Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ghajar as a Test Case?

The significance of the ongoing Ghajar story is that it tests all sorts of assumptions about Israel's conflict with its neighbors.

Last night I had a discussion with a luminary of Israel's so-called human-rights firmament. The kind of person who generally puts the right of the individual above - or at least, balanced against - the right of the government to pursue policies in the national interest. I was of the opinion that the Ghajar case is a fine example: the Israeli government is about to shunt some 1500 of its citizens into a country they have no identification with, while probably negatively impacting their ability to lead normal lives, in the name of a national interest. My interlocutor, however, had no patience for my pleas to take consideration of personal needs of citizens: They are free to move anywhere else inside Israel (and by implication: why do they think it's their right to remain in the town of their forefathers). For my interlocutor, the overriding consideration was ending a piece of Israeli occupation.

When I tried to apply the same logic to other hypothetical cases, such as for example the idea that Israel will swap Israeli-Arab towns along the Green Line for settlement beyond in a future peace agreement, the discussion got too slippery for me to be able to follow it. But perhaps I wasn't trying hard enough.

This article in Haaretz postulates how the reality on the ground will in a few months: Ghajar will be fenced off from both Israel and Lebanon. Sounds jolly to me:
The security situation after the withdrawal is expected to be better than before the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as Ghajar will be defended from the north by a large UNIFIL force - equiped with watchtowers, lighting and a ground barrier that would make infiltration very difficult.

UNIFIL will effectively isolate the village from the rest of Lebanon, preventing open access to other Lebanese civilians, while the IDF will reinforce its contingent in the south of Ghajar.

According to the proposed arrangement, the IDF will retreat to the southern part of the village, thereby implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The northern part of Ghajar will fall under the military responsibility of no party, while UNIFIL will prevent residents of the rest of Lebanon from entry. 

The villagers don't sound amused.

If there is anything amusing about the matter, it is surely the way it's being reported by the Guardian. Harreit Sherwood manages to imply that the pain about to be inflicted is Israel's fault. She also manages never to mention - not once - that the residents of Ghajar are Israeli citizens, and she certainly doesn't hint that they are so by choice, having requested Israeli citizenship in 1981, when it was first offered by Israel.

As to the the comments below her story: Israel complying with a UN demand to move back to a UN line is, obviously, a story of Israeli perfidy and naked aggression. Of course.


Barry Meislin said...

The important thing is that Israel is drawn and quartered.

This is the ideological prism through which people make their "moral" choices.

The lives of individuals take a back seat. They are unimportant. The end justifies the means.

(And so the people of Ghajar must be sacrificed. Who really cares?, after all. The only important thing is how events can be manipulated so that Israel is further villified.)

Yes, the end justifies the means. And the end" is the end of Israel. All other considerations can be bent out of shape, distorted, perverted in pursuit of this "end".

Such is the nature of blinding ideology, necessarily simplistic, necessarily single-minded. It renders what in many cases (though not all, of course) are thinking, sensitive, bright, decent, loving, generous people into perverse caricatures in pursuit of that single end.

Their love of abstraction (oft the problem of superior intelligence), their pontificating in a bubble, their theorizing with no context engenders a dangerous form of mental illness.

A kind of cult-like brainwashing.

They just cannot think things through.

Wisdom is necessarily jettisoned.

But let no one tell you that they don't mean well, that they don't pursue moral ends. That they don't pursue peace and justice....

The delusional leading the delusional. Leading to catastrophe.

We've seen it before. We thought we could learn from the past. We were wrong. Absolutely wrong.

Perhaps it's time to close down all those (currently worse than useless?) Holocaust Museums....

Saul Lieberman said...

My recollection is that Yossi Beilin said that he expected that uprooting Israelis out of Gaza would end in disaster but that was outweighed by the opportunity to end the occupation.
"Ending the occupation" is like crack.

NormanF said...

And here Israeli citizens are being abandoned to the tender mercies of Hezbollah.

They are aren't Jews! And yes, Jews are also being assaulted by the Israeli government.

Nothing in Israel is considered sacred anymore apart from the overriding imperative of "ending the occupation."

Beside that, human beings don't count.

Anonymous said...

Munich is about to "build" another Holocaust memorial

it seems that remembering murdered Jews is good for tourism while standing by the living is ... well take your pick.


4infidels said...

Since the Arabs of Ghajar don't claim to be victims of Israel, their rights are not of interest to the UN, the media or the Israeli left.

As they certainly have a better understanding of how the Middle East works than most of Israel's ignorant Western critics, the people of Ghajar know that though they hope that they will never be returned to Syria, they cannot say so publicly. In the event that they were returned to Syria, they would be suject to "collective punishment" (i.e. mass slaughter) as traitors to the Arab cause who sided with the Zionists. That also explains why they vote Likud, because they want to remain Israelis, and think Likud is less likely to give away their village. I believe this is similar to why the Druze of the Golan voted in large numbers for Lieberman's "racist, ultra-nationalist" party, which they felt would not likely reliquish the Golan Heights.

4infidels said...

As is usually the case, the Islamic angle of this issue is largely avoided.

The Arabs of Ghajar are Alawites, an offshoot of Islam that has some elements of Christianity. They are considered part of the Shia Islam, according to some traditions. The Iranian mullahs, who for geopolotical reasons need Syria as a conduit for their activities in Lebanon, have declared the Alawites as part of the Shia mainstream.

Sunnis, who make up the majority of Syria's population, consider Alawites to be infidels. They resent being ruled by an Alawite regime and certainly don't forgive or forget the massacre in Hama (a hotbed of Sunni Islamist activity) carried out by the Syrian military.

Meanwhile, the Sunnis in Lebanon (and the Christians and Druze as well) bitterly resent the occupation, political assassinations and theft of natural resources by the "infidel" Alawite regime in Syria.

And we know that in the Arab and Muslim Middle East, scores are settled with violence, members of tribal, religous or ethnic groups are held responsible for, and killed in retribution because of, actions taken by others of their groups.

One thing the Alawites in Ghajar can be pretty confident about is that the Jews won't slaughter them because of their religion or the actions of the Alawite-led regime in Syria. Their experience in the Middle East tells them that they are better off working with non-Muslims, whether the French mandate in Syria or the Jews of Israel, than they are putting their lives in the hands of the Sunnis, as they remember well how they were ill-treated during the Ottoman Empire. After all, it is through working with the French that the Alawites reached the upper levels of the Syrian military so that they could pull off the coup that put them in power over the rest of the country. It also explains Syria's alliance with non-Arab Iran (called unnatural by the Obama administration, Fareed Zakaria and other know-nothings), as the Shia have been historically less hostile to the Alawites than their fellow-Arabs of the Sunni sect.

I would guess that these factors have more to do with the decisions of the Alawites in Ghajar than whatever nonsense is being reported by the media and discussed among the member of the "international community."

Regardless, they are Israeli citizens who have never been disloyal to the State and want to remain Israelis. I think it is a betrayal by the Israeli government to place their fate into the hands of the corrupt and cowardly UN or the "tolerance" of their fellow Muslims.

4infidels said...

In looking back at Michael Totten's article on the Golan Heights, I discovered some interesting quotes from Druze leaders:

A Druze leader in the Golan: "We Druze—like the Shias and Christians and Alawites—also have problems with the Sunni majority because we left Islam."

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze: "Assad doesn’t care about the Golan,” Jumblatt told me. “Suppose we go ultimately to the so-called peace. Then later on, what is the purpose of the Syrian regime? What is he going to tell his people? Especially, mind you, he is a member of the Alawite minority. This minority could be accused of treason. It’s not like Egypt or Jordan whereby the government has some legitimacy. Here you get accused of treason by the masses, by the Sunnis. So using classic slogans like ‘Palestine will liberate the Golan with Hezbollah’ is a must for him to stay in power."

4infidels said...

Michael Totten's article that Yaacov linked to in the previous posting on Ghajar is amazing. It is the kind of journalism not found anywhere in the mainstream media these days.

Here is a quote from the grandfather of Syria President Bashir Assad:

“The Alawites refuse to be annexed to Muslim Syria,” Suleiman Assad, grandfather of President Bashar Assad, wrote in a petition to France during the second period in 1943. “In Syria, the official religion of the state is Islam, and according to Islam, the Alawites are considered infidels…The spirit of hatred and fanaticism imbedded in the hearts of the Arab Muslims against everything that is non-Muslim has been perpetually nurtured by the Islamic religion. There is no hope that the situation will ever change. Therefore, the abolition of the mandate will expose the minorities in Syria to the dangers of death and annihilation.”

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

The Guardian is correct that the plight of Ghajar is solely israels fault. If israel didnt exist, then there would be no issues in Ghajar

Yaacov said...

Sorry, Reb Tony. Not only are you not funny this time, you're not even caricaturing a statement with a grain of truth. The folks in Ghajar are Alawis, they're near Lebanon (or in Lebanon), and the Lebanese,like the Iraqis, the Yemenis, the Sudanis, the Turks and others, are quite able to slaughter their minorities or majorities even when there are no Israelis anywhere on the horizon.

Anonymous said...


guilt seems to be very vivid there...
so they need pseudo -memorials that won't help, but make the world believe... whatever.

Anonymous said...

I find this public displaying of guilt rather off-putting, if it isn't combined with making amends and the only amends that can be made are to the living.

Granted Munich is said to have a big synagogue in the center of the city which I assume took quite some difficult planning to get going but I'd be more convinced, if they'd treat Israel with less on the one hand on the other hand.

and both the synagogue and the new project smell a bit of tourism to me. I read that Berlin is very much en vogue with Israelis and I'd be amazed, if Munich wouldn't be miffed about that. Munich sees itself as our true cultural center ... yes the ol' rivalry between Munich and Berlin is still alive and guess which of the two is the "high" cultured one?

I also happen to think that it would be really smart politics to be unequivocal and unmisunderstandable about pro-Israelism.


Anonymous said...

Just so I understand, will they be losing their Israeli citizenship? Will they then be stateless or gain Lebanese citizenship or what?


Anonymous said...

the way I understood the piece Yaacov linked to they will remain Israeli citizens free to move over the new Lebanese border into Israel leaving behind their immovable stuff.
Those who stay will have to live in a bubble of land surrounded wherever it touches Lebanon by UNIFIL to protect them from the Lebanese.
I wonder whether hypothetically they'd be allowed to migrate into Lebanon and acquire Lebanese citizenship? What a mess - the UN can be really proud of itself.


Independent Observer said...

Yaacov, please read this !!!!!

Your comments are consistently excellent, but here I think you have missed the larger picture:

Israel made a major mistake abandoning the Maronites of Lebanon.

True, occupying Lebanon was draining. But Israel's leadership has missed major strategic points:

- Israel is in the bulls-eye of the Islamic juggernaut

- For its own survival if not for principle, Israel should have been encouraging and building solid political bridges with all the minorities of the Middle East

- These minorities include the Alawi, Druze, Maronites, Copts, Assyrians, Kurds, ....

- These bridges would not only help the survival of all Mideast minorities, but would occupy Islamic regimes with enough problems at home to partially divert their jihad against Israel

- Such bridges would, finally, help teach the hostile world community that the Arab world hates Israel not because of Israeli crimes, but because the Jews are a native Mideast minority which refuses to be subjugated any longer:

Anonymous said...

If it is a test case then as usual it has failed. Hizbollah apparently STILL needs arms...