Today, another two Qassam rockets hit Ashkelon despite the fact that the IDF simultaneously moved troops into northern Gaza in order to quell precisely such rocket fire:
It [The IDF] intends to capture a broad swath of territory of about one-and-a-quarter kilometers into Palestinian Authority territory, close to Beit Hanun, in an effort to hinder Qassam rocket launchers from targeting Ashkelon and to push them back toward Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp.
A lot of good it’s doing. And even if the latest IDF incursion does swallow up ground the rocketeers used for their launches–do we doubt for one second that militants will find some other way to achieve their aims of hurtling missiles at Israeli territory? And here’s another little bit of self-delusion:
“We won’t sink in the Gaza swamp, but will enter any necessary area to carry out our missions,” Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Wednesday.
It’s as if Peretz were smart enough to recognize the criticism but too dumb to realize that it will prove prophetic.
Gideon Levy has written yet another stellar and incisive piece of analysis of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, this time regarding the increasingly doomed invasion of Gaza. One of his most important points is that Israel’s behavior there is in many ways almost a perfect mirror image of Palestinian militant behavior. Not to say that means that I’m attempting to legitimate one or both. Both are equally reprehensible:
The “summer rains” we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria’s airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.
A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve…
Levy points out the the emperor, in the form of the government and its claims that the invasion is meant to free the kidnapped Israeli soldier, has no clothes. The Gaza operation, like Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon 23 years earlier, was a ‘wish list’ for strategic goals the IDF had not been able to accomplish (stilling the Qassams) by other means:
Everything must be done to win Gilad Shalit’s release. What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet have wanted to conduct for some time, mostly motivated by the deep frustration that the army commanders feel about their impotence against the Qassams and the daring Palestinian guerrilla raid. There’s a huge gap between the army unleashing its frustration and a clever and legitimate operation to free the kidnapped soldier…
Here Levy reminds us that Hamas’ kidnapping of Shalit is not that much different from the IDF and Shin Bet’s kidnapping of Palestinian civilians for the alleged purpose of combatting terror:
The legitimate basis for the IDF’s operation was stripped away the moment it began. It’s no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was “illegitimate and illegal,” unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes. How can a senior official in the defense ministry claim that “the head of the snake” is in Damascus, when the IDF uses the exact same methods?
True, when the IDF and Shin Bet grab civilians from their homes – and they do so often – it is not to murder them later. But sometimes they are killed on the doorsteps of their homes, although it is not necessary, and sometimes they are grabbed to serve as “bargaining chips,” like in Lebanon and now, with the Palestinian legislators. What an uproar there would be if the Palestinians had grabbed half the members of the Israeli government. How would we label them?
Levy reminds us that IDF policy regarding Gaza violates the Geneva Convention prohibition against collective punishment of civilian populations:
Collective punishment is illegitimate and it does not have a smidgen of intelligence. Where will the inhabitants of Beit Hanun run? With typical hardheartedness the military reporters say they were not “expelled” but that it was “recommended” they leave, for the benefit, of course, of those running for their lives. And what will this inhumane step lead to? Support for the Israeli government? Their enlistment as informants and collaborators for the Shin Bet? Can the miserable farmers of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahia do anything about the Qassam rocket-launching cells? Will bombing an already destroyed airport do anything to free the soldier or was it just to decorate the headlines?
Levy warns that Israel’s unstated policy objective of toppling the Hamas government is one whose repercussions have been left unexamined to potentially fatal results. In fact, this lack of policy planning reminds me precisely of the Bush Administration’s complete lack of a plan for administering Iraq after military ‘victory’ was secured. After winning, what would we do to secure and maintain the peace? How would we guarantee the ‘natives’ wouldn’t get restless once they realized we were occupying their country with no plans to leave anytime soon? None of this was foreseen by U.S. military planners just as the long-range effects of the Gaza invasion have remained ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ But we Americans know that unexamined issues have a way of rearing their ugly heads and biting you in the ass:
Did anyone think about what would have happened if Syrian planes had managed to down one of the Israeli planes that brazenly buzzed their president’s palace? Would we have declared war on Syria? Another “legitimate war”? Will the blackout of Gaza bring down the Hamas government or cause the population to rally around it? And even if the Hamas government falls, as Washington wants, what will happen on the day after? These are questions for which nobody has any real answers. As usual here: Quiet, we’re shooting. But this time we are not only shooting. We are bombing and shelling, darkening and destroying, imposing a siege and kidnapping like the worst of terrorists and nobody breaks the silence to ask, what the hell for, and according to what right?
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