Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lebanon is dying for our sins

Spot has been called a lot of things before: a miserable cur (entirely untrue), anti-feline (well, sorta true), a fire truck lover (entirely true). But he’s never been called anti-Semitic, and he’s not, but he’ll probably get the label after this post. It is a not inconsiderable price to pay, but Spot is going to suck it up and pay it.

Israel has gone off the deep end in Lebanon.

There it is. Take a look at that statement; walk around it and consider it, and admit that it is true. And as Warren Goldstein says in his Spotty-winning op-ed piece in the Strib, the US is enabling the psychosis. The plucky Israelis have gone from oppressed to oppressor in a single generation. The blinking, uncomprehending fool of the United States has abetted the transformation every step of the way. Lebanon is dying for our sins. But its death will bring no redemption for us. It brings instead damnation. Like the British before us, our shouldering of the White Man’s Burden will take decades or more to expunge.

There comes a time, and we are well past it, when Israel no longer gets to wear the Holocaust on its sleeve as a justification for everything it does. The Jews do not get moral absolution and a free pass forever. It sort of like when your pup breaks his arm; you let him play it for a while, but not forever, and especially when he uses it as an excuse to take advantage of his little brother.

It astonishes Spot that many people in the US don’t believe that the Arabs have a score to settle with Israel. Even the psychotic killer Abu Nidal suffered at the hands of the Israelis:

Abu Nidal was born in May 1937 in the port of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast of what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. His father Khalil was a wealthy merchant who had made his money from the 6,000 acres (24 km²) of orange groves he owned, and who raised his 11 children in comparative luxury in a five-storey stone house near the beach, now used as the Tel Aviv Israeli military court (Melman 1986)

That hardly justifies Abu Nidal, but it kind of explains him, doesn’t it boys and girls? Clean out the nice homes along the beach anywhere in the US, turn them into army barracks, and sit back and watch what happens. There are tens of thousands of Palestinians with similar stories. Attitudes in the Palestinian refugee camps are not much different that attitudes in Little Havana in Miami. The only difference is that the US supports the Cubans in Little Havana.

Right wingers say there would be peace if Hizbullah and Hamas would just disarm. What a joke. That wouldn’t be peace; it would be surrender. And Israel would continue to nibble, nay bite, away at the West Bank and at it borders with Lebanon and Syria. Yassir Arafat is always painted as such a backguard by the Israelis, but the pace of colonization actually picked after the Oslo agreements.

Initially, in most cases, the land on which settlements were built was unoccupied or, as in the case of Hebron and Gush Etzion, was owned by Jews prior to 1948. However, much of the land was apparently owned by Palestinians, and was transferred to Israeli government ownership through a regulation requiring re-registration of land, which was impossible for most Palestinians. Those who did not register, lost their title.

Beginning in 1987, a revolt called the Intifadeh began in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Following the Gulf war, US pressure, the ongoing break up of the USSR and favorable international opinion made it possible to convene negotiations toward settlement of the Palestinian problem. In 1993 and 1995, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles and The Oslo Interim Agreement. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. The peace process with the Palestinians led to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and most cities and towns of the West Bank by early 1996 (Map), though Israel had made no commitment to withdraw from all the territories. As the Israelis withdrew, Palestinians took control of these areas. About 97% of the Palestinians in these areas were nominally under Palestinian rule, but the area controlled by the Palestine National Authority amounted to about 8% of the land. In January 1996, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank elected a legislature controlled by the Fatah faction, with Yasser Arafat as Chairman (titled "Rais" - "President" by the Palestinians) to administer these areas.

However, the territory administered by the Palestinian Authority was divided into noncontiguous areas - Area A, under full Palestinian control, Area B, in which Israel had control over security, and Area C, consisting all of the areas of the occupied territories from which Israel had not withdrawn. The Israelis built a system of bypass roads that allowed settlers to travel between Israel and the different settlements in relative safety, avoiding ambushes by Palestinians. These roads often encroached upon inhabited Palestinian areas, and areas under cultivation. Many dunam of olive trees, the means of livelihood of Palestinians were destroyed to build the roads. to allow expansion of settlements in populated areas, by settler vandalism, and in some cases, because the olive trees had served as cover for Palestinian terrorists.

Negotiations for a final settlement under the Oslo agreements ended in deadlock July, 2000. Palestinians insisted that refugees should have the right to return to Israel, which would produce an Arab majority in Israel. Israel insisted on annexing key portions of the Palestinian areas and on leaving most settlements intact, and offered only a limited form of Palestinian statehood. Palestinian violence erupted on September 28, 2000, triggered by a visit of Ariel Sharon to the temple mount in Jerusalem, which is also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque holy to Muslims. In negotiations at Taba, Palestinians rejected a settlement offer mediated by President Clinton, and shortly thereafter, Israeli PM Barak, who had furthered the peace process, was voted out of office and replaced by a right wing government headed by Ariel Sharon.

After the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, the checkpoints were used by Israel as a means of controlling the movement of terrorists. This created a virtual siege in each of the isolated Palestinian areas and towns, resulting in great hardship for civilians.

Though Israelis stopped building new settlements following the Oslo agreements, after the assassination of PM Yizhak Rabin [assassinated by an Israeli settler, by the way] in November 1995, existing settlements were strengthened. From time to time, after Palestinian terror attacks or on other occasions, settlers established new illegal "outposts," sometimes unmanned at first, that may initially have consisted of a few trailers. With time, these outposts usually assumed the characteristics of permanent towns. By January 2002, there were a considerable number of these illegal outposts, as shown in the map at right. The government made half-hearted attempts to eliminate these outposts, which created a security burden for the IDF. In a few cases, the IDF clashed with settlers. Illegal outposts that were removed with great fanfare were usually rebuilt quietly afterwards. [italics are Spot’s]

Can you really blame Arafat and the Arabs for doubting Israeli intentions? Spot doesn’t.

In the words of that famous philosopher queen Janis Joplin, freedom’s just another word for nuthin’ left to lose. The Palestinians and Lebanese and all of the Muslim world will never capitulate. You wouldn’t either, boys and girls, not if you had any grit. The only – only – way that Israel, and by extension the United States, will ever have peace is to sit down, negotiate, and settle legitimate grievances.


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