A few weeks back I was delighted to open my email and see a reply that someone had sent me in regards to a previous post (which itself was a reply to Sam Harris) called Why I Do Criticize Israel – A Response to Sam Harris. After apologizing for the obscene amount of time it took to get around to sending the sender a reply, he gave me permission to quote his criticisms and address them on my blog (if you haven’t listened to my reply to Harris, it is below).
Thus, quoted below verbatim, are the criticism I shall be addressing:
A few points you neglected in your talk which I would like to comment on:
1) Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, so your expansionist claims in respect to Gaza, are incorrect. There is no occupation in Gaza. Gazans were given complete autonomy as to who their elected leaders would be. They chose Hamas.
2) Your stated claim that Hamas has a 40% approval rating is for economic reasons. (It has increased since the recent conflict) Hamas has used aid money to build tunnels instead of the welfare of it people. They have turned Gaza into a military camp instead of a thriving community. The tunnels into Israel are for offensive purposes only. Israel was justified in destroying them.
3) I agree with you on these points: I’m against the occupation, I condemn religious extremists on both sides and I’m against new appropriation of land for Israeli settlements. I believe a two-state solution to the conflict is necessary. I didn’t hear your opinion on what the resolution should be in your talk.
4) You claim that Israel’s aim, for prolonging the conflict, is to expand its territory. Actually, just the opposite is true. Israel has offered Palestinian leadership their own state several times as recently as 2001. Hamas will never accept a Palestinian state as long as there is a Jewish one. But, it even goes deeper than that. Not only do they not want a Jewish state, but they don’t want a Jewish /presence/ in the area. Harris is correct. There would be genocide on a monumental scale if the military power was reversed.
Thanks for reading,
I want to thank Dan for his comments, and my reply shall follow after the jump!
1) The first point that Dan makes is that Israel “withdrew” from Gaza back in ’05. While it is true that there was a formal withdrawal and then election in 2005, it is false to say that there have been no excursions. Following the Gaza Beach Blast of 2006 (which I have no special opinion on), escalations ramped up. Israel began shelling the area and killing “militants” throughout the month of June and that finally culminated in a hostage crisis and Israel’s “Operation Summer Rains” which included ground forces battles in Gaza in late 2006. Ignoring that, there was 2006 Lebanon War which was a full scale invasion and attack against Hezbollah (it may have been justified, I’m just pointing out the error in Dan’s statement). 2006 ended with multiple air strikes, continuous offensives, and massive shelling.
2010 was pretty peaceful I suppose.
2012 was an interesting year because not only was a conspiracy to settle (read as annex) a further 10% of the West Bank(!) revealed, but “Operation Pillar of Defense” commenced wherein over 1,000 targets in Gaza (including apartments) were subject to airstrike.
2013 was the buildup to the invasion that occurred earlier this year which, I doubt I need to remind many people of. (In case I do, it was a 50 day long siege where huge numbers of civilians were killed and others were displaced)
So yes, while it’s true that Israel did, technically, “withdraw” in 2005 – they stuck with that as much as your abusive ex who says they’ll stop stalking you but still parks across the street stopped stalking you (in other words, they lied).
2) The second point that Dan makes is that Hamas has a higher approval rating than I stated and that they’ve been using aid money for offensive purposes and thus Israel is justified in its actions. Before I get into the nitty gritty, it’s important to mention that Israel may have been justified in destroying the tunnels, but that does not warrant the use of illegal chemical weapons nor does it warrant seemingly excessive aggression. Before the invasion of this year, the approval rating of Hamas was hovering around 40%, according to the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. After the invasion, however, Dan is correct – their approval rating is significantly higher because, justifiably so or not, the civilians of Gaza viewed Hamas as doing the best they could to protect them during the invasion. I do not, however, think that this is indicative of larger Palestinian attitudes, rather it is indicative of Israel violence causing a (predictable) negative reaction. Also, Israel doesn’t have the greatest track record of letting humanitarian aid into Gaza… (x) (x) (x).
3) Dan correctly says that “I didn’t hear your opinion on what the resolution should be in your talk” and that’s because I didn’t explicitly propose one. I didn’t propose a solution namely because I have no idea what an ideal solution would be. I do, however, know that Israel should stop expanding and committing human rights abuses or firing rockets into crowded areas. I do know that Israel should pull back and not force the Palestinians to live under the gun; but do I know what the ultimate solution would be? No. Off the top of my head I’m inclined to say a two-state solution with a reversion to 1947-48 boundaries, but honestly, I’m not sure. I’m still reading on the full history of Israel and Palestine and trying to decide where a Jewish homeland should be. So, as I did in my podcast, I will skirt the issue of how to actually solve the dispute and say that the status quo is not working.
4) This is where it gets a little more complex. The Israeli citizens might want peace, but the right wing government in power does not because it is militarism that fuels them. Militarism and conflict drives their approval ratings and their wider agenda for the Middle East – namely Israeli regional hegemony. While Israel has offered “proposals”, they have hardly been amenable to the Palestinian people considering that each time they’re proposed, they’re with different, wider Israeli, boundaries. What’s more, Israel, just like Hamas, will only accept a deal under their conditions and so any deals proposed by Palestine (see the bid in 2011) are shut down. To say that Israel is open to Palestinian state is simply false, especially considering Netanyahu is openly opposed to a two-state solution, much less any kind of Palestinian state. What’s more, the new Israeli settlements in the West Bank are doing nothing to help the cause of “peace”.
Dan says that “Hamas will never accept a Palestinian state as long as there is a Jewish one” however that isn’t strictly true; the 2011 bid indicates otherwise and the subsequent bids seem to reinforce this notion. But ignoring that, this creates a troubling conflation because it assumes that the Palestinian’s support Hamas during times of peace (which isn’t true – see above) and thus would always support their wishes. They might follow Hamas in times of great conflict (eg. this year), but that is hardly indicative of an overall trend by the civilian of Palestine.
Finally, Dan says that there would be a genocide if the military power were reversed but the awkward part is there is a genocide occurring right now…against the citizens of Palestine. I think the point at which Holocaust survivors say you’re committing genocide (they’re leveling these claims against the state that was created to protect them post-WWII, by the way), you’re doing something wrong. What’s more, Jewish writes in The Times of Israel have been quick to advocate genocide and are actually acting upon it. But let’s ignore that. Ignoring the current genocide that is occurring and ignoring the calls for genocide, what would happen if Hamas had power? Well that question simply doesn’t make sense because in a world where Hamas would have power, there wouldn’t be a Hamas because the citizens of Palestine wouldn’t approve of them. In times of peace, Hamas’ approval rating has dropped well below 50% which means that any hypothetical situation where Hamas might have extreme military power would simply never happen in real life because that would presuppose a period of peace before they acquired military power and during that period, if the Palestinians knew they could be free, Hamas would be kicked out. To reiterate, the question of what would Hamas do makes no sense because there would be no Hamas in that world.
On the contrary, however, we know what Israel will do with military power – all we need to do is look at the past few decades.
I thank you for your comments, Dan, and I thank everyone else for reading!