Friday, 25 July 2014

Sacrifices, proxy wars

I am writing this on the blog trying to get my own head round it. I have written about Israel / Palestine before, several times. I too have seen the dreadful pictures and have heard the figures, wherever they come from (always worth asking and digging a little), though it hardly matters in abstract terms whether the figure is too high or too low since this is not an abstract matter. It is lives and deaths, most certainly the lives and deaths of non-combatants.

The man in the interview above is not Israeli - he is someone the BBC World Service thought worh asking for his views. They let him speak over the terrible pictures of the suffering in a Gaza hospital. I am not in a position to judge whether what he says is true but nobody except Hamas has tried to deny it. Two striking ideas to emerge out of the discussion concern  jihadist ideology's propagation of death and sacrifice as key values (I remember the Jihadist message: 'We love death more than you do life') and that this is a proxy war.

That does not make anything better. It is no use arguing that if Israel's idea was revenge or punishment it could have killed far more people than it has done. Nor does it help to argue that Hamas deliberately invites multiple casualties since however much it invites those casualties the casualties are real and we see them before us (even though some of what we see is not from Gaza at all but from Syria and other places).

We see them and we cannot avoid them. Seeing them breeds revulsion in us, and that revulsion is first and foremost for those who actually killed the people, not for those who deliberately exposed them to death. The finger on the trigger is what we think of.

Hamas knows this. That is the nature of its war. That is the long term war it hopes to win. It's the only war it can hope to win - for now. Hamas believes that if enough people want to isolate, delegitimise, and destroy Israel eventually it will be destroyed. Hamas's demands for a free-access, unblockaded Gaza are all but impossible for Israel to grant unless, among other things, Hamas gives up its rockets (where do these rockets come from? how expensive are they? how do they pay for them? who pays for them? where situated? could Palestinians' lives in Gaza be improved if the money were not being spent on rockets that only invite their own sacrifice?) and desists from suicide attacks, kidnappings and other forms of murder.

When Israel evacuated its settlers from Gaza there was no wall, no blockade. That only came after Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. It was then the defences started going up. (List of suicide bombings here, list of rocket attacks here, and in 2014 here.)

None of this helps the dead either. It may be that had Hamas not taken control of the Gaza strip and if the Palestinians living there had managed to develop some relatively amicable or even basic economic relationship with Israel the question of the West Bank might have been closer to being resolved (they seemed to have been close at the time of the Oslo Accords). If that were resolved there might be a start to a new and more peaceful era. For Israel, as things stands, ceding the West Bank would risk a repetition of Gaza and being attacked on two fronts with still that slender vulnerable neck.

As it stands very few neighbouring or Arab countries recognise Israel, and Iran and Qatar continue to fund and arm Hamas. The long term aim of Israel's opponents remains to wipe it off the map. It is certainly the aim of Hamas.

Knowing this and assuming it to be true doesn't help the dead either. It doesn't even excuse them. But it helps to balance the account according to which Israel acts out of sheer wickedness.

It is easy to say what Israel shouldn't do. When you ask what it is Israel should do (that is if you ask it of those who are not wanting Israel simply to disappear) the answer you get is that it is not their affair and that the question itself is a kind of cheating. They say: look at the pictures.

And we do. Time and again.

1 comment:

Gwil W said...

In 2013 the world saw 20 wars. I have a feeling this number will be exceeded this year. A new Cold War may be looming. When my gas supply is cut off I will want to know why. Until then I must watch TV propaganda. Who is profiting from all these wars? That's the question. And I know the answer. Major General Smedley Butler knows that answer too. Trouble is, nobody is listening to him. Fact is, war is a racket.