Monday, January 05, 2009

Israeli craziness in Gaza

With its attack on Gaza Israel has once again upped the level of inhumanity in the conflict with the Palestinians. As the dominant power the conflict is mostly Israels making. Unfortunately Israel is just as blind as the US when it comes to seeing what it does to those less powerful.

The Palestinians in Israel are in a comparable position as the Serbs regarding Kosovo and the Germans regarding Prussia and Silesia. They will have to resign to the loss of some territory. On the other hand the Israeli will have to resign in the fact that not all Palestinians will immediately resign and that they will be the target of rockets and terrorist attacks for some time to come.

A sensible strategy for Israel would be:
- formulate a simple tit-for-tat strategy. They might for example for every rocket into Israel send one back into Gaza. For this strategy to work they need reticence: when they kill a Palestinian leader in a quiet period this undermines the credibility of the tit-for-tat. Yet this is exactly what Israel has been doing in the recent past.
- allow the Palestinian economy to flourish. Palestinians who are busy to get rich have less time to think about attacking Israel. And as a bonus they will get less kids - important for all those Israeli who worry about the demographic balance. It will also lead to a situation in which it will become easier for the Palestinians to accept the status quo.
- Allow free trade. Israel would still control the borders but it would do so only to prevent the import of weapons.
- stop the expansion of the settlements. Do something similar on the Westbank as happened in the Gaza when Israel withdrew its settlements: create one continuous Palestinian territory where the Palestinians can move freely.
- next item is are the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The UN is still financing those camps - 40 years after the war. The consequence is that the inhabitants are more or less locked up as hostages to Palestinian propaganda. Abolishing the camps would rob the Palestinians of a propaganda trophy, and so the Palestinian leaders forbid the inhabitants to move. The only solution in my opinion is that Israel - once it has allowed the economy in the Palestinian areas to recover - to abolish the camps. Most logical would be that Israel would forbid the UN any longer to financially support the refugees. Instead Israel itself would then provide unemployment allowances for those who need it. This will demand a good strategy and lots of money. But it needs to be done as living on allowances is one of the sources of frustration.
- Think about the Palestinians in refugee camps in Libanon and other countries. Give them the possibility to settle in the Westbank and Gaza and press their host countries to offer them citizenship. (this pressure can best be done by the US). And be prepared to pay them some indemnification in the end.

Only such a strategy can bring peace. It will still take a long time. And the corrupt nature of the Palestinian leadership will make it take only longer.

In contrast, the present strategy only moves the time of peace further away. When the Arab countries finally get their act together and modernize it might even be too late for Israel to survive.

Postscript: According to the Guardian the UN will ask the International Court of Justice an opinion about the legality of Israels actions. It looks like the legality of its economic boycott will also be asked. One can only hope that if the ICJ gives such an opinion the EU will proceed with sanctions to force Israel to give up its economic blockade.


stories said...

Support most of what you are writing but the truth is that Israel is the Serbia of the Middle East. They both have started wars with all their neighbours.

Impossible to understand where all this hate is coming. I hope I one day can wake up to the news that Palestinians and Israelis have signed a peace deal that will stop violence for ever.

Wim Roffel said...

This is not about hate, this is about power distance.

Did you ever read about the Stanford prison experiment? They put some students together to play prison with half playing guard and the other half prisoner. After a couple of days they had to stop the experiment because the treatment of the "prisoner" had become too inhuman.

You saw something similar with the Bosnian concentration camps like Omarska. Many people knew each other as colleagues or even friends. But now they were prisoners and guards. The first day they treated each other polite and decent. But in a couple of days it degenerated.

I recently read about a Nazi camp commander in Treblinka. He was very proud that he had allowed his (Jewish) cook to say goodbye to his father when the father was about to be killed. He saw it as a sign that he was a good man.

A similar distortion you can also find in Kosovo where many Albanians see it as a sign of their tolerance that you can hear Serbian in Kosovo's cities. Never mind that there used to live thousands of Serbs in those cities and that they are too afraid to come back.

Much of what you see as hate are in fact rationalizations: "our government treats them bad so they must be bad". Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance.

The only way to stop such human rights violations is to rectify the power balance. UNMIK failed to do that in Kosovo when it created a situation where the Serbs had even less power as the Albanians before the war. Ahtisaari made things even worse: by imposing a solution in favor of the Albanians he skidded the power balance even more. The results can be seen in a deteriorating position and increasing emigration of Serbs.

Look at those Israeli on television. They find it normal to kill 10 Palestinians for one wounded Israeli. That is the effect of a power inbalance.

stories... said...

I find it quiet offensive to compare Albanians behaviour towards Serbs in Kosovo today with the killings of Palestinians by Israel.

I read some where that Israel had killed 5 000 Palestinians during last 8 years (since the second intifada). How many Serbs have the Kosovar authorities killed? 0(zero). How many have desilutionated Albanians killed? Don't know the exact number but it can not be more than 10?(after the war) It may sound cynical and as if I am justifing what some Albanians did. I am not, I am just comparing the numbers.

Serbs in Kosovo have it 100 times better than in Palestinians in Israel and I am happy that for every day that goes the overall relationship is improving and right now fortunately I don't see any chance for any war or conflict in Balkans.

Kosovo has a problem in the North where the rule of law is inexistent. The smugling is flurishing, parts of the Serbian population is being terrorised by self appointed leaders of Serbian comunities. The rule of law is weak also in the Albanian dominated areas but is at least exitent and police is very efficent in copying with every day crime.

About time politicians start to think about the lives of those involved and not their ratings.

A bit late by wish you a Happy New Year

Anonymous said...

stories, you obviously have never been to Kosovo. Stop the propaganda.

Wim Roffel said...

When you treat someone like shit in times of peace you will do the same in times of conflict. For that reason I think the present Israeli violence in Gaza and the suffocation of the Palestinian economy are closely related. Western politicians might do better to react against those economic policies as the Israeli offensive will be over by the time they have their act together in criticizing the Gaza campaign.

You could see something similar as Gaza in Kosovo in the 1990s. Just as the Palestinians the Albanians had for years been discriminated against economically. And when there came an armed conflict the Serb repression was just as excessive as the Israeli now.

But when you look to Kosovo now it is the Serbs who are in a similar disadvantaged position. Just like the Palestinians their properties are usurped and the lack of free of movement has the same effect as the economic blockade. As for violence: Kosovo was "peaceful" in 1995 too as long as you didn't try to look below the surface. In the present situation the underlying violent potential is clear for anyone to see: you have the precedents of the situation after the war in 1999, the march 2004 riots and the recent incidents regarding the North Mitrovica courthouse. And it is well known that Thaci would like to use his police to crush "Serb separatism", but that he is stopped by the internationals.