"Too much of nothing Can make a man a liar." -- Bob Dylan
"Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again." -- Shakespeare, King Lear
It sure was a quiet weekend in the progressive blogosphere, where peace, justice and the alleviation of human suffering is an earnest, burning concern. At Eschaton, Atrios gave an amiable shrug and declared, "I got nothing to say." Digby and her co-pilot, David Atkins, did have a few things to say -- about Sarah Palin, General Pants-Down Petraeus, the grubby "Grand Bargaining" in the Beltway, and several examples of the stupidity and perfidy of right-wing Republicans. The posters at Daily Kos plied the same themes.
But even for those who didn't got nothing to say, it was all very much in a low-key, mopping-up, post-election mode. It seemed as if there were no major news events going on anywhere in the world that involved the violent, unjust infliction of human suffering, with the direct monetary, military and political support of United States government and its entire bipartisan political and media establishments. Nothing that might grab the attention -- even in passing -- of writers publicly and professionally dedicated to discussing and analyzing major news events involving American policy, politics and the media.
Anything like that going on this weekend? Anyone? Digby, Dave? No? Kos and the gang? Anything? Atrios?
Nope. They got nothing.
Not on Friday. Not on Saturday. Not by Sunday evening (as I write this).
If you were a follower of many of the major "progressive" bloggers, you could have passed the weekend blissfully unaware that the American-armed, American-backed Israeli military was busily raining death into the cramped and crowded concentration camp of Gaza. Children dying, old people being blown to bits in their houses, the Israeli government ordering a massive call-up of troops and reserves for a possible invasion; top officials from Egypt and Tunisia flying into the besieged camp to show solidarity, mass demonstrations across the Middle East, some meeting with violent repression, others threatening to escalate into revolutionary outpourings. On every side: death, turmoil, suffering, chaos, whole nations in ferment -- and Barack Obama standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Benjamin Netanyahu in defending assassination, aggression and the bombardment of defenseless civilians with massive military force.
For many of our leading progressives, none of this was of the slightest interest. Even as the stage is clearly being set for a rerun of the "Cast Lead" operation in 2008-2009 -- a bloodbath that killed hundreds of innocent people and was followed by a strangulating blockade -- our earnest concerners could not be stirred to even a passing comment on the developments. The idea that someone somewhere was touting Sarah Palin for 2016 was obviously far more interesting -- far more concerning -- than the American-backed bloodshed in Gaza. After all, what if Sarah Palin did become president, huh? (Get your 2016 lesser evilism going now! Start early, avoid the rush!) Why, she might declare her full support for military assaults on civilian areas in Gaza, just like that evil George Bush did in 2008. And you know you don't want anyone like that to be president, do you?
But beyond the Palin-haunted, poll-poring, got-nothing confines of the progressosphere, here's what been going on just today, as reported in the New York Times (which most top progressives at least take a glance at occasionally, I believe):
Israeli forces killed at least 11 people, including several children, in a single airstrike that destroyed a home here on Sunday ... Among the dead were five women and four small children, The Associated Press reported, citing a Palestinian health official. ... Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned of a “significant” expansion in the onslaught, which has already killed over 50 people, many of them civilians.
... Speaking on Sunday from Bangkok, President Obama condemned missile attacks by Palestinian fighters in Gaza and defended Israel’s right to protect itself. “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Mr. Obama said in his first public comments since the violence broke out. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Here the president ignores the fact, also reported -- albeit obscurely -- by the NYT, that the few sporadic and ineffective missiles from Gaza "raining down" on Israel before the attack were in fact retaliation for repeated missile strikes, mortar fire, assassinations and civilian deaths caused by Israeli military incursions into Gaza. But, as we noted here the other day, Gaza has no "right to defend itself;" indeed, it very clearly must "tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." Thus saith the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
But that was not all he saith. As the NYT reports:
Mr. Obama said Sunday that he had spoken several times with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Morsi and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in hopes of finding a way to address Israel’s security concerns without further ramping up military operations. “We are actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region,” he said.
This is strange; for before the attack began, there was already an "actively working" deal to "end the missiles being fired without further violence in the region" -- as the New York Times itself reported on Friday. But as Israeli negotiator Gershon Baskin wrote in the Times, this agreement was aborted when the Israelis assassinated the very Hamas minister who was negotiating the deal. This "extrajudicial killing" -- part of an attack that, of course, killed several civilians as well, including the 11-month-old son of a BBC cameraman -- was the start of the current operation. And it led, as the Israelis knew -- and hoped -- it would, to retaliatory strikes by Hamas. Baskin writes:
I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt. ...
Israel has used targeted killings, ground invasions, drones, F-16s, economic siege and political boycott. The only thing it has not tried and tested is reaching an agreement (through third parties) for a long-term mutual cease-fire. ... The difference between the proposal I drafted in cooperation with my Hamas counterpart and past proposals was that it included both a mechanism for dealing with impending terror threats and a clear definition of breaches. This draft was to be translated and shared with both Mr. Jabari and Israeli security officials, who were aware of our mediation efforts.
The proposal was at least worth testing. Moreover, it included the understanding that if Israel were to take out a real ticking bomb — people imminently preparing to launch a rocket — such a strike would not be considered a breach of the cease-fire and would not lead to escalation.
Instead, Mr. Jabari is dead — and with him died the possibility of a long-term cease-fire.
In other words, the Netanyahu government deliberately scuttled a deal which would have provided exactly what it says it is seeking. They knew the assassination would kill the deal; they knew it would provoke violent relatiation. That is precisely what they wanted.
What's more, it is absolutely impossible that Barack Obama did not know this as well. The US government had to know these negotiations were going on. And even if one takes the position of the extreme Obamalators and believes that the innocent president was kept uninformed of these developments before the attack -- just as he was protected from all knowledge that his FBI was investigating his CIA director for months on end -- he certainly knew of the plan after it was published in the New York Times on November 16 -- two days before he made his statement on November 18.
In other words -- and brace yourself for this shocking revelation -- Barack Obama was lying through his teeth when he regurgitated his empty pieties on Sunday.
Imagine the kind of play Kos would have given to such sinister mendacity had it issued from the gorge of evil George. Imagine what razor-sharp slashings of moral outrage we would have seen from Digby n' Dave had Dick Cheney trotted out such threadbare lies to support the murder of a key official in the midst of peace negotiations. And is it conceivable that Atrios would have "got nothing" if Condi Rice had been issuing "full-throttle support" for an operation that has set the most volatile region in the world ablaze with death and turmoil? No; yet if a Democrat arms, pays for and supports such things, there is no outrage, there is no criticism, there is no analysis. There is only ... nothing.
But Shakespeare knew the self-deluded Lear was wrong: something can indeed come from nothing. In fact, the whole murderous course of the tragedy issues from Cordelia's "nothing." And although the assault on Gaza is as nothing to the progressives, something is happening there. Even as I've been writing this, more details have come in about the attack mentioned in the NYT story above. From the Guardian:
At least 11 members of one family, including five women and four children, were killed when Israel bombed a house in Gaza City on Sunday as the five-day-old war claimed more civilian lives with no sign of a letup in the intense bombardment.
The air strike flattened the home of the Dalou family in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City, causing the biggest death toll in a single incident since the offensive began last Wednesday.
The bodies of the children were pulled from the rubble and taken to the morgue at the Shifa hospital. The dead also included an 80-year-old woman. ... Witnesses said there were chaotic scenes as the dead and injured were brought to the Shifa hospital, which has been on emergency footing since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence. The bodies of four young children lay on two metal trays in the morgue, covered in dust and blood. A crowd of onlookers outside became increasingly distressed as the body of the children's mother was wheeled in, covered in blankets.
But this is of no apparent concern to those so earnestly concerned with peace, justice and the alleviation of human suffering. Those children, that old woman, the grieving survivors -- they must be the wrong people suffering. Or perhaps it's just that the right person is aiding, abetting and supporting their suffering. No need for comment. No need to notice. Nothing to see here.
And thus political tribalism curdles into moral cretinism.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, back in the real world, the London Review of Books has more on the process of deliberate provocation -- and the deliberate scuttling of peace deals -- that lay behind the current round of slaughter in Gaza.
... This time round, on 8 November, a week before Ahmad Jabari was assassinated, Israeli soldiers shot dead 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing football outside his house in Gaza. Palestinian militants retaliated with a bomb and then a missile fired at an armoured personnel carrier, wounding several Israeli soldiers. Israel responded by shelling first another football field and then a mourning tent, killing four civilian non-combatants and wounding dozens. Four Israelis were wounded by the inevitable Palestinian missile volleys that followed. Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, which typically brokers security agreements relating to the Gaza Strip, stepped up its efforts.
By 12 November, amid demands from Israel’s Home Front Defence minister, Avi Dichter, to ‘reformat’ the Gaza Strip and calls from the transport minister, Yisrael Katz, to cut off the supply of all goods and services to Gaza’s population of 1.5 million until they begged for air, the Egyptians had crafted a ceasefire proposal that was accepted by the Palestinians and – according to the Egyptians – Israel too. With responsibility not only for fighting Israel but also enforcing agreements with it, Jabari began implementing the ceasefire. Two days later he was blown up. ...
Pummelling Gaza yet again was intended to remind all concerned – not least the new Egypt – who makes the rules, though it would also reassure the Israeli electorate they need not fear the prospect of Obama punishing Israel for Netanyahu’s embrace of the Romney/Adelson ticket. As expected, the Obama White House has reiterated its commitment to Israel, and Congress has been busy passing unanimous resolutions supporting Israel’s right to self-defence in its colonial possessions. The positions of most European states have been only marginally less obscene. …
Israeli hesitation about what may lie ahead, in combination with furious diplomacy directed at Washington by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and others, may lead to a new ceasefire agreement in the coming days. If not, the primary issue for those committed to peace in the Middle East will be to ensure Israel is deprived of the impunity it enjoyed during and after Operation Cast Lead.