Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Worthwhile Links on the Gaza Flotilla Assault

Much of what I've read about this has been basically predictable from the speaker's ideological viewpoint. Here are some links to things that are exceptions: that are surprising (given the speaker); or that contain information or analysis I haven't otherwise seen; or that are (at a minimum) sufficiently well expressed that it feels like it's adding something new. They're in no particular order. In some cases I'll give a representative quote to try and let you know the basic drift and whether or not you're interested enough to click through. (I may add to this list without further notice or updates.)

Jim Henley on why Israel is winning.
For all practical purposes, Israel has its original goal [i.e. pre-1948], formal control of all of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan, within its grasp... Any large, political-military enterprise is going to have its ebb and flow. The Israeli conquest and consolidation of what we still quaintly call “the Occupied Territories” has involved tactical setbacks, occasional overreach and strategic withdrawals. The trick is not to get caught up in that. The long view is, Israel wanted control of all the territory west of the Jordan, Israel got control of all the territory west of the Jordan, Israel continues to cement its control over all the territory west of the Jordan. Everything else is details.
Noah Millman on the relation of the assault to Israeli domestic politics.
Israel’s policy-making no longer seems to me to be particularly related to concrete policy objectives at all. Neither the Lebanon war nor the Gaza war had actual military goals. Both were essentially wars for domestic consumption. Hezbollah and Hamas were firing rockets at Israel, and Israelis were understandably furious. “Something” had to be done about that, to let the Israeli public know that their leadership felt their fury. So the government did “something.” Outsiders criticized the disproportion of the response, but the point of the response was its disproportion – not because the only thing the enemy understood was force, but because, in the absence of any way to actually solve the problem, the only thing that would convince a domestic audience that the government felt the way they did about the situation was to respond with a fury proportionate to that of the electorate.
(Via Andrew Sullivan, who adds his own thoughts on Millman's piece.)

• Also via Sully, this chart from The Economist of items permitted and not permitted through the Gaza blockade:

Robert Mackey of the New York Times (!) on the parallels between this incident and the 1947 raid on the Exodus. [The ship that was the basis for the novel which was the basis for the film.]

Craig Murray on the legalities of the assault under the Law of the Sea (via):
...when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody's territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory. There are therefore two clear legal possibilities. Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime. Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.
* Dan Flesher's imagined dialogue between a liberal American Jew who is quitting any notion of defending Israel and someone urging them to reconsider is well done. Excerpt:
“Did you tell him why the blockade is necessary? That Hamas is a terror organization, and we can’t allow them access to weapons, or materials that could be used to make weapons?”

“Yeah. And he pointed out that if it were all about keeping out weapons, why is there a blockade of exports from Gaza? Why don’t you let Gazan workers into Israel? Why can’t students there get visas to study abroad? He said Israel wants to keep people living in a wretched state so they’ll blame Hamas. He dared me to defend that and I couldn‘t do it. I didn’t want to do it.” ...

[Same speaker:] "It has to do with my only son. He asks me why I would want to be the p.r. mouthpiece for a country like that! ... You’ve lost him. But I don’t want to lose him. Forget it! Enough is enough! The respect of my kid is more important to me than helping your country!"
• Not directly related, but useful as background, is this April 21 interview with Bassam Nasser who lives in Gaza and works for the Catholic Relief Services there. It's fascinating listening and seems to give a good, basic sense of what life is like there now. (Warning: the video plays automatically upon opening. You can also just download an mp3 here; I can't promise, since I didn't watch it, but I don't feel like I missed anything just listening.)

Stephen M. Walt offers a handy 21-step guide on "How to Defend the Indefensible":
4. Ok, we did it but it wasn't that bad ("waterboarding isn't really torture, you know").
5. Well, maybe it was pretty bad but it was justified or necessary. (We only torture terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or people who might know a terrorist...")
6. What we did was really quite restrained, when you consider how powerful we really are. I mean, we could have done something even worse.
7. Besides, what we did was technically legal under some interpretations of international law (or at least as our lawyers interpret the law as it applies to us.)
8. Don't forget: the other side is much worse. In fact, they're evil. Really.
• Leon Wieseltier, whom I sometimes can't stand (and who I disagree with even in this piece) is worth reading on this incident. (Via Sully, again.) A key point:
Israel was not under attack. A headline in The Washington Post yesterday reported that “Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state.” Such a claim is absurd.... [T]his is hardly what Israel likes to call, in the Iranian context, and there quite plausibly, an “existential threat.” The extension of the definition of a security threat to include hostile activities that have little or no bearing upon security is an ominous development. It is also the inevitable consequence of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cunning pronouncement last year that Israel is now endangered by “the Iran threat, the missile threat, and the threat I call the Goldstone threat.” The equivalence was morally misleading, and therefore dangerous. Ideological warfare is not military warfare... the threat of delegitimation is not like the threat of destruction. It is different in kind. A commando operation is not an appropriate response to an idea.... The threat of delegitimation is not a military problem and it does not have a military solution.

...more to come if and when I see it.

Update, Thursday June 3. Yeah, I know I said I wouldn't label updates. But then again I said I wouldn't put up links to predictable pieces too. But two recent blog posts make crucial points that are too often overlooked in this issue, so I decided to link to them, even if they aren't quite up to the standards of some of the above links for analytical insight or wit or what have you.

Matt Yglesias talks about the purpose of the Gaza blockade:
...morally speaking the crucial thing is the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip and not the details of blockade enforcement. Janine Zacharia very casually observes in her Washington Post profile of the situation in Gaza that “Originally, Israel hoped the closure would put enough pressure on the local economy that Gazans would grow frustrated and oust Hamas.” This is a politically and morally scandalous approach. As I’ve noted before, 45 percent of Gaza residents are children under the age of 15. This policy of collective punishment is so indefensible that, as Peter Beinart notes, people inclined to support Israeli policy generally deny that this is what the policy is. Instead, they describe the blockade as some kind of narrow effort to prevent arms smuggling. But this simply isn’t what’s going on. The objective is to make life in Gaza miserable, while avoiding something newsworthy like a famine.
Yglesias goes on to cite, as evidence, Peter Beinart's piece which I linked to previously.

• Glenn Greenwald, after discussing the U.S. government's reflexive defending of Israel, goes on to make a key comparison:
Will the fact that one of the dead at Israel's hands was an American teenager with four bullet wounds to his head alter the Obama administration's full-scale defense of Israel? Does that question even need to be asked? ... [U]ltimately, on some level, wouldn't it have been even more indefensible -- or at least oozingly hypocritical -- if the U.S. had condemned Israel? After all, what did Israel do in this case that the U.S. hasn't routinely done and continues to do? As even our own military officials acknowledge, we're slaughtering an "amazing number" of innocent people at checkpoints in Afghanistan. We're routinely killing civilians in all sorts of imaginative ways in countless countries, including with drone strikes which a U.N. official just concluded are illegal. We're even targeting our own citizens for due-process-free assassination. We've been arming Israel and feeding them billions of dollars in aid and protecting them diplomatically as they (and we) have been doing things like this for decades. What's the Obama administration supposed to say about what Israel did: we condemn the killing of unarmed civilians? We decry these violations of international law? Even by typical standards of government hypocrisy, who in the U.S. Government could possibly say any of that with a straight face?
Greenwald makes a number of other key points too; read the rest.

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