The Gaza Ceasefire: An Early Assessment

24 Nov

 

The Gaza Ceasefire, unlike a similar ceasefire achieved after Operation Cast Lead four years ago, is an event that has a likely significance far beyond ending the violence after eight days of murderous attacks. It is just possible that it will be looked back upon as a turning point in the long struggle between Israel and Palestine. Many have talked about ‘the fog of war,’ but it pales besides the ‘the fog of truce making,’ and in our media-infected air, the outcomes along with conjectures about the future are already being spun in all possible directions. Supporters of every position give their own spin, and then proclaim ‘victory.’ But as with the violent phases of the conflict, it is clarifying to distinguish the more persuasive contentions and interpretations from those that are less persuasive. What follows is one such attempt at such clarification.

It remains too soon to tell whether the ceasefire will hold for very long, and if it does, whether its central provisions will be implemented in good faith. At this early moment, the prospects are not promising. Israel has already used excessive violence to disperse Palestinian civilians who gathered on the Gaza side of the border, with a few straying across into Israel, to celebrate what they thought was their new freedom now to venture close to the border. This so-called ‘no-go-area’ was decreed by Israel after its 2005 ‘disengagement’ has been a killing field where 213, including 17 children and 154 uninvolved, had lost their lives according to Israeli human rights organizations. Israeli security forces, after firing warning shots, killed one Palestinian civilian and wounded another 20 others with live ammunition. The Israeli explanation was that it had given warnings, and since there had been no agreement on new ground rules implementing the ceasefire, the old regime of control was still in place. It is notable that Hamas protested, but at this point has made no moves to cancel the ceasefire or to retaliate violently, but the situation remains tense, fragile, and subject to change.

Putting aside the precariousness of the current situation and the accompanying uncertainties, it remains useful to look at the process by which the ceasefire was brought about, how this sheds light on the changing dynamics of the conflict itself, as well as discloses some underlying shifts in the regional and global balances of forces.

First of all, the role and outlook of the Arab governments was far more pro-active than in past interludes of intensified Israel/Palestine violence. During attacks several leading foreign ministers from the region visited Gaza and were received by the Hamas governing authorities, thus undermining the Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and excluding it from participation in diplomacy affecting the Palestinian people. Egypt played the critical role in brokering the agreement, and despite the Muslim Brotherhood affiliation of its leaders. Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian President, emerged as the key diplomatic figure in the process and widely praised by the West for his ‘pragmatism.’ This can be understood as recognition of Morsi’s capability as a statesman to address the concerns of both sides without intruding his own pro-Palestinian outlook. Indeed, the auspices of this brokered agreement inverted what Americans have brought to the table in past negotiations, a pretension of balance, a reality of partisanship.

Secondly, the text of the agreement implicitly acknowledged Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza, and thereby gives it, at least temporarily, a greatly enhanced status among Palestinians, regionally, and internationally. Its claim to be a (not the) legitimate representative of the Palestinian people has now become plausible, making Hamas a political actor that has for the moment been brought in from the terrorist cold. While Hamas is almost certain to remain formally ‘a terrorist organization’ in the eyes of Israel, the United States, and Europe, throughout this just concluded feverish effort to establish a ceasefire, Hamas was treated as if ‘a political actor’ with sovereign authority to speak on behalf of the people living in Gaza. Such a move represents a potential sea change, depending on whether there is an effort to build on the momentum achieved or a return to the futile and embittering Israeli/U.S. policy of excluding Hamas from diplomatic channels by insisting that no contact with a terrorist organization is permissible or politically acceptable. Correspondingly, the Palestinian Authority, and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, have been for the moment awkwardly sidelined, overshadowed, and made to appear irrelevant in the midst of this latest terrible ordeal affecting the Palestinian people. It is puzzling why such an impression was fostered by the approach taken by all the diplomatic players.

Thirdly, Israel accepted as integral conditions of the ceasefire two sets of obligations toward the people of Gaza that it would never have agreed to before it launched its Pillar of Defense Operation: (1) agreeing not to engage in “incursions and targeting of individuals” and (2) agreeing to meet so as to arrange for the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and the transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement, and targeting residents in border areas.” If implemented in good faith by Israel, this means the end of targeted assassinations and it requires the lifting of the blockade that has tormented Gaza for more than five years. These are major setbacks for the Israeli policy, although Hamas is obligated to stop sending rockets from its territory. The political acceptance by Tel Aviv of a prohibition on targeted assassinations, if respected, renounces a favorite tactic of Israeli governments for many years, which although generally regarded as illegal was still frequently relied upon by Israel with impunity. Indeed, the most dramatic precipitating event in the recent controversial unfolding crisis timeline was the killing of Ahmed al-Jabari on 14 November, a military/political leader of Hamas, who at the very time was negotiating a truce relating to cross-border violence. Unraveling the competing claims of acting defensively should at least acknowledge this complexity that makes polemical the contention that only one side is responsible. The Obama administration, with its usual deference to Tel Aviv, misleading told the story of the sustained violence as if only Israel was entitled to claim a defensive prerogative.

Fourthly, the role of the United States, while still significant, was considerably downsized by these other factors, especially by the need to allow Egypt to play the main role as arbiter. Such a need was partly, no doubt, a consequence of Washington’s dysfunctional insistence of continuing to avoid any direct contact with Hamas officials. This Egyptian prominence suggests a trend toward the regionalization of Middle East diplomacy that diminishes the importance and seriously erodes the legitimacy of extra-regional interference. This is bad news for the Israelis and for the United States. Turkey, a state with bad relations with Israel, also played a significant role in defusing the escalating crisis.

There exists a revealing gap between the U.S. insistence all along that Israel’s use of force was fully justified because every country has the right to defend itself and the ceasefire text that placed restrictions on future violence as being applicable to both sides. After the ceasefire, the United States needs to make a defining choice: either continue its role as Israel’s unconditional enabler or itself adopt a more ‘pragmatic’ approach to the conflict in the manner of Morsi. If the United States remains primarily an enabler, its diplomatic role is likely to diminish rapidly, but if it decides to adopt a balanced approach, even if quietly, it might still be able to take the lead in establishing a real peace process that is sensitive to the rights of both sides under international law. To make such a shift credible, President Obama would have to make a major speech to the American people at some point explaining why it is necessary to choose between partisanship and diplomacy in reshaping its future relationship to the conflict. However sensible such a shift would be both for American foreign policy and the stability of the Middle East, it is highly unlikely to happen. There is nothing in Obama’s resume that suggests a willingness to go to the people to circumvent the dysfunctional outlook of special interest groups that have dominated the way the U.S. Congress and the media present the conflict.

Fifthly, the United Nations was made to appear almost irrelevant, despite the presence of the Secretary General in the region during the diplomatic endgame. Ban Ki Moon did not help matters by seeming to echo the sentiments coming from Washington, calling attention almost exclusively to Israeli defensive rights. The UN could provide more neutral auspices for future negotiations if it were to disentangle itself from Western geopolitics. To do this would probably require withdrawing from participation in the Quartet, and pledging a commitment to a sustaining and just peace for both peoples. As with United States, it is highly unlikely that the UN will make such a move, at least not without prior authorization from Washington. As with Obama, there is nothing in the performance to date of Ban Ki Moon as Secretary General that suggests either the willingness or the capacity to act independently when the geopolitical stakes are high.

Sixthly, the immediate aftermath of the ceasefire was a call from the Gaza streets for Palestinian unity, symbolized by the presence of Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags all flying in harmonious co-existence. As the New York Times commented, “a rainbow not visible here in years.” If Palestinian unity holds, and becomes a practical reality by being implemented at governmental levels, it could alter the political landscape in a fundamental manner. To take hold it would require open and free elections throughout Occupied Palestine. If this narrative were to unfold, it might make the ceasefire to be perceived as much more than a temporary tense truce, but as a new beginning in the long march toward Palestinian justice.

All in all, the outcome of Operation Pillar of Defense was a resounding defeat for Israel in at least three respects: despite the incessant pounding of Gaza for eight days and the threat of a ground invasion, Hamas did not give in to Israeli demands for a unilateral ceasefire; the military capabilities of Gaza rockets exhibited a far greater capacity than in the past to inflict damage throughout the whole of Israel including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which suggests that in any future recurrence of major violence the military capabilities at the disposal of Gaza will become even greater; and the Israeli politics of promoting the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while refusing to deal with Hamas was dealt a heavy, possibly fatal, blow.

There is one chilling slant being given by Israeli officials to this attack on Gaza. It is brazenly being described as ‘a war game’ designed to rehearse for an impending attack on Iran. In the words of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.” Considering that at least 160 Gazans were killed, 1000 wounded, and many more traumatized, this is, or should be, a shocking admission of a declared intent to commit crimes against humanity. It should at least prompt the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a fact-finding mission to assess the allegations of criminal conduct during the military attack. In effect, the situation demands a Goldstone 2 report, but this time with the political will to follow through, assuming that incriminating findings are reported.If the HRC does not initiate such a process, as seems a near certainty at this point, the responsibility and the opportunity is a challenge to civil society organizations committed to peace and justice. Given the tactics and disproportionate levels of violence, it would be a fresh abuse of those who died and were injured, to fail to assess this behavior from the perspective of international criminal law.

These developments will themselves be affected by the pervasive uncertainties that make it likely that the ceasefire will be a short truce rather than a dramatic turn from violence to diplomacy. Will the parties respect the ceasefire? Israel has often in the past made international commitments that are later completely abandoned, as has been the case with dismantling the numerous ‘outposts’ (that is, ‘settlements’ unlawful even under Israeli law) or in relation to the commitment to settle the ‘final status’ issues associated with the Oslo Framework within five years. It is not encouraging that Israeli officials are already cynically whispering to the media that they agreed to nothing “beyond the immediate cessation of hostilities.” The undertakings of the text are thus being minimized as ‘talking points’ rather than agreed commitments that lack only specific mechanisms for their implementation. If Israel refuses to give effect to the agreed stoppage of targeted assassinations and does not move to end the blockade in good faith, it will not be surprising to see the rockets flying again.

The Palestinian Authority is poised to regain some of its lost ground by seeking recognition by the UN General Assembly of its status as ‘a non-member state’ on November 29, 2013, a move being fiercely resisted by Tel Aviv and Washington. It is probably too much to expect a softening of this diplomacy. Any claim of Palestinian statehood, even if only of symbolic significance, seems to threaten deeply Israel’s hypocritical posture of agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state in the abstract while doing everything in its power to oppose any Palestinian efforts to claim statehood.

Such speculations must be conditioned by the realization that as the clock ticks the international consensus solution to the conflict, an independent sovereign Palestine, is fast slipping out of the realm of the feasible, if it has not already done so. The situation of prolonged occupation has altered the demography of Occupied Palestinian and raised the expectations of most Israelis. With as many 600,000 unlawful settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem no foreseeable Israeli government would survive if it agreed to any conflict-resolving arrangement that required even a small percentage of those settlers to leave. In contrast, on the Palestinian side no arrangement would be sustainable without the substantial reversal of the settlement phenomenon. So long as this 1000 pound gorilla strides freely along the corridors of diplomacy, attaining a genuine peace based on the international consensus of two states for two peoples seems an exercise in wishful thinking.

At the same time, history has shown us over and over again that ‘the impossible’ happens, impossible in the sense that it is an outcome that informed observers rejected as ‘possible’ before it surprised them by happening. It happened when European colonialism was defeated, and again when the Soviet internal and external empire suddenly disintegrated, and then when the apartheid regime was voluntarily dissolved. Sadly, the Palestinian destiny continues to be entrapped in such a foreclosed imaginary, and yet as we have learned from history the struggles of oppressed peoples can on occasion achieve the unforeseeable. It is just barely possible that this latest display of Palestinian sumud (steadfastness) in the face of Pillar of Defense, together with the post-2011 increased responsiveness of the governments of Israel’s neighbors to the wishes of its their own citizenry, will give rise to a sequence of events that alters the equations of regional and global power enough  finally to give a just peace a chance.

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68 Responses to “The Gaza Ceasefire: An Early Assessment”

  1. Lora Lucero November 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza? and commented:
    Professor Falk’s insights about the ceasefire deserve serious thought and consideration whether you may agree or not.

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin November 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      In evaluating Prof. Falk’s assessment of the Gaza cease fire, it’s important to refer back to his previous post to appreciate that none of the atrocities he predicted Israel would commit, with American complacency, actually happened. This is bound to happen when one’s vision isn’t based on reality, but on a preconceived animus toward Israel and the United States, and run through a sieve Prof. Falk describes as “constructive imbalance”—distorting facts to create an appearance of Palestinians always being right, and Israel being the personification of evil. Regrettably, this bias persists in his new assessment.

      Prof. Falk continues to emphasize Palestinian helplessness and victimization. But according to figures provided by the al Qassam Brigade, Hamas’ military wing, and the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas and Israel fired an approximately equal number of rockets at one another during the eight days of fighting. The difference was that Israel aimed its rockets at specific (mostly military) targets, while Hamas fired indiscriminately at Israeli population centers, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. (What does the Geneva Convention say about that? Prof. Falk says nothing!)

      That Hamas’ rockets did very little damage is no tribute to Palestinian restraint. Rather it testifies to the ineptitude of those who designed the rockets’ woefully inaccurate targeting mechanism, and to the efficiency of the Israel’s cutting edge anti-missile defense system called Iron Dome (which Prof. Falk fails to mention). Incompetence should never be mistaken for virtue.

      Moreover, Prof. Falk’s prediction that Israel would attack with unrestrained violence was wrong. Palestinian casualties were one-tenth of what they were in Operation Cast Lead. And Israel withheld a far-more-destructive ground attack in hopes of achieving a ceasefire without one.

      Blaming Israel for initiating the conflict by assassinating Hamas’ military chief ignores the inconvenient truth that Hamas rockets have been raining down on Israel for years. From January 1, 2012 to February 14, 2012, when Israel struck back, approximately 850 rockets exploded on Israeli soil, doing substantial physical and emotional damage. Prof. Falk breezily dismisses the Israeli government’s responsibility and right to defend its citizens, which is the right and responsibility of all governments. I suspect that if he lived in southern Israel, he might feel differently

      These errors and deliberate omissions are important, for it is in the Palestinians’ interests for them to accept responsibility for, and revise policies and behavior that are counter-productive to peace. The “bottom line” of any reasonable assessment is that Hamas sacrificed life and treasure to achieve absolutely nothing. Israel agreed to halt artillery attacks it initiated in response to Hamas’ attacks. Had Hamas guns remained silent, there would have been no need for Israeli counter-attacks.

      In assessing the ceasefire agreement, Prof. Falk makes it appear that its commitments apply only to Israel (a stupefying omission even for Prof. Falk). The agreement clearly applies equally to both Israel and Hamas. Either side can render its provisions null and void to initiating hostilities. Prof. Falks builds a bogus case for Israel likely being the first, while ignoring statements like the one from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who declared in a televised speech that Israel had “raised the white flag,” and described the fighting as “preparation to liberate Jerusalem.” Sounds like the Prime Minister views the ceasefire as nothing more than a respite giving Hamas time to re-arm for the next round. This kind of thinking condemns the Palestinians to periodic and devastating counter-attacks.

      Whether the recent fighting will be a transformational experience for both sides leading toward peaceful coexistence in the context of a two-state solution depends on the lessons they take away from it. I emphasize both sides. In his previous post, Prof. Falk gave Israel a long list of things it needed to do, and wrote nothing of Palestinian responsibilities. That’s a very poor way to pursue peace, which must be a two-way street. Elegant theories about asymmetrical power should not be allowed to eclipse the simple reality that responsibility for making, or not making, peace is shared.

      I agree that Israel will have to regard Hamas as a leading actor. Indeed, it’s already done that tacitly in negotiating with Hamas for Benjamin Schalit’s release and for the ceasefire agreement. But Prof. Falk’s demand that Israel deal equally with Fatah and Hamas is like asking Russia to conduct its American affairs by negotiating with Democrats and Republicans. Only Palestinians can put their political house in order.

      Assuming that Hamas gains ascendency on the Palestinian political landscape, it will have to decide between continuing to operate as a terrorist organization (i.e. by indiscriminately hurling rockets over the border) or pursuing diplomacy or other non-violent avenues for achieving the Palestinians’ legitimate national aspirations. Israel has consistently expressed its commitment to a two-state solution. I assuredly agree that Likud’s wrong-headed West Bank settlement policy is a strong disincentive to negotiations. But it’s also true that Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s sovereignty and permanence in the Middle East is a disincentive to dismantling settlements. Both policies have to change.

      In this regard, I must take issue with Prof. Falk’s view that America has been marginalized. To be sure, the U.N. Secretary General and a host of other national leaders came to Gaza in a show of support (but not a representative of Fatah). But most did not come as cheerleaders for jihad. Egyptian President Morsi sent his prime minister, and remained involved from his Cairo base. But his role in drafting and negotiating the ceasefire agreement, which precludes a renewal of attacks from either side, was shared with Secretary Clinton.
      I close with a respectful, albeit personal, suggestion to Prof. Falk. It’s always easier to find reasons for peace not being attainable than to seek ways for pursuing it. In response to your previous post, I expressed praise for your urging both sides to accept that the conflict cannot be resolved by violence. And I also expressed disappointment that the sentence was omitted from the version you sent for publication in Al Jazeera, where it might do more good than having it read by readers of this blog. Similarly, I’m troubled by your shuffle on your preference for violence or non-violence.

      The issue of the moment is clear: will Israel and the Palestinian be forces to endure a future of continued suffering and low-level violence, punctuated by periodic eruptions of bloody warfare; or will they learn to live together in peace.

      Regrettably, your approach encourages the first.

      Ira Youdovin

      • Fred Skolnik November 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

        Dear Rabbi Youdovin

        As you have pretty much pointed out the fallacies in Professor Falk’s reading of the Gaza ceasefire, I will only make a few marginal comments.

        First, regarding Palestinian deaths, two-thirds were terrorists according to Israel’s count, and of these, over 60 in the act of firing rockets. In fact, Hamas was so hard-pressed to produce the usual media show that it actually claimed Syrian atrocity photos as its own and even “borrowed” one of an Israeli child being carried to safety by a rescue worker with the words “K. Malachi” on the back of his jacket. International law is not so illogical as not to permit an army to return fire emanating from a built-up area or for that matter to attack civilian installations that are being used for military purposes. The proviso is that maximum care must be taken to avoid civilian casualties, and this is exactly what Israel did, to an extent that has not been equaled in modern war.

        Professor Falk is so eager to criminalize Israel that he completely misunderstands Michael Oren’s statement that “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran,” taking it to mean that Israel’s actions were “a rehearsal for an impending attack on Iran.” What Ambassador Oran meant of course was that Hamas, like Hizbollah, is Iran’s proxy in the Middle East and that what Israel was confronting was a terroriest organization that is funded, armed, and controlled by Iran.

        Professor Falk is also eager to establish the de jure legitimacy of Hamas as the “ruler” of Gaza. What Hamas did was to seize Gaza after winning a parliamentary majority in the Palestinian elections. This is comparable in every respect to Republicans seizing Massachussets and expelling all Democrats after winning a majority in the House of Representatives. The absurdity of this argument is only equaled by his call for still another UN investigation of Israel without a word about the real war crimes committed by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.

  2. Andrew Brooks November 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I agree with Lora Lucero. Prof. Falk is always thought provoking. For further consideration, here’s a very different view of the same issue: http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=31872

  3. David Singer November 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

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    Professor Falk”s analysis is open to serious question for the following reasons:

    1.The document is not an Agreement but merely an Understanding.

    2. The parties to the Understanding are not specifically identified nor has the document been signed by any parties that are supposed to be bound by the Understanding.

    3. How does Egypt ensure that it has obtained the assurances from each Palestinian faction that each of them “has agreed to the terms of the document? How many factions are there?

    4. What constitutes a “Palestinian faction”?

    5. the Understanding provides that Israel “should stop” all hostilities – but all Palestinian factions “shall stop” all hostilities.

    Israel is clearly not to be restrained in the same way as the Palestinian factions.

    A draft of the document leaked to the BBC indicated the word “shall” was originally inserted in relation to Israel’s obligations – but has been changed in the above text to “should”.

    As a result the need to first identify those firing rockets from Gaza or engaging in hostilities of any sort as being “Palestinian factions” acting in breach of the Understanding will not be necessary to stop Israel retaliating without itself being in breach of the Understanding.

    6. While Israel is to stop all hostilities in Gaza by land, sea and air – the Palestinian factions are not so limited from engaging in hostilities from the sea, the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank or even from terrorist cells that might be located in Israel. If any such hostilities occur – Israel would be precluded from retaliating in Gaza under the terms of the Understanding.

    7. Persons or groups located in the Gaza Strip such as al-Qaeda, Iranian or other non- Palestinian factions are not bound by the Understanding.

    8. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements provide fertile ground for disagreement.

    Will Israelis be welcomed in Gaza and Gazans allowed to visit Israel? Not quite.

    Ominously the issue has already raised its head before the parties have even started negotiating.

    In Cairo, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said all the border crossings between Gaza and Israel had to be opened – not just the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt

    “The [ceasefire] document stipulates the opening of the crossings, all the crossings, and not just Rafah,” Mr Meshaal told a news conference in Cairo.

    The Understanding certainly does not contain the word “all”. The lawyers will have a field day arguing the meaning of this clause in the Understanding.

    Mr Meshall is no doubt well aware of the furor over the meaning of the words “in Palestine” used in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Winston Churchill’s explanation that those words did not mean “all of Palestine” when considering the recognition conferred on the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home “in Palestine”

    He may also recall the different interpretations of the meaning of the word “territory” used in Security Council Resolution 242.

    The semantic war is still alive and kicking as a result of this shoddily drafted document.

    9. Hamas is not clearly identified as a party although it constitutes the current Government in Gaza. It has no role to ensure other Palestinian factions comply with the Understanding.
    Abdication of its role in restraining the firing of rockets from Gaza by all and sundry has been a major contributor to the breakdown of law and order in Gaza.

    Contrary to Professor Falk’s analysis Hamas does not rate a mention in the Understanding.

    Two further questions for Professor Falk:

    1. Does the conduct of one party to a conflict ever justify the other party to the conflict indiscriminately targeting the first party’s civilian population with deliberate intent to cause death and suffering to that civilian population? Isn’t that a designated war crime in international law?

    2. Isn’t that war crime compounded when the offending party deliberately places its own population at risk by stationing its forces among its own civilian population?

  4. David Singer November 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Please delete my comment that is awaiting moderation.
    I will resubmit it in proper from shortly

  5. David Singer November 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Professor Falk’s analysis is open to serious question for the following reasons:

    1. The document is not an Agreement but merely an Understanding

    2. The parties to the Understanding are not specifically identified nor has the document been signed by any parties that are supposed to be bound by the Understanding.

    3. How does Egypt ensure that it has obtained the assurances from each Palestinian faction that each of them “has agreed to the terms of the document? How many factions are there?

    4. What constitutes a “Palestinian faction”?

    5. the Understanding provides that Israel “should stop” all hostilities – but all Palestinian factions “shall stop” all hostilities.

    Israel is clearly not to be restrained in the same way as the Palestinian factions.

    A draft of the document leaked to the BBC indicated the word “shall” was originally inserted in relation to Israel’s obligations – but has been changed in the above text to “should”.

    As a result the need to first identify those firing rockets from Gaza or engaging in hostilities of any sort as being “Palestinian factions” acting in breach of the Understanding will not be necessary to stop Israel retaliating without itself being in breach of the Understanding.

    6. While Israel is to stop all hostilities in Gaza by land, sea and air – the Palestinian factions are not so limited from engaging in hostilities from the sea, the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank or even from terrorist cells that might be located in Israel. If any such hostilities occur – Israel would be precluded from retaliating in Gaza under the terms of the Understanding.

    7. Persons or groups located in the Gaza Strip such as al-Qaeda, Iranian or other non- Palestinian factions are not bound by the Understanding.

    8. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements provide fertile ground for disagreement.

    Will Israelis be welcomed in Gaza and Gazans allowed to visit Israel? Not quite.

    Ominously the issue has already raised its head before the parties have even started negotiating.

    In Cairo, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said all the border crossings between Gaza and Israel had to be opened – not just the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt

    “The [ceasefire] document stipulates the opening of the crossings, all the crossings, and not just Rafah,” Mr Meshaal told a news conference in Cairo.

    The Understanding certainly does not contain the word “all”. The lawyers will have a field day arguing the meaning of this clause in the Understanding.

    Mr Meshall is no doubt well aware of the furor over the meaning of the words “in Palestine” used in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Winston Churchill’s explanation that those words did not mean “all of Palestine” when considering the recognition conferred on the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home “in Palestine”

    He may also recall the different interpretations of the meaning of the word “territory” used in Security Council Resolution 242.

    The semantic war is still alive and kicking as a result of this shoddily drafted document.

    9. Hamas is not clearly identified as a party although it constitutes the current Government in Gaza. It has no role to ensure other Palestinian factions comply with the Understanding.
    Abdication of its role in restraining the firing of rockets from Gaza by all and sundry has been a major contributor to the breakdown of law and order in Gaza.

    Contrary to Professor Falk’s analysis Hamas does not rate a mention in the Understanding.

    Two further questions for Professor Falk:

    1. Does the conduct of one party to a conflict ever justify the other party to the conflict indiscriminately targeting the first party’s civilian population with deliberate intent to cause death and suffering to that civilian population? Isn’t that a designated war crime in international law?

    2. Isn’t that war crime compounded when the offending party deliberately places its own population at risk by stationing its forces among its own civilian population?

  6. monalisa November 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Dear Richard,

    Thank you for your essay of the present situation in Gaza.
    I hope some sort of peace will remain.
    I do hope …
    However, I wouldn’t trust any Israeli politican – they speak with two-folded tongues.

    If I consult history I would think time is ripe that political changes could take place …
    USA is loosing ground with its supportive behaviour towards Israel.
    Other big powers start to regard it as weak and manipulative.
    I still wonder why US citizen aren’t much more aware how their country has become somehow politically enslaved by certain groups.

    Any UN Fact Finding mission will – even if they report real catastophic facts – not be supported by USA and some other Western powers.
    UNO has become more a puppet of USA and Britain and maybe a few other countries too.

    Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of these poor and oppressed people in Gaza !

    Take care of yourself,

    monalisa

  7. deepaktripathi November 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Dear Richard,

    I have just been watching a documentary on Al Jazeera explaining in great detail how Gaza has been kept under blockade. It was a moving film and close to what you have been saying on the subject. Thank you very much.

    Deepak

    • Andrew Brooks November 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Hi, Deepak – Those who assume some kind of “symmetry” exists between Israel and Gaza forget – among many other things – Israel’s blockade, imposed in order to “put Palestinians on a diet” in the unsavoury words of Dov Weisglass, who also described it as “an appointment with a dietitian,” apparently drawing laughter from Israeli officials in attendance. How delightful.

      Gaza has been described as the largest open air prison in the world, and to assume that a simple absence of open confrontation constitutes a welcome return to “normalcy” or “peace” is to overlook the absolutely crushing conditions to which Gazans have been condemned by Israel, whose efforts have been ably abetted by the near-total indifference of the media here in North America, I might add, as well as the regular “unwavering support” declarations of the US government and others.

      If you can post a link to the Al Jazeera doc here I’d like to have a look. Though I suppose it’s easy to find on their site.

  8. pipistro November 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    “Hamas and Israel fired an approximately equal number of rockets at one another during the eight days of fighting. The difference was that Israel aimed its rockets at specific (mostly military) targets, while Hamas fired indiscriminately at Israeli population centers, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

    The simple fact of comparing mostly home made Palestinian rockets with Israeli F16, white phosphorous and stuff, makes the assessment ludicrous.

    “Hamas rockets have been raining down on Israel for years.”

    Ditto. Just look at the victims.

    Add that the occupier is aggressive by definition, there’s no defence in Israel’s behaviour, only different levels of aggression. Strange attitude the one of “making enemies and then shout they are enemies.”

    • Fred Skolnik November 25, 2012 at 1:09 am #

      Yes, look at the victims. Here is Hamas’s own count for the past 11 years:

      •4303 terror attacks
      •61 suicide attacks
      •24 attempts to capture Israelis
      •423 bombings
      •90 sniper attacks
      •146 ambushes

      In addition, they claim 8085 projectiles fired from Gaza, of which 2627 were Qassam rockets and 303 were Grad rockets.

      They claim to have killed 910 “Zionists” in that time period, while losing 1697 of their members. Not civilians – 1697 dead Hamas terrorists. This doesn’t include members of other terror groups like Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

      This included:

      •The massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva killing 8 students
      •The attack by a laser-guided anti-tank missile against a schoolbus, killing a child (that they claim was a “soldier”)
      •The Park Hotel Passover massacre killing 30, mostly elderly, Jews. (Hamas inflates the number of victims to 36)

      And here are some of the suicide bomb attacks for which Hamas claimed responsibility, in the period 1994 to 2006:

      No. 32A bus, mainly carrying Israeli schoolchildren, Patt junction, Jerusalem
      19 dead, 70 injured
      Sbarro Pizzeria, Jerusalem
      15 dead, 130 injured
      Snooker club, Rishon Letzion
      15 dead, 55 injured
      Student cafeteria, Hebrew University , Jerusalem
      10 dead, 85 injured
      Park Hotel Passover meal, Netanya
      30 dead, 140 injured

      And so on.

      • pipistro November 25, 2012 at 6:27 am #

        I don’t really think the count of the deaths is a fair approach to the problem. Notwithstanding this, here below you can find a couple of interesting data.

        Israelis killed on own land 586
        Palestinians killed on own land 6359
        Israelis killed on others’ land 498
        Palestinians killed on others’ land 71
        (Source B’Tselem, since Sep 29, 2000 to Aug 31, 2012.)

        By the way, it’s been calculated that “projectile launches increase as a result of Palestinian casualties and plenty of Palestinian casualties occur when there is no projectile fire.”

        Who harasses whom?

        Without mentioning here the lack of any rights and the daily humiliations inflicted to the Palestinians, and – above all – an undeniable postulate: it’s occupation that causes the resistance, not vice versa.

      • Fred Skolnik November 25, 2012 at 6:43 am #

        “Own land” and “other’s land” is a meaningless distinction. Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza as a result of a war initiated by the surrounding Arab countries and has continued to occupy this land as a result of the unwillingness of the Arabs to reconcile themselves to the existence of a non-Muslim country in the Middle East. When they do, the Palestinians will get a state, and when the terrorism stops, Israel’s countermeasures will end.

  9. Barbara Artinian November 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    From the terror where is the Gazaian mural “Guernica” ?

    • Richard Falk November 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

      Such an illuminating question! Thanks, Barbara.

  10. pipistro November 25, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    It goes without saying that the distinction between “own” and “others” land – insofar as the Palestinian land, Gaza included, is under occupation or otherwise strangled – was made only to indicate that the majority of Palestinians have been killed outside of the usual preposterous Israeli claim, of defending soil and people against an actual attack.

    Unfortunately, the policy of settlements (not only, but I omit the rest) makes the stance in favour of a viable Palestinian State – in the words of our guest – “an exercise in wishful thinking.” In this respect, though, I happened to appreciate Prof. Falck’s phrase: “history has shown us over and over again that ‘the impossible’ happens.”

    • Fred Skolnik November 25, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      You are mistaken in asserting that Israel’s measures are aimed against anything other than terrorist activity, wherever it originates.

    • Ken Kelso November 25, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      More proof how Golda Meir was right.

      http://honestreporting.com/hamas-using-hospital-as-cover-for-rocket-launch/

      Hamas Using Hospital As Cover for Rocket Launch
      PESACH BENSON
      11/21/12

      HAMAS ACKNOWLEDGED THIS. ACCORDING TO THE INDEPENDENT:
      Hamas officials at the hospital were asked how firing rockets from such a built-up area could be justified as it is likely to provoke Israeli action. One said Palestinians were merely defending themselves, another that it was probably the work of the Islamic Jihad militia.
      In other words, It wasn’t me, and it’s no big deal anyway. But it’ll be screams of bloody murder if the IDF so much as double parks in front of the entrance.

      The Globe & Mail‘s Patrick Martin reports that Palestinians launched rockets at Israel in proximity to Shifa Hospital. Here’s a screengrab from G&M feed run by the paper’s multi-media journalist, Affan Chowdhry.

      As my daughter said about the likelihood of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh hiding in Shifa Hospital, aizeh chutzpah!

      So what is new here? All the Islamic mentality uses the same expression of freedom in screaming how bad the Jews are, how unfortunate they are, Israeli aggression, they hide behind the skirts of women use human shields and utilize civilian areas to fire missiles.
      These Islamics have less bravery than the women who serve in the IDF, who show such courage.
      What a load of wimps these Arabs are. They can only win their ways buy support from the west who digest their lies eagely.

    • Ken Kelso November 25, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      MonaLisa, explain to me one thing.
      Why does the U.S support a Palestinian state and not a Kurdish state. Maybe the Arab lobby can answer that.
      The same reason why the IOC refused to remember the Munich massacre this year.

      On October 29, 2012 the Obama administration has rejected the notion of an independent Kurdish state.

      Read this great article which documents this.

      http://frontpagemag.com/2012/joseph-puder/u-s-double-standard-towards-the-kurds/

      U.S. Double Standard Towards The Kurds
      Joseph Puder
      November 23, 2012

  11. Ira Youdovin November 25, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    To: Fred Skolnik

    Fred:

    Thanks for the addendum to my post. The points you raise crossed my mind, but my comment was already running long. I’m grateful that you picked up the thread.

    Frankly, I often wonder why any of us bother to post. There’s a curious form of apartheid at work here. Posts critical of Prof. Falk’s views are mostly ignored or censored. Posts expressing admiration and agreement are welcomed and praised, even when they include blatant anti-Semitism. In the current instance, you, David Singer and I wrote respectful, detailed and informed critiques. But Prof. Falk’s only response to date was a one-line ambiguous response to a one-line ambiguous suggestion.

    I also question my sanity, or at least the wisdom of my time management, writing for a blog read mostly by a remnant of Prof. Falk’s dwindling cadre of hardcore disciples outside the Arab/Muslim world, whose minds are already made up.

    I’m motivated to read the blog now and again, and occasionally post, by the unfamiliar sensation of entering an Alternative Universe, one in which black is white and white is black and there are no shades of gray. Neither does the moderator correct his provable errors and documentable misstatements. The Believers believe. Full stop.

    Example: Prof. Falk cites as Israel breaking the ceasefire the incident that occurred shortly after it was signed, in which Israel fired on a group of Gazans who had entered a buffer zone. It turns out that they were misled by erroneous claims made by Hamas leaders that Israel had agreed to lift restrictions on entering the zone. In fact, determining that and all issues pertaining to the cease fire was referred to negotiations that had not yet started. It’s unclear whether the Hamas officials had made an innocent mistake, or were seeking to burnish their image by claiming a victory where none as yet existed, or deliberately directed their people into harm’s way to provoke an Israeli response that would make headlines (n.b. to people who would reject this possibility as “Zionist propaganda”: Hamas routinely embeds its rockets and launching platforms in heavily populated residential neighborhoods. Putting civilians in harm’s way is Hamas Business As Usual.

    The blog also provides moments of bitter irony when one can only laugh, albeit derisively. Prof. Falk laments that the U.N. was marginalized, despite its Secretary General’s presence, and (surprise!) blames this on American influence (which, to complete his usual trope, reflects the disproportionate influence of American Jews and Israel.) In fact, the U.N. has marginalized itself through the virulent and pervasive anti-Israel animus of its Commission on Human Rights, generously fueled by its Special Rapporteur the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, who willingly accepted a job description that entails reporting on Israeli violations only. His job was created and defined by Commission members like Sudan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who, as every school-age kid knows, are exemplars of human rights in their own domain. An organization with that record is the last thing one wants around when the objective is finding common ground for negotiation. This is a tragedy because one of the primary purposes for which the U.N. was established was to be that mediator. For Prof. Falk to lament its marginalization in this instance is at very least, a matter of some irony.

    Ira Youdovin

  12. pipistro November 25, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    I avoid to link evidence of the utmost disrespect of the Israeli forces for Palestinian life. There’s plenty on the internet.

    But, just for the record:

    Palestinian powerful home-made rockets

    an example of Israeli white phosphorous on Gaza

    Unrwa school in Gaza>

    bombs on Gaza

    war on journalists

    There are facts, that will be eventually investigated, maybe by the ICC. The rest is PR.

    By the way, about the first break of the ceasefire, I read that “It turns out that they were misled by erroneous claims made by Hamas leaders that Israel had agreed to lift restrictions on entering the zone.”

    Here is the text of the agreement:
    “Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals.
    All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
    Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas. Procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
    Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed….”

    So, it was legitimate shoot in the head of an unarmed man waving a Hamas flag in order to put it on the fence?

    Maybe you will say that procedures of implementation hadn’t been dealt, but this is what I call the blatant disrespect for Palestinian life.

    • pipistro November 25, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      What’s wrong with my comment above? (Without it, the one of 10.39 makes no sense)

    • Fred Skolnik November 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      If Israel disrespected Palestinian life, Gaza City would look today like Dresden after the two-day Allied bombing in World War II with as much as 100,000 civilian deaths as opposed to around 50 in Gaza.

      • pipistro November 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

        Yes, definitely, if Israel accepted to update, as a prominent member, its status in the club of pariah states and give up 3.5 billion dollars/year US gift. Maybe that should even mean say good bye to the certainty of US veto at the UNSC.
        (That is, sooner or later, kneeling at the negotiating table.)
        Well, it wouldn’t have been, say, a good PR strategy.

  13. monalisa November 25, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    To Rabbi Ira Youdovin:

    You wrote:
    quote
    I also question my sanity, or at least the wisdom of my time management, writing for a blog read mostly by a remnant of Prof. Falk’s dwindling cadre of hardcore disciples outside the Arab/Muslim world, whose minds are already made up.
    unquote

    Oh I think you should question your sanity.
    Out of 30 (thirty) posts concerning this essay are about 17 (seventeen) against Prof. Falk’s opinion.
    Moreover, most of them are written not in a very civil manner and far too many out of these seventeen against Prof. Falk’s opinion are full of personal accusations.
    Personal accusations are fruitless when it concerns actions of politicans.
    Prof. Falk is not a politican – don’t you know it !!!!????
    The inability to bring personal opinions in a civilized manner into any discussion reflects the writer’s personal characterial traits.

    Next time read and count better.

    For a rabbi, representing the world (Internet = world) your religion, religious belief, you do it extremely poor.

    PS: We are in the 21st century. The Internet opened the world and people are more and more aware of several political actions.
    And this counts for our whole globe – not only USA and Israel and/or any Arabic countries.

    monalisa

  14. pipistro November 25, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Beg pardon:

    Unrwa school in Gaza>

    • monalisa November 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      to pipistro:

      not only schools, medical centers, treatment facilities, university and privately owned houses of Palestinians are bombed too.
      This goes together with Israel’s agenda to put Palestinians back into the Middle Ages as one of Israel’s politicans openly said.
      So they will slowly die as not enough drinking water and food and medical treatment will lead to it automatically.

      The coldness Israels policy exercises towards other groups of people and religions together with its apartheit policy gives the impression that somehow Nazi-time is mimicked.

      The repetition of “defence against Palaestinians” reminds too on Nazi-Germany: at these times Hitler stressed the same as saying there must be defence against – for example Poland – and therefore put the blame towards the non-agressor.
      The only difference is: Gaza doesn’t have a real military service and military equipment as Israel. Gaza doesn’t have hundreds of nuclear war heads and phosphoric bombs. Gaza doesn’t have drones.
      Gaza is occupied and that people still can live there is somehow a wonder in itself.

      However, facts speak for themselves. Israels next generation *will bear the fruits” of the present time.
      Our times are going fast and what took during the past twothousand years hundreds of years or dozens of decades will take at our times only a split.
      The true example of these fast times are read in the last century: the 20th with its “formations”.

      monalisa

      • pipistro November 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

        Times are going fast indeed. Saying that peace has to be reached by negotiating with Israel, as a Palestinian slave, are empty words. Facts on the ground change, and no one in Palestine would accept today the sort of “pax romana” (or worse) Israel has in mind. If ever, a chance was missed by Israel at Camp David.

  15. Fred Skolnik November 25, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Dear Ira

    I also wonder, but ironically it turns out that we ourselves are the best advocates of the Palestinians, as the others seem to have no real interest other than to vilify the State of Israel, and seem to me to care very little about the actual welfare of the Palestinian people, while we at least recognize that the only way they will put an end to their misery is by abjuring terrorism and negotiating a settlement with Israel.

    • Ken Kelso November 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      Ira says, In fact, the U.N. has marginalized itself through the virulent and pervasive anti-Israel animus of its Commission on Human Rights, generously fueled by its Special Rapporteur the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, who willingly accepted a job description that entails reporting on Israeli violations only. His job was created and defined by Commission members like Sudan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who, as every school-age kid knows, are exemplars of human rights in their own domain.
      Dont forget Syria and Libya were also 2 countries that decided to hire Falk.

      • Ken Kelso November 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

        Ira also says this.
        The blog also provides moments of bitter irony when one can only laugh, albeit derisively. Prof. Falk laments that the U.N. was marginalized, despite its Secretary General’s presence, and (surprise!) blames this on American influence (which, to complete his usual trope, reflects the disproportionate influence of American Jews and Israel.

        One wonders how much the Arab lobby is buying off the U.N.

        http://www.unwatch.org/cms.asp?id=3614958&campaign_id=63111

        Hypocrisy exposed: U.N. ignored 20 letters by Israel to pleas to act against Hamas rockets, then rushed to stop Israel’s self-defense.

        UN Watch publishes 20 urgent letters sent this year by Israeli representatives to the U.N.
        Nov 22, 2012

      • AndyW November 26, 2012 at 2:44 am #

        And how many resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly have Israel ignored over nearly 70 years !

      • Fred Skolnik November 26, 2012 at 8:48 am #

        Good point, Andy, The United Nations General Assembly, where, as Abba Eban once put it, the Arabs could pass a resolution declaring that the Earth is flat, and many of whose members are criminals themselves, has indeed obsessively singled out Israel as the world’s great transgressor. Between 1947 and 1989, the UN General Assembly “condemned,” “deplored,” “censured” or “denounced” Israel 321 times, the Arabs 0 times. In 2006/7 it passed 22 anti-Israel resolutions without a word about Sudan’s genocide in Darfur. The United Nations is therefore not the best place to determine the legality or illegality of Israel’s actions.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin November 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

        Fred,

        You are a very astute reader. The concept of a Palestinian State, much less thoughts on details of what that state might look like, are few and far between on this blog. Moreover, I don’t remember seeing mention of Salaam Fayyad, the P.A.’s prime minister who provides some fresh air and hope by focusing his efforts on designing a Palestinian State, instead of vilifying Israel.

        Prof. Falk accuses Fayyad’s boss, P.A. President Abbas of being “collaborationist” because he cooperates with Israel on projects that improve his people’s security, safety and quality of life.

        “Collaborationist” is a word with sinister historic connections connoting treason against ones people.

        Most revealing, after I pressed Prof. Falk. to disclose his vision of how Israel-Palestinian conflict might be resolved, he replied that his preference was for a single bi-national secular state (from Sea to River) with shared sovereignty. After all these years of strident advocacy, he would forgo an independent Palestinian State, denying the Palestinians sovereignty, which is their objective and legitimate national right—so long as Israel as it currently exists would vanish from the face of the earth. Incredible!

        That leaves the two of us, together with other pro-Israel supporters who post on this blog, in the ironic position of being the only ones who advocate for a two-state solution that would give the Palestinians a sovereign state of their own.

        Maybe Mona Lisa and Walker Percy will now accuse us of being paid by the Palestinians!

        Ira

      • Ken Kelso November 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

        Ira your totally right.
        Falk is a hard core Rejectionist.
        Infact, this is why you will never see him criticize Hamas.
        Even when Hamas murders rivals or people who criticize Hamas, Falk will remain silent.
        Again, i’ll ask the question to Mr Falk.
        Why aren’t you investigating the death of Ribhi Badawi who we know was murdered by Hamas cause he was a rival of Hamas.
        I’m amazed that Falk cant even criticize Hamas when they drag innocent Palestinians through the streets of Gaza by a motorcycle.
        When it comes to the human rights of innocent Palestinians murdered by Hamas, Mr Falk is silent.
        Trust me on this, you wont hear one peep by Falk about the murder of Ribhi Badawi by Hamas.

      • Richard Falk November 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

        Rabbi Youdovin:

        Just to set the record straight, I do not advocate a solution to the conflict, but the realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination. I have in the past given my own opinion that only a single secular state can be reconciled with international human rights, given the presence of a large Palestinian minority in Israel, but if the Palestinians opt for a two-state solution that is their prerogative.

        You seem to enjoy denigrating me as an ‘extremist’ and praising yourself and those who share your views as wise moderates. That is okay, but it carries self-esteem to an extreme!

      • rehmat1 November 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

        I agree with you Dr. Falk 101%.

        http://rehmat1.com/2010/06/18/palestine-the-third-option/

      • Ken Kelso November 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

        Mr Falk, again Israel accepted the 23 state solution.
        22 states for the Arabs and 1 state for the Jews.
        We all know about the 3 peace offers Israel offered the Pals in the last 12 years to end the conflict. So i dont have to go down that road again.

        But why do you avoid my question.
        Since your the human rights person for Palestinians.
        Why have you said no one word about these Palestinians who were murdered by Hamas who were tied to motorcycles and dragged through Gaza.
        Why aren’t you investigating the death of Ribhi Badawi who we know was murdered by Hamas cause he was a rival of Hamas.
        Mr Falk just google the name Ribhi Badawi.

        Another article i just saw.

        http://rightswitness.blogspot.com/2012/11/lynched-man-dragged-behind-motorcycle.html

        Lynched man dragged behind motorcycle was no spy but spent 3 years in prison until Hamas executioners came for him

      • rehmat1 November 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

        Jewish state had existed since May 1934 – and its name is Birobidjan.

        http://rehmat1.com/2010/06/13/birobidjan-the-first-jewish-state/

      • pipistro November 27, 2012 at 10:22 am #

        Under Israeli “no-state” solution, Palestinians live like beggars in Palestine and like refugees all over the world. I call this insanity.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin November 27, 2012 at 11:34 am #

        Prof. Falk,

        Please bear with me on this one. I’m not an international lawyer and don’t fully comprehend what you mean by “the Palestinian right of self-determination.” What does it entail? Are there limits? I’m asking in search of clarification.

        It seems to me as a layperson that this question is at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, for two reasons. First, there is no Palestinian consensus on what satisfies its right to self-determination. Under current circumstances, Israel might negotiate a mutually-acceptable border with Fatah, only to have Hamas initiate a civil war to thwart the agreement. Only Hamas and Fatah can work out a consensus. But how long does the world have to wait for one to emerge?

        Moreover, applying your criteria for satisfying the Palestinian right to self-determination, Israel is under no obligation to withdraw until an intra-Palestinian consensus develops. (I hasten to add that, in my opinion, Israel is not entitled to expand settlements during this “waiting period”, nor to impose security measures, such as the blockade of Gaza, that are beyond the requirements for its legitimate security concerns”.)

        Second, Hamas maintains that its right to self-determination entails extending Palestinian sovereignty over the entire area, Sea to River, which means dismantling a sovereign state that is a U.N. member. Is this included in its right to self-determination?

        I also note, with more than a little dismay, that your preference for a solution entails changing the nature of Israel as it now exists. As the U.N. gave a portion of the former British Mandate to the Jewish Agency for the purpose of creating a Jewish state, it appears that you seek to overturn the U.N.’s intent in Res 181. Is this correct? If so, I find it extremely disturbing that the U.N.’s primary agent in the Israel-Palestinian conflict opposes its own foundational resolution.

        As regards the “large Palestinian minority in Israel”: Twenty percent of Israel’s population is Palestinian. I won’t pretend that Israeli Palestinians enjoy the same status as Jewish Israelis. But they have their own school system and enjoy a wide range of freedoms not available in many Arab/Muslim and other states, including and the right to vote. With the eventual emergence of an independent Palestine, they will have the freedom to choose between remaining in Israel or becoming citizens of the new state.

        However, I do need to ask this question: In the United States, large racial and ethnic communities are disadvantaged economically and socially. But no-one suggests changing America into a multi-national state. Why Israel? Why can’t international human rights be reconciled with Israel’s existence? Did the U.N. make a grievous error on November 29, 1947?

        I close by thanking you for considering these questions, and ask that your response not entail a quick dismissal because our views are “unbridgeable” or because you resolved the issues in a long-ago law review article.

        Respectfully,

        Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  16. monalisa November 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Remark:

    It is interesting to note that the truth about Gaza becomes more and more visible to people around our globe.
    Naturally, how could it be otherwise, this makes Israel’s government as well as the Israel Lobby very nervuous therefore, propaganda must run and run.

    Also I would like to note that because of already too much mainstream media influence more and more people become immune and don’t believe everything. Those groups are the younger ones and the older ones. The older ones have already their life experience and aren’t prone in believing everything and the younger ones discredit mainstream media information quite very often due to their young and often not brain-washed awareness.

    We shall see where this will lead ….
    maybe Israels “escorts” will have to work overtime in future ?? Who knows ….

    The last development put Israels government into spotlight: their computer system had been “opened” and it had been stated clearly that this is in support for Palestinians in Gaza treated inhuman and against International Law by Israel.

    monalisa

  17. David singer November 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Professor Falk

    I again ask you to answer the following two questions that I posed to you:

    1. Does the conduct of one party to a conflict ever justify the other party to the conflict indiscriminately targeting the first party’s civilian population with deliberate intent to cause death and suffering to that civilian population? Isn’t that a designated war crime in international law?

    2. Isn’t that war crime compounded when the offending party deliberately places its own population at risk by stationing its forces among its own civilian population?

  18. David Singer November 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Professor Falk

    There are two questions I posed to you that you have so far refused to answer:

    1. Does the conduct of one party to a conflict ever justify the other party to the conflict indiscriminately targeting the first party’s civilian population with deliberate intent to cause death and suffering to that civilian population? Isn’t that a designated war crime in international law?

    2. Isn’t that war crime compounded when the offending party deliberately places its own population at risk by stationing its forces among its own civilian population?

    Could you please answer as soon as your schedule permits.

  19. AndyW November 26, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    I notice HASBARA is working overtime, must be really annoying to find lots of people questioning the rationale they have been feed by the Israeli lobby in the western media.

  20. pipistro November 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    The alleged viable two-state alternative, for Israel (backed by the US), contemplates a fake “Palestinian entity”, disconnected, entirely submitted to the needs of the nearest Jewish State. Without arms, nor army, without control over its (uncertain) boundaries and over water resources. Let alone the question of Jerusalem, of settlements and refugees.
    A little bit more – or less – than what was designed as the “generous offer” of which they talked in Camp David, with lot of reserves, and maybe some more. And – of course – other contingent obstacles as they please.
    That’s not viable, nor acceptable. It is nothing. Israeli behaviour, the dishonest brokering of the US, the irresponsible lightness of Europe and the ineffectiveness of the UN – due to the power of veto – don’t make us think anything but that. Useless, then, would be the resume of a neverending process, that, we can say, is fraudulently destined to implement a “no-state” solution.

    It’s as simple as that. Israel has never been willing to recognize any of the legitimate Palestinian claims, nor seriously negotiate about the main motives of the conflict. Let alone recognize a sovereign Palestinian State.

    Insofar as Israel has stubbornly annihilated the possibility of two states, and it has finally realized the fatal approach of the “one state” alternative, they pretend to try and exhume what Israel has lost for greed and intransigency. It’s not me who says it’s too late. It’s the rationale of the “facts on the ground”, persued by Israel without fixing its own boundaries (e.g. the ones determined by UN) in order to expand itself on the whole of (stolen, little by little) Palestinian land. If it were not like that, a deal would have been signed long since.

    Imho, of course.

  21. rehmat1 November 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Israel has already broke the cease-fire by attacking Palestinian farmers and killing one of them.
    On November 23, Ibrahim al-Amin, editor-in-chief of Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, had warned the Palestinians and their foreign supporters about the US-Israeli plan in motion to demilitarize Islamic resistance groups by creating an Egyptian-lead Sunni block (Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Fatah, Jordan and the Gulf sheikhdoms) against Iran-led Shia block (Islamic Revolution, Hizballah, Syria and Iraq on the margins).
    “Hamas will have to choose between Iran and Egypt. If Iran could offer missiles and money, Egypt will offer immunity from Israeli attack, sovereignty over Gaza, and an open door to the world,” wrote Ibrahim al-Amin.
    If Sunni-majority Hamas chose to join Egyptian block, it had to come hard on other resistance groups like pro-Iran Islamic Jihad and pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and even Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigade. This will open the door to a civil war which would be Israel’s biggest dream come true.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/11/25/hamas-resistance-committed-to-rearming-itself/

  22. rehmat1 November 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin
    Morally, it’s Palestinians who have the right to decide whether they want to talk to European Jews who stole their land over 64 years ago. It’s irrelevant for a non-Palestinian to decide who should represent the Palestinians – Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad or any other resistance group. It’s no different than which Israeli party represents the Israeli citizens’ wishes.
    In August 2012, Marianne Williamson, a Zionist Jew author and blind supporter of Israel, in an interview, told Dr. Kevin Barrett that Israel is not a democracy.
    “The way I look at Israel, I look at Israel the way I look at United states: The people of Israel are not the government of Israel… Any more than the people of the United States are the government of the United Staes. So even though I don’t, for the most part, agree with the government of Israel at all – and also as a Jew, because I am a Jew and committed to the existence of Israel,” she said.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/08/31/marianne-williamson-israel-is-not-a-democracy/

  23. peripamir November 28, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    İt seems to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the festering Arab-Israeli conflict, it is hard to ignore the following :

    The principal ingredients of Palestinian aggression towards İsrael, which also comprises the premise of israel’s security concerns, is the fear that “the realization of an independent sovereign Palestinian state is fast slipping out of the realm of the feasible.” (Richard)

    This emanates from the realities of the occupation. The primary obstacle, not sufficiently emphasized by the Rabbi above, is the continuing settlements on the West Bank which have effectively fragmented Palestinian land and have underlined İsrael’s intention to “never let go”. 600.000 illegal settlers and countless legal ones have “altered the demography of Occupied Palestine” (Richard) and have made a return to the status quo ante practically impossible. This state of affairs encourages the widespread view that, “İsrael has never been willing to reconsider any of the legitimate Palestinian claims… let alone recognize a sovereign Palestinian state.” (pipistro)

    İt is a fact that the ONLY path to long-term Israeli security is the reasonable satisfaction of Palestinian demands for independent statehood or some other respectable status acceptable to them…

    İn other words, there can be no peace without justice.

    As long as the Palestinians remain oppressed and unhappy, İsrael will never feel safe. As we have seen from the last pounding, even a completely disproportionate Palestinian military response is enough to instill İsraelis with a deep sense of insecurity. Understandably so, for people living there.

    Another source of deep Palestinian frustration is the humiliating realities of the Gaza embargo. You cannot ask a peoples you are throttling to stop lashing out.

    Whatever the figures cited in the entries above, how can one compare 150 dead, half of them civilians, and half of those children, with 5 dead, however reprehensible the Hamas tactic of indiscriminate shelling ? Can anyone truly believe that Hamas placed Palestinian children in military targets, even though i’m sure they are not immune from committing other excesses?

    I agree with Monalisa that this is a case of David and Goliath, and that the imbalance of forces are inversely related to the notions of justice or injustice. İn fact the grossly unequal balance of forces in any İsraeli-Palestinian confrontation often reminds me of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the heroic resistance that we all know about. Taken at the simple level of resistance against injustice and oppression, the parallels are very clear to me. .

    Because of this image, most of the world today emphatises with the perception portrayed by Richard Falk, even if there may be lacunea in his reasoning as pointed out by several correspondents. Nevertheless that doesn’t alter the larger picture.

    Why ?

    İs the whole world anti-semitic ?

    The first step to any breakthrough is compassion, compassion for your so-called enemy, and the recognition that they have a legitimate grievance. The recognition that İsrael is drawing fire because it is committing grave injustice. Because it is in an undeniably stronger – albeit vulnerable – position and is effectively holding all the trump cards, it is natural to expect the first instances of goodwill to come from the İsraeli government.

    Lastly, i have seen a lot more instances of goodwill and compassion coming from inside İsrael than from some of the writers who contribute to this platform. İ would like to know which of them actually live in israel ? İ know and appreciate how eclectic israeli society is, as opposed to the diaspora. That is why i am asking.

    Thank you for bearing with me..

    • Fred Skolnik November 28, 2012 at 5:59 am #

      Well, peripamir, I live in Israel, but what I understand is no different from what any unbiased person would understand.

      Arab terrorism, including the indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israel’s civilian population and all the barbaric acts of the terrorists, has nothing to do with Israeli oppression. It is the result of the Arabs’ unwillingness to accept the existence of a non-Muslim state in the Middle East and the declared aim of the terrorist organizations to destroy the State of Israel. There were no occupied territories before the 1967 war and there were no refugees before the 1948 war. If you have any doubts about the intentions of the Arabs in these wars, read their own statements. They are easy enough to find, and that is why Israel must be disproportionately stronger than the Arabs. If it wasn’t, it would cease to exist, unlike any other country in the world engaged in an armed conflict. Israel’s security measures are not the cause of the terrorism, they are the result of the terrorism.

      The Warsaw analogy is misguided to say the least. The Jews did not attack Germany with vast armies as the Arabs attacked Israel. The Germans executed millions of Jews as a matter of policy. Israel is at war with the terrorist organizations and not the Palestinian people. If you wish to characterize barbaric acts of terrorism as heroic or legitimate resistance, or justify them in any way, then you have a very inhuman set of values yourself. The suffering caused to the Palestinian people is caused solely by the actions of the terrorist organizations. Gaza’s borders were open and there were no oppressive security measures in the West Bank before the terrorism began.

      The solution to the problem is direct negotiations. The Palestinians refuse to return to the negotiating table. The issue of settlements is meant to be resolved in these negotiations and the solution is clear to everyone – a trade-off of land involving around 5% of West Bank territory. Of the 600,000 settlers, half are living in Jerusalem neighborhoods adjacent to Jewish Jerusalem, and 3 towns with 100,000 residents (Modiin Illit, Betar Illit and Meshor Adumim) that extend over the so-called green line are also in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Of the 200,000 actual settlers in around 120 settlements, the envisaged land trade-off wiil enable a few large blocs of these settlements, like Gush Etzion, to remain under Israeli soverignty. That is the practicable settlement solution, and Palestinian leaders who are truly concerned about the welfare of their people understand this and will be getting barren hilltops from Israel that are no different in topography from the barren hilltops on which Israel built the settlements.

      • peripamir December 1, 2012 at 4:00 am #

        i rest my case with the GA vote..

        İ suspect you will have derisory remarks to make about that also and granted it mostly has symbolic value, but it does illustrate this global empathy for the Palestinian cause i spoke about and may also provide a breakthrough of sorts as outlined by Richard Falk in his next blog entry.. As far as the discussion here is concerned, it is difficult to attract support and sympathy for your perspective by accusing people unjustly of, for instance, possessing “a very inhuman set of values”… The key to communication is to reach out by acknowledging each side’s grievances, which is what i thought i was trying to do, albeit inadequately, not to accuse and insult !

    • pipistro November 28, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      “The alleged viable two-state alternative, for Israel and US, contemplates a fake “Palestinian entity”, disconnected, entirely submitted to the needs of the nearest Jewish State. Without arms, nor army, without control over its (uncertain) boundaries and over water resources. A little bit more – or less – than what was designed as the “generous offer” of which they talked in Camp David, with lot of reserves, and maybe some more. And – of course – other contingent obstacles as they please.”

      Dunno-state solution

      And today, could you have any chance sitting at the direct negotiating table, if you were in miserable conditions and your counterpart is the fourth army in the world (who has dispossessed you of the 78% of your land, trying to annihilate your People, and made you starving for 64 yrs), and moreover it’s backed by the most dishonest “broker” you could imagine?

      • peripamir December 1, 2012 at 7:04 am #

        Pipistro : bleak picture.. what, if anything, will ever reverse it ??

      • pipistro December 1, 2012 at 9:13 am #

        Today I see a long, distressing path toward “one state”. It’s up to the people of that land – insofar as they choose their leaders – the choice of its length and pain. But it’s up to the world appreciate the inherent meaning of that fight and try to heal that land, promote justice, instead of pouring fuel on the fire (in the interest of the people of the Middle East and the world as well.)
        It’s easy to admit the imbalance generated from the outside and cast into that land from the British Mandate and over. Then, from 1967 onward, owing to the fight “on a distance” waged mainly from the US, part, in the name of a pretense biblical inheritance, and part due to the sense of guilt of Europe, and its submission to the US.
        Well, that imbalance has to come to an end, and it will do.

  24. david singer November 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Professor Falk

    I do not think it appropriate that you continue to refuse to answer the following two questions.

    1. Does the conduct of one party to a conflict ever justify the other party to the conflict indiscriminately targeting the first party’s civilian population with deliberate intent to cause death and suffering to that civilian population? Isn’t that a designated war crime in international law?

    2. Isn’t that war crime compounded when the offending party deliberately places its own population at risk by stationing its forces among its own civilian population?

    Your early reply would be appreciated.

    • Richard Falk November 28, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      Mr. Singer:

      I am in Egypt with a difficult schedule.

      I would answer your questions as posed in the affirmative, but if applied to Gaza these issues must be reliably reinforced with relevant evidence, and must be contextualized in relation to the behavior of the adversary.

      • david singer November 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Thank you indeed for your reply.

        Being in Egypt at the present time must be very interesting. I appreciate that you have taken the time to respond from there.

        You appear to be suggesting that there are circumstances that can justify the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of a civilian population which would not amount to a war crime.

        Is this indeed your view?

        Could you provide some examples?

      • Richard Falk November 29, 2012 at 6:12 am #

        Mr. Singer: I cannot imagine a situation where indiscriminate targeting would be acceptable from the perspective of international criminal law, but my
        assessment would take into account in ways hard to express in the abstract, the overall context, including what was done by the other side.

      • David Singer November 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

        Professor Falk

        Thanks for your response – which on the one hand is very encouraging – but on the other seems to resile from your initially expressed viewpoint.

        Rather than talking in the abstract – what in your opinion are the actions done by Israel that could have justified the indiscriminate firing of over 12000 rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian population centres since 2001?

        Would such actions by Israel be a defence to the charge of committing war crimes against those who fired the rockets OR is the criminal liability for firing such rockets – when proved beyond all reasonable doubt- absolute?

  25. david singer December 8, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Professor Falk

    I am still awaiting your answer to the following:

    “November 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm #
    Professor Falk

    Thanks for your response – which on the one hand is very encouraging – but on the other seems to resile from your initially expressed viewpoint.

    Rather than talking in the abstract – what in your opinion are the actions done by Israel that could have justified the indiscriminate firing of over 12000 rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian population centres since 2001?

    Would such actions by Israel be a defence to the charge of committing war crimes against those who fired the rockets OR is the criminal liability for firing such rockets – when proved beyond all reasonable doubt- absolute?”

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