Tuesday, December 30, 2008


40 more years of this?

I’ve been thinking about what to say about the Gaza situation — no link necessary, and which one would I pick, anyway? Hm. On second thought, I’d like to link to PBS’s coverage from Monday night’s NewsHour, because it has two important conversations: Gwen Ifill talked with Palestinian official Riyad Mansour, and Margaret Warner talked with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor. You can listen to the audio or read the transcript.

First, let me give a few thoughts of my own.

There’s a part of me that has to agree with what I heard a Palestinian citizen say on the radio: that there’s no excuse for the scope of Israel’s response. The level of destruction, death, and injury is far beyond what might be a reasoned retaliation to Hamas’s attack on Israel. It’s out of proportion, taking “shock and awe” farther than necessary. I also don’t believe that being supportive of Israel means that one must agree with everything they do — or, inversely, that any criticism is a sign of “anti-Semitism” or anti-Israeli sentiment. The U.N. — and the U.S., if our leaders should choose — can certainly condemn the response, while at the same time condemning the attack.

I’m also bothered by how many civilians are being killed and injured, and how many houses and neighborhoods are being destroyed. People who already have little are watching things blowing up all around them, and are praying — sometimes in vain — that it spares their streets.

On the other hand, Hamas did attack first, and Israel does appear to be trying to aim its attacks at Hamas targets, trying to minimize civilian casualties. They are claiming — and Mr Meridor’s interview is compelling, here — that Hamas is intentionally launching its attacks from civilian areas, ensuring that Israel’s response will have the result that it is, and hoping that it will soften the response and/or rally world support against a strong response.

For that reason alone, Israel argues, they must not back off.

For his part, Mr Mansour was not compelling. He dodged several of Ms Ifill’s key questions, about the purpose of the initial attack, about the expected response, about whether they’ve been able to work with Egypt, when they claim that Israel is being unresponsive.

It may be that Mr Mansour is trying his best to give an official response, when the actual problem is out of his hands — Hamas is splintered into factions, with little ability for Palestinian officials to control the more militant ones.

If that’s the case, it’s important for Israel to do what it has to in stopping those militant factions. And the Palestinian government must join in eradicating them. It will take serious demonstration of both desire and ability to do that before Israel will be able to put any trust there.


Jeff Green said...

See my daily column, posted this morning, for comments on this.

Call me Paul said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "40 more years..." It's not like this conflict is new. Try 4000 more years.

Barry Leiba said...

Fair enough, Paul. I was referring to the fact that it's been about 40 years (41, actually) since Israel annexed the Gaza Strip.