Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Remote control death

An excellent article was published in the Nation and co-authored by good friend Darryl Li, a consultant with Human Rights Watch, after a recent fact-finding mission to Gaza. The title: "Remote-Control Death". It deals with the now all-too familiar drone technology employed over Gaza, and investigates how "discriminate" they really are (hint: not very), and suggests that no weapon better symbolizes Israel's indirect occupation of the Gaza Strip.

What resonated with me the most was the line that was attempting to describe the so-called paradox that is Israel's "relationship" to Gaza ("indirect occupation" or as i like to call it, remote-control occupation); how, despite the fact that Israel has disclaimed responsibility for Gaza, it continues to control every aspect of life there, down to what Gazans can eat and when they can turn on their lights:

"Since removing its military bases and settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel has disclaimed any responsibility as an occupying power for the well-being of Gaza's populace. But even without permanent garrisons, Israel continues to control Gaza's economy and infrastructure, from its borders and airspace to its power grid and monetary policy. The Israeli blockade of Gaza, tightened in mid-2007 after Hamas took over Palestinian Authority institutions, has created immense hardships on Gaza's civilian population. And just as Israel's control of Gaza's borders allows it to dictate from a safe distance what Gazans can eat, whether they can turn on their lights and what kinds of medical treatment are available to them, drones give Israel the ability to carry out targeted attacks without having to risk "boots on the ground."

This is Gaza. This is Occupation.

On that note, we are leaving to Cairo April 6, in hopes of making it across Rafah shortly thereafter.

13 Comments:

Blogger Skye said...

Dear Laila: Thank you for doing this writing. Born in Lebanon, I am an American citizen. Parents from Scotland and Italy. Too long a story to tell here.

However, I have been a supporter of the Palestinian cause for 20 years. Was a former chairperson of the Palestine Solidarity Committee here in Portland. Have been to the West Bank and Gaza and though I cannot "live in" your experience; I do know your story.

Bravo! To your courage, for living in the diaspora, for continuing to write and giving a furthered opportunity for understanding.

So few people seem to know the true story of your country and people. One day soon, peace.

In sha' allah!

Skye Leslie

10:51 AM  
Blogger Θάνος Δ said...

And some people tells us: the occupation is over and Gazans are free.
What should we understand? The occupation is over? Surely not the occupation of Palestine, maybe only the occupation of Gaza while they build more and more settlements in the west bank.
As if your doctor tells you “your liver cancer is cured, or at least under control” but does not tell you that your brain cancer is getting worse and worse.
And what kind of freedom is this if Gazans cannot travel freely and import/export anything they need? I am not talking only about the common borders Gaza/Israel or even Gaza/Egypt (Israel would tell you have the right to control and block their own borders) but also maritime borders.
And even if a control of the borders is needed to avoid importing forbidden weapons (or call it what you want…), I simply cannot conceive that this control is made by Israel itself.

Very strange notion of freedom and occupation indeed: the prisoner is free in his cell simply because the guardian does not enter the cell…

2:19 PM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

I have to say, I'm really confused by all of this. I don't want to underplay the suffering of Gazans given the blockade, but isn't there a legitimacy in Israel wanting to secure its boaders against an entity such as Hamas? When I read their rhetoric, I fail to see much difference between the and the Nazis. They call for the destruction of all Israel and the indiscriminate murder of Jews (regardless of citizenship). They also terrorize their own people. You know of all this of course. But I would have thought that it would make Israel's reactions at least a little more understandable.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Skye said...

Dear Mr. Sumpter: I think the issues between the Palestinians are confusing for those who have not studied the history of the country and do not have a basic understanding of the political uprising which have occurred since 1948 and the Balfour agreement in Palestine/Israel.

I do not want to give you a lecture here but I would suggest that "borders" is a significant issue here. If you look at the encroachment of Israel past it's originally intended borders - there is much to be learned - not to mention what the Israeli/Zionists have done to Southern Lebanon.

Considering what the heritage of the Jews is related to WWII, I find much of their behavior knee jerk, abusive and reprehensible in the supposed defense of "their" nation. During the first Intifada they shot rubber bullets into the heads of Palestinian children - insuring brain damage, blocked ambulances entry and exit so that people died unnecessarily and on and on.

If you haven't been to the country; and are sincerely interested, I would suggest you go. Do not go to Tel Aviv but into the West Bank, Gaza, old Jerusalem - you will be amazed at what you learn and see. There is nothing like being "in country" to adjust one's perspective.

Sincerely,

Skye

5:43 PM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Skye,

thanks for responding (you can call me Phil). I may know more than you assume, but I'll leave that open for now.

I'm worried that debating this issue will leave Laila's comments mired in arguments that have no doubt been repeatedly fired back and forth on her blog. I'll try and stick to key points that interest me.

- Concerning encroachment on boarders. I agree that Israel doesn't have a clean track record. The building of the wall within Palestinian territory is one example (regardless of the wall's actually validity or not). However, were not the "orignal plans" which were granted Israel by democratic vote negated when the Arab nations, which had participated in the vote, attacked them? The invasion was illegal and they lost. They therefore lost territory. That happens in war. Israel's extended boarders, therefore, were not colonial, they were defensive. They have also shown willingness to compromise, e.g. the complete pull-out from Gaza.

- Concerning Lebanon. Again, it was a response to an invasion (as all wars, apart from the pre-emptive one - I forget which; hence the name IDF), this time by Hezbollah. The occupation was security. If you are referring to Sabra and Shatilla, I agree that that was a travesty. But then we should at least be fair and talk about what the "Israelis/Lebanese" did to the Palestinians. Brutality belongs to both sides of the boarder.

- I actually find the Jews oversensitivity understandible in the light of WWII. I personally find it shocking that after the Holocaust and a history of pogroms, the Arab nations could simply attempt the same thing again. Again, Hamas, as far as I can see, have an ideology that doesn't differ much in substance to that which Hitler preached (see these videos. It's hardly surprising the Jews have a persecution complex.

I've been to the country twice ('98 and 2007), on both sides of the boarder, though admittedly I've spent more time in Israel.

Anyway, that's how I see things for now. I'm happy to change my mind.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Anne Vis said...

Keep it up, Laila, I can't wait till the day I wake up and find that Palestine is FREE!

7:42 AM  
Blogger Dan Phiffer said...

Phil,

I'm curious where you would draw the line? You seem to be implicitly endorsing Israel's use of military drones and total control over what goods cross the border. Your comments have focused on other topics instead of those from the original post.

Further, the comments are supposed to be mired in argument, as long as one remains "courteous, fresh, engaged, informative and to the point." (Quoting from the text just above where I'm typing.)

5:36 PM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Dan,

thanks for responding.

On my reading the post was primarily about the boarders, hence the quote in bold.

I wasn't endorcing everything Israel is doing concerning the boarders - just saying that given the circumstances (i.e. a Hamas-led government, though the PA has only recently recognized Israel's right to exist) I'm not sure what I would do. What would you do?

I recognized that I'm a fairly ignorant outsider. Perhaps I need to differentiate more: blocking entrance and exit is, perhaps, for the time being, understandable ... Mass punishing the population by denying access of basic provisions is probably not very wise (or humane, but then they did elect a Nazi regime. Were the German's innocent? Should the Western world have taken a different tack with Saddam, South Africa, and Zimbabwe?).

I recognize that the questions I'm posing and thoughts I'm haveing can easily inflame emotions. It's an emotive subject. But there we are. I just want to understand.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Phil,

No Palestinians got to vote on the "original plans" (or even got a say in drawing up the "original plans") -- how democratic is that given that they were 66% of the population of Palestine at the time? If the borders were decided democratically in 1947 Israel would be much smaller than the "original plans" and very much smaller than it is now.

Countries have the sovereign right to attack each other and take territory off each other.

During WW II the USA (and its allies) decided given the destructive power of modern armies that having this right would lead to more wars. So the US came up with the idea of a voluntary club of nations who would give up this sovereign right to acquire territory through war as they joined.

The club is called the UN and Israel joined in 1949 (too late for the 47/8 war but in time for the 67 war). UN charter does not have a loop hole to allow a country to take territory by claiming the war was defensive.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ian, I hope that at the end of this I will have a better understanding of what is going on.

- re: Palestinians voting on original plans. The Arab nations voted, not the Palestinians. The Palestinians couldn't vote because they did not exist as a nation with a political representative. As far as I understand it, they would have called them selves something like Greater Syrian Arabs. According to Said Aburish, it was Arafat who invented the term and made it into a political agenda. Please don't confuse me with saying that there were no Palestinians, it's just that given the political exigencies on the ground there wasn't such an entity politically.

By participating in the vote, the Arab nations were recognising the legitimacy of the vote and thus making themselves willing to submit to the conclusions. That is democracy. It entails self-discipline and and willingness to go along with the majority opinion, regardless of how much it hurts. The Arabs lost, and so the invaded. Regardless of whether it is the right of sovereign nations to invade other sovereign nations (as you put), these sovereign nations had ostensibley submitted themselves to the processes of international politics. The invasion is at least hypocritical. And if a country invades another country, when they lose they have to live with the consequences. The Arabs lost. In fact, they should take the responsibility for the Palestinians whose lives were further disrupted by their invasion. Of course they don't, preferring to keep them in refugee camps as pawns for their own politcal agenda (or so I've been told), which are hardly more moral than Israel's (e.g. Sadad's acts of genocide).

You said: UN charter does not have a loop hole to allow a country to take territory by claiming the war was defensive.

Does it say anything about such a situation? (I note you wrote "claiming," in think this case is fairly clear). The Syrians regularly fired rockets from the Golan into the Galilee. When they went a step further and invaded, it's hardly surprising that Israel insist that the Syrians not be allowed to sit there again. Espeically as Syria still denies Israel's right to exists.

I'm sure I'm being overly simplisitic so please do correct me. I also don't wish to underplay Palestinian suffering, which is real and unjust. When I was in Bethlehem last it was palpable. But it is always the innocent who suffer as a result of the machinations of great powers. I'm just trying to get a better grasp of these greater machinations. Demonization doesn't help anyone.

(thank you Laila for putting up with me!)

1:27 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Phil,

I think we have different ideas about democracy. I see it as the people being affected by a decision being party to making the decision.

Regardless of whether the people living in Palestine (both Jews and Palestinians) existed as a nation or not, it would have been perfectly practical for the British or the UN to have involved them in coming up with a plan and then voting on it. I see the decision to make the decision elsewhere as anti-democratic.

Can you point to any UN resolution on the Israeli Palestinian conflict that supports your position The Arabs lost. In fact, they should take the responsibility for the Palestinians ? Or is this just your opinion?



If you are talking about the 1967 war it was started by an Israeli pre-emptive attack on Egypt, and Israel was on the offensive the entire 6 days. It was preceded by aggressive moves by both sides including Israeli shelling of Syrian construction workers. All sorts of actions by both Israel and Arabs are not surprising but that hardly makes them correct.

As for the UN charter, article 51 allows limited self defence and article 2 protects territorial integrity. I hope this helps.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

Sorry that it's taken so long to get back to you.

I think we have the same ideas about democracy. I'm just saying that I'm not sure the conditions on the ground were capable of the kinds of political proccesses you are talking about. You think otherwise. It's a historical question, so I'll have to look into it more. Thanks for the tip.

The point I made about Arabs losing the war was mine. It seems to make sense (harsh as it sounds). Is there an international law regulating how invading countries should come to terms with their losses? What does article 2 say about this?

Re: 1967: Again, my history is not would I'd like it to be. I seem to remember something about a pre-emptive strike. Given the situation it was hardly surprising. All their neighbours wanted to literally wipe them off the map. In the Yom Kippur war (a surprise attack in the middle of the Jew's most sacred holiday) there were more tanks lined up against Israel on the Golan than the Germans used to invade Poland. Or so I've heared. I personally think an Israeli strike against Iranian power plants would also be justified. They're practically inviting a strike, when they talk about whiping the Israeli's of the map. Again, I'm happy to be corrected or told I'm being too black and white.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Phil,

Its been a very long time, so I suspect you are no longer following this thread. But I'll answer a couple of points, if Laila is willing.

You ask what article 2 says about "how invading countries should come to terms with their losses?". Like I said before article 2 protects territorial integrity -- no loop holes. Perhaps you should read the UN charter, it is freely available on the web.

If you were talking about 1973 rather than 1967 then that is quite a different situation. Israel was occupying a chunk of Syria and a much larger chunk of Egypt. It is difficult to see Syria and Egypt's attack against an occupying country as illegitimate.

As for the old "wipe off the map" stuff. It is good to see you are honest about your opinions but I think you need to do some unbiased research, even Wikipeadia has blown the cover off that old chestnut.

6:06 AM  

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