Monday, January 12, 2009

The Israeli operation in Gaza

I haven't written anything about this, but I have been thinking about it. I generally leave Middle East issues to people who know more about them than I do, but I thought I'd set down a few thoughts.

First, you may have noticed that I didn't call it a "war". At most, it's an operation in a war that has been going on for years or decades. What happens at the end of this operation won't end the war, but the outcome can make the war easier or harder to end.

Second, I'm not willing to condemn Israel's "murder" of innocent Palestinians. I don't think Israel should be killing innocent civilians, but to call it murder carries with it the judgment that Israel is intentionally killing the civilians, regardless of any military targets or military goals of its operations, and I don't think that this is the case. (I have read one report of Israeli use of cluster bombs in Gaza, which I would characterize as being directly targeted at civilians, but I'm not sure what to make of that; if it were routine I think we'd be hearing a lot more about it.)

I do think it's clear that no country could be expected to sit back while a neighboring force sends antipersonnel missiles into it's territory, and not respond with force.

I also think it's ironic that the people clamoring most loudly to condemn Israeli "murder" of Palestinians don't seem to be saying much about Hamas murder of Israeli civilians. For instance, this post on "Ten Myths About Gaza" says that one of the myths is that "Hamas rockets were targeting Israeli civilians without provocation" (emphasis supplied). Note: the author doesn't deny that Hamas was targeting Israeli civilians, just that it was done without provocation. I don't have a lot of taste for targeting civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, provoked or not.

What I do think should be condemned is the disproportionate infliction of casualties on Gaza civilians. Even if you grant that a military force is permitted to inflict civilian casualties in the course of its military operations, this is not a blank check. The ratio of civilian to military casualties seems to be so high that it is impossible to justify the civilian casualties by reference to legitimate military aims.

Another thing that seems obvious to me, and should be obvious to Israel, is that they can't win. For every Hamas fighter they kill, they must be creating ten more; for every civilian, maybe a hundred? If they have any long-term goal they're keeping it a good secret, but I don't think they do.

Eventually this operation will end, probably by January 20. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza will have gotten much worse than it was before; the battle for the hearts and minds of the people will have been lost; and they will be no closer to moving toward a negotiated, peaceful settlement.

So I condemn Hamas, I condemn Israel, and I hope that the Obama administration will be better equipped than the Bushies to have some effect on the situation.


Blogger Stevem said...

I'm glad you said something about this - I've been wondering. I don't have any brilliant insights to add. I have yet to be convinced that any war is truly worth fighting. I can't think of an instance in which a war resolved an issue "once and for all."

January 13, 2009 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think we have a clue as to how we would view life if our life and the lives of many generations before us have been spent in direct and indirect conflict. How does one rise above when the fundamentals are exclusive?

January 13, 2009 6:35 PM  
Blogger Stevem said...

If I understand the comment by Anonymous, the premise is that conflict is the only course when people's fundamentals are in direct opposition to each other. I am not sure I accept the premise, because I think our shortcoming is in not looking for areas of agreement. For instance, a devout Catholic and an ardent atheist might find that they agree on several issues - the importance of education, opposition to the death penalty, just to name a couple. One problem we face is viewing people as being the equivalent of the label we - or someone else - has laid on them. We just assume that we know who the other person is. We need to challenge these - and many other - assumptions!

January 14, 2009 5:35 PM  

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