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Apr 15Liked by Steve QJ

It's good to see actual reasoned debate on this subject, rather than the screaming and name-calling so common on other platforms.

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Apr 15Liked by Steve QJ

Thanks for such reasoned debate and civil discourse. The picture is so much clearer when I can appreciate the shades and not just the contrast.

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While you make some good points, can we nuance a piece of this?

> "Egypt completely ceded control of Gaza when they withdrew. All that was left was a border, which is perfectly reasonable for any country. But when Israel left, they retained total control of access to Gaza by land, air and sea. They also took control of Gaza's access to water and power. "

There are two main border crossings from Gaza, one controlled by Egypt and one controlled by Israel. Israel also controls access via the sea. But I don't see how that makes Egypt perfectly reasonable in controlling access via their crossing, but places Israel in total control because they control their crossing. This seems like a double standard; either nation can let in or out as much as they wish through the crossing they control, neither has control of the other's border crossing, and thus neither has total control. But we pretend that Israel alone has total control, which appears completely false to me, a fiction spread by activists. Is that accurate? Do you have information I'm not aware of?

Now water.

"Before October 7, Israel supplied the Gaza Strip with 18 million cubic meters (18 billion liters) of potable water a year through three water pipelines, some **nine percent of the enclave’s annual use**. Gaza itself produced the remainder, some 200 million cubic meters of water per year, with the water pumped from the Coastal Aquifer lying underneath the Strip and Israel’s coastal plain, or desalinated."

On Oct 9th, Energy Minister Yisrael Katz cut off the portion of Gaza's water they were supplying. On Oct 15th, Katz said that water supplies would be restored. On Oct 25th, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the southern pipeline had returned to the pre-war rates of 600,000 liters/hr. (Northern Gaza had other problems as we may all recall).

Gaza is in trouble regarding water, because the war has disrupted or destroyed many the desalination plants which provided the bulk of the water supply, mostly purifying the brackish water in the mismanaged aquifers. Not because Israel continues to refuse to supply the fraction of Gaza water which they previously supplied.

I don't see how that comprises "taking control" of Gaza water. They only delivered (and thus "controlled") 9% of the water before Oct 7th. I do see how destruction of (or lack of fuel for) desalination plants has caused a huge crisis - which is similarly serious, but not quite accurately described as "taking control".

Electricity is more complicated, and over half the supply did come from Israel (the rest from a power plant in Gaza and from Egypt). I am uncertain of the current status (no pun intended). By providing a large portion of the power to Gaza cheaper than they could produce it themselves, Israel has benefitted Gaza for decades, and that gives them some control in a case like this war, but that's not "taking control". Before the war, Israel cooperated with Gaza building their own 60 MW power station, and more would have been built in the future, had this war not erupted.

My basic message is: NEVER, EVER take the activist talking point at face value and repeat them in one's online arguments. If one is going to assert that Israel controls access, water and electricity for Gaza, ALWAYS without exception do some research first. Maybe you did that, but if so I suspect you would have phrased your assertions more accurately, because I know you value honest reporting.

And I get caught in the same thing repeatedly. I will cite something I've read from liberal or mainstream sources because I unconsciously figure that if it's being repeated a lot, it's probably true - then if I research it, sometimes the picture is not so simple. And I know that you can deal with nuance, Steve.

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Apr 15·edited Apr 15Author

"either nation can let in or out as much as they wish through the crossing they control, neither has control of the other's border crossing, and thus neither has total control."

The key issue here is "land, air and sea." Yes, of course, if we're simply comparing land access, then Israel isn't doing much that Egypt, or any other country, isn't doing regarding its border. It's the control over Gaza's airspace and territorial waters that most makes this situation unlike others. This is why Gaza is often referred to as an open air prison and Singapore, for example, isn't.

As for water, yes, you're right, "took control" doesn't capture the full nuance of the situation. I've gotten into the habit of talking about "control" of water because since Oct 7th, Israel has clearly set about using access to water as a weapon of war. Not only cutting off the supply they provided, but destroying desalination plants which has left Gazans almost entirely dependent on their water supply. 96% of the water from the coastal aquifer, according to the UN, is unfit for human consumption due to contamination.

This goes back to the overall question of whether Israel is at war with Hamas or the Palestinian people. When you knowingly attack water access to 2 million people, it's hard to make the case that you're only targeting Hamas.

This is further complicated by power, which, as you say, is required for the desalination plants as well as hospitals, heating, maintaining sanitation, and so on. The situation in Gaza has been dire for decades. I really don't think you can argue that Israel had any serious intention of improving conditions there before this latest chapter of the conflict.

Haha, yes, if there's one thing I've learned it's not to take activist talking points at face value. Though I do hold myself to less rigorous standards in conversations than I do when I'm writing articles. I'd spend all day researching my phrasing for countless conversations if I didn't (though I do appreciate the feedback, "take control" of water will find its way back out of my vocabulary). But to be clear, so, *so* many of the talking points I hear about Israel are simply activist talking points in the other direction. I don't think it's at all fair to present this as a liberal or mainstream (which is essentially liberal) problem.

Part of the problem with so many issues, and the reason there's sometimes blurring around the edges of things, is that there's often a big difference between an official policy or a political talking point and how it plays out in people's lives. *None* of this is as simple as the picture painted for us by the media or by activists.

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"Israel controls Gaza's water and electricity", "Israel controls Gaza's airspace and territorial waters" are the narratives we hear all the time, so you didn't provide anything new here. Still, most of us are left to wonder: How was Hamas able to build that huge network of 300 miles of underground tunnels, when they couldn't import materials to build one single desalination plant, "due to Israel's blockade"? In January 2017, UNICEF and partners completed the construction of a €10 million seawater desalination plant funded by the European Union, so that blockade was not really a blockade, correct?

Gaza only gets 10% of its water from Israel. The rest is from desalination plants. Hamas stole a lot of of the infrastructure pipes to build weapons, so a lot of places in Gaza no longer have running water.

Gaza was also given aid to build its own electrical infrastructure over the last 17+ years via UNRWA but the equipment was stolen and diverted to weapons. So they are still dependent on Egyptian and Israeli electrical transfers. They stopped paying their bills in 2017 so Egypt cut them off and Israel kept providing it for free (what other country in the world provides free services to people who want to genocide them?)

Most of the money came from EU donors, especially Germany, which is why many of the more Israel-friendly governments in the EU are suspending or reviewing their aid programs, since it has been obvious for decades that UNRWA promotes militancy and hatred of Israel and is really not a relief organization. It's a permanent aspect of militant Palestinian maximalist ambitions to conquer Israel.

Many of the things you say are correct, but you also have a blind spot when it comes to Palestine. Gaza has its own desalination plants (most of Israel's water comes from desalination also), and a pipe to Egypt as well, so it could provide its own water. But why, if the gas can go to rockets instead?

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18Author

"narratives we hear all the time"

I'd invite you to think seriously about why you're describing facts that nobody contests as a "narrative." Facts you could easily verify in pretty much any source you care to. It's very easy to accuse others of bias, but this seems as clear a sign of it as any.

As for the tunnels, again, it's very easy to learn about the history of the tunnels if you're interested in understanding the whole story. Briefly, they've existed since the 80s, so long before the blockade. But were expanded after the blockade came into effect. One of the reasons Israel blocks the import of construction materials into Gaza is to impede the construction of those tunnels. But, of course, one of their main purposes was to facilitate smuggling. So the concrete needed to continue their construction was smuggled in too.

"so that blockade was not really a blockade, correct?"

No, that's not correct, even though it's possible to smuggle weapons and materials into Gaza, and even though aid has been able to get into Gaza, it is still under blockade. In fact, the smuggling and the aid are made necessary, in part, because of the blockade. As I said above, much of Gaza's *clean* water comes from Israel. And because Israel has control of Gaza's access to fuel and power, the status of those desalination plants is constantly precarious. Again, we're talking about water for 2 million people. People Israel claims that it has no hostility towards and is not at war with.

I don't believe I have a blind spot when it comes to Palestine. I believe I spend an awful lot of my time talking to people whose understating of the conflict is so partial and biased that I have to debunk a lot of their claims. And because their claims are almost unfailingly partial and biased in favour of Israel, I spend a lot of time saying things that are critical of Israel. Especially because Israel is currently killing tens of thousands of children in Gaza.

But I actually have a lot of sympathy towards Israel. I think it's a wonderful country. I've visited it several times. I have friends both there and Jewish friends around the world. A significant part of my objection to what's happening is that I think Netanyahu is making Israel less safe. And I think the often seen claims that criticising Israel is antisemitism make *all* Jews less safe.

As I've said many times, yes, Hamas could and should have done a lot more for the people in Gaza. I've devoted an article to Hamas' disdain for the lives of the Palestinian people. Hamas are obviously a significant obstacle to peace in the region and while I don't believe they can be destroyed by force, any more than any terrorist organisation has ever been destroyed by force (Al Qaeda, The Taliban, ISIS, etc), I agree with anybody who says they need to be removed from power.

No problem.

But I do have a problem with Israel's well-documented mistreatment of the Palestinian people which goes back longer than Hamas have existed. And I have a problem with Israel's current slaughter of Palestinians, both in Gaza and increasingly in the West Bank, the West Bank part of which can't even be justified by Oct 7th. And I think Netanyahu and Likud are arguably just as extremist as Hamas and also need to be removed from power in order to achieve peace.

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If we were to follow your reasoning, Russia controls Germany's electricity, so Germany is an open-air prison ruled by Russia. The fact that the stupid German governments decided they would buy gas from Russia (to keep their country "clean") rather than build power plants is not Russia's fault, but played directly into their hands. You know exactly why Israel is in this position, as are Egypt and Jordan, for that matter (the blockade happens on all sides of the border). What's next? That Iran needs complete autonomy and control in developing nuclear power, and America and the international community should get out of their hair? "The aid is necessary because of the blockade". In fact, the aid is necessary because Hamas leaders have brought Palestine to the brink of bankruptcy, while making themselves billionaires. Instead of improving the lives of their people all they did was to enrich themselves, brainwash children, and build an arsenal to destroy their neighbor. I agree with some of your comments (including the insanity of Bibi's government and the atrocious indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians), but I fail to understand why you think Israel is to blame for the complete breakdown of that society BEFORE the massacre perpetrated by Hamas and their sympathizers, and why strategic interests of survival don't apply to Israel. There was a blockade against South Africa, and everybody agreed it was necessary. There was a blockade against Communist countries before 1989, and nobody bat an eyelid. During the WWII there was a blockade against Germany, Italy and France. There is a blockade against North Korea. There was a blockade against Yugoslavia in 93-96. There were blockades against Qatar, Nepal, Libya. There is a current blockade against Yemen.

As for the tunnels, as you state, SOME existed since the 1980s, to connect the Egyptian and Gazan sides of Rafa. They absolutely grew in size and sophistication after Egypt and Israel imposed the blockade. So you DO agree with me that the lack of fresh water is not Israel of Egypt's fault, but the fault of the Palestinian government, who had other priorities than supporting their citizens.

In fact, if I go back and read again your answer to my comment, I realize we are both saying the same thing, with small differences. We both agree Palestine and Israel have mistreated each other for a long time, and the current war is a tragedy that needs to stop. I guess we are coming from different sides, with me saying Palestine needs to make more concessions (including returning the hostages, getting rid of Hamas, stopping the terrorist attacks against Israel, accepting a two-states solution, etc.), while you think it is Israel that needs to appease the Palestinians, by stopping the war immediately, lifting the blockade, giving them complete autonomy (including the control over their airspace and territorial waters), etc. Basically, you think Palestinians are the ultimate victims here, they have good intentions and are just usurped by Israel, while I view this in a completely opposite light: I strongly believe in Jews' rights to have a country on the land of their ancestors, I think they have the right to protect themselves but make some concessions (West Bank, more support for the civic society in Palestine), and I am convinced many Palestinians will never stop wanting to destroy Israel and kick the Jews out of the area (history proves I'm right here). Frankly, I am very pessimistic about that part of the word and I don't think there is a viable solution yet.

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"Russia controls Germany's electricity, so Germany is an open-air prison ruled by Russia."

No. This logic doesn't hold, again, because Germany has full control over its airspace and territorial waters. As all countries should. They can import and export freely and so have the option of building their own power infrastructure. Yes, European reliance on Russia for power is a problem. A problem that's been sharply highlighted by the Russia/Ukraine war. But Russia is dependent on the money they receive arguably as much as Germany is dependent other power. The relationship is much more balanced which is why it's relatively stable even though the diplomatic situation is quite tense. Russia isn't just going to turn off the power.

But that said, again, I'm not trying to deflect criticism from Hamas. I've never ever suggested they have good intentions. They've openly stated they aren't interested in stabilising the situation in Gaza or improving conditions for the people living there. It feels as if so many people looking at this conflict don't realise that criticising both Israel and Hamas is an option. This manic, unconditional defence of Israel is the reason why people like Netanyahu have become so emboldened. Support isn't supposed to be unconditional. Otherwise, terrible people will take advantage of it.

But yes, I see the Palestinian people as victims. Because they are. Ever since the creation of Israel, Palestinians have been treated in horrifying, inhumane ways. The Nakba alone is justification for a generation of Palestinians to hate Israel. So while the concessions you'd like to see from Hamas, concessions I agree with completely, are all based on atrocities committed in the past six months, the concessions I'd like to see from Israel, concessions that I believe would have prevented Oct 7th from even happening, are based on atrocities committed over the past few decades.

I don't believe in any religious right to a piece of land. In fact, the concept is incredibly dangerous when you think about it. And the turmoil in that part of the world is evidence of that. Jews were already living in that part of the world for centuries. I'm not contesting their right to do so. But the creation of a state specifically for Jewish people, where rights are apportioned by ethnographic religious identity, where they openly steal land and control land ownership to maintain a Jewish majority "even at the expense of human rights," as Ayelet Shaked put it (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2018-02-13/ty-article/justice-minister-israels-jewish-majority-trumps-than-human-rights/0000017f-e76d-d97e-a37f-f76d21180000), THAT is a unique and dangerous idea and one that I think will fail.

And yes, some Palestinians will never stop wanting to kick Jews out of the area. Just as some Jews will never stop wanting to take over all of the land because they think a man in the sky promised it to them. Just as some people will never stop wanting to kill all black people. Just as some men will never stop wanting to hurt women because they remind hum of his mother. There will always be evil, deranged people who hate others fro stupid reasons.

But the reason most people aren't killing each other is because they aren't being given *good* reasons to hate each other. As I've said many times, I 100% understand anybody living in Gaza right now who says they hate Israel. You, and I and any human being, would feel the same way in their situation. And sure, if you follow the chain cause and effect and stop very abruptly at Oct 7th, you might say they should blame Hamas just as much. But most sane people will blame the people who dropped the bombs on their children. And some of those people will seek revenge in future.

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"Most sane people will blame the people who dropped the bombs on their children". Funny enough, nobody said this about Germany after the WWII. In the aftermath, Germans around the world were treated horribly, excommunicated, exiled, even killed, but in the end they were helped as a nation to rebuild and go back to normal. No normal person would want to punish a whole nation/ethnicity/community/group for things that many times are beyond their control (a government's decision; an accident; etc.). You know this as well as I do, because...racism. One of the fundamental tenets of racism, which is, alas, still well and thriving in the world. You are absolutely wrong in believing that Palestinians are the most oppressed people in the world, hence they are justified in killing Jews. I don't even know where to begin to show you how wrong you are. Only going through examples would take me a whole book. You are also wrong in believing that Israel was a country artificially (and specifically) created for Jewish people. "Poland" entirely disappeared from the map from 1795 to 1917. And then again from 1939 to 1945. But the Polish PEOPLE never went away, as much as the Germans or Russians might have wanted them to. It's the same with Israel. Why would you blame Jews for wanting to maintain a majority in their own country? Becoming a minority (again) in an area where people want to actively genocide them? That is exactly what BDS agitators want, a "return" of Palestinian refugees so that Jews could never make decision for themselves again. Anyway, I see this is an unproductive exchange, as you are convinced of your truth, while I am seeing things in a completely different light. You kinda lost me when talking about Nakba as a disaster provoked by enraged Jews colonisers who just wanted to steal the land from Arabs, and about the creation of a state based on ethnographic religious identity. Not only do you forget WHY the Jews were compelled to create a state based on ethnic affiliation, but you also completely overlook what happened on the other side (after 1948, more than 850,000 Jews fled rising persecutions or where expelled from Arab and Muslim lands where they have lived for more than 3,000 years, and they were never given the status of refugee or promised the right to return). In 1936, the anti Zionist Peel Commission released a report to address Arab violence and announce a policy of Arab appeasement. Even the anti Zionist Peel Commission couldn’t overlook the basic fact that Arab anti-Jewish sentiment was at an all time high and the Arabs repeatedly resorted to violence against the Jews while the Jews patiently adhered to the law. As for Nakba, your take is a page from BDS propaganda machine. Read the memoirs of people who have been there in the moment, like King Abdallah of Jordan (My Memoirs Completed), or those of Azzam Pasha, the Secretary General of the Arab League, or read the Lebanese papers from the time, or the Syrian prime-minister at the time, Haled Al Asm, or even the British secret service files that are now open. Do you want quotes? Sure: " Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve their return" (The Memoirs of Haled al Azm, Beirut, 1973, pp. 386-387). "The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade. He pointed out that they were already on the frontiers and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews in to the sea. Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down" (Habib Issa, in Al Hoda journal, Lebanon, June 8, 1951). "The Arab states encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies" (Filastin newspaper, Jordan, Feb. 19, 1949). "The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they didn't get in." (one refugee quoted in the Jordan newspaper Ad Difaa, September 6, 1954). "This wholesale exodus was due to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastic and unrealistic Arabic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab States and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to reenter and retake possession of their country" (Edward Atiyah, the Secretary of the Arab League Office in London in his book The Arabs, 1955, p. 183). On March 8 1948, the Arab Higher Committee ordered women, children, and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes: "Any opposition to this order is an obstacle to the holy war, and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts". They also ordered the evacuation of "several dozen villages, as well as the removal of dependents from dozen more." (Middle eastern Studies, Jan. 1986). "The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city. By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa." (Time's report of the battle for Haifa, May 3, 1948). Was there forceful grab of land and homes by Jews in 1948 and 1949? Yes, there was, but nowhere as dramatic as it is presented by Palestinian activists (and that doesn't even equate what happened to Jews in Arab states during the same time!). By 1939, before one-third of world Jewry was destroyed in the Holocaust, a geographic and demographic nucleus for a Jewish state was present in Mandatory Palestine. By that date, more than 500,000 Jews and almost 75% of all the land Jews would purchase by 1948 were already in Jewish hands. The Jews had built their state and created all the civic organizations necessary to run their state well before WW2. Again, by 1939 the modern state of Israel existed in all respects but for independence. The modern state of Israel was built and created SOLELY BY JEWS, over a period of almost 100 years, using Jewish capital (it is a very well known fact, acknowledged by the Arab Higher Committee). In the years immediately preceding the approval of the Mandate of Palestine by the League of Nations , over 100,000 Jews lived in the Land of Israel. Rishon Le-Zion, Zichron Ya'akov, Petach Tikvah and Rosh Pina were established prior to 1904. Tel Aviv was founded in 1909. Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel’s first university, was founded in 1912, 36 years before Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The Hebrew University was founded in Jerusalem in 1918. The principle of Jewish self-help was extended to the area of defense with the creation of "HaShomer", the Watchman, an association of Jewish guards set up in 1909 to defend Jewish settlements. Most of the advances and improvements in the British mandate area were the result of Jewish capital and ingenuity. The work of the Hadassah Medical Organisation, a strong and efficient body established by American Zionists, is particularly exceptional, and, like the draining of swamps by Jews, it benefited Arabs. New hospitals were built, child-welfare centres and clinics opened, training for nurses and midwives provided. Jerusalem obtained a proper water-supply. Hundreds of miles of road were laid, facilitating omnibus services and a great increase in other motor traffic. The railway system was re-organized and renovated. In all these and in other ways a vigorous beginning had been made by I925 in providing backward Palestine with the material equipment of a modern state. The Jews took a neglected, backwater district of the Ottoman Empire and turned it into a functioning, modern state!

To sum up, the Jews had already put in place all the infrastructure and organizations needed to run a state by 1925, while their own people were massacred by Arabs. In the report of the Commission of Enquiry, under Sir Walter Shaw, who visited Palestine from October to December I929, the causes of the outbreaks of violence were clearly stated. " There can, in our view, be no doubt that racial animosity on the part of the Arabs …was the cause of the outbreak of the Arab violence.” And that, my friend, can be a "good reason" to hate, as you say in your comment above. The hate didn't start in 1949, and the bombs had a one-way direction ever since (until October last year): they were always directed from Palestine to Israel.

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Apr 15Liked by Steve QJ

When people have nothing to lose, they often (usually) lose it (at some point) be they slaves, Palestinians or any other oppressed group. Close to 100% of the human population reacts in the same way when put in or finding themselves in roughly analogous situations.

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"Close to 100% of the human population reacts in the same way when put in or finding themselves in roughly analogous situations"

Absolutely. All that really changes is the way we talk about it.

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Refreshing.

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