Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gaza: the war is over (sort of), let the stupidity begin

The Israelis, having reached the point where a continued military offensive was likely to transform itself into a drawn out ground war, have announced a ceasefire. Hamas, having called upon world opinion to condemn Israeli aggression by means of a fair bit of shroud waving, have survived, albeit in rather battered form. The people of Gaza should now be able to emerge to survey the damage and start to rebuild their shattered lives.

That's the theory. Unfortunately, it looks as if we will end up with the worst of all worlds. Hamas have picked up where they left off, with seven rockets already launched into southern Israel, and the Israel Defence Force responding with air attacks on the sites from whence the rockets came. Neither side has peace or security, and the likelihood is that the Israelis will feel totally justified in repeating the whole bloodstained process of attack all over again.

To be blunt, the 'international community', one of those meaningless terms we all fall back on, has failed to achieve very much, and it is public opinion that has led the way. However, public opinion can only do so much, and it is time for moderate Arab nations to step in and provide support for those forces for civil society in Gaza who might create the basis for an administration focussed on building a sound economy, a strong democracy and a secure environment for both.

If Hamas are serious about being part of the process of building a viable Palestinian state, they need to accept that using the population of Gaza as a human shield is, to put it mildly, unhelpful. Given the imbalance in terms of strike power, the pain and suffering is always going to fall disproportionately on civilians in Gaza.

This is not to say that responsibility for this tragedy falls wholly on Hamas. I fully accept that some Israeli actions have been provocative and deliberately so. However, a state can be influenced by other nations in a way that a freedom fighting/terrorist (your choice) organisation cannot. The United Nations and the European Union can withdraw co-operation from Israel through bi-lateral agreements on culture, trade or whatever. We don't have those links with Hamas.

So, as liberals and internationalists, we must channel our passions into lobbying governments, and not just our own, into doing something concrete towards a lasting peace. Otherwise, I'll see you on another demo in five years time...

1 comment:

Oranjepan said...

The Israelis, having reached the point where the power vacuum created by the lame duck presidency in the US was about to be filled, knew their time was up.