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Category: Middle East

Gaza- Where Next?

10 April 2024

The world has watched in horror and amazement as Israel has systematically bombed Gaza.

Gaza was an open-air prison in the sense that its people could not move without permission, could not trade, except via Israel so had no industry and even their food supply was controlled.  This led to the rise of Hamas, which was seen as at least willing to stand up to Israel rather than being the patsies of the Palestinian Authority (more on that later).  Hamas was a result of the situation, not the cause.


As I  have posted before, Israel was making friends with most of the countries around it. Jordan was too weak to stand up to it, as was Egypt. Qatar and UAE were mainly interested in trade, and Saudi Arabia, despite being strongly Sunni Muslims were about to sign a treaty.  Netanyahu was captive of his religious Right and talking about a ‘Regional Solution’ for the Palestinians.  This was probably code for them ‘going elsewhere’.


The State of Israel was ‘declared’ by Ben Gurion in 1948. The slogan had been ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.  Palestine had been a colonial state, part of the Ottoman Empire and then, after WW1, a British Protectorate and. But this did not mean that it did not have people occupying it.  The state of Israel set about populating it by putting ‘settlers’ on the West Bank. The myth was that this land was not owned, which was only legally correct because Israel did not recognise land title prior to the declaration of the State of Israel. So Palestinians did not ‘own’ the land that they had occupied for decades.  The ‘settlers’ were given land on the hilltops that the Palestinians were driven off, and the Israeli defence force guaranteed them support if the Palestinians, now defined as terrorists, attacked. A network of roads was built so that the army could come quickly to quell any Palestinian ‘aggression’.  Many of the settlers came from Eastern Europe and had been marginalised in their previous countries so defending their Jewish status and new homes was not a huge conceptual step.


This went on for years with unsuccessful negotiations for a ‘two state’ solution with Yasser Arafat. The Palestinians were portrayed as terrorists while Israel gradually made the two state solution impossible on the ground. The settlers were educated principally in Hebrew which reinforced their Jewishness, but also limited their information input and their options to go elsewhere.  There are now about 750,000 of them, so the West Bank is effectively ‘occupied’ and the settlers will not move any more than the Palestinians want to.


Israel also created Ramullah as the so-called capital of the supposedly-coming Palestinian state.  The international aid agencies moved there, naturally wanting good premises for their staff to live and work and the price of rents and real estate there meant that the Palestinians, on minimal income, had trouble living there. The Palestinian Authority, now actually having a place to rule, could approve land developments, a handy source of income and also of corruption. So the Palestinian Authority was no longer seen as the legitimate rulers, but as compromised by Israel, which is why Hamas won the Gaza elections.  Palestinians are generally not a particularly religious people.


The Palestinains are forced out of their accommodation in Jerusalem by the fact that increasingly Israelis use imported labour from Sri Lanka to do the menial jobs that the Palestinians used to do. So they had no work and could not pay the rents. If they left the house, under Israeli law an unoccupied house belongs to the State and can be gifted to a settler, so there has been a constant house by house clearing of Palestinians from Jerusalem, both the old walled (holy) city and the new part where traditionally Palestinians have lived on the East Side. So the Palesitinaisn were gradually getting to a situation where they had no land and no jobs. They were portrayed as terrorists and there was no negotiation towards any sort of lasting settlement.


Hamas probably launched the October 7 attack because if it did not do so, the Palestinian people had no future.


Israel, with Netanyahu having to stay in power at a personal level because of corruption charges and hostage to the religious Right first bombed the north of Gaza, and now, 35,000 or more deaths later, is intending to invade the last part where 1 million refugees have gathered.  It may be that the religious Right simply want all the Palestinians dead. In Biblical times whole cities were massacred,so it is hard to know their frame of reference.  It seems quite probable that the Israelis assumed that the border would be opened, the Palestinians would flee to a refugee area in the Sinai and they would never be allowed to return, creating a ‘refugee crisis’ which would be a UN rather than an Israeli problem. Israel would have solved its problem, and the precedent would let the West Bank Palestinains follow the Gazans. Unpopular in the short-term, but a ‘regional solution’.


The Israelis were keen to maximise harm to the Gazans, not allowing food trucks in, and the West talked about building ports to get food to Gazans rather than try to stop the Israeli blockade.  It is hard to believe that the food trucks that were negotiating directly with the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) were hit accidentally; rather it was part of the overall strategy to discourage the aid, stop the Gazans getting fed, worsen their plight and get them to go elsewhere.


The idea that hunting Hamas militants is a serious strategy must be dismissed as nonsense. This will not be won as a military campaign. The hate sown by this action will last for generations. But why should Israel be believed when it says that this is its strategy?  They took the West Bank by stealth as they claimed that they wanted to negotiate peace. It  was simply a lie. They have worked for 40 years to make a ‘two state solution’ impossible. Now, amazingly even the Australian government thinks this can be achieved.  There are $750,000 settlers making it impossible.  Jeff Halper, an American Jewish anthropologist who moved to Israel wrote an excellent book in 2010, ‘An Israeli in Palestine’ in which he advocated a ‘One State solution’ on the assumption that the apartheid situation that exists has to be undone as it was in South Africa. This looks a very dismal prospect now. When I visited in 2012 the average Israeli was in a state of denial about what was happening, regarding it as the army and the police’s job to keep the peace so that they could continue ‘normal life’.  It was strikingly similar to the situation when I had visited apartheid South Africa in 1985.  Now the Israeli population is very scared and arming themselves. It will end up like the US with a large number of gun-related deaths and the problems ongoing. In the end a society has to be built on consensus and a degree of trust between individuals and strangers.


So what of the Gaza war? I have drifted off topic.  The actual fighting has had very little attention. Do the Israelis merely bomb the city systematically and then walk in over the rubble with few casualties? Is Hamas actually fighting? There seems to be no attention to this in the mainstream press. And what of the Israelis?  A million people are demonstrating for a change of government, but it seems unclear what they want. Their hostages back?  A cease fire? A reasonable long term peace?  On what terms?


Netanyahu has said that a date is set to invade the rest of Gaza. Does this mean even more casualties than before to force the world to take the Gazans as there is nowhere else for them to go? It looks that way.


Even if the world stops supplying weapons, will the Israelis have enough stockpiled to complete the job?


And if the Israelis stop, either now or after even more carnage, how will Gaza be rebuilt or there be any sort of just solution for the Palestinians?


The world sees Israel as the last and most brutal of the colonial powers, simply taking a land and killing inhabitants who resist. The developed West with all its talk of international law is seen in the global South as hypocrites, unwilling even to condemn a more recent colonial aggressor.  It is hard not to see their point. Countries are judged by what their governments do, not by what their people may think. Australia’s late foray into arms manufacture with the Israeli partnership can be seen for the stupidity it was. We are all losers here. Recognition of a Palestinian state will at least elevate the status of any Palestinian  negotiators. It is too little too late, but what are the alternatives?

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Gaza: The Final Solution?

15 February 2024

As the Israeli army threatens to invade the last part of Gaza, Australia, Canada, NZ, the UN and most of the world ask them to stop.  The citizens of Gaza were already crowded into a very small area. Then they were moved to the South, then into ever smaller areas.  Now military action will kill large numbers who have nowhere to shelter. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Netanyahu says that he wants to destroy Hamas and that the hostages must be there somewhere.  Presumably as he has not found them in the areas he is already occupying.

He is still trying to defeat Hamas militarily and always has intelligence that they are hiding in the civilian population.

The idea that Hamas is separate from the population it governs is absurd. It may have a military wing, but it is a political party that was voted in. The reason that they were voted in was because the Palestinian Authority were seen as patsies for the Israeli government, corrupt and concerned with land rezoning kickbacks in the putative capital of the West Bank Palestinian state, Ramallah.

But even if the Israelis killed everyone associated with Hamas, their actions have guaranteed generations of hatred for the Israelis. The ‘war on terror’ was a silly slogan, as terror is a means of fighting that underdogs use, not a religion, a cause or a people.

Which begs the final question; what is Israel doing?  Netanyahu is under a great deal of pressure personally in that he is facing corruption changes and he has actually passed legislation to disempower the courts. This was a cause of many demonstrations before the Hamas raids on 7 October that triggered the current war. He is also dependent for power on far-Right Zionist parties for the survival of his government.  In a way he needs the war.

But I wonder if this final stage is actually the final solution of the ‘Palestinian problem’.  Israel has pretended that there would be a ‘two state solution’ as it pushed Palestinians off their land and out of their Jerusalem houses, gave their jobs to immigrant guest workers so that they had no means of support, and kept them in a gated city, Gaza.  Having deliberately made a two state solution impossible, they then made peace with adjoining countries and talked about a ‘regional solution’, which sounded very like ‘you take the Palestinians’.  Now, they may be saying to the rest of the world, ‘Are you going to open the border and let these people escape to the Sinai or will we kill them all?’  Of course if they go to the Sinai they will be a huge refugee problem, but it will not be Israel’s problem, it will be the world’s problem- a ‘regional solution’, as Israel will not take them back.

Israel is already a pariah. It has nowhere to put the Palestinians and would have to rebuild Gaza, which it will not want to do. It cannot integrate them as is being attempted in post-Apartheid South Africa, as the enmity is probably now worse than it was in South Africa. And Netanyahu’s far-right religious backers probably see this as an opportunity for a final solution. Do we really believe the stated reasons for their actions?  Who will blink first?

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Gaza Outcomes

4 February 2024

As Israel destroys all of Gaza and the refugees huddle on the beach one might ask what is the end point?

Israel claims it wants to destroy Hamas, because it is a ‘terrorist organisation’

But what does this mean? A terrorist is someone who uses attacks on civilians to create fear in a population to achieve a political end.  One could ask if that was what the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was doing already, failing to recognise land title, awarding Palestinian-occupied land to settlers and then sending the Army to defend the donated land for the ‘settlers’.

But leaving that aside, it is true that Hamas or groups associated with it used terrorist tactics on October 7th.  Terrorist tactics are almost always used by the weaker side for the simple reason that they cannot hope to win a more conventional conflict.

But Hamas were the elected government of Gaza, elected largely because the Palestinian Authority was seen to be corrupted by land development money and a patsy organisation for the Israelis.

Palestinians are actually quite an nonreligious people, but saw Hamas as at least on their side.

The Israelis response was at first called ‘self defence’ but the idea that killing 28,000 mostly civilians and flattening a whole city is an appropriate retaliation for 1,200 deaths seems totally unreasonable.

It is also unreasonable to think that Hamas can be defeated militarily. It is not a military problem.  Even if every last Hamas member were killed, their ideas will never be separated from the rest of the Gaza population. They have witnessed this unrestrained killing and destruction of their homes- it would be difficult to believe that in the long term they will not hate Israel.

So what is Israel’s objective? One could answer that it is the short-term survival of Netanyahu politically, but that is too simple.  Israel has pretended it wanted a two-state solution, which means giving the West Bank to the Palestinians. Yet it has systematically placed 750,00 settlers on all the high points of the West Bank, supported them and armed them to the teeth. It has deliberately made a two state solution impossible as a policy for the last 70 years.  As Netanyahu made good relations with Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he started to speak about a ‘Regional Solution’ to the ‘Palestinian problem’.  This sounded very much like asking his Arab neighbours to take Palestinians as refugees/migrants.

Now the Gazans will have nowhere to go.  Their city is totally destroyed.  Who would pay for its rebuild?  Who will govern this wasteland?

It seems obvious that the Israelis want the Gazans to go into the Sinai desert in Egypt and then become a refugee problem for the UN and the whole world- i.e no longer a problem for Israel.  It has worked with the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Biden is talking about a two-state solution, and not having the Gazans go into Egypt. How realistic is this?


Fillipo Grandi was Commissioner -General of UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency) and visited Australia as a guest of the UN Association of Australia in 2012. He was Italian, a consummate diplomat and in charge of relief for Palestinian refugees. I chaired a meeting at the Sydney Peace Foundation at Sydney Uni where he was the guest speaker. He was extremely careful not to criticise Israel to the extent that I as a debater and politician marvelled at his skill as he fielded loaded questions from each side of the debate.

According to Wikipedia UNRWA now has 30,000 staff and employs a lot of Palestinian refugees to help administer their aid programme. This is hardly surprising.  There are few jobs for Palestinian refugees and the UN needs relatively cheap staff. Naturally they would use Palestinians to help their own people. It is therefore hardly surprising that with Hamas as the Gaza government, some UNRWA staff would be involved with them, and also unsurprising that some would be sympathetic to Hamas.

We might ask who discovered the connection between a dozen UNRWA workers and Hamas? Israeli security?  Now we see the US, Australia, the UK and others stopping funding to UNRWA.  The Gaza refugees are already starving.  Who does this aid cessation benefit?  Israel of course. The last hope of the Gaza refugees is taken away.

It seemed that the only two possibilities for a resolution of the Israeli/Palestine problem were either a two-state solution or a one state solution as advocated by Jeff Halper in his book ‘An Israeli in Palestine’ which was an Apartheid  reconciliation process similar to what happened in South Africa.  The chances of either of these solutions seems remote now, so the Israeli solution, of bombing and starving Palestinians out of Gaza and into Egypt initially and then anywhere else may be the only one.  In the West Bank, with their land taken and the menial jobs now being done by imported Sri Lankans, Filipinos and Indonesians rather than Palestinians, there will be pressure for them to follow their Gaza compatriots into exile.

I hope that I am quite wrong about this, but I doubt it.

Here is a new word for irreconcilably taking someone’s home, Domicide, in an article in The Guardian.

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What is Israel’s End-Game?

25 November 2023

It is hard to see an end to the Palestinian conflict.

Zionists believe that God gave the Jews the historic land of Palestine, and this idea has been supported by some Christians who took the Old Testament literally.

After WW2, the Zionists did terrorist attacks on the war-weary British who let them return to Palestine. In 1948 they ‘Declared the State of Israel’ when they were about a third of the population, killed a village of Palestinians, which made the others flee. They then said that no land title prior to the State of Israel existed and all land titles had to be re-registered and all unoccupied land belonged to the State.  They have then declined to register Palestinian-owned land, so they can give away farms in the West Bank or even unoccupied houses in Jerusalem. Settlers, especially from Eastern Europe, are willing to fight to retain land that they are given on the West Bank.

In Jerusalem, the Palestinians had the menial jobs, which made it hard to pay the high rents there, and more recently Sri Lankans or others are given the jobs, so the Palestinians have to go to Ramullah to find work, which does not pay as well, so they have trouble paying their Jerusalem rent. If they move out or do not visit much, as checked up on by their electricity, water or phone location records, their houses are ‘unoccupied’ and given away. The bottom line of all this is the Palestinians being gradually squeezed out of the West Bank and Jerusalem. If they ever leave Israel they may not be permitted to return.

The settlements on the West Bank are now in a pattern on the high ground linked by roads so that the Israeli military can support any settlers troubled by the Palestinian farmers, now defined as terrorists, who try to defend their land. In Jerusalem, Jews own the West side and now take houses in Palestinian East Jerusalem, house by house.

As all this has gone on incrementally for years, Israel has pretended that it has a ‘two state’ solution, as it put the 700,000 settlers in the area that could or would have been Palestine. In other words it was happy to pretend that there was a ‘two state solution’ as they systematically made it impossible.

Hamas recognised that this was a nonsense. They won the elections in Gaza because the Palestinian Authority was corrupted by land deals.  Israel bullied Jordan and Egypt into compliance then started making wider friendships with Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia and started to talk about ‘regional solutions’ to the Palestinian problem. It looked like the ‘solution’ for them was to go as refugees to anywhere but Israel.  This is why Hamas struck. Naturally everyone is upset about this, but no one suggests what they might have done as an alternative. Perhaps just attack an Israeli military base?

Now Israel has struck back. It is hard to see that flattening Gaza is a rational response.  Netanyahu, being personally corrupt, has retained power by sharing it with evermore dodgy coalition partners, from the fanatical Zionists to the fanatical Right wing. He has also tried to undermine the judiciary to avoid personal corruption charges. Now the much-vaunted Israeli spy network has been caught off guard, probably because they relied on AI tracking of Palestinian communications networks, which Hamas, sensibly enough, decided not to use.  Netanyahu, who was in trouble already and will now be blamed for the Hamas success has hit back to be the strong man.  But simply flattening a city with all its civilians may be revenge, but it is not a solution. He has flattened the Northern half of Gaza, while telling the citizens to move to the South, but cut off all food, water and medical supplies. Now he is bombing the South as well.

Where to from here? Israel seems more bent on revenge than having any rational policy. The other possibility is that they will make Gaza unlivable, and force the US and UIN to allow the Gazans into Egypt as refugees, which will start as temporary and become permanent as Israel does not rebuild Gaza, or let them return to Israel.  Israel will be pariahs, but they are already, and the refugees will be someone else’s problem. Numerically there are as many Palestinians as Jews and even if the Gaza population were moved, the West Bank Palestinians would remain.

The other alternatives are:

  1. The ‘Two State solution, with Israel either moving its 700,000 settlers from the West Bank, or getting them to live with the Palestinians sharing the land that they once owned or
  2. Israel grants equal rights to Palestinians within Israel, admits it was an apartheid state and has a reconciliation process based on the South African model.

In that the ‘Two State Solution’ and the ‘Apartheid reconciliation’ model both look absolutely impossible with the bloodshed, killing and bitterness that has been rekindled as never before, it is very hard to see a solution.  Yet there are still those who want Israel forced into a ‘Two State solution’ by sanctions, as seen below:


Two solutions for the “Question of Palestine”

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Israel is Developing East Mediterranean Gas fields without Palestinian ownership

18 November 2023

One of the interesting stories that has had little attention is that Israel is developing a major new gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean and selling the gas to Egypt.  Naturally, this is off the coast of Gaza, but as Gaza is technically part of Israel and Palestine still does not technically exist as a country, it is not sharing the wealth with the Palestinians.

There have been demonstrations in Jordan, but the Western media has not even mentioned the gas field as far as I have seen.

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Is Expulsion of the Palestinians the Israeli End-Game?

10 November 2023


It has been said that Israel has no long-term strategy to deal with the Palestinians within Israel. But Netanyahu had spoken about a ‘regional solution’.  The ‘Two State’ solution, where Palestinians were given the West Bank, has been systematically undermined by Israel, which has been settling Jews in a strategic pattern on land that was largely Palestinian occupied for many years. (The Palestinians were not said to own it because all land title prior to the declaration of Israel in 1948 was declared null and void. But in all reasonable assessments they should own the land that they had occupied).


Gaza has been termed a prison.  With every aspect of its life determined by Israel including trade, and with a very high unemployment rate this was not an unfair description. Now that it is a flattened and uninhabitable mess, is it not possible that Israel wants to push the Palestinians into the Sinai desert, give the whole problem to the UN as a refugee issue, then offer to buy some land and resettle the Palestinians?  There was not much going for Gaza before and there will be less now. Israel is already an international pariah, so what does it have to lose? It is likely to be easier to manage a hostile external force than a hostile internal one.  If the Palestinians find jobs and make lives in Egypt all these things may be forgotten in a generation or two?


Here is evidence for the proposition that Israel simply wants to expel the Palestinians:


New Document Leak on Plan to Expel Gaza Population

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The Hamas Perspective on the 7 October attack on Israel

10 November 2023

Terrorism is a word that is often ill-defined.  To call someone a terrorist is to assume that they are sub-human, cannot be negotiated with and must be destroyed at all costs or by all methods.


It is forgotten that the US is credited with inventing guerilla warfare during their war of independence aka revolution against Britain. It is also forgotten that when large numbers of Jews wanted to return to Palestine after WW2 the Irgun, their militant group, placed a terrorist bomb in the King David Hotel, the military and civil headquarters of the British Mandate in Jerusalem in 1946.  The war-weary British allowed increasing numbers of Jewish refugees into Palestine, and Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel  in 1948.


Terrorism is the use of violent action to achieve a political result.  It is a tactic usually deployed by the weaker side, as they cannot win a military or political struggle.  It naturally strikes fear into the civilian population as they recognise that any one of them could be a random victim; hence the emotive force of the word ‘terrorist’.


But those who use terrorism usually do so in a calculated way, and if progress is to be made in resolving the issue, there must be rational calculation in the response to it and dialogue if possible.  An emotive or irrational response is likely to worsen the situation, and Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza would have to be in this category.  Unless all Palestinians can be removed from Israel, there is likely to be strife  in Israel as long as the Palestinains survive, and if they are removed from Israel, there will be a nidus of hate outside Israel.


Here is the Hamas perspective which needs a response:

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