Over the weekend, I became intrigued and impressed by some very substantial commentaries on the Gaza crisis that the super-smart Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani has been posting on Twitter. Today, he has two more. I invite you all to read them, which even if you’re not on Twitter you can do in these downloadable PDFs:
Each of these threads is very well worth reading.
Continue reading “Commentaries on Gaza, on Twitter”
We are nearing the end of the sixth day (in West Asia) of the daily ‘humanitarian pauses’ that have been painstakingly negotiated between the Hamas military/political leadership and their Israeli counterparts, via a trail that goes through Qatar and Egypt, with the Biden administration also eager to take a lot of credit. The first of those pauses was agreed to be four days long, then there was a two-day extension. Right now there are reports that Hamas is offering a further extension of two or even more days, on basically similar terms.
These arrangements have four well-known components: a strong bilateral restriction on conducting hostilities; Hamas’s release of an agreed daily number woman, children, and non-Israeli captives; Israel’s release of an agreed daily number of Palestinians women and children captives, on a basis of 3-to-1; and Israel’s “permission” to aid organizations to send an agreed number of aid trucks into Gaza, in a greed manner, each day.
The fact that these terms have been largely met by both sides for six days is very significant. Primarily, it shows that Hamas’s command-and-control apparatus in Gaza remained fundamentally intact even after the extreme pounding (bombing from land, sea, and air, use of large tank and other ground-force formations, etc) that Israel inflicted on Gaza for seven weeks prior to the start of the ‘pauses’. Hamas showed it was able to abide by the ceasefire provisions and impose discipline on other Gaza groups that might have sought not to. Hamas showed it was able to organize at least one release of hostages from within the (northern) environs of Gaza City, which the IDF had previously encircled and on which it had inflicted a terrible, Dresden/Stalingrad degree of damage.
I also want to give a strong and awed shoutout to the resilience, dignity, and commitment of the people of Gaza. They have suffered almost unimaginable harm over the past 54 days. The Government Media Office there reports that “more than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including about 6,150 children and 4,000 women.” Untold thousands have been injured. 1.7 million Gaza Palestinians have been displaced. Most of the Strip’s hospitals and many other public-use buildings have been destroyed. Schools have been turned into refugee camps (and several of them also destroyed.) The ‘pauses’ allowed many Gazans to go out and about and to see the extent and degree of the physical damage, and also to see the remains of unburied corpses on the streets and in pancaked buildings. Despite all this, there have been very few mass melees around arriving aid trucks. On the day that cooking gas was delivered to a station in central Gaza, Gazans arranged their families’ gas canisters in an orderly line that reportedly stretched for two kilometres.
Continue reading “The record of Gaza’s ‘humanitarian pauses’”
There is a broad and growing global campaign for a ceasefire in Gaza. (U.S. Pres. Biden has countered it by calling for one or more much briefer “pauses” to allow for humanitarian operations. But still the pro-ceasefire campaign continues to grow.) The Israeli government and military and their supporters worldwide have argued very strongly against a ceasefire, saying it would “reward Hamas”, or would be “a surrender to Hamas.”
Many supporters of Israel also use arguments like, “How can we have trust in a ceasefire? After what Hamas did October 7, how can we ever trust them to abide by a ceasefire?” This argument, unlike the two recited above, is worth examining. Its proponents usually refer to the series of ceasefires that Israeli governments concluded with Hamas (through third parties) that brought to an end the previous rounds of fighting between the two parties—for example, in 2009, in 2014, and 2021. One first observation is, of course, that each of those ceasefires did lead to a halt in the active fighting for a number of years. So they were not worthless. However, none of them led to any indication that the suffocating military occupation that Israel has maintained over Gaza since 1967 was on its way to coming to an end. Hence, the tight, concentration-camp-like pressure cooker of Gaza’s 2.3. million rights-deprived people was just put back on to the stove to boil.
Continue reading “Elements of an effective, UN-supervised ceasefire in Gaza”
In the past 35 days, the Israeli military has killed well over 10,000 people in Gaza. It has reduced most of Gaza City and the extensive refugee camps that surround it to barren moonscapes of rubble. Meantime, Israeli settler extremists have gone on killing and land-grabbing sprees in the occupied West Bank, with great help from the Occupation Forces there. The currently sharp intensity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has considerably inflamed tensions along Israel’s northern border. And the high degree of the United States’ direct and indirect involvement in Israel’s war effort, which has included dispatching two aircraft carrier battle groups, a nuclear-capable submarine and other U.S. military forces and assets to the region, has further inflamed tensions in a swathe stretching from Western Iraq through Syria and right down the Red Sea to Yemen.
This madness needs to stop!
As do the series of intense and long-unresolved political conflicts that underlie all these tensions, with at their heart the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Continue reading “The UN Security Council can end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Here’s how.”
The United States. Must step aside. From Arab-Israeli ‘peacemaking’. It is that simple.
For 50 years now, Washington has dominated all the efforts that the world’s nations have undertaken in their search for a just and lasting resolution to the many strands of the Israeli-Arab conflict. That U.S. move to dominate the peace diplomacy was launched in late 1973 by Henry Kissinger, who uniquely combined the roles of Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. In the aftermath of the October 1973 war, Kissinger brusquely elbowed aside the Soviet Union, which had hoped to “co-lead” the post-war diplomacy.
From December 1973 until today, the United States has dominated all Arab-Israeli diplomacy, with the level of that U.S. domination rising to a situation of unabashed hegemony after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. And as I’ve written elsewhere, in 2005 Pres. George W. Bush even managed to subordinate the United Nations (and the EU, and a then-very-weak Russia) to Washington’s “leadership” of the diplomacy through an extraordinary arrangement called the “Middle East Quad.”
The results, for citizens of all the Arab states with the possible, partial exception of Egypt, have been disastrous. But the impact on the Palestinians has been particularly dire. They have seen Israeli settlers grabbing huge new areas of Palestinian land in the West Bank. They have seen the lives of all the Palestinians still resident in their historic homeland tightly constrained by Israel. They’ve seen Israeli forces and their allies commit unspeakable atrocities in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. They’ve seen their freedom to worship in their holy places in Jerusalem, Hebron, and elsewhere attacked.
And what has Washington done? Washington has continued to shovel massive sums of money and soaring mountains of arms into Israel. It has protected Israel from any international accountability by using its veto at the U.N. Security Council. It has given formal recognition to Israel’s (quite illegal) annexation of Greater East Jerusalem and of Syria’s Golan. It has demonized all who tried to resist Israel’s continued violence and encroachments by calling them terrorists and wielding tough sanctions against them.
And now, in Gaza City and the surrounding Gaza Strip—and also in the West Bank—we see the culmination of all that fervent, intensely one-sided support that successive U.S. presidents and their officials, and the U.S. Congress, have lavished on Israel over the past 50 years.
Continue reading “The United States. Must step aside. From Arab-Israeli ‘peacemaking’.”
Sec. of State Antony Blinken traveled to Israel over the weekend to urge Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu to allow “humanitarian pauses” in the bombing and ground campaign against Gaza that has now killed > 10,000 people there Netanyahu publicly rebuffed that appeal. Today’s newspapers contain some somewhat anguished accounts about the White House’s “frustration” over Netanyahu’s rebuff.
For example, in the Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb wrote,
U.S. officials had hoped there could eventually be regular bombing pauses so that humanitarian and aid workers could safely operate in Gaza, according to a U.S. official familiar with the discussions. But securing such an arrangement seemed further out of reach after Blinken’s visit…
Pres. Biden might want to take a lesson from his predecessor of 41 years ago, Ronald Reagan?
In June 1982, a previous Israeli PM from the Likud Party, Menachem Begin, sent his military deep into Lebanon and up to Beirut in an attempt to “eliminate” the PLO militias who had operated there for 12 years. By early August the Israelis were encircling the PLO’s last strongholds in West Beirut and bombing the heck out of that portion of the city, which included several large Palestinian refugee camps. Very disturbing images of that destruction were starting to fill the U.S. media…
Michael Deaver was Reagan’s deputy chief of staff at the time. In his 2001 memoir, A Different Drummer, he wrote about his misgivings over Israel’s attacks grew as the weeks progressed:
Continue reading “Yes, Joe Biden, you can stop Israel’s genocide on Gaza!”
This terrible conflict, which since October 7 has killed 1,400 Israelis and more than 5,000 Gaza Palestinians and in which the United States is very deeply entangled, has many different layers—from the anguish of individual families in Gaza as they continually see their loved ones killed or maimed, and their children terrified… right through to the stability of the global system itself.
At this point in history, these layers are all pancaked in on each other. Perhaps like those many high-rise apartment buildings in Gaza that have been pancaked by massive U.S.-made and Israeli-delivered bombs.
My aim in this essay is to start digging through the different layers of the broadening geopolitics of the Gaza-Israel crisis. Here goes.
Continue reading “The many layers of the Gaza-Israel conflict”
When Pres. Biden announced he was sending first of all one aircraft carrier battle group, then a second one, then also a Marines expeditionary unit to West Asia (the Middle East), each time the rationale he gave was that this was to “deter” actions by hostile actors. These declarations were completely in line with the main rationale provided since the 1940s for the maintenance of a huge U.S. military presence all around the globe. And they’ve been more or less accepted at face value by a U.S. commentatoriat that generally sees no problem in these large displays of force and that in recent years has been thought to be strongly averse to the employment of any U.S. troops in actual warfighting.
So if the president claims that the deployment of large U.S. “deterrent” forces to war-zones will help to prevent the escalation of violence, what could possibly go wrong?
Actually, a lot—and all the more so, since these displays of U.S. force are not accompanied by any U.S. diplomatic moves that aim clearly for a ceasefire in the hostilities that have continued between Israel and Hamas in Gaza for 13 days now. In this context of the absence of de-escalatory U.S. diplomacy in West Asia, the deployments of large carrier battle groups and the Marines unit(s) have thus far served mainly to escalate regional tensions.
Let’s quickly back up a bit and look at (a) how deterrence is supposed to work and (b) how the catastrophic failure of the “deterrence” that Israeli leaders thought they were projecting towards Hamas in Gaza actually led to the current crisis.
Continue reading “Perilous vortices of ‘deterrence’ in West Asia”
(This post was updated at 7:30 am ET on 10/18/2023.)
I was tempted to title this post “Abu Mazen is toast”, but then I thought that wouldn’t be very helpful. The real political challenge for Palestinians right now is not the old age and extreme political infirmity of one ageing leader but rather the need to reimagine and reinvigorate the leadership of their entire national-liberation and national-independence movement.
It was in 1968-69 that, in the aftermath of the Arab states’ defeat at the hands of Israel in 1967, the collection of mostly small, mostly secular Palestinian guerrilla groups that grown up within the Palestinians’ far-flung diasporic communities came together to take over the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a body that had been created by the Arab League in 1964. (Read all about it in my 1984 book on the PLO.) The largest of those guerrilla groups was Fateh. Fateh’s collective leadership body decided that Yasser Arafat should be the person to head the PLO. The Arab states agreed with that. (In 1970-71, Jordan’s King Hussein launched a harsh crackdown on Palestinian guerrilla activity and organizing that was occurring among the Palestinian refugee populations that then, as now, formed a majority of Jordan’s population. But his crackdown did little to dent the general Arab-state consensus that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians.)
Continue reading “The future governance of Gaza”
Last Thursday, Pres. Biden said in an interview with the TV news show “60 minutes” that while he fully supported Israel in its ongoing war with Gaza, he thought that Israel should not return to “occupying” Gaza. The interview did not air till Sunday, when it was seen as showing the one instance in which Biden has dared add a note of caution or demurral to the crass belligerency being continually voiced by Israel’s leaders.
With Biden now poised to leave for a visit to Israel that’s slated for tomorrow, his stance towards the actions Israel takes in Gaza gains even more relevance. Meantime, he has notably not called for Israel to halt any of the gross violations of international law that Israel continues to commit against Gaza’s 2.3 million people; and there have been well-authenticated reports that his State Department officials are not even allowed to utter the words “ceasefire” or “de-escalation” with respect to the Israel-Gaza conflict.
So his call on Israel not to “occupy” Gaza has some importance. What does it mean? Neither he nor anyone in his administration has spelled out whether it means he is urging Israel, which has sent massive ground armies to the edge of the Gaza Strip poised for a ground invasion, not to launch such an operation—or whether he’d be okay with them undertaking a ground invasion of limited extent and duration; or whether he’d be okay with them launching a total invasion of either the whole of the Gaza Strip or “just” its northern half, provided only that they don’t stay there too long.
Which is it?
Continue reading “Biden, ‘occupying’ Gaza, and the ‘Strategic Madman’ theory”