Saturday, January 31, 2009

A quick thought !

I have been monitoring many Israeli blogs over the last few weeks. Most of them took a hawkish stance during the Gaza war and virtually all are now ridiculing Obama's early efforts at peace building by sending George Mitchell to the holy land. They seem to think that Mitchell's experiences in Northern Ireland give no reason to think he can make any real progress in the muddle east. The general consensus is that Israelis and Palestinians simply hate each other more than Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. This is total bollox. The hatred levels were in fact quite similar even though the casualty numbers were considerably less.

George Mitchell meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem earlier this week, apparently the hatred in the Northern Ireland conflict was not as severe as that in the Arab Israeli war.

In addition they seem to think that the Mid East conflict is more difficult to solve because the differences between Jews and Muslims are far greater than those of Catholics and Protestants who are both from a similar Christian western tradition. Again this is a cop out. Yes the differences are greater but this is irrelevant as a solution to the Mid East conflict will not require the type of power sharing institutions that proved so painful to implement in the north. Hamas and the likud party will never have to go into government together. For that matter, Israelis and Palestinians don't even have to learn to live together. A two state solution will result in two completely separate jurisdictions. In this sense the Israeli Palestinian conflict is easier to solve than Northern Ireland's. Face it people, you're running out of excuses.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama's first interview

Barack Obama has given his first formal interview as President and surprisingly it was to the Dubai based Al-Arabiya channel. He discusses Americas image problem in the Muslim world, the Arab Israeli Peace process and the Iranian nuclear crisis. What ye think ?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama on Mitchell

Watch President Obama (love the sound of that) explain in his own words why he is sending George Mitchell to the Middle East.

Monday, January 26, 2009

George Mithchell, Northern Ireland and the Middle East

President Obama has sent former Senator George Mitchell to the Middle East to work as US special envoy on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is Obama sending a clear message as I hoped he would that he intends to prioritise the Mid East conflict in the first year of his administration unlike Clinton and Bush both of whom only initiated peace talks in their final year in office. As we know in Ireland George Mitchell is a very talented negotiator and diplomat who played a notably positive role in the Northern Ireland Peace process.

I am particularly enthusiastic about this development for the following reasons. One of the biggest political convictions that I have is that there are clear lessons to be learned from the Northern Ireland peace process that can be applied directly to the Middle East. It frustrates me that even Irish people don't seem to appreciate this hence the utterly useless debate that dominated the airwaves here during the recent war in Gaza. It is lessons that I have learned while examining events in the North that led me to reject the badly informed yet highly opinionated Israel bashing approach that so many in this country seem to take.

I was fortunate enough to hear Goerge Mitchell speak on the Middle East at the Royal Irish Academy, a Dublin Think Tank, several years ago. His opening speech influenced me greatly. He laid it out as it is. I always remember the words "the Mid East conflict is a conflict to be resolved, not a war to be won". To resolve this thing what we need is for both sides to abandon their dreams and realise that their is no winner takes all solution to the conflict. The Palestinians and the wider Arab world must, absolutely must reconcile with the fact that the Jewish state is a permanent resident in the region and that clinging to a goal of kicking all the jooz into sea is a non starter. That means recognising Israel, not just on paper but fundamentally as well. This means challenging and confronting the widespread bigotry in the Arab world that manifests itself in Holocaust denial and other forms of anti semitism.

Likewise the Israelis have to realise that the Palestinians are going nowhere. All to often the emphasis is on Arab failure to recognise Israel's right to exist. Well I am getting tired of hearing Israelis and their right wing Jewish and Christian Zionist supporters claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Palestinians are just refugees from the Arab Israeli wars, they never were a real people, they have no legitimate claim to the land, they rant. This is the same as denying Palestinians the right to exist. All reasonable people know that many Israelis only have one real objective, to make life hell for the Palestinians so they will all either flee to Jordan "where they belong" or resist at a level the Israelis can control because this is the environment in which Israelis can seize more land, build more settlements and fulfill the biblical prophecy of a greater Israel. Once these two loony concepts of total victory are eliminated then all the issues like Final borders, Jerusalem and refugees suddenly become very solvable. This was the gist of Mitchell's speech at the Royal Irish Academy and he got it spot on.

I am delighted to know that this man is heading to the region to team up with Tony Blair and others to push for a two state solution in 2009. Watch the man himself speak on the similarities between the two conflicts the greatest of which is the fact that they were both thought to be unsolvable.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I, Barack Hussein Obama

I have been unable to blog the last few days as I have been up in Derry attending a relatives wake and funeral. Bad timing obviously because of events in Washington. For anyone who hasn't seen it watch Obama take the oath of office and his entire speech. Tell me, what did you all think of the speech itself. If you had had drove for twelve hours to get to DC, waited in the freezing cold for another ten hours and eventually got to watch Obama speak from a mile away, would you have been disappointed or inspired.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Guns silenced as Obama prepares

Thousands gather at the Washington Mall for the inauguration of Barack Obama

The last Israeli troops are withdrawing from the Gaza strip as we speak after Saturdays ceasefire. Speculation is rife as to the political timing of the entire war as many link both the upcoming Israeli general elections and today's presidential inauguration with the chronology of the conflict right up to the hour of Obama's swearing in. I'm not sure how true all of this is but I hope 1300 did not lose their lives over mere politics. Look out for a detailed upcoming post where I review the entire war and attempt to forecast its political ramifications. In the meantime I'm off to watch what is beginning to look like the coronation of a king.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bono, You're alright !

Bono doing a spastic dance at the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC yesterday

Bono has been taking a lot of fire for his carry on in Washington yesterday at Obama's inaugural warm up. Ian Dempsy, some tosser from the Evening Herald and Bock the Robber have all been giving him jip. I just want to reassure him that I still think he's too cool for school. Apparently people didn't like his "four young lads from Dublin's north side" comment. Well how the hell else would Dublin get a mention at such a historic moment. I have always liked the way he reiterates his Irishness on the big stage whenever he can. So maybe he exaggerated the working class backgrounds of the band members but so what, who hasn't lied on a CV or stretched the truth a bit here and there. I used to tell women I was Colin Farell's cousin. So Bono, well done and don't mind those begrudgers who secretly resent success, you did us proud.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Israel definitely using white phosphorus

I reported last week that it appeared that Israel has been using white phosphorous in order to create a smokescreen on the battlefield. This has now been confirmed. Watch The Young Turks discuss a CNN report on the issue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Please people, a bit of objectivity here !

I want to make a point, not like me I know. In Ireland right now there are numerous organisations calling for a boycott of Israel and for relations between Dublin and Tel Aviv to be severed. Let me explain why this is silly. Severing relations makes no sense unless you are first willing to call for an end to relations with the half a dozen far worst countries we have relations with such as Sudan and Uganda. I am also against the boycott. In particular I find it genuinely incomprehensible that the Irish Anti War Movement, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Socialist Worker Party, Labour Party and Siptu are calling for an academic boycott of Israel. Many prominent personalities in these organisations actually want to ban, yes prevent by law Israeli academics from working or speaking in Irish universities. I normally get upset when Israelis cry anti Semitism upon hearing criticism of Israel but in this instance they may have a case.

I am also opposed to conventional boycotts of Israeli goods because they will simply never work because of the following reality. There are powerful pro Israeli organisations, mainly Christian Zionists in southern USA who believe that they were put of this earth to make the holy land safe for the Jews. These people have large funds set aside which were created specifically to counter boycotts aimed at Israel and with all due respect to all concerned, these Zionist organisation have more financial clout than the IAWM or IPSC will ever have. All a boycott will do is hurt Irish and Israeli workers.

Boycotts being ineffectual is not why I oppose them. I do in fact think they have the potential to worsen the situation. Allow me to make a complicated issue even more brain damaging. The purpose of Boycotts is to show disapproval of a nations actions with the ultimate aspiration of reversing that nations policies. This will never ever under any circumstances succeed with Israel. To know why this is so requires an understanding of Israel and the concept behind the creation of the Jewish state. Israel is a Zionist country. It was set up in 1948 so Jews would no longer have to fear persecution in foreign lands. The Jews of Israel are the first Jews in history that are no longer living in fear that the dominant majority will one day turn on them. They now have a country that they can call their own and they are going to defend it like a tiger defending her cubs.

Let me explain a simple fact. There is absolutely no conceivable way that Israel will hand total control of land over to a neighbour like Hamas as things stand. To do so would be asking Israel to rely on the good will of Hamas not to attack it. If Israel were to allow Hamas complete control of the Gaza strip it would put the Jewish state in a much more vulnerable position militarily, no reasonable person can deny this. Since Hamas's goals and actions appear to desire the destruction of Israel, this is a security risk that Israel will not accept under any, and I mean any circumstances. No state, would hand an advantage over to an enemy that wants to destroy it. No amount of boycotts, divestment, expulsions of ambassadors or mass protests will change this fundamental fact. If an Israeli missile were to land in an orphanage in Gaza tomorrow and kill 100 children it would not change this fact. This is why I say if you really want to see a permanent end to violence in the Middle East you must first appreciate this reality.

Boycotts only achieve two things. They make Israelis more bitter if that's possible. It plays into the hands of Israeli right wingers who say that Europeans are all secret Jew haters masquerading as anti Zionists. How else can you explain why a small peaceful democratic country like Ireland is willing to Boycott Israel but gives Sudan a pass. Secondly Boycotts in Ireland have the potential to radicalise Palestinians. I have seen this personally in the last two weeks. Arabs living in Ireland that may have been on the verge of taking a more rational and moderate stance see the Irish left's obsession with Israel and they naturally conclude, well if the peace loving Irish think Israel is an apartheid state that should be boycotted then surely I should be even more emphatic in my disdain for the Jewish state. This should not be the Irish way. We overcame a painstakingly difficult conflict. The do's and do not's of the Northern Ireland peace process should be our main export to the Middle East. Not badly informed highly opinionated Israel bashing. As I keep maintaining on Gubu World we should avoid repeating the behaviour of Irish Americans in New York and Boston during the troubles who were accused of behaving more Irish than the Irish themselves. Except in this case the crime of many Irish leftists is that they are behaving more Palestinian that the Palestinians themselves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Faces of War Part 3

This war is in its 19th day. The Palestinian death toll has exceeded 1000 where as the Israelis remain at 13. The IDF have wisely avoided getting drawn into the center of Gaza city where they would be particularly vulnerable to small and light arms fire. It does however appear that operation Cast Lead could be reaching its climax. Whether this means an outright battle for the city remains to be seen. Whatever happens it appears that this is going to end on Israel's terms. The UN security council finally called for a ceasefire but the Israelis have decided to ignore it. Likewise the Franco Egyptian proposal of ending Hamas rockets in exchange for a lifting of the blockade has not come into being and does not look like it will until Israel has completed its military actions. The next few days could be the bloodiest so far which means, plenty more faces of war.

A wounded infant is taken into Shifa hospital in Gaza

Israeli civilians take cover during an air raid in Sderot, souther Israel

Israelis weeping at the funeral of a fallen soldier

A man screams for help as the body of a child is pulled from rubble in Gaza

A Palestinian woman surveys the rubble

An Israeli soldier prays before battle

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rumours of my demise

Have been greatly exaggerated. Sorry folks. I am having a few technical problems here with Gubu World so I have been unable to post or respond to comments in the lest few days. I'm sure it will be sorted shortly. Its unfortunate timing because of the ongoing events in Gaza but I hope to be up an running on Tuesday at the latest. Love Leddy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gaza, Stop the bullshit !

I have had enough. I have just had enough of the bullshit. I can not look at any more reports from Gaza or listen to any of the debates because right now I feel that everybody is an idiot except for me. I attended the demonstration outside the Israeli embassy yesterday. It was bullshit. I have just spent about an hour looking through the Israeli blogs on my blog roll. They are all bullshit. Let me explain why the debate about this conflict makes me want to eat my own face. Firstly, from Israel's point of view.

Why Israel is right.
1.Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza. Anybody who says this is only telling everybody that they do not know what genocide is.
2. Israel is not engaging in ethnic cleansing. While they may have in previous conflicts there is no evidence that they are doing it now in Gaza.
3. Israel have not, as far as I know committed a war crime in Gaza. It is a war crime to intentionally target civilians in warfare. I have seen no evidence that Israel has done this. If I do , I will report it.
4. One of the reasons so few Israeli civilians have been killed (four so far) is because Hamas have failed in their attempts to slaughter many more thanks to Israel's excellent defence systems. Israel goes to extreme lengths to protect its half a million citizens in range of Hamas rockets, they should be applauded for this, not condemned.
5. Israel is not a terrorist, rogue or criminal state. Whatever about an enraged citizen of Gaza saying this, and they are entitled to, it is ridiculous for an Irish person to come to this conclusion. Israel is a parliamentary democracy. Is it flawed, yes, is it illegitimate, absolutely not. It is truly unbelievable that at protests around the world, including today's one in Dublin, people are calling into question the legitimacy of the Israeli state. Well let me tell you, I have been there and I can tell you its going nowhere. The case for Israel has been made and its a solid one. If you don't get that then you are not in this debate realistically.
6. It is wrong to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto or to compare any of Israel's actions to the Nazis. There is only one objective here and that is to insult Jews. I don't think that when the Nazis were liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto that they phoned civilians in advance warning them to flee. Nor do I believe were the Jews of the Ghetto firing rockets into Poland or Germany. The comparison is absurd.

Why Hamas is right
1.Hamas may be sending rockets into civilian areas of Israel which is wrong but their actions are not unprovoked. Israel may have withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but the siege imposed since then would provoke a violent reaction from any people. The Palestinians of Gaza are not in control of their own power grid and the Israelis can turn it on and off at their leisure (this is before the war, right now there is no power).
2. They are not in control of their own borders meaning the government cannot have imports or exports rendering it an economic no go.
3. This is a blatant attempt to turn the people of Gaza against Hamas through collective punishment. This is wrong.
4.The "Hamas are using civilians as human shields" argument is running a bit thin at this stage. In unconventional warfare all guerrilla fighters blend in with civilians. That is in fact what they do.

Where I stand
Both sides have and continue to have legitimate grievances in this war. The main agenda of every reasonable person should be to see a viable ceasefire. One in which rockets stop and the siege of Gaza is ended. But for some reason that does not appear to be enough for many in Ireland. Many are taking the opportunity to call into question the Israeli states legitimacy and call instead for a one state solution to the conflict, something which even Yassir Arafat had given up on.

The Israeli Palestinian conflict is not a football match. It is not about picking a side. When my football team is playing I always think the other side are scumbags and the referee is a bastard. But some Irish people think that because we are Irish and a part of our island remains occupied that we should automatically jump in behind the Palestinian cause and support it unconditionally. This is not how I see it. I come from a country that has overcome one of the most intractable conflicts that the world had known. We instigated probably the world's most successful peace process. This should be our contribution to the middle east conflict. We should certainly never make it more difficult to solve than it already is. We do this sometimes when well known Irish personalities take radical stances.

Any reasonable person knows that for peace in the Middle East to be achieved the following two things have to happen. The Palestinians and the wider Arab population have to abandon the idea that they will one they be in a position to deliver a final fatal knock out blow to Israel. Israel is going nowhere and many Palestinians just cannot accept that. And Irish people should most definitely accept this and not encourage Palestinians to take a hard line stance by taking a radical position themselves. Remember being more Irish than the Irish themselves, well there is such a thing as being more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.

Likewise there are many Israelis who have one objective, to make life utterly impossible for Palestinians in the hope that they will all one day leave and head off to Jordan (as may already have) or that they will resist the occupation at a level that the IDF can contain. Because this is the environment in which Jewish settlements continue to expand and the dream of a greater Israel between the river Jordan and the sea with which so many right wing Jews and christian Zionists aspire to becomes closer to reality.

There is no winner takes all solution to the Middle East conflict. The Irish realised this in the north, the blacks and whites figured in out in South Africa and the penny finally dropped in the Balkans. Unfortunately neither the Israelis or the Palestinians have reached this stage of enlightenment yet. Until they realise this nothing will really improve and peace will remain a far away goal. In the meantime Gaza burns. I just hope that the world will one day get tired of these two tribes fighting in such a primitive way over this scrap of land and force them to make peace. Who knows, with Obama, the new Saudi peace plan backed up by Tony Blair's team, which basically stipulates that there will be universal Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a complete return of post 1967 land, perhaps 2009 will be the year.

Faces of War Part 2

We are in the 11th day of this war. The Palestinian death toll is reported to be 629 but it is likely closer to 800 as most of the Hamas fighters Israel claim to have killed in battle over the last 48 hours remain on the battlefield and are not officially counted among the dead. The Israeli death toll has risen to 9 after three Israeli soldiers were killed in a friendly fire incident last night.

Earlier today an Israeli tank shell hit the United Nations school in Northern Gaza where many civilians whose homes were destroyed were receiving shelter. It appears that at least 40 civilians were killed. The IDF have released a video indicating that militants were firing from the building. As usual we will probably never know the truth. All we know is that another forty innocent people just got cut to bits.

Three men frantically carry a seriously wounded youth to hospital

Three children await treatment in a Gaza hospital

An injured Israeli soldier is escorted from the battlefield

Israeli President Shimon Peres visits a wounded soldier in hospital, he doesn't look much in the mood for a visit.

Relatives mourn at the funeral of a man killed in an air strike

No caption required

Monday, January 5, 2009

10 Days of War

An Israeli shell explodes in the air above Gaza releasing phosphorus flares

When I saw the above picture I assumed that this was an IDF weapon designed to illuminate the battlefield enabling Israeli soldiers to target Hamas fighters in close quarter warfare. But then I saw footage of the weapon being used during the day. Then it occurred to me on seeing the gradual affect of the exploded shell that its purpose was in fact the opposite, to create a smokescreen for Israeli troops and tanks. That makes sense I thought that the IDF would want to do this to an exposed open area they are about to enter. However last night I came across several reports, some in the main stream media but most in the blogosphere that suggest these phosphorus flare are highly toxic and can lead to all sorts of ugly outcomes to civilians exposed to them. I do not know if this is accurate but would appreciate it if there is anyone out there who can offer any insight into this. If true it would be outrageous for such a weapon to be used in Gaza, such a densely populated strip of land.

Palestinians flee an Israeli air strike in Gaza

In the meantime fighting continues to rage on the tenth day of war although I do not believe it has reached its maximum level of intensity. This is probably because Hamas fighters have not yet succeeded in drawing the IDF into Gaza city itself. It is in the tunnels, houses and alleyways of the city that Hamas likely feel they can inflict real damage. At this moment it appears that the IDF have surrounded the city but not yet penetrated it. They have opted to cut Gaza in three parts preventing the different cells from interacting. Unfortunately it is difficult to get any more accurate information as foreign journalists have been banned from the strip. I will continue to do my best. Look out for tomorrows post where I have decided to get off the fence for once and tell my readers what I really think of this war. It will probably be entitled "Where I stand".

The only other point I want to mention briefly is that the Israeli media are reporting that additional reservists are being called up and that the Israeli air force have stepped up patrols of Israel's northern border with Lebanon in case Hezbollah try to take advantage of the situation. As if this thing couldn't be any more of a catastrophe.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ground War in Gaza

Israeli Defence Forces spokesperson Captain Benjamin Rutland announces that the IDF have invaded the Gaza strip. He briefly outlines the the intentions and objectives of the operation.

The IDF have released this footage of their troops preparing to invade Gaza

After eight days of air strikes the Israeli Defence Forces invaded Gaza last night. It is being reported that 100 tanks and four combat brigades containing approximately 10,000 troops are fighting in the Gaza strip. This war has just entered a new phase where the Israelis can expect to bleed. The IDF have already confirmed one soldier killed in action and thirty more wounded. Having said that the Israelis still have the edge even when it comes to urban warfare fought at close quarters. The IDF is the best equipped army in the world. The Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza as I type these words will even have access to the Corner Shot gun pictured here. An ingenious piece of technology that allows soldiers to fire shots around corners without exposing any part of the body to enemy fire. No doubt this will come in handy whilst fighting in the worlds most densely populated strip of land.

The death toll tonight stands at 5 Israeli to 512 Palestinians. It is about to rise dramatically. It is going to be increasingly difficult to access accurate information about the conflict. The Israeli authorities have banned all foreign journalists from the strip. As always I will scan the blogosphere in an attempt to get first hand up to date information. I will try my best to keep all Gubu World as well informed as is possible.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gaza Update

It appears I was premature in my earlier post about ground troops having already entered Gaza however I stand by my claim that special forces may have launched sneak attacks into strip. The question still remains, what is the next phase in operation Cast Lead. The fact that all foreign citizens have been allowed to leave Gaza by the Israelis would suggest that an invasion is coming. This of course will bring the war down to a level that Hamas will feel they can fight on and inflict heavy casualties on the IDF. So far the death count stand at 4 Israelis and 465 Palestinians. In a messy urban conflict Israel could see its casualties rise sharply so the Israeli leadership will be very aware of this particularly given that there is an election a mere three weeks away. Having said that it is becoming increasingly clear that Hamas are in no way as organised as Hezbollah were in July 2006 so an all out ground offensive to destroy the organisation must be tempting for Olmert Livni and co.

Palestinians carry the bodies of senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan and his family, who were killed in an Israeli air strike on their home on Thursday

The real fear now facing Israelis is that Hamas will retaliate with a weapon that is emphatically more effective that their primitive Kasam rockets. Suicide bomings have been promised in the wake of the assassination of Hamas commander Nizar Rayyan and his family. If so this conflict could be facing into an even nastier stage and believe me that is a very real prospect.