Pictures & Stories (Gaza 2014)


FB friends, please do not open this link if you can’t bear to look. The photo at the top of the post is graphic. From Gaza, terrible pictures and terrible stories mediate or re-present, as best they can, the reality of human carnage, death and destruction. The photgraphs are from the Atlantic Monthly, which you can see here. The stories are by Amira Hass, which you can read here. We know, of course, that pictures and stories are always only partial, that they conceal as much as they reveal. But without their mediation, there is no way to understand the condition they reflect or to generate a general opposition to this condition. The problem is that up close to the misery, these kinds of pictures and stories show no way out. Perhaps what they do is to remind us of what not to say about conflict, what not to say, self-righteously, about the right to self-defense or the right to resistance. We are given these pictures and stories by tireless journalists, but I’m not sure what to do with them except to share them, pass them around as electronic copy.





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Khaled Meshaal & Benjamin Netanyahu (Gaza 2014)

khaledmeshaalr_468x602 netanyahu

It’s really up to them, isn’t it? I’m posting below Gershon Baskin’s current analysis:

The government of Israel had little choice but to use military means to confront the challenge of the rockets from Gaza. The indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel’s civilian population is intolerable, a war crime and had to be stopped. In the course of confronting this challenge Israel has discovered that a much larger strategic threat is the tunnels, estimated by the US to number more than 60 where Hamas combatants could enter into Israeli civilian communities along the border and carry out mega terrorist attacks.

The massive air force bombardment of Gaza by Israel did not lessen the challenges; the rockets kept being shot into Israel and in fact intensified. The tunnels became active and continue to be used, so far killing soldiers only. The ceasefire proposals being offered by Hamas do not include the demilitarization of Gaza. Hamas rejects any thought of an agreement that will prevent them from rearming and massing more military strength to kill Israelis.

The Israeli ground operation is aimed to confront the threats, but as we have already seen, the killing of non-combatants, not unexpectedly, even with all of the care that the Israeli army takes to prevent innocent casualties, are unavoidable. Gaza is an extremely densely populated area and there is no place to hide. The underground bunkers are protecting the Hamas leadership and its military commanders. Those taking the hits are the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Not a single important Hamas commander has been killed, but hundreds of civilians have paid with their lives.

The bottom line is that there is no military solution that Israel can offer. The Hamas regime can be brought down by Israel; Israel has the capabilities to do this. But it will require a full re-occupation of Gaza for an extended period of time and in the end, I fear the Israeli victory in Gaza will look very much like the victory of George W. Bush over Sadaam Hussein – and look at Iraq today.

Gaza must be dealt with but the end result should be comprehensive including security, political and economic. The framework must be done through the region: Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the national reconciliation Government of Palestine – under President Abbas. The Arab League must give backing to a regional-Arab led force to demilitarize Gaza. This together with a US led technical team locating and destroying tunnels that lead to Israel from Gaza. There must be a political plan, supported by the Arab League and Israel and backed by the Security Council, utilizing the Arab Peace Initiative to finally end Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian people and creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. New Palestinian elections to elect a legitimate and recognized Palestinian leadership must be convened as soon as possible. And a very large international fund for the reconstruction of Gaza and Palestine of multi billions.

In the absence of a comprehensive approach such as this, the casualties will have been in vane and we will return to this situation with worse conditions in the not too distant future.

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(Flowchart) Redundancies (Talking About) (Gaza 2014)


As I follow along the various and winding discursive paths, I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing anyone can say about Gaza and Israel now that is not going to be redundant.  If I knew how to do it, I’d design a chart with the following apparently constant elements that flow into and out of each other in varied combinations:

Claim  — Counter-claim


Apologetic (e.g. what would you do under shelling/under occupation?)




Orientation (moral, poltical)



Faux neutrality

Affect (moral)

Anger & outrage

Sorrow & sadness

Confusion & consternation


Analytic (political, historical)

Strategy & tactics

Motives & interests




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Pretentious Moral Posturing (Gaza 2014)


Next to the sickening spectacle that is the current round of fighting in Gaza and Israel is all the moral posturing across the board in relation to it.

The anti-Zionist left, including and especially the Jew-haters among them, uphold the victimhood of a long suffering people without paying any attention either to the internal Palestinian politics contributing to this moral catastrophe and their own contribution to a violent anti-Israel echo chamber, particularly in Europe.

The self-righteousness Jewish right shows no moral contrition regarding human carnage and the contribution of Israel to Hamas misrule in Gaza, or any real sense as to how their own rhetoric contributes to the coarsening of Jewish society, which with the passage of time will mark off the country as the pariah state of a pariah people.

But perhaps the worst posers come from the camp with which I most identify, namely the Jewish left, out on a precarious limb, the political position undercut by anti-Israel violence. Politically impotent, they promote Jewish values and human values, showing no sense that they speak from nowhere, for no one, and to no one apart from their own dwindled circle.

And then there’s me, no less disgusting, trying carefully to strike the balance, get it right, sift the tension between morality and politics, all from the safety of Manhattan.

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Futility On Top of Futility (No Solution) (Gaza 2014)


This is why I think the left in Israel loses this argument. In what has been described by one prominent observer as the most cogent anti-war statement from that Israeli left, Dahliah Scheindlin, in her recent piece in +972., notes with great precision the utter futility of this military operation now underway in Gaza. The argument may be as good as it gets, but I wish it went further. The claim is that this is a lose-lose venture, and that there’s no good solution to this conflict that more armed hostility can provide.

In answer to the question what Israel is supposed to do under the current circumstances, Scheindlin can only recommend in her article “a unilateral, not agreed upon, ceasefire,” in addition to providing the necessary incentives to get Hamas to agree to ceasefire on their part. The critical hole in the analysis is how the author ignores Hamas as a political factor and its leadership as political actors. Unilateral ceasefires work only as an opening gambit. I don’t see how they do not quickly fall apart if one side or the other side keeps fighting, either because it wants to or because it has no choice.

In this FB post, the thread of which turns into an ugly scrum about genocide, Gershon Baskin writes, “I seriously hope that this horrible crisis can be turned into an opportunity to pull us back from the brink. Something good can and must come from these horrors. I know it is hard to see something positive right now – but this is what we must work towards – now, immediately, without delay.” Against this article of faith, a thin sliver of hope, my own fear is that good never comes out of bad, that it goes from bad to worse, and that the conflict is heading over the brink. I don’t see how anything “positive” emerges out of this. I would like to think that genuine Israeli peace leadership might have prevented this bloodshed. But I have my doubts, believing that the bloodshed has as much to do with the recent collapse of a political horizon as the collapse of that horizon contributes to the bloodshed. With no way out of this loop, there’s no peace without justice, and no justice without peace.

Without wanting to disagree with the main body of Scheindlin’s analysis, all that seems left is futility and more futility. Both frustrated and feckless, my own guess is that there’s no remotely satisfactory end to this brute round of ugly conflict until there is a final resolution to the conflict as a whole, a political horizon based on mutual recognition and territorial compromise about and to which neither side, neither the government of Israel nor Hamas, is ready to consider, much less commit.



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International Law & Ethics (Israel Democracy Institute) (Gaza 2014)


For what it’s worth, here’s a legal brief, which you can read here, relating to the current military operation in Gaza. It was prepared at the Israel Democracy Institute, and hews pretty closely to the 4th Geneva Convention, about which I’ve posted below. Like all legal documents, this is a a bloodless one, indicating the strained relationship, the disjoint, actually, between legal norms and the awfulness of lived reality and political practice. It’s probably the case that this strained disjoint is basic and unavoidable. Unable to close the gap, at the very best, law can only constrain some of the harshness that defines that reality, but it can’t really resolve those inherent tensions or do away with the misery it seeks to mollify.

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Hamas Gaza (2014)


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