Mark well the date: 27 December 2008. It may turn out to be the day on which the dreams of two states died. I do not mean the concept referred to in the phrase “two-state solution.” I mean the dream of a free and independent state for the people of Palestine and the dream of an Israeli democracy on that tiny sliver of land in the Middle East.
Russell O. Siler, Retired
News – HCEF
Nations may be birthed in bloodshed, but they live and thrive when justice, equality, and security are midwife and parents. Saturday’s brutal Israeli attack on the people of Gaza and, yes, the continuing barrage of frightful, yet largely ineffective missiles from Gaza have all but finally rendered that vision a nightmare. Everyone who has even a scant understanding of recent history knew this was coming. There is a parliamentary election coming to Israel in February. Tzipi Livni [Kadima Party], Ehud Barak [Labor Party, present Minister of Defense and former Prime Minister], and Benjamin Netanyahu [Likud Party and former Prime Minister] are each trying to outdo the others in demonstrating to the voters just how hard they can be on the Palestinians. It happened in the 90s in the wake of the Oslo Accords when Netanyahu openly ignored those agreements and picked up the pace of illegal settlement building. It happened in 2000 when Ariel Sharon showed how tough he could be by bullying his way onto the Haram al-Sharif [Noble Sanctuary]/Temple Mount in the company of more than 1000 armed troops, thus intentionally lighting the fuse which ignited the Second Intifada. The intifada provided perfect cover for a period of intense tightening of the occupation with complete impunity. It was a period during which Sharon could show how “tough” he was. This present action carries a double impetus: the Israeli elections and the leadership void in our country between a President who has given the Israeli administration the equivalent of a blank check and the President-elect who has yet to show his intentions in the Middle East. There is no “element of surprise” in this war, only a small question of the precise timing.
I am not going to try to argue the merits and demerits of either the Israeli actions or those of the Palestinians. At the present I will leave that to others. What I will do, however, is to point out some facts which may be determinative to your opinions and consequent acts.
A Palestinian friend in the West Bank–who is also an American citizen–spoke of the situation in Gaza [and also that in the West Bank] a few months after the 2006 elections this way, “They urged us to select leaders democratically. We did, and now they are punishing us for electing the wrong people.” “They” refers to Israel and the United States. News media in the U.S. are reporting the conflict as if it began in June of 2007 when Hamas forces overpowered those of Fatah. Simply untrue! As soon as the ballots were tallied in January 2006, the strangulation of the elected Palestinian government began. The split between Fatah and Hamas, encouraged by Israel and the U.S., in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, worked to Israel’s great advantage. Hamas power was largely confined to Gaza. Israel was already in control there with its steel perimeter of air, land, and sea confinement. Israeli’s government tried to say it had “disengaged” from Gaza, but all it had done was remove the guards from the inside to the exterior of that prison for 1.5 million people. That move placed the noose around the neck of Gazans, and it has been tightened to the point of strangulation ever since. Euphemistically termed an “embargo” by the world’s media, the series of actions has been a virtual cutoff of food, medicine, fuel, water filters,
How could resulting violence then be a surprise. Israel thought it could make life a “living hell” for Gazans, and they would oust Hamas. It did not happen. Now we are witness to the next escalation. And all our government can say is “The United States…holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence” in Gaza. [Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post, 28 Dec 2008] White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe added, “The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza.
Let us be clear on one thing: the future is indeed bleak for a democratic Israel and an independent Palestine if our country and the rest of the following world continue to act as if occupation and violence are needed to pave the only path to justice and peace.
Russell O. Siler, Retired