domingo, 1 de fevereiro de 2009

Casa, Rio de Janeiro
Sobre a arte de encher linguiças II

É vergonhoso, mas este blog está em ritmo de repartição pública na vespera de feriado. Estou enrolando a várias semanas um post sobre Gaza, e devia ter escrito algo sobre a eleição no Iraque. Para não deixar o blog as moscas, mas permanecendo fiel ao espirito coçebo-festivo apropriado à quase-véspera de carnaval, reposto abaixo alguns comentários que fiz no Harry's Place.

Sobre os assentamentos na Cisjordânia:

There was a moral imperative for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Jewish ancestral homeland. There is, likewise, an imperative for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside it, for similar reasons. Nebulous claims about collective guilt, or general nastiness on the part of the Arabs, are really no argument for depriving Palestinians yet unborn of a homeland and the opportunity to be free and prosperous. More serious objections could be raised, pointing to the criminally incompetent and often genocidal Palestinian leadership, or the noxious political culture they engendered. But while these factors make it much harder to fulfill the Palestinian national aspirations without compromising the Israelis’ right to live in peace, or even to live at all (and certainly make the fulfilling of such aspirations much less likely; history is not usually guided by fairness), they do not negate the basic imperative of a prosecuted and homeless people to an independent homeland. This can’t happen if land in WB continues to be unilaterally taken over by settlements, under whichever pretext. In the same way that land west of the 49 armistice line should in all fairness be considered Israeli (even though some of it was unfairly taken from Palestinians), the WB and Gaza should be regarded, today, as Palestinian land (except for any eventual land swaps mutually agreed). Likewise, Jewish refugees from 1949 should likewise seek redress on the free and prosperous state they managed to build since then, instead of on some ancestral hilltop surrounded by, and in the detriment of, people who probably had no personal involvement in their dispossession, and are also in need of a piece of land of their own.

From a purely Israeli strategical point of view, the settlements in the WB have been bad in more than one way. They have forced the IDF to garrison and defend a cluster of far-flung settlements surrounded by a hostile population, and to devote considerable effort to controlling said population (greatly inconveniencing them in the process), to the detriment of at least some of its war fighting skills. A more serious drawback, perhaps, is the moral degradation that comes from lording over a people against their wishes. This holds true regardless of whether the occupation is necessary or not, and is manifest both within the IDF and in the broader Israeli society. For instance, the creation of illegal (by Israeli law) settlements, and the state repeated failure to remove them, not only weakens the country’s negotiating clout, it also severely erode the (of course imperfect, but quite real) rule of law which is one of its greatest assets.

At this point, it is useful to decouple the concepts of occupation, and that of settlement-building. While it is true that since the 2nd Intifada having troops at the WB has helped keep Israel reasonably safe from suicide bombers and rockets coming from there, it is also true that the presence of the settlements themselves did nothing of this sort, and in no way contributed to the safety of Israel or Israelis.

I’m not saying that removing (all, most or some, as per agreement) settlements, ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state should or could be done today, only that it should be done, for both moral and practical reasons. It can’t happen without a change in the way Palestinian groups think and operate, but it also can’t happen if the Israeli government and society are not committed to this process as an strategic goal.

There are, moreover, some positive steps Israel can take, immediately and unilaterally, with no detriment to its security or negotiating position. At a minimum, it should not build new legal settlements, and enforce Israeli law with regard to illegal ones, and also with respect ot the treatment of Palestinians. Secondly, and more broadly, rewarding Palestinian restraint and constructive engagement should figure as much as a priority as fighting and deterring Palestinian terrorism.

Sobre o Hamas:

I don’t presume to tell the Palestinians what to do (well, I do, actually, but don’t expect them to pay any attention to me). But let me point out that Hamas has a program, very clearly enunciated and reiterated by word and deed*, and it not a 2-state solution. In fact, Hamas gained notoriety by waging relentless war against a peace process that had a 2SS as an end goal, and managed to attract the support of every rejectionist group and faction in the Middle East as a result. While an alternative Palestinian program does not emerge, no amount of support, marches and outrage will lead to a negotiated Palestinian state. This is not a judgment on the justness of the cause, it is just a statement of fact.

As for whether ‘Israel’ wants a two state solution, I’m not sure if it makes more sense to talk about what Israel wants than to talk about what Palestine wants. But my support of a 2SS is not predicated on Israelis as one just waiting for the rockets to stop to gladly hand a state to the Palestinians. A proper ‘program’ with that goal in mind would seek to decrease the benefits Israel accrues for continuing the occupation, while at the same time increasing the prospective benefits of ending it. Unfortunately, what Hamas and its enablers and fellow travellers have done is the exact opposite.


The Palestinians can do whatever they like. Some choices might lead to an independent state, others won’t. Throughout the past 100 years or so they’ve been cursed with abysmal leadership that has consistently made lousy strategic choices, as far as Palestinian self-interest is concerned. I’m not talking here about the morality of said choices; I’m simply stating the self-evident fact that they have not led to the fulfillment of the Palestinian strategic goal, the creation of the state of Palestine.

As for my side, or the side either of us have “some degree of influence over”, Hamas (or the IDF) to my knowledge is not attacking or threatening to attack Brazil, which has in any case zero influence in the ME. As for Britain, its influence with Israel is quite minimal. However, as part of the EU, it does have in theory some significant leverage over Hamas, as it is the prime contributor to the UNRWA budget, and is set to pay through the nose for Gaza’s reconstruction. I would say, in fact, that Hamas is aware of this fact, which partially explains why it is sounding more quasi-conciliatory now, after being so radicalized by the last war, than it had been in years.

Some of Hamas’ leaders have talked about a long term truce after they get the WB and Gaza, and after refugees return to a country which existence they rule-out ever recognizing, but can’t at the moment destroy. They’ve also talked, far more often, of victory over the Jews and of turning Gaza into a cemetery for the Zionists. The IDF decided to call their bluff on that instead. Go figure.

Hamas’ democratic credentials and supposed good faith have been discussed at length here in HP, and I won’t rehash the argument yet again. But I find ridiculous the notion that allowing a islamist statelet in Gaza, funded by someone else’s money, to flourish and arm itself, would be conductive to peace. After being allowed to do the same in the West Bank, Hamas kind of suggests it might promise, a long-term truce will come into being. Why won’t Israel call that bluff?

About atrocities, even if you descend to the inane level of doing body counting as a proxy for moral judgment, suicide bombing inside Israel still has probably killed more civilians than the Gaza war, but I guess the numbers ought to be close. One or two more iterations of this, however, and the situation will change. Which is why avoiding such wars ought to be paramount. I don’t think making concessions to Hamas and letting it rearm would have prevented this war, or will prevent the next. You would likely have rockets falling in Tel Aviv (and perhaps a more proportionate death toll), and a harsher Israeli response. Note, however, that there would not have been a war had the Israeli not left Gaza. This last point is important, because the Israeli government has oscillated between wanting to appropriate all land in the occupied territories and pretend to talk peace, and appropriating just a bit and wanting to talk peace. I don’t like this any more than you do, but note that after the Sinai, Israel has never lost anything significant by holding on to land, and was always attacked when relinquishing it.

* Compared to which a handful of interviews that kind of sound indirectly near concialiatory, with exactly zero deeds to match the rethoric, seems like small potatoes.

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