Thursday, January 08, 2009

Response to Rashid Khalidi

Originally, I wrote this as a comment on Gert's blog post which reprinted Rashid Khalidi's New York Times op-ed piece, What You Don’t Know About Gaza. It came out so long, I decided it merits its own post.

I must say, today's NY Times op-ed page was very unfriendly to Israel, with critical articles by Nicholas Kristof, Roger Cohen, Khalidi and Gideon Lichfield. But that's okay. Conservatives David Brooks and William Kristol, as well as my favorite columnist Thomas Friedman, had previously written articles in favor of Israel's Gaza operation. I particularly liked Thomas Friedman's piece.

Anyway, here is my response to Rashid Khalidi's opionion article:

I read this article this morning and found it very troubling, though not at all surprising. I truly do hope Barack Obama's connection with Khalidi was exaggerated by Republicans.

THE GAZANS How is it relevant that the Gazans are not there by choice? Is it alright for them to fire at Ashkelon and Be'er-Sheva because their grandparents came from those cities?

The Gazans have been kept in the refugee camps by their Arab brethren. Had Egypt, who controlled the strip between 1948-1967, or any other Arab country, rehabilitated the refugees and invested in them, things would look differently. Instead, the refugees and their suffering were used as a tool against Israel to keep calling for the right of return. After all, if they'd rebuild Palestinians' lives in their new locations it would have seemed like they were giving up on the right of return.

THE OCCUPATION First of all, the Gazans have never NOT lived under occupation. Before 1967 they were occupied by Egypt; before 1948 by the UK; and before 1917 by the Ottomans. Right now, their self-rule is greater than at any time in the past.

Israel has made many mistakes over the years in Gaza. It should have done what Egypt before it should have done - it should have made Gazans' lives better. However, once Israel withdrew from the territory, it was up to the Palestinians to make their lives better, even if Israel controlled the border. Even before the blockade that started when Hamas rose to power, Palestinians did nothing with their territory.

THE BLOCKADE Fuel, electricity and humanitarian aid kept coming in to Gaza all this time. The aim of the blockade was not to choke the Palestinians, but to harm the Hamas government. If a nation elected a government bent on your destruction, would you cooperate with it economically and otherwise?

THE CEASE-FIRE In November Israel attacked a tunnel where arms were being smuggled in. The IDF said there was an imminent threat to Israel from whatever was coming through that tunnel. Was it a smart move? Maybe not, but it didn't come out of thin air.

WAR CRIMES The numbers do not speak for themselves. They don't demonstrate each side's intentions, but rather each side's technological advancement. The civilian death toll is too high - the result of both Israeli recklessness and Hamas activity within population centers. However, this is not a war crime on Israel's part, since the civilians are not the targets. Also, it is not true that civilians are the majority of the dead.

"Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip."

Israel wanted to continue the cease-fire, but Hamas refused. It demanded that the border crossings be opened, but as long as Hamas is unwilling to allow inspections they cannot be fully opened. The smuggling of arms must stop.

"This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets."

Khalidi would like to think that it isn't. This way, the Palestinians have absolutely no responsibility for what is happening. The truth is that it is about rockets. After eight years of Qassams and Grad missiles, Israelis have had enough.

"Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

This is a horrible statement. Moshe Yaalon is an idiot, though not an isolated idiot. Maybe this kind of thinking has something to do with some of the tactics of the current operation but it is not the goal. The end of rocket fire and rocket smuggling is.

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