of the three boys was a sporadic initiative that was not coordinated with the Hamas leadership. But once the IDF retaliate strongly, Hamas decided to have the military confrontation with Israel earlier. Hamas knew Gaza will pay a price but its leaders think the long term objectives justify the short term sacrifice. Its leaders also understand that often conflicts are not resolved only in the battlefield, and that diplomacy is no less important force in achieving ends.
My New Article
I continue my campaign for a two-state solution. My most recent article is:
“Suggestions for Israeli-Palestinian Agreement”, New Directions (Kivunim Hadashim), No.30 (June 2014), pp. 144-159 (Hebrew).
As always, I would be happy to email it to interested parties.
Book Review of Ruth Gavison (ed.), “The Two-State Solution” (NY and London: Bloomsbury, 2013), Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 50, Issue 4 (2014), pp. 683-687.
Published in Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 50, Issue 4 (2014), pp. 683-687.
During the past twenty years many ideas have appeared on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: one state solution; two state solution; three state solution and confederations with neighbouring countries. Ideas are raised about Jerusalem, whether to make it an international city, or an open city, or to divide it. Further ideas relate to the holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and whether separation rather than integration between Jews and Arabs is advisable.
Ruth Gavison’s new book contextualizes these debates within a broader historical perspective, showing that there is little new under the sun. Since the early days of Zionism, even before the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews, Arabs and other international players had addressed these concerns, raising and debating the same issues time and again.
The book is comprised of two parts: the first part (pp. 3-61) includes articles by Itzhak Galnoor, Alexander Yakobson, Mustafa Kabba, Nazier Magally and Ruth Gavison, all concerned with the United Nations Partition Resolution of 29 November 1947. These interesting articles provide the historical context of UN resolution 181, including the positions and internal debates of the Jewish and Arab parties and of the international community. The much larger second part of the book includes primary sources relating to the resolution -- protocols, addresses, letters, memoranda, reports, recommendations and speeches, some published for the first time in English. These documents shed interesting light on events, moods, opinions and disagreements among Jews, British and Arabs as well as within the three camps.
The second part of the book is divided into five ‘crossroads’: the first deals with the Peel Commission which was sent to Palestine in 1936 and whose recommendations were not eventually approved by the British government. The Commission concluded that Palestine should be partitioned into a Jewish state, an Arab area which would be annexed to Transjordan, and an area which would remain under permanent Mandatory control. Its members thought that the partition was the only method for dealing with the root of the trouble. The partition, they wrote, is practicable and does justice to Arabs and Jews (p. 77). To both Arabs and Jews, the partition offered the prospect of “the inestimable boon of peace” (p. 84).
The Zionist Congress accepted the partition proposal but rejected the recommended borders. Many Zionists today support partition of Eretz Israel into Israel and Palestine, and would support some form of confederation between Palestine and Jordan, if this resolution is acceptable to both. No one today entertains the thought of re-establishing the Mandate.
The Arabs rejected the Peel Commission’s proposals in their entirety. Many Arabs continue to uphold this rejection of Zionism in any form; among them most prominently today is the Hamas movement. A growing number of Arabs, however, believe that Jews are entitled to their home in Israel and are willing to entertain the idea of land partition.
The second ‘crossroad’ concerns the Anglo-American Inquiry Commission’s recommendations (March-April 1946) that were also rejected by Britain. The Commission wisely concluded that neither Jewish control over the Arab population nor Arab control over the Jewish population was an acceptable solution, and recommended the establishment of a trust territory until the alleviation of the enmity between the groups. Jewish control over Arab population and Arab control over Jewish population are as unwise and unattractive today as they were then.
Interestingly, Albert Hourani, who represented the Arab Office, told the Anglo-American Committee that the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine would not satisfy the great majority of Zionists that want political domination over the whole of Palestine, “at least” (p. 104). The establishment of a Jewish State would encourage them to ask for more. Hourani’s words are partly true today. Some Zionists still want political domination over the whole of Palestine, “at least”. Israelis say the exact same words about the Palestinians, that they want political domination over the whole of Palestine, “at least”, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state will serve them as a spring-board to ask for more.
The third ‘crossroad’ pertains to the political, humanitarian, international, and diplomatic efforts and recommendations of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) (May-September 1947). It is interesting to read the poignant words of Soviet Ambassador Andrei Gromyko to the General Assembly of the UN regarding the establishing of UNSCOP (14 May 1947). He noted that both Palestinians and Jews have historical roots in Palestine (p. 149) and that an equitable solution can be reached only if sufficient consideration is given to the legitimate interests of both people. These words are as true and relevant today as they were in 1947. Gromyko’s conclusion, however, is very much contested by both Arabs and Jews. Only a small minority endorses today his view that the legitimate interests of both populations “can be duly safeguarded only through the establishment of an independent, dual, democratic, homogeneous Arab-Jewish state” (p. 150). The words of British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevin, of 18 September 1947, ring true also today: “The Jews see federal state as a totally unacceptable solution” (p. 244).
Lohamei Herut Yisrael in their memorandum to UNSCOP (26 June 1947) rejected the idea of a bi-national state as well as the partition plan. Their followers continue to reject both ideas.
The UNSCOP Report, published on 3 September 1947, reminds us just how little innovation we find in the struggle of Arabs against Israel. The Report noted that the Arab resistance to Jewish political demands in Palestine has in part taken the form of economic boycott of Jewish goods. While the boycott would have been proven effective in 1947 “due to the dependence of Jewish industry on the market of Arab countries” (p. 198), Israel’s industry today is dependent on other markets. Then and today, boycott is regarded by some Arab leaders as an important means of furthering their political aims. Some of them still wish to strengthen the boycott in order “to pull down Zionist existence” (p. 198).
The fourth ‘crossroad’ is the 29th November resolution known as the UN General Assembly resolution 181 while the fifth and last ‘crossroad’ includes documents related to the period between 29 November 1947 until the establishment of Israel on 14 May 1948. In Resolution 181, I wish to highlight its recommendations regarding holy places and freedom of worship: “the liberty of access, visit, and transit shall be guaranteed, in conformity with existing rights, to all residents and citizens of the other State and of the City of Jerusalem, as well as to aliens, without distinction as to nationality, subject to requirements of national security, public order and decorum” (p. 287).
Resolution 181 maintained that “Holy Places and religious buildings or sites shall be preserved. No act shall be permitted which may in any way impair their sacred character. If at any time it appears to the Government that any particular Holy Place, religious, building or site is in need of urgent repair, the Government may call upon the community or communities concerned to carry out such repair” (p. 287). Furthermore, “No taxation shall be levied in respect of any Holy Place, religious building or site which was exempt from taxation on the date of the creation of the State” (p. 288) and “No change in the incidence of such taxation shall be made which would either discriminate between the owners or occupiers of Holy Places, religious buildings or sites, or would place such owners or occupiers in a position less favourable in relation to the general incidence of taxation than existed at the time of the adoption of the Assembly's recommendations” (p. 288).
Finally, in the last and succinct ‘crossroad’ which provides some reactions and follow-ups to the Partition Resolution, I wish to note Golda Meyerson’s report on her discussion with King Abdullah of Jordan (12 May 1948), letter from Chaim Weizmann to President Truman (13 May 1948) and the historical Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel of 14 May 1948.
The Two-State Solution compiles some important documents relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict during the first half of the 20th Century. For the next edition, let me make some constructive recommendations that would enhance the quality of this book as well as the readers’ understanding of the documents presented. Most importantly, while Gavison has provided some context at the outset of the book, not many readers will be able to comprehend the details of the documents as no particular context and interpretation of each and every document is given. For instance, on p. 86 we find “Address by Mr V. Jabotinsky to members of the British Parliament, 13 July 1937”. The reader might not know who Jabotinsky was, what his official role was, what brought him to speak before the British Parliament, and why the parliament wanted to hear him and provide him with a forum. On p. 145 there is a document titled “Dr Goldmann’s mission to Washington, 5 August 1946” but readers might not know who Dr Goldmann was, what exactly was his mission to Washington, and before whom he wished to present his agenda. Pages 238-242 include a letter from Shertok to Meyerson (7 September 1947). Gavison assumes as she generally does that the readers know who Shertok and Meyerson were. I would suggest clarifying official roles of people throughout the book. In this particular case it is very difficult, even for people who master Israeli history, to understand this long letter without context. Without the necessary explanation, it is difficult to estimate this letter’s importance and to appreciate the reasoning behind its inclusion in this collection.
Similarly, p. 251 provides the Address of Arthur Creech-Jones to the UN General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian question, 16 September 1947. Not many people know that Mr Creech-Jones was the British Colonial Secretary, and how should we understand Mr Creech-Jones’ speech within the context of his relationships with other British players, for instance Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ernest Bevin.
Page 301 presents Zalman Lipschitz’ memorandum but we do not know who Mr Lipschitz was and what the significance of this rather long memorandum was. Why is it important to include this document in the book?
Thus I would suggest starting each document with a few paragraphs explaining the historical context of the document, when and why it was written, by whom (a name is not enough) and for what purpose. Each document should start at a new page.
Finally, the maps at the Appendix (pp. 316-319) should be made clearer by providing a detailed index of their different segments. At present, only one map is accompanied with a clear index.
In conclusion, The Two-State Solution is a resource book for people who are interested in the history of Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It provides a rich and comprehensive overview of the subject from a variety of perspectives. It shows that the arguments for a two-state solution, i.e., a Jewish state along a Palestinian state, are as relevant today as they were then. Featuring both Israeli and Palestinian points of view, this significant work renews the debate that has shaped -- and is still shaping -- the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Abba Eban said that “history teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives”. Arabs and Jews have exhausted many alternatives for settling the dispute. Common sense has been procrastinating for many years but, at the end of the day, it will prevail. Gavison’s The Two-State Solution hopefully will serve as a guide for reaching a just and comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine. It is a vital resource for anyone interested in the past and future of Israel and Palestine.
The Knicks made their most important acquisition in many years by signing Phil Jackson, the most decorated manager in the NBA who has built two great teams in the history of basketball, one in Chicago, the other in Los Angeles. Will he be able to add a third in New York? Jackson, who played for the Knicks, has one super-star: Carmelo Anthony. He needs one more super-star next to Melo, and a solid supporting team. Jackson has the eye and the knowledge to pick the right players who can make an effective team. I hope to see the Knicks as NBA Champion after a long, boring, and most frustrating drought.
David Blatt, the first Israeli manager in the history of the NBA, will make Jackson’s life difficult. The Cavs have an exciting team.
These solitary hills have always been dear to me.
Seated here, this sweet hedge, which blocks the distant horizon opening inner silences and interminable distances.
I plunge in thought to where my heart, frightened, pulls back.
Like the wind which I hear tossing the trembling plants which surround me, a voice from the inner depths of spirit shakes the certitudes of thought.
Eternity breaks through time, past and present intermingle in her image.
In the inner shadows I lose myself,
drowning in the sea-depths of timeless love.
It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgerow here, that closes out my view,
from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here, in thought,
I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.
When I hear the wind, blowing among these leaves,
I go on to compare that infinite silence
with this voice, and I remember the eternal
and the dead seasons, and the living present,
and its sound, so that in this immensity
my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet
to me in this sea.
Enjoy relaxing music,
Together We Stand
I hope not to write about wars at least until next summer.
Peace and love.
Yours as ever,
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