Thursday, January 15, 2009

Concerning the sorry situation in Gaza...

...there are a few points I haven't seen made in the press.

1. It was always clear that Israel was going to take advantage of the post-Bush/pre-anybody interregnum to attack one of its enemies. Remember when the possibility of an attack on Iran or Lebanon 2.0 were being chewed over? It turned out badly for the people of Gaza, but Iran & Syria are probably noting that all Israel could do in the end was beat up the little guy on its doorstep.

2. It seems to me painfully obvious that the Gaza invasion is a hail-mary attempt to topple Hamas. The rocket issue a) gives Israel a pretext to attack and b) a justification for declaring victory and withdrawing even though Hamas hasn't fallen--though Israel has killed enough Hamas leaders and destroyed enough Gazan infrastructure to push Gaza firmly in the failed-state category.

3.It might be said that the real target of the Gaza invasion is the Obama administration. Israel has made the statement that any U.S. rethink on the Middle East must accept Israel's desire to destroy Hamas as a precondition. Israel is betting that Obama is preoccupied with domestic economic issues and not interested in using up political capital to challenge the Israeli framing and rebalance the U.S. posture away from Israel and toward the other Middle Eastern countries. Will Israel offer Obama a deal: back us on Hamas and we'll follow through on the Syria peace deal that's already brewing? Let's see.

4. I find risible the whole idea that Hamas will be weakened in the eyes of the Gazans. When an entire community is subjected to extensive and brutal collective punishment, they tend to blame the people dropping the bombs. I expect this has been a recruitment bonanza for Hamas.

5. Assuming that Hamas is still standing after the invasion ends, Israel's endgame involves corraling the U.S., EU, and Egypt to assist it in setting up a chokehold over humanitarian aid to Gaza and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in an attempt to topple Hamas. Firing phosphorous shells into a UN compound and setting fire to hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid would be a convenient way to make things worse and make sure that resupply of food and medicine has to occur on Israeli terms. A multilateral force to shut down the smuggling tunnels is another important measure to restrict the flow of money, food, and medicine to Gaza. Rocket and arms interdiction are useful ways to pressure Hamas but perhaps not the core objective of Israel’s war on the tunnels.

6. It seems to me that this invasion will create more problems than it solves for Israel. It’s a classic illustration of the “doing something is better than doing nothing” fallacy which seems to afflict countries with large armies and weak opponents. Just because the U.S. presidential transition created a vacuum, that doesn’t mean taking advantage of it to invade Gaza was a good idea. If Israel unilaterally deposes Hamas, I don’t think Fatah is going to find a lot of eager volunteers to serve as Israeli assets inside Gaza. In the face of widespread suffering and anger inside Gaza and swelling international outrage over the invasion, I’m filing the statements from Israel and supporters of the invasion that everything is going great in the dubious/grain of salt file. The only people who will be genuinely happy are those who believe that Israel’s best hope for continued American attention and support is an atmosphere of perpetual, self-manufactured crisis—and keeping Gaza and the Arab world aboil with misery and anger.

7.With a few notable exceptions, media reporting and analysis on the Gaza invasion has been as crappy as the job they did on the Iraq invasion. Total inability to challenge the invader's national security talking points, blind acceptance of stated imperatives and objectives that make no logical sense, inability to ask the cui bono question, let alone let alone question the motives of the attacker or make an independent assessment of the overall political dynamic. Handwringing over the carnage and laughing at Joe Wurzelbacher seems about as deep as our pundits and reporters can go.

8. Did everybody skip the "collective punishment = war crime" day at the Nuremberg trials?


David Seaton's Newslinks said...

With Immanuel Wallerstein's piece, "Chronicle of a Suicide Foretold: The Case of Israel" yours is the best piece I've read about Gaza. Great wrok!

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