Monday, January 5, 2009


It's hard for me to decide whether the things we read in the paper about Israel actually qualify as 'news'; after all, the origin of the very word 'news' is "new, things that are." Once again, Israel finds itself engaged in armed conflict with Hamas, the Islamic militant group whose raison d'etre is nothing less than the elimination of the Jewish state.
I guess what could be termed new about the present round was the concessions that Israel gave to the Palestinians in the first place in exchange for terms that were never really met. The Israeli government completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip, pulling back all military units and emptying all Jewish settlements in the territory, aggressively whenever necessary. Why? Because they promised they would, in exchange for the cessation of violence against Israeli civilians.
This deal was brokered with the up-and-coming Palestinian administration, a coalition comprised of Hamas and its moderate rival group, Fatah. Hamas first showed its true colors when they violently forced their Fatah partners out of Gaza and declared de-facto martial law. They of course claimed they were doing it to provide the best living conditions for the people of Gaza, but all they did was use the territory as a place to gather recruits and supplies and launch the attacks they never had any intention of stopping in any prolonged way. A cease-fire was worked out in mid-2007, but the rocket fire into Israel that had become the group's preferred method of the moment merely became less frequent. The rockets were not sophisticated enough to be aimed at military targets (or anything), but that was not their intention anyway. They mostly just wanted to terrorize the Israeli populace, do some damage, and kill some people if they got lucky. What nation in the world would be expected to tolerate this kind of behavior- particularly DURING a declared cease-fire- for more than 5 minutes?
The answer is, of course, Israel. Israeli leaders finally decided enough was enough, and launched a counter-offensive. It began with a week of surgical strikes against Hamas targets from the air, and expanded this weekend into large-scale ground invasion of the territory. The international community, almost reflexively, started calling for a truce and condemning Israel's actions because of the large number of Palestinians that have been killed. From the beginning, Israel has been giving warnings to civilians living near designated targets to get to safety. Apparently not many of those warnings are headed, and the military leadership of Hamas, which has been openly calling for a war with Israel, has the audacity to express outrage when having all their wives and children stay with them gets them killed when they get one.
This is where the 'newness' of the situation stops. These militants intentionally position themselves in the most densely-populated areas of the people they claim to be fighting for, provoke Israel by wantonly attacking their civilians- breaking a formalized peace agreement as they do so, start singing the victim song when the Israelis respond and civilian deaths ensue, and the outside world swallows it hook, line, and sinker ever time. Why so many- the Europeans in particular- are so quick to denounce Israeli efforts at self-defense is something I'll never understand. They almost willingly ignore the distinction- operational and individual- between Hamas and the Palestinian people. As horrible as civilian casualties are, they're a fact of war, and a military response Hamas violence cannot with good sense be equated with indiscriminate aggression against the people of Gaza. If the international community is so convinced that the most productive way to resolve this conflict is to simply stop fighting and stop it now, they'd better be willing to do something make it happen- because one party to this conflict is demonstrably not. Real, quantifiable pressure on the Palestinians to get it together and show Hamas the door, observers on the ground to ensure that the terms of the peace agreement are met, anything would be better than thoughtlessly screeching at the Israelis to stop being jerks to those poor, victimized terrorists.
Time after time, this and that truce is arranged, this and that 'political solution' is pressed for among the Palestinian factions, but Hamas wants nothing to do with any of it. Civilian deaths are of course a terrible thing, but let us not be distracted from the fact that civilian deaths are what pushed the Israelis to do what they're doing. If no one on the outside is willing to do anything beyond look down their noses at the Israelis, as unpleasant as it is, I fail to see how letting them fight it out is such an unacceptable option. If Hamas isn't willing to give Israel peace, Israel, like any country faced with an unrelenting aggressor, is within its rights as a sovereign nation to take it.


  1. Very well stated. Your articulate and concise assessment of the situation amazes me. I just wish I were smart enough to make an equally articulate comment! Keep doing this, David. You and Stephen Colbert are my only sources of news!

  2. Here, here! I don't watch the news past the weather so I don't keep up with most of the political things! On the other hand...I only understand about every other word you I guess I'm only half informed. Lol

  3. Hm... I'm fascinated. You don't know me, but I tune in to your blog thanks to your mom. I think you have some valid thoughts. May I take a moment to disagree, however? The density of the population in Gaza in insane--utterly insane. There is nowhere for the Palestinians to go. So, when you talk about Hamas using densely populated areas for cover, please keep in mind: there is no place in Gaza that is *not* densely populated. Finally, you are right--Hamas was launching rockets into Israel, and their aim was getting better. This is, obviously, bad. But these people are under blockade. They can't buy or sell food, goods, or even toilet paper without smuggling it in through tunnels coming from Egypt. This blockade is an effort to force out their democratically elected government, which happens to be Hamas. So, we in the west want it both ways: we want to spread democracy, but only if it people vote the way we want them to? Just a thought, from the other side of things. Well done.

  4. Well, let's not put the cart before the horse, here. Yes, there's a feeling of desperation in Gaza. Yes, there's a blockade keeping goods out of the area, and yes, that needs to be addressed. But we all know why there's a blockade in place.
    I'm certainly not unaware of or afraid to acknowledge hypocrisy in the actions of Western powers- see my Somalia entry. But on the subject of the spread of democracy, the democratic nature of Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip is a joke. Ballots may have been involved peripherally in the beginning, but everyone knows that Hamas achieved their present status by blatant agression and intimidation. But even if that weren't the case-even if they were elected by the most open and verifyably democratic means available- any time "only if its people vote the way we want them to" translates to "only if its people vote the way that isn't going to leave citizens of my country dead in the streets," I've got to say that yeah, I'm ok with that. No matter how democratically a government came to power, if that government subsequently took to lobbing missiles into the cities I was charged with keeping safe, you better believe that that government's days are numbered; commitment to democracy was never intended to be a suicide pact.