Posts Tagged Gaza

Gaza Q&A: Palestinians answer

Q: Martin Kramer spoke of Gaza’s “superfluous young men.” Is anyone in Gaza “superfluous”?

A: “I don’t mind if Gazans continue producing babies, but they will have to move somewhere else. They simply will not fit into their current geography—forgetting about feeding and employing them, too.” (Dr. Hassan Abu Libdeh, president, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2000.)

Q: Okay… Well, if that’s the situation, wouldn’t it make sense for Gaza’s government to promote family planning?

A: “Unlike the West that practices family planning, we encourage having children for political reasons.” (Dr. Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, co-founder of Hamas in Gaza, 2003.)

Q: Political reasons? For couples having children?

A: “Marriage is the same as jihad. With marriage, you are producing another generation that believes in resistance.” (Muhammad Yousef, member of the Qassam Brigades in Gaza, the Hamas underground, 2008.)

Q: I hadn’t thought of that. So would you say the present Israeli sanctions are starving the “resistance” in the cradle?

A: “It’s not a humanitarian crisis. People aren’t starving.” (Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director, UN Development Program in Gaza, 2008.)

Q: But Kramer said that the present sanctions might be breaking Gaza’s runaway birth rate. If so, how?

A: “The percentage of married females in 1997 was 57.2% compared to 50.5% in 2007. This indicates a decrease in marriage rates in the Gaza Strip, which could be due to Israeli siege and the resulting economic impacts.” (Dr. Luay Shabaneh, president, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2009.)

Q: Aha, that’s how. But Gaza’s still growing fast, so what’s the long-term solution?

A: “All the rural Jews in the southern district from Ashdod (Isdud) to Eilat (Umm Rashrash) are less in number than one refugee camp in Gaza. Their density is six persons per square kilometre while that of Gaza’s population—the owners of this very land—is 6,000 per square kilometre.” (Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, president, Palestine Land Society, 2007.)

Q: Yes, but… that land is in Israel proper. Are you saying that Gaza’s problem can’t be solved in Gaza’s pre-1967 borders?

A: “Hamas looks toward Palestine! All Palestine! The liberation of Gaza is only a step on the road to the complete and total liberation of all Palestine, with the help of God Almighty.” (Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s Hamas prime minister, 2009.)

Q: Thank you for your… candor.

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    WCFIA at Harvard: accusations are baseless

    The following statement has been issued by the directors of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) at Harvard:

    Over the past several days, we have heard from several members of the public, and of the Harvard community, who object to the statements of Martin Kramer at a recent conference. Kramer is a Visiting Scholar at the National Security Studies Program, which is a program of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA). (Kramer is not, contrary to the understanding of some of our correspondents, an employee of the Center or of Harvard University.) Many of those who have written us have called upon the Center to dissociate itself from Kramer’s remarks, or to end his affiliation with the Center.

    The WCFIA has many hundreds of affiliates: faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, post-docs, visiting scholars and others. They represent the widest possible range of opinion on almost every subject. The Center takes no position on any issue of scholarship or public policy, nor does it attempt to monitor or control the activities of its affiliates.

    Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer’s statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless. Kramer’s statements, available at http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2010/02/superfluous-young-men/, express dismay with the policy of agencies that provide aid to Palestinian refugees, and that tie aid entitlements to the size of refugee families. Kramer argues that this policy encourages population growth among refugee communities. While these views may be controversial, there is no way they can be regarded as genocidal.

    Those who have called upon the Weatherhead Center to dissociate itself from Kramer’s views, or to end Kramer’s affiliation with the Center, appear not to understand the role of controversy in an academic setting. It would be inappropriate for the Weatherhead Center to pass judgement on the personal political views of any of its affiliates, or to make affiliation contingent upon some political criterion. Exception may be made for statements that go beyond the boundaries of protected speech, but there is no sense in which Kramer’s remarks could be considered to fall into this category. The Weatherhead Center’s activities are based upon a firm belief that scholars must be free to state their views, and rejects any attempts to restrict this fundamental academic freedom.

    Beth Simmons, Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (on leave 2009-2010)

    Jeffry Frieden, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Fall 2009)

    James Robinson, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Spring 2010)

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      Smear intifada

      Electronic Intifada, a death-to-Israel website run by Ali Abunimah (pictured right), says that in my Herzliya Conference speech, which I posted two weeks ago, I “called for ‘the West’ to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.” According to the site, “Kramer proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would ‘happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status.'” The usual suspects, Philip Weiss and M.J. Rosenberg, have jumped on the bandwagon. Being accused of advocating genocide by people who daily call for Israel to be wiped off the map of the Middle East is rich.

      In my speech, I made no such “proposal.” The full quote:

      Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why, in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, Gaza’s population grew by an astonishing 40 percent. At that rate, Gaza’s population will double by 2030, to three million. Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but if they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth—and there is some evidence that they have—that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination, and treating it at its root.

      I didn’t propose that Israel take a single additional measure beyond the sanctions it now imposes with the political aim of undermining Hamas. And I didn’t call on the West to “deliberately curb the births of Palestinians.” I called on it to desist from deliberately encouraging births through pro-natal subsidies for Palestinian “refugees,” which guarantee that Gazans will remain both radicalized and dependent. The Electronic Intifada claims that “neither the UN, nor any other agencies, provide Palestinians with specifically ‘pro-natal subsidies.'” This is a lie: UNWRA assures that every child with “refugee” status will be fed and schooled regardless of the parents’ own resources, and mandates that this “refugee” status be passed from generation to generation in perpetuity. Anywhere in the world, that would be called a deliberate pro-natal policy. Electronic Intifada: “Kramer appeared to be equating any humanitarian assistance at all with inducement for Palestinians to reproduce.” Appears to whom? A pro-natal subsidy is a national or international promise to support the yet-unborn, not humanitarian assistance to the living. The pro-natal subsidy in Gaza is the unlimited promise of hereditary “refugee” status to future generations.

      (Stopping pro-natal subsidies isn’t an original idea, and I credit Gunnar Heinsohn for making a much more detailed case for it, in his January 2009 Wall Street Journal Europe article, “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel: Stop funding a Palestinian youth bulge, and the fighting will stop too.” He also coined the phrase “superfluous young men.”)

      Of course, Palestinian extremists and their sympathizers are quick to throw the “genocide” charge against Israel, and so are some Israelis. The late Tanya Reinhart once accused Israel of “slow genocide” against the Palestinians—which, if it were Israel’s policy, must be counted its most dismal failure, since population and life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza have grown by an astonishing rate since 1967. The rise didn’t all result from Western subsidies (Heinsohn calls them “unlimited welfare”), and employment of Palestinians in Israel played a crucial role as well. But now the responsibility lies primarily with the West. I will leave the final word to Heinsohn (who, by the way, heads an institute for comparative genocide research):

      As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament, young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors. And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel.

      If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA’s help.

      Overnight addendum: I’m amused by my sudden overnight promotion to Harvard preeminence (by bloggers—why not?), but I have to disappoint. I’m not a “Harvard prof” (Rosenberg) or a “distinguished Harvard professor” (Richard Silverstein). My own homepage records that I’m presently a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center (in the National Security Studies Program). The purpose of visitorships is to facilitate joint research between Weatherhead faculty and non-Harvard colleagues; a visiting scholar must hold a regular academic appointment somewhere else. I enjoy my Harvard research and library privileges. But I’ve never taught at Harvard, I’m not there now, and I don’t use the Harvard affiliation as an identifier on this Sandbox blog. For that, I rely solely on my permanent affiliations. So my rapid promotion at Harvard is really just a stunt by demagogues to attract attention, and the wild exaggeration is of a piece with all they produce. (Still, it was flattering…)

      Further update: The directors of the Weatherhead Center at Harvard: “Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer’s statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless.” Full text here.

      More commentary:  Harvard Crimson editorial:

      The blogosphere clearly overreacted in perpetuating the genocide meme created by Electronic Intifada and others. While the 1948 U.N. Convention does delineate “measures intended to prevent births” as a form of genocide, Kramer was not advocating an ethnic cleansing of Gaza’s citizens, but rather a shift in the average age of their population with the intention of, in his opinion, benefiting them in the long run. Considering the content of Kramer’s speech, labeling his policy as “genocide” is unfair, and steers the debate away from his actual argument.

      Although we disagree with Kramer’s politics, creating a thriving marketplace of ideas among academic Fellows at Harvard can only benefit the University as a whole. Indeed, a major goal of the Weatherhead Center is to promote “vigorous, sustained intellectual dialogue” within the Harvard community, and a diverse view like Kramer’s will certainly foster the sort of debate the center seeks to promote. Although we question Kramer’s judgment, we refrain from questioning his continued presence at the Center and the legality of his statement in light of the U.N. Convention on Genocide. We encourage the blogosphere to follow suit.

      Article by Jeremy Patashnik in the Harvard Political Review: 

      Kramer’s remarks were not softly worded, and there are plenty of good reasons to reject his conclusions, but to call his proposal genocidal is, quite simply, absurd. This is not merely a semantic question of hyperbole gone awry. When M.J. Rosenberg, and others, label legitimate ideas as morally repugnant without rationally refuting them, it creates an environment of hyper-political correctness where people become afraid to share new–sometimes controversial–ideas for fear of being branded “radicals”…

      It’s good that Kramer’s remarks have caused controversy. If people disagree with him, they ought to make their opinions known, and Kramer should, in turn, defend the ideas he put forth. Much of what Kramer said deserves to be rejected, but there are also parts that can contribute to the ongoing dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps ending pro-natal subsidies is morally unpalatable, but that doesn’t mean a discussion of how Palestinian population growth affects the conflict shouldn’t enter into the picture. Rosenberg does this important topic a disservice by irrationally branding ideas he doesn’t like “genocide.” Political correctness serves its role in society, but when it’s taken too far, it inhibits creative thinking.

       

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        Between Goldstone and Gaza, what’s one more zero?

        I’ve been reading through the part of the Goldstone Report treating the economic impact of Operation Cast Lead—a part that hasn’t gotten much attention. It’s largely a crib of a March 2009 report compiled by the Palestinian Federation of Industries, whose deputy general-secretary, Amr Hamad, was interviewed three separate times by the mission. The mission deemed both the report and Hamad’s testimony to be “reliable and credible.”

        The most important sentence in this section of the Goldstone Report is this one: “Mr. Amr Hamad indicated that 324 factories had been destroyed during the Israeli military operations at a cost of 40,000 jobs” (paragraph 1005). I did a double-take when I read that: 40,000 would be astonishing in an economy like Gaza’s. This is what Hamad said in his testimony (June 28, Goldstone in the chair):

        The industrial sector that was destroyed, for example, the 324 factories that were destroyed, that we[re] destroyed used to employ four-hundred thous-, uh, 40,000 workers. And these have lost their uh, jobs, uh, forever.

        So that’s the source of the number. But if you return to the report of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, it puts the job losses at these 324 factories not at 40,000, but at 4,000. That’s an order-of-magnitude misrepresentation by Hamad of his own organization’s findings. The Goldstone Mission should have wondered at the figure, checked Hamad’s testimony against the Palestinian Federation of Industries report, detected the discrepancy, and gotten it right. But it didn’t. Perhaps the mission members, hearing the word “factories,” thought that 40,000 jobs sounded credible. In fact, more than a quarter (88) of these 324 “factories” employed five people or less, and over half (189) employed from five to twenty people (Federation report, p. 12). The vast majority of these “factories” should really be described as “workshops.” Only three employed a hundred or more people.

        Of course, that 40,000-lost-jobs figure has made its way to numerous websites, and might eventually surface in an op-ed in a major newspaper. (That sort of thing has happened before.) So it would behoove the mission to issue a correction, and post a corrected version of its report. After all, this isn’t a matter of interpretation.

        And as you ponder all those figures in the Goldstone Report, just keep in mind that it contains at least one order-of-magnitude error regarding a very basic statistic. The report isn’t just biased. It’s shoddy.

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          Gaza errors (or lies)

          Henry Siegman, who must spend every waking hour hating Israel, has a piece in the London Review of Books, which is never complete without an Israel-bashing tirade. This one is called simply “Israel’s Lies.” Siegman spends a lot of time faulting Israel for the breakdown of the previous six-month cease-fire with Hamas, reached through Egyptian mediation in June 2008. In one passage, he accurately reports the quid pro quo of the cease-fire:

          [The cease-fire] required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad… and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions.

          Correct. But only a couple of paragraphs earlier, he set up the cease-fire as an entirely differently deal—and accused Israel of violating it:

          Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further.

          Therefore according to Siegman, Israel violated the cease-fire before Hamas fired a single rocket, by reneging on its supposed commitment to ease sanctions. Rashid Khalidi, writing in the New York Times, went even further: “Lifting the blockade,” he wrote, “along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.” (My emphasis.)

          None of this is true.

          First of all, contra Khalidi, Israel did not agree to “lifting” of the “blockade,” only to easing it. At the time, the Economist reported the cease-fire thus (my emphasis):

          The two sides agreed to start with three days of calm. If that holds, Israel will allow some construction materials and merchandise into Gaza, slightly easing an economic blockade that it has imposed since Hamas wrested control of the strip.

          And Israel did just that: it slightly eased the sanctions on some construction materials and merchandise. Siegman falsely claims that Israel “tightened” its “throttlehold” on Gaza after the cease-fire, and that this is confirmed by “every neutral international observer and NGO.” Untrue. The numbers refuting him appear in the last PalTrade (Palestine Trade Center) report on the Gaza terminals, published on November 19, as part of its “Cargo Movement and Access Monitoring and Reporting Project.” The report says the following (my emphasis):

          Following the announcement of the truce ‘hudna’ on June 19, 2008 and took effect on June 22, a slight improvement occurred in terms of terminals operation times, types of goods, and truckloads volume that [Israel] allowed to enter Gaza Strip.

          This is exactly what Israel had agreed to permit. Here is the table from the PalTrade report, comparing average monthly imports before the Hamas coup (June 12, 2007), between the coup and the “truce,” and then after (i.e., during) the “truce” (through October 31). (If you can’t see the table below, click here).

          As is obvious from this table, Israel did ease sanctions during the cease-fire. The average number of truckloads per month entering Gaza during the cease-fire rose by 50 percent over the period before the cease-fire, and Israel also allowed the import of some aggregates and cement, formerly prohibited. (No metal allowed, of course—it’s used to make rockets.) Israel did not allow more fuel, but the PalTrade report notes that fuel brought from Egypt through the tunnels “somewhat made up the deficit of fuel that entered through Nahal Oz entry point.” (For Israel’s own day-by-day, crossing-by-crossing account of what went into Gaza during the cease-fire, go here. This account also puts the increase of merchandise entering Gaza at 50 percent.)

          Why do the Khalidi and Siegman errors (or lies, if made knowingly) matter now? If you believe Khalidi’s claim that the last cease-fire included “lifting the blockade,” you might say: why shouldn’t Israel agree to lift it in this one? Or if you believe Siegman’s claim that Israel tightened the sanctions at the crossings during the cease-fire, you might say: Israel shortchanged the Palestinians once, so the next deal on the crossings has to have international guarantees. But in both cases, you’d be relying on entirely bogus claims.

          Israel has a compelling strategic reason to keep the sanctions in place. (I say sanctions and not blockade, because Israel doesn’t control the Egyptian-Gazan border, and so cannot impose a true blockade.) Israel’s sanctions are meant to squeeze the “resistance” out of the Hamas regime—and, if possible, to break its monopoly on power in Gaza. Unless these goals are met, at least in part, it’s lights-out for any peace process. And as long as sanctions don’t create extreme humanitarian crises—as opposed to hardships—they’re a perfectly legitimate tool. It was sanctions that ended apartheid in South Africa, kept Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs, got Qadhafi to give up his WMD, and might (hope against hope) stop Iran’s nuclear program.

          Hamas owes everything not to its feeble “resistance,” but to the tendency of the weak of will or mind to throw it lifelines. It’s now demanding that the sanctions be lifted, and the usual chorus is echoing the cynical claims of a tyrannical and terrorist regime that shows no mercy toward its opponents, Israeli or Palestinian. Supporters of peace shouldn’t acquiesce in another bailout of its worst enemy. It’s time to break the cycle, and make it clear beyond doubt that the Hamas bubble has burst. The way to do that is to keep the sanctions in place.

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