Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some thoughts on the Israel-Gaza war and its fallout in the Western world

Theories of causality are many, and none ever explain any given phenomenon fully, because everything causes everything in a universe where Jah is One. Some proponents of the Bully, Demonize and Subjugate campaign like to imagine that the end of political apatheid in South Africa was caused by sanctions and international boycotts. They then charicature Israel as similar to South Africa, and suggest it can be "transformed" (i.e erased) in similar fashion - through boycotts and sanctions.

However other readings of history would attribute to sanctions against SA only a very minor role. What ended political apartheid were the inherent contradictions of an untenable system, and the impossibility of running a capitalist economy while only utilising a tiny portion of the human resources of a country, and excluding most of its citizens from paricipation in the market as producers or consumers. In the same way sanctions on Israel will not prove transformative - on the contrary they will play into the hands of Israel's right, and harden Israeli intransigence. What could cause the implosion of Israel in its current form is not external. As with South Africa it is internal contradictions, and unresolved fault lines (of identity, vision and purpose) that eventually bring about an "end" (i.e transition) to name and form - be it of an individual or collective.

The quiet coercion of delegitimization and dehumanization: As a child growing up in Apartheid South Africa, in the 1970s, largely because of the attitudes I imbibed from my family, from around the age 11 or 12, if someone in the circles I moved in - neighbourhood kids, school, Hebrew school - ever used the word "kaffir" I would upbraid them, and at the least ask them not to use the word in my presence, because I did not want to be guilty of a crime of ommission or comission. IIt is the very same impulse now that leads me to resist the use of the word "Zionist" when it is flung about as some kind of pejorative term whose negative connotations both speaker and listener mutually agree to.


It seems to me in terms of Israel putting out the clear message that it will not accomodate or appease any Palestinian entity which has not made peace with the idea and the reality of the existence of the State of Israel as a territorially and economically viable nation state, it must balance this firm and unambiguous stance with the firm and unambiguous assurance to the Palestinians that when they demonstrate by deed they have shifted internally (for example changing their school curricula to reflect co-existence rather than a staged triumphalism, not trying to harness anti-Semitism as a "useful beast" that will further their cause....wild beasts are unpredictable and often turn on their "owners") Israel will not obstruct the creation of a territorially viable state which also (depending upon what the Palestinians and their backers do with it) has the potential to be economically viable. 

This means that Israeli schools need to show Judea and Samaria as “disputed territories” not as an integral and inalienable parts of the State of Israel (even if they are inalienable parts of the land of Israel). It makes it more difficult to request Palestinian maps reflect the reality of Israel if Israeli maps do not reflect the reality of a nascent Palestinian state. At the moment the stick is clear, but the carrot is not, and this is perhaps a crucial omission from Israeli foreign policy and the public discourse about the conflict.

Those “Jews” who are the poster boys/girls of the “radix malorum Israel est” brigade (the “Israel is the root of all evil” cult) generally do not participate in Jewish communal life in any of its manifestations, do not consciously contribute to Jewish thought or culture, and their children (if they have children) do not identify as being Jewish. These people only claim their Jewishness when they think it gives them a platform from which to attack, devalue, malign and misrepresent the things that the overwhelming majority of practising, affiliated Jews hold as dear and central to their communal identity.

To those who talk of "genocide" in Gaza: Don't debase the word "genocide" by flinging it about, just because you believe it will help you enroll others to your cause. Save it for real genocides, and hopefully people will not have grown inured to its weight because of overuse.

 Those who demonize Israel (as opposed to merely criticising Israeli policies) have forgotten that we have met the enemy and he is us: "When we allow ourselves to be persuaded by speech that seeks to draw evermore entrenched lines between one set of people and another, we tacitly accept apathetic prejudice as an acceptable means to justify our feelings of injustice. This usually results in the demonizing of otherwise well-meaning people, forcing them into positions they did not themselves wish for, and from which they can only be expected to fight back, sometimes vehemently. Listen to just about anyone react to the outbreak of violence in Arsal (Lebanon) [or Israel / Gaza], and you can hear this dynamic at play."

One of those historical ironies: Zionism, which was meant to end anti-Semitism, by 'normalising' the Jewish people so that they became a rooted localised people like "every other nation" instead has provided the excuse and pretext for 'new' and virulent forms of anti-Semitism, which in turn bolsters the Zionist narrative that Jews will never be unconditionally accepted outside of their homeland; (that Jews who think differently are not necessarily accepted in some parts and strata of Israeli society is another matter...) Jew hatred of the sort we are witnessing now turns disinterested Jews into potential candiates for aliya (going to Israel). So Zionism, rather than resolving anti-Semitism, now, in some ways, needs it. But if anti-Semitism is the price for Israel to grow and consolidate itself, it is a very hefty price indeed...

“If in the past year you didn’t CRY OUT when thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran, women and children in Afghanistan were bombed, whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, 1800 Palestinians were starved and murdered by Assad in Syria, hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks, 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists, villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria, but you ONLY cry out for GAZA, then you are not pro HUMAN RIGHTS, you are only ANTI-ISRAEL.” — Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, July 15, 2014

Syria's conflict has killed 170,000 people, including more than 9,000 children, according to the Observatory, and forced nearly half the country's population to flee their homes." Why are networks not showing images from this conflict every night? What makes the death of a 100 children in Gaza more newsworthy than 9000 in Syria? Is it because there is a pre-existing audience ready to thrill with rage and horror at "Israeli agression" while there is only indifference and apathy re fatalaties from civil wars and sectarian conflicts within the Arab/Iislamic world? Or is it because the Syrian conflict has been going on for two years, and the fickle media just gets bored and moves on to exacerbating conflict somewhere else? Or is it because its to dangerous to cover, so they cover conflicts which are relatively safe and easy to access?.

 Strange parallel reality: when I read some news sources they report not only Palestinian casualties, but also from the bomb shelters which Israelis have to run to several times a day. They report on the thousands of projectiles fired into Israel. They report on the foiled series of terror attacks from tunnels dug under Kibbutzim and villages in the South of Israel, attacks designed to massacre Israelis and in some cases , to take Israelis captive to use as "trading" cards. They report on the terror off residents of the South, traumatised by missile explosions and the sounds of digging (sometimes real / sometimes imagined) below their rooms. They report on Hamas videos calling Israeli and Jews "cockroaches"and urging their extermination. They point out that in most conflicts between Western style democracies and dictatorships casualties have been lopsided in favour of the democracies, because the democraceis tend to be both technologically more sophisticated (because, for example, of the free flow of information and the inclusion of women) and because democracies tend to invest in the protection of their citizens, rather than using them as canon fodder for PR "gains". And they point out that a score card of casualties has only been lovingly kept in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict...you won't easily find one for Desert Storm, or the Iran-Iraq war,or Xianjeng province in China, or for ISIS, which last week and this has killed more than 700 people. But when I go to the Sydney Morning Herald all of this has been vanished and the only representations allowed are Palestinian suffering....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The poisoned lancet

Recently the British "medical" journal The Lancet, which is infamous for its demonization of Israel, Israelis and by extension, Israeli doctors carried an "open" letter lambasting Israeli doctors for all sorts of imaginary crimes:  


The Lancet's editor Dr Richard Horton has a pathological preoccupation with caricaturing Israel, and providing BDS proponents and conspiracy theorists with a platform (of course no right of reply usually allowed by him). 

Here are two responses to the apologists for Islamic supremacist terror featured uncritically by Horton: 

Response to “An open letter for the people of Gaza” which has been sent to The Lancet. The response was authored by Professor David Stone (emeritus, Glasgow University)

Like your correspondents Manduca et al (An open letter for the people for Gaza 22 July 2014), we too are appalled by the tragic situation in Gaza. Unlike them, however, our letter has been written on behalf of the people of both Gaza and Israel.
We take strong issue with both the factual and the ethical content of their letter. First the facts. Israel left Gaza entirely in 2005, removing almost 10,000 Israelis and all of its armed forces, with no intention of returning. The response from Gaza was escalating and unprovoked violence, mainly in the form of rocket attacks indiscriminately aimed at Israeli civilians in the south of the country.

Following the Hamas coup in 2007, the attacks intensified and the threat grew steadily more serious as the range of the missiles extended towards the densely populated centre of Israel. Israel acted to defend its citizens (as all countries are entitled to do under the UN charter) in two ways, first by imposing a partial military blockade to try to halt the flow of weaponry from Iran and elsewhere into Gaza – a policy that has since been fully vindicated by subsequent events – and second, by a calibrated and limited military response. Note a key point in the above timeline of events: the military blockade imposed by Israel did not precede Hamas’ rocket attacks but followed them.
When those measures failed, Israel again sought – as is her right and obligation – to defend her people by launching two larger-scale operations: Cast Lead in 2008-9 and Pillar of Defence in 2012. Ceasefires were repeatedly broken by Hamas who, emboldened by the lack of international reaction combined with increasing demands on Israel to relax the blockade, grew increasingly reckless as their military capacity and firepower increased.

In the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June of this year, Operation Protective Edge was launched. Hamas unleashed an unprecedented and sustained barrage of missiles – 2000 since the start of the current hostilities - at Israeli towns and cities as far north as Hadera and Haifa creating fear and havoc across the country. Every one of those missiles constitutes a war crime. The purpose of this reign of terror was clear: to disrupt normal life in Israel, bring the economy to its knees and, above all, to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. The last of these was only thwarted by the huge investment by Israel in civil defence measures – early warning systems, bombproof shelters and the Iron Dome missile defence system – that have proven largely effective. That is the reason for the imbalance of casualties between the two sides rather than any disregard for civilian safety on Israel’s part.

Israel’s defensive precautions contrast strikingly with the activities of Hamas, who have spent vast sums of money not on civil defence but the opposite – on an elaborate infrastructure of tunnels, weapon stores, missiles and rocket launchers. This was created with the sole aim of harming Israelis but that has, as a result of Israel’s obligatory defensive measures, inevitably brought death, injury and suffering to their own people. None of this human misery would have occurred had Hamas chosen to develop Gaza as a healthy and peaceful community following Israel’s departure in 2005 rather than as a renewed launching pad for violence directed at Israel. And a large number of casualties resulting from recent events would have been avoided had Hamas, like Israel, accepted at least four ceasefire proposals before and during the ground operation.

Throughout the entire period, including the current intensified conflict, Israel has permitted the continuous transfer of essential supplies such as food, clothing and medicines to be transferred from Israel to Gaza, has facilitated the entry of Gazan patients to Israel for specialist medical care, and has established a field hospital adjoining Gaza to enable injured Palestinian victims of Hamas’ war on Israel to be treated by experienced Israeli trauma surgeons. Those are not the actions of a country determined to inflict “collective punishment” or “siege” on a neighbouring people.
Neither the “siege” nor the “occupation” (Hamas’ code for the State of Israel) is the root cause of this latest conflagration nor indeed of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is to be found in the Hamas charter and similar violently rejectionist positions – backed by actions – of extremist groups and politicians over many decades. We are disappointed, though not surprised, that Manduca et al, while claiming to be scientists, are oblivious to this verifiable reality even if it conflicts with their preconceptions. We are even more dismayed at their completely unsupportable allegations about “massacres”, “targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children”, the “use of gas” and “denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys.” Even by the standards of anti-Israeli rhetoric with which we have become all too familiar in recent years, the viciousness of this kind of demonization has surely sunk to new depths.

Manduca et al, while harshly criticising Israel, appear to offer understanding and even endorsement of Hamas’ extreme policies and behaviour. This is an extraordinary position for healthcare professionals to adopt. Most readers will be well aware of the true nature of that organisation. It is far from being a “political party” seeking to promote “resistance to occupation and siege.” It is a repressive and anti-Semitic group of religious fanatics, backed by Iran and Syria, which is committed, with chilling openness, to Israel’s destruction and the murder of most of her inhabitants. These aspirations are far from mere rhetoric but have been pursued with merciless cruelty over many years, in the process murdering over a thousand Israeli civilians, injuring many more and traumatising an entire nation. Nor does Hamas baulk at sacrificing its own civilians, by using young children as suicide bombers or instructing people to remain on rooftops, despite Israeli warnings of an impending strike. Little wonder it has been declared a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU as well as Israel.


And here is a second reply from Edgar Pick, M.D.,Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Richard Horton
The Lancet

Dear Dr. Horton,

My first scientific publication was a "Letter to the Editor" published in The Lancet vol. 279, p. 487, 1962. I was, at the time, a fifth year medical student at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, and my pride in having a 27-lines Letter printed in such a prestigious journal, had no limits. This "feat" was repeated, when a second Letter was published in vol. 283, p. 833, 1964, at about the time of my graduation as an MD. Soon after these "contributions", I decided to pursue a career in basic bio-medical research and studied for a Ph.D. degree at the University of London under Professor John Leslie Turk (1967-1970). The Ph.D. Diploma is on the wall of my office, at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University.
It is with an uneasy feeling that I resume my correspondence with The Lancet, after a fifty years hiatus on a non-scientific subject.
I read with dismay the "An open letter for the people in Gaza", by Manduca, Chalmers, Summerfield, Gilbert, and Ang + other signatories. I shall not enter into a discussion concerning the truthfulness of the letter. I am quite sure that the medico-scientific community, all over the world, will react to the claims made in the letter.
I would like to protest in the most emphatic manner against the use of one of the foremost medical journals for the promotion of a political platform, independently of the nature of this platform.
It was your duty, as Editor, to either reject this attempt to use the pages of a scientific journal for promoting a political agenda, or submit it to objective review. I hope that you will agree with me that the chances of this article to pass honest review successfully and be recommended for publication were zero.
In addition to the blatantly nonscientific nature of the letter, the signatories of the letter have provided false information by stating that they have no "competing interests". The most elementary search for the political affiliations of all the five main signatories will reveal to the most unexperienced "googler" that these are long-time pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas activists. An indication for their extremism is that one of them (Dr. Mads Gilbert) was a justifier of the killing of innocents at 9/11.
It is simply unbelievable that the Editor of the Lancet was not aware of these partisan associations. I am an experienced scientist, who spent most of his life to find answers to questions. I, thus, have to conclude that you, purposefully, ignored these associations. This is a grave infringement of the most basic rules of scientific publishing.
My research into the reasons for your thoroughly unacceptable behaviour revealed that your political sympathies coincide with those of the authors. These heavily biased views were expressed repeatedly in the past. A good example is the essay, entitled
"Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care", by Richard Horton, The New York Review of Books, March 15, 2007. I have distributed to hundreds of colleagues, all over the world, the content of this biased, vitriolic anti-Israel piece of writing, for all to judge.
You are, of course, entitled to your views and to publish these in The New York Review of Books. However, you are not entitled to let your political affinities influence your decisions as an Editor.
In the light of the grave infringement of your duties as an Editor, the only correct definition of which is perversion of scientific objectivity for the pursuit of a political agenda, I am asking that you resign your function as Editor of The Lancet, the prestige of which you have gravely tarnished.

Sincerely yours,
Edgar Pick, M.D.,Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Laboratory of Phagocyte Research
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978

cc: Mr Wisia Wedzicha, Ombudsman