The Israeli offensive that steamrolled into the Gaza strip on December 27th is a real step toward ending Middle East violence. It is also a real step toward ending the Middle East. And that is one sorry way to halt the seemingly never-ending conflict.
In a March 2008 post, The Hangover deconstructed Israeli-Palestinian violence in sociological terms. Conflict theory and historical perspectives were applied to understand what could bring an end to the conflict: Creation of a Palestinian state and the conceding of occupied land. However, Israel has once again chosen another path. In response to Hamas rockets constantly being shot into their country, the Israelis have (ironically) launched a blitzkrieg into Gaza, an area populated by 1.1 million Palestinians, 50% of whom are children. To date, over 600 Palestinians have been killed, a quarter of whom are confirmed civilians. Six Israeli soldiers have also died. One million Palestinians are without electricity, 700, 000 without water. Yesterday, Israeli mortars took out a school being used as a shelter, killing 30. To say that Israel has its boot on Gaza’s throat is an understatement.
The strategic objective of this attack is to end Hamas’ firing of rockets into Israel. It’s proven effective. Only fifteen were fired yesterday. Apparently, progress is being made. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated:
“We hope this fighting will be a swift episode. We have no interest to endlessly drag it on, but only if two basic principles are reached we will be in a position to end it: The complete cessation of the (arms) smuggling and Hamas losing its ability to fire rockets. I have sworn not to allow our great nation to withstand any situation that will require the mercy of those who fire out the rockets.”
Once again, this is a short-sighted, brawn-over-brains policy. To end the rocket fire under current conditions, the Israelis will need to occupy Gaza. And there’s nothing in the history of Israel-Palestine relations that indicates a force-fueled cessation of conflict will be more than temporary. So what will Israel gain?
Regardless of which country is “right” and which is “wrong,” each resident of Gaza will consider this offensive the same way the Polish and French regarded the Nazi blitzkrieg. Each dead Palestinian has relatives, friends, workmates. Each survivor becomes a potential future terrorist. In World War Two terms, those fighting the occupiers were called “the Resistance.”
The great fear of statesmen around the world is that terrorists gain the means and materials to create a weapon of mass destruction. Whether this is a nuclear, dirty, chemical, or biological weapon remains to be seen. But as time progresses, the chances of such a device being acquired by terrorists becomes more likely (despite the efforts of the United Nations, Jack Bauer, and various intelligence agencies). If a WMD does fall into Palestinian hands, there will be one target: Israel.
The current Israeli offensive will come to its definitive end when that WMD is deployed. It might not happen next week or next year. The bomb might not drop for decades. But unless Israel stops fostering the conditions that perpetually create terrorists, it will happen. All those in the region are under siege.
At some point a Palestinian terrorist (or resistance fighter), perhaps one whose child has been ripped to pieces by an Israeli mortar, will push the button. Maybe then—when the region is leveled, covered in radiation, or suffering from anthrax—compromise will be possible, provided there’s anyone or anything left to contest.