+972 Magazine » Larry Derfner http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:39:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 No, Hamas isn’t ISIS, ISIS isn’t Hamas http://972mag.com/no-hamas-isnt-isis-isis-isnt-hamas/95957/ http://972mag.com/no-hamas-isnt-isis-isis-isnt-hamas/95957/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 11:52:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95957 But equating the two is Netanyahu’s latest way of hypnotizing people into supporting the Gaza war. He gets away with it because people are afraid that if they challenge this idiotic slogan, they’ll be accused of ‘defending Hamas.’

Anybody who isn’t a shill for Israel can see through Netanyahu’s new slogan, “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.” It’s such a crude attempt to brainwash people, to put the most horrifying image in their minds and associate it with Gaza, thereby cleansing Israel of those images of Gaza’s agony. Like he’s been doing his whole career, Netanyahu is insulting people’s intelligence, treating them like children, selling them the war with a short little singsong slogan they can all remember.

And he gets away with it, because people won’t challenge this idiocy for fear they’ll be accused of “defending Hamas.” Well, if anybody accuses me of defending Hamas in what I’m about to write, I accuse them in turn of supporting the war in Gaza because they enjoy seeing Palestinian children killed. One claim is as fair as the other.

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of a tank. (photo: Islamic State)

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of a tank. (photo: Islamic State)

Just to be clear, I know very well that Hamas is a brutal, dictatorial organization; the term “Islamofascist” is indeed descriptive of its character. So in that limited sense, it’s the same as ISIS.

But the difference between Hamas and ISIS in the degree of their brutality, and in their strength, is so great as to be a qualitative difference.

Hamas is not slaughtering and beheading and crucifying people by the thousands, it’s not committing gang rape, it’s not massacring people because they practice a different religion, or a different variant of their own religion, or because they belong to a different ethnic group.

“Hamas, like ISIS, is persecuting minorities,” Netanyahu said over the weekend. But there are churches in Gaza, Christians attend them freely, there is a seat in the Gazan legislature reserved for a Christian – that’s night and day from the way ISIS treats Christians, isn’t it?

About Hamas’ executions in recent days of some 25 suspected collaborators, it’s a sickening reminder of this organization’s ruthlessness – but the fact is that the prestate Zionist underground organization Lehi, whose military leader was Yitzhak Shamir,  executed many suspected Jewish collaborators. Both Lehi and Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, also deliberately bombed crowds of civilians, hid behind their own civilian population, and had maximalist territorial goals. The Irgun and Lehi, the progenitors of Likud, practiced what could be called “Judeofascism,” and, minus the religious fundamentalism, could be compared to Hamas. But like Hamas, they could not be compared to ISIS.

A fighter from the Islamic State. (photo: Islamic State(

A fighter from the Islamic State. (photo: Islamic State(

If Netanyahu really believed Hamas is ISIS, would he have sent a delegation to negotiate with Hamas and offer it concessions in Cairo? Would he have reached a ceasefire agreement with Hamas after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012? If Hamas is ISIS, would a “senior Israel Defense Forces officer” have told this to Britain’s Financial Times in March:

Today we can describe Hamas as a much more restrained, much more responsible organisation than it used to be a decade or two decades ago – this all in light of their statehood experience. This has made them much more responsible, much more cautious.

And if Netanyahu thought Hamas is ISIS, would his goal in the current war, at least until now, have been leaving Hamas severely weakened – but still strong enough to go on running Gaza and keeping it out of the hands of ISIS’s global jihadist allies?

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, Nablus, West Bank, August 15, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, Nablus, West Bank, August 15, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

But for all those differences, the decisive one between Hamas and ISIS, of course, is that Hamas represents a nation under foreign rule, which means Hamas is fighting a war of self-defense against Israel. ISIS is trying to take over a nation, or nations, that are beset by civil war, so ISIS, being the most murderous, totalitarian and feared of any of the factions, is fighting a war of aggression.

Compare: ISIS is a threat to take over all of Iraq (and maybe later Syria); Hamas isn’t a threat to take over a blade of grass in Israel.

And there’s one more answer to Netanyahu’s attempt to justify the war by equating Hamas with ISIS – is the Palestinian Authority ISIS, too? Is Mahmoud Abbas also ISIS? If Netanyahu can’t deal with Hamas, why couldn’t he deal with the PA? If Hamas is the problem, why does Israel maintain a military dictatorship over the West Bank, where the PA has worked with the IDF and Shin Bet for the last decade to shut Hamas down?

For Netanyahu, ISIS is a red herring, and so is Hamas – Netanyahu is fighting in Gaza to defend the occupation, and he would fight to defend it against any Palestinian challenger. Yes, Hamas is an organization of brutal, ruthless fascists, but so were any number of national liberation movements – that didn’t make the foreign occupation of their countries and the wars fought to maintain those occupations any more just. The slogan “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas” is just another cynical ploy by Netanyahu to blind some people to what Israel is doing in Gaza, and to intimidate those who see the horror into keeping quiet about it.

Related:
Netanyahu tweets Foley execution shot to score points against Hamas
Hamas executes 18 suspected collaborators

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In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war http://972mag.com/in-ceasefire-talks-netanyahu-is-letting-hamas-win-gaza-war/95540/ http://972mag.com/in-ceasefire-talks-netanyahu-is-letting-hamas-win-gaza-war/95540/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:08:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95540 The great mystery is: Why?

In the Cairo ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is snatching diplomatic defeat from the jaws of military victory. I have no explanation for why he’s doing this and I have yet to hear a convincing one. There must be something Netanyahu knows that no one else does. Otherwise his concessions at the Cairo talks, after blitzing the Gaza Strip for five weeks, leaving Hamas able to do no more than fire short-range rockets over the Israeli border, and being hailed in Israel as a warrior king, make no sense at all.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz at the Defense Ministry. (photo: Haim Zach / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz at the Defense Ministry. (photo: Haim Zach / GPO)

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On gave an accurate reading of the situation:

This is what Netanyahu promised during Operation Protective Edge: Demilitarization of Gaza, bringing Hamas to its knees, and achieving long-term deterrence. And this is what we now have: Israel is holding direct talks with Hamas in Cairo, has agreed not to demand Gaza’s demilitarization, and is discussing a series of steps such as opening the crossings, bringing in goods and expanding fishing zones, which will be credited to Hamas and to those who side with violence.

Also, the emerging truce calls for talks on construction of an airport and seaport for Gaza to begin within a month of the document’s signing.

Personally, I’m in favor of Gaza getting all those things. But Netanyahu could have offered them to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the Kerry talks, or to the Fatah-Hamas unity government that Abbas forged, and the Palestinian benefactor would have been the non-violent, moderate PA instead of the violent, immoderate Hamas. Oh, one other thing: There wouldn’t have been a war that killed 2,000 people, made much of Gaza look like the Warsaw Ghetto, and traumatized hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the south. Gal-On again:

Netanyahu dragged us to a war of choice and a war of folly, gave Hamas a lifeline to climb out of the biggest hole it was ever in, strongly reinforced the organization’s understanding that it pays to keep digging deeper tunnels and stockpiling deadlier rockets, and it has proved to the Palestinians once again that Israel only understands the language of force.

It’s not just leftists like Gal-On and me who see the Cairo talks in this light. “In the hands of Hamas” was the title of the highly-influential Friday column in Yedioth Ahronoth by Nahum Barnea, the country’s leading print journalist:

If it wants, Hamas will fire on us, if it wants, it will stop. Hamas got out of Gaza with a tie, and triumphed in Cairo.

In the cabinet, meanwhile, the only sure ally Netanyahu has left is Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, his partner in devising the Cairo negotiating strategy. The other ministers, certainly to the right of Netanyahu but even those to his left, are turning away from this deal. Netanyahu, for his part, is barely talking to them. Political correspondent Yossi Verter in Friday’s Haaretz:

By yesterday, [Netanyahu] remained alone in the political arena. All that was left of the collective hug and the broad support from right, center and left, in whose light he basked for 30 days, was a dull fog. Even Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced that he’s not in Netanyahu’s pocket, and that he will not necessarily vote for the agreement when the time comes.

A week ago, Netanyahu seemed to have clear sailing; he didn’t need anything or anybody. With Hamas’ tunnels destroyed, most of its rocket arsenal wiped out and the Iron Dome behind him, he could pull the army completely out of Gaza and all he would have to deal with is the “drizzle” of Hamas’ short-range rockets over the border, which cause much more fear than injury or damage, and for which Israel could make Gaza pay a heavy price. This is how Israel had lived for years. As for the mess it left in Gaza, let the world clean it up. What did Netanyahu need with a ceasefire? Why would he want to negotiate with Hamas as an equal? Above all, why would he want to let Hamas say to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, “We fought Israel, and in the end it lifted the blockade”?

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim - Handout)

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim – Handout)

This seems to go against everything Netanyahu is about, and utterly against the spirit of Operation Protective Edge. So what got into him? Did Obama finally, truly lay down the law to Bibi in their reportedly angry phone conversation a few days ago? That would seem to go against everything Obama is about, so that’s not a likely explanation. Even more unlikely was that Netanyahu had an epiphany, changing from hawk to dove in the space of last weekend. But maybe he thinks he can scam the Palestinians on the terms of the truce, and make promises he doesn’t intend to keep. But then the rockets would resume, defeating the purpose of such a scam, and anyway Hamas has won a moral victory already, so that explanation doesn’t make sense, either. It’s all a great mystery, one that presumably will be solved when more information comes to light.

As things stand, it doesn’t look like the truce coming out of Cairo will be approved by the Israeli cabinet. And it may not get that far – Netanyahu could try to cut his losses and exit the talks in a way that allows him to blame the Palestinians for the failure (not that anybody outside of Israel and the Republican Party would believe him).

Myself, I hope the truce is made. Better an agreement with Abbas than with Hamas, but better an agreement with Hamas – one that ends the war and revives Gaza – than no agreement, which keeps the war going and leaves Gaza for dead.

Related:
The battle over numbers: Gaza conflict is about quality not quantity
U.S. halts transfer of Hellfire missiles to Israel
The world is letting Israel get away with it again

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The world is letting Israel get away with it again http://972mag.com/the-world-is-letting-israel-get-away-with-it-again/95335/ http://972mag.com/the-world-is-letting-israel-get-away-with-it-again/95335/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:34:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95335 The assault on Gaza has hurt this country’s image, and it doesn’t care.

There’s no doubt that this past month of heavily televised overkill in Gaza – well, heavily televised everywhere but here – has hurt Israel’s standing in the world. The IDF has killed too many civilians, wiped out too many families, bombed too many UN shelters. Even Washington has used words like “indefensible” and “disgraceful” to describe some of Israel’s acts. And while the world’s powers-that-be don’t like Hamas, they do like the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and they know very well that the Netanyahu government has continuously trashed any chance of making peace with him.

So in terms of high politics, of Israel’s international relations, and considering Israel’s image in international public opinion, Operation Protective Edge has been a great failure. If before the war Israel’s liberal friends had warned that its policies were driving people away and leaving the country increasingly “isolated,” Israel’s behavior over the last month has aggravated that condition badly.

The Al-Susi Mosque lies in ruins in Shati' Refugee Camp following Israeli attacks, Gaza City, August 2, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Al-Susi Mosque lies in ruins in Shati’ Refugee Camp following Israeli attacks, Gaza City, August 2, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

To which Israel says: who cares? If I may mangle Ben-Gurion’s famous dictum, it doesn’t matter what the goyim say, it matters what the goyim do, and the goyim are doing nothing. Even now, after this month-long horror show in Gaza, which isn’t over.

And since the goyim – along with the liberal Jews who are appalled by Israel’s actions – are doing nothing, meaning they’re not punishing or penalizing Israel in any manner, not holding it in any way accountable for what it has done to Gaza and its people, then Israel indeed has no reason to care what the goyim or liberal Jews say.

The world is shocked by the death and devastation in Gaza, it understands that the “root cause” is Israel’s half-century denial of freedom to the Palestinians, and it knows that the Netanyahu government has no interest whatsoever in setting the Palestinians free – yet the world, even now, is letting Israel get away with it.

Just compare: Russia takes back Crimea, which made most Crimeans very happy, and which got no one killed, and the world immediately imposed economic sanctions on Russia. But after Operation Protective Edge – nothing.

It goes without saying that the United States isn’t going to do a thing to Israel, but neither is “left-wing, pro-Palestinian” Europe. The title of Amira Hass’ column in Monday’s Haaretz, “A European green light to kill, destroy and pulverize Gaza” pretty much tells the story.

The only concrete punishment I’ve heard being discussed by anyone important is the call by major politicians in Britain – though not Prime Minister David Cameron – to curtail British arms sales to Israel. There’s been a lot of backtracking on this demand, though, and at any rate Britain sells no more than about $10 million a year to Israel in strictly military equipment, so we’re not talking about more than a slap on the wrist even if such a sanction were imposed.

Other than that, as far as I know, it’s business as usual.

How many op-eds have been written this month by liberals distraught over Gaza, moaning about the occupation and crying out for the two-state solution? Yet none of them said a word about how this solution is supposed to be achieved. Everybody knows the problem, everybody knows the solution, but nobody will talk about how to get there because that means holding Israel accountable. That means not the carrot but the stick, excuse the expression, and such a notion remains taboo in the Western world. Even now.

The stuff that Israel’s political immunity is made of – American Judeophilia and Islamophobia, especially among the Christian Right; the pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S., Britain, France and other countries; and European Holocaust guilt – must be very, very powerful if it can neutralize the political effect of all those harrowing scenes and stories from Gaza. Short of starting a war that gets masses of Westerners killed, I can’t see what Israel might do to get the U.S. and Europe to finally read it the riot act and say: end the occupation or find yourself some new friends.

I think the American left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky once said that an issue isn’t an issue unless you can do something about it. On that basis, the events of the past month, together with the Western powers’ cowardly reaction to them, suggest that Palestinian subjugation and suffering may have ceased to be a political issue, and become a humanitarian issue of all the more urgency.

By the same token, the brutalization of Israel may have stopped being a political issue, and turned into a humanitarian issue focused on this country’s victims.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
This is what life in Gaza sounds like
Gaza war: It’s about keeping the Palestinians under control

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Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair http://972mag.com/why-israel-wont-sign-any-ceasefire-thats-fair/94372/ http://972mag.com/why-israel-wont-sign-any-ceasefire-thats-fair/94372/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:18:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94372 A fair ceasefire would bring major relief for Gaza, which would mean Hamas wins the war.

The ceasefire that the world is now pushing for – one that, as UN chief Ban Ki-Moon put it, not only ends the fighting but also ends Israel’s “chokehold on Gaza” – is one that the Netanyahu government will not accept. It should accept it, because Gazans have the right to be free, but it won’t. Its rejection of John Kerry’s offer on Friday – which reportedly would have allowed the Israeli army to go on destroying Gazan tunnels even during a week-long ceasefire – is a sign of this.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

If Israel agrees to end the war on terms that grant major, transformative relief to Gaza, that largely lift the blockade on the Strip and allow Gazans substantial freedom of movement – which is what Ban and even Kerry are talking about – then Hamas wins the war.

And this Israeli government will not allow that, not only because of false national pride, but also because if Hamas wins freedom for Gaza, it will take over the West Bank, directly or indirectly. The Palestinian Authority will collapse – to be replaced by Hamas or the Israeli military, either scenario being a nightmare for Israel – or the Palestinian Authority will refuse to go on playing Israel’s cop and begin demanding freedom for the West Bank, too.

As Noam Sheizaf wrote, Israel could agree to a ceasefire that ended the chokehold on Gaza if it was ready to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories altogether, in the West Bank as well. But it’s not. And so the only ceasefire the Netanyahu government will agree to is one that gains Gaza nothing or, at most, finds Israel throwing it a bone, thereby teaching Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians that firing rockets at Israel – even under extreme Israeli provocation – gets them nothing but a lot more pain.

So long as the Israeli government is committed to ruling the Palestinians, any meaningful  relaxation of that rule as a result of Palestinian pressure amounts to a Palestinian victory, an Israeli loss, and an Israeli invitation to the Palestinians to apply more of the kind of pressure that won them that first victory – in this case, violence. If this pro-occupation Israeli government agrees to anything close to allowing Gazans to control their own coast and airspace, to move to and from the West Bank by land through the Israeli border crossings, and if it releases the 58 West Bank Hamasniks it rashly and wrongly imprisoned again last month, Hamas would almost certainly keep the peace in Gaza – but the West Bank would likely explode. And if that were to happen, Gaza would probably break the ceasefire and join the fighting.

Palestinians march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in the Qalandyia checkpoint near Ramallah, July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinians march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in the Qalandyia checkpoint near Ramallah, July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

It’s really all or nothing – either Israel goes about the business of freeing the Palestinians, or it better clamp down on them good and tight for as long as it can. And since this government is not ready to do the former, doing the latter is its only option.

So when Ban says “this effort – peace effort – cannot be the same as it was the last two Gaza conflicts, where we reset the clock and waited for the next one,” and Kerry says “people in Palestine, the Palestinian territories and people in Gaza have a right to feel free from restraints on their life, where they can barely get the food or the medicine or the building materials and the things that they need,” Netanyahu and his cabinet just tune out. They’re not interested. That’s not the ceasefire they have in mind at all.

The only one they’re interested in is the kind Egypt put forward at first – a return to the status quo ante, with Gaza back in the sewer, and nothing more than vague, toothless assurances to discuss Gaza’s complaints. Hamas didn’t agree to it then, and ever since, with the scenes of mounting death and destruction in Gaza, world diplomacy has shifted toward Hamas’ position (a ceasefire that at least loosens the blockade substantially) and away from Israel’s position (a ceasefire that keeps the blockade in place).

So as the war nears the end of its third week with over 1,000 Gazan deaths and 43 Israeli deaths, the effort to end it is at a stalemate. If and when this will be broken, no one knows. But once again, the ball is in Israel’s court, and once again, Israel is freezing it.

Related:

What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Israel has alternatives to this war
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?

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Israel during wartime: Loving our soldiers to death http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/ http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:11:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94251 War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one.

I’ve always thought, and still think, that if I were in real trouble somewhere, if I were being mugged in Miami, say, and I could choose the nationality of the nearest bystander, I would choose Israeli. They are brave, and they don’t hesitate to help someone in danger, even at risk to themselves. It’s a worn-out cliché, and I’ve found it to be very true.

And the war going on now, from an Israeli Jewish vantage point, is sort of that quality played out on a national scale. First of all, of course, there are the ground troops going into Gaza. As wrong as this war is, the young combat soldiers going in to fight are risking their lives, and some of them are dying or getting very badly wounded. They are brave. And they are ready to die to save their fellow soldiers. (And I don’t blame them for this war; they were born and bred for it.) I don’t think there can be many Israeli Jews today, no matter their political opinions, who, if they think about these soldiers, can help being moved by them and caring for them.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

And Israelis’ instinctive readiness to help in a time of need is coming out abundantly across the home front, across Israeli society at large. One tiny example: This morning I went to the neighborhood grocery store and they’ve got a box for people to donate sanitary wipes, underwear and other items for the soldiers stuck for days and nights in the field. They have another box to donate nuts and cookies and stuff for the shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning period, for a soldier in Modi’in who was just killed.

This is a very emotional experience. Most Israeli Jews have family members or friends in Gaza; I do, too. But even for those who don’t, everyone is just surrounded by this story of young guys going in to risk their lives, and not a few of them dying, and seemingly the whole country truly, to one degree or another, everyone in his or her own rhythm, worrying for the living and mourning for the dead. You see 30,000 people going to each of the funerals of these two “lone soldiers” from America who had no family in this country, Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli – it is stunning. This society is glowing with tears. Hearts are bursting.

And this is sort of the problem: It’s like the agony of love – it’s the worst but it’s also the best. This is Israel at its best – brave, sacrificing, caring, loving. The tears. It’s so warm. We are a great big family. We are.

And when do we know it best? In war. And because we have so many wars, we have so many of these great national lovefests, these tragic/heroic communal sagas. We’re good at it, very good, great. And it’s not a show – the media may kitsch it up, but they don’t have to – this is real. The soldiers are real, the deaths are real, the reactions of people are real. For an Israeli Jew, it’s extremely hard to resist being part of it. And at the emotional level, why should one try?

But there are at least a couple of conditions attached to this communal experience: One, there can be no reminders of what we are doing to the people in Gaza. The media have to give it a little bit of time or space, tucked away, for appearance’s sake; they seem clearly apologetic about this. Nobody, but nobody, in the communal embrace wants to see or hear about the Palestinians in Gaza.

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of operation ‘Protective Edge,’ when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The other condition is that no one may ask whether the cause these soldiers are fighting for – this war – is right or not. Whether we, Israel, could have prevented the deaths. Whether we, especially we parents, are even just partly responsible for getting more than a few of our soldiers killed.

Nobody can ask that question, not in public; he will be shouted down angrily. He will be silenced.

And so this display of what’s best in Israel goes hand-in-hand with the demonstration of what’s worst in it: The conformism, the robotic thinking, the blind obedience, this fucking lemming-like quality. You hear people repeating it in the media like an oath – we believe in our soldiers, we believe in the mission, we believe in our leaders.

We believe in the mission. We believe in our leaders.

War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one. Wouldn’t it be nice if Israelis could devote a little of their courage to the contemplation of breaking ranks, and give a little of their compassion to the Palestinians? Maybe then they could find a better arena for their awesome bravery and generosity than one war after another after another.

Related:
‘Finish the job’
This was a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
How can you possibly oppose this war?

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‘Finish the job’ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:01:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94114 This is the watchword in Israel today, no matter the price.

Late last night (Monday), I was driving home from work and listening to the talk show hosted by Jojo Abutbul, who is sort of an old-time folk hero in this country – a Mizrahi Jew with down-to-earth wisdom. An Israeli common man. He speaks mainly to an older, Likud-oriented Mizrahi crowd, which is still very reflective of Israeli mainstream views, and is disproportionately represented in Sderot and some of the other towns near the Gaza border that have taken the brunt of Hamas’ rockets. Jojo Abutbul and his callers are an important voice in Israeli public opinion, especially now, during the war. They’re thought to be on the right wing of the mainstream.

They were speaking after a day in which seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, and a family of 26 had been killed in Gaza. The first tragedy overhung everything they said; the second was not mentioned. And the phrase that kept being repeated was, “Finish the job.” Abutbul said, “It hurts me, the number of soldiers who have fallen. But I think I’ll be able to withstand any number if they finish the job. But if even one soldier meets his fate and they don’t finish the job, then I’m going to find this impossible to take.”

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

I thought, well, that’s an “authentic” Israeli voice today, but it’s not the only one, and it’s probably somewhere to the right of the center of gravity. I still believed there were a lot of Israelis who are saying “enough” – not just left-wingers but centrist Israelis who cannot take anymore Israeli soldiers getting killed and want the fighting to end now. This, after all, is supposed to be a basic truth about the Israeli political mentality – that they won’t stand for large numbers of casualties in war. And seven soldiers were killed yesterday, and 13 the day before, and now 27 Israelis have been killed all told. This morning the news is that a soldier is missing in action, which means a whole agonizing bargaining ordeal again.

All the things Israelis were warned about if the fighting went on too long – international outrage over the scenes of Palestinian civilians being slaughtered, large numbers of Israelis being killed, soldiers being captured – have now happened. I would expect that a lot of people, not just leftists, would be echoing the world by calling for a ceasefire right now.

Then this morning I picked up a copy of Yedioth Ahronoth, the “newspaper of the nation,” what I consider to be the clearest window there is into Israeli society. The front-page commentary is by Yuval Diskin, the former Shin Bet chief and conscience-ridden star of “The Gatekeepers,” the incessant critic of Netanyahu’s hardline policies – and the title of his commentary is “Don’t Stop Yet.”

We need to expand the ground operation because the operation must not end with the status quo. The home front is prepared to pay the price so that the problem of the rockets will be solved for the long term. The operation to destroy the tunnels is absolutely vital.”

Actually, the main price for the home front now is not the rockets, but the deaths of the soldiers. Are we prepared to pay that price? Evidently.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

But there was also a column inside by Shimon Shiffer, who wails away at Netanyahu’s rejectionism toward the Palestinians; his commentary was titled “The Next War.” Ah, he’s going to provide a little balance, he’s going to say the war is futile, that either we change our approach to the Palestinians or the next war is on the way.

Shiffer slammed Netanyahu alright – but for failing to be warrior enough, for bending to international pressure.

As has happened in past military campaigns, so it threatens to happen again: the operation against Hamas ends with a sense of missed opportunity, with the knowledge that the mission and objectives of Operation Protective Edge were not fully achieved. … It can be assumed, without cynicism, that Netanyahu will find a way to sell us the successes of Protective Edge.”

Well, he took it to Bibi, anyway, so he earned his paycheck from Yedioth.

The front-page headline, beneath the photos of 10 soldiers who were killed, reads “Model Commanders.” The tone of the paper is not tragic, it’s heroic. The message is that the deaths of the soldiers has only increased our will to fight to the end, to finish the job.

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It’s pretty much in line with what I’m hearing from the people in my “social circles.” They’re not mainly leftists, they’re mainly center-leftists – they’d like Labor leader Isaac Herzog or Tzipi Livni to be prime minister. They’d love to be rid of the settlements. They’re completely heartbroken over the soldiers’ deaths, and they’re sorry for the Palestinian civilians’ deaths, too. But as far as I can tell, they believe in the necessity of this war, they see it as a war of self-defense against Hamas. And if the army says it needs to finish the job and that now is not the time for a ceasefire, which is what the army is saying, they’re not going to disagree.

I wasn’t here in 1982, but it is said that 400,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv’s Malchei Israel (now Rabin) Square against the Lebanon War. What happened? I know what happened, but the contrast between then and the way things are now is still uncanny.

At the beginning of this war, when it was impossible to call it a war, when the “kill ratio” was 200 to 0, I was filled with loathing at this country, at the complacency in the face of what the air force was doing to people in Gaza. But now that Israeli soldiers are dying – mainly young soldiers, of course – I don’t think I have any anger left in me.

Sunday morning, after a day in which 13 soldiers were killed and 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, mainly in Shujaiyeh, I thought, That’s it. Israelis are not going to tolerate so many soldiers being killed, and the world is not going to tolerate so many Palestinian children getting killed. Putting aside the world reaction, I thought Israelis, as deadened as they are toward the evil we do to the Palestinians, would save the situation with their finest quality: their inability to withstand the deaths of their own, especially their young.

I was wrong. Evidently, if they believe that the war is serving a purpose, in this case to bring long-term security to Israel, at least from Gaza, then they will put up with the deaths of their soldiers.

They’re not callous – far, far from it. Israelis really do have good hearts, and they love their own, especially their young, as much as any people on earth. The problem is their minds, or rather their collective mind, the mind of this society – it is geared like a sports car engine to war.

Related:
PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Why Palestinians continue to support Hamas

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The ‘terror tunnels’: Another Israeli self-fulfilling prophecy http://972mag.com/the-terror-tunnels-another-israeli-self-fulfilling-prophecy/94053/ http://972mag.com/the-terror-tunnels-another-israeli-self-fulfilling-prophecy/94053/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:08:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94053 There were non-lethal ways to preempt Hamas’ underground attacks, but the Netanyahu government rejected them all.

Here is the current, ostensibly airtight rationale for whatever the IDF chooses to do in Gaza: armed Hamas militats are coming up out of tunnels that start in Gaza and end not far from kibbutz and moshav communities on the Israeli side. So if the IDF doesn’t go as far into Gaza as necessary to destroy the last of these underground passages, sooner or later Hamas will succeed in carrying out “catastrophic” terror attacks, as Netanyahu puts it. The army has stopped several of them since Thursday night’s ground invasion of the Strip; today (Monday) soldiers were wounded in Israeli territory stopping another one.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

An unnamed IDF commander put the case very well to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea:

The IDF’s war to wipe out the threat from the tunnels is not an aggressive operation. It’s a preemptive attack, a completely defensive operation. … Imagine if someone in Hamas makes the decision to send out on some dark night, by surprise, teams of commandos through all the tunnels, and they go on a killing spree in the communities near the Gazan border. …

It’s true that many soldiers [13 – L.D.] were killed tonight. It’s likely that more will be killed. But think of the alternative. How could we look kibbutz or moshav members near Gaza in the eye if a commando unit were to infiltrate and kill dozens of their people? Now that we know the tunnels are there, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing about them.

It sounds entirely reasonable – Hamas is using tunnels to try to kill Israelis on Israeli territory, so the IDF has to go into Hamas’ territory and wipe out those tunnels. And it might be reasonable – if there were no other way Israel could avoid being attacked through those tunnels. It might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t choking Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. It might be reasonable if Israel hadn’t provoked the war that led to these underground attacks (after a year-and-a-half in which Hamas not only didn’t lift a finger at Israel, but also reined in, to varying degrees, rocket attacks by other Gazan armed groups). Going after the “terror tunnels,” even at the cost of Gazan and Israeli lives, might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t rejecting any cease-fire terms that would allow the 1.8 million people of Gaza to breathe for once.

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Israel could have preempted the tunnel attacks by ending the occupation; and failing that, by not provoking this war; and failing that, by accepting a ceasefire on humane terms. But Israel’s answer is no, no and no, so truly, the only choice it leaves itself if it wants to protect its citizens near the Gazan border is to send Israeli soldiers charging into Gaza, killing and getting killed.

Israel provokes Hamas into a war that escalates to the point where Hamas is fighting a war of survival, using everything it’s got, including tunnels for attempted terror attacks in Israeli territory – and Israel says, “Look what they’re using! My God! We can’t let them have that kind of capability – they’ll use it to kill dozens of people!”

If somebody hasn’t said it already, I don’t think it will be long before we hear, “Lucky for us that Hamas forced us to invade; otherwise we wouldn’t have known about all those tunnels.”

          Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

Israel can play this game with any of its enemies. Hezbollah has 100,000 rockets and missiles pointed at this country; they haven’t fired a single one in eight years, since the Second Lebanon War. But let’s go provoke a war with Hezbollah, they’ll start firing thousands of rockets at us – Iron Dome can’t shoot them all down – and we’ll say, “You see? They’re firing thousands of rockets at us, we have to go into Lebanon and destroy them all.” We can play the same game with Syria, with Iran, with anybody.

Instead, why don’t Israelis ask themselves: if Hamas has this network of tunnels that leads into Israel, and which took them years to build, why didn’t they use them before? For that matter, why didn’t they use their long-range rockets before? Why were they sitting on 10,000 rockets and not firing any of them?

Could it be that they weren’t so eager to use everything they’ve got, to invite Israel’s wrath, to fight a war of survival?

But very few Israelis have any interest in questioning Operation Protective Edge. Israelis generally don’t ask a lot of questions about matters like these even between the wars, so they’re certainly not going to ask them now.

Related:
‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Mourning death wherever it strikes
PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza

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Blame Israel and Hamas both for Gaza’s civilian deaths http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-hamas-both-for-gazas-civilian-deaths/93351/ http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-hamas-both-for-gazas-civilian-deaths/93351/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:02:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93351 Sorting through the propaganda war.

The main outrage now, in the fourth day (Friday) of Operation Protective Edge, as Israel calls it, is the rising number of killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli airstrikes, mainly as a result of attacks on residential buildings where militants live or are thought to live.

Haaretz reported that the Palestinian Health Ministry said that of the 86 Gazans killed by Wednesday night, most were children (22), women (15) and the elderly (12). And that didn’t count the five members, at least, of the Ghaneem family in Rafah who were killed when their four-story building, home to some 30 people, was hit overnight.

As usual, the propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians over civilian casualties goes like this: Palestinians accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, while Israel blames the deaths and injuries on Hamas and other militant groups for using the civilian population as “human shields.”

But the Palestinians’ accusation against Israel is false, while the Israeli claim against the Palestinians is partly false, partly true, but basically misleading. The main reason for the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties, obviously, is that an incredibly powerful air force is bombing the hell out of one of the most crowded, vulnerable places in the world – and the fault for that lies with Israel, whose punitive, often lethal blockade of Gaza, together with its military occupation of the West Bank, invites Palestinians to fight back. As in all its wars with the Palestinians since 1967, Israel is the aggressor in Operation Protective Edge.

But while the Israeli Air Force’s assault guarantees that a high proportion of civilians in Gaza are going to get killed and maimed, that’s not because of the air force’s efforts in this respect, but despite them. TIME Magazine’s Karl Vick wrote on Thursday:

Compared with any other military, [Israel’s] armed forces take exceptional care to avoid civilian casualties. If a house is going to be bombed, a call is placed to it announcing this fact, and explicitly warning civilians to get out. A pilot might also drop a “door-knocker” on the roof — a nonlethal sound bomb also intended to announce an impending attack. The real bomb that’s then loosed on the target is often a munition, sometimes quite small, specifically selected to contain damage to the target and spare the neighbors.

The problem is not that the Israeli army is unusually brutal, as armies go; if anything, the opposite is the case. The problem – in Gaza and the West Bank, now and before – is that the IDF is a colonial army, which is an inherently brutal role, one that other armies were ordered by their governments to give up decades ago.

About Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups using Gazan civilians as “human shields.” This Israeli claim is based on the fact that Gazan militants live among the civilian population and keep much of their weaponry in the neighborhoods. But this is hypocrisy; every guerrilla army that fights on its own turf against an incomparably stronger enemy fights from among the civilian population. The pre-1948 Irgun and Lehi guerrillas would kill the British, then “melt back” into the Jewish neighborhoods. In Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, there are civilian public buildings – including schools – with plaques at the entrance telling how they housed weapons caches and training camps for the Irgun, Lehi or Haganah. Up through Israel’s War of Independence, the kibbutzim were military outposts as much as they were civilian settlements.

But in another regard, the charge that Hamas uses Gazan civilians as human shields is absolutely true, and Hamas deserves loud condemnation for it. Karl Vick in Time:

Israel’s military says Hamas is promoting civilian deaths in Gaza, not only by operating from private homes but through posters and slogans actually urging people to cluster around targets as human shields. In one instance Tuesday, by numerous accounts local residents ran toward a building that had just received a phoned warning it was about to be bombed, apparently counting on their presence to protect. And it might have worked: an Israeli military spokesman said an effort was made to divert the incoming missile, but it was too late.

Haaretz reported on Thursday that the Gaza Interior Ministry – run, of course, by Hamas – sent out text messages to Gazan residents calling on them to disregard Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes ahead of the airstrikes. “The aim of the [warnings] is to scare civilians, and civilians must act responsibly and not follow misleading Israeli instructions,” the message read.

This is vile; families are told by their leaders to stay put in their homes when they know they are about to be bombed by F-16s? It’s something like this that tells you no matter how much Hamas may be on the receiving end of Israel’s manhandling of Gaza, and no matter how much it may be the weaker side, it is not any reasonable person’s idea of the “good guy” in this or any other circumstance.

And yet. Hamas’ terrible abuse of Gaza’s civilians in this way is not entirely divorced from (though it is much worse than) the way Israeli society used to consider it shameful for civilians to leave their homes under rocket attack. Good Israelis were supposed to say, defiantly, “This is my home and no terrorist is going to run me out.” As late as the 1991 Gulf War, when many Tel Aviv residents rode out the Scuds at their parents’ homes out of town instead of trusting the plastic sheeting and tape on their windows to protect them from harm, they were widely accused of cowardice. Things have changed since then; the “I” has overtaken the “we” in the Israeli mentality. But through the 1980s, which saw thousands of Lebanese rockets fall on northern Israeli towns, it was considered an Israeli adult’s patriotic duty (though not that of the children, who were sent to safety if possible) to sit at home, helpless, risking his or her life against incoming rockets, for the sake of national morale.

So Israelis should not act that uncomprehending and self-righteous about Hamas’ conscription of defenseless civilians for the cause. And if Gazans are still pretty much stuck in the “we,” not “I,” mentality, Israel bears much of the blame.

But again, it is a great deal worse to pressure people into sitting still for almost certain death or serious injury than it is when such a fate is possible but not very likely. Hamas should be denounced for telling civilians to disregard the Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes. This directive is no doubt driving up Gaza’s civilian death and injury toll, and makes Hamas’ leaders the last people on earth to complain about it. If there’s any ray of hope in this ghastly matter, it’s that the Gazan Interior Ministry’s text message to ignore Israel’s warnings may indicate that a lot of  Gazan families have been doing the right thing and running for their lives.

Related:
Why are there are no white flags in Gaza?
‘They left us no choice’: On military escalation and its Israeli rationale
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like

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How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza http://972mag.com/how-netanyahu-provoked-this-war-with-gaza/93200/ http://972mag.com/how-netanyahu-provoked-this-war-with-gaza/93200/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:29:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93200 His antagonism to all Palestinians – to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than to Hamas – started and steadily fueled the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

On Monday of last week, June 30, Reuters ran a story that began:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas on Monday of involvement, for the first time since a Gaza war in [November] 2012, in rocket attacks on Israel and threatened to step up military action to stop the strikes.

So even by Israel’s own reckoning, Hamas had not fired any rockets in the year-and-a-half since “Operation Pillar of Defense” ended in a ceasefire. (Hamas denied firing even those mentioned by Netanyahu last week; it wasn’t until Monday of this week that it acknowledged launching any rockets at Israel since the 2012 ceasefire.)

So how did we get from there to here, here being Operation Protective Edge, which officially began Tuesday with 20 Gazans dead, both militants and civilians, scores of others badly  wounded and much destruction, alongside about 150 rockets flying all over Israel (but no serious injuries or property damage by Wednesday afternoon)?

We got here because Benjamin Netanyahu brought us here. He’s being credited in Israel for showing great restraint in the days leading up to the big op, answering Gaza’s rockets with nothing more than warning shots and offering “quiet for quiet.” But in fact it was his antagonism toward all Palestinians – toward Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than toward Hamas – that started and steadily provoked the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

And nobody knows this, or should know it, better than the Obama administration, which is now standing up for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

It was Netanyahu and his government that killed the peace talks with Abbas that were shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; the Americans won’t exactly spell this out on-the-record, but they will off-the record. So a week before those negotiations’ April 29 deadline, Abbas, seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere playing ball with Israel and the United States, decided to shore things up at home, to end the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and he signed the Fatah-Hamas unity deal – with himself as president and Fatah clearly the senior partner. The world – even Washington – welcomed the deal, if warily so, saying unity between the West Bank and Gaza was a good thing for the peace process, and holding out the hope that the deal would compel Hamas to moderate its political stance.

Netanyahu, however, saw red. Warning that the unity government would “strengthen terror,” he broke off talks with Abbas and tried to convince the West to refuse to recognize the emerging new Palestinian government – but he failed. He didn’t stop trying, though. At a time when Hamas was seen to be weak, broke, throttled by the new-old Egyptian regime, unpopular with Gazans, and acting as Israel’s cop in the Strip by not only holding its own fire but curbing that of Islamic Jihad and others, Netanyahu became obsessed with Hamas – and obsessed with tying it around Abbas’ neck. Netanyahu’s purpose, clearly enough, was to shift the blame for the failure of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks from himself and his government to Abbas and the Palestinians.

But it wasn’t working. Then on June 12 something fell into Netanyahu’s lap which he certainly would have prevented if he’d been able to, but which he also did not hesitate exploiting to the hilt politically: the kidnapping in the West Bank of Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping. He said he had proof. To this day, neither he nor any other Israeli official has come forward with a shred of proof. Meanwhile, it is now widely assumed that the Hamas leadership did not give the order for the kidnapping, that it was instead carried out at the behest of a renegade, Hamas-linked, Hebron clan with a long history of blowing up Hamas’ ceasefires with Israel by killing Israelis. Besides, it made no sense for Hamas leaders to order up such a spectacular crime – not after signing an agreement with Abbas, and not when they were so badly on the ropes. Khaled Meshal, while refusing to confirm or deny giving the order, and saying he had no idea of the three boys’ whereabouts, lauded the kidnapping as a means of freeing Palestinian prisoners. This showed a certain moral idiocy on Meshal’s part, and on the part of his audience – the many, many Palestinians who likewise cheered the kidnapping – but it did not show that the Hamas leadership had ordered the deed. And we are still waiting to see that proof.

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But Netanyahu used the kidnappings to go after Hamas in the West Bank. The target, as one Israeli security official said, was “anything green.” The army raided, destroyed, confiscated and arrested anybody and anything having to do with Hamas, killed some Palestinian protesters and rearrested some 60 Hamasniks who had been freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, throwing them back in prison.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel had already escalated matters on June 11, the day before the kidnappings, by killing not only a wanted man riding on a bicycle, but a 10-year-old child riding with him. Between that, the kidnappings a day later and the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that immediately followed, Gaza and Israel started going at it pretty fierce – with all the casualties and destruction, once again, on Gaza’s side only.

Read: ‘They left us no choice’ – On military escalation and its Israeli rationale

And that was basically it. Netanyahu had given orders to smash up the West Bank and Gaza over the kidnapping of three Israeli boys that, as monstrous as it was, apparently had nothing to do with the Hamas leadership. Thus, he opened an account with Israel’s enemies, who would wish for an opportunity to close it.

On June 30, the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli boys were found in the West Bank. “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay,” Netanayhu intoned. That payment was delayed by the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 15, which set off riots in East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” and which put Israel on the defensive. It probably encouraged the armed groups in Gaza to step up their rocketing of Israel, while Netanyahu kept Israel’s in check. Then on Sunday, as many as nine Hamas men were killed in a Gazan tunnel that Israel bombed, saying it was going to be used for a terror attack. The next day nearly 100 rockets were fired at Israel. This time Hamas took responsibility for launching some of the rockets – a week after Netanyahu, for the first time since November 2012, accused it of breaking the ceasefire.

And the day after that, “Operation Protective Edge” officially began. By Wednesday afternoon, there were 35 dead and many maimed in Gaza, Israelis were ducking rockets, and no one can say when or how it will end, or what further horrors lie in store.

Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.

But Israel’s prime minister is and always has been at war with the Palestinians – diplomatically, militarily and every other way; against Abbas, Hamas and all the rest – and this is what has guided his actions, and this is what provoked Hamas into going to war against Israel.

Related:
Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014
Dispatch from Gaza: You can never be emotionally ready
Why Netanyahu will lose this Gaza war, too

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Why isn’t the West Bank rioting, too? http://972mag.com/why-isnt-the-west-bank-rioting-too/93056/ http://972mag.com/why-isnt-the-west-bank-rioting-too/93056/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 12:26:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93056 And why doesn’t anyone in Israel seem to notice this? Answer: for the same reason that the Palestinian riots started in the first place.

With Palestinians protesting violently in East Jerusalem and the Israeli north, and with Palestinians in Gaza, or some of them anyway, firing rockets into Israel’s south, who are the only Palestinians in this land who are not raising hell these days?

The Palestinians of the West Bank. They threw a lot of rocks when the Israeli army invaded the Hebron area gunning for Hamas and looking for Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaar and their kidnappers, but since the boys were found murdered a week ago and the army left, the West Bank has been remarkably quiet. Even in the last few days, following the discovery of Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s burnt body, when Palestinian violence has spread through East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” when we’re on the verge of war with Gaza again, there’s little news from the West Bank.

Yet nobody notices.

Why is the West Bank, the heart of the Palestinian nation, the most populous part of it, and the part that comes most harshly under Israel’s malign power, davka the one part of the Palestinian nation that isn’t rebelling against Israel today? Why is the West Bank, which is most closely associated with the first and second intifadas, now largely absent from the action that threatens to turn into a third one?

Because of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. It’s not that the people of the West Bank don’t want to attack Israeli soldiers and settlers, it’s that the PA security forces are doing their best not to let them. PA troops, not Israeli troops, keep order in the cities, villages and refugee camps where the West Bank’s Palestinians live, and it is those PA troops – unlike Israeli police in East Jerusalem and the Triangle these days – who are keeping a lid on the tension. It is thanks to Abbas and the PA that the 2.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank are not rioting en masse against Israeli soldiers and settlers.Newsletter banner 6 -540
And nobody in Israel notices. Just like nobody in Israel noticed it for the past several years when PA troops, at Abbas’ orders, were working alongside the IDF and Shin Bet hour-by-hour to shut down terror to a remarkable degree. Two and a half weeks ago, on June 19, Haaretz’s Ari Shavit, the voice of the so-called Israeli center, wrote a column titled “Seven Good Years.”

The suicide bombers’ offensive abated already in 2005, but from 2007 onward Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, the IDF, the Shin Bet security service, Palestinian security forces and the separation fence managed to silence the next violence from the east. The number of Israeli casualties from terror attacks – and the number of Palestinian casualties from Israeli fire – dwindled in the last half-decade to levels the likes of which we hadn’t known in previous decades. The second intifada dissipated and even the street pressure of the first intifada wasn’t resumed.

Until the abduction of the three youths in Alon Shvut a week ago, no strategic attack had been launched. The bloody attacks on Israeli cities and even the attacks on the settlements and settlers dramatically diminished. The economic prosperity, cultural boom and good life … since 2007 were possible only because the violent reality we had lived in was replaced with a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability.

We didn’t notice then, like we don’t notice the relative quiet in the West Bank today. And it’s because we didn’t notice what Abbas was doing for us – not because he loves us, but because his interests coincided with ours – that we pissed away the best chance we ever had or ever will have to make peace with the Palestinians. Not only didn’t we make peace, but the Israeli government and public grew steadily more contemptuous of the Palestinians, beginning with Abbas. And it’s because we’re so contemptuous of the Palestinians that we’re incapable of acknowledging that they’re doing anything good, that they’re helping us instead of hurting us, that we should appreciate what they’re doing instead of trashing them. And, in turn, it’s because of that callous indifference of ours, years and years of it while we enjoyed “a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability,” that we’re seeing the Palestinians finally erupt.

Except in the West Bank, where Abbas’ men are still holding the fort, still protecting us. We’ll notice them when they’re gone, not before.

Related:
Why this isn’t a ‘new’ intifada
A premier failure: Where is Israel’s leadership?

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