Commentary: Preventing peace in Gaza Strip
If Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to bring about a cease-fire to end the bloodbath in Gaza, then so has everybody else.
So at the expense of impertinence or worse, here’s my Middle Eastern peace plan. Given the regional appetite for self-serving conspiracy theories, somebody should plant a rumor that Hamas and its accursed rockets are a Mossad intelligence trick. Which, let’s face it, they may as well be. That is, an Israeli “false flag” operation designed to give Tel Aviv a perfect excuse to do what it wants to do anyway: Exterminate all the brutes.
If so, it’s working brilliantly. This is less a war than an uprising in a concentration camp — futile, suicidal, murderous and the product of conjoined fanaticisms. Both combatants see themselves as victims of oppression, and they’re both right. Both sides want what neither can have: the political, if not literal, elimination of its enemy.
Hamas believes, or pretends to, that Israel and the accursed Jews can be purged from the Levant. From an Irish-American perspective, they’re the moral equivalent of what used to be called the “Provisional Wing” of the Irish Republican Army — a gang of self-romanticizing thugs addicted to the delusion that Protestants could be made powerless in Northern Ireland.
Except that the indignities suffered by Catholics in Belfast were nothing compared to the privation and humiliation inflicted upon Palestinians in Gaza.
What’s less understood in this country is that Israel has zealots of its own: militant nationalists on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s extreme right who believe that the territories he calls “Judea and Samaria,” (and the rest of the world calls the West Bank) belong to Jews by divine dispensation, and that the indigenous Palestinians have no rights.
It’s to that faction that Netanyahu is speaking when he says, in Hebrew more plainly than in English, “that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the river Jordan.”
“That sentence, quite simply,” comments David Horowitz in The Times of Israel, “spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
In short, not only no peace now, but no peace as long as Netanyahu can prevent it. He may not be so blunt on “Meet the Press,” but that’s what he’s telling his supporters. Israel, after all, has overwhelming military superiority. Why should it risk anything at all for the illusion — as he sees it — of peace?
The New York Times’ brilliant columnist Roger Cohen, a South African Jew resident in Europe, has an answer.
A lifelong Zionist, Cohen writes that what he “cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank; that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state; that isolates moderate Palestinians ... in the name of divide-and-rule; that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state; that seeks tactical advantage rather than the strategic breakthrough of a two-state peace; that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.”
Netanyahu’s response to the slaughter of innocents has been to complain that Hamas wants “to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. ... They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.”
It’s a phrase that should follow him for the rest of his days.
Here’s a thought exercise. Substitute for “Palestinians” any ethnic or religious group you can think of. “Telegenically dead ... ”
See what I mean?
For that matter, reverse the polarities. Imagine that Hamas had the tanks, bombers, the destroyers and cruise missiles, and that those were, well, any ethnic group you can think of, herded into a vast slum under heavy bombardment with their POW tunnels and popgun rockets?
Never mind the endless quibbling over who started what. You might cry out, “For the love of God, show some pity!”
I wonder if Netanyahu understands how many Americans — his greatest allies — have begun to reconsider their unwavering support in the face of this merciless slaughter?
Longer term, Israel’s is a policy born of desperation. Given birthrates, it may have to choose between being a “Jewish state” or a democracy. Soon enough, there will be more Arabs than Jews in Israel. And then what?
Meanwhile, as Peter Beinart writes in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Hamas’ great ally is despair.” Because the more brutally a people are beaten down, the more desperate and fanatical they become.