Israel, Gaza and the Palestinians

UPDATE: Commentary is critical of this piece and they are absolutely correct on this item.

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip – Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

American Jewish donors had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. …

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

That story was well known and I was disappointed to see him bungle that issue.

Lawrence Wright is an expert on the Middle East and militant Islam. He is the author of The Looming Tower, the best book I’ve seen on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qeada. He had a piece in the New Yorker that I think it is important to read. There has been quite a bit of misinformation about the Israeli invasion of Gaza that was called “Cast Lead.” The recent report by Richard Goldstone, is as anti-Israel as one would expect in a report coming from the UN. The report can be downloaded from that link. It is very popular on the left, as one might expect give the left’s infatuation with militant Islam lately. Of course the Jews and gays on the left are too smart to actually go to see for themselves. That might be dangerous. Haaretz, the self hating leftist Israeli newspaper is on the case with all venom one could expect. Just for a microsecond, imagine a newspaper in the Muslim world that would attack its own government like that. They even claim that the fact that Goldstone is Jewish inoculates him from the anti-Semitism claim. I would remind them that there is an American member of al Qeada who was raised Jewish.

Anyway, I will accept Lawrence Wright as a fair observer.

Every opportunity for peace in the Middle East has been led to slaughter, and at this isolated desert crossing, on June 25, 2006, another moment of promise culminated in bloodshed. The year had begun with tumult. That January, Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, won Palestine’s parliamentary elections, defeating the more moderate Fatah Party. Both parties sent armed partisans into the streets, and Gaza verged on civil war. Then, on June 9th, a tentative truce between Hamas and Israel ended after an explosion on a beach near Gaza City, apparently caused by an Israeli artillery shell, killed seven members of a Palestinian family, who were picnicking. (The Israelis deny responsibility.) Hamas fired fifteen rockets into Israel the next day. The Israelis then launched air strikes into Gaza for several days, killing eight militants and fourteen civilians, including five children.

I think the artillery shell story has been debunked. The wounded children were taken to a Palestinian hospital and something was done to them, possibly removal of telltale shrapnel fragments, before they were allowed to go to Israel for definitive care. One version of the story is here but there are inconsistencies. Even this story notes the odd incident with the shrapnel.

The victims had initially been treated by Palestinian doctors who removed almost all shrapnel from the bodies of victims before they arrived at Israeli hospitals for treatment.[26] Representatives of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said that Palestinian doctors at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, who had treated a woman wounded during the blast, had made unnecessary cuts all over her body in an effort to remove all the surgically reachable shrapnel. The Israeli hospital said they had never before received a patient from which all possible shrapnel had been removed.”[27]

To go on with the story.

Amid this strife, Mahmoud Abbas—the head of Fatah, and the President of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body established by the Oslo peace accords of 1993—put forward a bold idea. The people of Palestine, he declared, should be given the chance to vote on a referendum for a two-state solution to its conflict with Israel. Perhaps it was a cynical political maneuver, as the leaders of Hamas believed. The fundamental platform of Hamas was its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, yet polls showed that Palestinians overwhelmingly supported the concept of two states. A referendum would be not only a rebuke to Hamas; it also would be a signal to Israel—and to the rest of the world—that Palestinians were determined to make peace. Abbas set the referendum for July.

A paranoid person would suspect that Hamas and their al Qeada allies would try to create an incident to derail this olive branch.

Just before dawn on June 25th, eight Palestinian commandos crawled out of a tunnel into a grove of trees in Kerem Shalom. A new moon was in the sky, making it the darkest night of the month. With mortar fire and anti-tank missiles providing cover, the commandos, some of them disguised in Israeli military uniforms, split into three teams. One team attacked an empty armored personnel carrier, which had been parked at the crossing as a decoy. Another team hit the observation tower. The two Israelis in the tower were injured, but not before they killed two of the attackers.

The third team shot a rocket-propelled grenade into a Merkava tank that was parked on a berm facing the security fence. The explosion shook the tank; then its rear hatch opened and three soldiers tried to flee. Two of them were shot and killed, but a third, lightly wounded, was captured. The attackers raced back into Gaza with their prize: a lanky teen-ager named Gilad Shalit.

That was the beginning of the Gilad Shalit hostage story. It is pretty clear that the provocation was planned well. It has ended all chance of reconciliation and eventually ended in the Gaza invasion. The entire story is worth reading as it contains what I consider to be a fair account of the invasion and the circumstances surrounding it. Wright may occasionally lean toward the Palestinians in his account but he is fair.

It has been said that the “Palestinians never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity.” The militants have little interest in governing. They are conducting a war with Israel. He even recounts stories of young women being harassed at the beach, the only feature of Gaza that is not a slum, even though they are fully dressed.

I would like to visit Israel and hope it might be possible next year.

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