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Middle ground on both sides blown away in Gaza conflict

Another big casualty from Gaza conflict is the growing loss of “the middle” — moderates willing to engage with each other to resolve the greater Palestine-Israel conflict, writes Palestinian-based freelance writer Raffaele Piccolo.

Conflict is expensive. In purely economic terms it is estimated that the conflict in Gaza will cost upwards of almost US$3 billion or 1.2 % of total economic output (for Israel). Moreover, there are the costs associated with the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza — homes, schools, hospitals and Gaza’s one and only power station have not been exempted from attack. The destruction of infrastructure in Gaza is estimated to amount to US$5 billion. Then there is the loss of life. In purely numerical terms, approximately 1400 Palestinian lives have been lost. Of the lives lost, 80% were civilians, and 20% of those were children. Three Israeli civilians and a Thai national have been killed along, with 56 Israeli soldiers. There is no doubt that this loss of life will leave a scar that will take some time to heal.

However, another big casualty from this conflict, a casualty that has often been overlooked, is the loss of “the middle”. It may also be aptly described as the centre, moderates, or those willing to engage so as to bring about a resolution of the greater Israel-Palestinian conflict. This is not to say that that the middle has been completely deserted. Rather, it is evident that there is a growing polarisation in attitudes among Palestinians and Israelis towards one another.

Signs that the willingness of Palestinians and Israelis to engage with one another is weakening are abundant. They can be seen in the lack of humanity and empathy that people are able to express. In Sderot, an Israeli town that borders the Gaza Strip, local Israelis have made a habit of coming together to witness the attack on Gaza. For them it is a spectacle, a social outing. There is seating, drinks and snacks, and people bring binoculars and take “selfies”, all the while cheering on the Israeli Defense Forces’ offensive.

Then there is the fear that has recently arisen in many Palestinians who habitually reside in Jerusalem. They fear harassment, physical intimidation and violence from Israeli Jews as a result of the conflict in Gaza. This violence is promoted through the community via Facebook pages that call for “death to Arabs”. Palestinians in Jerusalem are blamed for the conflict in Gaza and rockets targeted at Israeli cities. Some posts include pictures of IDF soldiers posing with similar “death to Arabs” slogans drawn across their bodies while holding guns. The number of “likes” numbers in the thousands.

The lack of empathy, growing polarisation, and the promotion and popularity of violence is not limited to Israelis. Similar sentiments can be found among Palestinians. Signs abound comparing the State of Israel with Nazi Germany. There appears to be an abundance of toy guns clutched by children running along the streets (which could be a coincidence). Children are dressed up and painted with fake wounds and blood, to symbolise the children killed during the conflict. They are carried through rallies that clog the streets at night. Then there is the music that features among it all. Popular at rallies is a song that promotes the bombing of Tel Aviv. The song can also be heard blaring from car stereos. More alarming is hearing the song played at a children’s centre while the children sing along to it.

The propagation and rise in popularity of views that support violence is worrying, but it is somewhat understandable. Palestinians are undoubtedly tired of having been told to be patient, to wait and to compromise all in the name of a Palestinian state that has been forthcoming for over 60 years yet still remains out of reach. Israelis, particularly those on the border with the Gaza Strip, fear for their lives. Many have taken to the roads, travelling away from their homes in search of refuge. But however tempting it is to resort to violence, or at least espouse beliefs that advocate the resort to violence, this temptation must not be allowed to take hold.

For Palestinians, resorting to violence will only provide greater grounds for Israel to delay resolution of the greater conflict and the denial of a Palestinian state. For Israelis, violence will give greater credence to those groups that espouse violence as the only means to securing a Palestinian state. It will do nothing to bring about lasting peace or security. It remains in the interests of each to see and empathise with the other and to come back to the middle. Coming to the middle does not guarantee that the greater conflict will be resolved overnight. But failure to come back to the middle guarantees that this conflict will not be resolved at all.

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  • 1
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Gee Raffaele Piccolo…now I wonder why the Palestinian moderates are losing their position???

    I’m going to have to draw a mind map to figure that one out.

    Are you joking????

    If you are, it’s in very poor taste indeed.

  • 2
    GideonPolya
    Posted Saturday, 16 August 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Hardly surprising considering the genocidal realities of Apartheid Israel. realities. The Occupied Palestinians like any other human beings (e.g. Australians) would like to live in their own country (Palestine) with full human rights but this is resolutely refused by genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocde Apartheid Israel.

    The 4.3 million Occupied Palestinians have zero (0) human rights; 90% of the land of the former Mandated Palestine has been ethnically cleansed; since 1936 about 2 million Indigenous Palestinians have been killed by violence (0.1 million) or from Zionist-imposed deprivation; Palestinians refugees total 7 million; of 12 million Palestins , 6 million are forbidden to even step foot in their own country, 4.3 million Occupied Palestinians are highly abusively confined to the Gaza Concentration Camp (1.8 million) or to West Bank mini-Bantustan ghettoes, and only 1.7 million (14%) are permitted by the Israeli Apartheiders to vote for the government ruling all of Mandatory Palestine, albeit as Third Class citizens under Nazi-style Apartheid race laws (see “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ ).

    And Israeli mass murder continues. In addition to the violent killing of about 1,000 Occupied Palestinians each year (equivalent to 14 Apartheid South African Sharpeville Massacres each year) an estimated 4,000 Occupied Palkestians die avoidably each year from Israel-imposed deprivation ( the annual per capita income is $2,431 for Occupied Palestinians versus $31,537 for Occupier Apartheid Israel). In US- , UK- and Australia-backed, nuclear terrorist, democracy-by-genocide, neo-Nazi Apartheid Israel’s latest Gaza Massacre in the Gaza Concentration Camp, 2,000 Palestinians (80% civilians and including about 500 children) have been killed, 10,000 have been wounded, 450,000 have been driven from their homes, 250,000 have been made homeless and 1.8 million (half children) have been variously traumatized from shelling and bombing in reprisals for zero (0) Israeli deaths from Gaza rockets in the previous year and 28 in the previous 14 year i.e. 2 per year as compared to 134 Israelis being murdered by fellow Israelis each year (Gideon Polya, “Mike Carlton, top Australian columnist, forced from job for criticizing Apartheid Israeli Gaza Massacre”, Countercurrents, 08 August, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080814.htm ).

    With 90% of Palestinian ethnically cleansed a 2-state solution is dead. Decent people demand one-person-one-vote and full human rights for all Palestinians in the territory now ruled by Apartheid Israel but the PC racist(politically correct racist) pro-Zionist Coalition and Labor Right (the Lib-Labs, Liberal-Laborals) give resolute support to democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel. Decent Australians who believe in democracy and human rights will reject the racist Lib-Labs, support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and its racist supporters, vote 1 Green and put the Coalition last.

    For alphabetically –organized compendia of the humane views of outstanding anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, writers and leaders opposed to racist Zionism, and nuclear terrorist, democracy by genocide Apartheid Israel’s ongoing Palestinians Genocide see:

    “Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ .

    “Non-Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/nonjewsagainstracistzionism/ .

    “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .

    “Gaza Concentration Camp”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/gaza-concentration .

    “Boycott Apartheid Israel”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottapartheidisrael/.

  • 3
    Itsarort
    Posted Monday, 18 August 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Where have all the moderate Palestinian Leaders gone,… Gone to graveyards everyone…

  • 4
    David Schulberg
    Posted Tuesday, 19 August 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Of the lives lost, 80% were civilians, and 20% of those were children”
    By inference I conclude that 20% of the casualties were Hamas militants. These are propaganda figures - Hamas will never admit to anything that damages their cause.
    If one looks at the ages and sex of dead a large number of those killed were armed militants or males of fighting age. They also show that the proportion of young men among those killed has been much higher than their relative number in the population.
    Please show me a single Palestinian moderate who would not face serious intimidation and harrassment from other Palestinians if he opposed Hamas. Hamas executed 30 suspected collaborators, suspects reportedly executed without trial for ‘acting suspiciously’ and having Israel SIM cards. Refer http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/38508-140728-hamas-executes-30-suspected-collaborators-report

  • 5
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 20 August 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    David Schulberg:

    you’re waffling with fatuous statements such as:

    Please show me a single Palestinian moderate who would not face serious intimidation and harassment from other Palestinians if he opposed Hamas.” Huh?…what has that spurious claim got to do with anything of substance? I could claim exactly the same scenario without any evidence whatsoever for an Israeli moderate..but what’s the point?

    Your bottom quartile ability as a debater is clearly on show with the unverified statement from an Israeli TV show that: “Hamas executed 30 suspected collaborators, suspects reportedly executed without trial for ‘acting suspiciously’ and having Israel SIM cards”.

    Evidence?…anything..or are you on an hourly hasbara rate?

  • 6
    David Schulberg
    Posted Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    @Kevin, my point, before you used that tired old worn-out anti-hasbara fob off tactic was to say that there are no Palestinian Arab moderate leaders prepared to occupy the middle ground. It has always been left to the Israeli side to make conciliatory gestures.
    After a while, when there is no genuine reciprocation and nobody to really talk to, you finally realise it has been a waste of effort.
    Haven’t you read today that even Al Age has reported about how Hamas has shot another 20 alleged collaborators without trial?
    Are these the kinds of barbarians you are happy to support?

  • 7
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Monday, 25 August 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    David Schulberg:

    Your view on this disaster from the comfort of your armchair is both asinine & highly offensive.

    Of the nearly 5000 Palestinians, including more than 200 children under 15 years old,being held in what the Israeli Government euphemistically calls ‘administrative detention’, there are literally hundreds of moderate Palestinian leaders, jailed indefinitely without trial, some for more than 20 years, for that very reason. If any Palestinian leader showed the ability to act moderately particularly between the PLO & Hamas factions, they’ve been arrested & illegally detained.

    And for the record, this latest slaughter was provoked by Israel. First they withdrew from the so-called ‘peace talks’ when the PA had the temerity to form a unity government with the elected party…..something the Butcher Bibi & his US toadies had worked against since Sharon gave Gaza back ‘for strategic reasons’.

    Israel’s calumny of the past 48 years when dealing with the Palestinians has included planting sleeper agents among the Palestinians who marry & raise families, all the while informing for Mossad, and then walking out on these families when directed after a decade (ask Richard Silverstein at the pro Israel Tikum Olam website for the details), or forcing Palestinians to act as double agents or have their Israel based relatives jailed/murdered etc etc.

    As for the shooting of the collaborators, Hamas held military courts to arrive their decision..but of course like a good old Zionist stooge you thought you’d just leave that information out.

    In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a fight for survival going on in Gaza - with one side the 4th most powerful armed forced in the world, and the other a lightly armed militia,and the respective civilians death tools of 2 & 2100 (including more than 500 kids)

    Your mealy mouthed attempt to politely moralize from the comfort of your armchair disgusts me, and I’m sure the great majority of Crikey readers.

    J wire’s more your speed.

  • 8
    David Schulberg
    Posted Monday, 25 August 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    @Kevin, from what rarefied self-righteous platform are you preaching your lies and propaganda?
    If you check the B’Tselem website at http://www.btselem.org/topic/administrative_detention you will see that your figure of 5000 Palestinians as being currently under administrative detention by Israel is totally incorrect. The figure reported there is 363.
    What is your idea of a moderate Palestinian? Somebody who will use non-terrorist tactics to being Israel to heel?
    To claim that Israel instigated the latest bout of the conflict between Israel and Hamas is to completely ignore:
    1. the incessant rocket fire that has been coming from Gaza that has even been condemned by the Palestinian representative to the UNHRC at http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2014/07/13/palestinian-un-rep-each-and-every-missile-launched-against-israel-constitutes-a-crime-against-humanity/
    2. the discovery of tunnels constructed with the purpose of carrying out kidnapping of Israelis for ransom
    3. a senior Hamas Official has stated that members Of Qassam Brigade were responsible for abducting the Israeli teenagers. Refer http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/hamas-official-claims-responsibility-kidnapping-israeli-teens-article-1.1911702
    4. The Hamas charter testifies clearly the destructive intent of Hamas, notwithstanding their lack of military firepower.
    And please spare us a reference to Richard Silverstein, who has a perfidious reputation as one of those ‘self-hating’ Jews whose views are viewed with total disgust by 99.9% of Jews. Refer http://cifwatch.com/cif-contributors/richard-silverstein/
    I read no mention of a fair trial of the alleged collaborators in the report in The Age newspaper at http://www.theage.com.au/world/hamas-executes-18-as-israeli-boy-killed-20140823-107l2v.html
    If you and fellow Crikey readers are happy to support a bunch of fascist radical Islamic theocratics who represent a branch from the same tree as ISIS then you should be absolutely ashamed of your morals and values. The Left has lost all credibility by siding with murderers and anti-semites.

  • 9
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 27 August 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    David Schulberg:

    That you are an ethno supremacist Zionist bigot is no longer in doubt, based on the continuing dross you present in support of apartheid/ethnic cleansing Israel.

    Unless requested by other Crikey posters I needn’t rebutt the selective dross you present as it is clearly from the Israeli Government’s latest talking points…globally no-one accepts that vile propaganda anymore, as evidenced by the current global tweet count of 14 million for Gaza as opposed to 350K for Israel.

    As for your insulting claim of anti-semitism, we are all well aware that in n today’s politically correct world, the mere accusation of racism can be enough to discredit a person and wreck havoc on his personal life.

    The fading stigma of anti-Semitism is the most pernicious of all accusations of racism because Jewish activists and media owners have propagated the myth that one form of racism i.e. anti-Semitism, is worse than others. Thus they’ve propagandised for 40 years that the discrimination against Jewish people deserves to be denoted by a separate term - which happens to be incorrect and racist in its own right because Arabs are Semites, but yet not considered important enough to be included in the meaning of the phrase.
    To suggest as you do that the discrimination against Jewish people is more deplorable than the discrimination against other races is to suggest that Jews are more important than other races, which is a racist notion in itself.

    Racism in any form is despicable, and should be condemned, but accusations of racism should never be thrown around spuriously or for political gain, as you’ve attempted to do.

    The definition of anti-Semitism has become so broad, and the label of anti-Semite so loosely applied, that it can now be used to describe almost any academic, author, activist, or correspondent that says anything critical about Israel or Jewish persons, regardless of the validity.

    Jewish activist Norman Finkelstein says that, “new anti-Semitism is neither new, nor anti-Semitism.” “Finkelstein argues that organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have brought forward charges of new anti-Semitism since the 1970′s not to fight anti-Semitism, but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel from criticism.”

    According to the Anti-Defamation League, “new anti-Semitism” can include legitimate criticism of Israel if the author does not equally criticize other countries that demonstrate similar behavior. This ridiculously faulty premise ignores the fact that many activists and journalists choose to singularly focus their attention on a certain region, country, or cause.

    I reject the term ‘anti-semitism’ as a ethno religious supremacism, as do the rapidly growing number of Aussies & fair minded people globally.

    I won’t be commenting on any of your further Zionist propaganda.

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