Quote(s) of the week 3 2009 – and more

19 Jan

So, after 22 days the news is Israeli ceasefire begins in Gaza. Better than not having a ceasefire, but that’s about all that can be said about it, 1,000 + people in Gaza not caring any more, because they are no longer on this troubled planet. What it has been like may only be guessed from this blog: Gaza Strip, the untold story by Sameh A. Habeeb: “A Photojournalist, Humanitarian & Peace Activist in Gaza Strip”. That is the source for my quote of the week, on the subject of Bush and Cheney, dated Saturday 17 January. I leave it as is. This entry was in fact written by Dr. Akram Habeeb, Sameh’s father, “Writing from the Occupied Gaza Strip.”

As a Gazzan who is not affiliated to any political party; yet much concerned about what is taking place in my hometown, I meticulously track every piece of news related to the ongoing horrendous carnage which is perpetrated by the Israelis against the innocent civilians in Gaza….

History will witness that these two men had not done any good for the good Americans who elected them. They have successfully denigrated the image of America and the Americans in the Arab and the Muslim worlds. We in Palestine and in the Muslim world believe that Bush’s legacy would be a real burden for his successor, president elect Obamma. However, we strongly believe that Obama’s administration would do its best to regain the prestigious image of American in the Arab and the Muslim worlds, we are full of hope that the new administration would play the role of the objective peace broker in the Middle East. Hopefully it would be very real and realistic vision different from Bush’s vision!

Partitions made in the late 1940s were none of them terribly happy. The other big one, in India, led to even more suffering and remains unresolved in areas like Kashmir and in the uneasy relations between India and Pakistan. There are in fact more Muslims still in India than in Pakistan. In Palestine the issue was complicated by 1) uncertainty about what Palestine actually is and 2) inevitable dispossession, ongoing.

Roman_Judea_map 1922 palestine_partition_detail_map1947



Top: left – Roman Palestine; middle – British Mandate 1922; right – proposed division 1947

Centre: Ottoman Palestine c.1914

Bottom: evolution of a dispossession. See also maps on Only the demons are dancing….

That is the longer back story in maps, but the realities are far more nuanced than most discussion of it at the moment. Much redrawing of maps happened with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, and more since. Not much of it reflected what was on the ground.

I have already referred to a number of sources in earlier entries. I would add, with the proviso that it is from a viewpoint, A Short History of Israel. (There are some in Israel – and I have heard this point of view – who will tell you there is a Palestinian homeland and it’s called Jordan.) See also NPR’s 2002 The Mideast: A Century of Conflict: A Seven-Part Series Traces the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute. Offset those with ‘MOCK DEBATE’ in Gaza: Conflict Resolution in the Middle east from September 2008, also by Sameh Habeeb. Whether or not you are any the wiser after those, you will be better informed, perhaps.

Don’t be fooled by my tone, by the way; I have found the whole thing sickening. But most of us have, surely.

Nonetheless, review Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century. It won’t cheer you up — it doesn’t include the 21st century, which has hardly been encouraging — but it does put the last three weeks in perspective. A horrible perspective, of course. Just to quote one:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-95): 175 000
    • Total
      • U.S. State Dept.: 250,000 (Bosnia and Herzegovina Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996 [])
      • 29 April 1999 AP: 250,000
      • Compton’s Encyclopedia: 200,000
      • 6 April 2002 Times [London]: 200,000, incl…
        • D. in siege of Sarajevo: 15,000
        • Massacred in Srebrenica: 8,000
      • MEDIAN: ca. 175,000
      • International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights: more than 160,000 (Annual Report 1997 [])
      • Dan Smith (The State of War and Peace Atlas 1997) uses the Bosnian War as the example of how difficult it is to estimate accurate death tolls, but in the end, he settles for 150,000.
      • B&J: >60,000
      • George Kenney, The Bosnia Calculation (NY Times Magazine, 23 April 1995): 25,000 to 60,000 ([])
    • Srebrenica
      • 6 July 2000 LA Times:
        • 4,700 bodies exhumed
        • Internat. Red Cross estimates total of 7,079 k.
        • Amal Masovic’s B-H govt. commission: 8,400
  • And that is far from the worst.


    Perhaps after all Australian historian David Day is not too far off the mark, and this will be my final quote of the week, even if The NY Sun thundered (July 2008):

    One also need not be a supporter of Israel to sense that Mr. Day’s discussion of its history is offered up in an exclusively negative context. From Mr. Day’s account, no one would imagine that the Jews had a connection with Palestine in some form or another for some 5,000 years, that early Jewish settlers often bought rather than stole Arab properties, and that Israel fought numerous existential wars against autocratic neighbors that sought to liquidate Israeli democracy and with it all traces of Jews in the Middle East. The 1 million Arabs who vote and participate in contemporary Israeli politics — uniquely so in the otherwise autocratic Arab Middle East — surely enjoy a much different status from the Untermenschen who were slaughtered en masse by Hitler’s Wehrmacht…

    But in the book reviewed there, Conquest: A New History of the Modern World (2005), Day writes:

    … the incomplete claims of proprietorship that Israelis assert over their land has only been possible through the emigration of non-European Jews, to such an extent that they have come to outnumber Israel’s founding population of mainly European Jews. The government of Ariel Sharon has responded to the population crisis with a desperate call for one million Jews from around the world to make Israel their home. However, it is unlikely that the present trickle of Jewish immigration can recover to the levels achieved during the 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union. In the absence of such immigration, and with the growing numbers of the settler population effectively locking future Israeli governments into supporting policies of territorial expansion, the inexorable logic of the Israeli position is likely to see it applying increasing military pressure on the Palestinians to abandon the occupied remnants of their former homeland and seek sanctuary in surrounding states. Not that such an apocalyptic outcome will solve Israel’s plight as a supplanting society that has yet to achieve the effective proprietorship of Palestine, let alone achieve its more elusive ambition of enjoying the moral proprietorship of the place. In the long term, it is difficult to see how that can be achieved unless Palestinians and Israelis compromise their claims of exclusive possession and agree to share the land and its fruits together, as once they did. (pp. 311-312)

    I should mention that “supplanting societies” in Day’s book are to be found all over the world – Australia has been one of them, from the point of view of the Indigenous population. Day prefers the term as having less baggage than words like “imperialism”, and he does take a fresh look at a rather universal aspect of human history. I have discussed the book before: David Day, “Conquest: A New History of the Modern World”.


    One response to “Quote(s) of the week 3 2009 – and more

    1. Neil

      January 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm

      I must add a very honest post by a Jewish writer on Online Opinion: Should Jews leave Israel? by David Fisher, whose grasp of history is excellent.

      The US, Israel and Australia were all strong enough to chase the people living there from their land. The Australian Aborigines and the American Indians pose no threat to the continued existence of those countries. However, Israel may not be strong enough to survive a war of continued attrition. With the Palestinians and their Arab allies against them eventually they’ll probably lose. The numbers are against them. If they survive as a nation it will be at the price of becoming a garrison state like Sparta. Such a state can maintain humanitarian values with great difficulty.

      Our Jewish past is largely a tragedy, and the state of Israel is a continuation of that tragedy….

      My personal preference is for a country where ethnicity and religion are not a matter for the state except to remedy past injustices as in Kevin Rudd’s “Sorry” speech and accompanying action.

      Israel has been a refuge. It is also a tragedy. It would not be good for Jews to leave Israel. However, I think it would be worse if they stayed. Of course, if it were possible to have a secular democratic state in the area which did not discriminate in regards to religion Jews could stay and work together with everybody else. That seems impossible at this time.

      There is a beautiful Yiddish song of old, “Wie ahin soll ich gein?” (Where shall I go?) It was written when prejudice against Jews was worldwide, and Jews sought refuge in vain. We can now live well in Australia. Jews also live well in the United States and in other places. It seems senseless to persuade young Jews living in the UK, the US and other good places for Jews, to go live in Israel.

    %d bloggers like this: