Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.
I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.
Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’ [continued…]
A bitter struggle is taking place over the right to oversee the reconstruction of Gaza, even as the leadership of Hamas emerges from the rubble of areas that were devastated by 23 days of Israeli bombardment.
The international community insists that it cannot channel billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to Hamas, and is calling for the involvement of the more moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. But Hamas is insisting on sole control of Gaza’s rebuilding, as well as claiming moral leadership of the Palestinian people.
In the week since Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires to bring an end to more than three weeks of fighting, in which almost 1,500 Gazans died, the movement has acted rapidly to assert its control over assistance to civilians. [continued…]
The Palestinians are so fragmented politically and geographically that half of U.S. diplomacy is going to be about how to make peace between Palestinians, and build their institutions, so there is a coherent, legitimate decision-making body there — before we can make peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Second, Hamas now has a veto over any Palestinian peace deal. It’s true that Hamas just provoked a reckless war that has devastated the people of Gaza. But Hamas is not going away. It is well armed and, despite its suicidal behavior of late, deeply rooted.
The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank will not make any compromise deal with Israel as long as it fears that Hamas, from outside the tent, would denounce it as traitorous. Therefore, Job 2 for the U.S., Israel and the Arab states is to find a way to bring Hamas into a Palestinian national unity government. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Here’s a measure of how serious the situation is: Thomas Friedman gets how serious it is. He is even bold enough to suggest something that thus far Obama officials have been too timid to acknowledge: Hamas has to be included in any political process.
But this is where Friedman runs into his own conceptual road blocks. His vision of Hamas being “merged” into a Palestinian government sounds very much like a vision of Hamas being pacified as though it poses a threat that merely needs defusing without actually being politically addressed.
And what’s Israel to do while the US focuses on knocking the Palestinians into shape? Oh yeah — fulfill that golden promise: freeze the settlements. As though merely freezing settlement growth would be such a stupendous political accomplishment that no greater feat could ever be expected of an Israeli government.
The US must expect so little from an Israel because it has so consistently delivered even less.
If all the beautiful phrases in Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, these are the words that stuck in my mind: “You are on the wrong side of history.”
He was talking about the tyrannical regimes of the world. But we, too, should ponder these words
In the last few days I have heard a lot of declarations from Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Olmert. And every time, these eight words came back to haunt me: “You are on the wrong side of history!”
Obama was speaking as a man of the 21st century. Our leaders speak the language of the 19th century. They resemble the dinosaurs that once terrorized their neighborhood and were quite unaware of the fact that their time had already passed. [continued…]