Is it just me, or is there less exciting news this summer than usual? Today, the top stories are the Israel-Palestine conflict and President Obama’s supposed sudden freedom to be himself. Oh, and the so-called “super moon” that reached its peak last night.
I have to be honest; I don’t understand why Israel is stepping up its attacks on the Palestine territory; Israel-Palestine discussions always seem to lead to bitter fighting on blogs, so I tend to avoid the issue entirely. But I’ll try to pick out some helpful stories on the conflict this morning.
From USA Today: Thousands flee Gaza as Israel ramps up offensive.
GAZA CITY — Thousands fled northern Gaza on Sunday as the Israeli military notified residents of an impending attack and its ground troops briefly crossed the border on a mission to destroy a launching site.
“Civilians are requested to evacuate their residences immediately for their own safety,” the leaflets dropped by air said, before listing specific areas that would “prove to be most dangerous.”
Israeli airstrikes hit more than 200 homes and buildings across Gaza on Sunday, bringing the death toll in the sixth day of the Israeli offensive Operation Protective Edge to 166 with more than 1,000 injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Despite calls from the United Nations and world leaders, there are no signs the two sides will agree to a cease-fire anytime soon.
“We don’t know when the operation will end,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday. “It might take a long time.”
From the UK Guardian: Israel calls on residents to leave northern Gaza as death toll continues to spiral.
The death toll passed 160 on Sunday on the Palestinian side, with no Israeli fatalities reported. The United Nations called on Israel and Hamas to end hostilities. Instead the violence escalated with more exchanges of rocket fire from Gaza and missiles from Israel….
The military said four Israeli navy commandos were lightly wounded in a shootout with Gaza-based Hamas fighters as they carried out a raid to destroy a rocket launching site on Sunday morning. It marks the first time the sides have directly clashed since Israel began a devastating bombardment in response to rocket fire. Hamas said its fighters had fired at the Israeli force offshore, preventing them from landing.
Both sides have dismissed calls for a truce and Israel has continued to build up troops along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground invasion.
So is this all-out war?
There has been little sign that either side is interested in an immediate end to the hostilities, which appeared to be ramping up over Saturday night….
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Friday that “no international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction”.
Hamas’s Haniya sounded a similar tone, saying: “[Israel] is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are [simply] defending ourselves.”
The latest conflict unfolded after last month’s kidnap and murder of three young Israelis in the occupied West Bank and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.
What are we to think about this seemingly endless, unresolvable conflict? I gained a bit of insight from two posts at Tikkun by David Harris-Gershon.
Gershon writes that he was brought up by parents who were very liberal; at the same time he was taught to be loyal to the state of Israel and to believe that the Palestinians were evil.
As an adult, I’ve moved away from such naiveté while holding on to both my Zionist and progressive leanings, despite the growing struggle for coexistence between the two. And it’s not as though I’m mildly informed about the region or mildly invested in Israel and my Jewishness. The opposite, in fact, is the case. I’m a Jewish studies teacher at a day school, yeshiva-educated with a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I’ve authored a memoir about my experience with terror and reconciliation, and write extensively about the region, often critiquing Israel from a progressive perspective while maintaining my desire for a two-state solution to the conflict.
As an adult, I’ve learned about the cleansing of Arab villages which took place from 1947-1949 to make way for the Jewish state. I’ve learned about the ongoing settlement enterprise, the appropriation and bifurcation of Palestinian lands. I’ve learned the horrors of Israel’s decades-old occupation of the West Bank, about the suppression of basic human rights and the atrocities committed. I’ve studied Israel’s use of indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on goods and movement, and the violence visited upon those being occupied.
I’ve learned that – and this is just one example of many – a Palestinian child has tragically been killed every three days for the past 14 years. That bears repeating, since such deaths are rarely, if ever, given any attention in America: Palestinian parents have had to bury a child every three days for the past 14 years.
Knowing all this, I’ve still held fast to my ‘progressive Zionism,’ hoping Israel could become that beacon of liberalism I was presented as a child, a beacon which never truly existed in the first place, despite the country’s socialist roots. Why have I done so? For two reasons: 1) deep down, I still believe in the promise of Israel, and 2) I can’t shake the notion that a Jewish state is absolutely necessary for our security….
Gershon writes that he has worked with others to try to get Israel to change its warlike, even racist, policies, but with little success. he has come to the conclusion that the Israeli government has “little interest in peace.”
These realities have forced me to consider the incongruity between my American-borne progressivism and my Zionism. They have forced me to admit, like Peter Beinart, that in order to continue supporting Israel as a Jewish state, with everything it continues to do, I must compromise my progressivism.
However, the mind-numbingly horrific events of the past week have forced me, for the first time, to wonder whether such compromising can be sustained.
I was sitting in Philadelphia’s airport recently, awaiting a flight back home, the book I had been reading turned face down in my lap. Intentionally. I didn’t want anyone to see the cover. Didn’t want anyone to associate its cover with my views – these people I didn’t know, people I would never know.
I had just opened to the book’s second chapter – “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?” – and had closed it quickly. Shocked by the question. Shocked by my imagined (and false) notions of what a chapter with such a title might contain, by the prospect of a stranger seeing me reading it.
So I shut the book – Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine, which argues that only a bi-national state can justly end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and quickly hid it from those milling about.
Gershon goes on to discuss his recent epiphany about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
…recent, unspeakable events of the past two weeks have begun to make me question whether a two-state solution is even remotely possible anymore, particularly as Israeli officials begin embracing various one-state solutions.
Such internal questioning reached a climax on Friday, when Netanyahu explicitly stated that he wanted Israel to control the West Bank indefinitely, marking his first-ever public rejection of the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood.
My jaw dropped.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll check it out.
Now for President Obama’s supposed break-out.
From The Washington Post: ‘The bear is loose’: Is Obama breaking free or running away?
Bears, beer and horse heads: What exactly is going on with the leader of the free world?
On a single day this week in Denver, President Obama scarfed down pizza and drinks with strangers, shot pool with Colorado’s governor and shook hands with a guy on the street wearing a horse mask. His top staffers are promoting these stops on Twitter with the hashtag#TheBearIsLoose — a term one of Obama’s aides coined in 2008 when the candidate would defy his schedule.
More than five years into his presidency, Obama is trying to free himself from the constraints of office, whether by strolling on the Mall or hopscotching the country as part of a campaign-style tour. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the president “just wants to get out” and influence “our overall political conversation” by connecting with ordinary Americans.
But to some, breaking free can also look like running away.
Obama’s trip to Colorado and Texas this week took place against the backdrop of a burgeoning crisis on the Mexican border, where tens of thousands of children have been apprehended seeking entry into the United States. In Dallas, Obama dismissed the idea of heading farther south for a border visit as a “photo op” — not long after those photo ops showing him shooting pool and sipping beer in Denver.
Read more at the link. To me it looks like Obama is feeling freed up lately–mostly because he seems to be ignoring Republican nonsense and express his real opinions. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it feels that way to me.
Obama’s latest photo-op came at an Austin, TX barbecue restaurant. From The Advocate: Texas Restaurant Worker Gets Gay-Supportive Fist Bump From Obama.
A gay employee at Franklin Barbecue in Austin had “a lucky day to be the register girl” Thursday, as he not only got to wait on President Obama but got a fist bump in support of LGBT rights.
Daniel Rugg Webb, a musician and comedian who works part-time at the restaurant, was on duty at the register as the president came up to pay for more than $300 worth of takeout, The Austin Chronicle reports. Webb slapped the counter and shouted, “Equal rights for gay people!” Obama asked, “Are you gay?” and Webb replied, “Only when I have sex.”
“That’s when he laughed and said, ‘Bump me,’” Webb told the Chronicle. Several onlookers photographed the fist bump and circulated the photo on Twitter. “It was just a lucky day to be the register girl,” Webb added.
From the Austin Chronicle via Buzzfeed:
Webb told the Chronicle:
“As a comedian, it was cool to have a moment where I was making a sitting president laugh — over something that might be considered inappropriate is a bonus,” Webb said of the experience.
He said he had been hoping to get in a joke about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who he described as “famously anti-gay.”
While Webb said he appreciates Obama’s social progressiveness, he expressed hope that the president will close the gap between his own relative forward-thinking on gay rights, and his general quietness on the anti-gay views of many state leaders before he leaves office.
“It would be interesting if he could call some people out for it. People can use a lot of things—religion, freedom of speech—to be anti-gay, but I need people to understand you can call people out for civil rights things,” Webb said.
“We are an anti-gay state. We are a state with a whole bunch of hungry children and sick old people, and [Rick Perry is] grandstanding on things that will get him a better election,” Webb said. “And it’s glaringly obvious. He’s kind of primitive in his social beliefs. I would like to see Rick Perry negatively influenced by any kind of attention. Even Obama laughing at something as, hopefully, acceptable as sexuality can show the difference.”
What do you think? Is Obama really changing?
What other stories are you following today? I have a few more news links, but I’ll post them in comments.