Saturday, February 03, 2007

Palestine's Civil War

The brutal civil war between Hamas and Fatah continues to rage throughout Palestine, as several attempts at creating a cease-fire have collapsed.

From a humanitarian standpoint, obviously I want the violence to end. There has been too much bloodshed in this region even without this latest conflagration, the last thing we need is more gunfire. But I'm not sure who has the leverage to stop it.

Israel potentially could intervene in some form (I'm not sure what), but is it clear they even want to? From a purely self-interested perspective, it could go either way. On the one hand, a destablizied Palestine is a Palestine that will not be able to make any progress towards a lasting peace with Israel. As long as this internal conflict festers, the peace process is on an indefinite hiatus, which is not good for the Jewish state. On the other hand, Israelis cannot help but notice that as long as Palestinians are shooting at each other, they're not shooting at Israelis. Indeed, one of the key lines media reports have brought out from the Palestinian street is people calling for an end to the civil war so they can concentrate on attacking the Zionists. It is unsurprising that Israel may not be too keen on assisting them in the process.

I don't know how much influence surrounding Arab states have on the Palestinian miltia groups. Maybe they can put a stop to the violence. Of course, even aside from Israel's interests in the matter, Seth Weinburger forwards that the conflict may be a textbook scenario of "Give war a chance". Maybe we just have to wait for the dispute to burn itself out (always a great strategy in Middle East conflicts).


Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, Israelis cannot help but notice that as long as Palestinians are shooting at each other, they're not shooting at Israelis."

Funny, because this doesn't appear to stop the Israeli military from shooting young Palestinians (and preventing ambulances from treating them - a war crime, no?).

Anonymous said...

Oh and this is a good post that looks at some of the forces behind "Palestine's civil war."

David Schraub said...

Amazingly enough, Lenin appears to lust for more Jewish corpses from beyond the grave. For my part, I'd rather see him remain ensconced in his tomb.

And as for the BBC article--read a little closer. One, the two people they shot (in the "ambulance denial" part of the story) appear to be militants--and both 21 year old adults (this isn't contested in the article by either side). And Israel also denies that it prevented ambulances from treating them. The third (the "young Palestinian") was possibly trying to cut through the security barrier (or possibly not--other witnesses deny it). However, that story does not even claim Israel blocked ambulance treatment--the controversy is over whether Israeli troops treated the kid on scene.

So first of all, even under the most anti-Israel reading of the events you can give, you're still overstating what happened. And there appears to be controversy over what happened--I'm not sure why you're defaulting to one viewpoint over the other aside from prefigured bias (feeling compelled to slant the BBC towards a more anti-Israel position is like slanting the IMF to be more capitalist).

Anonymous said...

I've not sure it's worth trying to have this debate in your comment section... I've been a reader (via RSS) of your blog for a while, appreciate your thoughtful posts on race and racism, but have always been frustrated by your posts on Israel/Palestine, which seem to me very biased in favor of Israel and often disconnected from reality. But here goes:

Dunno what you're trying to say about Lenin or if that's supposed to be a response the post I linked to. Lusting after more Jewish corpses? Maybe you're forgetting which side is under occupation and thus, which side bears the overwhelming brunt of the violence and killing. Isn't it patently obvious that Israel and the United States have led a systematic effort to bring down the government of Hamas since the day it was elected (blocking funding and channeling money to Fatah, the military assaults of the summer, etc.)?

I didn't misread the BBC article and I didn't overstate anything. You were arguing that Israel can relax (the occupation) when the Palestinians are fighting one another. My point is that you're wrong. We saw the first suicide bombing in a long time on Monday (which itself contradicts your argument) and as expected, here three days later is the Israeli retaliation. This is always how it plays out. If you buy the IDF denials over the testimony of Palestinian medics and families, I can't really help you. They deny that they do these things every time, no matter the evidence (remember the shelling of the beach?), just like any other military. How can you have that much trust in an occupation force responsible for the deaths of 141 children just last year (this is according to an Israeli human rights group, by the way)? I don't understand it.

David Schraub said...

I'm pointing out that when you link to a blog called "Lenin's Tomb," I begin to be suspicious of one's fairmindedness on the subject. My readings of history and observations of the present have made it abundently clear that the Marxist-Leninist tradition (not the softer Democratic Socialist wing, but the people who would approvingly name their blog after Lenin) just does not care about Jews, anti-Jewish oppression, or Jewish corpses. Whether it's due to an internalization of the Jews as the Ultimate Capitalist Overlords or something else, I don't know, but the pattern has nonetheless been quite well established. Leninists talking against Jewish institutions is like listening to a Jim Crow warrior lecture on the evils of Affirmative Action. It's possible they really are arguing from a neutral standpoint--but color me skeptical.

Speaking of which, if you like my posts on racism, I appreciate that, but recognize they come from the same philosophical tradition as my posts on Israel and anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a structural force, reified by both historical oppressions, cultural stereotypes, and outright bigotry, which infects the entire global polity, corrupting their worldview and justifying inequal treatment (while telling itself of its consistency with one's dominant norms--be they liberalism, equality, justice, what have you). Just as modern society is inextricably connected to its racist past and present, modern society remains equally (if differently) entrenched in its anti-Semitism as a structural matter. And of course, one of the manifestations of that privilege is that its beneficiaries feel no compunction to address it.

As to the "debate," I too have no idea what to say, as your story rather clearly does not claim what you say it does. And even in the 15 year olds case, aside from blanket assertions you really don't give me a reason to privilege one narrative over another. As an institutional matter, all the parties have an incentive to spin events in their favor. The families because they are obviously grieving and want to present themselves as innocent, the military because they want to maintain a public image of not deliberately killing civilians, and the medics because they've unfortunately been acting as an arm of Palestinian terror groups. They have all the credibility of the Alabama Doctor testifying in the Scottsboro Case.

None of which is to say who is telling the truth and who is lying (or just misinformed) in any given case. Neither of us have any way of verifying it from our current state, which is why the debate is all about the privilege and suppression of narratives. When you comprehensively elevate the Palestinian narrative of innocents being brutally shot by the Israeli occupation forces, you necessarily suppress a counter-narrative from the Israeli perspective, in the case of the BBC article, that 2 of the 3 "victims" were armed militants, and the third may have been attempting to illegally breach a security perimeter. The narrative of dead children suppresses the counter-narrative of Palestinian terror organizations deliberately basing their operations in civilian areas for use as human shields, to gain the PR boost from innocent death.

And of course the opposite is true as well--my narrative frame emphasizing human shields and Palestinian culpability may well diminish the fact that their is geniune suffering in the territories (and the victims really don't care whose bullet killed their child), and that any army really will have brutes who revel in the pain of others. But at least I attempt to be actively cognizant of the narrative frames. That's the crucial act, and (again, at least in part due to the cavalier linking to Zombie Lenin, which embeds you a particular frame of narrative assumptions articulated above) I'm not sure you share the same commitment to perspectivist pluralism and the human dignity of both the Jews and Palestinians victimized by this conflict.