Tag Archives: Israel

Contra Hecht: A Likelier Success Story for Israeli Democratic Education

I spent most of the day at the IDEC conference in Tel Aviv, and will be going back tomorrow. The first day has already brought up a whole lot of really interesting issues, but I want to address just a small one right now. I want to respond to a claim made by Yaacov Hecht of the Israeli Institute for Democratic Education: that the big secret to Israel’s success in democratic education is the mandatory military service. Continue reading Contra Hecht: A Likelier Success Story for Israeli Democratic Education

After seven years, Sudbury Jerusalem receives government recognition

Just a short shout of joy before I resume posting for real:

After almost seven years of running without any form of government recognition — or more importantly, government funding — Sudbury Jerusalem has received notice that the school is to be recognized. Wisely enough, they’re holding off the party until the papers arrive, but I wish I was there today.

My mother and I got involved in founding Jerusalem’s first democratic school in late 2001, and in September 2002 the school first started operating — in rented space in a synagogue on the outskirts of the city. The school moved twice in the year that followed, always having to fund its operations in rented spaces, using only tuition taken from parents who, for the most part, could hardly afford it. One of the arguments the government has used when defending their refusal to recognize the school is that it takes tuition, a fact that could have been easily avoided if the school got the money from the government instead.

The school has moved once more in 2007, a year after I left, and has kept growing, so whenever I visit now, both the building and many of the people are different from what I knew in my time there. But a lot seems very familiar, and when you think about how the school has made it this far alone, without the support that even the tiniest religious boys’ or girls’ schools in Israel receive, it’s pretty impressive.

It has been quite the battle for Sudbury Jerusalem to get here, and I know the school will do great things with its new status, and continue being a great place for people to live and learn.

I will start posting again, posting real posts, although it seems I will continue the Democracy posts at a later date — I have something else in mind right now.

A war that cannot be won

Here are a few more articles about Gaza/Israel. Again, a common thread emerges – propoganda and the sheer unwinnability of this war.

First is Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, criticizing Tom Friedman’s support of the war, which is backed by rationale that conforms perfectly to a text-book definition of terrorism – “politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant … targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” (quoted by GG). Greenwald’s criticism is primarily of Friedman’s position, not of the war, but it provides some interesting insights. Salon.com: Tom Friedman offers a perfect definition of “terrorism”

Then comes Daniel Larison with a brief and insightful response. Eunomia (the American Conservative magazine): Wrong and Ineffective

Next, again on Salon.com, is Gary Kamiya with an angle comparing the war in Gaza with the 1982 war in Lebanon, and particularly the massacre of the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp, as depicted in the award-winning new Israeli film “Waltz With Bashir” (which I really should go see already.) Salon.com: What “Waltz With Bashir” can teach us about Gaza

And finally Uri Avnery writes about the impossibility of defeating Hamas:

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

I read his column on on-the-left-side.co.il, in Hebrew, but it can be found on his website (and the Gush Shalom website) in English as well. Uri Avnery: How Many Devisions?

Two more links about the war

Two links have come down the grapevine, to two articles (both a few days old now) dealing with different aspects of the Palestinians’ right to an independent existence and Israel’s persistence in denying this right.

First is this piece on Ynet, “Gaza’s Lost Time” (translation mine) by Oren Yiftachel of Ben-Gurion University. Yiftachel calls to “start talking about history, the Palestinians’ history too, instead of talking about territory”. I could not find an English version, but the Hebrew version is here: Opinion: Gaza’s Lost Time (Ynet)

The other piece, by Avi Shlaim, writing for the Guardian, discusses the Palestinians’ right to an independent economic and political existence, and Israel’s apparent determination to deny this right. Shlaim closes with a scathing verdict:

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

Avi Shlaim: How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe (The Guardian)

Thanks to Alex for sharing these both.

New blog discovered!

I’ve discovered a new blog, ComingAnarchy.com. (Thanks, Google Reader!)

It looks like an interesting mix of topics. The latest Quote-of-the-Day post, from Friday (Jan. 9) is of particular interest  right now. Here’s an extended quote from the Economist:

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has been saying all week that, although Israel’s immediate aim is to stop the rocket fire and not to topple Hamas, there can be no peace, and no free Palestine, while Hamas remains in control. She is right that with Hamas in power in Gaza the Islamists can continue to wreck any agreement Israel negotiates with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Mr Abbas, along with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, may quietly relish Hamas being taken down a peg. Egypt is furious at Hamas’s recent refusal to renew talks with Fatah about restoring a Palestinian unity government.

(emphasis CA’s)

The Thing about Gaza

There’s a reason why this conflict in/around Israel keeps dragging on and on and never gets decided by military force anymore.

You would think that an excellent fighting force like the IDF, one that has had unparalleled continuous experience fighting against terrorists, would have been able to produce outstanding results against terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah. Yet the more we fight, the more they fight back, and we are now faced with a threat (homemade missiles and other light artillery) that can only be stopped by invasion and occupation – walls can no longer reduce the threat – and yet our invasion has only made the threat worse.

It’s an extremely frustrating situation, but actually, it should come as no surprise. In the words of Martin van Creveld (a professor at Hebrew University, Jerusalem), referring, a couple of years back, to the USA’s difficulties in Iraq:

“In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force, however rich, however powerful, however advanced, however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat…That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one (Vietnam) did. Namely, with the last U.S. troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.”1

(emphasis mine)

This is the thing about Gaza. This is why when I see those QassamCount status messages on Facebook, I think they’re kind of ridiculous… It’s not that there’s anything okay or excusable about firing missiles into a sovereign state’s civilian population – what Hamas is doing is abominable and a war crime – but when you compare it to the enormous level of destruction the IDF is causing in its retaliation in the Strip it seems rather pointless to point out Hamas’s offenses. Let me repeat this: what Hamas are doing is awful and demands a response from Israel. But when Israel’s response kills in days far more people than the Hamas could kill in years, it’s rather insignificant that Israel has a justified reason to be fighting, or that Israel doesn’t intentionally kill innocent people. By fighting with full force against an immeasurably weaker enemy, the IDF loses. It becomes a bully. No number of pictures showing Israeli soldiers’ kindness can reverse the effect of the sheer numbers. In weeks, we have killed hundreds and wounded thousands, in retaliation for attacks that over eight years have killed precisely 14 civilians.2

No matter what way you look at it, this is a strategic mistake. You do not engage in a conflict where it is impossible to emerge victorious. If Hamas thought we would not retaliate, it would indeed not engage us in conflict, because the only way we can possibly lose is to engage in combat with a force so weak that any victory against it would be a defeat. It is a paradox, but one we simply have to deal with if we ever want to see an end to the bloodshed.

More: Yossi Gurvitz has an interesting post related to this issue (albeit on a somewhat different note) [Hebrew].

UPDATE January 11

I originally posted this two days ago on Facebook. I’ve since made a couple of small corrections and improvements. The note on Facebook sparked an interesting discussion, and I’d like to add a bit about the importance of international support. Neither Israel nor Gaza can survive without international support. Israel has historically enjoyed such support from very strong allies, support which slips away the more we say “**** you” to the world and follow our own moral standards to the exclusion of all else. And the more Hamas is seen as the victim, the more other states and NGOs will help them – and the more Hamas is helped by others, the harder it will be to defeat them.

International support is so important to both Israel and Gaza because they are otherwise isolated. Israel has the Mediterranean on one side, and Arab countries on all other sides – countries which have all, at times, been at war with Israel. And Gaza has Israel on two sides, and Egypt on the other – and as this war has made evident, Egypt is no friend of Hamas. That Gaza is not self-sufficient is, I hope, sufficiently obvious. But that Israel needs the international community seems to escape the grasp of many Israelis. Israel may be a major arms manufacturer, but it still buys some military equipment from other countries, often at a special price reserved for close allies (as has often been with the United States.) And Israel needs countries to export to (arms as well as many other things) – a commodity that can become scarce if opinions turn radically against it. And Israel also needs tourists, once a major source of income, made less and less frequent by the escalation of conflict since the dawn of the second Intifada. But perhaps more than all these, Israel needs someone watching its back on the international level. The United States’ staunch support of Israel has surely prevented many plots against Israel from seeing the light of day, for fear of retaliation from Uncle Sam.

Is this conflict truly harming Israel’s international support? Well, it could. In Germany, it has always been taboo to speak out critically of Israel, because of the difficult past and the nature of Israeli-Germany diplomatic relations. And yet last night a friend of mine here said that for the first time, he’s seen the German media portray Israel as the bad guy in this conflict. Germany has still sided with Israel, officially, but a shift against Israel in public opinion is not a good thing, and those who say “who cares what the world thinks” might want to reconsider just how much they don’t care.


  1. van Creveld quote taken from John Robb’s Global Guerrillas blog. []
  2. Figure taken from ITIC report, via QassamCount.com. The figure refers to civilian casualties preceding Operation Cast Lead. []