Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All My Sons

It is getting harder and harder to find leaders in the Kadima-Labor government who are not calling for a massive invasion of Gaza. Here, in this heartbreaking video, is Israeli Interior Minister Meir Shitreet, responding to the latest barrage of Qassam rockets in Sderot. An 8-year-old boy, Oshri Twito, and his 19-year-old bother, Rami, were critically injured. The pair were walking in the street on a Saturday evening (and imagine, if you can bear it, the affection with which an older brother watches over his little brother on a Saturday evening). Oshri lost his leg and is still in intensive care; his big brother’s legs were seriously damaged; their parents are being treated for shock.

Shitreet, for his part, is a longtime Likud centrist, himself from the south, a decent man who supported the Oslo process, and joined Kadima to back Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza. He is now calling for leveling neighborhoods from which Qassam rockets originate—albeit, after warning their inhabitants to clear out. Tzahi Hanegbi, the chairman of Kadima and head of the Knesset’s Foreign Policy and Security Committee, spoke on Israeli radio Monday morning. The proper response is a full-scale war, like the one Shitreet hinted at—and not some dithering invasion like the belated one against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, he said.

Even Haim Ramon, Olmert’s closest adviser in the cabinet—somebody who’s said in the past that he opposes this kind of action—is telling the press that the combination of steps against Hamas in Gaza will bring an end to the Hamas regime in Gaza. “It might take a few months,” Ramon said, “but the Hamas regime in Gaza will not last.” As for the rightist opposition, there is support for invasion wall-to-wall.

PRESUMABLY, A MILITARY operation would root out Hamas and destroy terrorist cells—surgery followed by chemotherapy. Israel would enter Gaza in force and engage Hamas fighters on the ground. It would kill as many Hamas leaders as it could find and destroy the factories that make the rockets. Israel would then allow, even encourage, donor nations to invest in rehabilitating Gaza infrastructure. And in that context, Hanegbi concluded, Israel would probably agree to a sizable multi-national force, like the one in southern Lebanon, to enter Gaza and monitor the cease-fire.

Which raises a question. Why not try to get to a general cease-fire and multi-national force without the intervening bloodbath? Hamas, as it happens, has been asking for exactly this. To entertain the question, so the argument goes, is to overlook how Hamas is bent on Israel’s destruction, with Iran’s backing, and would use the time to get even stronger. Fine. Leave aside Hamas's aims, which seem more nationalist than jihadist to my Palestinian friends, and stick to the strategic problem. Hamas would of course use the time to increase its capabilities. But the same could be said about Hezbollah in the north, which Israel has concluded a cease-fire with. Nobody imagines that either Hamas or Hezbollah, even strengthened, would ever dream of successfully invading Israel. Their threat is the pain inflicted by their rockets, which a reciprocal cease-fire would stop.

There are a few other things advocates of an invasion are overlooking. Attacking Gaza cannot root out Hamas any more than attacking in south Lebanon rooted out Hezbollah. When guerrillas are the product of a broad based resistance to occupation, and they have nothing to offer but a fight to the finish, attacking them only strengthens them. They throw sucker punches all the time. Besides, Hamas leaders can go underground or escape to Egypt; if you manage to kill them, they will quickly be replaced. How long did it take for Ismail Haniyeh to replace the assassinated Abdel Aziz Rantisi?

The rocket factories will never be shut down, anymore than the tunnels to Egypt will be closed. The only way Israel could ever make a difference on this score is if it would reoccupy Gaza block by block; this would only make Israeli soldiers sitting ducks for suicide bombers. The soldiers could then do what Shitreet says, what enraged people dream of doing, which is to level every block fire is coming from. This is exactly what rightist leader Rehavam Zeevi, himself eventually assassinated in the mounting violence, said at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.

But then you’d have to start leveling virtually all the housing stock in the Gaza Strip. You’d almost certainly have to maim hundreds of children like Oshri, whose torment would be played again and again on televisions around the world. How long, in that case, could such a sickening operation continue? How long, if it did continue, would Abbas’s government survive in the West Bank without repudiating peace negotiations? Abbas, after all, is claiming to be negotiating with a proxy from ordinary Gazans who, in their desperation, will see him as a collaborator. Then again, how long could the Egyptian peace treaty survive an invasion? How long before Hezbollah opened a second front in the north? How long before the boards of global companies started steering investments away from Israeli companies?

BUT THE BIGGEST thing Shitreet is overlooking is that the soldiers who will be ordered into Gaza are children, too. So are those who will happen to be walking near a Hamas commander when the helicopter gunship blows him apart. So, probably, will be the Hamas commander. And so will be the thousands of “wanted militants” whom the army will detain in its various sweeps.

Fifteen year-old Mohammed Salem Al-Harbawi from Hebron is a case in point. According to the Defense for Children International, he was arrested in the beginning of July of 2003 and taken to Atzion detention centre. Like many other prisoners, the report continues, Al-Harbawi was visited by a lawyer, but was unable to see or communicate with his family:

The unhygienic conditions in this centre mean that most inmates, including Mohammad, have contracted skin diseases, including boils. By July 28, 2003, Mohammed was affected so badly that he was taken for hospital treatment. After the doctor had examined him, Israeli border guards took him back to the prison. On the way, the guards stopped the jeep and started to attack him inside the vehicle. The five guards beat him to such an extent that he lost consciousness.

I stumbled over this report of his stay in prison when I Googled Al-Harbawi’s name. Last Monday, now a child of 20, he blew himself up, along with Lyubov Razdolskaya, 73, in the streets of Dimona, which precipitated the intensified wave of targeted killings, which prompted the intensified Qassam barrage, which wounded Oshri Twito.

(Illustration by Susan Avishai)

6 comments:

bar_kochba132 said...

Look Bernie, step by step Israel has been carrying out all the policies that you and the post-Zionist Left have been advocating for years. You said, "bring Arafat to Israel". We said "He is a corrupt terrorist mass murderer and he will use the territory, money and men you give him to kill us". So that is what happened, in addition to his robbing and destroying Palestinian society as well. You said, "pull out of Lebanon unilaterally". We did that, we got another TWO wars as a result. You said "destroy Gush Katif-after that they will have no reason to attack us from Gaza ". We did this, and thed DID find more reasons to attack us.
WHEN ARE YOU PEOPLE EVER GOING TO LEARN? The Arabs do NOT want formal peace with Israel, PERIOD! You keep finding "justifications" for their ongoing violence by telling us about their endless "grievances" which out of feelings of Jewish guilt, you blame us Israelis for. You always say "if only we give them enough, they will stop fighting", yet they say OPENLY that that isn't true, they say they will NEVER make peace, and that not only means HAMAS but also your "moderate Palestinian" friends who play you for a sucker with their ambiguous statements about peace under "certain conditions" that can never be fulfilled.
Your heartrending story about the "poor, mistreated" Palestinian suicide bomber (what is your source for the supposedly gratuitis beating he received?) reminds me of Anat Berko's book about her study of suicide bombers and those who sent them, and the fact is many come from middle-class and well-to-do backgrounds. The 9/11 terrorists were largely well-off Saudis and the 7/7 bombers in London were also well-off. They kill, not because of "grievances" but because of HATE.

You know full well that no "foreign force" is going to come here and intervene to protect Israel from attacks from Gaza.
Your assertions that HAMAS are "really nationalists" and "not interested in Jihad" completely ignores the fact that they, along with HIZBULLAH in Lebanon are coordinated with Iran in its imperialist ambitions in the Middle East. If they were really "nationalists" they would not have destroyed the agricultural infrastructure left-over from the withdrawal from Gaza and would not have invested so much money in weaponry and instead would have tried to develop their own economy.

You comment that HAMAS doesn't believe that it could "successfully invade Israel" is true...they are fighting a war of attrition which they believe they are winning (which I DON'T believe, but that is besides the point). They saw Israel run away from Lebanon, they saw Israel run away from Gush Katif, they now see Israel running away from Sederot, and they look at this miserable group of Israeli "leaders" and laugh themselves silly. They see a Prime Minister saying "we are tired of fighting and tired of winning" and who also said "Israel is finished if we don't hurry up and sign a peace agreement soon" and they tell themselves "see, they themselves admit they are finished, all we have to do is keep up the pressure".
There CAN be a real reduction in violence WITHOUT the nonsensicle intervention of foreign forces (how are the "foreign forces" in Iraq doing in their "peacekeeping" duties?), but only when Israel STOPS making territorial and political concessions and starts showing Jewish "tsumud" and shows the Arabs we are serious. And after we drop the stale, obsolete , old Marxist Labor Zionist myths you keep propagating that the Arab/Israel conflict can be solved merely through coming up with various economic and political arrangements like building supermarket chains (like you wrote about your Ramallah friend Sam) and thinking only in materialist terms, but taking a real, serious look at the ideological and spiritual nature of the conflict which seems to be completely lost on you (e.g. thinking beyond slogans like "fruit salad is Jewish, Jello is not").

Anonymous said...

"WHEN ARE YOU PEOPLE EVER GOING TO LEARN?"

They're not ever going to learn. Don't you see that by now? They have their heads so far up their elitist asses that all they see is the worst in Israel and the best in those who want to destroy it.

The saving grace is that this guy's opinion (and betrayal of any objective facts) represents only the most extreme elements in Israeli politics, supported by maybe 5% of the public. In other words, despite his fancy words and important friends, he's irrelevant.

Leave this apologist and extremist alone.

Anonymous said...

The Arab and Palestinian people are decent people and want peace.

No peace could have been reached because of the existence of a traditional, reckless, closeminded leadership in all Arab countries, and add Iran and Russia to this group.

The task is to transform the political and religious leadership in these countries.

In the meantime, every public message must emphasize the difference between the ordinary people and the inhuman leaders.

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