Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Battle for the Internet

In today's age of the world wide web, information can be exchanged at the speed of light. We are filled with plenty of mediums for journalism and now that the internet has exploded into phenomenon that we now take for granted, it's getting more and more difficult for the truth to be suppressed. Back in the days of newspapers and television broadcasts, you had editors and CEOs to answer to and with the way the mutlinationals are currently falling under the rubric of capitalist cronyism, we only get the pathetic middle-of-the-road-offend-no-one (or more to the point, offend none of your advertisers and funders) that aims to pass as hard-nosed journalism. Although the days of Bob Woodward and Seymour Hersh exposing fiascos, atrocities and corruption are dwindling away being taken over by James Gannon-nites and sleazy spin stories of how the "surge is working", the internet is a great platform for many of today's truthseekers to find an audience with the alternative media. While you still get the odd piece in the paper that might reveal a nugget of truth, lately we have been bombarded (no pun intended with the Iraq war) with propaganda that pleases the good men in the seats of power and prestige. The internet is alot harder to police because it is open to anyone who has a computer and an internet connection. Even with that handicap where we cannot speak to those too poor to voice their struggle on the web, you have many brave journalists covering their story because it is in the world's interest to know of how other people are being treated. And the Israel-Palestine conflict is of vast importance, with all the implications and degrees that relate to many in the West and the Diaspora of Jews and Palestinians together. Sitting in front of the TV won't get you to know what life is like in the Occupied Territories and that's the beauty of the internet. We are connected to those who are too desperate to even speak out. (But thankfully, a few do make it with their blogs: namely Philip Rizk, Bernard Avishai, Anna Baltzer, Laila El-Haddad and even the groundbreaking blog of Gaza and Sderot friends.)

Now the coverage is getting too troubling for little old Israel. I say old because it is nearing its sixtieth anniversary and what a historic achievement it is. To this day, I don't think many are aware of how Israel camw to being and that's a real shame. Americans are well aware of the birth of their nation: on the ruins of Natives and their corpses. Israel are still unwilling to let the nugget of truth that they cleansed Palestine and made refugees out of the indigenous people. But the iron wall is starting to crack in some societies: in Australia, there is a split in Labour over the celebration of Israel's birth sixty years on. Antony Loewenstein covers it extensively. Here's the precise:

"A bipartisan motion congratulating Israel on 60 years of statehood has provoked division in federal Labor, with one government MP threatening to boycott the vote and union heavyweights accusing the Jewish state of racism and ethnic cleansing.

The parliamentary motion is due to be passed by MPs today, commemorating 60 years of friendship between Australia and Israel.

The motion provoked a clash between Kevin Rudd and Labor MP Julia Irwin yesterday after Ms Irwin questioned why the Government was supporting the gesture, given Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians."

All applauds go to Ms Irwin, who even identified that there is such a thing as the "Nakba".

"We, as informed and concerned Australians, choose to disassociate ourselves from a celebration of the triumph of racism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948."

These are truths that Israel has been trying to suppress, along with their heinous violations of human rights. What really irks the apologists for Israel's crimes is the daily Ha'aretz, which is Israel's most liberal publication. It is home to dissidents such as Gideon Levy and Amira Hass and along with Akiva Eldar, we have a very left voice of Israel criticising the state when Americans won't even touch the subject of Israel doing anything wrong. They've decided that enough is enough and instead of ending the occupation which is what a logical person would do, they go on the offensive (since when DON'T they do that?) and attack on the stage that seems to hurt them the most: the internet.

Because of the Ha'aretz English feature, more and more people who are curious about to what really makes Israel click can see the inner workings of the Knesset members (banishment of Israeli Arabs) and what they support (more settlement construction, no Palestinian state and no Hamas). It's hard to put a positive spin on this no matter how many times you invoke the "demographic bomb" that Netanyahu reiterates ad nauseum. So Israel takes the backlash effect and tests their mettle on the rotunda of the world wide web. Richard Silverstein highlighted the tactics of Israel back in early February:

"They are wreaking vengeance against Israel's enemies by blogging about the worst, most scandalous news about their home countries. I kid you not. Hate those baddies at the Guardian? Tell the world about England's violent drunk teens. L.A. Times got you down dissing Israel? Tell the world about the latest drive by killing. The idea seems to be if you want to smear Israel I'll smear you back. If this isn't the most lame-brained idea I've heard in ages I don't know what is. Instead of damaging the reputations of the countries portrayed, it damages the reputation of Israel that its defenders behave in such a fashion. If you wanted to think of the wackiest pro-Israel propaganda venture could you have thought of this one in a million years?"

The source of his astonishment is the Ha'aretz article that has bloggers trying to counter bad press about Israel on the net. Talk about some sour grapes: you cannot handle the truth so what do you do? You go and smear who's smearing you. Perfect logic here. No, those Palestinians have no grievance at all. It's all fabricated. What? There's good things about Israel? Of course there is. But you could forgive a Palestinian for not sharing that sentiment with you. Here's more of the examples:

"Over the past months, seven activists from Israel and elsewhere have been exposing online readers to scandalous yet accurate reports from media in Britain (violent drunk teens), France (high homeless mortality), Norway (serial child molesters), Finland (sexual harassment in parliament), Sweden (soaring suicide rates), The Netherlands (menacing Muslim unrest), Mexico (rampaging flood victims) and Los Angeles (drive-by killings)."

I love how "menacing Muslim unrest" is a smear. Aren't the Dutch responsible for reprinting that terrible cartoon of the prophet Mohammed that offended millions of Muslims worldwide? I guess that "smear" works for Israel too considering they have "menacing Muslim unrest" being fueled there. What is rather hypocritical is that most states are guilty of these misdemeanors that the bloggers are pinpointing. Which Western nation doesn't have high homeless mortality? Aren't there serial child molesters in Canada too? What about the US who is the country with the most people in prison per capita? What is missing from all of these are how many UN Resolutions they are in violation of, and that NONE of these nations (except for the US) are currently occupying another people. Well Britain and France with NATO involvement but that is a little too technical. The point is, Israel is committing egregious crimes that do not even compare with these petty crimes of the other states.

If all of this is not absurb enough for you, the battle has found its place on Facebook, a social site that lets people interact with "friends" which is more or less a popularity contest. Now I kid you not: the Israel-Palestine conflict is being waged on Facebook of all places. Facebook!

It all began when settlers in the West Bank who are members complained that they are not living in Palestine and that they are Israeli citizens, hence that their country of origin should read "Israel". They claimed that the Facebook creators had bias. Now these citizens of Israel living in illegal settlements of "Maale Adumim, Ariel and other large Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank" are not currently living in Israel, perhaps making that the reason why the country of origin was automatically labeled Palestine since this is the area where there is a proposed Palestinian state. What is sad is that these settlers put up a stink about it because they don't recognise that what they are living on is Palestinian land: THAT'S WHY IT DID NOT SAY ISRAEL. How much can we stress that for it to sink it? This land is not your's and was never your's to begin with. You moved here with the belligerence of Israel's leaders and made peace impossible because you refuse to admit that your presence is in direct violation of international law which is adhered by ALL STATES of the world, including the US.

This offensive is just following Shimon Peres' orders that the battle be taken up in Facebook.

"You can fight anti-Semitism using social networks, like Facebook."

Calling the occupied territories Palestine is not anti-Semitism no matter how much you scream it is. Peres sees no folly in this and he is spearheaded the backlash against Palestinian solidarity which gains more strength whenever Israel bombs and kills civilians. We cannot make this stuff up people and because the root causes of the conflict are being covered more and more and getting more debate on networks such as Facebook, Israel cannot police these thoughts from permeating other non-suspecting citizens who might be molded into thinking that Israel isn't all its cracked up to be. The real shame is the campaign to silence these debates and these criticisms when Israel should be learning from their mistakes and taking into account every dissident voice who claims that Israel is on a path of self-destruction when they refuse to deal with reality.

There can be no real security when such a power disparity is in effect between two opposing nationalist movements. Israel needs to find out that only equality will quell the hatred that is brewing between the two populations and an open debate about it needs to happen if understanding can be met during our lifetime. The battle of the internet is only going to get uglier but the truth in the end shall prevail. If you encounter these zealouts, be not afraid to call them out and take them on for you have the truth on your side. I know I am itching for an encounter.

PS: the Shin Bet has created their own blog. As Norman Finkelstein put it: "Read how Israel tortures and murders Palestinians in real time."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Five years ago a brave American activist from Olympia, Washington took a stand against injustice when she refused to move while facing a mammoth bulldozer in order to save Khaled Nasrallah's house from demolition. To this day her sacrifice is rather unknown unless you are part of the struggle for the rights of Palestinians. It is also without a doubt that Americans are very ignorant of the issue confronting Palestinians and Israelis who fight the occupation to the bitter end, and for Rachel, her end was met too prematurely.

Now her parents' pain is not quelled and their battle for justice to see someone being held accountable for their daughter's death is an uphill one. Tom Wright and Therese Saliba penned a good piece on the story of Rachel's journey and her parents attempt to piece reality together when their own daughter's death is being censored in the country they call home. And because of their resolve and desire to keep her spirit alive, other Westerns can see how one person we will never get to meet can make a big difference on the rest of us who wish for a better world and for a just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Rachel's life and story is being propagated through a play (that was suppressed here in Toronto as well as New York and had troubles finding a theatre in London) and her journals are now published in a book called Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie. To this day, the US and Israel government refuses to investigate the crime that took Rachel from this world, which really shows what type of mettle our representatives are made of. Here we have a story of a girl who saw something she had to take a stand for, eyewitnesses recount that she was a lone figure standing in the way of a Catepillar bulldozer, very similar to those horrific images we remember of Tiananmen Square, and was flattened not only once, but twice as the driver of the bulldozer decided to back up on Rachel's corpse, and we have no one to speak out on her behalf, just half promises and muddled responses. Here's Cindy Corrie questioning Barry Sabin, head of the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department:

"'Are you saying that no matter what amount of evidence we bring to you there will never be a U.S. investigation into Rachel's killing?' And Barry Sabin said, 'I never say never, but no.' And our daughter Sarah said, 'Even if we could show intent?' And he nodded."

Seeing the futility in their own government to find someone responsible for the death of their daughter, they went public with a play at the urging of Sabin. This way, it gets more word of mouth as well as more press, especially in North America where the good old Lobby does not want any bad news being spoken about its Holy Country. Cindy had to find out the hard way that the US government is in terrible cahoots with Israel:

"The kind of impotence in government around this whole issue, after five years with Rachel's case points to the need for people at the grassroots level to find other channels, other ways of keeping the communications open, of building those relationships that ultimately are going to lead to some change in the world."

The harder they try to suppress her story, the more romanticised it is going to get. Now I never knew Rachel and I will never get to know her, but her death is not only touching myself but she has many websites dedicated to her and her story is well known in Gaza as well as with many Palestinians. Not only that, but also through her demise we are seeing how hollow our representatives are when they speak of taking a stern stance with Israel whenever a Westerner is killed or injured (but only if they happened to fall from Palestinian resistance do we get any coverage of that sort). One wonders if Rachel had lived and finished up in Gaza with the ISM and returned to Olympia that she would get such a reception and an audience we see today. You could only speculate but I would have to lean towards no. It is sad that only with her untimely death that her story is going to be told to so many in this world.

Of course we will get the demonisers who believe that Rachel was naive and protecting terrorists. Do we even have to get into that debacle? No terrorists were found in the house that was demolished, and even if they did have "contacts" with potential terrorists, that is a violation of the Geneva Accords anyway. Tsk, tsk.

Also there are reports that it was an accident. Like someone gets run over by a bulldozer by accident. How fast do those machines go anyway? If there are any doubts then see this photo account by Electronic Intifada.

Rachel is a true sob story and not the Pat Tillman type either. Here was a person who gave up life in affluence in the West to take up a stance that is not very popular and take on a brutal regime that is oppressing Palestinians for the sake of an ancient ideology. Five years on, she is still being vilified and her play was not welcome in many cities. Rachel could have chosen something simplier but instead she felt she had to do something against the biggest injustices we experience in today's society. And how ironic is it that now, five years after, Rachel's play is going to debut IN ISRAEL.

Now how fascinating is that? This play won't get played in many cities in North America and it's being performed in Israel of all places. Do you think there's a Lobby in North America or what? Or do playwrights and yellow theatre owners just have a knack of avoiding controversial issues that might dent their pocketbooks?

I shall leave with some excerpts of some of Rachel's emails:

"I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. In addition, what Rafah identified in 1999 as sources of economic growth are all completely destroyed - the Gaza international airport (runways demolished, totally closed); the border for trade with Egypt (now with a giant Israeli sniper tower in the middle of the crossing); access to the ocean (completely cut off in the last two years by a checkpoint and the Gush Katif settlement). The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border. I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world. There used to be a middle class here - recently. We also get reports that in the past, Gazan flower shipments to Europe were delayed for two weeks at the Erez crossing for security inspections. You can imagine the value of two-week-old cut flowers in the European market, so that market dried up. And then the bulldozers come and take out people’s vegetable farms and gardens. What is left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can’t... [February 27 2003]

You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul. I know that the situation gets to them - and may ultimately get them - on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity - laughter, generosity, family-time - against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death. I felt much better after this morning. I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances - which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will... [February 28 2003]

I think I could see a Palestinian state or a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state within my lifetime. I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.

I look forward to increasing numbers of middle-class privileged people like you and me becoming aware of the structures that support our privilege and beginning to support the work of those who aren’t privileged to dismantle those structures... [February 28 2003]

Right now I think I could stay until June, financially. I really don’t want to move back to Olympia, but do need to go back there to clean my stuff out of the garage and talk about my experiences here. On the other hand, now that I’ve crossed the ocean I’m feeling a strong desire to try to stay across the ocean for some time... I would like to leave Rafah with a viable plan to return, too. One of the core members of our group has to leave tomorrow - and watching her say goodbye to people is making me realize how difficult it will be. People here can’t leave, so that complicates things. They also are pretty matter-of-fact about the fact that they don’t know if they will be alive when we come back here.

I really don’t want to live with a lot of guilt about this place - being able to come and go so easily - and not going back. I think it is valuable to make commitments to places - so I would like to be able to plan on coming back here within a year or so. [Rachel's last email]

Rachel's words will live on.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bloody and still unbowed

The horrifying pictures and videos are still searing our memories as the Gaza Strip has experienced one of its bloodiest week since the beginning of the Second Intifada and definitely the biggest death toll in such a short span since Hamas has been in control. You would not know it from the Israeli press or even from the pages of the New York Times that the ghastly total of Israel's excursion into the tiny strip has amounted to 121 according to the AP which "at least 54 of them did not take part in the hostilities" according to B'Tselem (adding that "twenty-five of them minors" and "at least forty-six minors were wounded."). These are amazing numbers when put in comparison with the number of Israelis who have fallen (a paltry 3 for those terrorists who "aim" at civilians). If Hamas is trying to kill Israeli civilians, it is doing a poor job of it. As facts would have it, it is the mighty Israeli army who did superb work of destroying innocents:

"IOF penetrated the Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip, assassinated one man, and killed an infant less than one month old...

They surrounded the home of 40-year-old Yousef Sulaiman al-Smiri...After the IOF besieged al-Smiri's house, the IOF opened fire at it intensively under helicopter cover. It ordered the family, through loud speakers, to leave the house. The family and their guests left the house, except for Yousef al-Smiri who fled.According to affidavits given to Al Mezan by witnesses, the family and the guests left the house as they were instructed by the IOF. The house's outside lights were on and the IOF kept its light on them the entire time. However, the soldiers continued shooting and, consequently, the mother Nadia Abu Aser was hit by a live bullet to her left arm. Her infant daughter, Amira, was injured by a live bullet to her head. Also, the shooting injured four other residents of the house.

There is reason to believe that Yousef al-Smiri was murdered after being stopped. After he fled his house, his body was found at approximately 10:00am the next day (5 March). Believing that he escaped from the IOF, the neighbors found al-Simiri's lifeless body lying in an open area about 150 meters from his house. When the body was examined at the hospital, a live bullet was found in his chest, and his head was crushed."

Not content with their good work in slaying poor Mohammed Al-Boraiy last week, they wanted to repeat their "morale" exercise on more Gazans. Is this what Ehud Olmert had planned when spoke of “weaken” Hamas or pressuring Palestinians in overthrowing the Islamists in a false hope of removing them from power? You would think that Olmert had been taught a lesson from his failure in Lebanon but I guess these politicians will never admit when their policy is one that is fruitless. It seems Olmert’s master plan is being undone in the West Bank also, with a spectacular scene that has Jerusalem being policed more in recent memory. Even though the official Israel line is that they were not responsible for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbollah is claiming responsibility for the latest killings in Jerusalem evoking the “retribution” that was inevitable after another of Israel’s extra-judicial killing. Time and again, the doomed nature of Israel’s militancy is putting their citizens in danger of reprisal and Olmert seems not to care.

Now we have children, dozens of them, being killed and this is meant to make Palestinians blame Hamas? This doesn’t even make the news in the Israeli press:

“the Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv dailies, to be specific - decided that the killing of over 60 residents of Gaza in one day by our soldiers is not a story. The proof: There is no mention of it, not even implied, on the first pages of these two newspapers, their obvious showcase…Only on the margins of page 3, in tiny letters, was there a first mention: About 95 Palestinians killed since Wednesday. A first picture of the killing and the outcry in Gaza on page 6.”

With such disregard for the worth of Palestinian life, it’s easy to paint them as part of the enemy’s front line. Why, they use “human shields”, don’t they? The killing of their children is a great military strategy: they have less people to “blend in” with. They’re cowards. We can sit in our fighter planes and bomb them like the ants they are and
only feel a “slight bump on the wing”.

What is important to note is that Israel has not felt the need to even cover what’s going on inside Gaza, as they have not sent ONE single reporter in there. How else are they meant to know what’s going on if they don’t even care enough to report on it?

The Israelis, the Americans and yes even most of the West’s dehumanization of the Palestinians is what is contributing to their failed strategy to even come close to quelling the violence in the region. Plenty of politics are thrown in, and it is far too complex to limit to a single damning point that is the leading reason why things are getting so bad but you would think that after the Iraq disaster that the elite would think twice about such invasions and bombing campaigns to “weaken” the enemy. With the ascendance of Hamas back in January 2006, it has been a consistent point of Washington to try to ignore that a pattern is happening that is weakening their presence in the Middle East.
Hence the great deal of importance on the Vanity Fair article that only embodies what Condoleezza Rice and George Bush had in mind when the “surprise” of a Hamas victory, which should have been foreseen since there were MANY advisors who stated that the Fatah party were not “ready” ie they were not prepared to face the onslaught of a “clean Hamas” against a “dirty Fatah” on a one man, one vote election, and even Rice’s head proxy confessed that the elections were not a good idea, that they have to do what they can to eradicate this nuisance of a party.

Rice does not come out too cleanly in the article, and according to
Missing Links, the article totally exonerates Dahlan and his party since they always attest that their plan was doomed to begin with. “It was not our fault” that the coup did not happen because they were weak, under-funded and unprepared. Hamas saw what was coming and naturally did what any political party does: survive. How ironic is it now that over a decade later after being tortured by Fatah police and security personnel for attempting to sabotage the Oslo process it is Hamas who has the power to do so over Fatah soldiers. And could Hamas be blamed for trying to show Fatah that it was only part and parcel of the occupation? That Israel had passed on the duties of occupation to its own proxy army in the territories called Fatah who were doing their best to clamp down on dissent and resistance?

This is the major problem that Rice and Bush have dug for themselves, and to a lesser extent Ehud Olmert: their sheer opposition of Hamas and Hizbollah as something less than what they are, or by merging them with “terrorists” as al-Qaeda or even “terrorist states” such as Iran has them stuck in a xenophobic drama. Despite what Rice and Bush might say, Hamas is far from an Iranian proxy (like Fatah is when Bush undertook that policy to overthrow Hamas). It may get aid from Iran but tell me where does Hamas expect to get aid from? There have been reports upon reports about the
situation in Gaza being the worst since ’67, having no electricity, no medical system and their food is in short storage. This is no way to restore faith in the Palestinians and is the biggest double standard when you refuse to accept their decision on who they want to lead them in talks. And because for some reason that aggrieved Palestinians do not want to suffer more humiliation at the hands of the colonizer, who has made them refugees once, twice and sometimes even more than that, they react angrily and decide to fire some rockets, the sanctions that are meant to hurt Hamas only hurt those normal Palestinians more. It is their food that is being rationed and their movement that is being challenged and their children that is being hurt and killed. Collective punishment has not worked to overthrow anyone; it only works to add more “fuel to the fire”. With all the fighting, Hamas has more material to give to anyone who will listen that Israel is intent to inflict damage of “Holocaust” proportions. And with the current invectives being hurled at Arab MK’s in the Knesset coupled with the number of casualties in the Gaza Strip, who is to blame Hamas for not trying to capitalize on all of this?

Hamas already has called the Israeli pullout a victory. Olmert claims that is was only a limited action to give Hamas a “taste” of what is to come. It is difficult to surmise what is to come next, with contradictory accounts from both Olmert and the coming
Egypt initiative that is supposed to be backed by the Israelis and the US. Yet again, Hamas is foiling the US plans and this won’t be the last of it.

But what is very sordid is that all of this fighting could have been avoided. Muhammed Al-Boraiy could have lived for a lot longer and
the one month baby girl could have had her first steps. Had it not been for the casus belli against Hamas, it might have been led to something more tangible than a shaky talk with Egypt as the mediator. The shortsightedness of Rice and Bush is leading them to repeat their mistake of Lebanon back in 2006 when Rice expressed with bravado that it was to be a “birthpang of a new Middle East”. Little did she know that she was almost correct: the resistance groups of Hizbollah and Hamas are surely making a very strong point of being regarded as a legitimate player in the Middle East, and cannot easily be diverted as some marginal faction that is only intent on terrorism and bent on Israel’s demise. Rice, the Cold War expert, is seeing that using pulpits along the region is not the easiest way to do business. Bush the catechist, may not be willing to admit that his “us versus them” policy is bankrupt and is leading the American empire down a slippery slope that has Iran becoming the biggest influence in the violatile Middle East, hence why Israel wants the US to take it down.

The calculation of "not talking to terrorists" has cornered the Bush administration into a tough episode here. While the double standard is so odious when North Korea is spoken to and Iran is isolated, the plan of putting Hamas as a "terrorist" entity has culminated into what we have seen in the last week or two. The deaths would have been avoided if the Bush administration had not attempted to punish Palestinians for voting in Hamas. Had Hamas been engaged when they were showing plenty of signs of moderating, who knows what could have been accomplished? Rice and co. do not want to go back on their principles of not giving terrorists any leverage but what Rice and co. seem to miss is that it is they who cannot choose who speaks for their "enemies". By branding Hamas as "terrorists", they ideologically had to ignore the result, since they weren't "our kind of guy(s)". Thus, we have the policy of isolation that has led many Hamas supporters from believing that Washington are serious with negotiations to being in complete disillusion that Washington's words had any real merit. Bombing Lebanon and littering it with cluster bombs did not do a thing to weaken Hizbollah's support as Israel still has to do with them no matter what they do. Quite surprising is that the only person who seems to have any logic is Ron Paul as he was the only 'no' vote in Congress for the new resolution condemning Palestinian rocket attacks. It seems they will never learn.

As a matter of fact, it is
Hamas that is learning all the rules of the game. The violence may have not lead to much, and the Qassams are usually ineffective but they have led Israel to the negotiating table with them, something that has not happened since they were elected into power. The Fatah wing is largely hollow, with only aid and Washington’s backing keeping them alive in the West Bank. Since Annapolis, Fatah has not seen one concession from Israel, only subterfuge and fake “removals” that only solidifies the Jerusalem bloc. This has been consistent with every peace process, and it is no wonder that Hamas states that Israel is not intent on giving up anything through negotiations and only armed resistance can show them that there is a price to pay for continued colonization of Palestinian lands. Now that it has weathered the Israeli storm, it is now in a standoff that could potentially lead to a ceasefire. The sanctions may not be lifted but Hamas has shown that is can survive the slow starvation though this does nothing to help pressure Hamas.

Of course,
we will get the typical replies that “if only Hamas recognize Israel” and all that fluff. But we’re not talking about final borders here, are we? Aren’t we just talking of a ceasefire? The solution to the conflict has to involve Hamas, and not just the phony leader that Washington beefed up for theatre. Whether Washington likes it or not, Hamas has the support of the people, or else it would not have voted for it. It is stupid to believe that Canada did not like the fact that Bush was voted in (again) so therefore they immediately cut all financial ties to the US; they merely accepted the result and just kept going with business as usual. I know, I know, bad analogy: but just because you do not like the victor of an election does not mean that they don’t have legitimacy. If you want relations with the country, you talk with the voted representative of the population. You don’t try to ignore the result and attempt to delegate the responsibility on third parties: this isn’t 1967 and the Jordanian option was a failure. The PLO was selected for a reason; Hamas was voted in for a reason. Now let’s swallow our idiotic pride and talk with Hamas before it really is too late.

Secondly, the demands of Hamas are just a plan for them to be viewed as rejectionists. What’s usually missing is the fact that although Hamas won’t recognize Israel, Israel won’t recognize Israel: Israel does not have final borders. Israel does not recognize Israel on the UN Partition borders nor even on the Green Line. In the words of Mamoon Alabbasi,

“So why is Hamas being singled out for not recognising the UN drawn Israel (the one with the pre-1967 Green Line borders)?

And the Israel that Israel itself recognises (the one that includes land grabbed through war) is not recognised by the international community.”

So the world does not recognize Israel in its current form and yet Hamas is being bullied to commit to it? Now that is quite a double standard and Hamas are no fools. It is even reported that despite the condemnation of Palestinian schoolbooks inciting hatred towards Israel, it is the Israeli textbooks that do not even show the Green Line. The education system does not recognize Palestine and yet Hamas is meant to recognize Israel? Is Israel required to recognize a Palestinian state before they are brought to the negotiating table? (They should recognize one anyway.) I quote Alabbasi again,

“why is Hamas expected to recognise those who do not recognise them?”

But that does not stop Hamas from sending out gestures of a ceasefire? Do they stop talks with Washington because they do not recognize Hamas? Absolutely not. And to be even more frank, Israel did not require such a demand of Egypt and Jordan, both of whom have had peace and normalisation with Israel for a number of decades. So is the requisite for recognition such an imperative? After all, those Palestinian textbooks come from Egypt and Jordan, so they do not recognize Israel and incite hatred towards them yet peace is still a possibility within those two nations.

It is just a clever ploy in order to keep Hamas as a fringe. But unfortunately for Bush, Olmert and co. they are not going away too easily and have put their strategy completely off the track. Engaging Hamas would be the policy that would make the most sense. They have some sort of prestige and they are the most likely party to bring order in Gaza and stop those Qassams from flying over into Israel. A modicum of common sense would have led one to undertake this policy back when Hamas was voted in but Rice decided to go another route, one that
neocon David Wurmser called “a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy”.

No one has ever accused the Bush administration of dealing with reality but Hamas are making themselves become a reality to the administration. You can never know what to expect next as Washington could well be on the way of cooking up another plan to derail Hamas. But as of right now, Hamas is still alive, and unbowed.