08 November 2007

The Gaza problem - another take

It seems that I have waited long enough for the last stragglers to comment on this post. By now we can say with confidence that the whole gamut of political opinions is presented. Save a distinct Palestinian voice, which is a pity.

So, after keeping mum on the thread that has developed during the three or four days, I must do what is expected from me - to play an armchair general for a change.

First of all, to answer the question asked by Mikey:

Who is this Avraham Katz and why have you given space to such extreme views on your blog?
I don't know Avraham Katz personally, and from reading the comments it should become clear that there are even more extreme views around. But, Mikey and Paul, if I can quote Finkelstein, Sheikh Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and Chavez, I am surely entitled to quote Avraham Katz. Another point you should understand: our government's inability to act (neither in the direction of peace nor the direction of war) is one of the reasons for people coming out with these outrageous ideas. Besides, it is all for good cause, which I intend to prove in a few moments. Anyway, the true answer is: I just needed a spark to get the discussion going and to get some people's opinions.

I wanted to start with people of Sderot*, and commenter Linda from UK made my job that much easier:
I've been to Sderot. What's the number of Israeli civilians who have died as a result of the missiles since they started? Five?
First of all, the number of people murdered by Qassams is 13 - today. Of course there are hundreds of wounded who will carry their pain and their injuries to the grave. But the psychological damage to the children of Sderot and the constant enforced play with death in the ugly form of the Russian (Gazan?) roulette with rockets instead of bullets during several years of constant threat - on what scale it is measured? This is what Wiki says about Nazis' V-2 attacks on London:
An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is just two people killed per V-2 rocket.
"Just two people"... hmm... Anyway, if you compare the respective population of the two places and follow the numbers, you shall see that the damage is comparable. Just imagine a well-wisher advising Londoners to ignore this at the time (well, I suspect there were a few who said it, actually). I doubt that the stiff upper lip advice would have worked. Definitely, a well-meaning advice to keep a stiff upper lip is not what people of Sderot will welcome. Their attitude to the government indecision and to the unending Qassams is close to that of some of the comments here: kill them all if you cannot stop the Qassams otherwise, many of them say. Ami, you may want to call each and every one of them "Jewish Eichmann", but I am not sure they will be in the mood to even start understanding you.

So, what can we do? To go with the clearly lunatic proposals you have seen in the previous post and some of the comments? To carpet bomb towns in Gaza for every Qassam? To kill a thousand/hundred thousands/... Gazans for every transgression?

There is war, ladies and gentlemen, and there is revenge. Sorry, Avraham and sorry Rabbi Eliyahu (not really) - what you are offering as a solution (later about its effectiveness) is revenge - senseless and bloodthirsty, which could be understood emotionally in the circumstances but could not be justified in any way.

Elder of Ziyon: with all due respect, taking a square kilometer for every Israeli victim has a few kinks. First of all, the plan pre-supposes more victims, which we all would prefer to avoid. Secondly, if you don't kill every inhabitant of that square kilometer, you are just moving your enemies and front line forward, and this logic will of necessity cause your plan to stop only after the whole planet is occupied by IDF (a corollary to it is that you will have to kill the whole population of the planet anyway).

Now to the other side of the scale: peace making. Gert, you are operating percentages of pro- and anti-peace Israelis without taking into account (although, I hope, with some understanding of) the dynamics of Israeli public opinion. The "disengagement" or, using a better term, evacuation of Gaza was preceded by high hopes of creating a first exemplary enclave of peace. We hoped that Gazans, left to their own devices and being inherently talented and enterprising people, will use the opportunity to turn to peaceful occupations and, with significant infusion of money (promised at the time) will turn Gaza into a shining beacon of prosperity and profitable coexistence with their neighbors. Nope. We all know what really happened.

Tell you a little secret, Gert: half a year of real peace and calm would have improved these percentages you so worry about to no end. But there is no Gandhi on the Palestinian side, no leader at all, to tell the truth (not that we are differently blessed).

And when you ask about the settlers in the West Bank - just remember that Olmert wanted (foolishly, as we all see now) to start removing settlements without waiting for any peace agreement. You know (or should know) the rest, so let's cut this crap.

So, unfortunately, it is war we are looking at, at least at the Gazan front. Of course, the current situation it is precisely what Hamas wants: bleed us slowly, provoke our retaliation, hopefully (for Hamas) with civilian casualties, generally make the life of Gazans close to impossible without actually starving them to death and prepare - first of all and above all - prepare for war. The more shahids the better.

And, unfortunately, our government is stalling, each time for different reasons. Either it is tension with Lebanon/Hezbollah or suspicious units movements on Syrian border or the gas line from the Gazan gas fields - whatever it is, Sderot comes last.

So, it is a war, and in the war you do what you do in a war. I absolutely agree with Yitzchak, Shlemazl, Meryl - there will be (is, in fact) no alternative to going in with overwhelming force (which will reduce casualties on both sides) and root out Hamas, Jihad and the whole alphabet soup of the terror network. Of course, there will be civilian casualties, especially knowing the endearing habit of Gazan "freedom fighters" to hide behind schools, kindergartens and civilians in general. But it is a war.

But this will be not enough (Meryl, we'll not be able to leave for a while) - Israel and all well-meaning partners should bring real economic prosperity to Gaza and stay there till a sane self-governing body is organized. And, of course, the teachers of hate, as Meryl says, should be stopped from spreading their poison.

It is a war, and our children in IDF will die. It is war, and they died protecting settlers in Gaza before the "disengagement", they died in Lebanon, they continue dying in the West Bank. It is a war, and I don't have anything consoling to say to myself and to all of us.

Now, as a purely theoretical exercise (for Dick, Avraham, Daled Amos and others): the collective punishment of the kind you see as a solution is not only morally unacceptable. Let's leave aside for a moment the moral aspect of carpet bombing or artillery barrage on a city - for the purpose of a "military exercise". What will, in fact, happen if such measure is taken? You must understand one simple thing - the people who will suffer the least are exactly the people you would like to go after, the terrorists. They are the most mobile, they are the best protected, they have the information and the shelters. So, as a result of your "strategy" you will kill the elderly, the children and the handicapped. In fact, doing precisely what Hamas/Jihad/... would want you to do.

The same, unfortunately, goes for the attempts to break the terrorists will by cutting of the electricity and fuel supplies - the terrorists will be practically untouched by these measures, having the means to take whatever they need.

And if you think for a moment that the Gazan masses, scared, starved and tired by the Israeli butchering of their dear and near, will raise and revolt against the only force that has arms at its disposal - you must be really naive...

Nope, gentlemen - it does not work morally and it does not work militarily. No way.

Meanwhile, at least from the news it looks like the indecision will continue for a while:
Israel has no plans for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip in the near future, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a Knesset committee Tuesday, according to meeting participants.
To conclude: I don't even dream about persuading most of you, folks (especially not my Jewish friends, who are, like I am, world champions of stubbornness). But I hope we could continue discussing the subject. Civilly.)

(*) Of course, it is not only Sderot, all the villages around Gaza who suffer from Qassams and mortars are included, with my apologies.