Sunday, 2 October 2011

Preferential treatment ... awesome (!)

So we are now in the Days of Awe, the ten day period between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur when we Jews are supposed to, among other things, request forgiveness from those we feel we have wronged. Now, I am by no means a religious Jew - I observe little and break many commandments - but I am Jewish enough to have what I believe to be the correct interpretation of this practice.

Now, call me a cynic, but I believe that if you are sincere in asking forgiveness for a wrong done unto another person, you should demonstrate that by having the courage to face that person and admit your wrongdoing. That is, surely, the hardest element of apology and one that would be appreciated by the person to whom you are apologising, thus aiding the process of them agreeing to forgive you. The bizarre (in my view) Haredi practice of kaparot serves to deflect attention from the sin, and means that the sinner (for we are all sinners) tends not to have to be so introspective about his or her (but probably his, I would guess - do women perform kaparot?) sins as the chicken-spinning (I mean really, who came up with this idea??) serves as a sin-catcher for those sins we cannot remember.

super flying chicken

So apologising has definitely been in the news in Israel lately. What with the apology/admission to Egypt regarding the killing of Egyptian soldiers, who may or may not have been aiding the suspected attackers in the south of Israel last month. And the non-apology to Turkey for the killing of the 9 Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara, who may or may not have been intending to provoke just such a reaction from the IDF paratroopers who were sent to stop them breaking the siege on Gaza/defend Israel's sovereignty (it all depends on your perspective). I wonder if Bibi is doing any introspective thinking these days? For all the posturing of Erdogan in his not-so-hidden intentions of becoming the major player in the region, surely an apology, even if worded as "collateral damage" -  literally to keep the peace - could have been forthcoming from Israel? Unfortunately, with the official line being that the siege on Gaza is necessary for Israeli security, an apology for the deaths of those who came with violent intentions to breach that security will be a long time coming.

In more recent news has been, of course, the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood. This has been opposed by the Israeli government primarily on the grounds that as a unilateral move by the Palestinians, it threatens Israeli security (again). The bid is also based on UN Resolution 181 (also known as the 1947 UN Partition Plan) and as such, these borders, if recognised, would consequently reduce Israeli territory. Significantly.

Israel's staunch ally, the USA, has also opposed the unilateral nature of the Palestinian bid and threatened to use its veto at the Security Council if necessary. At this point it may be worthwhile to remember two things. Firstly, Obama made many grand statements at the beginning of his term about reaching a final settlement in this conflict and establishing a long-overdue Palestinian state. Secondly, that the same USA is supposed to be an even-handed player in Middle East negotiations.

Recent events show both of these to be untrue. The threat of veto actually pales in comparison to the actual withdrawal, since August, of American aid  "designated for a wide range of humanitarian, educational and state capacity building projects" in the Palestinian Authority- apparently because of Abbas's intransigence in the face of American pressure to withdraw the statehood bid, as well as the (failed) attempt of Fatah and Hamas to reconcile their differences.

If these things are punishable inasmuch as they work against the US Administration's vision of how a peace agreement and Palestinian state should be achieved, then what of the Israeli government's continued (unilateral) expansion and development of settlements in occupied territory? Surely this is worth censure? or, dare I say, even punishment? Even Bush Snr had the balls to withold loan guarantees from Shamir's government because he saw that the money was paying for settlements that would continue to prevent peace being made (never mind the loud message of "fuck you" it sent to the Palestinians and the world). As Adam Keller points out in his excellent article, America's days as key Middle East negotiator are surely numbererd, in no small part because of the blind eye they turn to Israel's activity in the territories. What is needed is a strong ally - one who, as a true friend, isn't afraid to tell Israel that what she is doing is manifestly against her own interests.

Come on Obama, don't be a chicken.