One week of Israeli-Palestine conflict news from the source

Day 2

The Jerusalem Post

Today’s headline reads “Security cabinet directs IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] to respond to any Gaza aggression.” That doesn’t sound good. Next to it is a photo of guys in a quarry wearing ski masks jumping through a hoop of fire with the caption “PRC [don’t know] terrorists train in the central Gaza Strip.” The US wants Israel to ease the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli security cabinet is trying to figure out how to allow more goods to be traded without endangering Israelis.

The Gaza Strip is treated like a kind of rat’s nest: don’t let any of them out or they could bite you. Keep them stuffed in there and if any tries to bite you from inside, throw the poison down. According to the Post, a terrorist attack near the Karni crossing was foiled earlier this week. And the matter of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit could lead to a prisoner swap. Interesting that they refer to an Israeli prisoner by name but do not hint at the name of any Palestinians. Perhaps the Palestinians do not have names.

“[D]efense officials continue opposing bringing concrete and steel into the Gaza Strip, arguing that it would be used not only to reconstruct buildings, but also to construct arms smuggling tunnels and rebuild Hamas’ rocket building capacity.” So do not expect a lot of reconstruction in the material sense. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak maintains there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We cannot know from this article if he is right because it does not mention food. But the security cabinet, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu all reaffirmed their commitment to the security of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

A video of “Arafat’s ex-manager” reads “Israel and America killed Yasser Arafat”. Another video shows US Mideast envoy George Mitchell shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Related articles are titled “Some Islamic extremists respond positively to Obama’s speech,” “Hillary Clinton’s troubling transformation on Israel” and the one I read yesterday, “Why Obama is wrong on Israel and the Shoah.” It is possible that the Jerusalem Post is trying to systematically take apart the Barack administration’s stance on Israel and Palestine in order to legitimise Netanyahu’s government’s dissent from it.

One article quotes Ehud Barak at length on Arab-Israeli matters such as Barack’s speech in Cairo, the two-state solution and Iran’s nuclear development. It is rare that one sees a Canadian or American newspaper with such full quotes of their leaders. It is perhaps an effort not to take Mr Barak out of context. The same article shows a photo of him shaking hands playfully with a group of smiling seventh graders.

Today’s Must-Reads includes “Taking a stand on Iran”, about Canadian legislation called the Iran Accountability Act, holding Iran and apparently everywhere else accountable for genocide. The article says that, while all signatories to the 1948 Convention of the Prevention of Genocide have a responsibility to stop genocide when it happens, “they have largely ignored…the world’s greatest threat [Iran].” Apparently, Iran is the most likely country in the world to commit genocide.

One Op Ed piece recognises, for the first time as I have read this week, the ideological divisions within Israeli discourse regarding human rights and security concerns. The rest of the articles tend to leave the impression of consensus, and the consensus is of taking a hard line on the enemy. This one, by senior fellows at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank, says that the US could learn something about counterterrorism from Israel, and that the ideological differences between Dick Cheney’s “no middle ground” on terror attitude and President Barack’s constitutional approach parallels the debate in Israel today. Thank you, gentlemen, for showing there are both soft and hard views in Israel on security and not simply varying degrees of hawk.

The Palestine Chronicle

“Lebanon’s Election Results and the Age of Resistance”: An election observer named Franklin Lamb, who saw it all, describes at length first the peaceful prayer that took place after the election in Lebanon on Monday, and then the peaceful elections. From his description, they sound very much like elections I have worked for in Canada, except with soldiers. The losing coalition is described as “disappointed but civil”. Mr Lamb quotes a member of Michel Aoun (leader of the losing coalition)’s senior political bureau, two members of Hezbollah and no one from the winning group.

On an angrier note, Mr Lamb proceeds to say that the Barack administration is disappointed their side did not perform better in the election, that they violated Lebanese voting laws by campaigning for their favourites and felt contempt for Lebanon’s voters. With regard to the weapons of “the resistance” (Hezbollah), which was such a big issue in this election, Israel insists on decommissioning them, but political will in Lebanon to do anything about it is weak. In other words, don’t expect Hezbollah to give up its arms.

At the end of the article, Mr Lamb puts somewhat confusing rallying calls for the National Lebanese Resistance to “defend a Zionist-terrorised Lebanon, staking their lives on their basic belief in God and the independence and sovereignty for their country and the Liberation of Palestine…. As this era of Resistance to Zionism spreads around the World and intensifies here and abroad, every hour that Lebanon resists brings the region closer to justice and real peace.”

The Chronicle featured two interesting commentaries on the US government: “Obama Spoke to Muslims for Oil, not Humanity” and “Obama’s Outreach to Muslims: Same Old Policies”. They might as well have been the same article. One writer suggests Barack’s campaign slogan should have been “Continuity We Can Believe In”. Without a lot of analysis, he says Barack was using “soft power” (influence through carrots rather than sticks) and peripherally examines his choice of Egypt to give his speech as likely to be popular with Americans. He also disagrees with Barack’s statement that the image of the US as a self-interested empire is a stereotype. The writer finds it “difficult for those with knowledge of American foreign policy history to believe.”

As with yesterday’s Palestine Times (and all newspapers, really), there are some perfunctories attacks on the paper’s enemies. One is about a town of 170 Jewish families in Israel. The town has begun requiring its citizens to take an oath of loyalty to “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land”. The article called this “a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.” Really? It is veiled? I would call it an unveiled attempt to keep Arabs out. It was a move by the town council to put “Zionist values and Jewish heritage…at the heart of [the town’s] way of life. We don’t see this as racism in any way.” While I believe towns should have this right, it is clearly racist and highly reminiscent of the town of Herouxville, Quebec, that did something similar a few years ago. Nonetheless, does blasting a small town’s prejudiced choices really advance the Palestinian people’s cause?

I just realised that the Palestinian Chronicle is written largely by non-Muslims. The names of the contributors are most Anglo-Saxon or German (Jewish?)-sounding. Makes sense: get non-Muslims on your side to show that others agree with you, and even that the world is on your side. Its tagline reads “global voices for a better world”. Considering the nature of the articles, on the sinister US, terrorist Israel, and the plight of the Palestinians, it seems ironic to use a “better world” tagline and photo of olives, friendship and art to represent your cause. The paper is more about how they are making the world worse than how we can make the world better.


Being a newspaper more for English-speaking Jews around the world than Israelis alone, the leader of today’s Haaretz was that an 89-year-old (89!) white supremacist opened fire at a Holocaust museum in the United States. (When I return to the Jerusalem Post, its first article has been updated to the same news.) The second article was the same as the first of the Jerusalem Post, “Cabinet to IDF: Repond to any attack from Gaza”. This is clearly a big issue in Israel and it scares me to think of that “any” aggression from Palestinians in Gaza could mean a repeat of the war at the beginning of this year.

“US envoy: Obama won’t yield on settlement freeze”. This article says that Netanyahu has rejected the US demand, though it is an obligation under the Road Map to Peace. It also makes the first mention I have seen so far that George Mitchell, Barack’s Middle East envoy, was a a senator and the broker of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. This is the first article mentioning anyone from the US administration that makes an American seem human.

This item references Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying “Israel is acting to advance peace and security with the Palestinians and the Arab world,” and yet gave no details. Is this short statement meant to appease Israelis? To me at least, the lack of any details on this seemingly noteworthy act is suspicious. But perhaps I am in the minority, and Israelis reading it will nod their heads in understanding. The article gives more voice to Mr Mitchell and has him state clearly, “Let me be clear. These are not disagreements among adversaries. The United States and Israel are and will remain close allies and friends.” That’s pretty clear.

Writing on Ehud Barak’s speech to the Council for Peace and Security, comprising IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad veterans, one journalist says it was filled with the “staples: a little peace, an open hand extended to our neighbors, an existential threat or two.” He got a short interview with Mr Barak and protrays him as somewhat pessimistic. On one hand, his government is committed to the Road Map and the two-state solution; on the other, says Barak, “[t]he Road Map should be changed now that Hamas is in power.”

The Defense section had more words from Defense Minister Barak’s speech, tainted with the fear that American weapons to Lebanon’s army would end up in Hezbollah’s hands; and yet another on Barak and his comments foreshadowing more wars like Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January. I don’t like labeling people I do not know personally, but it could be fair to call Barak a hawk.

A lot more of the headlines are related to Jewish West Bank settlements, though some are about Jewish comedy, a Tel Aviv gay pride parade and Liberian warlord Charles Taylor’s conversion to Judaism. And most interesting to me, both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have side bars about Jews marrying non-Jews. Scandalous!