I’ve always admired the state of Israel and the Israeli people as a whole. From an Irish point of view the historic parallels between our nations are obvious. Both share a sense of ethnicity and cultural continuity that reach into a far distant past, with roots that are of greater import than any transient political or ideological beliefs. There is a depth to my own identity, to my Celticness, that I recognise in Jewish and Israeli friends. Reflections of it can be glimpsed in the works of writers, poets and artists from both peoples. And in the intellectual underpinnings of our revolutionaries too. Yet, as the years have passed, it has become harder and harder to sustain that admiration for Israel.
A certain embarrassment has overcome those of us on the Left who speak up for Israel, who defend it’s re-foundation and right to exist. There is a feeling of awkwardness, almost shame, to find oneself in the company of some less than savoury characters or ideologues who express similar views (albeit in less nuanced or more bellicose terms). To be associated with some Fox News “journalist”, however tangentially, on the issue of Israel is enough to make your skin crawl.
The actions and attitudes of the Israeli state itself have moved far away from the centre-left and secularist impulses of many of its founding members. Today one increasingly perceives an Israel that is only marginally different in composition to the countries which surround it. When I watch a video of Israeli soldiers standing and praying before a military rabbi holding up a torah I find it hard to distinguish them from their Palestinian counterparts. They look the same, they pray the same, their languages and accents sound the same… yet we are told they are not the same.
Now we have a ceasefire after the latest ramping up of the conflict in that part of Occupied Palestine known as the Gaza Strip and it is hard to disagree with this summation from professor John J. Mearsheimer in, of all places, The American Conservative:
“…when a ceasefire comes, Israel will declare victory. Don’t believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it cannot win.
The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel’s deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
But these are not the real goals… The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.
The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”
What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.
If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change Hamas’s thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda: it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.
This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties…
The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate…
… Israel is unlikely to stop the rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza’s borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel’s naval blockade. It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through legitimate channels.
Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force. But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.
More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.
But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will “face a South African-style struggle” if the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. “As soon as that happens,” he argued, “the state of Israel is finished.” Yet Olmert has done nothing to stop settlement expansion and create a viable Palestinian state, relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.
The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy-with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora-that is placing its long-term future at risk.”
The article above was published on January 26th, 2009, after the first “Gaza war”.
Do I need say more?
- What is Israel Really Up to in Gaza? (counterpunch.org)