The new round of violence in Gaza occurs in essentially the same circumstances as operation Cast Lead so there is little to add analytically or morally.
As always, it is disheartening to see pundits and activists aligning along their pre-conceived positions, to spout childish accusations over who started it. When one does not know the identity of the author, the accusations sound remarkably the same: “terrorists attacking innocent civilians.”
As always, it is astonishing to see people relish in the distribution of horrific and violent images, presenting their prize evidence as decisive proof for the legitimacy of their stance.
Hence, as always, a reiteration of sound truisms is necessary, obstinately refusing to partake in the discourse of violence which inevitably stems from acts of violence:
– Killing civilians is immoral and illegal. It doesn’t matter who started it, it doesn’t matter what was done before.
– Aggression against soldiers when not in battle is immoral and illegal. This was my stance in response to those who likened the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit as a legitimate act of resistance, as if he were a PoW; this is my stance to those who view the assassination of Jabari as a legitimate action of war.
– I oppose capital punishment in general, but it should be obvious that even those who condone it can only allow for it with due process. Otherwise, it is an immoral and illegal assassination.
– Basic human rights should be afforded to all inhabitants of Israel/Palestine, regardless of any agreement reached. This includes the right to security and shelter, food and welfare, education, freedom of speech, religion, and movement.
– The wide discrepancy between IDF and Hamas should be noted. This is not a war between equals. In fact, it is not a war.
– As it is obvious that just like Cast Lead, this operation will not achieve a solution or even security for Israelis, it is not only immoral, as stated above, but also unstrategic. As such, I am consistently disappointed that in addition to the support of the quasi-left and center in Israel of such campaigns, it also gains the support of the right. More than anyone, they should be aware that limited campaigns do not contribute to their goal. They weaken their position that the conflict can be “managed” (let alone “won over”) through force, and weakens their ethical stance on the use of force.
– In order for the peace process to move forward, Palestinians must be united. Ideally, this will include also Israeli Palestinians, but the minimum requirement is the unification of West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians.
– Before and after any military campaign, basic human rights must be afforded to all Palestinians, as listed in the ethical stance, including free movement between Gaza and the West Bank, freedom of export, free transport through land, sea and air, no restrictions on anyone who wants to leave the strip for any reason, certainly not for those who wish to leave for purposes of study or hospitalization, but also for any other reason, or no reason at all.
Apologetics over the Palestinian condition in general is no justification and never will be. Nonviolent resistance will continue to be the only viable recourse to the success of their cause. This is not to deny the right to self-defense in battle.
Having offered my basic (and repeated) stances, I can only offer a few observations on the current round of violence.
– As noted by many, the campaign bears obvious inner-political motivations. This is, first and foremost, lamentable. I cannot imagine the simple impressionable mind of the voter who would change his views on major issues based on a single campaign. I am not denying the truth of it, merely admitting my complete estrangement from such a mindset. But however truth there is in this statement, one should be wary of reducing Israeli politics to an entirely “wag the dog” mentality. The short-sighted political benefits for Netanyahu do not come at the expense of the long-term benefit for Israel in the conflict as a whole.
– This benefit, namely, is maintaining Hamas as a legitimate power of resistance in the strip, and maintaining the situation of separation between Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This separation weakens the Palestinians, and forestalls any realization of a two-state solution (which is hardly likely anyway). This stance is a basic tenet of Israeli politics, that it can be found in various forms form Meretz to Lieberman. It does not have to assume the form of aggression. As noted in the past on this blog, those favoring negotiation with Hamas or simply taking a different route to the same goal: creating two weakened Palestinian entities which cannot unite and cannot amount to fully independent states.
– It is interesting, therefore, that Israeli leadership is spreading rumors of a possible ground invasion to Gaza. Of course, a ground operation does not necessarily entail control over the area at the end of the campaign, but Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz did say something to that extent in the past week, before the operation began. I have tried to find a way to harmonize that into Lieberman’s suggestion to Abas to withdraw his appeal to the UN, in return for an Israeli recognition of a Palestinian State (with borders to be decided), but I am not sure they comply. Several commentators have observed that Netanyahu might be “drawn in” to the strip, and I take this as another preparation of public opinion (dictated from PMO) of a ground operation, but again, cannot envision a full occupation (or reversal of the 2005 disengagement) as a result. It would seem unwise to occupy Gaza right before an election, and it also contrasts my view that Israeli leaders have perpetuated the separation of the WB from GS for so long. Netanyahu, of course, opposed the disengagement plan in rhetoric, but only after he voted in favor of it in the government. During Cast Lead I pointed out several times that Hamas rhetoric indicates they will not agree to have UN peacekeepers in GS (as PM Olmert forced them into Southern Lebanon two years before that), but would rather be reconquered by the IDF. The clear benefit for Hamas from an IDF occupation with the clear disadvantage to Israel from a WB-GS unification, makes this very clear.
– Therefore, most likely it will be a show. A show that has its immediate political benefits, a show that substantiates Hamas’s rule in the strip, airs out the leaders, and allows Israel to reshuffle the powers there, while reinstating it as the legitimate authentic resistance force to the occupation (contra Abas and PLO), and thus maintaining the separation. On Israel’s interest in Hamas leadership, see Aluf Benn’s excellent piece on Jabari as Israeli subcontractor.
As such, nothing new is to be expected.