Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel butchers of Gaza--or vice-versa?

Comment posted to an Economist opinion piece on the war in the Gaza Strip. (The photo shows a map from a Palestinian textbook that omits Israel):

The Arab world reject's Israel's claims to its territory, based on prior claims of Palestinian Arabs to the territory Israel occupies.

But here's something not mentioned so far, I'll wager: the Kurds' ancient lands are claimed by the Arabs of Syria and Iraq and the Persians of Iran and the Turks of Turkey. In these Muslim countries the Arabs and Persians and Turks often treat the Kurds vastly worse than the Israelis have ever treated Arab Israelis or Palestinians in the occupied territories. It was Arabs who used nerve gas on Kurdish villages, remember.

So--when these countries volunteer to give the Kurds' lands back to them and thus grant Kurdistan "countryhood" I'll take their assertions about Palestine more seriously. Then there's the "right of return." It's a historical fact that when Israel declared its independence, all the Arab countries--every single one of them--expelled their Jews, many of whom had been living there for over a millenium. And took their lands and homes and businesses without compensation.

So--when the Arab world grants a "right of return" to all the Jews they'd expelled--and their descendents--and gives them back the lands, homes, businesses and money they stole from the Jews in their countries--then I'll take their chatter about a "right of return" seriously. As for the present situation: it's a big lose-lose for Israel.

Hamas has stated unambiguously that its goal is the conquest of all the land Israel occupies and the explusion or murder of every Israeli. I'm guessing this includes the Israeli Arabs, who Hamas' principles would require treating as collaborators. So how can Israel deal with Hamas?

To put it simply, Hamas has declared, in effect, total war on not just Israel but on every human being living in Israel.

What would you do if a hostile foreign state was regularly lobbing missles and mortar rounds into your community, not to mention suicide-murderers? What would you say if others said, well, they're not that many and they're not that accurate? (Actually they're exactly accurate, since they're intended to kill civilians and terrorize the civilian population.)

How many rounds would be lobbed into your community before you demanded that your government put a stop to it, by whatever means necessary? And what if your enemy used its own civilians as human shields? Would you then tell them they're welcome to kill you and your family rather than have your army hurt their civilians being used as human shields?

I pity your family if you do.

All this said, it's obvious that the Israelis have been conducting a stealth campaign to take and occupy a good deal of territory beyond what they had before the 1967 war. I don't have a dog in this fight. There are no angels here. The territory being fought over is miniscule by American geographical standards (I'm writing from Palo Alto, California).

Oh, and while Gazans voted in Hamas, that doesn't mean they're all fanatics. Fatah was and is monstrously corrupt, so the Palestinians faced a Hobson's choice. Plus they only get one-sided news, and moderates tend to be murdered as collaborators. So their consent to Hamas' rule was not informed consent in the Western sense.

I'm guessing that President Obama will try to broker a painful compromise that will involve Israel leaving territory it would really like to hang onto (though not everything it has occupied outside the 1967 borders) while demanding that the Palestinians formally recognize Israel and forswear violence--something along those lines.

But Hamas is fanatical. Regardless of Palestinians' material grievances, Hamas' theological position is absolute: that Allah demands that they always fight to expel every Israeli from "Arab lands." Period. You can't compromise with that. It just means that any truce = time to regroup/rearm.

So if I were running Israel I just might choose to take the P.R. hit and keep on grinding down Hamas.

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