IT’s difficult to fathom just what Israel hopes to accomplish with their penchant for overkill by taking out an outrageous number of civilians while trying to kill Hamas leaders in this latest round of violence.
Hamas recognizes that it’s unlikely that Israel can do much to weaken its leadership so it does its best to provoke its enemies, thereby stoking anger in the region and helping shift international sympathy from Israel to the Palestinians. And Israel does itself no favors by adopting the American gangster credo that if your opponent attacks you with a rock, you respond with a knife, and if he comes at you with a knife, then you use a gun.
The result is one bloody mess. Not so much causing the deaths of Hamas leaders or Israeli soldiers but of Palestinian civilians.Typically there is much criticism of Hamas, some of it justified, some of it not. In the halls of the American Congress, where representatives of the American public see the world largely in black and white, elected officials believe Israel has the right to protect itself from attacks, although how one justifies the indiscriminate killing of women and children is beyond me.
But let’s set aside our emotions for a moment and quit dredging up the latest Internet photos of dead children being pulled from the rubble of the Gaza Strip and examine a bit more dispassionately what has happened.
The Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas last June 19 was flawed from the beginning and only delayed the inevitable violence. The truce began to fall apart in November when Israeli soldiers conducted a raid in Gaza.
Hamas predictably responded with rocket fire.But that was only the result of a hostile attitude that both sides shared since June. Allegations of bad faith were lobbed back and forth. The Israelis claimed that Hamas never entirely stopped its missile attacks, while Hamas claimed rightly that food, medical supplies and other goods from Israel were never delivered to the Gaza Strip in numbers that were promised.And here lies the crux of the issue at hand.
Israel has effectively punished the civilian population of 1.5 million people for the perceived sins of Hamas. It has denied them adequate food, medical care and enough movement to conduct business. It has, with impunity, strangled the local economy to the point that malnutrition, poor medical care and despair has done the job in a much more subtle way than bullets and bombs could ever accomplish.
It’s almost diabolical in the way that Israel has curried international favor while at the same time systematically reducing an entire population to wretched beggars. It’s a silent form of terrorism that doesn’t garner headlines or shouts of outrage from elected officials. In short, the Israelis have waged a much more effective campaign as silent killers than Hamas with its bombastic statements and weak rocket attacks.
We have reached this sorry state for a variety of reasons. The language in the agreement for the cease-fire was muddled and made no one happy. Israel is in the midst of an election. The last thing Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party, and Ehud Barak, the defense minister and leader of the Labour party, both of whom are facing the right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu, need is to look weak.
There is also much to make up for following the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah debacle in which Hezbollah embarrassed the Israeli military. This time around, Israel has been carefully planning its attacks on the Gaza Strip and is determined not to fail.But equally important in this farce is the failure of the Bush administration to negotiate a lasting peace. We have seen that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is out of her depth and should return to academia as soon as possible.
Barack Obama is an unknown and Rice’s chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, makes Arabs nervous with her pro-Israeli positions. But at the end of the day she is Obama’s appointee and Obama has a tendency to view the big picture in this ongoing conflict. It gives Palestinians a ray of hope that Bush could never offer.
Unfortunately, this latest round of violence comes at the worst time. Obama has pointed out that there can only be one US president, and that president happens still to be Bush. Given this power vacuum until Jan. 20, civilians in the Gaza Strip can only wait and hope that Israeli bombs fall elsewhere.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was on an Arabic news show last week in which he basically bragged that Israel is the biggest, baddest and most powerful country in the region and it won’t hesitate to use its might to protect itself.
Well, my question is if Israel is indeed the biggest and most powerful country in the Middle East, why doesn’t it take the high road and expend a lot of that negative energy into something positive, like sparing the lives of innocents and demanding the resumption of peace talks with Hamas.The sad fact is the Gaza Strip’s civilians are simply pawns in a power struggle that should have ended long ago. And the price will be more blood.