Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ceasefire in Gaza

Obama knows better and the Israeli political class knows that he knows better, though he may not be able to do much about it – unless he turns out to possess a virtue that is all but unknown among Democrats, courage. Throughout the campaign there was little sign of it; in the transition period, there has been none at all. Still, the Israelis realize that, no matter how good (for them) Obama turns out to be, they’ll never have had it so good as under W. Dimwit Bush. So they’re treading (somewhat) lightly, for the time being. It is Obama’s inauguration that accounts for the unilateral ceasefire Israel just announced. Neither morality nor even elementary decency has anything to do with; and neither do Israel’s strategic objectives towards the other parties involved – whether they be Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, or Iranian.

Of course, a cease fire with the (re)occupiers in place is bound to be fragile, especially if Hamas has no interest of its own, at this point, in observing it. [Saving the people who elected them to office from Israeli murder and mayhem has never been a high priority for Hamas. Maybe, though, they too will want to make a peace offering to the new President.] Nevertheless, if Israel is lucky, it will be able to present itself as the peacemaker – for at least a short while. The Israelis know they can count on servile Western media to help them present that (transparently false) image. They also know that the media that matters most (for them), American media, are nothing if not servile (and gullible and morally corrupt), especially where Israel is concerned.

What is absolutely clear is that, as in Lebanon in 2006, all the killing and maiming and infrastructure destruction accomplished none of Israel’s declared aims. No doubt, Hamas’s military capabilities, never much to worry about, have been somewhat “degraded.” But Hamas can still fire rockets into southern Israel whenever it pleases. Much as Hezbollah did in 2006, Hamas “won” if only by surviving. Correspondingly, Israel “lost” by demonstrating again that its overwhelming military superiority is a paper tiger – of little or no use in the circumstances it confronts.

But, of course, Israel’s declared aims were never its real aims. Everything Israel has done to Gaza in recent years, including its vaunted “withdrawal” in 2005, has had the same aim: to drive a wedge between Fatah and Hamas, helping to insure that the Palestinians who cannot be driven out of Greater Israel will have no viable political leadership capable of countering Israeli dominance.

[Sadly, both Fatah and Hamas have been more than a little complicitous in this Israeli endeavor. Indeed, from the time the Palestinian national movement coalesced in the 1960s, the Palestinians have been spectacularly unsuccessful in building institutions capable of running a viable state. In this respect, the contrast with the pre-1948 Jewish minority in Palestine is striking.]

Israel’s assault on Gaza was part of its on-going project of “dividing and conquering” the Palestinian national movement. Israel took some hits this time around, as it did in Lebanon in 2006, but, in view of its real aims, it hardly “lost” categorically. Its goal – an ethnically “pure” Jewish state in as much of Mandate Palestine as it can obtain and hold – is still very much on track. So too, despite its military setback, is its ambition to become the hegemonic power in a militarily and politically fragmented region.

[Recall that, despite its crushing technological advantages, the United States “lost” militarily even more spectacularly in Vietnam. But if the real aim was to block what Noam Chomsky calls “the threat of a good example” – economic, political and social development outside the American ambit – it’s far from clear who lost.]

Anyway, before long, perhaps even from the get go, Obama will have to deal with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – from Gaza, and from “Judea and Samaria” (the Occupied West Bank) as well. Because Israel is able to get away with its depredations thanks mainly to American largesse, Obama could stop it on a dime. He knows he should. But he also knows that, if he tries, he won’t still have 80% of Americans rooting for him; he knows that the Israel lobby will fight him tooth and nail. Will he have the courage to do the right thing – to do what will benefit both America and even Israel (in the long run) most? It’s not yet certain that he won’t, but it’s plainly unlikely. That’s the shadow that hangs over the impending and “inspiring” Martin Luther King - Inauguration Day celebrations.

1 comment:

The Intellectual Redneck said...

Israel unilaterally declared a ceasefire yesterday. Of course it quickly vanished when Hamas fired five rockets into Israel. Hamas does not want to cease fire unless it is on their therms. They are concerned about looking defeated in the eyes of the Arab world. In truth, they have been defeated from a military standpoint. The vanishing Israeli cease fire