January 10, 2009

Israel vs Gaza: an ill-conceived war

by Brian Turner

The recent attacks by Israel against Gaza are being trumpeted by Israeli politicians as aiming to remove Hamas.

Such a strategy fails to appreciate that Hamas less a political group as much as a collective for the grief of Palestinians in Gaza.

According to Major Gen Uzi Dayan, the former Chairman of the Israeli National Security Council, on the BBC website:

Israel’s real goal should be to surround the Gaza Strip and “dismantle” the Hamas regime.

Asked who would run Gaza in its place, Gen Dayan said this was none of Israel’s business.

“I prefer a vacuum to what is there now,” he told me.

While Dayan may not represent the current face of Israeli politics, his views underly a basic problem for Israel’s politicians – as a resistance movement, Hamas cannot be destroyed, only replaced.

There is too much death, grief, and mourning among the people of Gaza for them to suddenly embrace Israel at the removal of Hamas – presuming this were possible. Remove Hamas and all you have is militancy re-organising under a different banner.

Even more dangerous, the actions of the Israel military are pushing support towards Hamas within the wider Palestinian community, and isolating moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas, draining their support.

If the practical consequences of Israel’s actions are to simply push Palestinians towards extremism, then pushing on a peace process afterwards can only become exceptionally more difficult.

In the meantime, with almost 1000 people killed within Gaza already, Israel needs to seriously ask itself whether it has a real plan behind the attacks that looks at addressing underlying causes instead of trying to address resulting symptoms.

After all, as time has proven already, you cannot bomb the Palestinians into submissions. And despite Israel doing much to humiliate the Palestinians through bulldozing their agriculture, destroying their industry, and reducing the infrastructure of Gaza to stone age status, unless Israel can address Palestinian outrage, all that will be achieved is continued escalation of the conflict.

In the meantime, Israeli politicians wax lyrical about preventing terrorism, yet all they are doing is creating new generations of extremists.

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