What happened in the Med?
As the sun sets on the Middle East, many will be asking this question. And lots of people much more qualified than me will be trying to explain the strategic rational for Israel’s actions.
But, until they do, I must admit that I am baffled.
Normally, I think I understand what the Israeli government is doing. It seems to me that they have a fairly standard modus operandi. They steal a chunk of land, kill some people, and then agree to give back a little peace of land, and stop killing quite so many people if the Palestinians agree to compromise on what they want. They do things so outrageous so that they can continue to define the parameters of the debate, and in doing so have successfully exceptionalised our understanding of Middle Eastern politics.
So, when the Israel/Palestine boarders were drawn in 1968, Israel got the vast majority (nearly 80%) of the land. But they continue to shape the debate, by claiming more and more – both rhetorically, and physically. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, accepted the borders as they were. As this debate continues, the middle ground shifts – we begin to wonder how many settlements Israel should be allowed to keep, rather than asking how much of Israel should be given to the Palestinians – or, perhaps, whether the 68 borders should be maintained, or if we should seek a one state solution.
This is, essentially, standard bartering. You start by being completely unreasonable, and in doing so, you drag the debate in your direction. It is brutal. It is wrong. But it is standard realist politics, and I can see why people do it.
Israel are also the experts of propaganda warfare. They define the language we use to discuss the conflict. Their encroachments in the West Bank are ‘settlements’, despite being essentially the same as what the rest of the world calls a ‘military base’. So when they build new ones, no one cares enough to write sensationalist headlines. Palestinians fighting are ‘terrorists’. Israelis fighting are ‘soldiers’. This means that most deaths barely get noticed in the international news. If Palestinians don’t accept the right of Israel to exist, then they make a massive deal about this. No one is talking about those members of the Israeli government who refuse to accept the Palestinian right to exist.
So, while Israel’s use of white phosphorous on school children, regular murder of Palestinians, and theft of land and water are all criminal, there is a rational self interest I can understand: the latter two, they get away with, because they sound reasonable when framed as “fighting terrorists” and “Settlements”, and because they are so dull when compared with the chemical warfare of the former: “They may be killing people, but at least they’ve stopped burning children alive…”
Which is why today’s behaviour seems so odd. To burn so many bridges with Turkey – the second biggest military power in NATO – seems a strange thing to do. Though they weren’t exactly best friends, the two countries have collaborated in the past, and Turkey is (or was) certainly one of the closest associates Israel has(d) in the region. Similarly, killing peace activists isn’t much of a surprise from Israel. But lots on one day is pretty foolish, as people tend to notice that sort of thing, and even the closest allies struggle to justify it.
So, this leads me to wonder. Perhaps I’m missing something. But, maybe this wasn’t planned?
Imagine you are in the IDF. This means, most likely, that you are 18 or 19. In fact, I imagine these soldiers had a little more experience – probably 19 or 20. All of your military experience has been under right wing governments, probably in the West Bank.
Remembering back to my own brief trip to Palestine last year, it was the age, and brutality, of these soldiers which struck me the most: seeing 18 year old’s waving around an M15 in the West Bank, or, on a night out in Jerusalem, slinging them low round their bums like a pare of skaters jeans; meeting Palestinian students who had become accustomed to being siphoned off at check points to be used for torture practice. Watching them see me and my white friends, and flash us a flirtatious, conspiratorial smile before returning to grunting orders at the brown people. This generation of conscripts in Israel is, more than it’s predecessors, indoctrinated into violence, and racism. More than their predecessors, they have learnt to shoot first, and ask questions later.
And the only conclusion I can come to is that this is what happened in the Med last night. While these tactics may well make a brutal sort of sense when faced with Palestinians who can easily be explained away as terrorists, they are the last thing you want to do when faced with an international delegation including MPs from a strategic regional partner.
But a generation of soldiers who have never been trained to be subtle will struggle to switch procedure because of the nationality of the crowd they are facing.
So they shot the brown faced men and women who they found, scared and defensive on the decks of those boats.
Because that’s what happens when you train people to hate, fear, and kill.
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Just discovered this blog through Google, what a pleasant shock!. you said it my friend. Dont leave us hanging I want to hear more please. Thanks. terrific.
I’d be delighted if the British Army left Northern Ireland.
So, Adam, when the fuck are you and the British Army getting out of “Northern Ireland”?
Hypocritical British asshole.
Greetings Adam,i am agree with you about all what you say and that is really the truth… but the West politics can play with life of people in line with their low interests in economic interest and christian religion interest,two things that moves their world…and the third humanity,something that they learn from Islamic religion,but not in completely way bikes they mix that with their cold interests,and in contrary Islam Religion has pure Humanity in itself..and…the results from those their interests are catastrophic wars,were the innocents get killed and materialistic things(land,gold,knowledge etc.) get stolen.This in short terms explains ,what they doing, and man can see injustice in this world like Results of their direct actions,what explain lot about them who they are,what is their DNA,I know that the God,Allah, has put world power balances like this for now,and i don’t argue with him bikes he is almighty…
My only hope is in Change,(change of places) that will happen and i and you hopefully will be live and not get killed until then to see that Purity in near future,inshallah.
Well, Adrian, on those things we can agree – my comparison was that they both used violence, not that Arafat was ‘a Mandella’.
Adam, I dont know who you met, or what was said, or what languages you speak. When I have met people in various countries I was stuck by how similar they are, despite trivial differences about what they ate.
I dont think Arafat has much in common with Mandela though, one brought hope to his country the other despair.
You commend the peacefulness of Palestinains, and there I agree, its the leaders that are at fault, along of course with Israels leaders.
OK, I’ll be fair, I am sort of defending Arafat in some ways. My point is that he is obviously no deity.
I am not defending Arafat, but the peace deals he turned down didn’t ever allow a viable state – they took Palestinian land, they took the water supplies, and left him with a population without any real chance of survival.
Yes, a death is a death – and a hundred deaths are a hundred deaths. I agree that I’d rather Hamas and Fatah didn’t kill people, just like I wish Mandella hadn’t. But, to be honest, it is the peaceful reaction of the Palestinian people which astonishes me the most – when Britain was under threat of invasion, Churchill encouraged us to ‘fight them on the beaches’. Imagine if London were occupied by France, and Birmingham surrounded by it’s troops – how would people of Britain react? I hope that I would advocate peace, and I’m sure you would too, but we would be lonely voices indeed. This is exactly how the people of Palestine feel about the Israeli state. The contrast between the questioning of young academics in the West Bank and the indoctrination into young soldiers in Israel was what amazed me most when I visited. Of course, neither should be blamed or given credit for their upbringings, but the difference is remarkable.
Watching channel 4 news, it appears the IDF were armed with paint guns. I dont understand what that was about.
In the Past Fatah, under Arafat, turned down peace deals. I am not saying Israel is right in any of these cases, they are wrong, and I condem them. But they are not quite as you describe in your post.
“They steal a chunk of land, kill some people, and then agree to give back a little peace of land….” sounds like the USA and the indigenous.
“regular murder of Palestinians…” and the rockets fired into Israel? Lets not play a numbers game, a death is a death and all should be condemned.
a) yes, I agree that lots of countries have done terrible things in the past.
b) What have Fatah done that compares to the IDF? Sure, they’ve done bad things, but anything comparible? I just don’t think there is a comparison to be made between a Fatah which accepts the right of Israel to exist on 80% of the land they used to inhabit, and an Israeli Government which is trying to frive the Palestinian people into the desert. Hamas do have many unsavoury elements, but few compare to Leiberman in their violence.
c) provoked? sure, there is a cycle of violence, but yesterday, they killed more people than have been killed by Palestinians in many years combined.
d) as I say, I understand most of what they do in the context of rational realist international politics. That is the main point I am making – I normally get what they are doing. In this case, I don’t.
I think you go a bit too far with this. Many, actually most countries have dodgy pasts, doesnt really help to talk about them every time you mention them.
I condemn the actions of Israel, they over reacted, but at times they are provoked, Hamas and Fatah have very poor records also.
Why is Israel blamed for the blockade, and not Egypt? I am no expert, I dont know the answer myself.
Look at the history of Gibralter, the Falklands or just about anywhere else, you will see wars, land grabs, exploitation. As for phospherous, isnt that much like what ‘we’ did in Iraq? Depleted Uranium shells.