Palestine-Israel conflict debated at Tiger Bay
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02/20/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

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During the more than 60 years since Israel was founded in 1948, there has been conflict between Israel and the Palestinians displaced by the formation of the Jewish state. That clash came to a heated apex recently during Israel’s three-week-long offensive on the Gaza strip in December and January.

At the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this afternoon, about 50 people from the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa heard from advocates on both sides of the conflict.

The co-host of WMNF’s True Talk program, Ahmed Bedier, is president of the Tampa Human Rights Council and advocates for Muslim and Arab causes. He stirred controversy on Friday by criticizing Israel’s tactics against the Palestinians.

“I’m not comparing what happened in Gaza to the Holocaust. No I’m not. I’m repeating again right now: I am not comparing the two. But I’m saying that what has happened in Gaza and continues to happen in the Palestinian Territories are Nazi-like tactics. I’m not saying it’s the full scale. Nazi-like tactics: rounding people up, putting them in Ghettoes, concentration camp style, besieging an entire people, collective punishment, holding all Jews responsible for the actions of something else. They said ‘Never Again.’ That should apply for all people, all time.”

Jack Ross is a member of AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a hawkish pro-Israel lobbying body – but spoke only for himself. Ross, and some members of the audience, called Bedier out on the comparison with Germany.

“Truly, and I know he tried to tell you it that was only Nazi-like behavior, but the systemic annihilation of a race, and comparing it to what happened in Gaza is outrageous. It’s outrageous. And the paradox of calling Israel the most powerful military in the region and then saying it carpet-bombed Gaza, yet Gaza stands today. It doesn’t line up. Check the facts.”

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has called Israel’s 1948 war and the intervening 60-plus years “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” citing documents by the founders of the Jewish state whose goal was to make Palestinians an ethnic minority in historic Palestine.

The two speakers differed on who started the most recent violence, which continues despite a cease fire.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a six-month cease fire in June of last year. During that time, homemade shells were fired occasionally by militants within the Gaza strip into Israel and the Israeli military made incursions into Gaza. The cease-fire essentially dissolved after an incursion by Israel on Nov. 4; it largely went unnoticed in the United States because it was on the day Barack Obama was elected president. The next month, Israel began a full-scale land, air and sea barrage, known as Operation Cast Lead.

“However, what happened in Gaza has been an escalation in the making for many years, for the start of the Israeli nation. For years now, the state of Israel has habitually and consistently used violence to get its way, instead of using dialog, instead of using compromise. Using violence, why? Because they’re the region’s superpower; they’re the most powerful nation in the middle east.”

On its website, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says that their findings raise “grave suspicions that [Israeli] soldiers and commanders breached international humanitarian law. These suspicions relate not only to the conduct of individual soldiers, but primarily to questions of policy. The extent of the harm to the Gaza civilian population from the recent operation is unprecedented.”

But Ross says the actions of Israel were justified.

“We see a proportional, legal action.”

When both panelists were asked for a real solution to the conflict, Bedier says there could be peace if Israel stopped killing civilians. Ross says there could be peace when Israel has a negotiating partner in Palestine who can deliver peace.

Most questions from the audience were directed at Bedier, who said that suicide bombing and killing civilians is wrong.

Palestinians need their rights and need to have hope, Bedier says.

Tiger Bay Club of Tampa

True Talk

AIPAC

B’Tselem

Ilan Pappe

Ahmed Bedier’s blog

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