Monday, August 10, 2009

Who Started This Time?

One of the perennial problems in following Israel's wars and their lulls, is that an isolated incident isn't obviously isolated until the following days or perhaps even weeks prove it so. Say there's a period of calm, and one side launches an act of violence. Will this shatter the calm and set off a spiral of violence, or will the lull continue after the brief interuption? (And of course there are then all sorts of subsidiary questions, such as what preceded the initial act of violence, were the casualties from the launching side or the defending side, and so on and on: the Israel-Arab conflict is fiendishly complex on this level and it's a rare outsider who can keep track, although they'll never admit it).

Anyway. For the past few months there has been calm on the Israel-Gaza front. The longer this goes on the more plausible Israel's justification for the operation last January: if it suceeded, it must have been proportional. Yet this must be stated a bit gingerly. Someday there will be another round of violence, and only then will we know (if we'll know) if the lull was a Hamas decision not to tangle with those mazhnoon (crazy) Israelis, or perhaps the opposite: a tactic of lulling Israeli civilians back to Sderot and vicinity and out of their shelters, so that Hamas can kill lots of them when it decides the time is right.

These are only some among many considerations. There are lots of other levels.

Having said that, it is worth noting and recording that following a few months of general quiet, and some weeks of complete quiet, the Palestinians yesterday started shooting mortars and one Qassam rocket; that Israel retaliated by bombing one Rafah tunnel; and then... now we wait to see what then. If the shooting escalates again, this wil have been the starting point and the Palestinians started it - so remember that because our critics will spin it otherwise. If there's no escalation, remember that also: the Palestinians started, we responded, and everyone went back to their regular occupations.

Ah, one more thing. The mortars the Palestinians launched yesterday? They were aimed at.... Palestinian civilians on their way into Israel for medical care. You couldn't make this up.

On Sunday, Gaza militants fired mortars at a crossing into Israel just as Palestinian patients were being transferred for treatment, a Palestinian official said. "It's a miracle nobody was hurt," Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said.

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