Whereupon I Break My Longtime Self-Censorship and Duck for Cover

I haven’t written anything about what’s going on in Israel for years. Mostly this is because there’s so much emotion, both of my own, and by all parties concerned, that the issue gets muddled and bogged down. Further, I don’t spend a lot of time following Israeli internal politics, so for divorcing myself from that emotion is difficult.

I do read a lot of people who follow such things in far more detail than I. One is Juan Cole. Several days ago he posted this letter which was printed in the Times of London. I agree with a lot of what this letter argues, particularly the last paragraph:

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Then there’s this article in today’s New York Times. You should really read the whole thing because it lays bare the one of the most useless, yet long-held beliefs of American foreign policy. From the article

Ever since Hamas began its one-party rule of Gaza, in the summer of 2007, Israel and the West have tried to turn Gazans against Hamas through an economic embargo and diplomatic isolation. While there is certainly anger at Hamas among Gazans, it pales beside the anger at Israel, the West and what some see as Fatah’s collusion with those enemies.

Does that sound familiar? It should, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with Cuba since Castro took over. Castro may be “gone” now, but it’s not because of anything we did, it’s because he got old.

The point here actually has to do with the way we handle “rogue states” in general, but what’s going on in Israel is a good case study for our failures throughout the Middle East. If we want secular moderates in power throughout the Middle East, we have to work to create conditions that would help support such governments. This means working diligently with Fatah in Palestinian controlled areas, and strengthening their institutions so they can build and maintain a foothold in Gaza. This means removing one of Hamas’ rally cries by not carpet-bombing Gaza. This means marginalizing Hamas not through blockading Gaza economically, but by supporting moderate groups in building economic development and prosperity.

I’m not saying any of this is easy, I’m saying it has to be done.

People who have a bright future don’t strap a bomb to their body and blow up busses. They just don’t. Hamas’ rocket attacks into Israel are a political/strategic action to maintain the status quo, which is where Hamas’ power lies. Attacking all of Gaza reinforces Hamas’ power on several levels, leading to a never-ending downward spiral, or maintaining the status quo.

The key here is acting in the best interest of humanity, rather than the perceived best interest of Israel, the US, Muslims, Jews, Christians, or any other political/ideological division. If we act in the best interest of humanity, humanity will show us it’s best. Of course, the converse is true in this scenario. It’s time for the people of the world to stop thinking in terms of “us vs. them”, and more in terms of “all of us”.

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