Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush: Confusing himself, confusing the world.


Ok, Bush, so you have your boneheaded domino-theory of spreading democracy via the lesson of invasion. And as a yardstick for the effectiveness of your policy, the theocons win 62% in Iran. And now, lo and behold Hamas wins in Palestine! I guess its worth it to give your self a pat on the back. Heck of a job, Bushie!


The Hamas victory "reminds me about the power of democracy," Bush said.

"You see, when you give people the vote, give them the chance to express themselves at the polls and they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know," he said.


Of course, the fact that terrorists are now in power is not lost on him, so here's a quote to pander to that unfortunate reality...

"If your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace, and we're interested in peace," Bush told reporters at a news conference.


So I guess democracy = good, unless bad people get elected. I mean, that's ok, because it almost never happens, right?

Might it not have been better to encourage developments like this, published last week?


Hamas has dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto for the Palestinian parliamentary election in a fortnight, a move that brings the group closer to the mainstream Palestinian position of building a state within the boundaries of the occupied territories.

The Islamist faction, responsible for a long campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, still calls for the maintenance of the armed struggle against occupation. But it steps back from Hamas's 1988 charter demanding Israel's eradication and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place.


Of course, in Bushworld, why let reality get in the way of good rhetoric, even when it helps you?

13 Thoughts:

Blogger Demotiki said...

Maybe Bush being president is a good thing. He's rolled back American influence around the world. US influence hasn't been a very good thing for the people of the world, at least when Republicans are in charge. I am sure Latin America will do better with homegrown democracy than with American trained and funded death squads. Iran's leader may seem like a fool, but he knows what he's doing. The most popular thing any foreign politician can do is declare his hatred for the United States.

Rove & Co. think that they can frame every issue in a way most favorable to the Republican Party. Although MSM's anemia has made this a domestic possiblity, Bush has no control over the international media, let alone international opinion. While the war may be well-spun in the domestic media, the rest of the world knows naked aggression when they see it. We are not fooling anyone. Needless to say, the recent Palestinian elections are a better indicator of the Arab street than proclaimations of the bearded shill.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

But no, really, proponents of democracy do believe it's best to have a democratic system, even most critical to have it, when "the bad guys" are the ones who will win at the polls. The evil little minion elves who pre-script Bush's palaver for him are getting it right, in my opinion, in the quotes highlighted by pawlr. It's just that of course neither Bush nor the U.S. deserve any credit for what's happened.

TV talking heads may call the Hamas electoral victory a bad thing, but I think they're wrong. It may turn out to be a triumph for the principles of democracy, accomplishing one of the most fundamental things that democracy is supposed to accomplish: channeling conflicts into political and legal maneuvers rather than violent ones.

I hadn't realized they'd recently let go of the goal of eradicating Israel; presumedly they needed to do so in order to participate successfully in the elections. That proves this point and is very, very good news.

I'm all for Bush-bashing on almost every front, but actually I think he was pretty irrelevant lately in Israel and the Palestinian territories. (The changes have been due to Arafat's death and Sharon's dubious policies.) It's not like Hamas wouldn't be there if they got fewer votes. Having the corrupt, inept Palestinian Authority in power, nominally, while Hamas boycotts elections and actually holds more people's allegiance on the so-called street, inspiring its followers to continue suicide bombing and encouraging their children to attack soldiers .... that's a worse state of affairs than having Hamas drawn in to politics, even with their hostile attitudes.

Of course they still call for armed struggle, but it's huge, historic really, that they're no longer calling for Israel's total destruction.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 3:37:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

REVISION:
Pawlr's post cited a quote from last week suggesting Hamas had officially dropped its call for Israel's destruction [see link shown as "this" in his post]. The India newspaper reporter who wrote that may have been premature, over-interpreting the significance of the group's leaving that point out of its "parliamentary manifesto," or electoral party platform. Apparently, excluding the call for total destruction from their party platform doesn't mean they've relinquished it as their ultimate goal. Commentators tonight are still referring to the total-destruction call as being operative.

If that is the case, the verdict's still out on whether their victory was a good thing. It depends how things go: whether their new responsibilities lead them away from irresponsible goals, or not.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 7:55:00 PM  
Blogger Demotiki said...

Bspot,

Just out of curiosity, why do believe that Hamas is wrong for saying that Israel has no right to exist? It seems pretty clear to me that this is actually the case, despite the constant propaganda to the contrary that passes as Middle East coverage in America. Believing that Israel has a right to exist where it is requires that one accept Palestine has no similar right. Both peoples claim the same land, and one was clearly there first. Furthermore, the ethnic cleansing of Israel proper and the replacement of indigenous populations with non-resident Jews has violated the principle the “right to self determination” recognized by the UN.

I wouldn’t argue for a second that Israel should be removed from the map. Not because I think the world would be worse off without Israel, clearly it would be better off, but rather because it’s simply not possible. Israel has the bomb and US backing, and despite talk about “rights to exist” in the world we all must live in, “might makes right.” Israel has the might, so they are right.

The worst one could say about Hamas is that they are not being realistic, and that they should accept the reality that Jewish military superiority is adequate to enforce the taking of Palestinian lands. To argue that Hamas is “wrong” for stating the objective reality that Israel has no right to exist reveals a strong anti-Palestinian bias. Argue instead that Hamas must accept that without military power, they must take what they are given and try to be happy with it. That doesn’t make Israel or the United States look kind or compassionate, but it does paint them as they really are.

Demo

Thursday, January 26, 2006 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Yes apparently according to multiple reports Hamas is not abandoning its covenant to destroy Israel. Its too bad, but at least they're participating in the elections, for what its worth.

The continuing myopic position of our media (and Bush) continues to be that Hamas' victory is about protest and violent radicalism. In fact Hamas has been successful at the local level building infrastructure that is supportive of its citizens, far more than Fatah ever did. How crazy that people would actually cast their ballot for the party that serves their needs better?

Thursday, January 26, 2006 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Ah, where to begin? This comment addresses pawlr's last point. A later comment will address demotiki's ideas about nations' rights to existence. Here, first, let's set aside the issue of Israel's right to exist. For now, assume it has a right to exist on some part of the land it currently holds, and consider pawlr's defense of Hamas for the good deeds it does.

It is undisputed that Hamas does a lot of good things in the areas of social services, as does the E.U., the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank (it is the latter two that do most of the actual "infrastructure" projects though). Hamas's contributions in these areas are undisputed, visible, and good.

This is the equivalent of pointing to Hitler's improvement of the German economy and dramatic improvement of morale (among centrist and rightist Christian Germans) in schools and businesses throughout Germany. I am absolutely not being facetious. Don't roll your eyes at this example. The German people were genuinely suffering from a crisis in national identity and a deep depression, both psychological and economic. It was no small feat that the Nazis turned all these things around and it did have a hugely positive impact on the lives of many, many Germans.

The Palestinian people are desperately in need of better social services, security and infrastructure, not to mention the need for rebuilding demolished homes. Hamas helps, using its funding largely from Iran.

Hamas also does bad things: they prevent any semblance of free press, speech or even thought among their people, using totalitarian means to ensure adherence; they murder fellow Hamas political leaders for real or imagined dissent; they kill many Palestinian people "in the street" who dare to disagree openly with anything they preach; they preach hatred of Jews, as sub-humans, to pre-school children in the schools they run (not just hatred of Israeli occupiers for what they do .... but hatred of Jews for what they are); they encourage children to attack soldiers and get killed; they oppose any and all negotiations whatsoever, also refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority on the issue of whether to negotiate at all with Israel or anyone else; and they continue to lead their people along the path of totally futile battle against an overwhelmingly more powerful enemy, as demotiki points out.

Demotiki's phrase for it, "the worst one could say is that they are not being realistic," should be put in perspective: the price paid for this failure of realism is in their face, every day. For decades their "unrealistic" approach (combined with Israel's approach) has made their people politically disenfranchised (I mean among themselves, vis-a-vis their own so-called leaders), shamefully and entirely unnecessarily impoverished, has led to these people's homes' being demolished by the thousands and has led to the people themselves being killed, day in, day out.

I am not placing blame on Hamas rather than Israel. Both sides contribute to the outcome, but, whatever evil realities have existed on the Israeli side of the equation, Hamas leaders' "unrealistic" approach to the situation has done, politically and militarily, for their own people, demonstrably little good and a huge amount of bad.

(Meanwhile, the Israeli military's behavior may be reprehensible but it's hard to imagine, even given a hypothetical, totally ethical and ideal reaction by any military that is itself under attack, and is charged with protecting civilians who are being killed, how such a military's reaction could do anything other than cause extreme suffering for the group that is attacking.)

Given all this, that Hamas is "unrealistic" has a horrible, in-your-face cost in the form of people dying and suffering all around them year after year.

So add, to their totalitarian methods against their own people, the fact that their "lack of realism" has been consistently disastrous year after year. You may posit that they must be good to their people since their people support them en masse. This logic doesn't hold.

Germans supported Hitler overwhelmingly. Albanians supported their leaders overwhelmingly. Chinese Maoists and Khmer Rouge loyalists supported their leaders overwhelmingly. All were victims of totalitarian domination by their leaders - which by definition includes not only violence, terror, torture and imprisonment, but also thought control - and all of them were led into longterm (decades long) abject poverty, coupled with longterm, "unrealistic," futile battles against their enemies.

Together, whether Fatah or Hamas, the so-called "leaders" who have dominated the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza have been inept, corrupt and horrible to their own people (that is, again, except for their channeling Iranian funds into social services).

Back to pawlr's actual point, that the media shouldn't refer to the vote as a protest vote against the PA, because Palestinian voters' embrace of Hamas over Fatah makes sense not just as a protest but because Hamas provided social services more than Fatah. Actually, the bulk of aid flowed through Fatah (the PA). An incredible amount of it was stolen by Fatah leaders and much was wasted by ineptitude -- that's why the vote is being called a protest vote against the PA -- but the main funding of the majority of schools, clinics and other services was still from the government (PA).

Hamas is rightly credited for helping visibly and significantly with social service provision, but it deserves this credit much in the same way that philanthropic and other nonprofit organizations doing good works in U.S. ghettos deserve credit; still, it's government funding that is the backbone. Thus, a vote for Hamas is a protest against the government's (Fatah/PA's) pathetic record. (The reason I have a bit of knowledge about this is that I was responsible for producing the United Nations Development Programme's press documents at one point about what UNDP does in the Palestinian territories, and at the time I learned a bit about social service provision there in general.)

On the matter of social services, consider this point, which will also relate to Israel's and Palestine's rights to existence. It is remarkable and outrageous that the Palestinian refugees have received so little aid, only a mere trickle, from wealthy Arab governments and from Iran. Some of the aid has flowed through Hamas, some through the Palestinian Authority (though most that went that latter route was redirected into Arafat's personal savings accounts, which totaled 4 billion when he died); and some flowed through international organizations. The differences between Arab countries and Israel on this score are telling, and important for revealing the real geopolitical reasons why the Palestinians are still refugees.

While Israel made citizens of the Arabs living within the boundaries "mandated" as Israeli, by the British, the Arab countries throughout the region forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands of Yemeni Jews, Lebanese Jews, Syrian Jews, etc... (Jewish communities that had lived in those regions for multiple generations, in some cases centuries at least). We don't hear about the Jewish refugees because Israel welcomed them. Meanwhile, most of the Palestinian refugees from the wars were denied entry by the rich, neighboring Arab countries.

Ask yourself why these fellow Arab, fellow Muslim, oil-rich neighboring governments have done so little to help improve conditions on "the street" in Palestine ... and refer to the Jan. 23 posting entitled "Double Standards Re Israel: Leftists Blind" for a suggestion about whose fault it really is.

Friday, January 27, 2006 2:24:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Demotiki's comment re Israel's right to exist:

Before discussing details, it is very important to consider two overarching points at the outset. Point One: the actual facts and details of the history of the region are extremely complicated, and debates on the subject usually involve two people talking right past each other, not even realizing how much one's set of presumed facts differs from the others. Some facts are ommitted in one side's account, some have some truth but are not as significant in affecting events as they are made out to be, and so on. I believe any serious historian who studies all the facts, claims, counter-claims and research on both sides (which takes years), sees a very complicated history in which there was injustice and suffering by people on all sides at many times, with blame spread all over the place, and the question is what to do about it now. These "serious" historians differ about what to do, but they all agree that absolutist arguments about history on either side are wrong. Point Two: It is very, very important to move away from the endless bickering over these facts and, in some realistic way, take the realities of today into account and figure out what to do. The absurdity of the whole question of "Israel's dubious right to exist" is a little easier to recognize if you consider the importance -- or unimportance -- of debate over white-European America's right to exist (as opposed to the nations of the native American indians); the rights to exist of Peru, or Argentina (as opposed to the indian populations that predated them); the various Arab states' rights to exist (the imperfect boundaries were imposed by colonial powers on a broad region, the Arabian peninsula, which was populated by warring Arab clans, and today's boundaries leave minority clans and sects stuck in the same nation-state with majority groups they don't like); and so on and so on. Don't bother disputing the obvious glaring differences among all these analogies and vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli situation. The point is, MOST of these state entities don't have any "right" to exist. Almost all populations have migrated and trampled over other populations. Apologies, corrections of the historical record and even financial restitution and legal accomodations may be in order, but debating the "right" to the U.S.'s existence just doesn't really matter anymore.



Re the first paragraph.
1. It is suggested that one state's right to exist precludes the other state's right, since they both claim the same land. But they don't. The majorities of both populations want a negotiated settlement that accords some land to each side and allows peace, security and economic development all around. Even at the level of political extremist leaders on either side, the extremists on the Arab side want Israel destroyed; the Israelis only claim a portion of the land that both they and the Arabs inhabited (both inhabited very very sparsely at first, as scattered nomads and squatters on land nominally owned by absentee Turkish landlords, and both later inhabited gradually more densely as both people's immigration flows increased).

Thus, the characterization of Arabs as "indigenous populations" and Jews as "non-resident" is one that politicians and commentators on one side may use, but one that hardly any actual researchers or historians who study the data and documentation of the times would agree to. The entire Arabian peninsula had pockets of dense population here and there and vast stretches of unpopulated desert. The land currently called Israel and the Palestinian territories was deserted. Straggler Jews and Arabs lived here and there. The Zionist movement among persecuted, impoverished Jews in eastern Europe gradually led to immigration flows toward that land, and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, along with British colonial meddling and warring among Arab families, led to inflows of Arabs as well, in the late 1880's - 90's and early 1900's.

Re the second paragraph:
It is suggested that the world would clearly be better off without Israel. What happened to the "right to self-determination" mentioned in the preceding paragraph? That right was never meant to fix specified boundaries, but it was supposed to require that the community of nations negotiate in good faith to find some land where any people who reasonably considered themselves a nation could make a place for themselves and govern themselves.

The majority of Israelis now want a Palestinian state operating in peace alongside them. Even the minority (and in the past, closer in history to the multiple wars against Israel, it was a majoirty) who don't want a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, would not suggest that Jordan no longer exist (the majority of Jordan's population is Palestinian). So, in the case of the Palestinian refugees, if an extremist on one side were so offensive as to suggest that the world would be a better place if they had no home, even that extremist could point to one neighboring country that is majority Palestinian, and 5 others that are predominantly Arab and Muslim, where these refugees could resettle.

Where would someone on the other side of the debate, suggesting the world would be a better place without Israel, suggest that the Jews should go to find a home?

As argued elsewhere (Jan. 23 posting, "Double Standards Re Israel: Leftists Blind"), the world would be a better place if U.S. industrial interests didn't exert so much influence over the U.S. government. Then the U.S. might not prop up Arab dictatorship regimes that oppress the Arab people and keep them technologically and economically behind the rest of the world. That way, these regimes would not exist, and would not be defending their own survival by distracting their subjects from focusing on their own political disenfranchisement. There would be no need to maintain a regionwide frenzy about "the Palestinian cause," when, in fact, there is far greater suffering all throughout the Arab world in other places, and when, with cooperation by Arab governments, the Palestinian-Israeli quagmire could have been resolved long ago, relieving immense suffering on the part of both peoples.

To be pro-Palestinian is to be pro-Israeli. The bad guys in this situation are incredibly rich sheiks and American multimillionaires and billionaires, who maintain the conflict at the expense of dead Palestinians and Israelis and their surviving families.

Friday, January 27, 2006 3:24:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

I think bspot makes many good points. Its really great to have a fresh articulate voice on the blog.

The whole "right to exist" question is not, I think, going to get anywhere, unless we start tabla rasa, pretend we're all G-d, and decide who gets to make states and who doesn't. I think though that Marxists do have a point when they claim that Israel is largely a product of colonialism. And from a certain perspective, the mid-twentieth century is a little late in the game to be establishing, let alone expanding, colonies. This is not necessarily a bad thing on principle, however, when you witness the disastrous result of post-colonialism in Africa. But in practice its not working well in the middle east. The blowback is ongoing and will just get worse.

However, and of course bspot anticipates this response, it really seems a stretch to compare Hamas, or other similar groups, with the Nazis. Yes they both share a rhetoric of hate for Jews. And maybe this is enough to make a superficial equation. I really don't feel glibly about this because when someone says they hate you, and wants to wipe out your whole family, culture, etc. its probably not your first priority to analyze the differences between this or that historical enemy.

But the facts on the ground vis-a-vis power relations are totally reversed. It is, in fact, the Palestinians that are in ghettos, not Jews. The right-wing Israeli parties are exploiting the Eretz-Israel whackos and establishing "settlements" (more like wealthy suburbs actually) that are surrounding Jerusalem and isolating Palestinians from work, schools, and a better life.

I agree that the plight of the Palestinians are being exploited by various fatcats in and out of the region. But the primary untenable injustice (which many if not most Israelis recognize now) is that Israel is the state acting as the de facto primary expansionist and ethnic cleanser in the region. Yes, they were attacked multiple times, yes they were/are fighting for their existence. But equally, Palestinians are fighting for their right to live a better life on their own territory, to not be hemmed in by walls and checkpoints and treated as target practice by the IDF.

Terrorism is the tactic of the powerless - the Nazis didn't need it because once they took power they controlled the levers of state and industry (the same levers Israel holds currently) and were willing and able to implement organized expansion, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

Sure Hamas and others talk a lot about genocide but they are utterly powerless to carry it out. Does that make it okay to spew hate? No. But compared to Israel's ongoing policy of expansion and domination in the region, it doesn't begin to compare.

I may be naive, but I do welcome the positive signs on the Israeli political side - Sharon's "conversion", Gaza pullout, Kadima. But the real test will be whether Israel's better nature will win out and we'll see an abandonment of the policy of expansion of settlements and building walls across Palestinian land in the West Bank, etc.

Good discussion so far.

Friday, January 27, 2006 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger Palmer said...

fresh and articulate? here's me, fresh and inarticulate...

hamas reminds me of sinn fein, except i haven't seen a political arm officially split off yet from the militants.

Friday, January 27, 2006 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Responding to Pawlr re (1) the Nazi analogy and (2) the concept of Israel as colonialist:

== NAZI ANALOGY ==
I agree that it would be silly to juxtapose Hamas and the Nazis in terms of these two different groups' hatreds of Jews and violence against Jews. Yes, they both hated and killed Jews, but, as you say and I agree, for entirely different reasons, and in contexts of entirely different power relations.

That was not the way I was using the analogy.

Forget the Jews. The analogy had to do with the way the Albanian government brainwashed and abused its own populace; the way Maoists in China and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia brainwashed and abused their own people; and the way Hamas brainwashes and abuses the Palestinians to act against their own interests and the interests of their children. All these groups did certain good things for their people (i.e. Hamas helping provide social services), while waging terror against them to keep them brainwashed and ideologically in line.

That was the analogy: Hitler did the same to the Germans.

All these groups have used violent methods of intimidation against internal political dissent within their own ranks. They all have intimidated, tortured and killed members of their own citizenry.

In all these cases, among the populations, there were conditions of suffering due to outside enemies who had to be either negotiated with, or fought. But in every one of these cases, there was not, initially, among the grassroots of the population, an immense swelling and explosion of hatred against their enemies as evil monsters, resulting in turn to the elction of enemy-hating leaders.

It was the other way around. In all cases, hate-mongering thugs took power by exploiting the suffering and fears of their people, bringing them into the most violent possible confrontation with their enemies (rather than negotiation), and then, month after month, year after year, continued snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat, and defeat, and defeat, never conceding, never negotiating ... instead spending the blood of their followers by the hundreds, thousands, millions.

These were not leaders of democracies, who allowed free speech and free press among their people, were elected by informed voters, and then led their people in battle against outside enemies. Such leaders would seek negotiation eventually, if warfare was hopeless their people were being slaughtered and improverished for decades.

The "leaders" of these totalitarian groups all put immense effort into shutting down free speech and free press among their own people because they recognized these as threats to their ability to control their followers' thoughts.

The analogy was meant to support the idea that today's Palestinians are captives of their leaders; that the voting patterns and loudest shouters in the streets are not indications of what free-thinking Palestinians, with access to information, want. They are brainwashed and bullied and mobilized not only to hate, which is understandable when your brothers have been killed, but to refuse to see their enemy as human and to seek negotiation.

The exact opposite is the case in Israel. It's not only that the majority wants a negotiated peace and is ready, once again, to give up land in the hope it will bring peace. Large minorities, also, are ultra-sympathetic to the Palestinians. Pro-Palestinian documentaries, books, op-eds, peace activists abound; nonprofit organizations staffed by Jewish and Arab Israelis advocate for concessions to the Palestinians; films depict the common humanity among Jews and Arabs.


== COLONIALISM? ==
== OF WHAT COUNTRY IS ISRAEL A COLONY? ==
Of course we all often hear Israel's being called a colonial power, or slightly more ambiguously, the product of colonialism. Pawlr remarks on this. But I don't think the characterization holds up; rather, that characterization invokes images of powerful, large, European states, with big navies, establishing control -- after big military battles -- over whole, large populations living in whole, large countries (virtually none as tiny as Israel), for purposes of economic exploitation.

That is not what happened. What did happen is a matter of debate.

The following is the story most Jewish families will tell about what happened. Arab families will dispute these facts. "Objective" historians will no doubt refute some facts and confirm others. I haven't done the years of research to declare myself an authority, but the following story sounds far, far more credible than the whole colonialism paradigm.

My hunch is that this story is close to the truth, though I imagine it exaggerates some things and underplays others (I just don't know).

As the story goes, Jewish refugees, most of them impoverished, none of them having the backing of any military power whatsoever, gradually began gathering in a deserted area over a period of decades. They were motivated in part by the abject poverty in which they lived in various European countries. They were motivated also by the fact that their neighbors and families were routinely murdered in those countries, in frenzies of Jew hatred that hadits roots in the Christian teachings of the Middle Ages. And they were motivated by the ideology of Zionism.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the definition and history of Zionism. Bizarre misinformation about it, purposefully concocted to stir up anti-Semitism, has actually been digested and believed far and wide, and great numbers of people still associate it with the concept of a secret Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, starting with banks and news media.

The truth is Zionism was similar to the hopes and dreams of the refugees from Britain who escaped to New England, became Puritans, and tried to make a home for themselves (not initially being part of any British colonial designs and not initially intending to attack any natives). The difference was that the Jews were much poorer, and were being killed in the regions from which they were fleeing.

The Zionist movement grew gradually in the mid- to late-1800's as a dream of self-determination and finding a safe haven; of Jews finally defending themselves rather than continuing to live as victims for century after century among European Christian bigots.

Contrary to uninformed belief, most Zionists were not driven by religious fervor about some sort of divine entitlement to any land. But some were.

Others (most) wanted mainly to find some dirt somewhere to own and defend and live on with dignity. There was a great deal of debate about where that land could be found. The historic land now called Palestine/Israel had appeal since it had been a home thousands of years ago and remained the site of many religious stories, historic events, sacred monuments, etc.. But most zionists did not believe this was the end of the debate. Just as Muslims around the world, from Chicago to Indonesia, do not go running to establish their own state in Mecca, and Christians in Texas don't feel they absolutely must relocate to Bethlehem, most Zionist Jews did not consider it a forgone conclusion that their effort to find a home should focus on the Israel/Palestine.

But there were other factors weighing in favor of that site. A big one: there was virtually no one there. It was deserted. A few tiny villages here and there separated by vast stretches of empty land that no one wanted.

As Jewish families and sometimes whole villages put together resources to send one or two of their young adults to the area, at the same time, the few Arabs who had small communities there, found that other Arabs were gradually immigrating to the region in growing numbers over those same decades.

Initially there was little conflict between these tiny groups of Jews and Arabs. Jews set up camp in places where there were no Arabs, creating little communal farms (kibbutzim). The Arab communities continued existing as they had before, though their populations gradually began expanding.

Does this sound like a colonial power arriving with its military? Even the mostly impoverished Arabs living in that region were not nominally owners of the land -- everybody was squatting, trespassing, on land that had been owned by the Ottoman Empire and was still nominally owned in the name of Turkish families who no longer cared about it: it was barren no-man's land (this was before the kibbutzim began irrigating it and making it farmable).

As the British took over "responsibility" from the Ottoman Empire, it still was not land the British saw as profitable or in their interest to hold, except as part of the general, competitive, land-grabbing between Britain, Germany, Spain and France, etc.. Soon, they just wanted to get rid of it. Jewish settlers and Arab settlers were beginning to squabble as both populations grew, and advocates on both sides (British Jews, and Arab sheiks) were pressuring the British for policy decisions in their favor.

The British wanted out, and gave each side a part of the land. Don't forget that this land is a tiny plot .... is it the size of Connecticut, or Rhode Island? I don't remember. I know Israel is 10 miles across in some places, and 50 miles across in others. Meanwhile, across the river-border, the land of Jordan, many, many, many times larger and more fertile, was home to a population of which the majority were Palestinian.

When the British left, the Jews had no military. They were refugees who had become farmers. Little neighborhood militias were formed by the kibuttzim (which I'm spelling wrong) and by the Arab communities so they could fight with each other. They had hardly any weapons. What they had were little sticks and guns.

But in the lead-up to the hoped-for declaration by the U.N. that the Jewish areas could consider themselves a nation, it was clear the neighboring Arab nations planned to attack en masse. Not just the local militias, but the militaries of major Arab countries. How was it clear? They said so. Loudly. They protested against what seemed to be an imminent decision at the U.N. and they said they would drive the Jews into the sea.

In a matter of several weeks, there were frantic efforts by the Jewish kibbutzim to arm themselves and get coordinated. The members of the U.N. Security Council (actually, was it still the League of Nations at that point? I think it had just become the U.N. already) warned the Arab countries against invading.

Meanwhile, the British were running arms to the Arabs. There were back-channel alliances at stake, access to oil, etc.. There was considerable double-talking by Britain at the time. Some politicians were declaring support for the Jewish state, others were against it, and only the actual individual Jews and Arabs who were trying to buy weapons actually know what was really going on. My grandfather-in-law was one of them. He and other Jews paddled out in a small boat toward a larger British ship and threw dynamite onto its deck to sink it, having been tipped off that it was carrying guns to sell to the Syrians.

The nature of American support for the Jews at the time should be clarified also. There were no soldiers sent to Israel. There were no battleships or American planes flying to the rescue. There were no massive sales of tanks or anything of the sort. There were gun sales, but not official sales by the government. They were private, behind the scenes.

The White House was split on what to do, and Truman's wife has said it was the hardest decision he ever had to make. (I hope she was wrong. I hope it was harder for him to decide to drop nuclear bombs on Japan.)

Secretary of State George Marshall advised Truman not to recognize the state of Israel. The United States' economic, security and general geopolitical interests would be better served siding with the Arabs. This was the view of the realpolitik advisers around Truman. Those favoring support for Israel argued in idealistic terms national self-determination, about the Jews' deserving support after what they went through during the Holocaust, about the need to stop nations from invading each other. No one argued the U.S. should support Israel because it was in American military or economic interests to do so.

Truman decided to recognize Israel.

The support of the U.S. was then rhetorical, diplomatic, played out at the U.N., involved warnings against any nations planning to invade other nations, etc...

Note the following quote taken from:

http://www.palestinefacts.org/
pf_1991to_now_israel_us_support.php

"After Israel became an independent country in 1948, the United States joined an embargo on weapons sales to Israel, the 1949 Tripartite Agreement on weapons. Although the US sold hundreds of millions of dollars in weaponry to Arab states during the 1950s and early 1960s, there were no sales to Israel until 1962 when the US agreed to sell to Israel its first significant American system, the HAWK anti-aircraft missile."

Saturday, January 28, 2006 2:36:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Folks, it's been a pleasure blabbing, but that last 2,100-word comment, plus this one, will be my last on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians for a while.

The summary is that I think the greatest victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict are not the Palestinians and the Israelis -- though both these peoples are victims -- but the far vaster populations of Arabs throughout the Middle East, in the other Arab nations. This entire region's unparalleled impoverishment and oppression is perpetuated by the purposeful maintenance of the conflict in Palestine-Israel, and mis-characterization of it, by sheiks and dictators, supported by the U.S. The result inside the Palestinian territories is the rising to power of violent thug-zealots who betray their own people's hopes for peace; and the rising to power in Israel of rightwing hardliner militarists like Sharon, whose establishment of settlements in the disputed territories was also a betrayal of his own people's interests.

Until further notice, I'll be focusing on more important things, like the dangers posed to America by ham-confiscating Vegans.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 2:49:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Thanks for the posts, get some sleep bspot! Found this interesting article on the recent Hamas victory and what it means for the so-called "Bush Doctrine". I hesitate to call it a Doctrine at all because its barely consistent, but there you are.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Very interesting article pawlr. At least page 1 of it. Page 2 can't be seen unless one is a paying subscriber to Salon. If you are, would you feel like posting the 2nd page here as another comment?

The 2nd page is said to be about Hamas willingness to accept Israel's '67 borders .....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:10:00 AM  

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