Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Which Side Of The Goldstone The Boldface Lies

The feigned incredulity in response to the goldstone report is embarassing. There is an acute multiple personality disorder in the backseat driver wing of the IDF that vacillates between might is right culpability and dissociatively exculpatory denial. Either they embrace military violence in all its transgressive glory with a distorted Machiavellian relish or play dumb with the ADL at their fingertips when that transgressive glory is delineated and reflected.

Framing The Goldstone Report hubbub around Operation Cast Lead, and in turn Operation Cast Lead around The Goldstone report (it's one of many, dating back to the war itself***) allows for the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to perpetuate its relegation to incidents. When an incident occurs the territorial damage extends beyond the occupied territories and seeps into Israel. Be it a suicide bombing or rockets on Sderot the discourse is maneuvered into a disrupted equilibrium as opposed to a "continuum,"as the report itself states. Considering the imbalance of power that exists in an occupation, the dominance of this analysis isn't surprising, the discourse and its lexicon are controlled by the occupying power.

For instance, Operation Cast Lead began at the end of December 2008 and ended in late January 2009 - here's where rhetorical flourish obscures a central, ignored reality in the situation. An occupation is an act of war, everything that happens under an occupation is a continuation of that war. When standard conflict breaks out between non-traditional armed factions (here, Hamas, unarmed collateral) and the Israeli army, it is not a deviation from the norm, but an escalation. Not to say that the term "escalation" and "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" are foreign to each other in all realms of media coverage, but when the escalation ends and the term "cease-fire" enters the discussion, the excursion becomes an incident that transpired and is now over, and the escalation of "what" isn't broached, it's conveniently ignored. It's a compartmentalization of transgressions and abuses whose segmentation obscures the comprehensive totality of their penetration into occupied society.

Conversely, Israeli society generally has three direct interactions with the conflict - army duty (combat/checkpoint), suicide bombings, and rocket attacks. The lag time between these incidents, and there is a lag time, allows for discontinued engagement with the reality of the situation. The relative distance from the rockets and bombings most of the population experiences allows for the actual engagement to be relative in itself. Not to trivialize the suffering caused by all this via one Chickens Come Home To Roost framing device, the arbitrary casualties and surrounding physical/mental trauma civilians suffer is awful, but also on the dime of perpetually backwards policymaking with an apparent causal relation to the conflict. So when the damage caused is objectively, individually assessed, revealing its universal implications (anyone would suffer from this), it doesn't lend legitimacy to the compliance with and support for perpetual occupational policy with its attendant escalations by the general Israeli population, it's trivialization as a rule.

The dissociation has a few precedents. Part of it is born out of habitual denial from suppressing memories of what army duty entails i.e. what abuses one is capable of both committing and justifying in the moment, the other part is born out of denial from self-congratulatory indifference to those abuses based on adulterated darwinian aphorisms and a reversal of the historical Jewish archetype's association with weakness, as formerly progressive historian Benny Morris did when he recontextualized the damage done to the Palestinians as the few broken eggs required to make an omelette, like the Indians on the way to America.

Since army duty is conscripted, four years at 18 and annual reserve duty until 45, a direct engagement with the conflict is eventual, but comes from the vantage point of a world-class military and never within Israeli territory i.e. around one's home, unless you're being symbolic. Instead, it comes into Palestinian living space from above and around as the parameters for Palestinian territory are controlled and operated by the Israeli army, which exemplifies the discrepancy between the Palestinian constant and the Israeli variable. The Palestinians live under an occupation, the Israelis do not. Where civilian life and combatant life can be separated for the average Israeli citizen, a person occupied is a precision-targeted possibility from multiple angles, and a potential abductee on a perpetual year round basis.

When Israel exchanges hundreds of political prisoners for a single digit variable of kidnapped soldiers, dead or alive, the assumption is that Israel is making a ridiculously large sacrifice. What's not considered are the grounds on which the hundreds of exchanged prisoners were arrested and detained and what their numerically large disposability reveals about Israel's Palestinian prison population. According to B'Tselem, by February 2008 there were 8,400 Palestinian prisoners (11,000 by Adalah's count) in Israeli custody. At that point over 5,100 were serving sentences, over 2,100 awaiting trial and about 790 were in administrative detention, the last of which has steadily declined since but still contains 42 holdovers from two years back, a large majority of which have been held twice with 2 of them female minors.

While this refers to present statistics, between now and 1967 at least one-fifth of the population has at some point been imprisoned, with thousands over time in administrative detention. The option of administrative detention at the IDF's disposal, while already an excuse to bypass the legal system, is repeatedly abused (and abusing in itself) as a no-holds barred, indefinitely extendable imprisonment with the option of a detainee contention but only under the condition they and their legal counsel remain unaware of what it is they are refuting about the legitimacy of their detention.

According to Israeli officials "70% of the detainees have blood on their hands." What should be delineated in that statement is whose blood they hypothetically have on their hands. The percentage of Israelis who at some point in their career delivered a severe beating or a haste execution at a checkpoint, dropped bombs or fired on civilian and combatant alike, demolished a home or a building, or shut off/explosively sabotaged electricity and sewage at the expense of dialysis, incubation, and medical/civilian sanitary needs is rarely dished out. If done, it would severely complicate the distinction between civilian and combatant used to justify Palestinian casualties, in turn giving credence to the arbitrary destinations of Palestinian rockets. Since terror is solely the province of the Palestinian combatant and defense solely the province of the Israeli soldier, a comparative nature to their damage and its political use (as terrorism is generally defined as violence wielded for political ends) would frustrate the checklist by which assassinations are carried out when revealed as viable both ways. But it is not, violence by an existing state is legitimized, violence by non-existing state is not.

Discussion of standard imprisonment does not include the daily grievances suffered at checkpoints. IDF Judge Advocate General Menachem Finkelstein in a statement to the Knesset conceded to the legitimacy of complaints about checkpoint abuse, including beatings, physical restraints and psychological humiliation. Not that it prevents the foundation for the complaints from happening, as in the recent testimony by IDF commanders entitled “A Blow is Sometimes an Integral Part of the Mission" in which various commanding officers proceeded to explain why and how they routinely abused Palestinians, with checkpoints being one of the many outlets for said abuse.

Generally averaged at 102 existing during any given month (since some of them are temporary, or "flying"), by 2008 there were 63 permanently staffed checkpoints within the west bank with another forty serving as actual crossing points into Israel. The 40 crossing points were not on the Israeli border but a few miles into the west bank, further expropriating occupied territory into de facto Palestinian disuse by the limitation of movement involved. 18 of the interior checkpoints are in Hebron and designed specifically for the Palestinians there. Staff is not limited to the IDF but includes private security companies as well. 267 miles of the road they rest on are free roaming for Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, whose movement is restricted, with 85 miles completely prohibited. This affects not just freedom of movement in or around your village, but water supply as well, forcing costly dependency on traveling tankers.

As for Gaza, the political independence withdrawal supposedly conferred on it came to an end with the election of Hamas. Leading up to the 2009 conflict was the post-election siege in which crossing points into Gaza were cut off barring medical supplies, fuel and other basic commodities. Framing reliance on tunnels with arm-buildup intentionally ignores how indulging in illegalities was required in order to gain basic living supplies. 50 percent unemployment, 79 percent below poverty levels. The fuel shortage led to power station shortage led to 15 percent elecricity shortage led to power cuts from ceased power station operations. 80 percent of water wells didn't function at full capacity, if at all, with 80 percent of the drinking water below WHO ordained drinking standards (one of a few criticisms in the Goldstone report that predates anything that happened during the conflict). Chlorine shortage kicked up "the risk of outbreak of disease." Sewage purification was sabotaged, with "50-60 million liters of raw sewage running into the sea daily." The bar on replacement/construction parts required for infrastructure repair damaged medical institutions, already running on generators, and the maintenance of medical equipment.*

For a moment consider the tunnels. Attached to their reputation is an arms smuggling ring, an international conspiracy in which Iran among others illegally supplies Hamas with weapons as opposed to the basic necessities required for living. These basic necessities, ascribed external responsibility, exist within Israeli territory and thus the onus should not be placed on anyone else for their distribution into Palestinian territory, they're already in the vicinty. Yet the criminality of the arms smuggling is only applied one way as Palestinians do not have the option of democratically electing a party with questionable legality, something Israel succeeds in doing with every election, recycling military leaders, some of whose priors, as in successful legal convictions, are entirely ignored but if analysed would fit the bill of terror. For instance Ariel Sharon's involvement in both the bombing of Qibiya and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, not to mention being more than a mere cog in the entirety of the mess in Lebanon.

In turn, Palestinians are not allowed to erect a standing army, with standard army munition. They can't erect munitions factories, build or import fighter jets, tanks or warships. My uncle is a manager at a Rafael bomb making factory in a civilian area, which covers all of those. It's not singular on any level, there are many bomb factories in civilian areas. A standing army, which trains its soldiers in methods of combat, including the operation of highly destructive weapons and bomb deploying mechanisms, has bases all over Israel's civilian areas. Any external monetary boost to Hamas is dwarfed by an annual American tradition that far outdates Hamas itself, as Israel recieves 3 billion dollars in military aid from the United States every year.
Israel's civilian embedded military buildup also includes the high-tech industry on which Israel's economy is highly reliant. The high-tech industry covers development of security technology. Security technology is only useful in lieu of conflict. The increasing complexity and thus diversification of the security technology reflects less on innovative spontaneity than a causal connection between conflict and industry. War is good for business and in turn the health of the state. Peace talks don't rise and fall on who recognizes what, linguistic hangups offer a convenient diversion from how much it will cost.

The subset discourse of Gaza itself relies on an ostensibly objective notion of cause and effect that relies on a particular series of events and their regional location. The return to Gaza was described on various occasions as the sleeping giant that is Israel being woken up by the disruptive force known as Gaza bent on sabotaging the potential for peace conferred on it by Israel's withdrawal. As documented above, Israel was not asleep from the time of withdrawal, as its machinations were still active. Two, the withdrawal's compartmentalization of the peace process represents another convenient disconnect in the discourse where in actuality Gaza is part and parcel of the occupied territories, thus actions in the West Bank correlate directly to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Gaza is a part of. Checkpoints and arbitrary arrests were mentioned above, now let's move onto the separation barrier and the settlers.

Again, the statement of Dov Weisglass, Sharon's chief of staff at the time, on the withdrawal of Gaza:
"The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president's formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

Considering the amount of procedures that did not stop following the disengagement the statement is apt. At total, the barrier is going to be 436 miles long. It is currently 58.04% completed with 8% under construction. The Separation Barrier is not really a separation, though. The same way the settlers change the facts on the ground with more and more land within the west bank de facto coming under army control as a result of guarded settler presence, the barrier expropriates land as well. 8.5 percent of the West Bank now lies on the Israel side with 3.4 percent of the West Bank either "completely or partially surrounded" by the wall. 27,520 Palestinians are now on the Israeli side, requiring permits to live in their homes and a gate from which to exit their communites. 247,800 Palestinians are completely or partially surrounded by the wall. In East Jerusalem, 222,500.

Back during the withdrawal settlers cried "Germany," with DIY yellow stars, when they were being pulled out of Gaza but if they were smart they could have signed up for a relocation to the west bank. In 2005 Ariel Sharon commissioned a report from the head of the State Prosecution Criminal Department Talia Sasson. To his chagrin it revealed how millions of shekels from state budgets were being used to build illegal settlements. The methods themselves were surreptitious. A summary of the report detailed one of the prevailing methods. "One tactic was to build a mobile phone mast, sometimes a fake, on Palestinian land. Next came a guard post to protect the mast followed by a paved road and then mobile homes for the guards to live in. Shortly afterwards settlers moved in." 100 settlements were built during Sharon's time in office prior to the report. Various ministries colluded in the activity. Housing supplied 400 mobile homes, Defense approved outposts, Education put up nurseries and teachers, Energy linked them to power grids, and taxpayers paid for the roads.The settlements dismantled in Gaza numbered 16, a fraction.

Settlers recieve military protection as well as the rights of Israelis living in the Green Line, thus having an oasis of privilege within the areas they squat. One aspect is leniency in prosecuting transgressions. Whereas Palestinians can be detained without explanation with the attendant cruel and unusual punishment, settlers have gotten away with the following:

Settlers pave patrol roads and place physical obstructions on Palestinian lands adjacent to settlements, at times with the authorities’ approval, at others not. Settlers also forcibly remove Palestinians, primarily farmers, from their lands. ...cases of gunfire, threats of gunfire and killing, beatings, stone throwing, use of attack dogs, attempts to run over Palestinians, destruction of farming equipment and crops, theft of crops, killing and theft of livestock and animals used in farming, unauthorized demands to see identification cards, and theft of documents.

One explanation of Palestinian animosity towards Israelis, primarily Jews, is the institutional breeding of anti-semitism, with a brainwashed indifference to shedding of Israeli blood**. This serves two convenient misconceptions, one being the idea that if the Palestinian were to encounter an actual Israeli the potential for reconciliation would automatically engender itself, and two, that the institutionally derived nature of the imagery suggests a manufactured dissociation from reality that leaves Israel unaccountable for their violent associations. What it rests on is the idea that Palestinians rarely if ever encounter Israelis and/or Jews, which is false, as they encounter them on a regular basis. Yet, the Jews a Palestinian encounters on a day-to-day basis are either soldiers or settlers. Both are armed, violent, and can bypass UN censures with U.S. veto power but are unavoidable in the excercise of mobility.

In Hebron, where checkpoints serve to frustrate Palestinian movement primarily, Palestinians have to build nets between the second story and the first in order to not have to constantly deflect trash from the Settlers. Considering anti-semitism and the holocaust is still a vital part of the discourse it's worth mentioning Yad Vashem chairman Yosef Lapid's statement about the settlers:

It was not crematoria or pogroms that made our life in the diaspora bitter before they began to kill us, but persecution, harassment, stone-throwing, damage to livelihood, intimidation, spitting and scorn...I was afraid to go to school, because of the little anti-Semites who used to lay in ambush on the way and beat us up. How is that different from a Palestinian child in Hebron?...It is inconceivable for the memory of Auschwitz to warrant ignoring the fact that there are Jews among us who behave today towards Palestinians just like German, Hungarian, Polish and other anti-Semites behaved towards Jews.

Israel prides itself on being a a parliamentary democracy, the only one in the middle east (if we ignore Lebanon), but the democratic governance, with citizen participation, only applies to activity within Israel's borders. For Palestinians it's a military dictatorship and when war rains down from the IDF the direction isn't exclusively horizontal, but vertical as well, which is not the case for Israelis.. So, looking at information that came out before the goldstone report, even immediately after Operation Cast Lead, when 3 Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers die during the operation from either imprecise rocket attacks or combat, in turn placing heavy importance on the effects of rocket attacks and warfare, requiring the report to be more fair and balanced is a further trivialization of the universal implications of the effects of rocket attacks and warfare.

Approximately (give or take) 1,300 Palestinians died. 4,000 buildings were destroyed while 20,000 were "severely damaged." Take this into account when Col. Kemp talks about leaflets being distributed as if bombing targets had anywhere to run. While "tens of thousands of Gazans were left homeless," the thousands of Israeli families that were momentarily displaced were able to hide in other parts of the country before coming back to the reparable damage to "several civilian homes and structures." While hamas rockets and mortars were fairly rudimentary/retrograde weapons (obviously able to cause some damage when fired with zero precision targeting technology), Israeli weapons were drawn from a state of the art, next generation arsenal with the technology for high-grade optic resolution allowing operators to "see the targets in detail," compounded by pin-point precision and astounding accuracy, along with the usual cluster bombs and white phosphorous.

Israel's ability to deploy these weapons in "closed" and "open" areas comes directly from their occupational power and is a privilege afforded them by the imbalance of power. Hamas cannot destroy 4,000 buildings and severely damage 20,000 others, nor can it send sewage flowing into the streets and shut off electricity (something Israel did both before, during and after the war). It can barely leave the territory it exists in. What it was able to accomplish was miniscule, it deployed less rockets than Palestinians were killed, destroyed about as many structures as Israelis were killed. If the Israeli side of the damage, including the 4 severe, 11 moderate and 167 light injuries, are worthy of being labeled as war crimes on the part of Hamas, as the singular rebuttal to Goldstone indicates, then the sentence must turn back ten-fold on Israel.

But again, war crimes in this sense would limit the retributive legislation to one war, and since an occupation is an act of war this war started long ago and is not yet over. To prevent the next escalation, even in the delusional self-justification of the sleeping giant metaphor, the occupation must end. The efficacy in the current preventive measures are somewhat irrelevant as you don't figure out how to make an occupation work, it's illegal. India, Vietnam, Algiers, Afghanistan (with precedents, contemporaries and modern successors, all of them) were not failures because they didn't achieve an objective, they were failures because they were wrong to begin with and this is no exception.

Mirah, would you please...

*B'Tselem 2008 Annual Report

**While a fairly superficial analysis, contextually, of the Hezbollah wing of the martyr factory, it still has valid points. So I can be clear on this - while utilizing children, or anyone, for suicide bombing missions/planning for them at all are forms of bureaucratized cowardice, with the outsourcing of sacrifice/actual engagement a viable task in the organization, the concern is what well that desire for conscription is drawn from, it's not manufactured in the abstract, or inherent, it's correspondent to an immediate reality. It's existence under the settler/soldier dichotomy of Jewish presence does not help. On the other end, this primarily relates to age, as children in Israel are raised in preparation for the army, in which they will learn to shoot, kill, and possibly sacrifice themselves for their country, setting aside college in order to do so. On another note, this is kind of hilarious for Spike Jonze's reaction of "what is the hezbollah?...I wouldn't even know how to begin processing this!" which might illuminate some of the quandaries and the prescribed method for dealing with them in Where The Wild Things Are.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Strip Maul
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis