Since its very inception, Israel has been up against attackers from all directions. In more recent memory, it has had to fend off missile attacks from the terrorist group Hamas, a group which controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory in the south-west of the country. I’m all for Israel defending itself; my question has always been, “how?” I absolutely believe Israel shouldn’t have to live with lunatics lobbing rockets into their cities, but the devil is in the details. Just what is Israel supposed to do? Ideally, it should be seeking a lasting peace with its Palestinian neighbors, but let’s examine the tactics it has employed, instead:
The current Israeli administration has hardly taken its peace talks with its Palestinian counterparts seriously. Their Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has all but overtly refused to endorse a two-state solution to this ongoing conflict. Israel has gone so far as to tap U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone, a reprehensible act (that we do to other leaders) and a clear show of bad faith. The Gaza Blockade, designed to choke Hamas, hasn’t helped; just like our embargo against Cuba doesn’t actually hurt the Castros, it has starved and strangled civilians for years. Israel settlers have continued to invade occupied Palestinian territory. Multiple invasions of Gaza have led only to massive civilian deaths; in many cases, they were easily avoidable. Is it any wonder Hamas still has power there? Maybe it’s because the local population only sees Israel as the people starving them, as the people blowing up shelters it claims are safe, and the people refusing to negotiate in good faith!
Now, Netanyahu is talking about Hamas paying an “intolerable price” for attacking Israel. Cool! How will he make sure Hamas is the one paying it? Depending on who you ask, the answer might horrify you. Yochanan Gordon, a writer who had an Op-Ed in the Times of Israel, literally stated: “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?” Once the (if I may be forgiven for violating Godwin’s Law) Nazi-esque propaganda Mr. Gordon published drew the international condemnation it deserved, it was removed from the Times of Israel’s page, and he has since apologized. Nevertheless, we are still left with the question: What, then, are Netanyahu’s ideas of an ‘intolerable price?’
At least 1,500 Palestinians have died in this current round of fighting, most of whom are civilians. Gazans are starving, and their only power plant was destroyed (Fortunately, the United States insured it, so we U.S. taxpayers get to pay to rebuild it!). Will Netanyahu get a safe Israel out of this behavior? Ask yourself: Does anyone in their right mind believe that the children who are watching their friends and family suffer and die will grow up without a hatred for Israel buried in their hearts? Would you so readily forgive a nation if it invaded your city and killed those around you? Put a third way: Do you believe those who lost family members and friends in the September 11th attacks would have been happy to live side-by-side with Al Qaeda?
This isn’t a defense of Hamas. Hamas is an evil organization, and it is sickening that Gazans haven’t already thrown them out of power. These are the assholes who hide rockets in schools, prompting Israel’s attacks upon them. That doesn’t make Israel right – it just makes Hamas’ evil instincts clear. On the other hand, from the average citizen’s perspective, Hamas are the ones who build tunnels to smuggle material goods (as well as guns) into Gaza. They provide the police. They can be seen shooting at the Israelis who invade Gaza, and they have Israel playing exactly the game they want them to: “Come get us if you can find us, and don’t kill too many children on the way there!” I find it pitiful that Gazans haven’t thrown Hamas out on its ass, yet, but at the same time I can understand their rationale. Why would you part ways with the only group that seems to maybe have an interest in helping you?
Therein lies the problem. So long as Israel makes it a habit of invading and destroying huge chunks of the Gaza Strip, so long as it refuses to negotiate a lasting peace with Palestine, and so long as it allows illegal settlement of Palestinian territory, groups like Hamas will appeal to the Palestinians who don’t believe there is any hope of peace. When a Palestinian parent reads an article like Yochanan Gordon’s, he believes his children’s lives are under an existential threat. If you recognize that term, it’s because Israel has so often claimed that Hamas, or Iran, or someone is the Existential Threat to them. And how does Israel respond to these Existential Threats?
Just look at Gaza. Now you see the shit’s depth. And, yet, today another UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip was bombed, despite that organization’s boss, Robert Turner, saying that the Israeli Defense Force receives daily updates on what sites are being used as shelters. 3,000 people may have been taking shelter there, some of whom are now dead or wounded. Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, when asked why Israel is eschewing peace talks on this issue, responded by asking “What’s the point?”
The point, ambassador, is that Israel has a right to self-defense. It does not, however, exclude Palestine from having one. Unfortunately, Israel’s military invasion of the Gaza Strip has left Hamas looking, to Gazans, like the only people fighting to protect them. Increasingly, as school after school housing civilians gets bombed by Israel, it stops being about Israel’s right to defend itself – and starts being about the unacceptability of its attacking a civilian population.
I hold my friends to a high standard, and as I’ve always viewed myself to be a friend of Israel, I’ve always believed they can do better. If they continue to prove to me that they can’t – if they keep killing civilians and refusing to even try to negotiate a truce – then I, one lone voice in the crowd, will stop supporting them. Fortunately, as The Economist points out, I’m far from alone in this opinion.