Anja Merret
Anja Merret

Endless tit for tat in the Middle East

There was a horribly sad story in the UK recently about a young woman who had a minor accident in her car just before a railway level crossing. Due to the ice her car skidded onto the rail tracks as the booms went down. She got hit by the train as she was frantically trying to move her car off the iced up road. How terrifying were those last moments for her?

The Palestinians living in the Gaza strip must feel this way every day as they try to survive penned in their “concentration camp” without any significantly useful shelters, no food or water, no humanitarian aid getting through. They are desperately trying to find a way out while knowing that death is a distinct possibility.

Whether these civilians are hiding in their flats or in schools the bombs hurled by the Israelis will find them eventually. Now to add to this, the military is marching in for ground combat and instant bulldozing of dwellings. It’s all about meeting your neighbour who wants to terminate you with extreme prejudice, thinks of you as collateral damage and is ready to slaughter you.

Do you want to tell me these Israeli soldiers know every Hamas terrorist by sight? Besides having to guess who could be a possible enemy, do you not think that these people can panic and shoot at anything that looks dangerous and that could be a teenager trying to run away or a mother protecting her baby.

It’s so dangerous in Gaza that the United Nations has halted all aid deliveries. What about the people? No ceasefires are being headed. Sure a couple of people are in Egypt for talks. You tell that to a mourning family that is burying its beloved. Never mind dear, everything is fine, they’re talking.

To me it doesn’t matter who is at fault here. It could be Hamas’ leadership, it could be Israel’s Prime Minister and cabinet. I am absolutely certain that the Palestinians have huge gripes and grievances against Israel. And I totally believe that Israel has had to suffer persecution ever since the first settlers moved into Israel. One of the Hamas negotiators is calling to have the state of Israel nullified. Just for a change.

I absolutely believe that both sides have many reasons to hate each other, to fight, to want to kill each other. And I am sure these reasons are totally valid. On both sides. I am not disputing any of these hurts or injustices.

What I am crying out against is the way these disputes are being “settled”. If one can call it that. One gets the idea that Israel is sending in a whole army of bullies who are going to club these people into submission. And let’s use any method that could work even leaving children weak and hungry next to the bodies of their dead mothers. The UN states that, of 758 fatalities, 257 are children.

On the other side there is a handful, or maybe several handful’s, of Hamas militants, and maybe there are several handful’s of civilians helping. Of course. No doubt. And these Hamas people are wanting to push for totally justified change. And they are prepared to become martyrs for this cause and are expecting other Palestinians to join their martyrdom.

But! What about the people who just want to live their lives. What about the Israeli families living in border settlements who have to listen out for warning sirens and scurry for cover at a moment’s notice. What about the Palestinians who just sit waiting to get bombed without the assistance of organised warnings and bomb shelters.

When will this world ever be able to get rid of its megalomaniacs. There have been so many in the past. Surely we are a more mature society now. We are the so-called developed world. We have ways to control leaders who are out of control.

What can be done about the Mugabes of this world or the people instigating this war between Israelis and Palestinians? Where is the true United Nations Organisation that can actually do something to stop crimes against humanity?

  • Robert James Basil Duigan

    Well, its quite simple, really. Israel declared its plan for this invasion in March 08 already. Also, it was them who broke the ceasefire when on November 4th, they went into Gaza and killed six Palestinian “militants”, who were probably either civilians or policemen.
    The fact that this comes so soon before their election seems to me like a canvassing ploy to make it look like they are “dealing with terror”.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    @ Duigan

    Do you have facts to back up your statements or are you speculating like most of the the commentators on the endless emotinally charged and largely uninformed blogs about the Middle East

  • Maggie

    Humans stopped having the answers way back in the garden of Eden, since then it has just been downhill. Only God can save us from ourselves, question is… When?

  • Shubnum

    Interesting piece. Its good to see there are people out there who acknowledge the sufferring of others. It can’t even be called ‘settled’ in inverted commas.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com lyndall beddy

    Anja

    In wars people die. I had to write a paper when at Vasity about how many deaths would have been avoided if Britain had not appeased Hitler, and declared war BEFORE Hitler took over the Sudetanland (with a third of the munitions factories of Europe). The total of lives that could have been saved was staggering.

    This is a preventative war by Israel. Hamas at present uses small rockets (part of the “poor defenseless me” image), but no-one knows what other weapons they have, nor what they can get if Egypt keeps allowing tunnels through its border.

  • Joel

    Israel is doing what every state, including any European or African state, would do in reaction to an enemy sworn to the destruction not merely of their state but their co-religionists everywhere (See Hamas Charter – Hamas takes off where Adolf finished) and which has launched 7,200 missiles into its that state’s territory. With their Grad missiles from Iran, 800,000 Israelis lie in range of Hamas missiles. Article 51 of the UN Charter and any stste’s duty to protect its citizens (a duty which the South African state has abdicated)fully justifies Israel’s military operation. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza preferring to allow the Palestinians to get on with their lives. They chose a preference to kill Jews rather than build a state. If Hamas and the people who voted it into power had not chosen to conduct terrorism against Israel, Israel would not be conducting military operations against or in Gaza. Israel would have left them alone in the way it has left the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya alone, even though these states are still in a technical state of war against Israel. Its really that simple Robert and Anja.

  • Siobhan

    Too many people are already polarised by this conflict. The simplistic response to criticism of the Israelis is that the critics must be “anti-Semitic”. And those who criticise the Palestinians are assumed to be anti-Arab. Neither characterisation is accurate and the combatants know it!

    The only way to see this conflict for what is, is to look at the deeds of the combatants, NOT THEIR ETHNICITY. The relevant questions are about physical reality, not about religious or racial identity. Group “A” took the following action on such and such a date.
    Group “B” re-acted by doing thus and such on …whatever date.

    GET THE NATIONALISM OUT OF THE EQUATION AND LOOK AT WHAT WAS DONE–AND WHAT IS CURRENTLY BEING DONE. IF ONE OR BOTH SIDES ENGAGED IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, THEN CHARGES MUST BE BROUGHT AGAINST THE PERPETRATORS.

    There is no other way to deal with a conflict that has gone on for generations. Accusations are not evidence and only evidence will do in addressing human rights abuses. In this case, the obvious mis-match between offensive and defensive weapons available to the warring parties creates the circumstances for massive civilian loss of life for the less well armed side.

    The parties have rebuffed previous attempts to negotiate a cessation of hostilities. The only option left to the world community is UN action: massive sanctions against the leaders of both entities, including freezing of all assets held in internatiobnal banks until both entities agree to a cease-fire and a negotiated UN monitored and enforced peace.

    It is time to give the UN the support and authority to enforce peace agreements, not just to keep combatants apart temporarily. The stakes are too high for ongoing and escalating regional conflicts in a world that has far too many weapons of mass destruction and leaders who are crazy enough to use them. The current conflict is a text-book case of what happens when rigidity replaces intelligence in politics. Rigidity is a luxury the world cannot afford.

  • Siobhan

    Just a note on ‘anti-Semitism’…

    Religious tradition identified ‘Semites’ as peoples descended from ‘Shem’, a son of Noah.

    Philology identifies the language group that includes Hebrew (Aramaic, Canaanite), Arabic (Akkadian, Babylonian, Phoenician), and some North African dialects as having a common source: Semitic.

    The tribes that eventually became identified as ‘Hebrew’ were amongst the last to settle in the area of Palestine (having been semi-nomadic for centuries). Their language (and its dialects) was Semitic in origin.

    Consequently, when we use the term ‘Semitic’ we are referring in a collective sense to BOTH Arabs and Jews. Therefore, the term ‘anti-Semitic’ must be understood to mean a prejudice against BOTH Arabs and Jews. How the term became identified exclusively with adherents of Judaism is not entirely clear.

    What’s in a name? In the case of the descendants of ‘Shem’, a lot. Both Arabic-speaking and Hebrew-speaking peoples claim to be descended from ‘Shem’. Given that the earliest Mesopotamian peoples intermarried extensively, indeed sought out different tribes for spouses to seal crucial alliances, the groups that we tend to see as distinct today have far more in common genetically and linguistically, than they have to differentiate them.

    What’s in a name? As an Israeli, if I hate Arabs (or as an Arab, if I hate Israelis), I am anti-Semitic and therefore also hating myself for that part of my genetic make-up that comes from the same source as my ‘enemy’.

  • Truth

    lyndall…keep quiet.
    you talk nonsense.
    “preventative war” – what rubbish!!! how can war be preventative?

    anja, excellent post.

  • Benzol

    Very emotional observations and issues indeed.

    However, war is like that.

    When younger and called up in the army in 1956, I was ready to go to help the Hungarians to fight the Russian invasion at the time.

    I thought the American boys were stupid to go to Vietnam where they could not win.

    I felt sympathetic to the Israeli boys to fight the Arabs in the 6 days war. Lost this feeling when Israel did not want to give up there extra land and cold not make peace with their neighbours.

    I have come to realise that the US, assisted by the UK, is a war machine.

    What can we do? Condemn, protest, go out to help victims or just stay at home or duck and dive the bullets when you are in the firing line?

    Blame the soldiers? Any army training is a brainwash, equipping the soldiers to do “the job” which is “destroying” the enemy. There are enough stories, books and films about PTS, suffered by people who came back from the battle fields.

    The real culprits are the guys at the top who give the commands without knowing what they send their boys into. These boys today push buttons in jets from a dizzy height. They do not see the enemy in the eye before knifing or shooting them. Their commanders sit at a safe distance putting pins on maps to decide the next target.

    They do not see the kiddies and the mothers. The blood of the victims does not drip on their tables; they do not hear the choking of a dying mother. “Well done guys…your next target is….” and off the boys go like hunting dogs focussed on the smell of the fox.

    There is no honour in war. It is big business. The victims are by-products of the war industry, just as pollution is a by-product of the chemical or petroleum industry.

  • vanniekaap

    Lyndall, I doubt Iran and Syria could smuggle in a few tanks, the big rocket launchers and other nasty WMD’s through “secret tunnels” along the heavily guarded 11km long Gaza/Egyptian boarder.

  • HD

    I always ask myself how tough it must be to be an Israeli or for that matter a US commanding officer in times like these. You have certain military objectives to achieve and obviously you would like to achieve them without sacrificing the lives of your fellow soldiers,that might very well be personal friends that have fought alongside you for years.

    I am sure Israel and the US in this sense does try to limit civilian casualties as far as possible while taking into account the lives of their own men who they are utlimately responsible for. What commander or military strategist these days will send troops to their sure death or risk heavy casualties only to allow a “fair fight”?

    The reason the US and Israel often use airstrikes is to limit their own casualties and for strategic purposes (why meet the enemy in asymetrical grounds that benefit them – like a a street fight in a densly populate area. Why send three of your guys into a building and possible death when you can bomb the building from the air and eliminate the target)? This is what Hamas wants and learned from Hizbollah in Lebanon.

    War is terrible and innocent people die. In many ways we have come far from the days of raping and pillaging villages, genocide, concentric bombing, concentration camps.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com lyndall beddy

    Truth

    I thought it was already explained. A preventative war is where if you don’t go to war NOW there will be considerably more deaths LATER because the other side (the enemy) is strenghtening its arms and weapons.

    Vanniekaap

    In 1947 the UN decided that if India was given Independence, the Hindu majority would slaughter the Muslims. So a bit of India was cut off and made into a Muslim state, called Pakistan. Refugees flowed both ways. Have you seen the film Ghandi?

    The same decision was made with the mandated territories which had all been one state for 800 years before the First World War under The Turks. A SMALL bit was cut off for the Jewish minority, and the Arabs got the rest. The Arabs kicked out the Jews allright, who were assimilated into Israel; but would not accept the Arabs from Israel. They forced them into refugee camps to destroy Israel.

    If Hamas wants Israel destoyed – do we give Pakistan back to India?

  • Benzol

    @HD “You have certain military objectives to achieve and obviously you would like to achieve them without sacrificing the lives of your fellow soldiers………” Poor commanding officer!

    Those commanders sit a safe distance away from the action. Their troops operate generally from a safe distance (air and tank attacks) to avoid damage to their personnel which could be bad for the moral and fighting spirit of the troops. Those commanders play real life computer games.

    War is cruel but people forget the dead quicker than they can rebuild the material damage done to their environment.

    Annual remembrance ceremonies have degenerated into visibility shows for political and royal personalities while the returning soldiers, permanently damaged by PTS, do get little support when they go of the rail.

    Until the Prime Ministers, the Ministers of Defence and the various Generals, Admirals and high ranking officers join their men on the ground (as in medieval times), war will remain a computer or chess game for these guys. Casualties on their side are bad for the moral, casualties on the enemy side are boosting the moral.

    Wars are cruel whatever way you look at the phenomenon.

  • Winkie

    Just for those who do not, will not believe that Israel would break the ceasefire, here’s the report from the Guardian UK, 5 November 2008:

    “A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid into the territory. Hamas responded by firing a wave of rockets into southern Israel, although no one was injured. The violence represented the most serious break in a ceasefire agreed in mid-June, yet both sides suggested they wanted to return to atmosphere of calm. Israeli troops crossed into the Gaza Strip late last night near the town of Deir al-Balah. The Israeli military said the target of the raid was a tunnel that they said Hamas was planning to use to capture Israeli soldiers positioned on the border fence 250m away. Four Israeli soldiers were injured in the operation, two moderately and two lightly, the military said.”
    I speak as someone who doesn’t give a continental about the religions and the ideologies. I think Israel behaves incredibly stupidly (my focus is on Israel here because it is the entity with ‘agency’ here, the powerful one with the biggest military machine). War and acts of war solve nothing – haven’t we learnt that by now? The way to resolve a conflict like this is to put yourself in the other party’s shoes, and then take the wind out of their sails by working out a plan to make their lives better. Make life tenable, nay, pleasant for the Palestinians trapped in Gaza (for example, give them access to more of the water in that water table they are sitting on instead of taking it for yourself, so that water is not always in short supply), and they will no longer be a safe haven for militants (or even vote for them).
    War begets war. You’d think after 60 years of it, they’d all have learnt that.

  • vanniekaap

    Lyndall. How do you figure Hamas can obtain weapons supplied via hand dug tunnels along a very short (11km) and well guarded boarder? And at which point do you think Hamas will begin to use these “other” weapons you speak of? Next week maybe?

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com lyndall beddy

    Just when the Cold War ended, Jihad started.

    These fanatics are not just at war with Jews, and Christians, but also with secular Muslim states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    Which is why the UN is running on the spot, pretending to act, while giving Israeli time to wipe out their bases and their tunnels.

  • HD

    Benzol: I agree. All I am saying is that Israeli commanders will engage in tactics and methods that restrict their own casualties as far as possible. So they will play computer war, using all their firepower and technology, if that means preventing the political consequneces (domestic politics/propoganda wise) of significant casualties.

    The same applies to Hamas. They cannot expect to beat Israeli forces by conventional means so they are resorting to guerilla tactics and street fighting. Strategically it enhances their chances of a simbolic/political victory and battlefield successes. They are just as calous in sacrificing palestinians.

    I agree the real vicitims are the ordinary Palestinian people that are trapped between Hamas and Israel. I also agree that a political solution is required (but not present or likely until some geo-political realities changes, regional covert activities end and changes take place in Israeli/Palestinian domestic politics).

    I am merely pointing out that once Israel took the decision to respond militarily (right or wrong) you could not really expect a significantly different outcome. Closing the border makes sense from a pure military perspective. Once your are in you at least need to achieve certain military objectives (taking out targets, supply lines, logistics) in order to make it worth while – since you would pay the political cost anyway. Would for instance 300 Palestina deaths vs 900 made a big difference to some of the responses?

  • Chopper4

    Vanniekaap:

    “Well guarded Border” The same well guarded border that was blown up and hundreds of thousands of Gazans treked into Rafah…not to mention the amount of fake monies used.

    You do know that threw those “heavily guarded” border they smuggled all the animals for the Zoo?

    “Hand dug tunnels” Just shows how much you know. Not one tunnel has collapsed otherwise media would have had an article. they are professionally dug, then a block of apartment built or the tunnel is dug from under the apartments, what is even worse is that Hamas rent the apartments out so that when Israel destroy the tunnels some meat shields go down and then their deaths can be exploited.

    It is funny how you make it out to look like there is only one smuggling tunnel, while the whole of the Gaza/Egypt border is one helluva labyrinth.

    better luck next time though!

  • vanniekaap

    lyndall, how do manage to make this crap up? The “fanatics” problem just got a hundred times worse.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com lyndall beddy

    Vanniekamp

    Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Do you ready want them to have more arms? This is not a video game or a sport. Great idea to let them arm to the same as Israel? Then it will be fair?- with a million dead instead of a thousand.

    Hamas is associated to Al Quada ideologically. AQ has not only declared war on the west, and Jews, and Cristians, and Egypt, but even on Saudi Arabia.

  • Oldfox

    Lyndall,

    You do know that Hamas is a “child of Israel”, don’t you?
    (almost as shocking as the Ayatollah Khomeni being installed in Iran with strong backing from the UK and USA)

    Below is an excerpt from the book
    Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil (Paperback)
    by James Bovard

    Beginning in the 1970s Israel began pouring money into Islamic organizations — especially the Moslem Brotherhood — hoping that religion would distract the Palestinians from political activism and the radical left-wing Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hamas was a late offspring of the Moslem Brotherhood. Prior to 1988 Moslem Brotherhood activists “had refrained from openly anti-Israel activities.” But with the outbreak of the first Intifada (uprising) in late 1987, the Israeli government was stunned to see how fast Hamas became the primary source of deadly attacks against Israelis.

    Anthony Cordesman, a former State Department and Defense Department intelligence officer and currently a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, stated that the Israeli government “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO.”

    A United Press International analysis reported, “According to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.” UPI noted that, according to documents provided by Israeli terrorism experts, “Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma al Islami.”

    The Jerusalem Post reported on May 29, 1989, that, until the late 1980s, the Moslem Brotherhood “organizations in Gaza and the Islamic University received much encouragement from the [Israeli] military government. … The military government believed that their activity would undermine the power of the PLO and of leftist organizations in Gaza. They even supplied some of their activists with weapons, for their protection.”

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com lyndall beddy

    Oldfox

    The money that really got poured into Muslim extremism was from Saudi Arabia. Some of this information is on Wikipedia.

    Many years ago I read a book about how the House of Saud established their kingdom and suppressed all the other tribes. It was fascinating. They did it with the use of the concept of Jihad, and an extremist sect of Islam, the Wahhabi. From then on they were indebted to them and they became the official religion of Saudi Arabia. With the oil riches of the 1970s the Sauds established Mosques all over the world, manned by Wahhabi Imams. It is an even more extreme section of this sect of Islam that has declared war on the west, Christians, Jews, secular states, and even Saudi Arabia itself.

    A lot of this is on Wikipedia. History repeats itself. In the first few hundred years of the Christian Church there were many sects and many interpretations. The Roman Catholic Church ruthlessly suppressed all other interpretations than their own, and Europe was plunged into The Dark Ages – until the Reformation.

  • Oldfox

    Lyndall,

    Yes, Saudi Arabia did contribute most of the money towards the Muslim Brotherhood groups.

    But are you denying the fact that Israel also funded the Muslim Brotherhood, as outlined in the article I posted on this blog?

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    Oldfox

    I can’t deny or confirm – I don’t know enough about the topic. I have, however, asked a member of the Jewish Board of Deputies to send me some history. He has just e-mailed it to me. I must still study it.

  • Chopper4

    Oldfox or is Bah Humbug from the forum?

    Yawn Yawn at that comment about Hamas being ISrael’s child!

    You do know that Hamas was only created in 1987 so in the 1970’s it was not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye!

    So if I give charity to St Luke’s Hospice then a terrorist org gets created with my charity, am I now a creator of that terrorist org?

    The only deduction one can make from this is…do not support any “Zakat” foundations, due to the fact that charity is going to arms and ammo deals.

    Me personally, I give charity to all orgs, but unfortunately I stay away from Muslim charities for this exact reason!

  • Andrew Taynton

    Lyndall Beddy

    Your right wing views regularly disseminated on the Thoughtleader blog should not go unchallenged.

    Check out Rabbi Weiss on Youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCKD6u1gGzs

    and stop fermenting warand hatered!!!