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January 07, 2009


About 1300 years ago, Mohammed and his followers created, frequently at the point of a sword, Islamic or quasi-Islamic states in the entire Middle East, nearly half of Africa and much of Asia. Should these states now be required to reject Islam and Shari'a law and return governance of those countries to their pre-Islamic inhabitants?

About 400 years ago, European states, followed about 200 years later by the newly independent countries of the Americas, used great violence to confiscate the entire Western Hemisphere from its indigenous inhabitants. Should the U.S., Canada, Mexico and all the Central and South American countries now be required to give it all back to the Native Americans?

In 1848, the U.S. invaded Mexico, and, at the point of a gun, confiscated half of Mexico's territory. Should the U.S. now be required to give California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas back to Mexico?

About 120 years ago, the European countries divided up Sub-Saharan Africa and confiscated, often at the point of a gun, great swaths of land from its tribal occupants. Should the 48 governments who now run the states the European countries created be required to give it all back to those original tribal inhabitants?

Sixty years ago Jewish settlers used violence to confiscate what is now Israel from its Arab inhabitants. Should Israel now be required to give it back to those Arab inhabitants?

My point, in case you missed it, is that history happens. History is often cruel and violent and history is frequently unfair and unjust, but history happens.

As I've said already in this space, I roundly condemn Israel's occupation of the West Bank, its "no-return" policy, and its appallingly excessive use of force.

But it's time that the Arab states and the non-Arab Islamic states accept history, even if it is cruel and unjust. The fact is that Israel exists and is not going away. Jordan and Egypt have already accepted this fait accompli and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank appears inclined to do so.

We all hope for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the protracted state of war between Israel and its neighbors. But as long as it remains the policy of Hamas, Iran, and other countries that Israel has no right to exist, there can never be a negotiated settlement. How do you negotiate with countries whose stated policy is to completely eliminate you?

One thing about which I agree with Craig whole-heartedly: Israeli crimes are equal to the crimes of previous imperialists and colonialists.

Having lived in Hawaii for 12 years, I assure you that "local people" there do not accept the "right to exist" of the U.S. on territory that they see as belonging to them. That does not mean that they are threatening to kill all mainlanders or the Haoli's who live in Hawaii. They do want their own state, however, and I wish them well in that effort, just as I wish the Palestinians well.

Zionist/DP-elite propaganda aside, there have been several offers of acceptance of the right of Israelis to be free from attack by Arab states in return for the withdrawal of Israel to 1967 borders, all of which have been rejected by Israel. The "history" has been so fouled that few understand this. It's not hard to find the information if you care, however.

One thing that should be obvious even to the information-impaired: the longer the current slaughter and torture goes on, the less likely that a peaceful solution will be found. We are all complicit in this.

Quite the fatalist, Craig.

I would simply ask you, why study history if we're fated to repeat the mistakes of the past interminably?

And speaking of the past, the official launch of the Zionist state occurred a mere 60 years ago. You speak of it as a fait accompli. I believe the history of Palestine has yet to be written, which is why I don't sit on my hands bemoaning history's inevitable "cruelty".

Not fatalist, realist. And I said history was frequently, not inevitably, cruel.

Israel is an established state. It is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic relations with most of the world's countries. It's time you as well as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran accepted that.

And I'm still waiting for your condemnation of the Hamas leader's statement that the deliberate killing of Israeli children is legitimate.

Still waiting.

I'll gladly condemn Hamas for legitimizing the killing of children, just as I condemned Hassan Nasrallah for his criminally insane attacks on Israel in 2006.

But you simply can't put the crimes of Hamas and Hizbullah in the same category as the crimes of Israel. Hamas does not have an army, navy or air force. All it has are small arms and home-made rockets that are largely ineffective (if criminal). Israel has the most modern, well-equipped military machine in the region (courtesy our tax dollars), and is using it indiscriminately and irresponsibly in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Gazans are prisoners with nowhere to flee, and they are dying in large numbers by bomb, tank, hunger and lack of medical care.

Craig, I appreciate a "realist" point of view, but you've got to admit there's no military solution here, unless Israel intends to kill or expel every Palestinian in Gaza. Short of that, there's no way for Israel to "win" this war.

I suggest you read Juan Cole. Here's a good one to start with, which includes his take on the historical outcomes of this type of occupation:

Settler colonialism is unstable in the contemporary world because of the facilities subject populations have for mobilization and resistance. Conflict between colonizer and colonized has only ended in one of three ways: 1) The expulsion of the colonists, as in Algeria; 2) the integration of the colonists into a nation that includes the indigenous population, as happened in South Africa; or 3) the expulsion of the indigenous population, as with the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth-century United States.

Which path is Israel pursuing Gaza? Is there a fourth way you imagine this ending?

It's a fantasy that somehow we can bomb an occupied people into submission. It's never worked before, and it sure as hell isn't going to work now. That's realism.

Craig, apologies for getting ahead of myself and the topic at hand (Palestinian recognition of Israel). I shouldn't have conflated your perfectly reasonable call for this with support for Israel's attacks on Gaza.

The irony is that Israel has systematically crippled moderate Palestinian movements while empowering the radical Hamas. As far as realism goes, Israel seems to be in a perpetual state of denial, as evidenced by a continual settler movement in the West Bank, it's 2006 slaughter in Lebanon and its current massacre in Gaza, all of which continue to empower its enemies.

The two-state solution was arguably Israel's best bet. But they (along with the US) have pretty well destroyed that possibility now. A single state would be great for Palestinians (and the secular humanists among us), but would be the effective end of the state of Israel.

Israel is bombing itself into a corner and is increasingly its own biggest existential threat.

A single, binational state, like that in Belgium or (arguably) Canada should not be dismissed out of hand.

Israel may indeed have destroyed the possibility of a two-state solution, especially considering the reports of a renewed effort by "settlers" to re-colonize Gaza after the slaughter ends.

Those of us who are opposed to the U.S. becoming a Christian state should acknowledge that a failed Jewish state deserves to end and to be transformed into a democracy.


I've made it clear that I oppose terrorist targeting of civilians, especially children. Hamas saying that Jewish children are a legitimate target doesn't in any way change the reality on the ground --the IDF has been responsible for the deaths of far more Palestinian children than Hamas could ever dream of in its resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Fatah was once deemed a terrorist organization, too, dedicated to the elimination of the Zionist state. Now? Both Israel and the U.S. negotiate with Fatah.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Hamas is far more than a collection of murderous thugs. It cites a NY Times op-ed piece saying that Israel eventually will have to "...accept that Hamas is no fringe movement that can be rooted out and destroyed, but a central part of Palestinian society."

In other words, bombs need to be supplanted with talk.

Now, I'm waiting for you to acknowledge that war, even with so-called "smart" bombs, is an instrument of terror used by the powerful to pummel the weak into submission, with much more devastating effects than the actions of a few suicide bombers or a handful of homemade rockets.

Nice try, Terry, but your language still betrays your one-sidedness. If all war is an "instrument of terror," then Hamas's use of "suicide bombers and a handful or homemade rockets" is, according to your own definition, every bit as much an act of terror as Israel's use of "smart" bombs.

What seems to matter to you is numbers. Israel's acts of war kill more Palestinians than Hamas's acts of war kill Israelis, so, Israel, according to your worldview, is somehow more culpable -- somehow more of a terrorist. Never mind that, while both sides kill civilians, only Hamas, by its own admission, considers killing civilians legitimate.

I largely agree with Steve that Israel's actions have empowered its enemies. I would go even farther to say that Israel's actions have create its enemies. This is why I have, in this space, condemned Israel's actions, not just because of the casualties and sufferering they have caused, but because they are ultimately self-defeating.

But Hamas is hardly an innocent victim. You need to recognize that Hamas's actions are as much, if not more, a part of the problem as are those of Israel.

You wrote: "while both sides kill civilians, only Hamas, by its own admission, considers killing civilians legitimate."
What difference does it make? I am not defending Hamas, only saying that by all standards Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip have been terrorist. They have starved, mutilated, murdered civilians with impunity. The Red Cross and the UN had to leave because of Israel's actions. Israel claims that civilian deaths are accidental or worse yet, Hamas' fault. This justification is a pathological ideology, the classic defense of powerful despots.


If you read my comments carefully, you'll see that I'm not defending Israel any more than you are defending Hamas. All I've been asking for is a bit of balance. The message in this blog's posts has consistently been that Israel shoulders all the blame and Hamas none of the blame for what is occurring in Gaza. I simply disagree.

By the way, it does not further the dialogue to call Israel's actions "terrorist." Call them despicable, call them inexcusable, and I will agree. But there is an internationally accepted definition of terrorism -- the deliberate murder of civilians to further a political agenda -- which applies only to one side -- and it's not Israel.

Yes, both sides have engaged in actions that have killed civilians. But only one side considers the deliberate targeting of civilians, even children, legitimate. Intent matters.

If you are a parent holding your maimed or dead child, the ideology of the government that sent the missile makes little difference. That the "internationally accepted" definition of terrorism was sanctioned by world powers does nothing to convince me of your point of view. War is terror.


Only if you are a complete pacifist would you believe that "war is terror." Perhaps you are. But if you are not, do you think that U.S. participation in WWII was "terror?" How about the Revolutionary War, without which we would, arguably, still be a British colony? How about the many wars of independence that have since been fought by countries like Mexico or, say, Vietnam or Algeria to free themselves from European colonization? Were those "terror?"

Even if you are a pacifist, the fact is that wars occur with unfortunate regularity. Wishing they wouldn't does not change the fact that they do. War itself is not only not outlawed by the international community, but enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations -- to which almost all the world's countries belong -- is the right of self-defense. This is why the nations of the world -- not just the "world powers" -- some years ago agreed that wars should have rules - treatment of prisoners, for example, and, yes, the non-use of terror, which again, is the deliberate targeting of civilians.

The outlawing of terrorism and other such norms -- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention Against Genocide, etc. -- are norms to which virtually all countries -- not just "world powers" have agreed. Sure, these rules and conventions are more often honored in the breach than in the observance, but if you declare that some of these rules and conventions apply while others don't, you are contributing to world anarchy.

By the way, Anne and others, I forgot to include in my last comment that, if you believe that our Revolutionary War was "terror" and that, by definition, our first president was a terrorist, please take all the one-dollar bills out of your wallet and burn them.

I am going to respond with two quotes from Howard Zinn. When you believe that capitalism is working, that imperialist power is legitimate, that children are necessary collateral in war, that by simply calling violence by another name changes reality, then you can say that Israeli actions are not terrorist. I don't believe any of those things.
( Note that Zinn says "war in our time".)

"We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times."
- Howard Zinn

"Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called "realism." To be "realistic" in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth. It is as if we are all confined to a, b, c, or d in the multiple choice test, when we know there is another possible answer. American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak.
-Howard Zinn

"Take a minute and think of the mess the peace movement has created. First, the very name reflects the movement's shallowness. What good is a hypocritical, utterly out-of-touch and ineffective "peace movement," when beyond question ordinary people on this earth want justice before they want peace? The U.S. government and its ultra-close ally Israel actually want more unjust colonial wars and covert action to strengthen their own already unjust influence over a major part of the globe, in this case the Middle East.

Peace above all is for those who support the status quo, but if you're in that category you're in a small minority. So let's banish the peace movement and get a global justice movement going. Peace may be all right long-term, but if you're one of the angry billions on this earth constantly surrounded by a stench of injustice that smothers all hope, chances are that, in your mind, peace should follow justice, not precede it. Chances are, in fact, that you have no favorable thoughts of any type about U.S. peaceniks." (from:


Please do not put words in my mouth. I do believe capitalism is legitimate (as do the Chinese, the Vietnamese and virtually every other former [or still nomiminal] socialist country.) However, I never said "imperialism is legitimate" or that "children are necessary collateral in war."

More importantly, it would be helpful if you spoke your own mind and addressed my enquiries directly rather than quoting a man to whom virtually no one any longer pays attention.

As a reminder, my enquiries are:

1. Are you a pacifist, meaning that no war is ever legitimate, regardless of the circumstances?

If not,

2. Is self-defense legitimate? If nation A is attacked by Nation B, should Nation A simply surrender or does it have a right to defend itself?

3. Was the Hamas leader correct in saying that Israel's killing of Palestinian children makes Hamas's killing of Israeli children legitimate?

By the way, as Zinn was a soldier in WWII and, therefore, according to his own defintion, a terrorist, you should stop reading him.

No one pays attention to Howard Zinn any more?

I do. Perhaps more people should.

Zinn, by the way, questioned whether WWII was a good, or "just", war. Like most soldiers who experience battle, he came back with serious reservations about his participation.

Speaking of war, was the Revolutionary War truly necessary? Canada fought no revolution against its colonial masters and it turned out pretty well. Its got national health care for starters.

So does England.

The U.S. has committed war crimes in every "war" it has fought during my lifetime, and most of them have been committed against virtually defenseless people. The only way those people could have challenged the overwhelming military superiority of the U.S. would have been by committing what hypocrites call "terrorism" when they're committed by official enemies, but call "resistance" if they're committed by allies.

If I were a Palestinian, I would resist, by any means necessary.

As usual, Terry, your response concentrates on one of my throw-away lines rather than answering my questions and Anne has not answered at all.

By the way, Terry, it would apperar that you and Zinn are out of touch. You are for peace and against war, but the implication of the Zinn quote Anne provided is that he is for armed struggle by those who lack "justice," thus contradicting his simplisitic mantra that "war is terror."

The last paragraph was a throw-away. Ignore it and answer my questions.

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