Friday, June 15, 2007

Palestinian Civil War

Israel's Six Day War came to an end forty years ago last Sunday. It is significant that forty years later the details are still being disputed. The Wikipedia entry is "locked" because nearly half a century later arguments about the war remain unresolved. Here is the disclaimer:

This page is currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved.Protection is not an endorsement of the current version. Please discuss changes on the talk page or request unprotection. You may use {{editprotected}} on the talk page to ask for an administrator to make an edit for you. ...The neutrality of this article or section is disputed.

Today's Civil War among the Palestinians is part of the legacy of the Six-Day War. Understanding the current conflict means looking into history. And this is where most people start skipping paragraphs and say "Don't bore me with all these details, just get to the point."

I can't do that because I don't know what that point is. But as I do my homework I can toss out some ideas worth thinking about, some of which scare even me.

First off, here is a newsreel from 1967 that catches the spirit of the time.

At the time of the war I was on duty in Korea. Even at that distant outpost on the opposite side of the world the excitement of the moment was palpable. There was one Jewish private that was following the war reports daily with all the excitement of a World Series. One morning he came yelling into the barracks "Guns for the Jews! Sneakers for the Arabs!!"

Aside from the speed with which the IDF executed the war, the political and diplomatic aftermath has proved to be its most enduring legacy. On this fortieth anniversary here are three readings recommended by Dr. Leon Hadar, who's own piece will be released soon.

1. Henry Luarnes,"1967: a war of miscalculation and misjudgment" in Le Monde Diplomatique.

2. David Remnick, "The Seventh Day" in the New Yorker.

3. Havrey Morris, "And on the Sixth Day the World Changed" in The Financial Times.


That should keep the reader busy for a while. As you read, pay attention to anything that might relate to today's reports coming out of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. All three areas are places where displaced Palestinians have been living since the establishment of Israel, one between Israel and Egypt and the Sanai, one between Israel and Jordan, and one separating Lebanon and Syria from Israel. The geography alone is very telling.

Here is a snip from the Remnick piece in the New Yorker...


So profound was the Israeli national delirium in the days and weeks after the war that it was impossible for most Israelis to think straight about the long-term consequences of retaining conquered territory. After being told that the state was in mortal danger, Israel was now in possession of Biblical Israel—the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, all of Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron, and many other such sites scattered throughout the West Bank. Once the Old City was secured, on the third day of the war, Dayan, the most theatrical of all Israeli commanders, flew by helicopter to Jerusalem and staged his arrival in the manner of General Allenby, the British general who took Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917. “We have returned to the most holy of our places,” Dayan declared. “We have returned, never to part from them again.”


General Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the I.D.F., blew a shofar at the Western Wall and advised his commanding officer, Uzi Narkis, that now was the moment to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the mosque that sits on the Temple Mount. “Do this and you will go down in history,” Goren said. “Tomorrow might be too late.”


Narkis refused the lunatic suggestion and even threatened the rabbi with arrest. Nevertheless, the national poet, Natan Alterman, was accurate in declaring, “The people are drunk with joy.” A photograph of a weeping I.D.F. soldier at the Western Wall was published all over the world and seemed to embody the new conflation, for many Israelis, of the state and the sacred, the military and the messianic. The song “Jerusalem of Gold” displaced, for a time, the traditional anthem “Hatikvah.” In the daily Ma’ariv, the journalist Gabriel Tzifroni described the “liberation” of the capital in terms rarely used in traditional news reporting: “The Messiah came to Jerusalem yesterday—he was tired and gray, and he rode in on a tank.” When the fighting broke out, Ben-Gurion had written in his diary, “There was no need for this. I believe it is a grievous mistake.” But now Ben-Gurion was suggesting that the walls of the Old City be destroyed. Eshkol himself, posing the question of how Israel was going to rule a million Arabs, briefly considered a plan of transferring hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to Iraq and elsewhere.

Did you catch that? The Messiah riding into Jerusalem, tired and grey, riding on a tank?
Toward the end of the piece we find this...

The Israeli leadership could not conceive of itself as anything less than benign, and even persuaded itself that a subjugated Arab population would come to appreciate its overlords. “The situation between us,” Dayan creepily informed the Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, “is like the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and the young girl he has taken against her wishes. But when their children are born, they will see the man as their father and the woman as their mother. The initial act will mean nothing to them. You, the Palestinians, as a nation, do not want us today, but we will change your attitude by imposing our presence upon you.”

The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Forty years have passed and we still have a rape rather than a seduction. The difference, of course, is whether or not the bride says "yes" or "no." From all indications the answer is still an emphatic "NO!"

Coming round to the point of this post, we can see civil war in the "territories" as fallout from the Six-Day War of 1967. It seems to be a classic case of divide and conquer. It's no accident that Gaza and the West Bank are not on the same page. Or that Palestinians in Southern Lebanon are in a world of their own.

Most news reports I have seen focus on Gaza with little or no attempt to explain how the conflict there relates to the greater reality of events in the West Bank or Lebanon. I suspect this owes more to the limitations of television than any deliberate attempt to mislead. By limitations I mean more than the obvious appeal of visual images. We all know If it bleeds, it leads. A worse limitation is the impatience and disinterest of the viewing public. If it requires thinking, it's not profitable.

Here are a few links that might require thinking...

Rafah Today Pictures and commentary by a Palestinian photo-journalist

Proxy Wars Bill Noxid's "alternative" analysis bordering on the conspiratorial, whose views may not be popular but hang together pretty well.

UN’s Mid East Envoy Slams Isolation of Syria and UN Kowtowing to US.
Josh Landis links to this report via the Guardian which tries to make sense of why the UN envoy to the Middle East is running into so much trouble. I am reminded of the tensions that come steaming out of Washington whenever a special investigator tries to get information out of the White House.

There is an old saying that in the Middle East you can’t make war without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria. The first half is no longer valid, but I sense that the second remains true. For the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, keeping Syria at arm’s length is particularly galling. Those who advocate it seem to believe that it is possible to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian track while isolating Damascus. I know that that is the thinking; it has been made perfectly clear by the US Envoy, who reported to his Quartet colleagues that, in discussing the Arab initiative with the “Arab Quartet”, they put to them whether the Arabs would be prepared to reciprocate if Israel reached an agreement only with the Palestinians – as opposed to the comprehensive withdrawal from all occupied territory (including the Syrian Golan provided for in the Beirut agreement of 2002 as the requirement for gaining normalization with Arab countries). The Arab Quartet, we were told, had replied in the affirmative.

And finally, there is Gaza journalist Laila El-Haddad whose video reports from Gaza are excellent. She doesn't have the scope or depth of Yon or Totten, but the integrity of her reporting is every bit as good. She blogs at Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother. Yesterday's post, Underground Economy, tells how the tunnel network between Gaza and Egypt are a desperate economic response that has resulted from one of the most desperate situations imaginable. Children, because of their size, are a vital link in the chain.

If the reader follows no other link in this post, choose this one from among all the rest. June 5 the Canadian Broadcasting Corp aired a report that included footage and commentary from Laila El-Hadid that is makes the images of the video a gripping story.

Also, Laila El-Haddad reporting on Gaza violence is a YouTube link to more of her reporting.

So there you have it. That's all I drug up about the Palestinian Civil War. Most of it is what can be called alternative views, but that's why you're reading a weblog, isn't it? If you want the party line, then turn on Fox or CNN or one of the other popular news feeds.

Incidentally, I'm not the only one noticing the similarities between current events and those of forty years ago. Michael Totten's post title says it all...Feels Like 1967 Again.

Have a good day.

No comments: