Am Johal

Is Israel any safer now?

In the narrative which has transpired following the escalation of events the past three weeks, Israel has continued to make the claim to its domestic audience that they would be safer as a result of the IDF military response. In a country which has mandatory military service, its citizens have largely supported the war effort. Except for a few demonstrations in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the broader public largely endorsed the actions of the Israeli government. Many in Israel were saying things like, “Hezbollah started this, now we will finish it. We have lived like this for too long.” 

What Exactly is an "Existential" Threat, Mr. Olmert?

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, by declaring the attack on Lebanon as an “existential” one, set forth a dangerous series of events which will only serve to do long-term damage to Israel. It was an overstep and overreaction which will have profound and deep consequences in the years to come. It will also bolster the case of churches, labour unions and human rights organizations which are calling for a divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel in an attempt to force the state to change its policies related to the occupation. “Existential” threats do not absolve Israel of the responsibility to comply with international law. 

What Are the Root Causes, Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice?

By superimposing the ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric, the US is continuing its bull-headed approach to foreign policy. Until Americans realize that their country is vehemently hated in this part of the world, and that only a fundamental shift in approach to the Middle East can alter this perception, its tainted role can only do more damage than good. Forget about imposing an outsider’s view of democracy - order, economic development and human rights would be sufficient in this region. The other changes must happen internally by the funding and development of civil society. 

From Haifa to Jerusalem: Thoughts While Getting Out of Missile Range

People were hiding in bomb shelters or trying to find a way out of town yesterday as Hezbollah rockets rained down on Haifa. I couldn’t sleep all night; every noise sounded like a rocket landing. They came in like pop flies and you could hear the thwapping as they landed in the distance. As I jumped in to the shower at 9:00, something hit hard in Haifa near the water. The sirens went off and the streets became deserted. Thursday nights hit had only engendered a kind of black comedy amongst the residents - this time it was real. 

Beautiful Madness

War and chess is what mathematicians and economists call a zero sum game. It is a game built on a model which requires one winner. The problem with developing international diplomatic policy on something as unforgiving as game theory means that civilian deaths become the de facto reality when the struggles of the ego cannot be averted by either side. Stopping this march to madness is a daily struggle of perseverence, patience and determination. Unfortunately, in this context, there are no ends, only means. And the game continues. It is war all the time. 

The Right to Live Without Fear

Lost in the discussion of peace processes, military raids, Qassam rocket fire and unilateralism carried out by the Israeli government for ‘security purposes,’ is the climate of fear that is the defining feature of Israeli and Palestinian life. It does more damage than anything else. The threat of coercion, of bureaucratic reprimand, the hold up of paperwork, the threat of home demolitions and a myriad of other policies force normal people in to silence even when their rights are violated. 

The Myth of Unilateralism and Convergence

What Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is attempting to pull off through unilateralism is historically unprecedented – to take a disputed territory and mark its own borders without taking in to account historical aspirations or negotiations. Convergence is a public relations term rather than something to be taken as seriously as diplomacy. It will more than likely perpetuate the vicious circle which has gone on since 1993 and could stoke the fires of a third intifada. 

Nationalism and its Discontents

There is a dangerous political vacuum emerging that could fuel further extremism within both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The Palestinians want movement on their demands and the Israelis do not want to make any further concessions. Sharon, in one of the ironies of the age, is barely fighting off the right wing. In a conflicted state, there is something called the ‘politics of time’ that is always present. There is nothing more dangerous than being static. 

Oil and Palestine: The New Cold War

Two significant events happened at the end of April - both of which carried more meaning than their literal interpretation. But they both had everything to do with the New Cold War and the reality of American hegemony. As Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, touched down in Israel on April 27th, he became the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories. In Ramallah, Putin was greeted with a cheering crowd as he became the first foreign head of state to visit Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas since the Palestinian elections earlier this year. 

What Will Be the Sharon Legacy?

As Israeli Arabs mark Land Day this week, Ariel Sharon’s government announced what everybody already knew since last summer. The Israeli government is going to expand the Ma’aleh Addumim settlement bloc in the West Bank by 3,500 housing units. With other development measures in place, it will effectively separate the West Bank and leave any open corridor under Israeli control as well as redraw the boundaries of Jerusalem. Other policies such as the construction of Israel’s West Bank Barrier will continue unabated.