January 12, 2009

Of War, and Tent Hospitals

Via Andrew Sullivan, I came across this snippet from Jeffrey Goldberg:

I saw Sally Quinn, an adjunct member of my Torah study group, last night, and she had a smart idea: Why not erect a massive tent hospital in Sderot, staff it with Israeli army doctors, and treat the Palestinian wounded there? Israel is taking in some of the Palestinian wounded, but not enough of them. And Israel, as those of you who have been there know, has a lot of doctors. Sally's idea would be, at the same time, the right thing to do and a public relations coup. I told her I'm more cynical than she is -- that these sorts of sensible ideas don't get done, for whatever reason, but it would be nice to be proven wrong by the government of Israel.

This reminded me of a recent op-ed by Gideon Levy, who almost alone among high profile commentators in Israel has courageously been questioning the fundamental wisdom of Israel's operation in Gaza. Mr. Levy writes about his colleague Ari Shavit, but he could have just as easily been writing about, at least in this specific instance, Sally Quinn, or Mr. Goldberg, for that matter:

Rightists, nationalists, chauvinists and militarists are the only legitimate bon ton in town. Don't bother us about humaneness and compassion. Only at the edges of the camp can a voice of protest be heard - illegitimate, ostracized and ignored by media coverage - from a small but brave group of Jews and Arabs.

Alongside all this, rings another voice, perhaps the worst of all. This is the voice of the righteous and the hypocritical. My colleague, Ari Shavit, seems to be their eloquent spokesman. This week, Shavit wrote here ("Israel must double, triple, quadruple its medical aid to Gaza," Haaretz, January 7): "The Israeli offensive in Gaza is justified ... Only an immediate and generous humanitarian initiative will prove that even during the brutal warfare that has been forced on us, we remember that there are human beings on the other side."

To Shavit, who defended the justness of this war and insisted that it mustn't be lost, the price is immaterial, as is the fact that there are no victories in such unjust wars. And he dares, in the same breath, to preach "humaneness."

Does Shavit wish for us to kill and kill, and afterward to set up field hospitals and send medicine to care for the wounded? He knows that a war against a helpless population, perhaps the most helpless one in the world, that has nowhere to escape to, can only be cruel and despicable. But these people always want to come out of it looking good. We'll drop bombs on residential buildings, and then we'll treat the wounded at Ichilov; we'll shell meager places of refuge in United Nations schools, and then we'll rehabilitate the disabled at Beit Lewinstein. We'll shoot and then we'll cry, we'll kill and then we'll lament, we'll cut down women and children like automatic killing machines, and we'll also preserve our dignity.

The problem is - it just doesn't work that way. This is outrageous hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Those who make inflammatory calls for more and more violence without regard for the consequences are at least being more honest about it.

There is a lot of truth in what Mr. Levy writes above, and I urge commentators to honestly grapple with the issues he flags. This being said, I wish to be very clear. No country can tolerate frequent rocket attacks without punitive action being taken in response. This is true even when the fatalities have proven relatively low since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza several years back (I believe fewer than a dozen or so). And unlike the summer '06 war in Lebanon (which I addressed here, here and here at the time), it is quite likely that Israel's operation in Gaza may prove more successful, at least in the very short term. The topography in Gaza is more amenable, Ehud Barak is a more capable military leader than Amir Peretz ever was, and Hamas has neither the same stockpile of missiles (whether quantity or quality) nor level of training as enjoyed Hezbollah.

There is also the reality, of course, that Hamas militiamen have very little room to maneuver, much like the civilians in Gaza they are proverbial 'fish in the barrel' at this point (with the Egyptian border closed to boot). In addition, and even despite Condi Rice's terrific bungling of the cease-fire efforts surrounding the ill-fated Lebanon War (remember the gloried talk of 'birth pangs'?), there is arguably more of a carte blanche these past 15 plus days granted the Israelis than during the Lebanese fiasco (although the recent U.S. absention at the UNSC perhaps portends Israel's time for unfettered maneuver may be beginning to run out a bit, if for no other reason than the sheer scale of human misery ratcheting daily).

Throw in too the near total vacuum of power in Washington during the final days of the Bush-Barack hand-off interregnum, as well as Israel's hand being additionally advantaged by Mubarak's anti-Hamas stance (recall Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an ardent thorn in Mubarak's side for decades), as well as Sarkozy's relative pro-Israeli tilt (he remains de facto European standard-bearer of late, even with France no longer holding the Euro-Zone Presidency), you might say Israel has played a pretty strong hand. In short then, Barak (along with Olmert and Livni) might really believe they are pursuing a reasonably successful operation, perhaps even beginning to praise themselves that victory may be nigh.

This however is most certainly not my view, for yet again (and as with the misadventure in Lebanon) the Israeli action is materially disproportionate to the threat being faced, thus reducing its ultimate prospects for success given a too heavy hand lending itself to further radicalization. I know, I know. Those who fancy themselves pro-Israeli scoff at the 'p' word (proportion). And yet true friends of Israel well realize that one cannot decimate terrorist or resistance movements through force of arms alone, even under the cover of phosphorus and half-ton bombs. Nor even fully eradicate the threat of rocket attacks, as Tzipi Livni seems to be signaling of late is the end-game marker the Israeli Government has set down for itself. Instead, you play into the hands of the radicals, while putting pressure on friendly governments through the region like Cairo and Amman forced to reckon with roiling bouts of popular anger, while not necessarily even having affected permanent changes to the security situation in the south of Israel given some of these strategic shortcomings.

And when you are operating in one of the densest areas on earth, matters surrounding the rights and wrongs of civilian casualties get very fuzzy indeed, in terms of allocating blame. For we can all agree, can we not, that a Hamas suicide bomber entering Israel to blow himself up amongst Israeli civilians in a pizzeria, say, is a terrorist. He posseses the specific intent to murder and cause mayhem to innocents, and coldly carries out his plans with all the horror this entails. But what of a bombing campaign so ferocious in an area densely packed with civilians—even when supposedly only targeting ‘militants’—that it is a virtual certainty that innocents will die, many of them? The serried ranks of the commentariat in this country making the rounds on mind-numbingly inane television news-shows have a pat answer, that is, it is unfortunate, but Hamas uses the population as ‘human shields’, or so we are told must be the case with any innocent that has been felled. It's Hamas fault, each and every time, you see? Thus the lines of morality that many argue can get quite blurred are instead unimpeachable, specific intent to kill civilians on the one hand (the Hamas suicide bomber say) is pitted against, not possible recklessness of scope of military action or even willfull misconduct in the heat of battle on occasion, but rather there can be no culpability or blame for the other side to the conflict, so that Hamas becomes responsible for all the IDF actions and ordinance too. But this is too convenient, I’m afraid. For example, let us for a moment ponder this grisly reportage from the NYT:

The story of the Samouni family has horrified many since Red Cross officials on Wednesday publicized their discovery of four emaciated Samouni children trapped for days in a home with the corpses of their mothers. The Red Cross said the Israeli military denied its paramedics access to the area for several days after the ground invasion began on Jan. 3, part of the offensive against Hamas that Israel says is intended to stop the firing of rockets into southern Israel.

Israeli officials said they were still looking into the Zeitoun episode. A military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich, said Monday that the army had “no intention of harming civilians.” Hamas, which governs Gaza, “cynically uses” civilians for cover by operating in their midst, she said.

But some international aid officials are arguing that the plight of civilians in Zeitoun, as well as the shelling of a United Nations school where civilians had sought refuge, should be investigated as war crimes.

“Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,” Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in an address in Geneva to a special session of the Human Rights Council focused on Gaza. The council has a reputation for censuring Israel. Ms. Pillay is a respected South African judge who recently assumed the top United Nations human rights job, which is separate from the council.

Ms. Pillay said, “Violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crime, for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked.” She suggested that the council weigh dispatching a mission to assess violations committed by both sides.

The Israeli military has not said whether the strike on the house in Zeitoun was intentional or a mistake. In the case of the United Nations school, Israel has said that Hamas militants were firing mortars from a location near the school.

According to Ahmed and other witnesses interviewed at the hospital, soldiers came to several of the Samouni homes that make up a section of Zeitoun soon after the ground invasion started. They told family members to vacate their homes and to gather together in one home down the street. Ahmed said they were moved a second time as well, until nearly 100 of his relatives crowded into one house.

Soldiers searched and occupied the now-empty houses. The Zeitoun neighborhood is strategically located and is known to have many supporters of Hamas. Ahmed said the Israelis wanted to turn it into “a military camp.”

Samouni family members did not deny that Hamas militants operated in the area. A family member said there was no active Hamas resistance in the immediate vicinity, although militants were firing rockets at Israel a little more than a mile away.

At about 6 a.m. on Monday morning, Ahmed said, tanks started demolishing a wall of the house where the extended clan was sheltered. His father moved toward the door, presumably to warn the soldiers that civilians were inside, but the troops started shooting, he said.

The shooting then stopped, and the soldiers appeared to withdraw. But a short time later, three rockets and several shells hit the building and tore apart the rooms where his family was gathered.

Ahmed said he and his brother Yaqoub pulled blankets over their relatives and managed to shut the doors in an attempt to hide from the tanks and soldiers outside. Everyone was crying, he recalled, and he did not immediately realize the scope of the damage.

Some relatives, like Masouda Samouni, 20, Ahmed’s sister-in-law, managed to crawl out by themselves and arrived at the hospital that same day. A few hours after the attack on Monday, she recounted how she had lost her mother-in-law, her husband and her 10-month-old son.

At that time, witnesses and hospital officials believed that 11 members of the extended family were killed and 26 wounded, with five children age 4 and under among the dead. The first survivors who arrived at the hospital may not have been aware of the full extent of the disaster and apparently had not counted all those left behind.

Ahmed, rescued nearly three days later, named 27 relatives who died in the building where he was hiding; the Red Cross said three more corpses were found in a house nearby.

The survivors ate tomatoes, drank water and cooked noodles over a fire, but tried to avoid attracting the attention of soldiers in the area. Relatives who escaped repeatedly asked the Red Cross to send help, but Red Cross officials said their requests to respond to the emergency were rejected by the Israelis during the initial days of the siege.

It was 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday when help finally came, half an hour before the end of a three-hour pause in the fighting ordered that day by Israel to allow humanitarian aid and rescue workers to enter Gaza.

Antoine Grand, the head of Red Cross operations in the Gaza Strip, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the first rescue team on Wednesday had to leave the dead and take out only the wounded, “horrible as that seems,” because they had only limited time and only four ambulances.

“We had no other choice,” Mr. Grand said.

He added that the ambulances had to stop on one side of an earth mound put up by the military. The team had to walk a mile to the houses and bring back the wounded in a donkey cart.

On Thursday, they went back to the same area and brought out another 103 survivors, three of them wounded.

A report issued by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs on Thursday, based on telephone interviews with several members of the Samouni family, largely corroborated Ahmed’s version of events, saying about 30 people were killed when the house was shelled repeatedly. The report said the attack on the Samouni home was one of the “gravest incidents” in the Israeli campaign.

In another statement issued on Friday, the humanitarian affairs office emphasized that its report was not intended to render a legal verdict on the attack.

In a rare public statement on Thursday, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said it believed that in this instance, the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. The delay in permitting entry to rescue services was “unacceptable,” it said.

The rescue team found “four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses,” the Red Cross said. “They were too weak to stand up on their own.”

It is all well and good to drop 'warning' leaflets urging residents to flee (but to where, one might ask?), to talk of funding and erecting tent hospitals, to have three-hour cease-fires that pass in a flicker to allow for another measly quotient of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza that is manifestly and woefully inadequate to the vast carnage and needs at hand. But the realities are far grimmer, are they not? There will soon likely be some 1,000 Palestinians dead (by Tuesday, at this rate?), many hundreds of them civilians, scores and scores of them children. Thousands more injured, some of them being carted about by donkey cart, literally, per the story quoted above. Children discovered helpless near their dead mothers, heart-wrenching in the extreme.

For what concretely realizable ends this ghastly suffering? To re-establish a 'new reality' in Israel's South? Mostly bunk, I'm afraid, as Hamas is all but sure to preserve at least some rocket-fire capacity, unless the IDF is ready to go into each and every back alley and basement of Gaza for another 60-90 days, in hand to hand fighting that would turn Gaza into a Grozny-on-the-Mediterranean, if it hasn't been already, or even worse. To show a re-invigorated deterrent to the 'neighborhood', notably Iran, after the Lebanon sortie that proved so ineffective? But the Iranians well know a campaign against Iran is of a magnitude wholly different by an exponential degree than against Gaza (so much so that even President Bush refused Israeli entreaties to pursue such an action), so they will not be particularly impressed.

Has real harm been inflicted on Hamas? Yes, to be sure, but could not similar ends have been achieved with less brutish force being employed, in better accord with international legal norms, with more humanitarian supplies let in? And must we hear of ‘shock and awe’ now each time a military campaign is launched (how horrid this phrase has become but braggadocio-infused code for savage bombing campaigns showcasing technological superiority to devastating effect, too often in terms of the innocents slaughtered) where local gendarmerie are bombed to death in broad daylight, and targets whose legitimacy is questionable reduced to rubble? Again, is there not a more civilized sense of proportion that can be employed by the Middle East's strongest democracy so as to advance more calibrated actions and rational outcomes?

Look, what the Israelis are doing is no worse than similar suffering that has been unleashed by US forces (notably via aerial bombardments against erroneous targets causing 'collateral' damage, a matter too rarely discussed in this country where war is more of a 'pass the popcorn' phenomenon among the masses, and it would seem, most of our 'elites') in places like rural Afghanistan and parts of Iraq. We have been sucked into the Middle East gyre too, alas, as occupiers now of Islamic lands along with the Israelis. But little good will ultimately come of any of this and the President-Elect must focus now on diplomacy, not only for us, but also on behalf of our friends and allies as well. Too much blood is being shorn, and in too haphazard a fashion.

In Israel (and, to a lesser extent, the U.S.) a different war is being seen in print and television:

Overall, 13 Israelis have been killed since the Israeli military offensive began Dec. 27, and each death has received blanket media coverage, complete with family interviews and anguished funeral scenes.

Of the 13, four were killed by the persistent rocket fire from Gaza that Israeli officials say prompted the war. But even rockets that cause no injuries -- as is usually the case -- get extensive play on television. Benziman said that Channel 10 has camera crews stationed across the south, chasing down the remains of every rocket and going live when they find them. With an average of 30 or more rockets landing daily, rocket-chasing is a fixture of the prime-time schedule.

"Every minor injury is emphasized," said Arad Nir, foreign editor and anchor with Israel's Channel 2, the country's largest private broadcasting station. "Every incident that the soldiers are involved in is discussed at length."

The reason, Nir said, is not government pressure. It's what viewers want.

Israelis and Palestinians, longtime neighbors and adversaries, have in recent years begun to live far more separate lives. Since Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, Israelis have been prohibited from entering the strip. Nearly all Gazans, meanwhile, have been prevented by Israel from leaving.

Since the war was launched, no foreign or Israeli journalists have been allowed into the strip, except in the company of Israeli troops. And even if Israeli television crews were permitted inside, station executives here say, there is not much interest in documenting how Palestinians are coping amid Israel's relentless bombardment.

An anchor at Channel 2 recently became the target of an online petition seeking her dismissal because her tone was considered overly sympathetic to the Palestinians. Nir said any additional coverage of the lives of Gazans "would just make people angry."

"We are Israelis broadcasting to the Israeli public," Nir said. "Among the Israeli public, unfortunately, there's no empathy for the other side."

And yet empathy or no empathy, Hamas will likely survive in some capacity, perhaps even end up stronger over the medium term if peace-making doesn't restore some equilibrium to a devastated area, and most of the million plus residents of Gaza will still be there too once the guns fall silent. Neither party can wholly forget the existence of the other, even if they try to (as they both do), and even if they staunchly refuse to try to put each other in the others' shoes for a moment or two, if for no other reason than as simple thought experiment. Short of mass population transfer, or shunting Gaza off to Egypt (which Cairo won’t accept, ditto the West Bank back to Jordan), or quasi-genocidal action—Israel is struck with its Palestinian neighbors, and therefore there is simply no military solution, ultimately. To stress, the Gazans won’t now rush into the arms of Mohammed Dahlan so as to re-institute Fatah control, or some such, I wouldn't think.

No, there will instead be fresh grievances to nurse, and the cycle of retribution will likely churn on. To end this perennial madness, adult supervision is desperately needed, meaning President-elect Obama prioritizing a wholly resurrected peace process (including dialogue with Hamas via Turkish, Egyptian and perhaps European proxies) that allows for serious discussions to resume based off the Taba precedent, which has been ingloriously gathering dust during the reign of perhaps the most incompetent foreign policy team Washington has ever witnessed. This is a large task that will require something that had been missing from the Middle East for some eight long years. That is, responsible American leadership, an ‘honest broker’ that is also competent and seriously engaged, and never has it been more needed than before, both for the Israelis and Palestinians. True friends of Israel (think people like Dan Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, Yossi Beilin, others, indeed, I suspect Jeffrey Goldberg as well) realize this. Let us hope President-Elect Obama, as well as his Secretary of State-designate, do as well. There is no time to waste, and the endless spilling of blood must cease so that this madness is brought to heel and both nations can begin to move forward towards a better future. In short, what we need now is an immediate cease-fire and a very ambitious, disciplined and persistent diplomatic initiative (an anti-Annapolis, if you will), one with region-wide ambitions so at minimum to include the Syrian and Lebanese tracks as well (as an aside, and like Richard Armitage, I am skeptical of too many special envoys being appointed by Hillary--Iran, India-Pakistan, others?--but let's stay tuned in the coming days). This would signal meaningful--rather than merely rhetorical--change to the international community, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: (NYT)

Israel hoped that the war in Gaza would not only cripple Hamas, but eventually strengthen its secular rival, the Palestinian Authority, and even allow it to claw its way back into Gaza.

But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indeed, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.

The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.

Who could have known it?

Posted by Gregory at January 12, 2009 01:54 PM
Comments

Greg, a few comments:

the Israeli action is materially disproportionate to the threat being faced:

Doesn't depend on how you define the threat? Sure, it is easy for outsiders to live with the largely non-lethal threat to Southern Israel, but Hamas has relentlessly increased the range and payload of their rockets. There is no reason to believe that will stop doing so voluntarily. When Tel Aviv, its airport, and the country's nuclear facilities are in range, they would be able to inflict significant casualties and close down the country at will. Surely Israel cannot accept that and would have to put a stop to it eventually. It looks like a truce may evolve that stands a chance of stopping weapons smuggling into Gaza and diminish the threat. If so, I would think that the Gaza operation is worthwhile for the Israelis and for the Palestinians, if you also believe that the rocket fire is detrimental to their interests too.

You acknowledge the similarities between Israel's actions in Gaza and the US's in Iraq etc. You could add Afghanistan, Sri Lanka etc. ect. What is notable is the difference in reaction to the military operations in these places. The hysteria and vilification from some quarters in the Europe and the US is frightening to me as Jew and supporter of Israel. It really does seem that a large number of people don't think Israel can do anything to defend itself. Don't they see that the failure to acknowledge Israel's restraint and the care it does take to minimize civilian casualties provides a disincentive for it to continuing to do so? Israel is run by politicians who are responsible to an electorate. It is not reasonable to expect that it can continue to supply electricity to a place that is shooting rockets at the very power plant that provides it, operate border crossing under fire etc. when the Israeli public knows that they will be damned anyway.

And when you are operating in one of the densest areas on earth:

This is repeated frequently but is it true? I read recently that Gaza is less dense that metro Tel Aviv even including it's suburbs and one tenth as densely populated as Cairo. If that is true, then Gaza is not so atypical combination of urban and rural areas. The risks of civilian casualties is of course higher when fighting occurs in urban areas but why the hyperbole on this point?

The debacle in Lebanon: I hated that war but it is interesting to note the relative quiet on the northern border and the pains Hizb took to deny involvement in the one minor exception (the perversity of the situation is that a rocket hitting a retirement home is considered by all to be minor). Surely that has been a strategic benefit to Israel. Remember, they invaded Israel last time after a flareup in Gaza.

Posted by: Gil Franco at January 13, 2009 11:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree it is time for a very broad based conference on Isreal, Palestinian Issues, and the rest of it. Because all the current paths have proven to be dead ends. I even think that we have a chance at being an honest broker, because we have tossed the neoconservatives out.

But, golly, its hard to imagine this working out. In the old days, this type of war --where one side is so devoted to to killing the other that they can't accept defeat -- ended with a brutal massacre of the bitter enders. That way, even if they lived for ever in song, story, and urban legend, the bitter enders themselves did not survive to fight another day.

What are the solutions? Sure, we know what the framework for peace ought to be, but I think still too many reject that framework totally. (For heavens sake, Arafat, who was as peacemaking a Palestinian as there ever was, rejected that framework.)

I wonder whether the best thing for the US is to stop investing itself in both (i) finding a solution and (ii) suporting Isreal all the time. It seems like the only thing that happens is US prestige continues to sink down a rathole, and the Isrealis do not suffer the full consequences of their actions and try to reach some arrangement. (And, therefore, paradoxically, are stuck waging eternal war.)

I suppose there has to be a way out. But I wonder why the US, with all the problems it has on its plate, is the one that always has to find it. It seems that this dynamic allows everyone to escape solving the problem.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at January 13, 2009 11:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Greg you come up and once more blame Israel but not a word about the solution. What's the solution? For Israel to keep getting terrorized, for the people of Gaza to be terrorized by Hamas? Its time for Arabs to take care of Arabs instead of using Israel as the scape goat. Arabs must control Hamas instead of babying people that should have taken responsibility for their future 60 years ago.

Did Israel cry when it had to take in 600K jews kicked out of Arab countries or did it absorb them and become one of the most productive societies in the world. Enough blaming Israel, it is time for Egypt and Jordan and the Saudis to step up and improve their societies along with creating a path for a real country of Palestinians.

You want to call Israel's humanitarian aid paltry but do you point to one country in the world that does half of what Israel does for an enemy that is not only sworn to Israel's destruction but also the destruction of Jews everywhere.

As to casualties, the vast majority are Hamas fighters and militia and for Israel to have terminated 750 with a sad additional 150 civilians is a tough but pretty darn good ratio. Would it be better to be 0, of course, but that is not what Hamas wants.

By the way I missed your post about Darfur and Sri Lanka where many more are being killed. But I guess because Jews are doing it, then it is okay...

Posted by: Steven at January 13, 2009 01:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Israel needs an honest friend who can tell them the cold facts, instead of either blind support or disengagement. Instead, most people prefer to attack Hamas or Arabs (Steven @1:40 "Arabs must control Hamas.") Supporters like him claim that since Israel is more like us since they are a "liberal democracy" (ommitting the fact that a large minority, all palestinians in Israeli controlled lands, have been denied Israeli voting rights since '67 and Israel just banned Arab parties on the basis of race alone), we should support them, especially since Arabs are hypocritical autocrats. This ignores the truth that all sides are guility, and all fail to meet standards of justice.

Imagine what would have happened if, after '67, Israel nipped the idea of a "greater Israel" in the bud and instead worked to set up indepedent, palestinian governments in the West Bank and in Gaza, with only military/defense and customs left in Israeli hands (for defensive reasons against hostile neighbors). No colonies, no settlements, and a direct contrast with the neighboring autocrats. But Israel choose settlements, colonies, and an essential apartheid-like system. This choice is almost like the original sin of Israel, which it is paying for to this day.

Hamas has a lot of hate, yes, their charter calls for Israeli destruction. But despite rhetoric, they can be negotiated with! The last 6-month ceasefire shows this. And Israel constantly violated the cease fire terms (as did Hamas in different ways). For a new truce, the terms would be fairly simple. A ceasefire and then an end to the Israeli blockade.

As for Israel's right to defend themselves, it's shown it can get pretty good intel on Hamas locations in Gaza. After every (marginally effective) rocket shower, they can use their intel to find a good target. Then hit it later on and explain it was a direct reaction to the missle shower. This can continue ad naseum while still working on a comprehensive peace deal and without the spectacle of mass civilian casualties.

The US can help by clearly outlining the guilt of both parties in the current problem and pushing for constant engagement with the other side (no refusals to negotiate), even if interrupted by targeted military strikes (by Israel), rocket attacks (Hamas), or terrorism initated by splinter factions. Of course, this was impossible under Bush. It's just unlikely under Obama.

Posted by: agorabum at January 13, 2009 02:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

agorabum you misread and don't know the facts.

First, Hamas a democratically elected group running an area attacked an independent country thereby breaking a ceasefire (which they had not adhered to), therefore they are to blame in the latest flare up of violence. Secondly, Arabs have only used their brothers as a blunt force to attack Israel and distract their populations. Also my point was Jews took and cared for Jews whereas Arabs could not care less for their own kind. A two state solution proposed at the beginning was rejected in order to attack Israel and kill Jews.

As to the banned parties, you should read the decision. The Arab parties were banned because of the parties incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist.

While you might want to encourage your own death, Israel does not.

Posted by: Steven at January 13, 2009 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve, it would be more honest if you stopped hiding behind Hamas. Your real enemy is the whole Palestinian population of Gaza - please don't be delusional and imagine that they oppose Hamas, even now.

So where does that leave Israel? Rather than the cleaner, more uplifting wars of the first half of its history, it now faces the need to Groznify its northern and southern neighbors every few years. Forgive the rest of us if we don't find this spectacle edifying. Perhaps it is time to apply a different model of human behavior to your dealings with the human refuse on your borders? I'm just saying.

Oh, and one other thing... Please, stop the moral posturing about Israel's absorption of 600,000 refugees. As if such an event was not the realization of Israel's profoundest hopes.

Posted by: Dave L at January 14, 2009 10:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hamas is an ideology. It will not be destroyed by killing some 6 or 7 hundred members of the militia the Israelis maintained contains 15-20,000. On the contrary, its ideology will only be reinforced by the deaths of hundreds of women and children, instant martyrs whose male relations will make bayat wih Hamas within minutes of the last particle of white phosporus disintegrating into ash and smoke.

To the Israeli apologists: Who cares? The hatred and content most of the world feels towards Israeli gangsterism is not going to be altered by whining about rockets landing on land stolen from the very people launching the rockets. You're preaching to a ever shrinking choir whose political acument has made the most despised President in AMerican history a hero in Israel.

There will never be a two state solution, only one Palestine. This 'war' is the last gasp of a dying horse, one whose racist and xenophobic fantasy of a Jewish State will not outlive the dying remnants of Holocaust guilt that has sustained it.

They have not broken Hamas one bit.

Posted by: Mudaris at January 17, 2009 03:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arab chauvinists and their western apologists having been making the last gasp argument for close to a century. Meanwhile, the children of the shtetls and mellahs have built a rich, technologically advanced, and progressive country. The Palestinians will be able to build decent lives for themselves as soon as they make it their priority. Their "friends" should encourage the them to abandon their rejectionist ideology lest they continue to follow the path that has led them to ruin.

Posted by: Son apes and pigs at January 18, 2009 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mudaris,

The only ones that have stolen anything is the Arab countries that took from the Jews that were forced out and the Arab Palestinians that have had 60 years stolen from them in the hopes of killing all of the Jews in Israel.

Try to build something instead of tearing down a prosperous society that contributes more to the world with 6 million Jews than all of the Arab and Persian societies have.

Arab Palestinians have no claim on the state of Israel and Israel has no obligation to provide half of what they have during this latest war.

Grow up and become a society!

Posted by: Steven at January 18, 2009 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was eleven years old at the time of the Six-Day War so I have watched this homicidal- suicidal insanity for a long, long time. The years have given me one near perfect insight: When what should be considered to be an intolerable situation continues to be tolerated it is because the parties that could bring about a resolution find it more profitable to perpetuate the situation.

There is no longer any valid morality on either side of this conflict, if there ever was. I include the civilian populations of both Israel and what should have long ago become Palestine. I sympathize with the Palestinians, but they are surely the most witless and manipulated people on the planet. They want justice. By now it should be clear that they are never going to receive it. I don’t contend that they shouldn’t have it; only that they never will.

And the seemingly unending plight of the Palestinians provides a daily diversion for the Egyptians, Syrians, Iranians, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Emirates (Iraqis have their own diversions) so they can decry the injustice of Israel and the United States rather than the inept and corrupt regimes that are leading them nowhere.

BTW: Greg, you write well and thoughtfully. How did G.W. Bush manage to get so little from a similarly privileged education?

Posted by: Tireduvit at January 20, 2009 04:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The charges of "double standard" when one deplores killing a 1000 pals. for every dozen dud rockets that fall in Israel, gets really old.
The US provides billions in "aide" to Israel every year(odd for a nation approaching develped world gdp levels) which can NOT be said for the other out of the way hell holes where this shit goes on!

At the peak of the Iraqi civil war many of the Isreal first necons tried to pitch the american public the notion that things where fine because "Baghdad was safer than most major US cities" Israelis are statistically much safer than that, so I would say "toughen up a little"...Sderot is not a picnic but hey it is not south central!l

Posted by: outofsympathy at January 22, 2009 11:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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