Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Even though most people outside Virginia know Norfolk, Virginia as the home of the largest American naval base in the world, NOB Norfolk, in this greater area known as Hampton Roads, which is inundated with other military bases, schools and commands as well, there is still great diversity of opinions and peoples, even within military ranks. On little notice today, Dec. 30, some thirty protesters began gathering at 4:30 PM in front of the City Hall complex at the corner of St Paul Blvd and City Hall Avenue to speak out against the Israeli assault on Gaza. They were still going strong at nightfall when I left around 6:00 PM. I interviewed four of them during the protest. The first interview was with Jerry Tenney from nearby Smithfield.


Citizen Tom said...

Balance? Why didn't the demonstrations start when Hamas started firing rockets out of Gaza?

How does Israel make peace with an unwilling partner? The so-called Palestinians elected the people firing rockets out of Gaza to lead them. Hamas plainly does not want peace.

Truth be told the Israelis are more likely to obtain peace by using force than by sitting still and taking the abuse. How does Israel negotiate with people who have been taught since childhood that it stole their land and that it has no right to exist?

Mac said...

The six-month truce ended and there was no agreement to renew it. Israel also broke the truce repeatedly with raids and assassinations. Hamas had been firing rockets again for what, a week, with no deaths. Why would there be big protests over that? The Israeli response is totally disproportional. Deaths to Israelis occurred after the assault began from what I read.

Israel had planned this for a while obviously, given the massive coordinated bombings. So once again they are going to try to destroy hatred with more hatred. Has this worked in sixty years? NOO! Now the whole Middle East is rumbling. Where will this end? The ONLY way out of this is the spiritual path of Buddha, Christ. Love Thy Enemies. That's because we are all one in the depths.

Mac said...

To clarify how the ceasefire ended, which I myself have been somewhat hazy on, which prompted me to track this info down better, the following quote farther below is taken from an article written today at OpEdNews by Justin Finney. As usual, Hamas’s firing rockets has been taken out of any timeline context. Overlooked by the mainstream media is the fact that Israel launched a raid into Gaza in early November, killing six Palestinians and kidnapping six more. (Using the logic implied by Israel in attacking Lebanon in 2007 over two deaths and one kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Hamas could therefore be justified in bombing half of Israel and killing thousands.) What Hamas did do was resume home-made rocket attacks on November 4 on a sporadic low-level that increased in December, unfortunately feeding into the 60 year cycle of violence anew. On December 23 Hamas formally declared the ceasefire over, citing Israeli breaches of the agreement.
I think Hamas is as dumbed down by hate as the Israelis are, or they might have logically concluded that they were setting themselves up for another massive Israeli counterattack. However, note that no one had been killed since Hamas resumed launching rockets, although several were wounded, the rocket fire only killing several Israelis AFTER Gaza was attacked on Dec 26. So the impression I am hearing that Israel was suffering a sort of London blitz with hundreds of casualties has no factual basis. Anyway, here is the quote:
Ostensibly, the logic proffered by pundits and officials is that anyone can understand the need of a government (Israel) to protect its people from rocket attacks. “I would ask any decent human being to put himself in the position of those Israelis who with kids are wetting their beds and ask themselves, what would I do? What would I expect my government to do,” opined the Israel ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor on the PBS News Hour. But as is often the case, the mainstream pundits and supporters of the Israeli occupation have it wrong, for more than one reason.
First, let’s get some facts straight. Hamas has indeed been launching increasing rocket attacks into southern Israeli towns along the border since early November of this year, after “Israeli forces entered Gaza to destroy a tunnel that could have been (my italics) used in a cross-border raid,” cites an AP article published in the Voice of San Diego. “Under the truce,” the article continues, “Gaza militants were to halt rocket fire on Israeli border communities. Israel was to end raids on Gaza and allow more goods and people through its border crossings, sealed after Hamas overran the territory in June 2007.”
This clearly illustrates that Israel was the first side to break the cease-fire truce when it broke its promise of halting cross-border raids into Gaza. Furthermore, the Israeli raid also resulted in Palestinian casualties and abductions: “very interestingly enough, last week, as people here were celebrating the election victory of Barack Obama,” said Diana Buttu, a Canadian lawyer and former employee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, interviewed on Democracy Now, “Israel used that opportunity to go into the Gaza Strip and kill six Palestinians and kidnap another six Palestinians. And since that time, the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire has actually come to a halt.” So, there you have it. The first part of the mainstream narrative that Israel is only responding to rocket attacks that began when Hamas broke the cease-fire is false. But let’s address the rocket attacks themselves. (End of quote).

Citizen Tom said...

Hamas has been lobbing rockets at Israel for some time.

These reference conditions before the truce.



These reference after the truce.



The truce did not accomplish much.

If the people of Gaza want peace, they have to stop trying to kill the Israelis.

If a mad dog tries to bite you, you may feel sorry for it, but you still do not let it have any chance of biting you. Following a similar philosophy, the Israelis are understandably reluctant to let the people of Gaza build up any strength.

Is that peace? No. Do you or I have a better answer? Not that I can tell.

The answer has to come from Gaza.

Mac said...

To Citizen Tom,

First you have to ask yourself how the mad dog got that way, if we want to use that analogy for a minute? Gaza is a Hell-hole, one of the most depressing places on earth, with bullet holes all over buildings and many Palestinians missing relatives or friends or scarred themselves due to past Israeli assaults. This is an environment that breeds anger, hatred, neurosis and psychosis. And many Palestinians are vengeful enough to kill from past incidents of violence directed against them by Israel.

To return to our analogy, if you beat a dog long enough, frequently enough, then he will go mad. So if you want to resolve this issue, first stop beating the dog.

There are two overall paths in life one can choose, and those are the paths of love or fear. Israeli foreign policy is a hallmark to fear, hatred and violence. Fear warps your vision and perspective, often to the point of paranoia, separates you from others, and leads you to do all manner of ugly things to others out of fear. Fear is also self-destructive.

Love heals, love unites, love forgives. Love builds trust. Love makes things grow. The day Israel says to the people of Gaza that we were wrong in the past and that we realize that you are our brothers and sisters whom we want to treat as equals, everything will start to change. This is higher truth that the Buddha taught, that hatred can never conquer hatred, only love can conquer hatred. Right now there is tremendous hatred on both sides, and that is what drives the cycle of violence. Remove the fuel from the fire by a change in heart. And don't think I am just fantasizing here. Many Israelis and Jews say that this is what has to happen.

Mac said...

I might add that Hamas and other militant groups also have to let go of their hatred and admit that they have caused hurt to their brothers and sisters in Israel too. They have to return to what the Koran says about the Jews, that they are also people of the Book, who should be honored as such. Both sides have to begin to project positive images toward each other and drop the demonization rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

Mac, while it is nice of you to approach this problem with a Christian or Buddhist perspective, your beliefs are not particularly relevant to the participants. Neither side in this dog fight is Christian or Buddhist. Islam is not big on Muslims loving non-Muslims. Jews are a only slightly more receptive to the idea of treating non-Jews politely. Neither of these People will react with the same reflexes we have developed, and our reflexes are not really all that nice. We talk the talk, but we cannot always be trusted to walk the walk. These people are not especially inclined to even talk the talk.

You are also accusing the Israelis of beating the Palestinians, and you are suggesting that only they have the responsibility to be more loving to solve the problem. That vastly oversimplifies the problem. The Palestinian refugees are much more the creation of the surrounding Arab states than anyone else.

Hamas' goal is to destroy Israel. The surrounding Arab states would like to see Israel gone too. Islam is not just a religion. Islam is also a political system that condemns non-Muslims to death or second-class status.

At one time, almost all the Peoples of the Middle East were Christians, also people of the Book. The Muslims changed that with steady and ruthless suppression. Given the ferocity of people of Islam (and it is a war-like religion), the people of Israel have every right to be cautious. Would you risk your own life and the lives of your family on the mere hope that some religious fanatic might see reason? If so then I suggest you consider the American Civil War. Even after thousands had died, White Southerners still insisted on treating Blacks as their inferiors and deserving of slavery. Changes in attitudes take generations and sometimes have to be accompanied with the force of arms.

Mac said...

To Anonymous,

In my opinion, you are thinking in stereotypes too much. Love is a universal principle that is integral to not just Buddhism and Christianity, but to one branch of Islam, Sufism, that has had its influence on Islamic culture over the centuries. Judaism, at least in Qabalistic philosophy, also recognizes the concept in the significance of the Sephiroth Tiphareth.

Nothing is written in stone in anybody's ideology. Hamas may be hardcore about defeating "the Zionists" but they have already said earlier this year that they are willing to live with the 1967 borders if Israel recognizes a Palestinian state. Here is a quote from Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/970807.html ):

"Hamas supports the united Palestinian position calling for the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and the right of return for refugees, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam.

In a special interview with Wednesday's edition of the paper, Meshal said the Palestinian position had received a vote of consensus during the national accords of 2006 and that this position is considered acceptable to the Arab world at large.

Meshal was asked about the claims by Israel and the United States that Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel. He said Hamas has committed itself to a political plan, which it follows, and called on the Americans, the Europeans and other international entities to conduct themselves in accordance with this political truth, and to judge Hamas based on its political plan, not based on what people may imagine."

Israel (and the U.S.), however, wants to ignore this and continue to demonize Hamas. Is that because they have ulterior motives, such as the Right-wing's vision of a Greater Israel, ethnically purified of "Arabs", gobbling up all the occupied territories and even beyond?

Anyway, one can't attack and slaughter Hamas in droves for whatever reasons unless you convince yourself and everyone who might stop you that they are one-dimensional cliches, demons, not humans. And that is exactly what has happened. Just being a member of Hamas condemns you to death in Israeli eyes. This is Fascist thinking.

A few years ago Israel was favoring Hamas over the PLO, so everything is relative to geopolitical gamesmanship.

You also have to recognize that the hard Right in Israel (and beyond) is as fanatic and lunatic as they claim Hamas to be. I have had to argue with some of these types locally who condone torture, are as blatantly racist toward "Arabs" as KKK-members are toward Blacks, or as anti-Semites are of Jews.

Nor are the Arab States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,Jordan, Qatar, etc. as militarist as you say. Actually they are rather cautious, plutocratic and more concerned about profitable business relations with Israel than helping the Palestinians. The days of the Ottoman Empire are long gone.

This is really about trying to move everyone's consciousness up a notch, toward more spiritual awareness. Spirit is universal, thus so is love, because love is integral to spirit. Everyone, Jew, Moslem, Christian, etc., is capable of spiritual growth and awareness, which can move us beyond "tribalism" on all sides.

Citizen Tom said...

Mac - We are suppose to "move everyone's consciousness up a notch, toward more spiritual awareness?" How much thought have you really given this idea? Is everybody is suppose make nice nice because one person lets making nice nice start with them? Do you really think it nice to volunteer the Israelis to be your nice nice sacrificial lamb?

Look back in history. In the past, strong men created "peace" by executing anyone who so much as looked cross-eyed at them. Why do you think the Romans hung people up on crosses? Do you know where the Dracula legend comes from? It comes from a ruler who practice fine art of impaling his victims on hooks where he left them to die.

When it comes to warfare and government, most of the folks in the Middle East still live in relatively brutal culture. It took thousands of years to develop the culture you and I grew up in, and it was only possible because of Christianity. While there are other religions that teach love, none do so with the imperative of Christianity. Islam most certainly does not, particularly with respect to non-Muslims.

It is pointless to make a gesture your enemy does not understand. Just as you cannot put the cart before the horse and expect to make any progress, the Israelis cannot change how the Palestinians regard them by making nice nice one-sided concessions. If the Israelis do not treat the Palestinians firmly, the Palestinians will simply regard them as weak.

The Palestinians have not yet learned to define peace as live and let live. They have little conception of that sort peace in their culture. Islam is a combative religion. Whenever Israelis give in, the Palestinians will merely attribute their "successes" to the will of Allah and keep demanding more. And that is exactly what they have been doing.

Mac said...

Does that mean we shouldn't try to raise consciousness anyway? Throw in the towel? Fortunately, the Sufis already blazed that trail in Islam, and there are many progressive Moslems. Solidarity with them is a good way to expand upon their past victories in awareness. Meanwhile, we can also work on our own Fundamentalists too.

Citizen Tom said...

Mac - Don't create a false dilemma. There is a difference giving up and thoughtfully dealing with the situation as it is. When people are ignorant, they are ignorant, and that is just the way it is.

A two-year child is cute, but the phrase the "terrible twos" exists for a reason. Without appropriate discipline, two-year old children are selfish, demanding little monsters. A two-year old has reached the point where it understands its needs and wants, but it little empathy for the needs and wants of others.

We live in a civilization that recognizes that all human beings have rights, that we are all part of the same human race. However, we recognize that all individuals will not behave. Some people have little or no respect for the rights of others. When we see amongst ourselves people who will not behave, we lock them up. What other choice do we have?

What we have a hard time grasping is the concept that entire nations will not behave. We make the wrong assumption that everyone thinks like us. Education and teaching are powerful tools, and these change the way we think. Without instruction few people ever truly rise up above the age of two. The uneducated remain grasping and selfish all their days.

Similarly, nations sometimes have difficulty seeing people who are not like them as human. In fact, they may even believe in a doctrine that teaches them that non-Muslims, for example, do not deserve to be treated as one of the People.

When we deal with another nation, we must recognize the simple fact that that People may not share our values. When we do not, we risk the lives of people needlessly, and we do not accomplish anything.

Mac said...

This sounds a bit like the glass is half empty or half full dilemma. I say we have to be optimistic about finding common ground between peoples, because too often pessimism is a self-fulfilling attitude.

Citizen Tom said...

Mac - Pessimism? No. Glass half empty? No. What is important is that our method bear some relationship to the problem to the problem we are trying to solve. We achieve little without a sensible strategy.

Consider your blog's byline. "If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito." How do you define effective? If the peace process people only to be irritating, then they have been quite effective. However, if the point of the peace process is peace, what we have accomplished in Iraq makes more sense.

Unfortunately, with the new administration, I wonder if we will have the sense to follow through on we have accomplished in Iraq. I suppose the subject is worth a post of my own.