Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some Hard Truths About Gaza Conflict

There are some difficult truths that need to be articulated in relation to this latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas. Since it is the third time a virtually identical war has broken out between the two, after operations Cast Lead in 2008/09 and Pillar of Defense in 2012, I do not intend on writing in a particularly diplomatic tone.

The general consensus in Ireland is that Israel is the aggressor in this conflict. Given the disproportionate casualties on the Palestinian side I understand why some people come to this conclusion. However, some key factors cannot be ignored.

On the specific issue of casualties, consider the following. Israel has a state of the art missile defence system called Iron Dome, which shoots down many of the rockets fired from Gaza. They also have an extremely well organised alert system which enables most of its citizens in range of the rockets to enter bomb shelters within twenty seconds of the air sirens being sounded. This obviously reduced their casualty numbers dramatically. Hamas aims all its rockets into civilian areas. When people make the point that the conflict is unfair because many more Palestinians than Israelis die, do they mean that if Israel shot down less rockets, and delayed their air raid sirens allowing more of their civilians to die, that this would make the conflict fairer. If so, it is a logic I do not share.

Demonization of Israel
Israel is a nation that is involved in an exceptionally difficult conflict. Over the years it has done some things right, and some things wrong. However no nation on earth receives the level and type of abuse that Israel gets, a few recent examples of which are:

  • British MP George Galloway has begun referring to Israel on twitter as a "Satanic State".
  • A Councillor in Dun Laoighre climbed a flagpole and ripped down an Israeli flag that was on display at an international sailing event for children.  
  • A Synagogue was vandalised in Belfast. 
  • A campaign has begun to expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.
  • Constant calls for a complete economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel. 
No similar actions to these have been taken against other nations whose conduct is far worse than Israel. 

Councillor Hugh Lewis removed the Israeli flag from Dun Laoigre harbour on July 19th. 

The Irish Comparison
I have heard it said frequently during the past week that it would have been catastrophic and inexcusable had the British responded to Provisional IRA attacks by aerial bombing of West Belfast. Yes it would have been. But the comparison is invalid because the PIRA were not committed to the destruction of Britain. They generally gave warnings when they planted bombs and did not as policy deliberately target civilians. They were a completely different creature to what Hamas currently is.

It was never IRA policy to expel northern Protestants from the province.  

Israeli Culpability.
Israel is not without blame during the past two weeks. While I believe it does all it can to reduce civilian casualties as policy, it is clear to me that some Israeli soldiers do act out of malice.The rules of engagement that the IDF have are crystal clear. But ironically, I believe that does allow Israeli soldiers, motivated by hatred, to deliberately kill innocent Palestinians. In other words, when a soldier is so familiar with the rules of engagement, they also know how to kill and get away with it. This is my only explanation for the horrific deaths of the four boys on the beech in Gaza on July 16th. I'm sure this occurs with some sniper kills as well. The attack on the hospital was also inexcusable. Hospitals are off limits. And even if the IDF tank involved had identified gunmen at the Al Asqa Hospital they should not have fired.

The Solution
Many commentators claim that the rocket fire from Hamas is a response to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip and if it were lifted, the rocket fire would stop. This is a complete fairy tale. There is a blockade on the Gaza strip but consider the following. Hamas is the government of Gaza. It's number one objective, as per its charter, is to launch a war of destruction against Israel. Naturally Israel do not want to see economic growth in the Gaza Strip whilst Hamas is the government. If there is economic growth in Gaza, then the capabilities of its government increases, just as economic growth in Ireland or any country leads to more revenue for the state. Therefor Israel has adopted a policy where humanitarian aid is allowed to flow unrestricted into Gaza, but anything that could help the economy grow is subjected to the blockade. Their policy is very simple, no economic development and no humanitarian crisis.

As I have already mentioned this is the third time this war has broken out in the last 5 years. Anybody who does not wish it to occur a 4th, 5th or 6th time needs to face some facts. Israel will not end its siege of Gaza while Hamas remains in power under its current form. The people of Israel, a Jewish nation, learned a very difficult lesson in the 20th century, and that is that when someone threatens to wipe you out, you take them at their word that they intend to carry out that threat. Israel will not back down and simply hope that Hamas will not attack. Therefor, the dynamics of this situation have to change in order to prevent this from happening again in 12 or 18 months time.

If Hamas were to moderate its position, by recognising Israel's right to exist this would make a significant difference. Scholars of the Northern Irish peace process know that the decision taken by Sinn Fein in 1986 to recognise the southern state, and engage in constitutional politics was a vital step in the long road to peace. What we need is for Sinn Fein, or other similar organisation to lobby Hamas to follow a similar line. At present, the widespread opposition to Israel that comes from the international left only serves to make Hamas more belligerent.

Asking Hamas to abandon violent resistance is not realistic. But even a modest gesture or conditional recognition of Israel might be enough to convince Israel to loosen the blockade. I have no doubt whatsoever that if Hamas does not take this step, the siege of Gaza will continue, as will the rocket fire, as will the horrific cycle violence between Israel and Hamas. People concerned about the ongoing suffering in Gaza must recognise this reality. Otherwise, Operation Protective Edge will have a violent sequel.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Sad news tonight that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has died aged 46. A fantastic actor, I particularly liked him in Charlie Wilson's War in which he played a CIA agent involved in the covert war against the Red Army in Afghanistan. RIP.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Love this

English Guitarist Paul Quinn does his own classical version of the Game of Thrones theme tune.

President Obama and Race

President Obama has largely avoided discussing race during his presidency. This is probably wise but every now and then he cannot ignore it such is the attention it gets in the media. Race is pure ratings gold and is the reason I believe the liberal and conservative media try to make as many things about race as they possibly can. When Obama conducted a recent interview with the New Yorker he made the following interesting statement.
There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black President," Obama says. "Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I'm a black President
This was a very honest and insightful contribution to the race issue by the President. Predictably however, some of the right wing bloggers and commentators focused on the first line and claimed that Obama was blaming his low poll numbers on racism. Bill O'Reilly was more balanced. In fact, he was spot on.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I'm Back

Gubu World is back, after my longest hiatus to date. All amateur bloggers know that time is our biggest challenge. Most of us political junkies also have work, study, personal lives, social lives and our favorite TV shows to also make time for. However, I just missed blogging too much over the past year so I've decided on a new approach. I am bringing in other contributors to Gubu World to help with the load. From now on you will see regular posts from my brother Eoghan Leddy and an associate by the name of Garret Ledwith. Eoghan will mainly be writing about the madness that is the financial world, particularly in how it relates to Ireland and Europe. Garret will be a little bit of everything from culture to religion. I will be sticking to the Middle East, America and global politics. Don't be surprised if a little domestic Irish politics creeps in as well. As some of you may know I am a Fine Gael candidate in next May's local election, so watch this space. Here's to a fruitful years blogging. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bad time for a War

This shocking footage was released by the IDF today. It is footage of the assassination of Ahmed Jabri, the head of Hamas' military wing who was killed in yesterdays attack. The situation may now lead to a full scale war between the IDF and Hamas controlled Gaza similar to that which we saw in 2008. I am not surprised that Israel has assassinated this man. But I am surprised at the timing. The Middle East is a very different place today than 2008. Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak has been controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. This completely changes the game. If this war does escalate into a violent confrontation in which hundreds of Palestinians are killed it may be the trigger that finally pushes Egypt firmly into the extremist camp in which case the 1979 pace agreement between the two nations will come to an end. In addition the situation in Syria is deteriorating to the extent that the Syrian army and the IDF actually exchanged fire last week. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has been hanging on by his fingernails over the last year. A war between Israel and Palestine might be the only thing that could save him. And in the north Hezbollah is still capable of launching a large scale attack just as it did in 2006. The prospect of Israel facing a three front war in the near future appears to me to be a very real possibility. As for the war itself I believe as I always have that Israel is entitled to defend itself, aggressively if necessary. But I hope it doesn't come to that both for the innocent Palestinians who will die and for the Israelis who as I explained above are in a precarious position. Lets hope things calm down over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remembering the Poppy

I spent much of remembrance Sunday watching the many poignant ceremonies in Britain and elsewhere that commemorate the staggeringly high loss of life suffered by British and commonwealth forces during the the two world wars. During this time of year the commemorations, and the symbol of the poppy itself always sparks a debate in Ireland about why we do so little to participate in remembrance activities despite the fact that 35,000 Irishmen were killed during the First World War. I have blogged here in the past on why I believe we should participate more actively in these ceremonies and personally I was delighted to see the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore travel north last Sunday to represent the Republic. The Tanaiste went to Belfast where as the Taoiseach was in Enniskillen to mark not just remembrance day but the 25th anniversary of the outrageous IRA bomb that killed 11 people in that town. So these are my views on the poppy and on remembrance Sunday.

The Taoiseach lays a wreath in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday

However I do want to add the following. I am not in agreement with some people who are highly critical of the Irish state and its cold history toward commemorations. There are some on the revisionist side who I believe use the poppy issue, or lack of, to unfairly demonise the Irish state. They do this by portraying a picture of persecution of those who did not and do not share the nationalist ethos of the Irish state. Revisionists such as kevin Myers would have us believe that the thousands of Irish that returned from the western front after WW1 were harassed and persecuted by the new nationalist majority on the grounds that they may be loyal to the crown. In my view this is one aspect of a sinister campaign by certain individuals who have been intent, particularly since the EU/IMF bailout of 2010, on deligitimising the Irish State. For them, Irish independence was a disaster and the brutal recessions is vindication of this. And part of their narrative is that the Irish state since its birth has been a sectarian entity that punished those loyal to the former administration. Myers and his followers are perfectly comfortable illustrating the history of Irish Independence as being like that of the angry natives keen to exact revenge on their oppressors similar to the ANC in South Africa. This is of course completely untrue and the commemoration issue demonstrates this. All that happened in 1922 was that Southern Ireland changed jurisdiction from British to Irish rule. It was natural that people who had served in the army of a different nation would not subsequently be in a position to participate in public or state commemorations under the new administration. This would be true anywhere but particularly in a situation where there was enmity between the two countries. This is why it is sad. It is very sad. But it is not an example of persecution or oppression. The same happened all over Europe after WW1. Millions, literally millions of soldiers from the European continent found themselves living in different jurisdictions than the ones they had fought under during the war due to the collapse of the Russian, Turkish and Austro Hungarian empires. As I made clear in my first paragraph, and as I think regular readers of Gubu World will be aware, I greatly honour all those who fought and died in the British Armed forces during the world wars. I personally have worn a poppy and will wear one in the future. I hope to see more widespread commemorations in Ireland in the coming years. I think they are long overdue. But I do reject the notion that persecution or bigotry, historically lie at the heart of Ireland's failure to enthusiastically commemorate our war dead.