Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The desolation of peace in Gaza, and in American academia

The great Roman chronicler Tacitus wrote a biography, as we'd call it nowadays, of an eminent military leader, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, in the year 98.  It is from this work that we take the famous quotation, referring to the rhetorical hypocrisies that surround war, 'They make a desolation, and call it "peace"'.  

The question for Gaza now is what the 'peace' which was declared today is to be. A ceasefire or truce has been inaugurated, which is proposed to last.  It comes attended by certain agreed elements - most of them similar to those which accompanied the agreement brokered at the end of the last bombardment in 2012.  A projected softening of the Israeli blockade of the Strip.  An extension of the fishing zone off the Gaza coast from three to six miles.  Egypt to open the important Rafah border crossing.  This comes after a terrible seven weeks for the people of Gaza, with more than 2100 people killed, most of them non-combatants.  Five hundred of those people were children.  11,000 people were injured.  One third of the population of 1.8 million has been displaced, with people fleeing their homes to avoid bombardment, to shelter at UN sites.  Not that this always saved them, of course.  The Guardian reports that estimates for reconstruction say it could take up to a decade.  

But the question now must also be - what kind of negotiations may follow?  Who will be their adjudicator?  Egypt or the United States, or the Quartet, or ... who knows.  What is to be the part of the Palestine Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, in the policing and regulation of the peace in Gaza?  Israel still wants Gaza 'demilitarized'.  A recent statement by the Israel-biased Irish Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan (maybe now making up for flagrantly anti-Semitic statements made by his severely conservative father, one-time TD and minister Oliver J Flanagan), that Ireland could help negotiate peace in Israel/Palestine was undermined by its patent slant, in proposing Palestinian demilitarization.  The Irish political class has a somewhat ludicrous and narcissistic belief that it has a talent for peace-making, on the strength of the Irish 'peace process'.  It is no insult to the recently deceased ex-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, whose hardnosed, bluntspoken and pragmatic approach helped lay the ground for the 'Good Friday Agreement', to say that such witterings tell us more about the goldfish bowl that is Leinster House than about any serious foreign policy innovation or independence, and overlook the sectarian and procedurally sclerotic structures that the 'peace process' has actually brought to Northern Ireland. 


In the last two weeks of faltering ceasefires and negotiations, one of the more striking outriders of the Gaza crisis has been its reverberation in American academia, in the form of the Steven Salaita affair.  Salaita was until very recently an assistant professor at Virginia Tech.  He was offered a tenured position at the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign, due to be taken up this autumn, which was then revoked by the University of Illinois authorities, apparently because of the 'uncivil' character of tweets issued by Salaita during the Gaza bombardment which were critical of Israel.  Rippling out from this ugly episode has been a mounting protest movement in Salaita's support, revelations of Zionist lobbying of the University, and the wider discussion about the academic boycott.  

The links I'll put in here amount to a brief archive on the Salaita case.  They are mostly from Electronic Intifada:

University of Illinois fires professor Steven Salaita after Gaza massacre tweets


Academic heavyweights slam Univ. of Illinois firing of Steven Salaita for Palestine views



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