Monday, June 15, 2009

Point, Counter-punch

An interesting contrast of two articles on Counterpunch recently.

Nadia Hijab writes in "Small Changes Within the Confines of the Establishment: The Obama Difference:

Many have read much into Obama's speech - that was part of its genius - but it contained no policy announcements. That does not mean there are no policies. The Obama administration works differently from its predecessors in at least three ways... it doesn't do business on the basis of public pronouncements, the Obama administration speaks with one voice (the same tough line - settlements must stop, peace must start - is delivered by Mr. Obama; Vice President Joe Biden, who used to call himself a Zionist; Hillary Clinton, the former stridently pro-Israel junior senator from New York; Rahm Emanuel, who twice volunteered for the Israeli Army; the national security adviser, General James Jones; and the special envoy, George Mitchell), and this is an administration that does its homework. So, yes, nothing has changed on the ground yet. But because of the way it works, the Obama administration has a much better chance of bringing peace to the Middle East than its predecessors. Still, before breaking out the champagne, remember that Mr. Obama works within the boundaries of the American establishment. Within those narrow confines and given the present Israeli-Palestinian power imbalance, the Palestinians are likely to secure a bare minimum of rights while Israel walks off with the rest. Unless, that is, the Palestinians can rapidly tilt the balance in their favor - or unless Israel's intransigence does it for them.

In contrast, (though not strictly speaking, in complete opposition), Jennifer Loewenstein writes in "New Rhetoric for the Coloner-Settler Project: How Much Really Separates Obama and Netanyahu?":
Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama have one thing very much in common: both of them have nearly the same vision for the future of “Palestine”. They may not recognize it yet, but sooner or later, whether Netanyahu remains in power or is replaced by someone who speaks Dove-Liberalese better, they will shake hands and agree that the only thing that really separated them in the early months of President Obama’s administration was semantics: the language each man used to describe what he saw for the future of Palestine, or “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” –a phrase that suggests there are two sides each with a grievance that equals or cancels out the other’s and that makes a just resolution so difficult to formulate. How deeply have we been indoctrinated. If President Obama’s speech in Cairo signified anything, it was that the likelihood of a dramatic shift in United States’ policy toward Israel in the coming years is almost nil... Barack Obama has sent Benjamin Netanyahu the message he most seeks, whether Netanyahu recognizes it or not: continue your colonial-settler project as you have been doing; just change the vocabulary you use to describe it. Then nobody will get upset or notice that the status quo will persists. In the meantime Nasrallah and his followers in Lebanon will be shaking their heads in disbelief at the service Obama has just performed on Hizbullah’s behalf.

Loewenstein lays out the numerous problems Obama didn't address (such as the "illegal use of white phosphorous on the densely populated neighborhoods of Gaza City and beyond? The cluster bombs and fleschettes? The rocketing, fire-bombing and bulldozing of entire neighborhoods? ...[Israeli Defense Forces'] attack on hospitals, schools, ambulances, UN buildings and shelters, food warehouses, businesses, factories and family homes... [Israeli opposition to] the UN fact-finding mission on the commission of war crimes during its relentless assault... [the] planning [of] Operation “Cast Lead” six months prior to its beginning, or when the ceasefire was still in effect... the cantonization of the West Bank into a series of disconnected ‘island’ villages and towns; the de facto annexation and militarization of the Jordan Valley; the encirclement of the economy-stripped Palestinian enclaves by the annexation wall whose boundaries incorporate the theft of the best agricultural land and resources in Palestine for Israeli use only; The status quo grid of interstate, “Jewish only” highways connecting the settlement blocs to Israel so that they are inseparable and indeed indistinguishable from the Jewish state itself..."), and an allusion to the Palestinian casualties during Operation "Cast Lead", estimated to 1400, 85% of which were reportedly civilians. In contrast, I remember hearing on NPR casualties among the Israelis from rocket attacks; I feel like it was around 100-200 max. This references the one other thing I wanted to bring up: to me, there comes a line, a line VERY SOON, where the number of people you're killing as "collateral damage" (nominally untargeted civilians) becomes an equal horror to the number of civilians the other side may kill intentionally ("terrorism"). Chomsky discusses this a lot in other contexts (as well as in this one), calling the civilian casualties of (often "just" wars) "state terrorism". Call it what you will, I don't excuse it. A life is a life is a life to me -- especially in the case where the life snuffed out is not the one who attacked you. That it is a countryman or countrywoman of the person who attacked you is as immaterial as when civilians are intentionally killed and it's justified by pointing out their collusion or support of attacks on another aggrieved party in turn. If we claim only military targets are justifiable targets, we cannot simultaneously claim that military attacks killing large amounts of non-military citizenry is justifiable.

But of course, we do. Hiroshima and Nagasaki nominally had military value, but were entire cities. But the justification to this day is that it prevented later heavy casualties. So how come it's ok to kill civilians when the cause is important enough to us but it's not ok when the cause is important enough to others? (Not that I think it's ok in either case, but I'm asking for moral consistency on our part. Silly, perhaps -- but hypocrisy, to me, cannot be morality.)

I've wondered afield here. Go read the Counterpunch articles.

Um... Happy Monday?


Daktari said...

Not so unlike our establishment of Indian nations within our own borders. If only they had had the temerity to fight on.

J said...

I get what you mean, but I said something to that effect about Puerto Ricans once and nearly got my head taken off.

Even somewhat sarcastically, it's somewhat bad juju to blame the lack of a Native American uprising on the lack of "temerity" considering the insane shit and huge depopulation they've been through. I rather suspect that if war & disease (some of which was also biological warfare) take out 95% of the Palestinians, and the fighting continues, and even more of their land were taken away, that in a couple hundred years, they'd feel the fight taken out of them as well. I mean, right now, the Palestinians have population "on their side" -- they're outreproducing the Israelis, a problem usually only obliquely referred to but posing distinct challenges to Israeli/Jewish democratic institutions (i.e. what to do if an unliked "minority" becomes a majority in your country).