Ehud Barak Gaza Strip Israel

“Stevey reads Ha’aretz? Oh no!”

Q: Sorry to wake you. We have an emergency

A: It’s OK. I’m here to serve the community.

Q: It’s about Stevey, my son.

A: So sorry. He’s sick?

Q: No, he’s started to read Ha’aretz on-line.

A: Oh, no!

A: He’s started to surf the Web and find out what’s really going on. And now he’s asking questions and you need to help me answer them. You’re the Consul-General and you’re supposed to tell us what to say. Stevey showed me a piece by Akiva Eldar. He wrote that just before Israel invaded this past Saturday

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal announced on the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Web site that he was prepared not only for a “cessation of aggression” – he proposed going back to the arrangement at the Rafah crrossing as of 2005, before Hamas won the elections and later took over the region. That arrangement was for the crossing to be managed jointly by Egypt, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority presidency and Hamas.

It seems Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not hear such news, or did not want to hear. Once again he “looked the mothers in the eye” and pledged that he had sent their children to the battlefield only after the government had tried everything else to achieve quiet for the children of Sderot. In the best case, Olmert did not tell the whole truth.

Is that true?

A: Eldar is very biased.

Q: And now Stevey is reading and hearing that Israel bombed and invaded and killed all those civilians WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT ITS END GAME WAS. This morning Steven Erlanger wrote in the Times that Olmert, Livni and Barak may not agree on the political solution. He quotes an Israeli general saying there is “confusion” about the message you’re trying to send.

“`Confusion'”?!! Stevey yelled. “How could they destroy all those innocent lives if they don’t even agree why they are doing it? They don’t even have an end-game, do they? They didn’t invade and fight in the alleyways just to stop the rockets, that’s clear, but then what was the point? What is the plan? Why did all those kids have to die at the UN school?” So, you tell me. What do I tell Stevey? And what do I tell everyone at the Federation. They’re asking me, too. What’s the end-game?

A: Like I said, I’m the last to know these things. It looks like it is either a ceasefire with international guarantees or destroying Hamas.

Q: Stevey says that if Israel topples Hamas, then Abu Mazen and Fatah couldn’t take control of Gaza and have any credibility. They wouldn’t be able to just march in on the back of the Israeli army. They are already thought of as collaborators and this would just destroy them. So either you let Hamas govern, and let them declare victory, or you re-occupy Gaza.

A: There are other alternatives.

Q: What are they?

A: How should I know? (Sighs) Anyway, you’ve got a smart kid. You should be proud of him.

Q: I told him your army was taking all kinds of steps to avoid civilian casualties. That’s what you keep telling us. Then he pulled out something by Amira Hass, from Ha’aretz.

A: Oh no…!

Q She wrote:

Whoever gave the instructions to send 100 of our planes, piloted by the best of our boys, to bomb and strafe enemy targets in Gaza is familiar with the many schools adjacent to those targets — especially police stations. He also knew that at exactly 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, during the surprise assault on the enemy, all the children of the Strip would be in the streets – half just having finished the morning shift at school, the others en route to the afternoon shift….

This is the time to speak about the detailed maps in the hands of IDF commanders, and about the Shin Bet advisers who know the exact distance between the mosque and nearby homes. This is the time to discuss the drone planes and the hot air balloons fitted with advanced cameras floating over the Strip day and night, filming everything….

A: She is biased. Always has been. Always takes their side and never provides the context.

Q: But was she wrong? I can tell Stevey she was wrong? Was Eldar wrong?

A: Please. These are difficult times. War is hell. Your general said that.

Q: Stevey has already said, “I know war is hell. I know civilians always get killed in wars. But if you are going to bomb and shell and do house-to house- fighting in places where you know there are innocent people, there’d better be a damn good reason.” Help me, please. Do you have a damn good reason?

A: There were rockets falling every day on Israel and still are. A “Grad” rocket just landed a short drive south of Tel Aviv. We had to do something. Tell me what we should have done.

Q: I read that Meshal offered a ceasefire. And international supervision of the crossing routes. If that wasn’t true, or you didn’t think that would work, why couldn’t there have been a more limited attack if you wanted to send a “message?”

A: It wouldn’t have stopped the rockets. You and Stevey shouldn’t be armchair generals. Israel is taking the steps it needs to take.

Q: To accomplish what, exactly? What do I tell my son? I want him to respect me. I have to tell him why all those kids died…

A: We really appreciate your help. I need to get ready for work now.

29 thoughts on ““Stevey reads Ha’aretz? Oh no!”

  1. What would a more “limited” response look like? What would that mean? It’s all well and good to say this is “disproportionate,” but what would be both propotionate and effective against a group like Hamas?

  2. What you say to your children is the same as has been relevant for a very long time.

    That is that BOTH narratives are true, each partially true. Haaretz demonstrates and confirms that there is truth in multiple perspectives.

    Its not that Amira Hass is “right”, but that she has experience that is relevant to include in one’s thinking.

    It does NOT make the implication of the report that Meshal is willing to make peace with, true in the sense that it can be relied on.

    There are too many examples of quotes of his to one audience, to be 180 degree contradicted by quotes to other audiences, and confirmed by utterly brutal actions.

    Hamas AND each Israeli party is in a constant election and loyalty campaign, always. It confuses EVERY decision to have to get the acclimation of the street, rather than what the people in the room (even by telephone through an intermediary) determine is wise and humane.

    It was a problem with every negotiation between Israel and the PA. BOTH Israel and Arafat in particular, knew that they would have to sell a proposal to their street.

    It is a tragedy that Israel has not jumped on the Arab League proposal, that Hamas objected to, then later simply abstained from.

    It would normalize relations.

    And, it is a tragedy, a horrible judgement, a lack of commitment on Israel’s part, to fail to enhance the trust between the PA and Israel by removing most of the checkpoints and normalizing relations with West Bank Palestinians under consistent rule of law.

    During war, there are pulls to take a stand, to pick a side.

    Even when the perspective of both sides are true.

    Please ask Stevie to test whether it is true that Hamas had to continue shelling even after Israel announced that it would likely lead to a military response, or whether there was some other judgement that would have been more effective?

    And, whether it was wise of Meshal’s assistant to announce that Hamas encouraged the targeting of Israeli and Jewish community worldwide in response to Gaza?

    Everybody’s wrong is the accurate answer. Or do you tell your son that only Israel is wrong, and that Hamas and Hezbollah are righteous humanists?

  3. Thanks, Richard. He’s not my son but I am sure he would be interested in what you have to say. One important point: Eldar did not say Meshal was especially interested in “peace” or even a long-term ‘hudna,’ at this point. He did say Meshal was interested in a ceasefire.

  4. Richard,
    I think you are right. Anyone who takes what Hamas says at face value at this point is a freier. This means that we should be wary of anything they say, particularly when their actions are counter to that.

    As far as not having an endgame, most countries involved in COIN efforts don’t have operationally thought out detailed plans when they embark on their campaigns. They engage in trial and error. I think that Israel would have been better off having ended its bombing after the first 4-7 days and then having offered to negotiate a renewal of the ceasefire with Hamas through Egyptian mediation. Unfortunately, Israeli politicians, like mediocre politicians everywhere, have a tendency to make grandiose pronounements that they can’t back up. They haven’t yet learned this lesson from Lebonon II or even Lebanon I.

  5. Tom, how dare you violate every standard of political correctness and write that Israel had the need for a bombing campaign for at least a few days? Don’t you understand that anyone who thinks the trauma of Hamas rockets needs to be taken seriously is a racist, tribalist thug? And anyone who is willing to say that many Hamas people are not very nice is just trying to divert attention from Israeli “crimes?”


    Hamas executes dozens of Gazans suspected of collaborating with Israel
    By Amira Hass
    Tags: gaza, israel news, israel

    Since the aerial attack on Gaza began, Hamas has sought to suppress individuals it believes endanger the group’s fight against Israel and its hold on power in the Strip, as well as public morale. Prime targets include Fatah members, people convicted or suspected of collaborating with Israel, and “common” criminals.

    “Hamas rules with an iron fist even now,” said one resident. A political activist who says he supports neither Hamas nor Fatah said that given the difficult conditions created by the ongoing shelling and ground invasion, Hamas is likely to try to prevent collaborators or those suspected to be from working with Israel.

  7. Richard,

    There is nothing surprising here. The only thing this demonstrates is Hass’ credibility as a reporter.

  8. Total Hamas Obsession is the answer to having to confront the Nakba, the militarism, the racism, the expansionism, the war crimes and their non-prosecution, the propaganda, the media blackouts.

    Why does Hamas exist? No answers.

    What will Hamas do if we don’t commit massive war crimes? Hours and hours of nonsense and speculation from Team Hasbara.

  9. In fact, Israel’s war crimes created the perfect conditions for internal political harmony in the Occupied Territories.

    But those Palestinians decided to go around panicking, dying, and taking pictures of their dead.

    Really, they never miss an opportunity to confirm Zionist prejudices. It’s amazing!

  10. We understand some of the reasons that Hamas exists, and have made personal commitments to attempt to remedy most of the neglects that we are aware of.

    Your defense of Hamas is different than that. You ignore the awareness and sensitivity of quite politically educated and committed liberal Zionists.

    Holding two truths simultaneously is the opposite of blinders. Its SEEING.

  11. Yes you’ve repeated yourself dozens of times, Richard, without any new insight.

    This isn’t about holding two truths or accommodating multiple narratives, which is useful, I agree.

    This is about Zionists INSISTING on the narratives that fit the needs of their genocidal project.

    This is about Zionists CAREFULLY CRAFTING and PROPAGATING the narratives that justify their project, every step of the way.

    Like take the curious fact that there’s never a partner for peace, always some barrier or impossible preconditions in place, and meanwhile Israel’s “defensive” actions always seem to involve acquiring more territory and resources.

    Somehow I don’t think Richard Witty “holds” that truth very firmly.

    The rest of the world, however…

  12. Wait, wait, wait: Hamas should not be taken at face value and Israel, I presume, should be?

    What standards are you holding Hamas, Hezbollah, Fateh, and Israel to? Is it equal? Or are there barriers for some and leniency for others? Hopefully we’re just basing all this on skepticism of ALL parties here, whomever we feel is more at fault.

  13. MM,
    Your accusations are ludicrous, and seem to me to more resemble a “dialog” with yourself.

    Holding two narratives, means regarding the experience and needs of the other as important.

    In the case of the Jewish survivors of the holocaust, and expulsions, Israelis, that means affording them confident safety and in a society that they understand as self-governance.

    As you know, I’ve advocated consistently for the greenline as boundary (with the exception of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem remaining in Israel), for the rights of Palestinians for their day in court, for restitution for individual and collective claims.

  14. Those substantive hard choices, are different ones that willingly standing exposed to Hamas potential ruthlessness.

    I assume that there are some in Hamas that would conditionally accept Israel and Israelis, and some that unconditionally hate Israel AND Jews.

  15. MM,
    You continuously assert that Israel has a genocidal project. Yet how do you explain the demographic increase in Palestinian numbers over the last century? Or are the Zionists just incompetent? If that is the case, why do the Arabs keep losing more wars and territory? Maybe it is their advisors who are incompetent?

  16. It’s a good question, Tom. My guess is that human beings, like many other mammals, tend to increase their birthrate when threatened with extermination.

    What’s your theory?

    I don’t have to “assert” that Zionists were interested in cleansing the indigenous populaton of Palestine to make way for their nationalist project–I just take David Ben Gurion’s word for it. Do I need to quote chapter and verse?

  17. “I assume…”

    Yes, Richard. You assume.

    And your many assumptions always do seem to favor a paranoid Zionist reading of the facts.

    Your advocacy of a two-state solution is commendable compared with the continued denial of Palestinians’ rights to self-determination practiced by the Zionist apparatus of power since 1948.

    At the same time, your simultaneous failure to diagnose the obvious-to-all symptoms of racism, militarism, and expansionism make you more of a ‘faith-healer’ than an actual doctor.

  18. Hamas “moderates”, or ones that are willing to talk with Israel (all still won’t recognise them but are realists too as they know they cannot erase Israel, not with rocket fire or resistance) can only be bolstered when both sides have a dialogue here and gain results from that dialogue. Israel seems to have an even more hardline policy than Hamas when you take into account the many signals that Hamas has shown in its evolvement from its ghastly racist charter written back in 87. For more, Helena Cobban and Mark Perry write extensively on Hamas and their political manuevers.

    There really is no “unconditional” here: both sides have hatred for the other with perhaps exaggerated circumstances that led one to believe the other is not worthy of compassion. Hamas is just a nascent entity coming to terms with its arrival on the international scene.

    These things take time: they have no state and no real infrastructure to build on and are occupied. Sometimes (I believe) we demand the impossible from these Third World movements when it can take some as long as half a century to get things moving.

  19. Joshua,

    I want with all my heart to believe that what you are saying about “moderates” in Hamas to be true. But even if it were true, I don’t believe it is right to lump together with secular “Third World” movements. They have other ambitions beside resisting occupation and oppression, just as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has ambitions beyond political and economic reform. Anytime religious faith and religous entitlement become the energizing forces behind a political movement, it is dangerous –whether the movement is Gush Emunim or Hamas or the Taliban.

  20. MM,
    The Palestinian population within Israel has quadrupled or quintipled since 1948, whereas the Jewish population inside Arab countries has been reduced to less than 10 percent of their number in 1948. Apparently all Israeli Palestinians must be terrified of being exterminated at any moment. Rather strange then that they don’t want to be included in any future Palestinian state by switching the border.

  21. True, Tom. With all the economic opportunities blossoming these days in Gaza, and the golden era of multicultural harmony and equal access to infrastructure that has become a West Bank hallmark, it really is surprising that more Israeli Arabs don’t relocate.

    As to your other point, I agree with you that it is a tragedy that Arab Jews had to pay the price for a misguided colonial endeavor almost entirely championed by Ashkenazim with no historical roots in the area whatsoever. Hopefully, with the end of Zionism, Arab Jewish culture will see a revival.

  22. MM is anti-Zionist.

    Its as much of a fixation as the pro-Zionists that he condemns.

    There is no query as to international law that was the instrument of confirmation of Israel shifting from a community to a state.

    If his critique is of boundaries in support of international law, then that would be the limit of his comment.

    The probing and then selective repetition of “what really happened” is ideological, as xenophobic and dogmatic as what he criticizes.

  23. Richard,
    He is anti-Zionist in the same sense that Ahmedinajad, Hamas, Gaddafi, the Soviet Union, etc. are and were anti-Zionist.

  24. Very true Thomas: Hamas have other components to the movement besides resistance of the occupation but their main priority has been the occupation. Personally, it isn’t right to “lump” together any resistance movement with any other ones because the examples are not precisely perfect to fit but they do provide certain models that Hamas and the rest of the world learns from.

    I’m sure you are aware of Cobban’s work on Hamas and it should not be denied. Hamas has found it imperative to reform many of their stances but has put the occupation at the forefront on which they won’t negotiate over.

    The manner of the Islamic nature of Hamas can be disturbing but let’s not forget that the Palestinians can be a force too in themselves and can resist a tilt towards sectarianism. Secondly, they gained power for a mixture of reasons but mainly they are able to provide the non-political factors for normal Palestinians, less so their ideological nature of Islamism.

  25. Joshua,
    I think you missed my point completely. Maybe I should have said “Stalin and the Soviet Union” or Idi Amin.

    I haven’t read Cobban since she wrote a book on the PLO without mentioning the word terrorism. Those who deal entirely with nuance while overlooking the obvious don’t interest me.

  26. Joshua,
    I think you are rationalizing for the behavior and objective of Hamas. Maybe wishful thinking.

    When a Hamas official states that they consider global Jewish institutions as fair game (ANY action acceptable), without any clarification or condemnation from their top leadership, they exclude themselves from the prospect of civil negotiation.

    Where are the moderates that you speak of?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.