Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Gaza, Politicians, and a Feckless Media
Here's an image that was up on Y-net earlier today.
Yoav Guetta of Ashkelon, 10 years old, after his house was hit and partially destroyed by a Palestinian Grad missile earlier today.
This picture will never appear in the Guardian, or at the BBC. Actually, given that it's Christmas Eve, it won't appear anywhere outside Israel. Which is too bad not because of its propaganda value, but because it explains part of what will be in the news right after Christmas, when whatever retaliation Israel chooses creates good pictures of Palestinian suffering.
Israel's critics often erroneously assume the Israelis aren't aware of Palestinian suffering, and castigate them for not finding out. I don't remember ever seeing a piece of self reflection in which such a critic asks themselves if they've acquainted themselves adequately about the Israeli perspective.
There's an interesting discussion taking place in Israel these days. Rockets aimed solely at civilians are raining down on towns near Gaza, and also on towns that aren't so near (the Palestinian range is getting longer because while they're dismal failures at creating better lives for themselves, they're great at inventing ways of hurting Israelis). On the one hand you've got politicians from left and right facing elections, who are screaming for retaliatory actions against Gaza. On the other hand you've got Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense, apparently backed by many of the generals, who are wary of wielding the destructive power they've got, and who consequently appear irresolute and callous towards Yoav Guetta and hundreds of thousands of other civilians. In this argument I'm on the side of the hesitators, at least for the moment.
Not, mind you, because I think nothing can be achieved by violence and one must seek a rational accommodation with Hamas. It was only a few years ago, remember, when far worse Palestinian terror which was killing hundreds of Israeli civilians was stopped through the power of violence. The combination of killing or arresting most terrorists in the West Bank, followed by the justifiable assassinations of the top Hamas leaders in Gaza did the trick, not anything else, and certainly not sitting down to talk with the poor Palestinians.
Violence most certainly can achieve political goals, as human history consistently shows these past 5,000 years or so. Yet it must be wielded carefully, the violence: effectively, and morally. The West Bank isn't Gaza, and what worked in the one in 2002-2003 probably won't work in the other in 2009. We also ought not forget how a knee-jerk use of violence in Lebanon in 2006 ended badly: instead of killing thousands of Hezbullah fighters, as we should have, we killed a few hundred, a number that was too small, along with hundreds of Lebanese civilians, a number that was vastly too large.
So if Barak (supported by Olmert, who is still Prime Minister) is carefully preparing an effective response to the Palestinian insistence on killing Israelis, I think it's worth waiting a bit if needed. Setting things up so that the Obama administration sees who's insisting on violence and who's being reluctant is also a worthy consideration. As long as sometime soon - say, in the fullness of not much time - something effective is done.
My preference would be to kill the Hamas leaders from the top down, rather than from the rank and file up. But then again, fortunately it isn't my brief.