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.