Part of expatriate life is worrying for the health of elderly overseas parents. My father-in-law’s health is bad enough to worry about, even without this recent crap. My wife’s parents live in Moshav Shahar, Israel, some 15km from the Gaza Strip as the missile flies. Their home has nothing even remotely resembling a shelter; some government functionaries going from house to house told them the best place in case of a missile alert, is to crouch under the staircase. Fortunately for them, they live a rural area and not much of a target.
Thursday, morning, however, found them going to my dad-in-law’s doctor’s appointment in Ashkelon – the largest town in the Strip’s vicinity, and one of the missile launchers’ favorite targets. The appointment was disrupted four times by missile alerts. My father-in-law, one of the kindest, most inspiring men I have ever known, is not mobile enough anymore to evacuate so rapidly (I think it’s 30 seconds in Ashkelon, maybe 15). But the building itself wasn’t hit, and what’s more – perhaps for the first time, my dad-in-law’s deteriorating lucidity worked in his favor: he didn’t stress out, just wondered why everyone keeps disappearing and leaving him with the security guy.
I don’t think my wife asked her mom about her opinions on the recent bloody flare-up. Frankly, there’s hardly a need to ask: since Fall 2000, she – one of the strongest, most impressive women I have ever known, and never formally a right-winger – has become as patriotistic as they come. Or rather, as patriotistic as most Israeli Jews have become. It is really hard to resist the right-wing brainwash there, or even to *notice* that you are being brainwashed. It is even harder to resist the social pressure that brands you as “deluded” or even “traitor” if you dare express dissent. Just visualize being in the same mental state most Americans have been in right after 9/11, for 12 straight years and counting.
But we, sitting outside the present Israeli consensus both physically and mentally, remember other times, and disturbing chains of events.
Until 2002 we lived not far from my in-laws, in Nehora which is even a bit closer to the Strip. Compared with other parts of the country, that southwest corner of Israel was fairly quiet at the time. The only disturbance was the sound of helicopters flying overhead en route to pounding the poor residents of Gaza. We just happened to be below the route.
Then in July 2002, our Air Force liquidated Hamas military chief Saleh Shehade, using a gentle one-ton bomb on a Gaza apartment building that killed 14 other human beings. The Air Force chief infamously said about the liquidation and its human toll, “If I’d flown that plane myself, all I’d feel was a little tug on the wing as the bomb drops.” He was rapidly promoted to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, then to Chief of Staff. In that role, he engineered the 2006 Lebanon War – a Shock and Awe display designed to gently, again, nudge Lebanese into dismantling Hizbullah. And his gemful mouth then said, “We will turn Lebanon back 20 years”. Well he tried – bombed the crap out of the Beirut Airport, bombed a power plant leaking oil into the Mediterranean and causing immense damage to natural beaches, and killing some 1000-odd people. Then, the brave, brave Chief of Staff was disgraced twice: once by not winning the war, and once by the discovery that on the morning of the war, just before it was launched, he had found the time to call his broker and tell him to sell.
But enough with General (retired) Halutz. Back to Hamas military chief, and that 2002 one-ton assassination. They told us it had to be done: not only did Shehade have blood on his hands, but the killing dealt a blow to several ongoing attack plans and literally saved many lives. The Troubadour reminded us yesterday, that his wife was injured in a Jerusalem bombing that was a direct revenge to Shehade’s killing. And despite all prognostications by Israel’s pundits and ass-licking military-affairs journalists, Hamas maintained its strength, especially around the Gaza Strip. Rockets on nearby Sderot gradually turned from a rare event to a common occurrence. Attacks on military and settlements inside Gaza gradually rendered the maintenance of both untenable.
So in March 2004, the IDF assassinated the political leader of Hamas, the aging wheelchair-bound Ahmed Yassin. And a few weeks later we also killed his successor Abd El-Aziz El-Rantissi. Hamas in Gaza was definitely dealt a mortal blow. So much so, that only a couple of months later the IDF completely lost control of the situation, and got embroiled in bloody incursion centered on Rafah. The following year Hamas beat the crap out of Fatah in the Palestinian municipal elections, and was in Gaza in full force, to declare ownership on the victory when the IDF and settlers finally left the Strip’s interior. In January 2006 Hamas won the parliamentary elections, and the rest is a more widely known, and very, very, *very* sad history.
All the while, Israel’s pundits and ass-licking millitary-affairs journalists keep telling us, after every assassination and bloody military operation, how Hamas is getting weaker. How the Palestinians are now learning their lesson. In reality, of course, Hamas has turned from nearly-irrelevant status in summer 2000, just before Prime Minister Barak decided that “Arafat is not a partner for peace” and chose the Military Option instead – to a movement who in 2012 controls Gaza Strip’s interior, plays on the regional and international stage, and is able to launch missiles from the Strip to Tel Aviv. (Update: AND JERUSALEM (1st time since 1970)
Anyone who claims that assassinating Hamas leaders is a reasonable strategy, belongs not in the reality-based community but on Planet Unskewed Polls. And anyone daring to claim that there was really no choice, right now, to do anything else except liquidate Hamas’ military chief…. I seriously have no words to describe such a claim. Such a claim is beyond craven, beyond stupid, it is Dick Morris ridiculous.
Not only has the Hamas-leader-assassination strategy backfired spectacularly; its basic premise is outlandishly stupid. Hamas is a broad-based movement, with political, military, social and other branches. The Palestinian struggle’s dynamics rarely revolve around one person. Not even Arafat. As long as Hamas is large enough and has a military wing, killing its head is little more than a temper tantrum or a PR stunt.
And trash talk about “wiping out Hamas” is eliminationist and genocidal. If Israel wants to weaken Hamas or turn it away from terror, the best way is to undercut Hamas’ cynical and corrupt strategy of gaining power through violence – by instead, granting respect and tangible victories to the nonviolent elements of Palestinian society. Of course, anyone who even briefly follows Occupation news knows that Israel does the exact opposite. As The Troubadour wrote so cogently yesterday, nothing terrifies Israel’s powers-that-be more than a nonviolent, determined, principled and unified Palestinian uprising. Therefore, they quash and frustrate nonviolent protest, treat moderate leaders like worthless lackeys, and bait the militant movements in order to keep them popular, dominant and hungry for revenge.
And this, without mentioning the elephant in the room: the people of Gaza, how they got there and what Israel had done to them over the years. In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis lists the Strip among the world’s 10 most populous slums. Its origins are not so different: just like Gaza, many of these slums are the result of war and displacement. Gaza is singled out because it is the victim of a nation who’s the darling of Western elites, a nation that has gotten so used to getting a free pass, it is insulted at the very idea of paying the price for anything. Instead, the West has chosen to villify and demonize all Gazans, men women and children, and to condemn them to live not only in a slum, but in the world’s largest de-facto open air prison slum.
Does anyone in the West really think they have the moral authority to wag a finger at Gaza’s residents? They don’t need hypocritical Western politicians and pundits to tell them lobbing missiles at other people is bad. They know it’s bad. But they also know that the rest of the world is perfectly sweet and easy with dishing them far-worse-than-bad, every day, every month, every year, for decade after decade.
Have you ever envisioned what it is to live in a small confined region, not knowing how you’ll feed your family, not knowing whether your family will survive the next air bombing or shelling, having enemy drones, helicopters and jets zoom overhead at all times of days and nights without any defense against them – no defense at all? And nowhere to go. Day after day, year after year, decade after decade. And with all that, the Beautiful People of the world look at you and see a monster, a primitive, a blood-thirsty menace that should be placed in this situation forever, you, your children, your grandchildren. With no end in sight. Have you really imagined that?
The Israelis around Gaza are now traumatized too. It is sad. It is a ripple effect of what we have inflicted on the people inside.
If you claim to care about Israel-Palestine but have not yet lifted a finger to end the travesty that is Gaza’s forced imprisonment and impoverishment, then the blood of the people dying right now in Israel-Palestine is on your hands too.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Glorious Leaders who are spearheading this cynical burst of bloodshed. Prime Minister Bibi was here just recently, trying to meddle in the US election campaign and making an ass out of himself in front of the entire world. Bibi is a combination of corrupt, douchebag, racist and granny-robbing prick that even the 2012 GOP has not produced the likes of. And he is joined by people even worse than him – Barak and Lieberman. People with no worldview except their own self-aggrandizement, methods and consequences be damned.
A needless round of mutual killing, in order to manipulate public opinion for January’s Israeli elections, is so not beneath these criminals.
Don’t mistake the cowered show of “unity” in Israel once the guns blaze, with genuine support. The Israeli public and its center-left politicians have internalized the Battered Wife Syndrome. And after every new round of war and violence, our politicians emerge more corrupt, more brazen than before. I’m not talking just “Wag the Dog” corrupt. I’m talking about steal-money corrupt. Each of them – Bibi, Barak, Lieberman, Olmert, the comatose Sharon, and countless others – has a personal portfolio of corruption scandals. Like the Mob, they largely escape justice through a legion of sleazy millionaire lawyers, webs of criminal loyalty, and fear.
Or maybe you suspect the politicians but still trust the generals, respecting the uniform they wear. Silly, these are the same people! Nowadays, IDF top brass get embroiled in corruption and abuse scandals even before they make the convenient hop from the general’s office to the Israeli cabinet or the big-corporation boardrooms. Gen. Halutz above is a typical example. Beside the fact that after 40 years of calling the shots wrong and failing to see any writing on any wall, it is about time to doubt the judgment of Israel’s security-state apparatus
If you are liberal or progressive, and you believe these politicians and generals, that Israel’s best interest has demanded the liquidation of Hamas’ military chief, right now – then we are in serious trouble.
What many American progressive-liberals who do get it, are still not aware of, is that your voice means a ton. Especially now.
Unlike previous operations, this time there are visible cracks in the faux wall of Israeli unity. For the first time in some 30 years, one Israeli Zionist party, Meretz, is dissenting from the start. The language its leaders are using are a bit more nuanced than what I wrote here, but still strong enough. Its leader MK Zehava Gal-On called Bibi and Barak pyromaniacs. Bingo. Quite a few mainstream journalists have expressed skepticism at the timing and motives, and publishing disturbing information (h/t heathlander).
Whether these rays of dissent turn into a full blaze, or are swallowed by jingoistic darkness, depends to a large degree on what Israelis hear from the West and especially America.
So please let President Obama know how you feel, both online and by phone, (202)456-1111.
Contact your local elected officials. Write about it in the local press. In blogs. Tweet about it, share it on Facebooks (Israelis love these social media).
It does matter. Any day by which we shorten this murderous mad-dog game, literally saves lives.
If you have other links or action ideas, please post them in the comments.