Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Rockets and bombs have been flying and casualties have been rising while inside Israel there have been clashes between Israelis and Arab Israelis. 

US diplomats spoke out against Hamas fighters firing rockets into Israel while asserting that Israel has a right to defend itself as indeed it has. 

But left in the background is the spark for the raging conflict. The forceful evictions by Israel of long time Palestinian settlers in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. 

Instead of keeping it in the background, what’s happened in Sheikh Jarrah should be put front and center.

Why should the Palestinian settlers be forcefully evicted?
It is wrong for Hamas to be firing missiles into Israel so that should stop immediately.

And so, too, should the crushing Israeli counteroffensive that is likely to soon become an invasion of Gaza by ground forces. 

Surely, as the casualties mount on both sides, the numbers for the Palestinians will be much larger. And that includes children.

It seems very clear, with the long history of warfare between the two rivals, that it doesn’t take much to ignite a broader conflict.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew full well of the possible consequences of Israelis displacing Palestinian settlers from Sheikh Jarrah. But he let it happen anyway. 

Property rights in the area have been disputed in the courts for years, and still he let it happen. I suppose it burnishes his image as a get tough on Palestinians kind of guy. 

But we here in America, who spend lots of money subsidizing that state’s defense forces, should demand a thorough accounting of what is happening there.

We can’t just have Antony Blinken make a statement calling for Hamas to stop the firing of the missiles – which have resulted in a few Israeli deaths but which have been mostly intercepted by Israel’s powerful Iron Dome antimissile system. 

We cannot have the administration be only insisting that Israel has a right to defend itself, which it has, and not put blame on Mr Netanyahu for letting the displacement of Palestinian settlers be carried out.

The American people deserve better.

The Biden administration must do better. 

Antony Blinken and company should know better.

The genesis of this painful and costly clash – where Palestinian casualties will surely, by far, exceed Israel’s – needs to be brought to the table right now. And we should ask, why was it allowed to happen in the first place, when it seemed pretty clear what the consequences would be?

If President Biden can confront Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and label Putin a killer for the attempted murder on Alexei Navalny, surely he can call in Mr Netanyahu and tell him that his behavior is atrocious and repugnant. 

Please, Mr Biden, act now.

Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net

The Broader View: The Importance of Restraint

Trump orders the killing of General Suleimani and top aides and on 1/3/2020, the vehicle they were traveling in after arriving in Baghdad is hit by a rocket fired from a drone. They go up in flames.

Suleimani was in charge of Iran’s military interventions in the region (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) and thus responsible for much devastation and misery, including the death of Americans.

But how did we get there?

Deeply held rivalries in the area go back many years and have been increased by the establishment of the Israeli state, which we back.

Maintaining our commitment to supporting Israel does not mean, however, giving in to the wishes of their leaders.

The Middle East remains a cauldron of festering enmities shared by millions of people and which will require the concerted effort of enlightened local leaders to mitigate. And it will take many years for that to happen.

There will be no clear winner in that process and it is obvious that for a modicum of peace to be reached, a series of compromises and an abundance of education, restraint and economic development will be needed.

That long term view was the motivation behind the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between the US, Iran, China, France, England, Germany and Russia.

The deal called for Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons for a 10 year period in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The point of the deal was to gain us time. Precious time for Iran to develop economically, and for that development to take root in their people and in the surrounding area so that attitudes toward compromise became more amenable.

But that option did not seem sufficiently comforting to Netanyahu and company. They saw the nuclear deal as ‘appeasement’ of Iran. Anyway, it was an Obama idea and what did he know? It well suited Netanyahu’s bellicose instincts that the idea be scrapped.

But the nuclear deal would have been very acceptable to a man like former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an Israeli extremist in 1995. (even developed nations murder their best, like we did JFK and Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy)

Men and Women make a difference. Yitzhak Rabin was a leader with an intelligence, imagination and compassion that Netanyahu has been incapable of emulating.  

When Netanyahu sees Trump become president, he sees his chance to scrap the nuclear deal. And it suited Trump just as well. For Trump, anything Obama did was tainted. And Netanyahu whispered the right words into his ears. Scrap the deal! Make us safer!

Was the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran an abandonment of Israel? Of course not.

We stand by that nation in good and bad times. That commitment has been made.

While the US is strong, Israel will always have a staunch ally and we will go to their side if they are in danger.

But that does not mean that we have to stop efforts at finding a compromise.

Trump, with his limited foresight, could not get it. He does not have that imaginative reach and we are the worse for it.

Iran has vowed retaliation for Suleimani’s death. There is no question that it will come. Such retaliation could take any shape, happen in foreign soil or on our own, be directed toward military installations or toward innocent civilians. Anyone of us could be a victim.

It should give us pause.

Pause to think why we elect our leaders. Pause to remind us that our choice of leader must have the ability to think under pressure, to have compassion, to have an imagination, to care for other human beings. It is not easy to find all those qualities in a person but seek them we must. Or we will pay for the consequences.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to view a photo exhibit of American soldiers who had died in the service of the nation. They were from all races. Men and women of various ages, who had committed to defending our nation. Each photograph was compelling. Each made me reflect.

Freedom has a price and those courageous men and women had volunteered to fight for all of us. The least they deserve is for our leaders to honor their commitment by being judicious in their choices.

Keeping such photo exhibit as a permanent installment in the White House, would help remind our presidents of what sacrifices Americans make.

Oscar Valdes

An Unnecessary War

Trump is on the verge of ordering an attack on Iran.

If he had not pulled out of the agreement with that nation, calling for it to halt their development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, an agreement arduously negotiated by Obama and including European nations and Japan, we would not have this crisis.

The deal was to last 10 years, during which there would have been time for changes to occur in Iran, but Trump was seduced by Netanyahu into breaking the pact and here we are on the brink of war.

If we go to war this will be Trump’s war, timed perfectly with Netanyahu’s bid for another term as prime minister of Israel in tomorrow’s election.

Here’s a leader, Israeli voters can confidently say as they head to the polls, who can whisper things in Trump’s ear and make things happen,

Woe to us for tolerating this.