A Nightmare over Palestine and Israel

Published 17.07.2014 00:36

The turmoil in Gaza and Israel is turning into a full-fledged nightmare. On one side, Hamas and other military organizations are sending rockets all over Israel without doing much damage other than effectively terrorizing the civilian population. On the other hand, the Israeli air force and artillery are targeting all the rocket launching sites in mostly northern Gaza, destroying them with highly superior firepower. On the Palestinian side, there is a huge loss life and an ever increasing number of severely injured people.

This is not a war Hamas can win. Even their most sophisticated rockets remain primitive as regards ballistic capabilities and there will be no truce unless they stop firing these over Israel. However, Hamas probably thinks that this is also a war that Israel cannot win. By opening fire over Israel, the Hamas leadership is targeting two objectives. First, to show to the Arab world that Israel can become "vulnerable" – for the first time since the Yom Kippour war– and secondly, to really bring the war into the houses of Israeli residents, their daily lives, to show them the reality and distress of a war on civilian populations. Very possibly, Hamas also thinks that public opinion in Israel will turn against the "military alternative" and put pressure on the Israeli government for a negotiated solution.

The criminal part of this strategy resides in the fact that the civilian population of Gaza is paying a heavy price for such an approach. Israel looks pretty "invulnerable" militarily speaking, and Israeli public opinion, despite some really strong opposition to "military intervention," is overwhelmingly supporting the Likud government and its policy to destroy military installations in Gaza, even if such a step causes the deaths of innocent civilians. The Hamas leadership, for the time, has opted for the "ultimate resistance" strategy and plainly refused the ceasefire brokered by a totally discredited Egyptian leadership, possibly undermining a major initiative of the U.S. behind the scene.

On the part of Israel, the suicidal policy of Hamas and other military organizations in Gaza is not good news at all. Yes, Israel can invoke, and is invoking easily, the fact that its own population is under serious threat, but its response to the threat is definitely out of proportion and creates very heavy collateral damage among civilian population, including the elderly, women and children. By killing innocent children in Gaza, Israel is losing its soul. The proponents of a military response to Hamas in Israel are putting the blame on the Hamas leadership, who by 'hiding behind the civilians,' effectively has a great part of responsibility. But it is not human to keep on declaring that so long as one's country is attacked, there is nothing to do but retaliate, and if civilians are slaughtered consequently, it is just too bad. There was a striking slogan of the Peace Now Initiative in Israel that said: "Israel must live! Must others die?" Like every other government, the Israeli government will also have to accept that no military solution can be found in Gaza without deporting the entire population from the area or totally annihilating them altogether. At some point, diplomatic means will have to enter into play to cause the bloodbath to come to an end.

Is it already too late? Certainly, it is never too late to stop a bloodbath. The Palestinian Liberation Organization used to be the most representative and democratic liberation movement in the world, because they were impressed by the functioning Israeli democracy. Over time, they evolved into a totally authoritarian and corrupt organism. Hamas took over and has turned into an even more authoritarian and aggressive movement. The worst thing is that Israeli policies have also been impregnated by these developments, and today they do not differ from non-democratic regimes' policies. As Avi Shlaim wrote in the Guardian in 2009, "Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation." Israel is losing its soul along the way and this is very bad news for everyone.

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