Wednesday 22 December 2010

Gaza: An escalation of violence

The AFP reported that since December 19, 2010 three rockets and 18 mortars were fired into parts of southern Israel from Gaza.

A letter written on Monday, December 21, 2010 from Israel to the U.N. Security Council urges it to send a message to Palestinian militants responsible.

On Tuesday, December 22, 2010 a series of air strikes from Israel targeted supposed tunnels, training sites and weapons facilities in Gaza. All of this came in response to a salvo of mortar shells on Monday and rocket fire on Tuesday morning.

The newspapers refer to Gaza as "Hamas-ruled" however is it really ruled by Hamas? The Palestinians have within their midst a number of independent "militant" groups who do not necessarily follow the rule of Hamas. They operate autonomously with little regard to the political will of the ruling party. This was true when the Fatah party was in control; this is true with Hamas supposedly in control.

As such, it is difficult if not impossible to broker any peace between Israel and the Palestinians because when somebody negotiates with President Mahmoud Abbas, they are not negotiating with all parties. If both sides agree to keep the peace, will all associated groups follow the agreement?

In response to repeated rocket attacks on its soil, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead between December 2009 and January 2010. The final tally of this incursion was 1,400 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis killed, 10 of them soldiers. The result of this war, widely condemned internationally was that rocket attacks subsequently plunged however it is reported that 200 rockets or shells have been fired since then. By whom and to what purpose?

Years ago I watched a CBC report about a Palestinian farmer. He had an orchard of fruit trees with which he made his livelihood right beside the security fence separating Israel and Gaza. The story showed militants entering the grove with shoulder held rocket launchers. Several missiles were fired over the wall into Israeli territory then the militants left. Israel retaliated by lobbing mortars into the orchard destroying the trees and leaving craters all around. The CBC subsequently interviewed the Palestinian farmer and obviously, he was very upset at losing his trees and very upset with Israel. But in a telling move, he expressed his anger at the militants. What had they achieved by firing the rockets? What exactly had they achieved by "pissing" the Israelis off? The militants remain unaffected by the outcome of their attack while he, the farmer ends up losing his orchard.

I always found this to be an interesting story about the fragile peace which exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The continued "one offs" by various small militant groups may give the militant group some feeling of power in the conflict, but in the big picture they do more harm to the Palestinian cause and to the Palestinians themselves. Israel may broker peace with Abbas but then some militant group turns around and fires a rocket into Israeli territory. From my readings, these rockets have done little damage over the years and hurt or killed few people. Nevertheless, they represent a very, very scary form of terrorism. As a consequence, I have to ask the question what this tactic as a political tool achieves in the greater picture of getting a Palestinian state? Look at the numbers from the last conflict: 1,400 Palestinians killed, 13 Israelis. If these continued occasional firings into Israel piss them off again, I am going to conclude that the Palestinians are going to end up with the short end of the stick. Israel is armed to the teeth and they have taken a policy, especially after the Holocaust that nobody, absolutely nobody is going to mess with them. And who can blame them for that?

Consequently, war with Israel is out of the question as a viable option to resolving the issue of the Palestinians. However, I always return to Ghandi. In the film and in readings, Ghandi was always portrayed to me saying that he is not going to force the British to leave India; he is going to make them want to leave India. Forcing somebody to do something is hard but if you get them to want to do it, it's then easy. And we know the outcome of that one. Ghandi wins without firing a shot. The British leave and India becomes its own country.

Unless Israel feels any sort of a measure of security, I don't see them making any concessions any time soon. Why make a concession if you don't get anything in return? Hamas must do a better job of reining in the various autonomous militant groups operating in Gaza and elsewhere. Unless the Palestinians can present themselves as a cohesive bargaining group, I don't see how anybody is going to be able to take them at their word because "their word" doesn't seem to be the word of all Palestinians. Yes, even the Israelis have to deal with their own ring wing conservative extremists but it is the moderates on both sides which control the shots and present a unified face to the world. Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims have lived in these lands for thousands of years. No one group is going to disappear off the face of the planet and make all these problems go away. Everyone must work together on accepting everyone else in peace and harmony.


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