Today I am going up to West LA to the Federal building on Wiltshire to join the protests against the war in Gaza. War is what some people in the media are calling the Israeli assault now. Justifying the action, pro-Israeli pundits always use the analogy, of an enemy launching missiles from Canada as the example. Well history aside, of several American actual invasions of Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries, the analogy is misplaced. What Hamas and other groups in Gaza are doing in striking back at the Israeli settler population is more akin to what if say the Native Americans in Morango, or some of the other reservations in Southern California were lobbing rockets at Los Angeles. It shifts the perspective, from one of two nations with established borders in a conflict to a conquered people, forced onto a reservation, resisting the occupiers. More correctly the analogy would have to be taken back to the 19th century when Native Americans actually had some resources to fight back and still had strong enough identification with their former freedom to resist violently. Just as in Africa the Zulu’s resisted the encroachment of the British and Boers and other tribal groups resisted the European colonists.
The image of Native American casino owners launching missile strikes on near by Palm Springs for example may seem absurd, why would then want to destroy the source of their income after all? But it brings up the point that these people have after two centuries barely clung on to their tribal existence and it is to their benefit that they have found another way to fight, in the US court system to gain the right to operate casinos as they are belatedly recognized as having some sovereign rights. This recognition did not happen in a vacuum, as the Indian gaming rights had resistance from the local states who felt they had authority to regulate gaming within their territorial boundaries. Supreme Court decisions, notably Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373 (1976), in which the court stated “should, as an admittedly ambiguous statute, be construed in favor of the Indians and against abolishing their tax immunities by implication.” Pp. 426 U. S. 390-393. (Bryan v. Itasca County, Justia.com). What I really want to speak to, is not Native American rights, which became encoded in Federal law with the passage of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but to the fact that the Gazan’s have no such symbiotic relationship with Israel and thus that reservation, which is all it is at best, at worst an outdoor prison camp, has no reason to accept Israeli terms if there is a chance to resist and gain sympathy for their cause in the court of world opinion.
This is an important thing to recognize beyond the humanitarian disaster that the bombings, air strikes and such represent, that legally Hamas has been driven to this position because Israel will not recognize their authority in Gaza and when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas made a deal earlier this year to form a unity government, Israel could not countenance that, waving the avowed program of Hamas that Israel did not have a right to exist on Palestinian lands. The position of Hamas is no more unjustified than any group of Native Americans claiming that white settlers did not have the right to take traditional tribal lands. That goes into another issue of Native American collective land ownership concepts versus European private land ownership rights, something which was in conflict in Europe itself and the Enclosure movement of the commons there attests to. Israel in fact does negotiate with Hamas and has in the past, what Israel does not want to accept is an independent and prosperous Palestine, hence no Palestinian Gaming Authority, although there was a time not long ago when that very possibility existed. There is the interesting case of the Oasis Casino in Jericho which was opened in 1998 as a result of the Oslo accords in Palestinian territory very close to the Israeli border. It was a major investment meant to attract Israeli gamblers, very much like Native American Casinos rely on local non Native Americans. The exact scenario played out when “[d]uring the first days of the Second Intifada, Palestinian militants reportedly used the casino to fire at IDF soldiers, who in turn blew a hole into its front. Due to security concerns, which led to the absence of Israeli visitors, the casino was closed down shortly after” (Miri, The Tale of Jericho’s Oasis Casino, Green Olive Tours Blog).
How did this impasse come about? Israel had sown the seeds of much of the recent conflict with Gaza by supporting Hamas against the Palestinian authority. Andrew Higgins writes in the Wall Street Journal, ‘”Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,’ says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades….Instead of trying to curb Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas” (Higgins, WSJ online 24 Jan. 2009). Israel’s divide and conquer policies have led to an unstable Palestine and has thwarted any real efforts on the part of Palestinians to establish an independent and viable state. With hard line conservatives in power, the Israeli position seems to have become one of toughing it out and extending the status quo for as long as possible.
Israel is not the United States where European immigrants swamped the indigenous population and killed them off through disease and warfare. Israel is in a position much more like the old South African regime in which a small white minority used similar tactics, those of apartheid to do much the same as Israel is now. In fact Israel and the old South African regime were close allies and had mutual weapons programs including their nuclear weapons program. Chris McGreal reporting for the Guardian UK wrote in his 2010 article “Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons”:
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.
The “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them “in three sizes”. The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.
(McGreal, Guardian 23 May 2010).
Having lost it’s main ally in the 1990’s when South African apartheid was dismantled, Israeli authorities under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin prompted by a sense of real politic signed peace accords with and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat under the auspices of then President Clinton who was himself looking to carry on in the tradition of the Camp David Accords under former President Carter. But due to bad faith, when the agreed upon date for self rule of 2000 for Palestine did not occur as planed, and the break down of the 2000 Camp David Peace Summit, the Second Intifada, sparked by an incident when Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, began the period of periodic Israeli assaults upon Palestinian territories which the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in August of 2005 did nothing to mitigate, because by relinquishing direct authority, it essentially presented the Palestinian Authority with a region it could not rule as Hamas had been developed by Israel as a counter authority, thus playing into the divide and conquer scenario, but resulting in the unintended consequence of Hamas taking its part as a body for the liberation of Palestine seriously and once it was out from under the direct scrutiny of Israel, capable of acting on its own initiative. This is of course an over simplification, but the conflict is both the result of an attempt by Israel to manipulate the aspirations of the dominated Palestinians while it jockey’s for its own survival as an independent polity in a hostile region of the world.
The status quo of cruelty and increasingly harsh tactics has turned Israel from a frontier community, into an increasingly organized prison guard state, Essentially Israel has become something like a community dependent upon it’s ability to guard the prison created for the Palestinians. Like the image of the Dutch dyke builders, holding back the ocean with concrete walls, Israel is doing the same to the Arab world. At some point the unstoppable force plying against the immovable object will win out. It just depends on how long Israeli intransigence is willing to maintain its strained position in this increasingly volatile region of the world. Biblical historical roots or not, the region is predominantly Islamic and if there are to be Christian, Jewish and other minorities in the region, they must find accommodation or eventually perish. The model of South Africa is a real path for the future. If there is an Arabic equivalent to Nelson Mandela, Israel should find a way to integrate and not wall off the Palestinians who are certainly not going away any time soon.
In the meantime I will go join the protests against the Israeli incursion in Gaza for the upteenth time in the last decade.