Israeli Government Destroying Lives In and Out of Gaza for Years to Come

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To anyone who thinks that killing more and more people, and destroying more and more of people's homes and hospitals and businesses and infrastructure, is any kind of solution – short of total genocide – to rockets and occasional suicide bombing attacks, I have one question:

Have you ever been in a fight?

Even if the guy attacking you weighs over 200 pounds and you weigh 100 pounds, you are going to try to fight back.

Note that, on the other hand, you are much less likely to start or re-start any fight.

Israel, compared to Palestine on the same land, has been in the position of the bigger fighter with more weapons for a long time now.

We – including Israel's paymaster, the United States, in this – have had the opportunity and continue to have the obligation to unilaterally do the right thing. There is no need to negotiate with anyone – not that there's anything wrong with that – but the power exists to not make people's lives hell, to give people hope for their own future and hope for their children's future. In this way what violence comes from (extremists on) the Palestinian side (even if it sometimes has popular support, just like the extremist Israeli government's current war of terror on Gaza) will fade away.

The only way to think otherwise is to convince yourself, as so many in the more powerful camp throughout history have, that the "other side" is crazy, irrational, uncontrollably bent on your own destruction.

The power imbalance is key to this analysis. That is why the Israeli government can take steps that remove conditions that support attacks by Qassam rockets (not intentionally provoking militants with cross-border raids would be a start) that no one in Gaza can do to stop the political oppression, economic destruction, and military violence directed at them by the Israeli government.

People in New Jersey, or more aptly Washington D.C. or Puerto Rico, may not have the best lives either but as long as there's a functioning economy and society your not likely to give or risk your life for politics or ideology. I am in favor of representation for the District of Colombia's 575,000 residents and representation or independence for Puerto Rico, but at least they indicate that struggles for – and against – political and economic justice can be in relatively nonviolent— do not have to be militarized.

The Israeli government can create conditions for economic normalcy, and even aid steps toward political normalcy, conditions that give hope, while treating any violent attacks as crimes subject to judicial enforcement, not militarized collective punishment.

We can argue details until we are all dead but these are the broad facts. Please, let us begin by opposing planned killings and violence in every case.

***

Additional analysis of who politically benefits in the Arab world, from Uri Avnery:

Some time ago I wrote that the Gaza blockade was a scientific experiment designed to find out how much one can starve a population and turn its life into hell before they break. This experiment was conducted with the generous help of Europe and the US. Up to now, it did not succeed. Hamas became stronger and the range of the Qassams became longer. The present war is a continuation of the experiment by other means.

It may be that the army will “have no alternative” but to re-conquer the Gaza Strip because there is no other way to stop the Qassams – except coming to an agreement with Hamas, which is contrary to government policy. When the ground invasion starts, everything will depend on the motivation and capabilities of the Hamas fighters vis-à-vis the Israeli soldiers. Nobody can know what will happen.

DAY AFTER DAY, night after night, Aljazeera’s Arabic channel broadcasts the atrocious pictures: heaps of mutilated bodies, tearful relatives looking for their dear ones among the dozens of corpses spread out on the ground, a woman pulling her young daughter from under the rubble, doctors without medicines trying to save the lives of the wounded. (The English-language Aljazeera, unlike its Arab-language sister-station, has undergone an amazing about face, broadcasting only a sanitized picture and freely distributing Israeli government propaganda. It would be interesting to know what happened there.)

Millions are seeing these terrible images, picture after picture, day after day. These images are imprinted on their minds forever: horrible Israel, abominable Israel, inhuman Israel. A whole generation of haters. That is a terrible price, which we will be compelled to pay long after the other results of the war itself have been forgotten in Israel.

But there is another thing that is being imprinted on the minds of these millions: the picture of the miserable, corrupt, passive Arab regimes.

As seen by Arabs, one fact stands out above all others: the wall of shame.

For the million and a half Arabs in Gaza, who are suffering so terribly, the only opening to the world that is not dominated by Israel is the border with Egypt. Only from there can food arrive to sustain life and medicaments to save the injured. This border remains closed at the height of the horror. The Egyptian army has blocked the only way for food and medicines to enter, while surgeons operate on the wounded without anesthetics.

Throughout the Arab world, from end to end, there echoed the words of Hassan Nasrallah: The leaders of Egypt are accomplices to the crime, they are collaborating with the “Zionist enemy” in trying to break the Palestinian people. It can be assumed that he did not mean only Mubarak, but also all the other leaders, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the Palestinian President. Seeing the demonstrations throughout the Arab world and listening to the slogans, one gets the impression that their leaders seem to many Arabs pathetic at best, and miserable collaborators at worst.

This will have historic consequences. A whole generation of Arab leaders, a generation imbued with the ideology of secular Arab nationalism, the successors of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, Hafez al-Assad and Yasser Arafat, may be swept from the stage. In the Arab space, the only viable alternative is the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism.

This war is a writing on the wall: Israel is missing the historic chance of making peace with secular Arab nationalism. Tomorrow, It may be faced with a uniformly fundamentalist Arab world, Hamas multiplied by a thousand.

Two comments on Avnery's analysis:

  1. There is no need for a so-called partner for peace, the power imbalance and the weakness of anything resembling a government for Gaza and the West Bank is great enough that the Israeli government can just unilaterally do the just things and restore hope for people, which is largely a matter of taking steps toward economic justice.
  2. I don't think the promotion of Islamic fundamentalism is an accident. I think we have to accept that our governments, or at least people leading the Israeli government right now, are evil or stupid or both evil and stupid enough to trade movements fighting for justice under the banner of national liberation for groups seeking power under the banner of religious fundamentalism. They know the latter will come with more violence (all the better for keeping their own populations scared), but the former would be more powerful. A movement for justice and building the energy and information and health and transportation infrastructure that make economic strength possible will hurt narrowly-defined wealthy business interests– less surplus labor, more expensive natural resources, and people who will have to be treated as equals.

Comments

And yes, this isn't the only point that needs to be made

It's just the most salient point to be made at the moment.

To throw the related ones out there:

  • Firing rockets in the direction of civilian areas is evil and strategically idiotic for people locked in Gaza, given the very predictable response of Israeli politicians. If violence is a tactic by which you (or everyone) will lose, the most disciplined nonviolence in history is the answer.
  • The United States, too, should withdraw from all lands it is occupying (Iraq and Afghanistan most violently right now) or grant full political equality to the people living there, which requires a degree of economic equality to be genuine. (Or or at the very least move toward a less militarized colonial regime in Iraq and Afghanistan, if you're really going to argue the white man's burden with a straight face.)

More analogy

Non-lying sorta-media-personality Jake Sexton uses the analogy of being attacked by a man he has imprisoned in his basement, and commenter Ellen calls him on it, asking if said man was a known danger to the community.

I wrote:

@Ellen: To continue with bad analogies, the more powerful party has options to stop a fight that the less powerful party does not [linking to the post above].

This is exactly the point of Jake's post: You have to look at the disproportionate violence and policy of collective punishment inflicted on Palestinians from their point of view also, because the only way I have heard friends and family justify the continued violence from the Israeli government comes down to "they are crazy and hate us irrationally." No, not really. And even if so, at this point, if people have much hope for any sort of a better future for themselves and their children or friends' and relatives' children, they are far less likely to throw their lives away in attacks on an opponent with a formidable military.

And everyone: look for these same arguments being used about Iraqis and Afghanis, when it should be within our memory that these peoples participated in no attacks against us nor suicide bombings until after the U.S. occupation.