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The international response to the Gaza attack
I'm struck by the intensity of the international response to the Gaza attack. Even if taking into an account the violence involved it seems to far exceed the response to previous such incidents.  How do you explain this?
There is something about the middle east that keeps attracting a lot of excess attention. I think that the reason for that is that this region doesn't only stand for itself but also serves as a strong symbol, reminding people (especially Europeans) their own past. Two of the major issues in modern Europe's collective guilt have to do with colonialism and with the 2nd world war. Many times people who speak about the middle east's politics are actually resolving issues that have to do with their own national past. The term "pro-Israeli" or "Pro-Palestinian" is used much more commonly than say "Pro Darfurian" or "Pro Pakistanian" and the reason for that is that both Israeli and Palestinians seem to be seen as metaphors and abstract ideas much more than as ambiguous human entities. You can be "pro-Israeli" or "Anti Israeli" exactly the same way that you can be "pro-justice" or "anti-materialism". The moment that you start functioning as an abstract pack of tarot cards instead of as a regional conflict then, naturally, you draw more attention, because people will always be more interested in their own psych much more than they'll ever be interested in some obscure and remote regional conflict.
There are other examples in recent history of conflicts that attracted what seemed to be excessive attention. One is the struggle against the apartheid in South Africa. Many South Africans also felt that their political issues were receiving too much external attention, considering the havoc that was wrecking the continent at the time. But in a postcolonial age, the West hesitated to censure those fledging indeginous regimes for their atrocities, while South Africa remained an embarrassing reminder of an age the West had wanted to leave behind. It is worth noting that the comparison of Israel's measures to apartheid and colonialism is not uncommon, without getting into the question of its validity.

Israel remains one of a handful of states to hold territories under occupation, and the only Western state to do so. At the same time, Israel enjoys close economical, political and military links with Europe and North America, unlike any other country in the region (except, perhaps, Turkey). One must consider the last round of violence and the reaction to it in the context of the greater conflict.
Hi Etgar, Damian,

Etgar, your answer was quite brilliant and enlightening. I had the same opinion but couldn't exactly put it into words the way you did.

Damian, first of all, no one is complaining about extra attention. Attention is great. People go through all sorts of things only to get some attention. Everybody wants attention, and it is also clear that the issue won't be solved without international involvement so attention is great.
But, I think your South Africa example is a telling one. In South Africa the west knew exactly what it wanted - the whites had no place being there and should leave the country to those who belong there. (You mention the post colonial age, and repenting their own sins.) I am afraid this is the precise analogy to the case of Israel - the only people who know what they want are the ones who want Israel out of there.That Israel shouldn't exist in the middle east. It's not its place and was wrongly put there by the west. These people who want the destruction of Israel know what they want, and they are sadly the only ones in the conflict who know what they want.

To use your metaphor of South Africa, what should the west demand of Israel? Let us say that you are in complete control of the west and can demand whatever you want, what would you demand of Israel to do? Leave Gaza - they left. Leave the west bank - sure. Open the borders of Gaza completely to traffic into Israel - sure. (To Egypt? Gaza has a long border with Egypt if you forget. Do you demand the Egyptians also open it completely?). Destroy the wall - sure. What do you think would be the consequence of this? What wthen ould you do when there are rockets and bombs all over Israel? (It is not an hypothesis this might happen, but a certainty).

You say Israel is the only western state to hold territories under occupation - you must be kidding. Just as examples (from many), what about Catalonia and the Basques in Spain. I don't see the west interfering there and demanding Spain to leave Catalonia though many Catalans demand that. The Basques also have an armed group for liberation - the ETA.
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Latest Post: October 11, 2011 at 3:15 PM
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