Clarification and Obfuscation

The hostilities currently plaguing northern Israel and southern Lebanon are a disaster for the people caught in the midst of the heightening warfare. (especially the Lebanese) In this sense, it is an unmitigated tragedy. But in another sense Hezbollah’s decision to attack Israel within her sovereign, uncontested territory has been clarifying. After all, it has helped disabuse countless people of the notion that the driving force behind this seemingly interminable conflict are the occupied territories. That if Israel would only be long-sighted enough to relinquish any and all land claimed as a result of the Six Day War of 1967, she has within her mighty power to usher in an era of peace and prosperity along her border and, indeed, in the region. With the long-suffering Palestinians living in their freshly-established democratic Eden, the major Arab states could go about building decent societies because, all along, it was their vast reservoir of empathy for the plight of their Palestinian brethren that has consigned them to the margins of human development in the modern era. [pdf!]

Or so one would (naively) hope. But, no more. It seems that this is my own illusion. Writing in The Boston Globe today, Neve Gordon, a professor at Ben-Gurion University, offers her dissection of the current situation. Gordon, a long-time contributor to such venerable outfits as Z Magazine and Counterpunch, chooses (wisely) to focus on each front of the war separately. Most noteworthy is her analysis of the conflict with Hamas.

Gordon writes: Short of transforming the Gaza Strip into a gigantic football field and killing hundreds of thousands of people, Israel will not be able to stop the Qassam by military means. Ending the occupation, though, will.

Gordon offers no evidence for her startling claim. Only that, “It’s time to lay down the guns so that words can begin replacing bullets.”

Gordon may be right that there is no military option to halt the rocket fire from Gaza. I simply do not know. And, I happen to be of the opinion that Israel should get out of most of the territory it came to control in 1967. But I struggle to fathom how anyone can still be of the mind that such an act (an act of self-interest on many levels) would lay the groundwork for a comprehensive, sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine in anything close to the near-term. To my mind, Gordon’s appeal for negotiations, while understandable – after all, who doesn’t want peace – is nothing short of delusional. The heights of this delusion are captured in the passage below:

Interestingly, Hamas is ready to stop launching rockets and return the captive soldier if Israel discontinues its assassination policy, releases Palestinian prisoners and returns to the negotiating table to carve out a peace agreement based on Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders. This needs to be seen as an opportunity. Israel should immediately put a stop to the Gaza campaign, pick up the glove, and start talking with Hamas, since, as the cliché goes, one negotiates with one’s enemies and not with one’s friends.

This is to fundamentally misconstrue that conflict. Israel is the most powerful actor in the region. But its great tragedy has always been that in spite of all that might, it is not within her power alone to forge a lasting peace in the region.

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