Friday, May 18, 2007

Polite and deadly silence

Discussion of the U.S. role in the factional war now raging in Gaza puts one beyond the pale in U.S. politics. But ignoring it doesn't make it disappear.

We're arming and supporting a faction of Fatah in order to end the Palestininan governing coalition and bring down the elected Hamas government. Even if it fails to bring about such a collapse, this policy achieves a host of subsidiary goals: dividing Palestinians, driving the population to a point where they will be willing to accept rule by anyone as long as the fighting stops and the economy is allowed to function, and painting Palestinians to the world as inherently violent and unstable.

This crime, facilitated by a despicable man as part of a policy with a long, vile history, makes me so angry and sick that I have to struggle to avoid letting it paralyze me. One way to do that is simply not to stay quiet.

The results on the ground in Gaza are pushing Palestinians over the edge into despair. Read one mother's personal account here, and her journalistic and political analysis here. Most of all I recommend the excellent, linkful overview by Tony Karon. Update: 19 May 10:45 am - Another worthwhile piece by Paul Woodward and Mark Perry on the news coverage (and suppression) of the plan. End update.

The unwillingness to talk about this use of our tax dollars allows liberals to read the news from Gaza and tut-tut to themselves about "those people." Let's end the polite silence and averted eyes. As Laila El-Haddad says:
"The most troubling part is how this is unfolding with such purpose, and yet with so little protest.
Footnote: Although for the last year and a half I've been expecting and tracking the usual U.S. government reaction to the wrong party winning an election held with its approval, it took Jonathan Schwarz applying his gift of dark comedy to make me realize that my own silence about it is a big part of why the situation eats at me so. I aspire to post again someday without being prodded by A Tiny Revolution, but in the meantime: read him daily.

Update: 20 May 6:00pm - Coverage on the front page of Friday's Washington Post means that media silence on this U.S. policy is over: 'Fatah Troops Enter Gaza With Israeli Assent; Hundreds Were Trained in Egypt Under U.S.-Backed Program to Counter Hamas'. It's in the open; when is anyone in a position to affect it going to speak up?

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13 Comments:

At 3:41 PM, May 18, 2007, Blogger Donald said...

Agreed. But the political culture in the US is so hopelessly biased on the subject of the I/P conflict that I don't have much hope of it improving. Can you imagine any of the "serious" Presidential candidates saying anything about the current situation that wouldn't make you want to throw up? I can't.

Down on the blogging level what bugs me is that a lot of liberal bloggers seem to consciously avoid this topic because of the dissent it creates among liberals. Or that's my guess. They may also avoid it because it tends to bring out the racists on both sides of the issue. Either reason is a bad reason.

 
At 12:24 AM, May 19, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

I guess that's what prompted me to post. I don't expect politicians to say anything non-nauseating at this point, but it's past time that liberal bloggers quit avoiding the topic.

The conversation has to start somewhere, and what are blogs for if not this?

 
At 10:03 AM, May 19, 2007, Blogger rob payne said...

Nell,

I don’t have much use for liberal bloggers these days as I no longer expect anything great coming from those quarters. Perhaps I have been radicalized by reading A Tiny Revolution, Once Upon a Time and Red State Son but when I read liberal blogs that I used to believe were quite good all I see is an adherence to the central democrat litany of ingrained imperial beliefs. I think the reason they do not want to discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine is because it would challenge their belief that America does good things and should stand for good even though that flies in the face of history for the last 100 years. This is also why, though I have been a registered democrat for my entire voting life, I can no longer support the Democratic Party and certainly will never support the Republican Party. The libertarians fill me with disgust as they strike me as republicans on steroids. There are, of course, a small handful of politicians that I do support unfortunately they are not taken seriously by mainstream America or the news media who ridicule them. I find this all to be completely frustrating.

 
At 2:33 PM, May 20, 2007, Blogger Donald said...

To be fair, Matt Y and MJ Rosenberg over at TPM Cafe blog about this too. But the other mainstream liberal blogs that I read say little or nothing about I/P and I think it's because it's divisive among liberals.

 
At 9:00 PM, May 20, 2007, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Thanks for posting about this, Nell. In the free time I've had today, I've been following the links you and Jonathan provide, and educating myself a little about this.

As a minor liberal blogger, I'll admit to standing back from the Israel/Palestine conflict lately -- not that it's ever been utterly front and center for me, I suppose -- at least in part because I don't think much of Hamas either.

But what Abrams is proposing and doing is wrong. Someone with his history should be scorned and reviled, not in a high government position, and certainly not making policy like this with so little notice.

 
At 12:34 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

Something that I didn't make clear in the post but want to stress is that the overall policy, of backing a particular section in the Palestinian movement, is shared by Rice and Abrams-Cheney, and by many Democrats, and by the Israeli government.

Woodward and Perry make much of the differences between the approaches of the State Dept and the Office of the VP, and as usual the Abrams-Cheney wing takes a harder and more ghoulish line.

But the policy is the same, and what's objectionable about it remains so no matter who's pushing it. I see no sign that a President Clinton, Obama, Edwards, or Gore would take a substantially different tack.

 
At 1:01 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

To expand a little:

I'm not fond of Hamas myself. But their election victory was no surprise to me. Fatah were long-time incumbents who had failed to improve the situation in the occupied territories and in fact presided during a period in which checkpoints, house demolitions, imprisonment all got worse and the economy steadily deteriorated. They had big corruption problems which they had not addressed, and were thus also divided and with a demotivated base (this was easy to identify with). They were openly and clumsily supported by the United States government, which poured money into Fatah projects late in the campaign.

So what happened when Hamas won? The U.S. administration seemed to be taken by surprise. Then they refused to recognize Hamas' legitimacy, discouraged the formation of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and set in motion an economic blockade. I expected them to arm and back their favored factions to overturn the results, and that is what they have done.

Our regime's rock-solid support for Israeli intransigence over the five years leading up to the elections helped doom Fatah. Money and guns, even if they weren't only funneled through self-serving elements of the party, can't make up for polital accomplishments.

 
At 1:09 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

Then there's the history of the Israeli government supporting any elements that would work against unified Palestinian leadership -- whoever they were. The Israelis helped nurture Hamas when it was new and small because it was a weapon against the PLO.

"There is no partner for peace."

 
At 5:57 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

More brave, and maybe naive talk from someone who doesn't know half as much as you do about this:
But I think Edwards or Obama or even Clinton wouldn't be training and arming Fatah-Contras. It's true they'd likely tilt against Hamas and for Fatah in ways short of that, though, and it's true that Hamas' ascendance is likely a bitter fruit of our own labors against a fair Palestinian/Israeli settlement. But Hamas allows (foments?) continued rocketing out of Gaza, and as I understand it they don't recognize Israel or its right to exist. So there's a war footing, or something like it.

Again, I don't support exacerbating the situation or supporting coups or contras, and I'm all ears what a decent way forward with Hamas and Palestine ought to be. But with at least some bad actors on every side of the table, what is the right thing to hope for?

 
At 8:04 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

Well, I'd start by ending the economic blockade. It's also insane not to encourage, rather than opposing and undermining, the Saudi negotiations between Fatah and Hamas.

Those Qassam rockets aren't a good thing, but they're not exactly JDAMs. Over 4500 have been launched at Sderot in the last six years, two a day on average. Casualties: seven people killed, "dozens" injured (24? 60?). Also periodic power outages, damage to houses, and a constant, wearing anxiety and fear. Until this week, there had been a six-month ceasefire on the rockets.

On the other side of the fence? Just in the last five days the IDF has killed 36 Palestinians, half of them civilians, with missiles from planes and drones and some artillery shelling. It's all too easy to imagine this extending into the kind of assault Olmert launched last summer that killed 450 Palestinians in Gaza.

Nice touch dept.: In the last week Netanyahu, who now heads Likud and is a serious contender for PM given the collapse in Olmert's standing, called for cutting off water and power to Gaza.

 
At 1:51 AM, May 22, 2007, Blogger janinsanfran said...

Those of you near DC might want to attend this protest of the Occupation. It is as broad based as anything in this arena gets.

As US citizens, we have a tremendous responsibility for egging Israel on in its intransigence.

I don't blog about I/P much because I usually can't figure out what action I can advocate for people in this country. These Democrats we are busting our butts to get into office have historically been worse for the Palestinians than the Reps (pre-Christian Zionist, anyway). This struggle needs vast education, but it also needs to give people avenues to work for change and that has been hard.

 
At 1:07 PM, May 22, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

Thanks, Jan. I just realized that I've had a draft post about the June demo in DC for the last month. I'll finish it up and post it tomorrow.

An update to my comment about the toll of the Qassam rockets: now up to eight residents of Sderot killed over the last six years. A woman died yesterday of injuries.

A post by JoAnn Mort at TPM Cafe is both enlightening and seriously misleading, in ignoring that the recent barrage comes after a six-month lull. Same omission in the AP story I linked in my comment.

 
At 1:32 PM, May 22, 2007, Blogger Nell said...

On the other hand, the AP story quotes a man who tells of a rocket landing next to him four months ago.

We could use a source that documents the rocketing.

 

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