Tag Archives: Gaza

Conflict Resolution Commandos: A Response to the Flotilla.

* The following article was co-written with Andrea Bartoli and published in issue 4 of Unrest Magazine. It’s also published at the Huffington Post.

This month a new flotilla is scheduled to set sail to Gaza. As will be recalled, in May 2010 a violent confrontation at sea between Israeli naval forces and pro-Palestinian activists led to the death of nine people and many more injured; before a Turkish vessel aiming at breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza was escorted to a port. As a consequence, relations between Israel and Turkey dramatically soured and Israel’s standing in the international community further eroded. Judging by the rhetoric of the parties involved today another collision seems imminent, with more flotillas forthcoming in the future.

As scholars of conflict resolution, we believe that such situations call for constructive adaptation on the part of those involved. To that end we propose the IDF take initiative and create the first ever Conflict Resolution Commando unit. Continue reading

Leader(Ship) of Fools: Beware of the “Knesset A” Flotilla

* I wrote part of this after the flotilla incident, but did not publish it because I wanted to give the Netanyahu government more of a chance. In light of the Turkel Commission’s report and Israel’s pathetic performance vis-a-vis the peace process, I decided to republish the piece.

Psychologist speak of a fascinating phenomenon known as Inattentional Blindness – when our attention to something specific literally blinds us to something obvious others can easily see. In short: out of mind, out of sight.

A somewhat comical example of this (here) is a British commercial aimed at raising awareness about cyclists’ safety.

A not-so-comical example of “inattentional blindness” appeared last May following the violent confrontation at sea between Israeli forces and activists onboard the Mavi Marmara – a Turkish vessel carrying aid destined for Gaza (under Israeli blockade). Nine people were killed and several injured before the vessel was “escorted” to a port in Israel. In the aftermath of the events at sea, many Israelis were intensely focused on the logistics of the operation and making our case to the world. Continue reading

Suicide Terrorism: Function of Occupation or Ideology?

Robert Pape has an artice over at Foriegn Policy which argues that suicide terrorism is primarly a function military occupation and not extremist ideology. He writes:

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture. More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

I find the information in this article refreshing and interesting, but there is one paragraph that particularly irked me and warranted serious qualifaction. It reads:

“Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.”

The truth is that Israelis have had two dominant competing narratives about terrorism. One sees terroism as a consquence of a religio-fanatical, endogenous and incorrigible hatred of the Jewish state. The other sees it as a consequence of the unjust and brutal reality of the occupation (dispositional vs situational explanation of behavior). The former narrative holds that the antidote to terrorism is to control, dominate and eradicate those who terrorize us. While the latter maintains that the solution can only come from an end to the occupation – land-for-peace principle – and a creation of a stable and viable Palestinian state. Throughout the years, each narrative has had unequal influence, at times intermixed, on the collective psyche of the state. These days in Israel, and this Pape got right, the main narrative is that terrorism is a function of Arab-Muslim fanaticism (even though current Israeli leaders are talking the langauge of peace). But the reason for the supremacy of this hard narrative is what throws a wrench into Pape’s thesis. Continue reading

Barcelona Cancels Holocaust Day

I was saddened to read that Barcelona, one of my favorite cities in the world, has cancelled its Holocaust commemoration day. According to this article, the planned day was cancelled in light of Israel’s recent operations in Gaza. As one Catalan official put it: “Marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right.”

What If Hamas’ Rockets Hit Tel-Aviv?

My latest report from France 24:

After 22 days of war that left scores of people dead and injured, Israel and Hamas have both declared a ceasefire. Was so much bloodshed necessary to reach an end to the hostilities? The Israeli response, given the dire threat that it faces, has been affirmative. Yet many across the world are not convinced: With over 1200 Palestinian dead (including many civilians), a lot of people believe that Israel used disproportionate and excessive force.

In an effort to show the world the seriousness of the Israeli perspective, two students from a school in the south of Israel created an artistic project illustrating the daily lives of those living under target of Hamas rockets in southern Israel. The project is entitled, “Distance Is Only A Matter of Time” and culminates with a controversial film (also aimed at apathetic Israelis) that simulates a rocket being launched in Gaza and hitting Tel-Aviv.

To read Observer commentary from the makers of the film, as well as a critical rejoinder by Lisa Goldman, click here. You can also read a defense of Tel-Aviv by Yair Lapid here.

Palestinian Doctor Reacts to the Loss of his Children live on Israeli TV.

A Palestinian doctor learns during an interview with Israeli TV that his three daughters have been killed by Israeli attack. Here is what he later said about his daughters.

“They participated in peace camps everywhere. Were they armed when they were killed? They were not armed with weapons, but rather, with love; love for others. They planned to travel to Canada; I got a job in Canada and they wanted to come with me. Why did they ruin my hopes? My children.”

This poor man, also lost his wife to cancer a few months ago. I don’t care how you interpret this conflict, and I don’t care what the IDF is going to say, if you can’t feel for him, then there is something wrong with your heart. You need to see a doctor.

Smadar Levi’s Dispatch From Sderot.

“Amidst the recent tensions in the Middle East, a voice for peace and unity has emerged. No, it is not the voice of a political leader, nor is it the voice of a grassroots movement; rather it is the euphonious and haunting voice of singer Smadar Levi.”

Thus began my first-ever published article (read here), about the award-winning and fantastic world-music singer Smadar Levi. I am glad to report that Smadar is still using her talent and passion to bring peace of mind and heart to a people besieged by terror and conflict. During the current crises in Gaza and Israel, Smadar returned to her hometown of Sderot to bring goods and music to a population that has been paralyzed by fear and destruction.

The following is Smadar’s first dispatch from Sderot.

As the situation here in the south of Israel is escalating, I would like to bring you some of my experience from sderot, Israel. I arrived to Israel two weeks ago, shortly after the war started, needless to say there wasn’t too much time to enjoy.

After a search, I decided to join to organizations that work together to provide whatever is needed in the South region for kids and adults as one. Sderot is my hometown: that’s where I was born, and where my mom still lives till today. Like many of Sedrot’s courageous and proud citizens, she refuses to leave town despite the fact that a kassam rocket fell in our backyard.

The organizations I joined are “Lev Echad” and “Bekavod”, which provide goods such as food, toys and everything else that people need as they sit stranded in shelters for so many days.

This past week was in particular intense and stressful as the number of Kassam Rockets was between 40-60 a day in Sderot and nearby area.

Despite the risk we went to Sderot (about 40 people and soldiers), and prepared and provided hundreds of boxes filled with food, creative art, and toys; in addition we provided over 500 boxes of food for the soldiers serving in the line of fire. As we moved from Shelter to shelter we divided the time between listening to the kid’s stories and singing for them. Then we moved to the next shelter, and that’s how the day went.

Despite the horror faced on daily basis, the people of Sderot and the surrounding are in good spirit and keeping up the faith, which is so incredible. Seeing these people with such a positive spirit made me so proud that I belong to this little town that brought some of Israel’s best talent and personalities.

I spent most of one of the days with four soldiers and got to see much more than I expected; we actually got into a closed area (for residents) near Nahal Oz, and witnessed hundreds of soldiers who were about to go into Gaza; a moment after, we saw a kassam rocket being fired to Ashkelon. I did not expect to have seen any of that, but seeing it made me sad and torn.

Only peace, understanding and a fair leadership will create unity and harmony with our neighbors.

Tomorrow , I will be joined by a number of musicians and we will play music from shelter to shelter and hope that life will go back to normality and peace will arrive very soon.

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If you have questions for Smadar, send them here. Please take the time to visit her website, and stay tuned for further dispatches from Sderot.

On The Side Of The PeaceMakers

A few days ago Raquel Evita Saraswati and myself were interviewed for the the Portuguese daily, Publico. The interview was conducted by Margarida Santos Lopes, and explores how an Israeli-Jew and a Muslim (who happen to be friends), view reasons for the hate and violence in Israel/Palestine and the possibilities for peace in the region. The News Service Common Ground has also published the interview in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Part I of the interview can be read here, while part two is forthcoming.

Quotes:

Roi: Most Israelis and Palestinians engage in violence due to a perception that they are under threat, and the belief that they are acting in self-defence and for the cause of justice. It is not, therefore, a sadistic impulse to cause bloodshed. At the same time, it is clear that far too many Palestinians and Israelis have an unhealthy confidence in the efficacy of violence. We have both placed too much faith in what I call the algorithm of violence: the notion that force is the optimal method for resolving conflict. This faith has led many to tragically dismiss peaceful forms of conflict resolution.

Raquel: What we, the new generation of Muslims and Jews calling for peace, must do is this: we must make the conversation our own. Our minds must not be battlefields trampled by old thinking and simmering hate. We must reject the very idea that our religious identity or ethnicity determines our “camp.” We can meet one another – virtually, even personally – and re-imagine this region. Beyond the desire for reconciliation, we can and must take action for peace.

To read more, click here. Don’t forget to check back for part II.

Haaretz: Muslims Speaking Out Against Hamas

My new article from Haaretz.

As our technology advances and our televisions get flatter, bigger, and clearer, there is still one subject that is broadcast to the world in black and white: the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.

The recent events in Gaza have engendered a predictable world reaction: polarization, anger, hatred, and fear. The left screams “massacre”, while the right wants to get tougher.

Watching the mass protest and reading about strident calls for Israel’s dissolution, we Jews can’t help but get that lonely feeling in the pits of our stomachs: The world is against us. Call it a Pavlovian response conditioned by persecution on a mass scale.

But the pro-Israel camp would be wise to pay attention not only to the bellicose cries coming from the mosques and streets, but also to the Muslim voices courageously speaking out against Hamas.

To read more, click here. As always, if the spirit moves you, please leave a comment.

One of the Best Articles I have Ever Read In Haaretz

This article by Bradley Burston was written two years ago, but it still manages to stir the soul.

Let their people go
By Bradley Burston

In all of the Holy Land, there is no more beautiful area than the Gaza Strip. And none more accursed. It is the Riviera of the damned. The cruel Club Med of the eternally passed over, the pitied, the left to drown.

This week, a number of schoolchildren were caught in the crossfire of a gun battle in which Hamas and Fatah vied for the upper hand. The children lost. Eight were wounded in the exchange of fire.

Later that day, an official of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City noted that at least four people suffering from kidney diseases had died in the Strip in April, after the cash-starved Palestinian Authority Health Ministry cut budgets for dialysis treatments.

Some cancer patients have stopped receiving chemotherapy, the hospital has a dwindling two-week supply of medicines, and cannot afford to repair medical machines when they break.

If that were not enough, the next day, Gazans were told that fuel could run out soon, after the Israeli company that supplies petroleum products to the Strip, citing a succession of unpaid bills, threatened to stop supplying it.

Should we care? We should, and not only because we live on the slopes of Vesuvius, and there’s thick black smoke issuing from its summit. Not only out of fearful self-interest, that is, not just because today’s misery can be tomorrow’s murderous desperation.

We should care because there are people living next door to us whose normal daily life is built of the kind of hardships one sees after a natural disaster. No work, no money, little food, open sewage, disease, depression, hope too scant, shelter too primitive, services too meager, death too soon, the horizon too empty, the future worse than no relief for an unbearable present.

We should care because we will travel to the ends of the earth to help people suffering tragic loss, large-scale traumatic injury, destruction of their homes, their livelihoods, but as far as Gaza’s concerned, a few meters from our doorstep, good riddance.

We have left it to the wolves.

We were right to have left it. But we were wrong to have done it the way we did.

We hurt and abandoned our people who lived there and whom we expelled.

We hurt and exploited and ultimately abandoned the Gazans themselves, who lived in a colony we called part of the Land of Israel because we were unwilling and unable to run it as what it was, a colony.

And now we are hurting and abandoning them as what they have become, what we have, in fact, made them, our neighbors.

“Stop right there, you’ve got it wrong,” we console ourselves. “These people want to kill us. These people want to throw us into the sea. They won’t even let us help them. Besides, we can’t even manage to feed our own people, you want to take care of them, too? And just when we’ve finally washed our hands of them, after all these years?”

“They brought it upon themselves,” we tell ourselves. “Let them stew in their own juice. They elected murderers to lead them. Let them go hungry, let their electricity be cut off, their water.”

“Why should we help them,” we ask ourselves, “when their own brothers screw them, and have done so systematically for decades – the Egyptians, the Lebanese, the Jordanians, the Syrians, the Kuwaitis – the Arab world as a whole has let them rot – forced them to rot – evolved and adhered to an entire ideology explaining why the Gazans must be kept as a symbol of Zionist induced suffering. For their own sake.”

“Why should we feel responsible when the Saudis, the Emirates, could have used a sliver of a fraction of their stratospheric oil revenues to solve Gaza’s problems, when the expenses of one week of the fruitless, decision-less 10-year Iran-Iraq war could have helped turn Gaza around. Their own brothers won’t lift a finger, why should we?”

Forget, for the moment, what the right says. Consider the limousine left. There are a number of reasons why the disengagement from Gaza was and remains so popular in the svelte sections of Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and, for that matter, the Upper West Side. One of them is surely this:

We don’t want to think about those people anymore, and now we think we no longer have to.

“Mah li u’lezeh?” What does this have to do with me?

The most unpleasant answer is this: Because we are still occupying them.

There is more than one way to occupy a people. We, having evolved, have chosen remote control.

Our drones occupy the Gazans, morning and night, directing the artillery that occupies them, shell after shell after hour and hour, directing helicopter gunships that fire missiles at cars and hit terrorists and also kill innocent bystanders.

Our lifestyle occupies them, and the fact that, not only are they unable to work on our side anymore, they can’t even work in the factories in Gaza that once shipped goods to us for sale.

We occupy them because we don’t like the government they elected, and we believe that we can quarantine them into choosing another.

We occupy them, fundamentally, by deciding for them who should rule over them, and by deciding that we have the right to set them straight.

This is, of course, the cue for the right-wing chorus from abroad to dismiss this as the usual leftist drivel, and to point out the obvious:

Really, though what are they to us?

Well, here’s the worst of it, especially for those of us who believe in the Bible:

They are our family.

They are the relatives we cannot stomach, the cousins we have disowned, the kin we pretend are unrelated, the blood relations we act as if never existed.

They are certainly as ornery as we, as unforgiving, just as likely to think that we are all their enemies, as we are to think the same of them.

But they are also human beings, children of Abraham, trying to raise children and keep them from being shot – either by us or their own – keep them fed, perhaps even, one day, have an actual childhood.

It’s about time we saw this price that we’ve paid for weathering the Intifada:

Hamas has hardened our hearts. Islamic Jihad suicide bombers have robbed us of much of our compassion. Every Fatah Al Aqsa gunman killing innocents has blinded us to the Palestinians who aren’t wearing masks, the vast majority.

Over the past six years, we made a conscious decision to stand up to their bombings, not to buckle under to the maiming and murder of our children, not to change our lives just to suit them, not to let the Palestinian fanatics win.

But this has cost us something very profound in the national soul. Suddenly, even leftists welcome the idea that you can’t make peace with these people. Even leftists now embrace unilateralism, which, at its root, gives a whole new meaning to the tired adage of the right, that There Are No Palestinians.

We have to realize that our hearts have been hardened, and do the right thing: Let these people go.

Even if they’re still being used as pawns by their own leaders, their own brothers. Even if their own people won’t let them go, it’s time we did.

We have to stop occupying them, find entirely new ways to start helping them, involve the international community as a presence for large-scale relief, start seeing them as what they actually are, human beings, trying to get by in one of the worst places on earth.

We must, as well, swallow our fears of international intervention and find a way to involve the international community in helping to stop attacks against us. We are no less deserving of life, nor of protection from killers.

The challenge of being a Jew in Israel today, is to stand up and say, I’m willing to stay here, defend myself, and still find a way to help those in distress just over the fence – even if I find their leaders horrendous and the fanatic fringe among them abhorrent.

It’s a challenge that moral people in the world face as well, the same international community for whom talk of concern for the Palestinians is so seldom matched by action.

Gaza, by rights, should be paradise, not hell on earth. These people are right next door. They are in our blood. Their future, whether we like it or not, is ours as well.