Monday, December 29, 2008

Uncommon Opinions on Israel's Attack on Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Hamas (the militant group that Israel is allegedly trying to target) could have prevented the current attacks on Gaza by letting the cease-fire stand. Sounds as if Abbas is trying to justify that fact that he's been a completely ineffective President.

Over at the pro-Israel Elder of Ziyon blog, the blogger blames Hamas for everything, including (apparently) the fact that Gazan civilians are dying from Israeli fire: "What is slightly newer is the desire to use the traditionally Western concept of the sanctity of all human life as a weapon itself. In other words, in Hamas' calculus, the public relations value of the media reporting that Gazans are dying due to lack of medical supplies is far more important than keeping the people alive." Ignoring the fact that this blogger is clearly a bigot (sanctity of human life is a "Western concept"?), it seems like he's using the whole "Hamas is violent" argument to justify killing Gazan civilians. He is right, though, that Hamas seems to put their own political gain above all other causes, including individual Palestinian lives.

On the other hand, to say that "they could have just been nicer and then we wouldn't have had to bomb them" is a suspiciously convenient argument for Israel.

It's the argument popular with the leadership: Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said of the attacks, "Hamas controls Gaza and is responsible for everything happening there and for all attacks carried out from within the Strip." Key phrase: "Hamas controls Gaza." Does that justify attacking anyone or anything in Gaza?

The more human reality is be found on sites that feature the aftermath of the attacks.

On the International Solidarity Movement site, where a Palestinian resident of the border town Rafah says, "After an inhumane siege that left Gaza with little to lose, people are being asked to say goodbye to the last remains of their former lives.

(Somewhat disturbing) images from the attacks on the Gaza strip to be found at Rafah Today.

The pro-Palestine In Gaza blog has pictures from the Shifa Hospital ICU (where most of the injured Palestinians are being treated) and some of the bloggers claim that Israel is targeting mosques and civilians. Remember that Gaza is a very small area, and that it is notoriously difficult to prevent civilian casualties even in a much larger country.

Ha'aretz seems to have very even coverage of the situation. Key phrase from their story: "The strikes have driven Hamas leaders into hiding."

The tragedy appears to be this: terrorists are the cockroaches of the political world. After the attacks, the Hamas leadership will emerge unscathed. The few Gazan civilians who didn't die in the attacks will have little left to lose, and all the more reason to support Hamas. After all, who else cared when their families were killed? Who else said it was wrong?

If it sounds like I'm in favor of the Palestinian side here, it's only because it seems (at first brush) that despite Israel's justifiable frustration, their strategy probably won't eliminate terrorism. The United States tried the same "shock and awe" tactic in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it didn't work for us either. Yossi Alpher says just this in an analytical essay. He also talks about how closing the crossings was bad strategy, too.

Despite the humanitarian suffering on both sides, Ghassan Khatib argues that both Hamas and Israel are using the violence as a bargaining chip in the bid for a more favorable ceasefire agreement.

Which suggests that, as in any war, both sides are playing for their own political advantage, and the innocents are still the unfortunate ones who get to suffer for it.

Image credit: University of Texas Library.

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