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Israel and Gaza: Two rights can make a wrong


Israeli policy, or lack thereof, regarding Hamas control of the Gaza strip, seems to rest on two pillars. Both of them are probably right. The first is that any recognition of Hamas or concessions to Hamas will legitimize that genocidal group and end both the peace process and the Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas. The Hamas government must be eliminated. The second that an armed invasion of Gaza to eliminate the Hamas would risk empowering it and likewise bring about the overthrow of the Palestinian authority (See "Heads we win, tails you lose"). These two correct perceptions are applied to produce a wrong policy.

The policy, if it can be called that, that Israel has adopted is a war of attrition against Hamas. Shutting off gasoline supplies, and reducing electric power 1 kilowatt at a time. Gaza is not hermetically sealed and there is no humanitarian catastrophe there yet, but apart from emergency supplies, the only thing that seems to be coming in to Gaza with any regularity are shipments of arms and explosives, and the only things going out are Hamas propaganda and Qassam rockets. The result is that Hamas is not hurt in any direct way, but the people of Gaza are hurt. We can rest assured that Hamas will always have fuel for their vehicles, even if there is no fuel for ambulances. Israeli measures have not reduced the rain of Qassam rockets noticeably, or brought about the fall of the Hamas. Hamas popularity is waning, but that might be due to their own internal policies and in any case, Hamas are not likely to allow a vote in Gaza if they can help it.

The situation provides the Hamas with endless opportunities for propaganda victories, like the recent invasion of Egypt. Now Hamas is apparently contemplating a mass breakout or mass invasion, into Israel.

Israel seems to have no contingency plan for such an "invasion" or for other stunts Hamas might pull, except to shake heads and say "not fair!" and "why didn't we see that one coming?" just as the Israeli government did when Hamas broke into Rafah. What would Israel really do, for example, if an "international" armada approached the port of Gaza with "supplies?"

It is pointless to whine that it is "not fair" and that there is not really a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that Ahmad Youssef lied about the supposed casualties of the Israeli "siege" in his Ha'aretz Op-Ed. Of course it was worse than pointless of Ha'aretz to give a platform to Hamas fabrications. But that's the way the game is being played. Hamas is an organization that sends people to blow up in restaurants and discotheques. The media groupies that support them are the sort of people who condone this behavior. Only a fool would expect a terror group and its supporters to be fair.

What could be the operational significance or the security value of preventing a cancer patient from being treated in Ichilov hospital? What could be the gain in preventing children from reuniting with their mother who was moved to the West Bank for medial treatment? Only the Hamas can gain propaganda points from these measures. It is not clear why Ahmad Youssef had to lie, since the truth is probably bad enough.

The Israeli measures are strengthening Hamas, and not weakening it. They allow Hamas to dramatize the effects of the legitimate international blockade, which was brought on by the illegal seizure of power by the Hamas. The end of this "siege," if nothing else is done, must inevitably be a Hamas victory, the end of the peace process and of the Palestinian Authority. Israel and the international community will lose any and all effective control of the West Bank and Gaza, which will become centers for export of terrorism and of Islamist radicalism to all the neighboring countries.

There are several ways out of the Hamas nightmare. The best way is international action. Israel has not met with much success in that direction. The tentative ideas that have been floated, such as a NATO force in Gaza or the West Bank, have not met with a good reception (see here and here for example). If the reason for the "leaks" about a Gaza operation was an attempt to say "Go ahead and stop me," they failed in their purpose. The reply seems to be "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do - go ahead." But the international community that tacitly backs such a move, and the Arab world that may secretly hope it happens, will be quick to pounce on Israel if an invasion of Gaza goes wrong.

Clearly however, if the various punitive measures are not working, and are in fact making the situation worse, the first thing is to stop them. Letting those kids reunite with their mother in the West Bank will neither empower Hamas or remove them, but it will remove a bit of needless cruelty from the equation. Allowing Gazans to have electricity and fuel will neither increase nor decrease the arms smuggling and the Qassam rockets, but they will remove a Hamas propaganda weapon.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

do the pals have a right to defend themselves too? i wish somebody would ask bush that.

Posted by soperson @ 03/18/2008 03:28 AM CST

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