Judt on myths, Rosner rebuts, Losing an eye, No siege in Gaza


Israel is a state like any other, long-established and internationally recognized. The bad behavior of its governments does not “delegitimize” it, any more than the bad behavior of the rulers of North Korea, Sudan — or, indeed, the United States — “delegitimizes” them. When Israel breaks international law, it should be pressed to desist; but it is precisely because it is a state under international law that we have that leverage.

Some critics of Israel are motivated by a wish that it did not exist — that it would just somehow go away. But this is the politics of the ostrich: Flemish nationalists feel the same way about Belgium, Basque separatists about Spain. Israel is not going away, nor should it. As for the official Israeli public relations campaign to discredit any criticism as an exercise in “de-legitimization,” it is uniquely self-defeating. Every time Jerusalem responds this way, it highlights its own isolation.

  • Blogger/journalist Shmuel Rosner responds:

Judt, writing with the authority of the revered academician, doesn’t know – or, in most cases, pretends not know – basic facts about Israel and the "conflict". And these are just a couple of examples:

"[T]he country has a constitution"

Well, no. Israel doesn’t have a constitution, and I do not expect it to have one anytime soon.

"The expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged"

Discouraged by whom? It is true that many Israelis today are less patient with "strong dissent". But there’s no official policy discouraging or preventing or limiting dissent.

"And we should not forget that Gaza is another ‘democracy’ in the Middle East"

Is it really? Here’s the quote I was using last week (in the article I wrote for Slate), as I was trying to remind readers how Hamas took over Gaza: "In five days of intense fighting," reported Der Spiegel, a respectable European publication, "Hamas wrested political control over the 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Fatah’s troops offered surprisingly little resistance. By the end of [the] week, victorious Hamas fighters were driving [a Fatah leader’s] few remaining men half-naked through the streets, before executing them in the desert."

"It is a democracy dominated and often governed by former professional soldiers"

No it is not. It is a democracy governed by its democratically elected leaders.

  • Ralph Seliger of Meretz USA adds to the critique of Judt.
  • Emily Henochowicz, the American Jewish student who lost her eye two weeks ago at a West Bank protest against Israel, tells the Washington Post she would do it all over again if she had the chance:

Now home in Potomac, Henochowicz declined to talk about the incident because her family is planning to sue Israel over it. But in her first interview since the injury, she discussed the experiences that led her to the protest and her feelings about it now.

Remarkably, Henochowicz says she "absolutely" would do it all again. Although "it’s a little strange" for a visual artist to give up an eye, she said she gained tremendous understanding of Israel, the Palestinians and herself. "It sucks that I lost my eye. But I’m so happy that I did what I did," Henochowicz said. "I love the time I spent there. It felt really amazing to be part of something like that. I don’t regret it. I felt that it’s what I had to do."

Henochowicz emphasized that her affection for Israel is strong even though she opposes many of its policies. "I really feel like I love Israel, and just like anybody that I feel about deeply, if I see they’re doing something that’s harming people, then I feel it’s my duty to say something out of that love," Henochowicz said. She added that Israel was "ultimately hurting itself" through its policies, particularly by allowing Jewish settlements on occupied land and denying equal rights to Palestinians.

At the West Bank protest where Henochowicz was injured, other demonstrators who witnessed the incident said the canister was fired directly at Henochowicz from about 10 to 15 yards away. She was holding a Turkish flag and was not near the five or so Palestinian youths throwing rocks, the witnesses said. The Israeli Border Police said the projectile was not aimed at Henochowicz. It said it regretted the incident, "but we have to bear in mind that this is a hot site with ongoing riots and violence."

  • Since 2007, Israel has maintained a legal maritime blockade around Gaza whose purpose is to keep rockets and other weapons out of the hands of Hamas, while letting food and other humanitarian aid in. Yet there have been a wide variety of officials and commentators who insist that Gaza is starving, setting the stage for the repeated efforts of "humanitarian" ships to break the Gaza blockade.
  • Gaza is not cut off from the outside world. In the last year, the markets of Gaza have been flooded with produce and merchandise. In fact, in 2009, a total of 7,233 truckloads of humanitarian aid from the international community passed from Israel into Gaza. From June 2007 (the date of the Hamas military takeover of Gaza), overall monetary transfers to Gaza have totaled over $5 billion from governmental and extragovernmental sources. The governor of the Central Bank of the Palestinian Authority, Jihad al-Wazir, confirmed that 56 percent of the PA budget is designated for Gaza. Gaza receives additional aid funds directly from Iran and the Arab countries.
  • There is also an established economic system of Palestinian imports from Egypt via hundreds of tunnels operating under the control of a Hamas government that grants approval for operating them and collects taxes from their owners. The tunnel network has increased imports from Egypt to Gaza from $30 million annually during the years 1994-2006 to more than $650 million annually. Given the abundance of supply, the price of diesel fuel and gasoline, delivered to Gaza through pipes from Egypt, is half that of the price in Israel.
  • The BBC’s outgoing Mideast corresondent, a Jewish bloke named Tim Franks, talks about reporting from the Holy Land and the assumptions people made about him all along the way.

My dual identity – Jew and journalist – has not just been a matter for me these past three-and-a- half years. From the start, it was of apparently burning import for a good number of friends, acquaintances and people whom I had never met.

That it was so, perhaps illuminates one small corner of the cloud of smog that envelops the Middle East…

There are many who believe that, as a journalist, I am also guilty before I have broadcast a word: guilty of being in hock to the all-powerful Jewish lobby, guilty of being in thrall to the Palestinian culture of victimhood, guilty of stirring over-heated controversy out of every spit and whistle in this corner of western Asia.

The Middle East has become occluded by prejudice, prejudice in its literal sense of pre-judgement. Too many people have unshakeable views of others. The label does not help identify the person. It becomes the person.

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