All hell is breaking loose in the Middle East once again. To trace the hostilities back to the beginning, we’d have to go back thousands of years. There is no right (as in correct) side here. As for this current round of fighting, I don’t know where it started. But Ha’aretz, the biggest and oldest newspaper in Israel, is reporting that Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, was working on a permanent truce agreement between Israel and Hamas. He was working directly with Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, to whom he had delivered the draft of the agreement just hours before Israel had him killed in a targeted strike on the car in which he was traveling.
“Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with Hamas leaders.
Baskin told Haaretz on Thursday that senior officials in Israel knew about his contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination.
“I think that they have made a strategic mistake,” Baskin said, an error “which will cost the lives of quite a number of innocent people on both sides.”
“This blood could have been spared. Those who made the decision must be judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because of this,” he added.
Baskin made Jabari’s acquaintance when he served as a mediator between David Meidin, Israel’s representative to the Shalit negotiations, and Jabari. “Jabari was the all-powerful man in charge. He always received the messages via a third party, Razi Hamad of Hamas, who called him Mister J.”
For months, Baskin sent daily messages in advance of the formulation of the deal. He kept the channel of communication with Gaza open even after the Shalit deal was completed.
According to Baskin, during the past two years Jabari internalized the realization that the rounds of hostilities with Israel were beneficial neither to Hamas nor to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and only caused suffering, and several times he acted to prevent firing by Hamas into Israel.
He said that even when Hamas was pulled into participating in the launching of rockets, its rockets would always land in open spaces. “And that was intentional,” clarified Baskin.
In recent months Baskin was continuously in touch with Hamas officials and with Egyptian intelligence as well as with officials in Israel, whose names he refused to divulge. A few months ago Baskin showed Defense Minister Ehud Barak a draft of the agreement and on the basis of that draft an inter-ministry committee on the issue was established. The agreement was to have constituted a basis for a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas, which would prevent the repeated rounds of shooting.
“In Israel,” Baskin said, “they decided not to decide, and in recent months I took the initiative to push it again.” In recent weeks he renewed contact with Hamas and with Egypt and just this week he was in Egypt and met with top people in the intelligence system and with a Hamas representative. He says he formed the impression that the pressure the Egyptians applied to the Palestinians to stop shooting was serious and sincere.
“He was in line to die, not an angel and not a righteous man of peace,” Baskin said of Jabari and of his feelings in the wake of the killing, “but his assassination also killed the possibility of achieving a truce and also the Egyptian mediators’ ability to function. After the assassination I spoke to the people in Israel angrily and they said to me: We’ve heard you and we are calling to ask if you have heard anything from the Egyptians or from Gaza.”
Since the assassination, Baskin has been in touch with the Egyptians but not with the Palestinians. According to him, the Egyptians are very cool-headed. They said it is necessary to let the fresh blood calm down. “The Egyptian intelligence people are doing what they are doing with the permission and authorization of the regime and apparently they very much believe in this work,” he says.
“I am mainly sad. This is sad for me. I am seeing people getting killed and that is what is making me sad. I tell myself that with every person who is killed we are engendering the next generation of haters and terrorists,” adds Baskin.
The highlighted part above (emphasis mine) is probably the saddest of all. Although Jabari was the Hamas leader, he realized the futility in the status quo and wanted peace. That idea seems impossible now.
Ha’ratz has a live blog of the rockets raining down on Israel today, obviously in response to the killing of Jabari and innocent Palestinians who were collateral damage.
On Thursday mornings, I end my broadcast week (I don’t do a show on Friday mornings) with comedian/actress Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian American. Needless to say, she’s devastated by what’s going on.
With her on the phone, I attempted to reach out to noted Israeli peace activist and founder of the peace movement Gush Shalom. He answered, but asked that I call back later, and I will try. In the meantime, here’s their statement:
The name chosen for the new war in Gaza is “operation Cloud Pillar”. A far more appropriate name would have been “Operation Short Memory” Said former Knesset member Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom activist. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is counting on the public’s short memory. Netanyahu counts upon people forgetting that dozens and even hundreds of “liquidations” had been carried out and they did not solve any problem – always there was somebody replacing those who were killed, and more than once the new one was more capable and more radical. Netanyahu counts on people not remembering that four years ago Israel went to war in Gaza, killing 1300 civilians in three weeks – which otherwise did not make any significant change in the situation. Netanyahu counts on people failing to remember that just yesterday morning the media reported on people in the communities of the South heaving a sigh of relief at the complete cessation of missiles from Gaza. .
“Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have taken the decision – for the second time in a row the State of Israel will conduct general elections under the shadow of war in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire which already started to stabilize had been broken and shattered to pieces. The inhabitants of te communities of southern Israel, who just started to breathe freely, are sent right back to air raid alarms and the running to shelters.
At the price of great suffering on both sides of the border, the government’s aim had been accomplished: the social issues, which threatened to assume prominence in these elections, have been pushed aside and removed from the agenda of the elections campaign. Forgotten, too, is the brave attempt of Mahmud Abbas to address the Israeli public opinion. In the coming weeks, the headlines will be filled with constant war and death, destruction and bloodshed. When it ends at last, it will be revealed that no goal has been achieved and that the problems remain the same, or perhaps got worse.”
My heart aches for everyone there.
Over here, we’re still recovering from a brutal election. The hate-wingers are in denial, and Donald Trump is the poster child of the racist, homophobic, xenophobic intolerance they preach. So why is Macy’s in bed with him? That’s the question Angelo Carusone is asking. He launched a petition to get them to reconsider working with the cretin, and joined us on the show this morning to talk about it.
Macy’s: Donald Trump does not reflect the “magic of Macy’s.” We urge you to sever ties with him. Macy’s says it has a strong obligation to be “socially responsible” and that “actions speak louder than words.” Indeed. It’s time to act.
And media consultant Joel Silberman joined in to talk about how the media was complicit in making this election a horse race, and the right wing’s denial of reality…