I was not surprised that my recent article which, in part, discussed Mahmoud Abbas’ assertion that Israel committed genocide in Gaza caused russell-tribunal-on-palestinesome controversy and discussion. Indeed, I was gratified by it.

This is an important question, one that goes well beyond the rhetorical issue and one that I did not delve nearly as deeply into as I probably should have in my piece. Richard Falk’s article in The Nation has now done that job for me. I don’t always agree with Falk, but in this case, I think he and the Tribunal got it exactly right. I see this even though I get the sense from this piece that the Tribunal, and possibly Falk as well, believe in their hearts that genocide was committed in Gaza, while I do not.

One point bears some stress. Falk points out that genocide is regarded as “the crime of crimes.” Some of the debate over the use of this word to describe not only the Gaza horror of 2014 but the occupation more broadly has centered on the legal definition of genocide. I maintain that Israel’s crimes do not reach that level. But beyond the legal semantic question is the very important colloquial understanding of that word.

When people hear “genocide” they think of the Nazis, Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge and the Armenians. These were all incidents where huge numbers and huge percentages of particular populations were exterminated. As Falk points out, the legal definition actually holds a higher standard, where intent to annihilate a particular group must be proven. But colloquially, the understanding most people have of genocide plainly doesn’t fit Gaza. That’s the biggest reason I disagree with the use of that word.

But there was also a demonstrably “genocidal atmosphere” in Israel over the summer, whether it be tweens proudly stating that killing Arabs is a good thing, to plans put forth by Knesset members to empty Gaza of Arabs to statements by another MK that all Palestinians are legitimate targets. That makes the accusation worth investigating. So does the fact that the attack happened in the context of an ongoing blockade of Gaza which left Gazans nowhere to flee to, either outside their borders or within the sardine-can-like Strip.

When the Tribunal did so, they came to this conclusion, as described by Falk: “Despite these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime itself. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and they purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. The tribunal convincingly documented the government’s goal of intensifying the regime of collective punishment, but there was no clear official expression of intent to commit genocide. The presence of genocidal behavior and language, even if used in government circles, is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its enormity, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.”

I think that’s right. You make your own decision, but I strongly urge us all to hold the accusation of “genocide” to the highest standard, because there is nothing worse.


The photo here, linked to the Ha’aretz article from which it comes, makes it as clear as you could want just how threatening the new Givat Hamatossettlement, Givat Hamatos is. It doesn’t threaten “peace”; it doesn’t “call into question Israel’s commitment to peace.” Few have any illusions anymore that Israel has any interest in peace.

What it does is to expand Israel’s presence into Jerusalem. That will bury the old formula for Jerusalem (according to the Clinton Parameters, Jerusalem would be divided according to the formula “what is Jewish is Israel’s, what is Arab is Palestine’s). That may not be a very big deal. But it extends Israel’s grip on the eastern part of the city and, as you can see fro the map, future settlements can easily be placed in strategic positions to surround Arab villages…much as settlements do in the rest of the West Bank.

The US reaction is completely shameful. It’s worse than the usual kowtowing or tongue-clucking. In this case, the US reaction makes it clear that the Obama Administration knows full well just how damaging Givat Hamatos is, and STILL will not do a thing to stop it, but will continue to obstruct other parties (chiefly the UNSC but also the EU) from acting.

 


After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stirred up some controversy by terming Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza a “war of genocide” Netanyahu_speechat the UN General Assembly last week, there was some speculation that the Israeli prime minister would come in breathing fire. But all Benjamin Netanyahu presented in his Monday address was the same old smoke.

Netanyahu was expected to rail against the Palestinian Authority leader, but he merely said he was “refuting” Abbas’ “lies” and instead focused on bringing his two favorite themes together: the Islamic State (IS) and Hamas are the same thing, and Iran is trying to fool the world with a moderate president while trying to acquiring a nuclear weapon. Read more at Lobelog


Reaction to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN General Assembly today was swift and sharp. One of the most incisive

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN general Assembly, 9/26/14

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN general Assembly, 9/26/14

Israeli columnists, Chemi Shalev of Ha’aretz, broke it down very well. He considered Abbas’ speech to be a welcome gift to the Israeli right. And I agree with him. But that’s not really the point.

Abbas has often used the UN podium as a way to be more direct and combative than he usually is regarding Israel, de-emphasizing the “partner for peace” charade and instead being more of an advocate for and leader of the Palestinian cause. But this time, he really turned up the heat. His reference to the attack on Gaza as “genocide” was calculated to play very well in Ramallah and Gaza City, and he willingly sacrificed the rest of the world’s approval. Continue Reading »


Once again, in his speech Wednesday at the United Nations, President Obama revealed the reduced importance of the Israeli-Palestinian

Obama speaking at last year's UNGA

Obama speaking at last year’s UNGA

conflict on his agenda. He also revealed just how out of touch his entire country is with respect to reality.

The Israel-Palestine conflict was the last specific global issue mentioned by Obama in his address to the UN General Assembly, and his wording was straight out of the playbook. It was also only mentioned briefly and without any hint that the United States would be taking any action at all on the issue. Read more at LobeLog.


I have discovered an article of mine from 20067258702972_d11e56b4ea_z still online. It is a review I wrote for the journal Global Understanding of William Quandt’s book, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab–Israeli Conflict since 1967. Despite being eight years old, it is striking how much of this piece remains relevant. It will also serve as a preview of some more current work I am doing. I hadn’t seen the piece since its initial publication, so I’m happy to share it with you here. I hope you find it as valuable as I do.


Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood continues on the diplomatic front with the opening of two sets of talks this week in Cairo. One set will have Egypt brokering discussions with Fatah and Hamas on the future of governance in the Gaza Strip, while the other will see Egyptian and Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives shuttling between Hamas and an Israeli delegation.

Although Egypt brokered the ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel that ended 50 days of rockets flying out of Gaza and Israel, which devastated the tiny strip, it cannot have escaped Hamas’ notice that Egypt has an agenda of its own—and it is shared with just about every other party involved. Read more at LobeLog.

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