“7 things to consider before choosing sides on the Middle-East conflict” – a reply

 

I read M. Rizvi’s post yesterday;  my first reaction was silent disapproval reading so many shortcuts and contradictions used in a post that tries to look impartial, but ends up very partially written. I later saw several of my friends and colleagues reposting the article, which made me want to give the following reply. I would like to apologize in advance for falling into sarcasm at times. I don’t, and never claimed to be an expert on the Palestinian situation, but with my limited knowledge of it, some shortcuts were just too much to read and answer to keeping a serious tone.

The introduction

The article is meant to approach why the world – here meaning non-Jews or non-Muslims- focuses on the Gaza assault (forgive me for not calling it a conflict). Yet, the introduction focuses mainly on how Jews and Arabs take side. I find this somehow confusing, and even misleading when the author implies that Muslims and Jews evenly support each of their side in the Palestinian-Israel case.

I personally know of many Jews, and even Israelis, who support the creation of an independent Palestinian State and are against the current strikes. I don’t know one single Muslim who believes Israel should expand its settlements in the West Bank, control Gaza and deny the right of Palestinians to have their own State.

The confusion is total when the author refers to the growing divide between Jewish (or pro) and Muslim (or pro) communities around the world as “tribal”. Is the author scared of using the world religious? Reading point 2 below, I’m not sure anymore.

  1. Why is everything so much worst when Jews are involved?

The author first seemed to complain about a “tribal” conflict –using religious arguments to justify so- then words his first question in an extremely biased, explicit and “tribal” manner.

A proper, neutral manner would have been “why is everything so much worst when Israel and Palestine are involved?” Or even, why not “when Jews and Muslims are both involved?” The author willingly decided to use a very different, and divisive wording. Objectivity, where were you lost?

Once the sub-title wording is swallowed, be ready to read surreal arguments in content. To resume them briefly:

  • Gaza made 700 Muslim deaths, Syria 180,000, Talibans tens of thousands, South Sudan same, so why focus more on Gaza?
  • Most pictures of dead kids displayed on social media are not from Gaza but from Syria
  • The author grew up in a Muslim country, so he knows what he’s talking about, and even if Palestinians had a State, Hamas would find something else to pick on
  • He last seems to justify the Human Rights violations by the anti-Semitism in the Region.

At this stage I would have to serve myself a few shots of whisky to be in the same state of mind as the author obviously was when he wrote his text. Point by point, in the same order:

  • It’s hard to understand under what reasoning, or right, M. Rizvi slices the Palestinian conflict down to the last Israeli offensive and its 700 deaths. Anyone above 5 years old knows that there has been at least one other wave of shelling before, in 2009. Anyone a little older further knows that the conflict has been ongoing, in phases, since 1949. In any case this matters little, as using the number of deaths as main indicator for required media attention is absurd and completely unrealistic. If it were the case, we would be watching nothing else but the DRCongo conflict in the news since 1996, 6 million deaths so far and still counting. A very tribal situation the author didn’t think to mention, carried away in his religious-divide reasoning and argumentation.
  • Hard to even spend time responding to such a general statement. Which pictures? Based on what sources is M. Rizvi founding his claim? Personally, most pictures I have seen come from NGOs working in Gaza, and who regularly make press releases on the situation. What’s the angle, Sir?
  • This is once more a generalizing / religious statement and angle M. Rizvi is taking. According to this reasoning, the world counts 2 billion experts[1] on Palestine who can come up with thousands of such absurd claims as “if Palestine existed”, and probably not one single solution to propose in the end. Nobody can know what would happen did Palestine exist, precisely as it never was allowed to! The author also seems to base his judgment on “history”, but Hamas exists only since 1987, in a conflict lasting since 1949. Again, I fail to understand M. Rizvi’s angle.
  • The last argument: There is a beast in the house, let’s feed it so it gets bigger. If the author took a minute to look at history, he would see that the support to Palestinians grew gradually as wars passed and HR violations repeated themselves. Even today, the so-called religious “unanimity” against Israel the author refers to does not exist. The positions of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mali towards Israel –and towards practically everything- are radically different ones, to name only those countries. Even if the author was right in saying the Muslim world at large evenly “hates” Israel, how is bombing Palestinians with IDF jets going to improve anything? With such biased, divisive and religious arguments, it seems to me the author is trying to ignite a fire he pretends to disapprove in his article.
  1. Why does everyone keep saying this is not a religious conflict?

I want to applaud the consistency from the author, who manages to contradict himself in the same article, not even halfway through. In his introduction, he condemns the religious (again, that he somehow manages to call tribal) approach to the conflict, and his second point is “Dude, this IS religious!!”. I mean, Dude…

For arguments on the content of his point, I would simply like to refer readers to real specialists, meaning the many Jews (and there are many, including in the practicing community) who make a clear distinction between Zionism and Judaism.

  1. Why would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

Ali, Ali… please allow me to call you Ali as you seriously ask the above question, and even dare to add “if they wanted to, they are very bad at it”. So, as I was saying, Ali, what planet do you come from? Do they not know war there? How nice and pretty it must be!

For us who don’t live in Lalaland, war means atrocities, a long rooted will of the attacker –any attacker- to control occupied populations by fear and demolition. Why would the Rwandan and Congolese troops rape civilians? Why would South Sudanese rebels burn down the houses of the villages they control, in their own region? Why does Israel bomb civilians? Simply because since as long as war existed, terror on civilian populations has been used as a warring mean.

This is precisely why, in 1949, one year only after Israel was created, the leaders of the world decided to ratify the Geneva Conventions. Today, Israel not only violates one of the oldest and most respected still enforced international treaty. It also directly attacks the foundations of this Convention, by claiming a legitimate right to launch these[2] attacks on areas populated by civilians indiscriminately.

I however would also like to mention that the accusation against Israel is not that they willingly target civilians to kill them. Without deforming them, the accusations are rather that Israel shells areas densely populated by civilians, and doesn’t care about it. The Geneva Conventions specifically forbid using military targets as justification for attacking populated areas, including (and I would say, particularly) if the opponent uses human shields. There is no interpretation to make of this, it’s forbidden, period.

  1. Does Hamas really use its own civilians as Human Shields?

Yes it does, should and is regularly condemned for this. But what does the author teach us in saying so? Nothing, other than clarifying the approach he uses: “Israel violates Human Rights, but rightfully so since Hamas does it first, so taking position is complicated”.

I beg to disagree with this angle. In point 3, M. Rivzi mentions his planet is a beautiful one with no wars, or if there are any, they are “clean”. Now he tells us that in his world, if someone robs him, he has the right to rob his neighbor? If someone kills his wife, he has the right to kill the mailman’s daughter? What a scary place that must be!

Last, while I strongly condemn the suicidal actions and strategy used by Hamas, legally speaking I have to mention they have less obligations than Israel, which is a fully recognized State and signatory of most HR/IHL instruments. Under no circumstance should a State lower its standards to the ones of non-State actors without facing international condemnation.

  1. Why are people asking Israel to end the “occupation” of Gaza?

In this chapter, the author manages to shortcut 10 years of extremely complex history in five lines, using a one sided approach. There is no way I can pretend to resume the Gaza recent history in such a short paragraph, and don’t intend to write tens of pages now/here. I would therefore like to simply ask the readers to take the two following steps:

  • Please ask yourself why, as stated by the author, Hamas would dig hundreds of tunnels if Gaza was free since 2009? Do Palestinians have a strong passion for tunnels? Is it to hide from the sun they dig tunnels instead of using open roads, as suggested?
  • Then take 15 minutes of your time to do a research on Gaza since 2009. You will see things are not as simple and one sided as the author suggests using his “tribal” (?) approach.
  1. Why are there so many more casualties in Gaza than in Israel

In this section, after taking a pill of crack, the author suggests that Palestine – sorry, it doesn’t exist, I meant Hamas- had as much means as Israel –or at least sufficient ones- to ensure its defense the same way brave Israeli engineers, scientists and government did. The only reason it didn’t happen? Because Palestinians are priority-deficient, and Israelis are priority-swell!

By doing a Google research on “Gaza blockade economic consequences”, maybe he would have realized the absurdity of this statement before posting it.

By chance, he could even have fallen on an article reminding that Israel’s missile defense system is largely funded by… American bilateral aid, and not the wealthy existing Israeli budget. Management lessons…

  1. If Hamas is so bad, why isn’t everyone pro-Israel in this conflict?

In this part, the author tries to justify his approach by launching a small “hey I’m neutral” in conclusion, criticizing the Israeli settlements. Nice try, after the 6 points mentioned above. I however sadly have to mention most settlements are in the West Bank, not in Gaza, and therefore have nothing to do with the Gaza assault, nor with the concerns of Hamas (which does not have control of the West Bank).

To conclude, I have to say that, while I did chose sides long ago on this conflict, I strongly remain on my convictions after reading the author’s points, with which I factually disagree.

World mobilization is not only an option, it’s a necessity at times like these, where the basics of international treaties, the Geneva Conventions, are openly baffled and questioned. Because those Conventions are not there only to protect Palestinians. They exist to protect every civilian in the world, including our own children if times of war strike us again.

[1] Rough and under-estimated number of Muslims around the world: 2.1 billion people

[2] Contrary to Sudanese, or Syrians, who violate the Conventions but deny doing so, throwing the blame on the other side. They don’t deny the validity of the Convention (which Israel does), they deny their acts.

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