Quiet for quiet in Gaza

The Gaza-Israel conflict looks like it’s heading toward a period of calm. NPR reports:

Israel and Hamas [Gaza’s ruling regime] are taking initial steps toward an agreement to calm hostilities — and it’s allowing thousands of Palestinians from Gaza to go work in Israel daily.

All Things Considered, January 13, 2020

So quiet in exchange for quiet, which means Hamas, which is a militant group, is agreeing to prevent rocket attacks on Israel and to prevent confrontations with Israeli soldiers at the Israeli fence separating Israel from Gaza. So we’re not going to see any more fiery kites and rock-throwing, and protests there are on hold. And in return, Israel is starting to let Gaza breathe a little, and it’s relaxing restrictions that they put on Gaza for years ever since Hamas took power there.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 13, 2020

(Actually, Hamas is a Jihadi terrorist group — much more than militant. Hamas is an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement.)

This pause eases up pressure and tension. Gaza has been on the edge of collapsing, even its own people exploding against Hamas.

But, a Hamas spokesman said, “It’s not a cease-fire. It’s not an agreement. It’s quiet for quiet.” It’s clear to Hamas that this is an “understanding. “Such fragile understandings are usually brokered by neighboring Egypt and by the United Nations according to Al Jazeera.

Whatever you want to call this indirect agreement, [i]t’s very different from Israel’s longtime policy to isolate Hamas and break its hold on Gaza. Instead, Hamas and average Gazans are getting some relief.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel blocked most Palestinians from crossing the fortified border to go to jobs in Israel. That crushed Gaza’s economy. Over the last few years, Israel has gradually issued more work permits to Gazans and recently speeded that up to a record high. Now more than 5,000 Palestinians from Gaza are being allowed into Israel.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

The border crossing between Gaza and Israel is now open for those who can get permits. They’re now bringing home wages from work in Israel, although it’s a drop in the bucket for about 2 million people. These workers are bringing in Israeli shekels because Hamas and the Palestinian Authority do not mint their own currency.

The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reports on other goodwill gestures by Israel. Israel has been lessening the embargo of Gaza by permitting the import of cement and vehicle tires. Furthermore, fishermen have been allowed to buy fishing boats, and drivers have been allowed to buy passenger buses.

Medicines donated by an American organization worth $600,000 have also entered Gaza.

According to MEMO, Israeli media reported that Israel has allowed cooking gas and pesticides to enter Gaza.

The head of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza predicted that if Israel continues with the current approach, Gaza could move toward economic recovery in 2020 and the living conditions of residents could improve (January 9, 2020).

In another vein, MEMO reports that Gazan farmers are gaining access to plant crops near the border fence between Gaza and Israel where they were previously excluded for the sake of Israel’s security. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has cleared unexploded ordnance and other war material from several fields and helped to rehabilitate them. Crops planted last August are expected to be harvested this May. According to the ICRC, roughly 580 farmers have regained access to their land. (February 5, 2020)

Israel has for years designated a strip, between 100 and 300 meters wide, along its 25 mile-long border fence as off-limits to Gazans. Israel cites security concerns since Gaza has been ruled by Hamas terrorists.

Egypt has [also] opened its border for travel out of Gaza. And Qatar is supporting poor families. Israel is boosting electricity to Gaza to reduce daily power cuts and letting fishermen venture farther out into the Mediterranean. And for the first time since Hamas took control in Gaza, Israel is allowing snacks made in Gaza to be exported overseas.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin, January 20, 2020

However, Al Jazeera now reports that two rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel on February 15, 2020. Israel announced it would cancel the easing of restrictions on Gaza as a response to these two rocket attacks. “Israeli security officials warned of a “harsh military response” if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop (February 16, 2020).

These are the latest attacks, many occurring since U.S. President Trump announced a peace plan for Israel and Palestinians on January 28, 2020.

Except for NPR, Western journalists have not been reporting on Israel’s easing of restrictions on Gaza or Egypt’s. Perhaps you can find coverage by the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, or The Washington Post.

A Gazan economy that recovers and interlocks with Israel’s may tame terrorist Hamas, a jihadi enterprise. And if living conditions for Gazans improve, this may motivate Hamas, as it governs Gaza, to rein in rogue elements who fire mortar shells into Israel.

________

See or listen at:

All Things Considered, “An Opening Between Israel and Gaza — For Now,”
January 13, 2020.

All Things Considered, “Israel-Hamas Aim To Reduce Hostilities As Gaza Restraints Eased,” January 20, 2020.

Also see these articles from MEMO:

Gaza farmers return to their lands along volatile Israel fence,” February 5, 2020.

Israel allows cement entry to Gaza without UN observers,” January 29, 2020.

Israel’s steps to ease Gaza blockade point to longer-term truce,” January 9, 2020.

And from Al Jazeera:

“Israeli security officials warned of a ‘harsh military response’ if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop,” February 16, 2020 (article seems to no longer be online).

Hamas says Israel move to tighten blockade will increase tensions: Israel says it has cancelled an easing of restrictions on the besieged Gaza Strip after rockets fired from territory,” February 16, 2020.

Construction work to begin on a new Jerusalem entrance road

The Jerusalem Post reports that a new five-kilometer highway that enters Jerusalem from the west will reach the construction stage in the near future (Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2019). This entrance is the second one into the city coming from the west – from Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion International Airport, and the rest of the Mediterranean coast.

Jerusalem’s new entrance road, designated Jerusalem Route 16, feeds traffic into southern Jerusalem. Drivers will bypass the congestion at the Jerusalem Gateway – Sha’ar HaIr – the long-time entranceway into Jerusalem from the west. In fact, this has been the only entranceway into the city from the west. This long-time entranceway has served the city’s Central Bus Station since British Mandate times. Most buses to and from Jerusalem still pass through the Gate to the City. Traffic through the Jerusalem Gateway also reaches the city’s convention center as well as government buildings such as the Knesset and the Supreme Court. This traffic won’t be using the new entrance road. Also, the Jerusalem Gateway will continue to serve the city center and the Old City.

A number of years ago, a northern bypass road was built. Besides bypassing the heart of Jerusalem east and west, it serves as a direct entrance to northern Jerusalem. Consequently, the Jerusalem Gateway entrance enjoyed some relief.

Jerusalem’s new entrance road will tunnel under two hilltop neighborhoods and will have three interchanges to serve southern and southwestern Jerusalem. The entrance road is expected to open for traffic toward the end of 2022. The planning stage began in 2001.

JerusalemRoad16BlogLrg

Melody of the Israeli national anthem

The famous main theme of “The Moldau” comprises the first musical stanza of “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, with slight changes.
These changes for the anthem may reflect origin in “La Mantovana, ” a widely popular melody in Renaissance Europe and more recent times.

“The Moldau” (“Vltava”), a symphonic poem by Bedřich Smetana, is from Má Vlast (My Country).

For more about “The Moldau” see Robert Cummings, www.allmusic.com.

The melody of the second stanza of the anthem shifts to “Russian Sailors Dance” in the ballet The Red Poppy,  from a Russian folk tune.

The Red Poppy , 1927, was the first Soviet ballet with a modern revolutionary theme according to Wikipedia.

The entirety of “Hatikvah” is nationalistic. It is also Eurocentric. The direction of Jerusalem in the anthem is toward the east, appropriate for Europeans. For Jews in Baghdad, Persia, and India, Jerusalem is toward the west. Admittedly Jerusalem is also toward the east for Jews in North Africa.

Palestinian resentment and narcissism

Let me level a broadside against Palestinian society’s spirit – its zeitgeist.

The tenor is narcissistic.

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, scientist Steven Pinker presents the idea of a morbid national resentment — ressentiment in French. “Morbid national resentment” characterizes Palestinianism.

Palestinian nationalism expresses the conviction that its civilization has a historical right to greatness despite its lowly status. They feel that their lowly status is explained by the malevolence of an external foe, namely Israel.

According to Palestinians, if Israel would withdraw to the 1949 ceasefire lines (what are mistakenly called the 1967 borders), then Palestinians would be justly elevated into statehood.

Their group-equivalent of narcissism evidences a big but fragile ego with an unearned claim to preeminence. Their narcissism can trigger violence “when the narcissist is enraged by an insolent signal from reality.” (See p. 524)

The presence and visibility of Israeli troops is taken by Palestinians as an insolent signal from reality. In the case of Gaza, Israel maintains a visibly hard border like an international border but has otherwise withdrawn to the 1949 lines. What more is Israel supposed to do?

If Gazans were not to look outward – literally – they would mostly not see the fences and military patrols. The partial sea blockade is only visible to Gazan fisherman but not to most of the close to two million residents of the coastal strip. Within the enclave, they see self-rule. Due to their narcissism they remain mind-blind to their autonomy.

Both the Palestinian self-described victims and the alleged Israeli perpetrators distort their stories in opposite directions. “[E]ach omit[s] or embellish[es] details in a way that [makes] the actions of their character look more reasonable and the other’s less reasonable.” Diverging narratives are a psychological Moralization Gap. Who should we believe? (p. 490) (For me, Israeli narratives are more believable, but not entirely so.)

Ressentiment whips up the emotions of thwarted dominance – humiliation, envy, and rage – to which narcissists are prone. (p. 524)

Several things determine whether ethnic groups can coexist without bloodshed…. One important emollient is the way a group treats a loose cannon who attacks a member of the other group. If the malefactor is reeled in and punished by his own community, the victimized group can classify the incident as a one-on-one crime rather than as the first strike in a group-against-group war…. [A]n even bigger factor is ideology. Things get ugly when intermingled ethnic groups long for states of their own, hope to unite with their diasporas in other countries, keep long memories of harms committed by their neighbors’ ancestors while being unrepentant for harms committed by their own, and live under crappy governments * that mythologize one group’s glorious history while excluding others from the social contract. (p. 525)

Among the Palestinians, a cohort of young men and teenage males periodically comes of age and begins to riot – an Intifada. Palestinians don’t regard these stone-throwers and tire-burners as loose cannons. The riots are a rite of passage. Fathers and older brothers fought, and now time has come for the younger cohort to test its mettle and gain esteem and status. These riots begin after “an insolent signal from reality,” but they are way out of proportion to the igniting spark. And the fuel for flames has been there all along.

The Palestinian ideology circles around the unrealistic idea that all Palestinians in their diaspora should have a right to return to live where their ancestors originated. In fact, most members of the diaspora are considered to be refugees even though they were born elsewhere, even though they have never set foot in historical Palestine.

The U.N. has enabled this. In no other case of refugees has the refugee status been granted to all descendants of verifiable refugees. Palestinian refugees by ordinary standards are those who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The youngest refugee is seventy-one years old, and the total number of genuine refugees alive today is about ten thousand. Yet, upwards of a million Palestinians receive assistance from the U.N. These men, women, and children and something like 5 million Palestinians of the diaspora are all deemed to have the right to return. Palestinian ideology keeps alive the long memory of the harm from 1948.

The Palestinian Authority, founded in 1993 by the Oslo Accords, is a crappy government. It has been a kleptocracy actually an anocracy.* It squandered international aid that flowed in during the heady days after the Oslo agreements. More recently, though, international concerns have invested prudently.

Palestinian infrastructure is antiquated. It dates back to Jordanian rule if not to British rule. The Palestinian police force is brutal.

Many peaceable countries today are in the process of redefining the nation-state by purging it of tribalist psychology. The government no longer defines itself as a crystallization of the yearning of the soul of a particular ethnic group, but as a compact that embraces all the people and groups that happen to find themselves on a contiguous plot of land. (p. 525)

A Palestinian state represents such a crystallization of yearning, so it would not embrace Jews who live in the West Bank. A Palestinian state is not symmetrical to the state of Israel, where Arabs live as a tolerated minority. (Israel itself is still a crystallization of the yearning of the Jewish soul.)

Is there a cure for narcissism? I think not. Is there therapy for the narcissist to learn to engage with other people in healthy, productive ways? I believe so. What therapy is available for the Palestinians?

Pinker does suggest using game theory in peace negotiations. When both sides lay down their arms, they immediately garner a peace dividend. What dividend would Israelis see? Not much, though. Their economy is doing well. The tourism sector is doing well. Israel enjoys one of the best road systems in the world. Mass transit keeps improving. The Israeli economy has a large knowledge-based sector. Israel is one of the 36 members of the exclusive Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This puts Israel on par with the United States and most of the English-speaking world as well as with the European Union and Japan.

Where would there be a peace dividend? A heavily militarized Hezbollah sits perched over Israel’s border with Lebanon. They have rockets aimed at Israel’s population centers. The peace dividend for Israel would be enormous as would the peace dividend for Hezbollah. However, ideology stands in the way. Hezbollah’s jihadi doctrines label Israel a Satan – the little one alongside the U.S. as the Great Satan, “Zionists” and “Crusaders.” With such an ideology, they will not negotiate with Israel. (Perhaps Hezbollah is suffused with group-level narcissism themselves.)

A peace dividend with the Palestinians is a pittance in Israel’s calculus.

Pinker refers to Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan and calls a centralized nation-state that holds a monopoly on violence a Leviathan. Pinker credits such states with bringing down the level of violence in the world. The Leviathan’s ruler tries to keep his subjects from “cycles of raiding and feuding that just shuffle resources or settle scores among them but from his point of view are a dead loss” (p. 42).

Israel is now the Leviathan over Palestinians to prevent and punish them for suicide raids and other aggression against Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), under the Oslo Accords, is supposed to enforce the social contract for security and public order among Palestinians themselves. What does Israel now want? It wants the PA to force the Palestinian population to refrain from offenses against Israelis so that Israel does not have to be the Leviathan. The PA has been unwilling to do this and even promotes violence by granting stipends to the families of so-called martyrs. To the extent that the Oslo peace process died, this flaunting of terrorist activities killed it.

Palestinians, like other indigenous people, resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement. But, Hamas in Gaza (and other Palestinians) deludes itself that the Little Satan will pack up and leave. They recall the glory of when the Crusaders decamped back to Europe.

Palestinians will be ready to yield to coexistence only when they have given up all hope of getting rid of the alien Jewish settlers, even in Israel itself.

________

crappy governments – Pinker’s term; see my previous post.

anocracy – see my previous post.

Reference: Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.

Palestinian anocracy

Before I can write about Palestinian pathology (next post), I’d like to introduce scientist and author Steven Pinker’s description of a state ruled as an anocracy. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is such an administration.

Pinker writes that anocracy is

a form of rule that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. Anocracies are also known among political scientist as semidemocracies, praetorian regimes, and (my favorite, overheard at a conference) crappy governments. These are administrations that don’t do anything well. (310)

Unlike autocratic police states, they don’t intimidate their populations into quiescence, but nor do they have the more-or-less fair systems of law enforcement of a decent democracy. Instead they often respond to local crime with indiscriminate retaliation on entire communities. [This is not a feature of the PA.] (310)

They retain the kleptocratic habits of the autocracies from which they evolved, doling out tax revenues and patronage jobs to their clansmen, who then extort bribes for police protection, favorable verdicts in court, or access to the endless permits needed to get anything done. A government job is the only ticket out of squalor, and having a clansman in power is the only ticket to a government job.
When control of government is periodically up for grabs in a “democratic election,” the stakes are as high as in any contest over precious and indivisible spoils. (310)

Foreign aid, so beloved of crusading celebrities, can be another poison chalice, because it can enrich and empower the leaders through whom it is funneled rather than building a sustaining economic infrastructure. (311)

All these are characteristics of the Palestinian Authority, albeit with some local nuance.

The last election in the PA, in 2006, saw the Hamas faction win the majority vote. The opposing political party Fatah refused to join a proposed coalition. The Palestinian Authority instituted a non-Hamas government in the West Bank while Hamas formed a government on its own in Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza have virtually remained two separate entities since 2007.

To repeat Pinker,

When control of government is periodically up for grabs in a “democratic election,” the stakes are as high as in any contest over precious and indivisible spoils.

The PA evolved from the autocratic administration of the West Bank by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is still an autocracy with a component of a police state.

While the PA’s rule in the West Bank is an anocracy, Hamas’s rule in Gaza is that of a police state.

________

Reference: Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.

Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East conference: Will Kushner reveal peace ‘deal of the century’?

An international conference for a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East will meet in Warsaw on Wednesday and Thursday Feb 13 and 14, 2019. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other administration officials will attend.

A question arises: Will Kushner reveal U.S. President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

Kushner and other administration officials will also swing through Middle Eastern Arab countries later in February, possibly to garner economic support for Palestinian development.

This report has been gleaned from the AP by way of The Washington Post, “US officials visiting Mideast to seek backing for peace plan,” February 11, 2019. Also from the “U.S. Department of State Weekly Digest Bulletin.”

U.S. to reveal ‘Deal of the Century’ to Israel in early November

from: Middle East Monitor (MEMO) | October 27, 2018

Israeli public radio reported that the U.S. administration would reveal the details of its “Deal of the Century” to Israel during the first week of November.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, is scheduled to travel to the region to meet with Israeli officials and reveal the details of the U.S. plan, Quds Press reported.

The so-called “Deal of the Century” is claimed by Trump’s Administration to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict …

(See MEMO’s original article with its pro-Palestinian rhetoric.)