Cry Me A River

The Arab News has an editorial today about the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations. And if it were any more divorced from reality, it’d be entitled to alimony.

Editorial: Spanner in the Works
21 September 2007

IT is hardly surprising that Israel should declare that the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip is an “enemy entity.” Indeed, it is not something the Palestinians in the enclave would deny. If anything, it is a badge they, particularly Hamas and its supporters, will wear with pride.

So, what’s the problem?

But there is much more to this than a statement of fact. It is a declaration of horrible intent. The US, for one, will not be pleased with it despite the fact that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used the very same words Wednesday to describe Hamas — “a hostile entity.” However, there is a world of difference between the two declarations. The logic of the Israeli one is that everyone in Gaza — not just Hamas and its supporters but ordinary civilians as well — are responsible for the barrage of rockets being fired at the Israelis and are to be punished en masse with a crippling blockade of electricity and fuel supplies, both of which are controlled by the Israelis. The Israeli prime minister’s office has confirmed that is going to happen.

Well, let’s see. As everyone likes to point out, Hamas is the legal, elected government of Gaza. That means that a majority — a large majority, in fact — of the people of Gaza chose to put Hamas in charge. And Hamas has the legal and moral responsibility to maintain order in its territory. It had no problems putting down (as in “killing and driving out”) Fatah, so these bozos with their rockets should be no problem.

The American position is very different. Washington makes the distinction which every else makes between Hamas and ordinary Gazans. It blames Hamas alone for the attacks. Rice’s promising declaration that Gaza “will not be abandoned” indicates a massive difference between it and Tel Aviv on the issue.

But as noted before, Hamas is the legally elected government. That puts the people at least partially responsible for the actions of the government they chose and support.

And “Tel Aviv?” I thought Israel had moved its seat of government to Jerusalem. You remember, that’s the city that’s mentioned hundreds of times in both the Jewish and Christian Bibles — but never once in the Koran.

The Israelis have declared Gaza hostile before but why again now, just at the start of Rice’s visit when the emphasis is supposed to be on getting the peace talks restarted? It speaks volumes about Israeli bad intentions. A blockade would be a disaster — for the Gazans, for President Mahmoud Abbas and the government he recently appointed and for the peace process. It would play straight into the hands of Hamas, who cares little about the lives of ordinary Gazans, doing nothing to control the militants whose rockets trigger such deadly retaliation. When Palestinians in the West Bank see their fellows in the beleaguered strip suffering as a result of the restrictions, they will not blame Hamas for reaping the whirlwind of Israeli fury, they will blame the Israelis, they will blame the Americans and they will blame Abbas for talking to the Israelis. But maybe that is what the Israelis want — a spanner in the works, and the peace process again off the rails.

Let’s see. “why again now?” Could it be the recent rocket attacks, one of which wounded a whole bunch of Israeli soldiers and another that nearly blew up a pre-school, announced as a “welcome back to school present?”

And I don’t quite get this one.The Gazans are furious with Israel, attacking them daily, but Israel should be careful to not “provoke” them further. And Israel should also be careful because if Hamas does anything too nasty to its own people, they will be blamed for it. And since the attacks, it seems, are inevitable, they should just “relax and enjoy it?”

Washington will be quietly furious (“quietly” because, as usual, it dare not publicly criticize Israel). Like all US presidents since Richard Nixon, George W. Bush dreams of the glory that solving the Middle East problem would bring. He is all the more desperate for a good Middle East eulogy in the history books having failed so spectacularly in Iraq. If, because of his craving for a good legacy he manages to break the Middle East deadlock, we will all applaud him. Certainly, at the moment it is encouraging that Condoleezza Rice is more concerned than either the Israelis or Hamas over the condition of ordinary Gazans and says that something will be done. She should start by insisting that there is no blockade. But will the Israelis listen?

There’s quite a bit of projection here. The reason the author ascribes to US presidents trying to “solve” the Middle East problem is for glory. Then, later, they say that “Condoleezza Rice is more concerned than either the Israelis or Hamas over the condition of ordinary Gazans.”

Think about that for a moment. The author is admitting that the legally-elected government of the Palestinians doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the well-being of its people, and is projecting that attitude on our leader. (Israel’s lack of concern is a bit more understandable — they’re less concerned about the well-being of the Gazans than they are of the Israelis the Gazans are trying to kill, and rightly so.)

After all is said and done, I find myself finding more and more truth in the words of Golda Meir, the late Prime Minister of Israel:

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

Sad to say, that day appears still far, far away.

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