Saturday, July 01, 2006

It's all about perspective

It is not suprising that editorials in most American newspapers are supporting the current Israeli "offensive" in Gaza. When it comes to the issue of Israel, Americans seem to wear a special kind of intellectual and moral blinders, that keep the view narrow and myopic.

The Washington Post is often decent, but was incredibly sanquine about what Israel has subjected Palestinians to in the past few days.

Israel's Gaza incursion has been reluctant, slow, carefully calibrated -- and as of yesterday, casualty-free. In addition to the arrests, Israel has disrupted power supplies for slightly more than a tenth of Gaza's population, occupied an abandoned airport, rained shells down on empty fields and bombed the Hamas-controlled interior ministry while it was empty. Yesterday it again postponed a larger operation aimed at stopping the launching of rockets at Israel from northern Gaza in order to allow more time for mediation by Egypt. Meanwhile, the rocket firings continued -- another act of war that Hamas has encouraged, if not sponsored.

The Financial Times, on the other hand, not a left-wing, alternative media type of publication, had this to say.

It is just conceivable that Israel's present course of action in laying siege to the Gaza Strip could be tactically rational. It may, for instance, be aimed at turning the Palestinian people against Hamas, the Islamist movement they elected in January. What is certain, however, is that it is dangerously disproportionate.

No two conflicts are alike, in cause or in contour, but it is legitimate to compare standards of behaviour. Consider, for a moment, what would have happened if, in reaction to the IRA seizing a soldier, the British government had: invaded Northern Ireland; punished its people by destroying its electricity supply, transport links and government offices; shelled Belfast and Derry from land, sea and air; cratered the Falls Road; used the Royal Air Force to buzz the offices of the Taoiseach in Dublin; and arrested every Republican it could lay its hands on.

There would rightly have been an international outcry - and so there should be in this case.

The Post opines that the limited and restrained Israeli response, shows that "the incursion seems mainly intended to recover a soldier held hostage by Palestinian militants," while the Financial Times thinks that the taking of the Israeli soldier provided the Israeli government with the pretext to bring down what remains of the Palestinian government, stating that, "the disproportion between means and ends suggests this may be a pretext."

Talking with friends and colleagues in Gaza, I can tell you that the sterile and surgical attacks described by the Post editorial do not match the suffering and desperation of most Gazans. They have little or no electricity, there is no sleep or rest because of the bombings and sonic booms at night, and the most basic food and medical supplies are running out for many people.

Say what you want about Israel's right to defend itself, but targeting the general Palestinian population for the acts of a couple of militant groups is not defensible under any circumstances, or in any religious, moral or legal code. Bombing the electrical plants has nothing to do with Shalit, and has everything to do with making the situation as unbearable as possible for the largest number of people possible in the hopes the Palestinians somehow abandon all thoughts of resistance to Israeli policies.

When Israel fully controlled the West Bank and Gaza, it gave the Palestinians a few crumbs. When Abbas had full control Israel gave him nothing. Hamas is now in control, and Israel gives them nothing. Why would Palestinians believe anything they do will positively impact Israel and the harsh reality of living under the occupation?

It is this desperation that feeds the viciousness on the Palestinian side of the conflict. Give some hope to people and they will respond positively. What is it that feeds the viciousness on the Israeli side?


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