Monday, December 05, 2005

Palestine and the "War on Terror"

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I just watched a documentary where a journalist embedded with Hamas toured the Israel/Palestine borders with militants and their political figureheads. It painted a stark, terrifying picture of a brutal conflict that is spiraling further and further out of control.

One of the highlights was meeting an individual patrol militant, a young man in his early twenties who spoke emotively about the murder of members of his family:

Each and every night he kisses his mother goodbye because he might never see her again, a rather large, smiling woman who sheds a tear as she clutches her son tightly... and then, carrying his machine gun he ventures out onto a patrol carrying missiles and bombs. He loves his gun... with his gun he has protected civilian Palestinians, and helped "liberate" them in the Gaza Strip.

At one stage on the patrol, within a mile of the Israel border, three members of the Palestinian Authority emerge trying to discern whether the militants intend to launch missiles into Israel. Assured that it is a purely defensive mission, they leave laughing happily amongst each other. The Palestinian Authority members are outmanned, out gunned, and have absolutely no authority whatsoever. Neither do they have a political constituency.

The parallels between Hamas and the support the IRA retained in N.Ireland is profound. Election after election is being delayed by the Palestinian Authority because Hamas representatives are projected to win. Hamas is the only effective security force for Palestinian citizens… it provides social work, healthcare, and financial assistance for victims of Israeli bombing campaigns and other forms of persecution. Just like Catholics in N. Ireland had no other place to turn than the protection of the IRA, Palestinian civilians feel exactly the same way. At one point in the documentary a released Hamas prisoner returns to his town, greeted by thousands of celebrating men, women, and children.

The role of Hamas in Palestine is fundamentally informed, not by Islamofascism, or the hatred of the United States, but by their violent conflict with Israel, in which both sides bear some responsibility. The root cause of the terrorist threat we face in the west is not the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and it would be naive to reach that conclusion, but the catalyst, and political fuel for Islamic terrorism begins and ends in Palestine. That's where the infrastructure and political ideology justifying violence and homicide spreads from. The problem for peace and progress is that the leaders of Hamas are cynically capitalizing on the weakness of the Palestinian Authority. Why are we not funding this legitimate government properly? Why are we not providing them with everything they need to assert their authority?

N.Ireland proves that deep seated hatred informed by decades of conflict is irresolvable. Paisley and Adams detest each other as much today as they did in early 90's or 80's. But, via the political process, and the commitments to ceasefires and the laying down of arms, the circumstances that future generations will be born into will be different... a child in 2020 will not grow up with bombs and persecution. The deep seated hurt on both sides can only be healed within that context by future generations.

You cannot defeat Hamas. You cannot kill every Hamas terrorist. The more you kill, the more innocent people get hurt, and in the long run the more terrorists you create. You have to establish a functioning political process and show people that their grievances can be far more effectively expressed and resolved without the need to resort to violence. But, for this to be effective we have to think beyond moral absolutes, sacrifice absolute justice, and give people reason and security to lay down their arms.

Because, in this picture below, it is the weaponry and commitment to violence ... not the expression of faith… that we are at war with.

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Anonymous said...

Haven't seen such an uninformed idiot in a long time. Have to make sure I don't read your BS anymore.

Graham said...

Please feel free to enlighten me :).

I also find it interesting that it only took you thirty seconds to read my post, reach that conclusion, and write your own response, after arriving from blog explosion... according to my blog stats and all.

Anonymous said...

The parallels between Hamas and the support the IRA retained in N.Ireland is profound.

What about the support the IRA retained in places like New York which after all bank-rolled it for many years?

N.Ireland proves that deep seated hatred informed by decades of conflict is irresolvable. Paisley and Adams detest each other as much today as they did in early 90's or 80's.

I disagree. Recent events have shown that they don't dislike each other (they were having talks on a joint government leaving out the 'moderates' in the middle ground). What it does show is that even extremists are prepared to be pragmatic, but they will invoke the language and rhetoric of hatred if it suits their own purposes. It behoves the rest of us not to tolerate such language or behaviour and continue to force them to talk and build working relationships.

Anonymous said...

PS I am not the anonymous twit above.

Graham said...

Hey anon,

I was comparing the dynamics of how the IRA functioned with a large amount of support from the Catholic community in N. Ireland, and how Hamas does the same in Palestine. It's important I think for the peace process to move forward in Israel and Palestine to understand why the people in Palestine depend so heavily on these militant groups.

That doesn't preclude the fact that the IRA enjoyed a great deal of foreign support from the US, just like Hamas receives a lot of support from other Arab nations.

Your second paragraph is correct, and for the peace process in N. Ireland to work I'm not suggesting we should tolerate the unhelpful refrain of the likes of Paisley, however that wasn't the point I was making. What I was saying is that people need to grasp what a peace process actually amounts to... it doesn't equate to a perfect peace after a short period of negotiation... it doesn't equate to hostilities swiftly eroding... a peace process works by taking the small steps that remove the external catalysts that are applying pressure to the sectarian divide... changing the police force in N.Ireland from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to something that represents both communities for instance, working for ceasefires amongst paramilitary groups.

My point was that the test of the peace process is not what it amounts to today, but how differently a Catholic or Protestant child in N.Ireland will view his own life in 15 years time, or even longer... how will he perceive those his father's father despised? Without constant violence how will the nation's prejudices and divisions withstand the expanding opportunities for individuals from the growth and prosperity of the nation's economy?

Personally, I believe a peace process is about changing the divisive pressures fuelling conflict so future generations aren't defined so much by that conflict. The situation in Israel and Palestine might appear hopeless, but somehow the two states must learn to live beside each other in peace.

Thanks for your comment :).

Frummer????? said...

Until the Palestinians withdraw their claim that Israel does not have a right to exist, there's nothing to talk about.

There has to be at least a minimal amount of common ground.

The hatred of the West by Muslim countries is continently hung on the Palestine issue, when in truth they have always hated Christians (i.e. the West).

Graham said...

Ariel Sharon disagrees with you, and so do the majority of Israeli's if current projections are correct. It seems Likud under Netanyahu, who agree with your proposition, will get only around 15% of the vote, and Sharon's party Kadima will get around 40% with bi-partisan support from Shimon Perez, pushing for more reforms and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

What is ridiculous is that you presume to speak on behalf of those who have to live within the violence... those who recognize concessions of some sort need to occur, as seen recently in the Gaza Strip.

+ the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel's right to exist and yet we're not doing what we should to guarantee it's ability to compete with the appeal and authority of militant organizations. It's so easy to sit there and attack Palestinians for resorting to militant organizations, but we possess the power in the west to help augment the alternative... and we have to take responsibility for that for the sake of our own safety.

I totally agree with you about the broader conflict, but the terrorist infrastructure and commitment to violence is rooted in Palestine. That is why it needs to be dealt with. The conflict between Muslim countries and the west was not, on a fundamental level, as ubiquitously intense as you think. It has got out of control only in recent decades. It is the actions of theocrats, violently enforcing the rule of scripture desperately trying to preserve their power, and their view of how things should be, that are perpetuating that divide.

The reality, however, is that relations between Iran and the US, or Pakistan and Britain, on the ground aren't as bad as they are made out to be. There isn't that much hatred in most people's hearts, contrary to what many think IMO.

avereragebusinessman said...

Excellent post which bears reading and gives everyone food for thought; I am not sure as to the hate in peoples heart or from which it stems though and am not as familiar as I should be on matters of IRA or even fundamentalist Islamic base theology in regard to Israel.

This gives me food for thought and something to look into.
You are extremely articulate on a number of matters Graham if only everyone were half as interested in finding the root causes of all evil.

Graham said...

Thanks AB :).

I guess I was reaching a little far with that statement about hate not existing in most people's hearts... that's just what I believe about the human race generally.

Thanks for the kind words my friend :).

mensa b said...

Healing will definitely occur for those who consider the importance of how this will play out with respect to a long-term effect. The short term...well (sadly) they will only see temporary result..

There is a powerful way with which you present these thought provoking essays as combined with your imagery... Actually, requiring one to step out of their partisan skin, and "look"...
I enjoy reading your work, very much.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

"You cannot defeat Hamas. You cannot kill every Hamas terrorist. The more you kill, the more innocent people get hurt, and in the long run the more terrorists you create. You have to establish a functioning political process and show people that their grievances can be far more effectively expressed and resolved without the need to resort to violence"

My question is is it possible, given the basic theoplogy of those that perpetrate this violence, to effectively stymie this violence in any way even if one has a functioning political process to do so. I don't know. It seems to get more complicated as times goes on and that would be a simple answer or a simpler answeer if it worked.

The Commentator said...

Well-written (and argued) but I have to completely disagree on most points. Hamas is not, I would submit, how you paint them to be nor is the description of the roots of terrorism. Terrorism can be subdued if not defeated. Bernard Lewis is a good read for people interested in learning about the history of the Mid-East. Daniel Pipes, unfairly and ridiculously attacked by babbling leftists, is another. I agree with one post, Arabs do indeed want to 'throw Jews into the sea'. Here in Canada, a PhD who chairs the CAIR considers Jews over the age of 18 to be fair targets of terrorists. How this serves Arabs by justifying murder befuddles me. Until this notion is removed (Hamas supports it), expect Israel, far from perfect themselves, to continue considering itself under siege. The truth is that Arabs need to look in the mirror also. It does not begin with what we need to do, rather with how Arabs want to define their civil society, ill-served by decades of terrible and dishonorable governance, from within. What kind of leaderhip they want etc. I fear we are slowly being hoodwinked. I remain unconvinced about Hamas. My eyes and ears, however, remain open. At the end of the day they may offer social assistance but they are cold-blooded murderers. The mafia offered protection and other 'services' to newly arrived Italians too once upon a time. That didn't take away from the fact they were criminals.

Graham said...

Hey Commentator,

Don't mistake me, when I describe some of the things that Hamas do, it isn't to point to their humanitarian proclivities so much as to say, there's a reason why they're such an entrenched part of this conflict, and why they represent so many. Your comparison to the mafia has many similiarities. It's important to understand the way these organizations gain their support from these communities.

The problem is that pursuing a peace process is not a moral judgment about those involved. Moral absolutes are the most dangerous thing IMO in situations like this. Are Hamas a malevolent organization that sends its members, sometimes young men/women who know no better, to blow themselves up and kill Israeli innocent civilians? Yes. Without question.

By any estimation their violence represents evil. But, their violence is also inspired and informed by the circumstances of that conflict, and as I describe above, although maybe imprecisely, the only way to take violence out of the equation for the future is to change those circumstances that inspire it... it's to take brave steps like the Gaza withdrawals predicated upon ceasefires and so on and so on.

Then, like I said before, future generations might be defined by a different set of circumstances, and in Palestine kids can grow up with the dignity of an independent nation, the integrity of their borders, without violent skirmishes with Israeli soldiers, and indiscriminate bombing campaigns where they live. Also with basic humanitarian provisions, and an Authority in control devoted to the political process.

You may say it's all because Arabs just hate Jews and that's not going to change and the violence will remain, and I'll concede that this kind of vile sentiment is growing throughout the Arab world, but I would also ask you to look at N. Ireland where the religious hatred could not be more intense, and has justified many kinds of atrocities from both sides.

A political process works because it is more effective than war. Because a man/woman realizes via democracy, elections, arguments, and diplomacy, he can acquire what it is he seeks much more swiftly and expediently than what he seeks with weapons and murder. I think even Palestinians look at their children and think of so many that have died, watch their sons go out to patrols each night with machine guns on their shoulders and hope for a day when people can put down their guns.

It is not a hopeless situation. But, you cannot have a peace process without talking to these "cold blooded murderers."

I love this quote from JFK:

"Too many of us think (peace) is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings... World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever."

Fence said...

I don't believe a "war on terror" can ever defeat terrorism. All the violence does is create more violence. But at the same time I don't really see any alternative.

Engagement is a way forward, but the problem is that often opposing sides don't really want to engage.

You mentioned Northern Ireland as an example of the way forward, and while I'll agree that a lot there has changed for the better I do not think that either the republican or loyalist paramilitary organisations want to engage in "meaningful dialogue"

Just look at the attitude of Gerry Adams with regard to the On the Run amnesties.

I think it was the ordinary people of NI who gradually, slowly, changed their attitudes towards the "protectors of their communities" and forced the alteration in behaviour.

And that sort of change cannot be forced upon people.

Graham said...

Yeah you're right Fence. When they voted for the peace process by I think 70%, that was when a real message was sent to the politicians.

What gives me cause for optimism in Israel is that Sharon's move from the Likud party is projected to win widespread popular support in the upcoming elections...which might be a similar way for the people in Israel to send a similar type message to their politicians. Especially a certain Mr Netanyahu.

I may be wrong.