Stephen Shalom has an indispensable Question and Answer on Gaza over at ZNet. It is too long to post here (it prints out at 36 pages), so make sure to go and read it. As with anything written by Stephen, it is impeccably documented with 138 references.
The Q & A provides detailed discussion of most issues raised by the conflict. It could be titled Everything You Want To Know But Were Afraid To Ask. It will constitute an essential contribution for future discussion. It would be nice if those who disagree would respond in kind, so that future discussion could be fact-based.
Read it here. You can also download it as a pdf here..
Two excerpts after the fold:
Here is are two excerpts, out of 34 questions:
3. Hasn't Israel withdrawn from Gaza, thereby ending its occupation?
The Israeli withdrawal did not end the occupation. As John Dugard, the UN's then special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, noted in 2006:
Statements by the Government of Israel that the withdrawal ended the occupation of Gaza are grossly inaccurate. Even before the commencement of 'Operation Summer Rains,' following the capture of Corporal Shalit, Gaza remained under the effective control of Israel. This control was manifested in a number of ways. Israel retained control of Gaza's air space, sea space and external borders. Although a special arrangement was made for the opening of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, to be monitored by European Union personnel, all other crossings remained largely closed.... The actions of IDF [Israeli Defense Force] in respect of Gaza have clearly demonstrated that modern technology allows an occupying Power to effectively control a territory even without a military presence.
On November 20, 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, stating, among other things,
"Even though Israel withdrew its permanent military forces and settlers in 2005, it remains an occupying power in Gaza under international law because it continues to exercise effective day-to-day control over key aspects of life in Gaza."
If Israel had truly withdrawn from Gaza, then Israel could not prohibit Gaza from trading by sea or air with other nations, bar people from sailing or flying in to or out of Gaza, overfly Gazan airspace or patrol its coastal waters, or declare "no go zones" within Gaza. Israel also controls Gaza's Population Registry and collects import duties on any goods it allows into Gaza
9. How could Hamas be a partner for peace? Didn't they refuse the three U.S.-Israeli conditions: that they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to accept all agreements previously accepted by the Palestinian Authority?
Hamas has indeed refused these three conditions, but no more so than Israel and the United States have done.
Hamas has not recognized Israel, but Israel and the United States have not recognized an independent Palestinian state.
Consider General Assembly resolution 63/165 that was adopted on December 18, 2008. The resolution reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to an independent State of Palestine, and further urged all States and United Nations entities to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination. The resolution passed by the overwhelming vote of 173 in favor and 5 opposed, with 7 abstentions. The five nay votes were the United States, Israel, and three tiny U.S.-dependent Pacific island nations.
Of course, Israel may say that it is willing to accept a Palestine state, just not on the 1967 borders, and indeed so long as it is confined to a tiny swath of unviable territory. But if Hamas returned the favor, saying it was willing to recognize Israel, but only if it were confined to Tel Aviv and its suburbs, one doubts Israel and the United States would consider that adequately forthcoming.
Regarding the use of violence, it would be nice if Hamas renounced the use of violence. Certainly, however, any sermons in this regard from the United States or Israel are preposterous. (Think Sinai, 1956, or Lebanon, 1982, or Iraq, 2003.) It might also be noted that those Israelis who actually renounce violence -- by refusing military service in an occupying army -- are imprisoned.
As for agreeing with previous agreements, put aside Washington's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, its "unsigning" of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and its failure to comply with the World Court's ruling on Nicaragua. Consider simply that the World Court found Israel to be in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (to which it is a party) in its construction of the Wall on the occupied West Bank. By a vote of 150 to 6 with 10 abstentions, the General Assembly affirmed that World Court opinion and called on Israel to comply. Israel refused to do so and the United States supported its refusal. Thus, for Israel and the United States, treaties solemnly accepted are just scraps of paper.
For Palestinians, who signed on to the 1993 Oslo Accords which promised them a state by 1999, only to see no state and a huge expansion in the number of Israeli settlers, Israel's insistence that Hamas adhere to agreements must seem a cruel joke.