Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some thoughts on terror and violent resistance

Last night I spent some time talking with some friends about the subject of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Occupation. Inevitably, despite the absence of such actions in the recent past, we came to the concept of the suicide bomber and more specifically, the attack on innocent civilian targets. In asking whether or not this stood as a legitimate weapon of resistance, it occurred to me that we may suffer from asking the wrong question. Now let me be clear, explaining the psycho-social mechanism from whence the suicide bomber arises - as opposed to condoning his activity – remains a common and well-worn strategy for those sympathetic to the Palestinian Resistance. I don’t know that I will be proposing anything different than the usual “explication” thesis. However, I like to think that my position is one step beyond explication, yet still one step short of justification.

Israel comprises an area of land approximately equivalent to the state of New Jersey. Yet, by most credible accounts possesses the 4th most powerful military on the planet, including unknown nuclear assets. To suggest that the Palestinians stand at the vanguard of some vast Islamic horde poised to push the Israelis into the Mediterranean is to abandon reality. What support the Palestinian resistance does receive from its coreligionists is nominal at best and negligible at worst. Meanwhile, the Palestinians themselves battle AH^$ Apache gunships (made in the USA) and the second largest fleet of F-16 jet fighters with homemade rockets and Kalashnikov rifles. To even suggest that the conflict is a war between two armies fails to account for the most basic facts. David and Goliath fails as an accurate analogy; rather it is as if an army of ants, is confronting a stamped of elephants. And no one is coming to the aid of the Palestinians. They are all but abandoned, save for facile “diplomatic” solidarity from governments, and plenty of rhetorical support from Arab demagogues. So what are these people to do?

There will never be a time, if the current conditions persist, when a Palestinian resistance could take on the IDF with any hope of achieving success. The best analogy for the situation can be found in American history. The Native Americans never stood a chance, mainly because the United States never regarded them as anything but a people to be conquered, and that bringing to bear the full might of the United States army provided the best means of success. The suicide bombing of innocent bus riders or cafĂ© goers in Tel-Aviv, or attacks on homes in Sderot by means of katyusha rockets are desperate acts of a desperate people. And in fact, if they were able to persist, it is likely that large portions of the Israel population would encourage their government to end the occupation. Thus it is necessary for the Israeli establishment to relegate this tactic to the category of the morally reprehensible, the terroristic. The Palestinians aren’t playing by the rules, and it is evidence of their barbarism. In fact, what it reveals is the complete moral failing of the Zionist project, which regards the Palestinians, not as negotiating partners for peace, but as a conquered people with whom the details of the final capitulation (the shape and size of their reservations) must be hammered out for public consumption.

The irony is of course that Israel celebrates its own “terrorists” of the past. In July of 1946, The Irgun – Zionist nationalist militant group – bombed the King David hotel Jerusalem, killing 91 people, most of them hotel staff and British clerical workers. The group, led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, killed innocent civilians in order to achieve the political end of forcing the British to quit mandate Palestine and declare independence for Israel. Today, the episode would be unequivocally characterized as a terrorist attack. Today, the Irgun and the men who perpetrated the attack are regarded as national heroes in the liberation struggle for Israel.

More later . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chaos in Kandahar

An old friend asked me whether or not I might share a few lines on the recent assassination of Wali Karzai. I hesitated to remark on the event until I got a chance to have brunch with a new friend, someone who has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, and Kandahar specifically. In fact, he should be arriving there as I write this. In the interim, another key Kandahar official, Jan Mohammad Khan, also fell to assassins. The sudden power vacuum in the south generates far more questions than answers, and there is no doubt that they way forward remains intensely opaque.

My question to my friend was simple: "What happened to Wali?" Of course, I didn't expect him to point out the guilty party, but his response made me question his otherwise optimistic outlook on the overall stability in Kandahar and Helmand. The fact that the assassin was one of Karzai's own - his bodyguard, Sardar Mohammad - meant that the likelihood of discovering the true motive and intent of the assassination remains low. The Taliban taking responsibility means little, and it is unlikely that the Taliban would have much motivation for killing Karzai. As the most powerful official in Kandahar, there is no doubt that Karzai's sudden wealth stems from his play in the poppy trade, and this could only happen with coordination, and probably a direct buy in from the Talibs. More likely, the killing of Karzai, and subsequently Jan Mohammad, is the result of internecine conflict, which may well have been festering for some time.

It is tempting of course to perceive the moment as a Taliban takeover, an opportunistic venture to create a power vacuum in the south ahead of deeper US and ISAF troop withdrawal. However, it would seem a strategic blunder on the part of the Taliban to play their hand this early, when they have shown so much patience before. I suspect rather, that someone within the establishment - the corrupt and compromised establishment - felt slighted and is making there move to assert their own presence. It may even be from within the Popalzai tribe itself. An excellent Asia Times article provides some crucial background to this, and I highly recommend a read.