Thursday 20 December 2012

On a Loop

I wrote this some time ago, I think during Operation Cast Lead, and I can’t even remember if I ever posted it on Biased-BBC. I did post several similar pieces, and they still seem relevant, especially now, what with recent events upping the ante (or should I have said the ‘anti’).

Defending Israel is not the same as screeching "Israel right or wrong."

Most pro-Israel bloggers like myself would find life much simpler if there were no Palestinian civilian casualties, no settlements, no disputed borders, no ultra religious Jewish extremists making claims on behalf of God. But, proceeding further down that path, it would be easier for us if Israel stopped protecting its citizens as assiduously as it does so we could produce footage of a several cute injured Israeli children. We could make our case more effectively if the vocal majority had their wish and the apartheid wall was torn down and the suicide bombers picked up where they left off, providing some bloody carnage. How much easier life would be for we Israel supporters then. In fact, if Israel was swept into the sea altogether, what a doddle supporting Israel would be. We’d be laughing.  Or rather the Israel-haters would.
But so far this hasn’t happened, and we have a tough time making our case, which is that Israel may well do some things we would not do, some regrettable things that we find hard to defend. But facing what Israel faces, the intelligent view is that it has behaved with remarkable restraint. As yet we in the UK are not up against what Israel is up against, and who knows what we would do if we were.
What we “apologists” can do is point out the unfair and unjust way Israel is portrayed by the BBC.
The latter part of that essay concerned Operation Cast Lead specifically, so I won’t confuse matters by including it. The issue that currently causes  the most difficulties for pro-Israel advocates is still the same. Even before Netanyahu’s decision to announce permission for more construction, the settlements seem like an indefensible act of defiance.  Israel’s point of view is rarely given an airing. The justification for settlement building is intricately bound up with the minutiae of land swap arrangements that have been negotiated and agreed upon by both parties in the course of various peace talks, but to those unaware of the details, granting planning for more settlements at this point in time just doesn’t look good, largely due to the PA’s cunning insistence that Jewish settlements are the obstacle to peace. The notion that the Israelis are eating into ‘Palestinian land’ so that by the time the two state solution comes to pass Palestinian land will be chocablock with Jews is a simplistic way of advancing the notion that the Israelis don’t want peace. However, it disregards many factors never aired on the BBC. If we want to investigate we must search pro-Israel literature.

With their decision to impose preconditions before entertaining the idea of coming back to the table the PA very shrewdly gambled on a cert. They knew no-one would mention the fact that prior to this conjured-up demand there had in fact been a prolonged freeze on settlement construction, during which they still refused to negotiate; their confidence proved well-founded as they knew it would be. The media let them get away with this particular demand without insisting, on behalf of the ‘international community’ and on behalf of reason, that the only kind of precondition that would have genuine legitimacy would be that the Palestinians recongnise Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence against it.  Their refusal to do so is the real and only obstacle to peace.
However, for the very reason set out here by Anthony Julius, Israel’s badly-timed announcement of permission for new settlements amounts to a kick in the teeth to Israel’s non resident supporters.

“Now, the idea that Israel could so recklessly squander such small goodwill as it has acquired, in consequence of stopping the campaign in Gaza when it did, and arriving through the massively overplayed Morsi intervention, and some kind of semi-stable ceasefire—the idea that it could recklessly throw that away by a gratuitous announcement of a further enlargement of settlements, is almost incomprehensible to me, and deeply, deeply dispiriting. But there it is. “ Anthony Julius.

I wrote the following some time ago, but I might as well flesh out the issue by including it here; it sets out some of the reasons given in defence of the settlements.

Who has legal title to Judea and Samaria AKA the West Bank?  Lawyers cite the San Remo Resolution of 1920, which has never been superseded. Technically, Israel still has the legal title.

The argument usually goes:
Every single country in the world except Israel considers the settlements illegal under international law. 99.9% of people on the planet say so.” However, even if those percentages were correct (they’re not) ‘international law’ differs from genuine, legally binding law.
“The international consensus has never recognised Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem” But the international consensus is only that. A consensus.
It is assumed that Israel’s motivation for approving settlement construction is inherently belligerent and sneaky, and primarily designed to create ‘facts on the ground’. On examination, that accusation looks like another myth that became a ‘fact’ through constant repetition. For one thing ‘facts on grounds’ are not irreversible. The Israeli government is prepared to dismantle Israeli settlements if it has to. Of course, the withdrawal from Gaza didn’t do Israel much good, so why would anyone believe that dismantling more Jewish settlements would increase the chances of peace?
Certain areas are referred to as “Palestinian Land.” Also - “Occupied Territory” or “Illegally Occupied Territory”. People forget that instigating wars involves risking loss of territory as well as loss of life. “Land for peace” is a useful negotiating tool, but if you happen to lose territory as a result of your own aggression, you can’t just ‘have it back’ for nothing, as though your war-mongering had never happened. However, the Palestinians assume they are uniquely entitled to demand this, and judging by past performance, if unconditional withdrawal from disputed territories were indeed granted by Israel in a crazy gesture of self-sacrifice, the Palestinians would simply see it as a sign of weakness. They’d surely pocket it and ratchet their demands up a notch.
I am no expert on the topography of the area, but my understanding is that, with the exception of a small number of rogue settlements deemed illegal even by the Israeli government, the new construction that has caused the latest ** brouhaha is within previously negotiated ‘Jewish’ areas, which formed part of mutually agreed land swap arrangements.  That has conveniently slipped the minds of the BBC and the MSM. In other words the settlement building that is such an affront to Cameron and Clegg is confined to settlements that are within the so-called ‘green line’ and don’t represent expansionist maneuvering or land-grabbing, a fallacy routinely implied by the Israel-bashing brigade.

Melanie Phillips says:
Their outrage could be seen as a fabricated, heavily embroidered type of outrage; histrionic outrage that has little or no justification.
However, given that Abbas and Co. have succeeded in making a critical issue out of settlement building when in fact it’s much more of a symbolic issue, and given that settlements are perceived as a manifestation of Israeli intransigence, it does seem that poorly timed announcements of new planning approvals are at least insensitive in terms of public relations, on the part of the remarkably image-unaware Israelis. ***
Cameron and Clegg called continued settlement building  “an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years.
Negotiations which have taken place for Years and Years? 
If Israel saw fit to make a rash gesture of goodwill and reinstate the freeze on settlement-building in accordance with these apocryphal preconditions, where would that leave the small matter of the  negotiations formerly known as The Road Map: Phase 1? 
“Why on earth does the expansion of Jewish housing in the suburbs of Jerusalem have any impact on a putative two-state solution?In all previous negotiations, the inclusion within Israel of what is clearly no more than Israeli natural growth and suburban sprawl was considered relatively uncontentious by the Palestinians. And why are the Jewish ‘settlements’ considered such a make or break issue, when they amount in total to no more than between one and two per cent of the disputed territories?”
From the Road Map: Phase 1 circa 2003:

Phase 1:Ending terror and violence, normalising Palestinian life, and building Palestinian institutions (present to May 2003)  In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence according to the steps outlined below; such action should be accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel.
Palestinians and Israelis resume security co-operation based on the Tenet work plan to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. 
What was supposed to be the first stage of the peace process has been conveniently air-bushed under the carpet and down the pan of room 101. The Palestinians were supposed to renounce violence and terrorism, and recognise Israel as a Jewish state. First stage!
If anything genuinely does merit the status of “precondition”, those requirements do. How can there ever be lasting peace without them?
So the Palestinians want to skip everything they find hard to swallow, namely renouncing their precious violence and terrorism, and impose more palatable preconditions-to-talks of their own. What’s more they they seem to have persuaded Cameron and Clegg, Obama and uncle Tom Cobley to go along with it too. Not to mention the BBC.
When the Palestinians realised that the world was prepared to go along with the assertion that settlements were the obstacle to peace they must have thought all their Christmases had come at once, so to speak.  A mammoth delaying tactic, handed to them on a plate. They themselves say that they have no intention of living side by side, two states for two peoples, happily ever after. It’s no secret that a future Jew-free Palestinian state is but a stepping-stone to a future Jew free Middle East. Furthermore, the Palestinians say that they require East Jerusalem as their capital and no Jew will be allowed to set foot in a future Palestinian state. Why aren’t Cameron/Clegg and their advisors affronted by this?
Why doesn’t the BBC ever show the public exactly how Palestinian television indoctrinates their viewers? It’s freely available on the internet. Why don’t they show some episodes of Hamas TV for children, Forfar the Jew-killing mouse? How about a documentary that highlights the warmongering Jew-hating Palestinian education system, showing precisely what the obstacles to peace really are?

** Not the (2012) announcement.
*** deja vu all over again.

Most pro-Israel bloggers like myself would find life much simpler if there were no Palestinian civilian casualties, no disputed borders, no ultra religious Jewish extremists making claims on behalf of God and no provocative announcements about more settlements. That’s where we came in.

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