Monday, August 4, 2014

End the carnage in Gaza

I have delayed publishing this post for several days in order to see how the situation in Gaza would unfold.

After many weeks of fighting in Gaza, it is already apparent that neither Israel nor Hamas is going to win this latest in a long series of wars between Hamas and Israel. It is time to end the carnage in Gaza.

After more than 1,800 Palestinian deaths and about 400,000 displaced people, Hamas continues to rain rockets indiscriminately on Israel. Much of the world has roundly condemned Hamas for this, which is widely perceived as an infringement of human rights.

Yet Hamas seems to be winning in the court of world opinion because of the large loss of civilian lives on the Palestinian side, which far outnumbers the lives lost on the Israeli side by a factor of 20-1.

While Israel has the indisputable right to defend itself, as its defenders never cease to point out, Israel has killed so many Palestinians, many of whom have nowhere to flee except to UN-run schools and hospitals, that it is has been condemned, even by some of its supporters, for the daily list of civilian casualties.

Israel too has been charged with human rights abuses, in spite of its claim that it makes an effort to warn the civilian residents of Gaza of an impending attack, even at the risk of some of its soldiers being killed. Yet this is not enough for many critics who point to all the atrocities perpetrated on innocent civilians, who have nowhere else to flee.

Israel is experiencing what the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel called the "powerlessness of the victor." Because its weapons far exceed that of Hamas in quality and quantity, the military superiority of Israel is assured, yet its powerless is written on the what is left over of the walls of the Palestinian homes have been been reduced to rubble. It is illustrated too by the Israeli soldiers that have been killed.

Israeli air strike on Gaza, July 13, 2014

Israel has stated clearly that its goal is to destroy the capacity of Hamas to rain rockets on the heart of Israel and to destroy the tunnels that Hamas uses to bring in fresh supplies. But is even this limited goal possible without taking over control of the entire Gaza strip? I doubt it.

The withdrawal of ground troops by Israel does not spell the end of the war. The destruction of the tunnels, which was the ostensible reason for the invasion, will not bring Hamas to heel. That will require a continued occupation of Gaza as long as rockets rain down on Israel.

The reconquest of Gaza would mean accepting responsibility for all 1.8 million Palestinians, many of whom are poor and unemployed. They are also extremely physically and emotionally vulnerable. The causalities that would result  from taking control of Gaza would be enormous on both sides.

It would demand the elimination of Hamas, which even if it were possible. would carry with it the possibility of another much more extreme jihadist group arising phoenix-like out of the ashes of Hamas.

There would also be a new intifada in the West Bank, and that would bring about the downfall of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as end any diplomatic efforts to bring peace.

In addition, it would put an end to any further relationship with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and threaten relations with the US and Europe. Is this what Prime Minister Netanyahu wants?

Thus I doubt that he would take this route. Instead, Netanyahu might limit himself to a demilitarization of Gaza. For such a demilitarization to be accepted by the outside world, it would have to be part of a very important and necessary step towards a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But whether Hamas would accept demilitarization is extremely unlikely. It would contradict the Charter of Hamas (1988), where in the Epilogue it defines Hamas as soldiers who are fighting a Zionist enemy. The Charter repeatedly invokes Allah in the struggle to liberate Palestine.

The Charter clearly reveals the religious character of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict is between Islam and Zionism. The Charter forbids any peace negotiations; only jihad is permitted.

Short of continuing its control Gaza, how will Israel stop Hamas from digging more tunnels and shooting more rockets into the heart of Israel. There must be an alternative.

Israel must leave Palestine, both Gaza and the West Bank, entirely. It must eventually return to the pre-1967 borders or at least make any necessary adjustments to allow for Israeli settlements that have sprung up in the meantime.

Diplomacy would strengthen the hand of the PA. The US should thus put pressure on Israel to take the path of diplomacy. Instead of an iron fist, it must offer an olive branch. That would pull the rug from under the feet of Hamas which wants undermine any diplomatic efforts that would spell the end for them. A lack of diplomacy forces Palestinians to support the organization as the only way to fight Israel and get their land back.

But this is a dream, since Hamas cannot win a military victory. It does not have the necessary resources, whether in terms of manpower or weapons. Hamas relies on outside suppliers, as does Israel. If these were cut off, Israel would be able to survive, but not Hamas.

In order to promote the diplomatic peace process, Western nations should cut off military support for Israel, while the Arab states should do the same for Hamas.

The US has recently in strong language criticized Israel for bombing schools, yet it continues to supply Israel with arms. If other nations would also cut off arms and endorse the diplomatic effort as an alternative, peace will come much sooner. Unfortunately, there are too many nations that are afraid to speak out openly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for fear that this may hurt their arms industry.

Canada, to my shame and consternation, has sided with Israel vociferously and condemned Hamas at every opportunity. It has done this largely for political reasons: to curry the Jewish vote. Seemingly, the current Conservative government has written off the Muslim vote, who are largely new arrivals in Canada but do not tend to vote Conservative, in favor of the well-established and prosperous Jewish vote (if such a vote, just like the Muslim, exists). This vote that while small mainly supports Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper's support for Israel is also a matter of principle. He sees Israel as the only bulwark of democracy in the Middle East. I suspect that he, and some members of the Conservative caucus, may also support Israel for theological reasons. But that is difficult to prove, since Harper, who is a member of the evangelical Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, is very cautious about discussing his faith in public. To the best of my knowledge, he has not addressed this issue publicly.

Let's help to put and end to the carnage in Gaza, which is a small part of the larger conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Urge governments everywhere to support peace by encouraging any diplomatic efforts. I am convinced that many people in Israel and Palestine want peace and do not have any desire to be associated with the war crimes that are perpetrated by both sides in the conflict. And above all pray for peace.


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