Well, honestly, I have been pretty unimpressed by the arguments people have presented justifying Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip. And the more I look into the history of the region and the history of the current “war,” the more unimpressed I am. Most if not all of them seem to be predicated on the idea that Muslims/Arabs are somehow less than human. The “Muslim/Arab=Terrorist/Sub-human” line has been repeated by so many voices over the last few decades that for all practical purposes many in the west and Israel think it’s a statement of fact.
And once one has that as a base to work from, it’s really easy to convince people of all sorts of other nonsense. It makes it easy to blame all the violence on the Muslims/Arabs…and to ignore or even justify Israel’s appalling history of violence. It makes it easy to convince people of things like “they use their own children as human shields.” I mean, to actually believe that human beings would do something like that as a standard practise with widespread support of their friends and families defies all logic, Israelis and Americans who support Israel’s wars would never believe such claims if they were made about Israelis or Americans…but since they already know that Muslims/Arabs are sub-humans who don’t value human life…it’s easy to believe it about them. See how slick and insidious this is? For the record, both sides have a well documented history of using human shields to achieve their ends at times. Welcome to modern war, except of course war has always been this way.
Moving right along, let’s look at how this current round of “fighting” started. On June 19 last year Hamas and Israel signed a cease-fire. Hamas was to stop its rocket attacks and refrain from attacks in Israel, Israel was to relieve the crippling blockade of supplies going into Gaza and refrain from attacks in Gaza. Guess what happened? For four months the rocket attacks essentially stopped, dropping from hundreds a month to a handful a month. And the few that were launched were fired by splinter groups, not Hamas. This is more than a 98% reduction in attacks, combined with the fact that Hamas loudly encouraged Palestinians not to attack Israel, it sure sounds like a good faith effort to stop the rocket attacks. I mean, if the goal was to stop the rocket attacks, seems like a 98% reduction is a good start, nu?
So Israel lifted the blockade? No. They allowed the supplies going into Gaza to increase from 50 tons a day to 70 tons a day. Sounds generous until one knows that prior to the Israeli blockade of Gaza 500-600 tons of supplies a day flowed in. This was, at best, a token gesture on Israel’s part, and very quickly put Hamas under tremendous pressure to resume the attacks. Israel also continued a propaganda war against Hamas and accused them of violating the cease fire in other ways, all without providing any evidence. And Israel launched attacks in the West Bank, while not technically a violation of the cease fire, it clearly wasn’t helping the situation.
Then the fun begins. On November 4 2008, while the world was watching a certain election in a certain important western nation…Israel launched a military attack inside of Gaza, killing six Hamas militants under the claim that Israel was intercepting weapons being smuggled into Gaza. Gee ,what an incredible coincidence that this took place on a day guaranteed not to be noticed in the western media? Hamas announced that this premeditated attack and the failure of Israel to lift the blockade meant that Israel was in substantial violation of the cease-fire agreement…and the rocket attacks resumed. Even then as the violence escalated Hamas offered to resume the cease-fire under the original terms, but Israel rejected all offers until on December 19 Hamas formally said they would no longer abide by the cease-fire. And on December 27th Israel launched their now bloody ongoing operation in Gaza. An operation that was in the planning and preparation stages long before the cease-fire was even signed mind you.
I’m sorry, but a 98% reduction in attacks through diplomacy puts the lie to any claim that this military operation is about “stopping the attacks.” And the facts and the time line put to lie the claim that it was Hamas that started this round of fighting, or that Israel had “no other options.” If a 98% reduction in rockets wasn’t a really good start to a diplomatically achieved peace, I don’t know what is. It’s a safe bet that invading Gaza isn’t going to acheive better results.
What a bloody mess. I’d say I don’t know how it’s going to end, except I’d be lying. This is Israel’s seventh try at achieving peace and security by waging war on a neighbour or in the occupied territories since 1973, the last time Israel was actually attacked and forced into war. Of the previous six operations, only two even partially achieved their stated objectives, and all of them decreased Israel’s security in tangible ways. The Israeli invasions of Lebanon radicalized the Muslim population of Lebanon and directly inspired the creation of Hezbollah for God’s sake. If that alone isn’t proof that the idea of achieving peace through war is really stupid, I don’t know what is. And I can safely say that this seventh attempt to acheive peace and security for Israel by waging war on non-Israelis will not make Israel any more secure, and will make Israel less secure in unpredictable and unpleasant ways.
The blitzkrieg, or “shock and awe” as its current proponents call it, ceased to work in about 1942. With few exceptions it has achieved nothing since then, and it’s never succeeded in pacifying an occupied population. In fact in some ways this has played into Hamas’s hands, they now have every incentive to fight to the last man, what have they got to lose? Whether the Israelis kills their women and children through starvation or war, the result is the same. They might as well go out fighting, as would almost anyone in the same circumstances.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Credit: Raising Yousuf. Another view of Gaza, and another of my endless efforts to remind people, including myself, to try looking at things from different perspectives.)