Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Israel/Palestine: militarism is the problem not the solution

Hamas is a fundamentalist hyper-Islamic cult, with absolutist beliefs based on an extreme literal interpretation of the Hadith. Its charter calls for a final solution to Israel, and among other things, perpetuates the old myth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Government of Israel contains similar religious ideologues whose beliefs are based on absolutist interpretations of ancient scriptures.

Caught between these two groups of fundamentalists, whose ideologies can only lead to murder, are millions of ordinary human beings who wish for nothing but to live in peace and win a sustainable living from a land that is desperately short of water. This is the reality that we as greens should be addressing. It is an achievable goal, and in realising it, the Middle East could create a model of development that could be a standard for the rest of the world to follow.

To attain that goal, it is first necessary to understand that we are dealing here with an irrational system of self-sustaining hatred and violence based on militarism. We have to come to the understanding that militarism is the problem, not the solution. The Israeli Defence Force is currently demonstrating the complete unacceptability of militarism.

Both sides blame the other for the violence. Israel absolves its soldiers of all blame for civilian deaths, blaming the rocket attacks for Israel's action. Hamas justifies its rocket attacks for the oppression, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment that Israel is carrying out on its people. "If your land had been occupied, would you not fight?" asks Hamas. "If you had someone firing rockets at you, would you not fight?" asks the Israel Government. This is nothing but a self-sustaining cycle of destruction.

The Israeli response is clearly disproportionate, and is rightly attracting worldwide condemnation, with the exception of the Bush administration. The Qassam rocket attacks are tragedies for the families affected, but are a strategic pinpricks. In response to these pinpricks, the Israeli government has responded with a knife attack.

It is utterly pointless for us or anyone to try to come to a conclusion about which side is right and which side is wrong. What is wrong is the belief that military violence is any kind of a solution. We are dealing with an irrational, dysfunctional system of self perpetuating, mutual hatred and violence that at the moment is in danger of leading to a war that could quite possibly go nuclear.

The alternative to ever-escalating violence is a ceasefire (which seems imminent), the lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza, and systems put in place to stop imports of arms into the region. America's support for the Israeli military machine must stop, and imports of arms into Gaza for Hamas must likewise be stopped. This is an opportunity for us to put forward the policy we passed at our last Conference, using dogs to identify transfers and caches of ammunition. This is a practical and tested solution which is in routine use: it just needs an effort to train the dogs, and an agreement on who runs and protects the sniffer dog patrols.

Once the instruments of violence are out of the way, the next step is for a massive economic effort to transform water use in the whole region, focusing on water conservation, rainwater harvesting, and afforestation, beginning at the coast. Afforestation will modify the local climate, and bring rainwater inland. The money for this should come from the EU and other players, and as far as possible, people from both communities should be enabled to cooperate in these projects.


bigbluemeanie said...

I find it difficult to disagree with anything you have said. But the picture you paint at the end seems idealistic and unrealistic. It seems to be a big jump from "disarmament" to "peace" and "sustainable development", and I don't make that jump with you. What I think is missing in your post is a notion of justice. At the end of the day one group of people colonised and took away another groups' land. Now, 60 years later, how do we address/redress the consequences of that and ensure an equitable sharing of the land?

In all previous examples of this problem I have not seen the "haves" relinquish their power and privilige to the "have-nots" without some form of pressure. All the while the mantra of the "haves" is that their rights are being taken away and their existance threatened. We saw it in Algeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa among other former colonies.

In order to be agents for peace and justice we need to put that pressure on Israel now.

DocRichard said...

Hi Bigbluemeanie, Thanks for raising these serious points.

"Idealistic and unrealistic?".
Well, they are certainly ideas. To summarise, I covered the problem of fundamentalism, the situation as a self-perpetuating system of mutual hatred in which it is pointless to try to decide on which side is "right2 and which "wrong". I posit that militarism is the problem, not the solution. The ceasefire should be followed by an arms and ammunition exclusion affecting both sides, including the use of sniffer dogs as an efficient means of identifying ammunition and rocketry. And finally I advocate a diversion of the energies of people on both sides into work in the real economy.

Ideas are OK. Every change begins with ideas. The real work comes with turning ideas into reality. Ideas are by definition not yet reality, but this does not mean that it is idealistic or unrealistic to think ahead.

Yes, justice is an important question - indeed an overriding question. At present the system of justice that is operating is the eye-for-an-eye, feud mentality, which is utterly unrealistic, if by reality we mean our sustainable existence on this earth. It could justly be characterised as idealistic, since it is derived from fundamentalist ideologies.

Justice for Palestinians involves their being able to live n their homes and win a sustainable existence from their land. It is a historical tragedy for them that the State of Israel was created, and that the Right of Return (for Jews) has brought a vast wave of immigrants to their land over the last three generations.

However, that is now the reality. It is a big political fact - except for idealists who want Israel to go away.

So the question is - how can I/P contain both populations living in peace alongside each other?

I suggest that the only realistic solution is for the productivity of the land to be greatly enhanced. Thye have plenty of land, and plenty of sun, but not enough water. This is why they need a massive infrastructure work on water conservation, rainwater harvesting and reafforestation.
The rationale for this is here:

This is an idea, but is also realistic. The Green Belt movement
finds that once 15 sq km of forest is established, it grows its own rain cloud. That is in Kenya, and IP is
a different climate, but it does show that forests affect the microclimate.

I fully agree that we have to bring pressure on the "haves" before they relinquish their power and privilige to the "have-nots".

"the mantra of the "haves" is that their rights are being taken away and their existence threatened. We saw it in Algeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa among other former colonies".

I would worry a bit over classifying IP as a colonial situation. There are similarities, but as colonialists we were rightly kicked out of the country as a foreign ruler. The Israelis are no way going to be kicked out of their land. They have been through the Shoa, and perceive any such notion as an existential threat. This is a most important factor in the psychological equation that no statesman must forget. It does not excuse Israel's action, but it does help us to understand their level of motivation.

This is a huge problem that causes a deep antithesis between the sides. I believe that Green thinking, which views conflict in terms of systems, and always relates our societies and economies to ecological realities, does offer a way forward to peace.

Thanks for writing. I hope I have covered your points honestly. There are hundreds of other points or facts that we have not covered here...