Monday Morning Gaza-Related Linkage

by on 2012-11-19 in Duck- 7 Comments

I’m at the end of a rather long trip to London, which is why I haven’t been able to process or upload either Duck of Minerva or NBN podcasts yet. Nevertheless, I’ve got some good stuff coming on both fronts. So stay tuned.

Today’s linkage focuses on Gaza.

Al-Jazera reports that 92 Palestinians have now been killed by Israeli attacks. The Washington Post leads with essentially the same story. CNN is certainly paying attention to the civilian death toll, even as it reports on the “success” of Iron Dome in protecting Israeli cities. Wired has an interesting report on the “social media” war with plenty of links, including details on the Iran-supplied Fajr-5 rockers being used by Hamas.

Gilad Sharon has an extremely hardline essay in the Jerusalem Post. Leslie Gelb lays most of the blame for the current crisis on Hamas. Richard Falk takes the opposite tack, and John Mearsheimer attacks the strategic logic of Jerusalem’s turn to force. Dan Schueftan and Hisham Melham disagree with one another on the PBS NewshourDan Byman, Barak Mendelsohn, and Ehud Yarri each contribute to the debate in Foreign Affairs. Steve Walt thinks that the crisis is basically an omnishambles, while Marc Lynch speculates on the likelihood of pan-Arab mobilization.

I don’t usually say very much about Israeli-Palestinian politics. The subject is pretty much radioactive. Indeed, I’ve recently seen a number of Facebook feeds descend quickly into vitriol. But I feel compelled to comment, even if that means a rather awkward walk through carefully phrased prose.

To begin with, Hama’s stance on Israel is indefensible, the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a humanitarian disaster, well over a thousand rockets have been fired into Israel over the last two years; and nearly a hundred Palestinians have died–most of them civilians, and quite a few of them children.

The causal chain goes further back, of course, and partisans tend to start at whichever place best suits their argument. The easy route? Simply declare both Hamas and the Israeli leadership culpable–or to measure out blame in dribs and drabs. But if we step back from the question of culpability, it seems to me that (1) Israel is doing itself no favors by engaging in an aerial campaign whose chief victims are Palestinian civilians, and (2) it is hard to understand why children younger than my daughter, young people who could be our students, and old men and woman who could be our grandparents and great-grandparents must die for Israel’s security.

Moreover, much of the key speculation concerning the conflict focuses on Iran. Is Israel trying to adjust the landscape in preparation for an attack on Iran? Is Iran trying to distract Israel by increasing Hamas’ capabilities? How does the condition of Hizbollah and the Syrian civil war play into the violence?

Comments welcome on these or other issues… but keep it civil.

Image source: AP via Al-Jazeera.


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  • John

    Just to offer a thought on something that is never mentioned in these discussions. Hamas is a non-state entity comprised of refugees resisting occupation or, if you prefer, of refugees committing acts of terrorism. Whatever the case Israel’s position is indefensible; it attempts to treat Hamas and Gaza as a state that it can declare war on, but it is in fact declaring war on a massive refugee camp. There can be no discursive equality here; on the one side a powerful state, on the other a disparate group of men almost all of whom have suffered vastly under occupation. The fighters in Hamas are a direct response to the Israeli occupation, they are products of it, and that precisely is why- as you say- Israel is doing itself no favours, the children in Gaza today are Hamas’ future, is that so surprising when we see the lives they (like current Hamas members grew up in) are living?

    However, Israel does not care. The Jerusalem Post piece you link to is generally quite representative of Israeli opinion; the Palestinians are subhuman, Israel as the garrison state par excellence, and the incoherence of it all has yet to become clear to them, as it will most inevitably and utterly sadly one day.

  • LFC

    According to Gilad Sharon in the linked column:
    “The Gaza Strip functions as a state – it has a government
    and conducts foreign relations, there are schools, medical facilities, there are
    armed forces and all the other trappings of statehood.”

    Gilad Sharon flunks Intro to World Politics (he also flunks Ethics). Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, basically controlling every (non-smuggled) item going in and out (and keeping a stranglehold on the territory). Gaza does not “conduct foreign relations”; the emir of Qatar’s recent visit there was the first, I believe, by a head of state.

    Sharon’s quite appalling piece, calling for ‘flattening’ or reoccupation of Gaza and, in effect, for *deliberately* killing Gazan civilians, represents perhaps a segment, but I would guess no more than a segment, of Israeli opinion. I would certainly hesitate to call it “quite representative of Israeli opinion,” as John in the previous comment does.

    I basically agree with the points Dan makes in the post. (Will leave further comment (e.g. on Iran, Syria) to others.)

  • Vikash Yadav

    I don’t know how representative Gilad Sharon is either, but we also have the Deputy Defense Minister of Israel threatening to perpetrate a “Holocaust” in Gaza ( Hopefully cooler heads will prevail… soon.

  • Simon

    Vilnai, who is relatively left-wing and comes from that tradition of Labour Zionist military men, almost certainly used the term ‘shoah’ – minus the definite article which always proceeds its use to refer to the Holocaust – to mean ‘catastrophe’, which is what ‘shoah’ literally translates to. He’s still a fool for using that word, no doubt as a rhetorical flourish, but I don’t think he was thinking about any sort of holocaust as we would conceive of one.

  • Simon

    Gaza has a number of state-like qualities. It has a single more-or-less autonomous government. That government has both a military force and a police force, along with tax collectors. It manages a network of public resources ranging from health to sanitation. It thus has bureaucratic mechanisms for exercising authority and redistributing wealth.

    Hamas also does indeed engage in what might be termed foreign relations, though most of these have until recently been managed by their Damascus offices (I think they’ve moved now, but I can’t remember where to – somewhere in the Gulf if I recall). It’s also quite narrow to only assume that a government can engage in foreign relations once it hosts heads of state, but I’m sure you were just going for rhetorical effect there.

    Israeli control over the air and water, along with its regulation, in concert with Egypt, of Gaza’s borders certainly limits the extent to which the Strip could be thought of as a quasi-state. However, the important question is whether it is state-like enough for our theories on war and diplomacy, both explanatory and ethical/legal, to apply.

    I think many of them are. Though Gilad Sharon is still an awful man.

  • LFC

    It may have several (how many is debatable) state-like qualities, but I think we can probably agree that Sharon’s claim that it “functions as a state” is an exaggeration.

    “…I’m sure you were just going for rhetorical effect there” (w/r/t visits by heads of state).
    Yes, I was going for rhetorical effect there. I plead guilty as charged.

  • John

    1) In what was is Hamas an autonomous government? It is manipulated by many foreign governments, including Israel who has more links than it would admit with Hamas.

    2) Most public resources in Gaza are managed by UNRWA, that is the United Nations. At the very least all funding is provided by foreign sources for these refugee services.

    3) Take away foreign aid in Gaza and everything collapses.

    To pretend Gaza is in any way like a state is only something that somebody who has never visited Gaza could say. Go there and then say it has ‘many state like qualities.’