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August 2014

How The Assad Regime Benefited From Gassing Its Own People

 

Syria Chemical Weapons

REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Victims of the August 21st, 2013 chemical weapons attack

On August 21st, 2013, the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad committed one of the most shocking war crimes of the 21st century, gassing nearly 1,500 people to death in Ghouta, outside of Damascus. Assad’s regime, which faced pockets of significant rebel resistance throughout western Syria and inside the capital, soon faced the prospect of imminent U.S. military strikes: days after the Ghouta attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry all but promised swift retribution for the chemical massacre.

Screen Shot 2014 08 21 at 2.01.14 PM

Reuters

Map demarcating control of Syria on August 6, 2013 — two weeks before the Ghouta attack

But Assad’s criminality paid off. Today, regime forces are closing in on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and one of the secular revolutionaries’ last remaining strongholds. Assad warned as early as 2011 that his government was a bulwark against Islamist extremists threatening to unseat him; three years of killing have turned that false choice into a reality.Most importantly, Assad has a level of international respectability today that seemed unthinkable a year ago — and the Ghouta chemical weapons attack and its aftermath are part of the reason why.

Today, it’s clear that Assad gained from the attack, which proved that the international community wasn’t prepared to go after him even after a serious breach in international law, and that their only alternative was to adjust to the reality of his likely long-term survival.

Although the Ghouta attacks seemed to obligate U.S. action under President Barack Obama’s chemical weapons “red line,” there were early signs that Obama did not want to obligate himself to carrying out military strikes.

On August 31, Obama laid out the case that punishing Assad for his violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was a vital national interest — but then left the use of force to a Congressional vote without calling for an emergency session of the body, which was then in an August recess.

On September 9, Kerry suggested that Assad could simply give up his chemical weapons and join the CWC in order to resolve the crisis. This is exactly what ended up happening. With the oversight of Assad’s allies in Moscow — a government with its own patchy record of semi-compliance with the CWC — Assad eventually disposed of 1,200 tons of chemical agents without a single U.S. tomahwak missile being fired.

But there were still costs. Practically, the deal required formal cooperation between the U.S. and the Middle East’s most violent, destabilizing, and isolated regime. The deal had some immediate consequences on the ground as well. As journalist Michael Weiss noted in January of 2014, Assad waged a scorched-earth campaign in order to clear the Damascus-to-Homs highway for the delivery of the weapons for eventual disposal, using the dealas cover for an increasingly brutal campaign against his opponents.

And Assad didn’t get bombed by the most powerful military on earth, or suffer any punishment or loss in status for his criminality.

The consequences of a U.S. attack against Assad is now a matter of speculation. They might have acted as a much-needed force multiplier for the beleaguered Free Syrian Army, which was fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime and was in a much stronger position than it is currently. A blow to a leading Iranian ally like Assad might have forced Tehran to redouble its efforts on propping the regime in Damascus — leaving it less capable of pursuing its disastrous and meddlesome policies in neighboring Iraq.

Airstrikes would have precluded a chemical weapons deal that turned Russia and Assad into the U.S.’s de facto security partners. Without the deal, Assad would never have been congratulated for his good citizenship while bombing his opponents into submission while stillretaining the infrastructure needed to re-start chemical weapons production if the tide of the conflict ever turned.

Nearly all of Assad’s calculations have paid off over the past year. His regime has beat a tactical retreat to Syria’s urban and coastal northwest, home to most of the country’s critical infrastructure and population centers. Jihadist groups oversee the country’s gas and oil fieldsand ensure that the secular rebels — who Assad has always considered his real enemies — are squeezed from both east and west.

International legitimacy

And the chemical weapons deal removed the international community’s main point of contention with Assad’s government, namely his continued violation of the CWC — never mind that there’s credible evidence of regime violations as recently as this past May.

The deal — and the attack that precipitated it — gave Assad the freedom and global legitimacy to win his country’s civil war.

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Reuters

Map of control of Syria from July 3, 2014

A year after one of the ghastliest war crimes in recent decades, Assad is even looking at how to use the ISIS threat to win Western countries back to his side, and may even find willing partners in the U.S. foreign policy establishment.The cost of Assad’s strategy has been high: 9 million refugees, 180,000 dead, repeated uses of chemical weapons, and the creation of a war zone stretching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

But it’s working.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-assad-benefited-from-ghouta-2014-8#ixzz3B5odYP9R

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More Orientalist insinuations in the New York Times

Steven Erlanger, expert on the Orient

Orientalism is more cunning and subtle than just simple prejudice against Arabs and Muslims.  The other day, the New York Times offered another nice specimen of Orientalist technique. A “news analysis” by Steven Erlanger included the following paragraph:

“Unlike Fatah, Hamas claims the whole of the British mandate of Palestine as land granted by Allah, which cannot be ceded. In other words, Israel is illegitimate and its occupants should ‘go home.’ The most any senior Hamas official ever offered was a ‘hudna,’ a cease-fire, which the Prophet Muhammad offered enemies to restore his strength.”

There are several Orientalist gems packed into these short sentences. First, leaving “God” untranslated from the Arabic “Allah” is a standard exoticizing practice. Timesarticles about French- or Spanish-speaking people do not have them saying “Dieu” or “Dios.” And in Israel/Palestine itself, no Times reporter would be allowed to write, say, “Jews who have settled in the West Bank claim the whole of the British mandate of Palestine as land granted by Yahweh, which cannot be ceded.”

The sentence about a cease-fire reveals even more about Orientalist thinking. There are plenty of instances in world history of cease-fires, including in the recent Middle East, but our reporter is compelled to go back to the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century for his example. This is Orientalism 101. Muslims and Arabs have an unchangeable essence, a core way of being, which is revealed in their ancient texts and in their history.

Our reporter’s sly insinuation is obvious. Nearly 1300 years ago, the first Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad, offered his enemies a truce “to restore his strength.” Therefore, Hamas, who are also Muslims, are duplicitous by their very nature, and you cannot trust them. Just like Muhammad, once their strength is restored they will stab you in the back. (This classic Orientalist view is, probably unconsciously, reinforced by the photograph which accompanies the article, which shows a large group of Muslim men praying inside a damaged mosque in Gaza.)

Imagine if the Times applied this kind of “news analysis” to the Israeli government. What if the newspaper summarized a feature of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy, and then immediately compared it to one of the villainous characters in ancient Israel who we read about in the Torah?

Hamas and its policy toward Israel is of course a large and legitimate question. Fortunately, we have genuine scholars, like Professor Jerome Slater, who study reality today instead of using the 7th Century as their guide into the Muslim Mind. Professor Slater has written about Hamas and Israel at length; he argues, using one piece of specific, present-day evidence after another, that Hamas is ready to recognize Israel, perhaps grudgingly, but of course as part of a comprehensive settlement that will bring justice to Palestinians.  Professor Slater publishes in scholarly journals, and also makes his findings available to a wider public here. Maybe the next New York Times “news analysis” will include views like his, instead of more Orientalist insinuations?

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BBC HARDtalk – Dr Mads Gilbert – Doctor and Activist (18/8/14)

The Hamas/Israeli ceasefire in Gaza has allowed Palestinians time to assess the cost of the Israeli offensive both in human lives and damage to buildings and facilities. HARDtalk speaks to Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor just back from Gaza where he works as a volunteer at the main Al-Shifa Hospital. He is also an outspoken political activist on behalf of the Palestinian cause. Does this interfere with his work as a medic and humanitarian?

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Book Discussion on Old Wine, Broken Bottle

CLICK ON IMAGE

norman_finkelstein_suffolk

Norman Finkelstein, author of Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit’s Promised Land, talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provided a critique of the Israeli government’s actions. Mr. Finkelstein spoke at Red Emma’s Bookstore in Baltimore. close 

The Islamic State (Full Length)

 

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The Islamic State, a hardline Sunni jihadist group that formerly had ties to al Qaeda, has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group has announced its intention to reestablish the caliphate and has declared its leader, the shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the caliph.

The lightning advances the Islamic State made across Syria and Iraq in June shocked the world. But it’s not just the group’s military victories that have garnered attention — it’s also the pace with which its members have begun to carve out a viable state.

Flush with cash and US weapons seized during its advances in Iraq, the Islamic State’s expansion shows no sign of slowing down. In the first week of August alone, Islamic State fighters have taken over new areas in northern Iraq, encroaching on Kurdish territory and sending Christians and other minorities fleeing as reports of massacres emerged.

VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings. 

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From The Holocaust To The Massacre In Gaza Through Ben-Gurion Airport, by Miko Peled

The morning after “Lailat Al Qadr” the death toll in Gaza was approaching its first thousand. I spent the holy night of “Al Qadr,” (The night before the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan is a special night, believed to be the night when the Holy Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammad)  with friends in Ramallah, after participating in the 48K March for Gaza. The march began in Ramallah and went to Qalandia checkpoint. What began as a peaceful event with families with children and even babies in strollers, ended with young Palestinians with gunshot wounds being rushed in ambulances to the local hospital.

Qalandia crossing was fortified and air tight, and the Israeli soldiers stationed were shooting live ammunition at the crowd. As the ambulances were speeding through the crowd I couldn’t help wondering why there is no hospital between Qalandia and Ramallah, a good distance which includes the municipalities of Jerusalem, Al-Bire and Ramallah.

48K March, July 2014

The following night I was scheduled to leave Palestine to return to the US but Israeli forces sealed all the roads from Ramallah to Jerusalem for the night, and they were likely to be sealed the following day as well.  At the crack of dawn, when things quieted down, my friend Samer drove me to a checkpoint that he suspected would be open. It was open, albeit for Israelis only, and from there I made my way back to Jerusalem.

COOPERATION WITH THE AUTHORITIES

That evening, as I was preparing to leave for Ben-Gurion airport in Tel-Aviv, people around me were trying to calm me down. “Don’t aggravate them, cooperate and they will be nice,” “why go through all this unnecessary inconvenience?” They were talking about the “Smiling Gestapo,” Israeli security officers at Tel-Aviv airport that go by the squeaky clean name of “Airport Security Division.”

בודקת

(image taken off of Israel Airport Authority WEBSITE,  )

Listening to this I was reminded of Jewish communities under the Nazi regime who believed that if they cooperate and show they are good citizens then all will be well.  But the road from cooperation to the concentration camps and then the gas chambers was a direct one. The Nazis would not have been able to kill millions of people if it were not for the naive belief held by the victims, that if one would cooperate and lay low things will be ok.  The policies of racist discrimination and humiliation at Ben-Gurion airport, and the policies of ethnic cleansing and murder of Palestinians in Gaza, emanate from the same Zionist ideology. As we have seen over the past seven decades, cooperation and laying low do not make things ok.

It is often said that Hitler was a monster. But hitler was not a monster, and any child will tell you that there are no such things as monsters. There are however many cruel people who get the support and cooperation of others in order to do unspeakable things.  Hitler was not unique, the list of vicious, murderous men and women who as leaders of nations committed unspeakable crimes is too long to recount. But none of them could have done it without the cooperation of the victims and society in general.

Cooperation with the Israeli authorities might lead to short term relief but it also validates Israel’s right to terrorize and humiliate Palestinians with our consent, “we” being all people of conscience.  Whether we are Palestinian or not, the call of the hour is non-cooperation and resistance against the injustice.

HAMAS IS NOT THE PROBLEM 

Today people lay the blame for the violence in Gaza on Hamas, but Israel did not start its assaults on the Gaza Strip when Hamas was established in the late 1980’s. Israel began attacking Gaza when the Gaza Strip was established and populated with refugees in the early 1950’s.  Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, are not faced with an option to resist and be killed or live in peace. They are presented with the options of being killed standing up and fighting or being killed sleeping in their beds.

Gaza is being punished because Gaza is a constant reminder to Israel and the world of the original sin of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of a so-called Jewish state.  Even though Palestinian resistance has never presented a military threat to Israel, it has always been portrayed as an existential threat to Israel. Moshe Dayan, the famed Israeli general with the eyepatch described this in a speech in April 1956. He spoke in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli settlement on the border of the Gaza strip where Israeli tanks park each time there is a ground invasion of Gaza.

Dayan giving the eulogy at Nahal Oz settlement, April, 1956

“Beyond this border exists an ocean of hatred and a deep desire for vengeance,” Dayan said then. Ironically, when six months later Israel had occupied Gaza and my father was appointed its military governor he said he saw “no hatred or desire for vengeance but a people eager to live and work together for a better future.”

Still, today, Israeli commanders and politicians say pretty much the same: Israel is destined to live by the sword and must strike Gaza whenever possible.  Never mind the fact that Palestinians have never posed a military challenge, much less a threat to Israel. After all, Palestinians have never possessed as much as a tank, a war ship or a fighter jet, not to say a regular army.

A THREAT TO ISRAEL’S LEGITIMACY 

So why the fear? Why the constant, six-decade-long campaign against Gaza? Because Palestinians in Gaza, more so than anywhere else, pose a threat to Israel’s legitimacy.

Israel is an illegitimate creation, born of the unholy union between racism and colonialism, and the refugees who make up the majority of the population in the Gaza Strip are a constant reminder of this.  They are a reminder of the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which Israel was established. The poverty, lack of resources and lack of freedom stand in stark contrast to the abundance, freedom and power that exist in Israel and that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.

Alshati refugee camp, Gaza

Back at Ben-Gurion airport that night, I was told that if I cooperate and plead with the shift supervisor it would make the security screening go faster. When I declined this generous offer I was told they “did not like my attitude” and they proceeded to paste a sticker with the same bar code on my luggage and give me the same treatment Palestinians receive.

“NEVER AGAIN?”

As I write these words, the number of innocents murdered by Israel in Gaza has risen beyond two thousand. Ending the insufferable, brutal and racist regime that was created by the Zionists in Palestine is the call of our time. Criticizing Palestinian resistance is unconscionable. Israel must be subjected to boycott, divestment and sanctions. Israeli diplomats must be sent home in shame. Israeli leaders, and Israeli commanders traveling abroad must fear prosecution. And these measures are to be combined with disobedience, non-cooperation and uncompromising resistance.  This and only this will show mothers, fathers and children in Gaza that the world cares and that “Never Again” is  more than an empty promise.

Never again?

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Sayed Kashua: why I have to leave Israel

 Sayed Kashua in Jerusalem. ‘I wanted to tell the Israelis a story, the Palestinian story. Surely when they read it they will understand.’ Photograph: Ziv Koren/Polaris /eyevine

Sayed Kashua in Jerusalem. ‘I wanted to tell the Israelis a story, the Palestinian story. Surely when they read it they will understand.’ Photograph: Ziv Koren/Polaris /eyevine

 

 

The Arab-Israeli author moved to Jerusalem as a child and has devoted his life to telling Israelis the Palestinian story. But last week he decided to emigrate with his family to the US

 

Quite soon I am going away from here. In a few days we’ll be leaving Jerusalem, leaving the country. Yesterday we bought little suitcases for the kids. No need to take a lot of clothes, we’ll leave our winter clothes; in any event they won’t be warm enough given the cold of southern Illinois, USA. We’ll just need a few things until we get settled. Perhaps the kids should take some books, two or three in Arabic, and another few in Hebrew, so they don’t forget the languages. But I’m already not sure what I want my kids to remember of this place, so beloved and so cursed.

The original plan was to leave in a month for a year’s sabbatical. But last week I understood that I can’t stay here any longer, and I asked the travel agent to get us out of here as fast as possible, “and please make them one-way tickets”. In a few days we’ll land in Chicago, and I don’t even know where we’ll be for the first month, but we’ll figure it out.

I have three children, a daughter who is already 14 years old, and two sons, aged nine and three. We live in West Jerusalem. We are the only Arab family living in our neighbourhood, to which we moved six years ago. “You can choose two toys,” we said this week in Hebrew to our little boy who stood in his room gazing at boxes of his toys, and he started to cry despite our promises that we will buy him anything he wants when we get there.

I also have to decide what to take. I can choose only two books, I said to myself standing in front of shelves of books in my study. Other than a book of poetry by Mahmoud Darwish and another story collection by Jubran Khalil, all of my books are in Hebrew. Since the age of 14 I have barely read a book in Arabic.

When I was 14 I saw a library for the first time. Twenty-five years ago my maths teacher in the village of Tira, where I was born, came to my parents’ home and told them that next year the Jews would be opening a school for gifted students in Jerusalem. He said to my father that he thought I should apply. “It will be better for him there,” I remember the teacher telling my parents. I got in, and when I was the age of my daughter I left my home to go to a Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem. It was so difficult, almost cruel. I cried when my father hugged me and left me at the entrance of the grand new school, nothing like I had ever seen in Tira.

I once wrote that the first week in Jerusalem was the hardest week of my life. I was different, other; my clothes were different, as was my language. All of the classes were in Hebrew – science, bible, literature. I sat there not understanding one word. When I tried to speak everyone would laugh at me. I so much wanted to run back home, to my family, to the village and friends, to the Arabic language. I cried on the phone to my father that he should come and get me, and he said that only the beginnings are hard, that in a few months I would speak Hebrew better than they do.

I remember the first week, our literature teacher asked us to read The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger. It was the first novel I ever read. It took me several weeks to read it, and when I finished I understood two things that changed my life. The first was that I could read a book in Hebrew, and the second was the deep understanding that I loved books.

Very quickly my Hebrew became nearly perfect. The boarding school library only had books in Hebrew, so I began to read Israeli authors. I read Agnon, Meir Shalev, Amos Oz and I started to read about Zionism, about Judaism and the building of the homeland.

During these years I also began to understand my own story, and without planning to do so I began to write about Arabs who live in an Israeli boarding school, in the western city, in a Jewish country. I began to write, believing that all I had to do to change things would be to write the other side, to tell the stories that I heard from my grandmother. To write how my grandfather was killed in the battle over Tira in 1948, how my grandmother lost all of our land, how she raised my father while she supported them as a fruit picker paid by the Jews.

I wanted to tell, in Hebrew, about my father who sat in jail for long years, with no trial, for his political ideas. I wanted to tell the Israelis a story, the Palestinian story. Surely when they read it they will understand, when they read it they will change, all I have to do is write and the Occupation will end. I just have to be a good writer and I will free my people from the ghettos they live in, tell good stories in Hebrew and I will be safe, another book, another movie, another newspaper column and another script for television and my children will have a better future. Thanks to my stories one day we will turn into equal citizens, almost like the Jews.

Twenty-five years of writing in Hebrew, and nothing has changed. Twenty-five years clutching at the hope, believing it is not possible that people can be so blind. Twenty-five years during which I had few reasons to be optimistic but continued to believe that one day this place in which both Jews and Arabs live together would be the one story where the story of the other is not denied. That one day the Israelis would stop denying the Nakba, the Occupation, and the suffering of the Palestinian people. That one day the Palestinians would be willing to forgive and together we would build a place that was worth living in.

Twenty-five years that I am writing and knowing bitter criticism from both sides, but last week I gave up. Last week something inside of me broke. When Jewish youth parade through the city shouting “Death to the Arabs,” and attack Arabs only because they are Arabs, I understood that I had lost my little war.

I listened to the politicians and the media and I know that they are differentiating between blood and blood, between peoples. Those who have become the powers that be say expressly what most Israelis think, “We are a better people than the Arabs.” On panels that I participated in, it was said that Jews are a superior people, more entitled to life. I despair to know that an absolute majority in the country does not recognise the rights of an Arab to live.

After my last columns some readers beseeched that I be exiled to Gaza, threatened to break my legs, to kidnap my children. I live in Jerusalem, and I have some wonderful Jewish neighbours, and friends, but I still cannot take my children to day camps or to parks with their Jewish friends. My daughter protested furiously and said no one would know she is an Arab because of her perfect Hebrew but I would not listen. She shut herself in her room and wept.

Now I am standing in front of my bookshelves, Salinger in hand, the one I read 14 years ago. I don’t want to take any books, I decided, I have to concentrate on my new language. I know how hard it is, almost impossible, but I must find another language to write in, my children will have to find another language to live in.

“Don’t come in,” my daughter shouted angrily when I knocked on her door. I went in anyway. I sat down next to her on the bed and despite her back turned to me I knew she was listening. You hear, I said, before I repeated to her exactly the same sentence my father said to me 25 years ago. “Remember, whatever you do in life, for them you will always, but always, be an Arab. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” my daughter said, hugging me tightly. “Dad, I knew that a long time ago.”

“Quite soon we’ll be leaving here,” as I messed up her hair, just as she hates. “Meanwhile, read this,” I said and gave her The Catcher in the Rye.

Sayed Kashua is a Palestinian writer whose novels have been translated into 15 languages. The film Dancing Arabs, based on his first novel, opened the 2014 Jerusalem international film festival. His most recent novel, Exposure, was published by Chatto & Windus. Translated by Deborah Harris

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History Repeating Itself? U.S. Bombing Iraq While Jockeying to Oust Leader It Once Favored

Maliki
Maliki

 

Go to Gaza, see for yourself

 

Palestinians search destroyed cars in Rafah's district of Shawkah in the southern Gaza Strip. August 5, 2014. Photo by AP
Palestinians search destroyed cars in Rafah’s district of Shawkah in the southern Gaza Strip. August 5, 2014. Photo by AP

In the absence of hatred, one can understand the Palestinians. Without it, even some of Hamas’ demands might sound reasonable and justified.

By Gideon Levy | Aug. 10, 2014 | 6:28 AM |  1

 

Can we possibly conduct a discussion, however brief, that is not saturated with venomous hatred? Can we let go for a moment of the dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians and speak dispassionately of justice, leaving racism aside? It’s crucial that we give it a try.

In the absence of hatred, one can understand the Palestinians. Without it, even some of Hamas’ demands might sound reasonable and justified. Such a rational discourse would lead any decent person to clear-cut conclusions. Such a revolutionary dialogue might even advance the cause of peace, if one may still dare say such things. What are we facing? A people without rights that in 1948 was dispossessed of its land and its territory, in part by its own fault. In 1967 it was again stripped of its rights and lands. Ever since it has lived under conditions experienced by few nations. The West Bank is occupied and the Gaza Strip is besieged. This nation tries to resist, with its meager powers and with methods that are sometimes murderous, as every conquered nation throughout history, including Israel, has done. It has a right to resist, it must be said.

Let’s talk about Gaza. The Gaza strip is not a nest of murderers; it’s not even a nest of wasps. It is not home to incessant rampage and murder. Most of its children were not born to kill, nor do most of its mothers raise martyrs — what they want for their children is exactly what most Israeli mothers want for their own children. Its leaders are not so different from Israel’s, not in the extent of their corruption, their penchant for “luxury hotels” nor even in their allocating most of the budget to defense.

Gaza is a stricken enclave, a permanent disaster zone, from 1948 to 2014, and most of its inhabitants are third- and fourth-time refugees. Most of the people who revile and who destroy the Gaza Strip have never been there, certainly not as civilians. For eight years I have been prevented from going there; during the preceding 20 years I visited often. I liked the Gaza Strip, as much as one can like an afflicted region. I liked its people, if I may be permitted to make a generalization. There was a spirit of almost unimaginable determination, along with an admirable resignation to its woes.

In recent years Gaza has become a cage, a roofless prison surrounded by fences. Before that it was also bisected. Whether or not they are responsible for their situation, these are ill-fated people, a great many people and a great deal of misery.

Despairing of the Palestinian Authority, Gazans chose Hamas in a democratic election. It’s their right to err. Afterward, when the Palestine Liberation Organization refused to hand over the reins of power, Hamas took control by force.

Hamas is a national-religious movement. Anyone who champions hatred-free dialogue will notice that Hamas has changed. Anyone who manages to ignore all the adjectives that have been applied will also discern its reasonable aspirations, such as having a seaport and an airport. We must also listen to scholars who are free of hatred, such as Bar-Ilan University Mideast expert Prof. Menachem Klein, whose reading of Hamas goes against the conventional wisdom in Israel. In an interview to the business daily Calcalist last week, Klein said Hamas was founded not as a terror organization but rather as a social movement, and should be viewed as such even now. It has long since “betrayed” its charter, and conducts a lively political debate, but in the dialogue of hatred there is no one to hear it.

From the perspective of the dialogue of hate, Gaza and Hamas, Palestinians and Arabs, are all the same. They all live on the shore of the same sea, and share the single goal of throwing the Jews into it. A less primitive, less brainwashed discussion would lead to different conclusions. For example, that an internationally supervised port is a legitimate and reasonable goal; that lifting the blockade on the Strip would also serve Israel; that there is no other way to stop the violent resistance; that bringing Hamas into the peace process could result in a surprising change; that the Gaza strip is populated by human beings, who want to live as human beings.

But in Hebrew, “Gaza,” pronounced ‘Aza, is short for Azazel, which is associated with hell. Of the multitude of curses hurled at me these days from every street corner, “Go to hell/Gaza” is among the gentler ones. Sometimes I want to say in response, “I wish I could go to Gaza, in order to fulfill my journalistic mission.” And sometimes I even want to say: “I wish you could all go to Gaza. If only you knew what Gaza is, and what is really there.”

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