This is written with a sense of the deep tragedy of Gaza that has not yet seen the end of what is now clearly a criminal military adventure by Israel.
I do not politically agree with Hamas, but at this point the issue is not the political problems with Hamas, but the profound dangers which face us as a result of Israel’s actions.
Hamas should not fire rockets into Israel but they have largely been mere pinpricks. (Though there was the delightful irony of Netanyahu on the one hand telling the world about the terror those rockets imposed on Israelis, and then his astonishment that the US would, at least temporarily, take him seriously and ban flights to Tel Aviv).
Under international law it is criminal if, in the course of your actions, you are imposing undue casualties on civilians. It is not considered (in legal terms) a crime if, in the course of bombing military targets, a civilian is killed. But if civilians actually become the target – and since at least 75% of those killed in Gaza are civilians, many of them children – then in legal terms the military actions, because they inflict “disproportionate” casualties on civilians, become criminal.
Judged by those standards the Hamas rockets are a nasty nuisance but the Israel military strikes are criminal. What has made this even worse is that the Israeli spokespeople have put themselves in the impossible position of saying “we are angry at Hamas because they are making us kill children”.
(It is absolutely true, as Israelis might argue, that the US has done the same thing “in spades” in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Panama, in Afghanistan, and the Russians in Chechnya. But in legal terms it does not help the criminal, when brought before the bar of world opinion, to argue that the arresting officers might also be guilty. The Nuremberg Trials were important – even though, given the level of bombing of civilian targets in Germany and Japan, the victors were also guilty).
What makes this moment very dangerous is that on the Israeli side the military casualties they have suffered – while nothing compared to Gaza – are very high. In a sense, and given the broad public support he has, Netanyahu has essentially said “in for a penny, in for a pound” and has no interest in a ceasefire. Neither, it is clear, does Hamas, which(in my view quite correctly) demands an end of the blockade of Gaza before it will accept a cease fire.
The Arab world is no longer able to support the people of Gaza. Egypt’s government – itself a brutal military dictatorship – would rejoice at the demolition of Hamas. Syria is fighting for its life on its own turf. Iraq is caught up in a civil war. Only Qatar has taken the side of Gaza.
(In fact, one could spend time thinking about the current disarray of the Arab world, which, rather than being united against the West, is engaged in a conflict with itself, the Arab Spring is dead and the hopes for democratic secular change have been destroyed by ISIS).
Some in the Jewish community have, in the past, wondered if Israel is not the curse of the Jewish people. And it may well be – there is a real, serious, immediate danger of anger against the Israeli slaughter of civilians in Gaza turning into fury against Jews. Thus, for tactical reasons, it is not enough for us, in our communities, to link with Palestinian groups – we must reach out to the many in the Jewish community who are as appalled as anyone at the events in Gaza. We need to make links with Catholic and Protestant groups to form a kind of “moral united front” which will bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews in demanding that Congress never again vote unanimous support for Israel.
But for now, the killing will go on. And the long impact can’t yet be
measured. Arabs, more than our society, are marked by family and clan loyalties. The children in Gaza who survive will be educated, will learn new skills, and will live with a burning hatred of Israel, and a determination to get revenge for the mass murder Israel has inflicted on Gaza. The rockets Hamas is firing now are nothing to what a new generation will master. Even if Israel could kill every member of Hamas, it has, already, generated a new and broader cadre for the next Hamas.
A friend noted that even Jon Stewart in his Daily Show has danced around the Gaza issue – it is too hot even for him. (His fans might drop him a note asking when he will take it up).
One might hope that the pacifist and peace groups, in the US and abroad, would form immediate working coalitions focused on the demand Israel end the blockade and the killing in Gaza. (One does not need to demand an end of the Hamas rockets – they will end the moment the blockade is lifted). And such groups should seek what links they can with democratic left groups such as the Democratic Socialists of America, the Socialist Party, and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. We saw such a movement in the Vietnam War. We need it again. And we need it urgently. Israel has not only done terrible damage to Gaza, it has wounded itself far more deeply than it realizes.
The writer is retired, was for many years on the staff of the War Resisters League, was twice the Socialist Party’s candidate for President and served a term as Chair of the War Resisters International and can be reached at: [email protected]