A Palestinian man peers out a window of a bombed-out building. (Photo: AP)
Israel is still using a strategy of domination in its struggle with Hamas, trying to use force to gain security. But this is a recipe for endless war.
Israel's attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but dumb. No country in the world is going to ignore the provocation of rockets being launched from neighboring territory day after day. If Mexico had a group of anti-imperialist South Americans bombing Texas, imagine how long it would take for the U.S. to mobilize a counter-attack. Israel has every right to respond.
But the kind of response matters.
Massive bombings of the sort that have thus far killed over 400 Palestinians and wounded 1,000 other civilians is a classic example of a disproportionate response.
Before Israel's massive bombing, the Hamas bombings that began when the previous cease fire ran out had not (thank God) killed any one. The reason is obvious: Hamas has no airplanes, no tanks, nothing more than the weapons of the powerless- mortars that fire to limited range and with limited accuracy. Hamas can harass, but it cannot pose any threat to the existence of Israel. And just as Hamas' indiscriminate bombing of population centers is a crime against humanity, so is Israel's massive attack against civilians (at least 250 killed so far in Gaza, not to mention the thousands killed by Israel in the years of the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza).
Hamas had respected the previously negotiated cease fire except when Israel used the cease fire as cover to make assassination raids against Hamas and other Palestinian leaders. Hamas argued that these raids were hardly a manifestation of cease fire, and so as symbolic protest Hamas would then allow the release of rocket fire (usually hitting no targets). But when the issue of continuing the cease fire came up, Hamas wanted a guarantee that these assassination raids would stop. And it asked for more. With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing acute malnutrition bordering on starvation, Hamas insists that the borders be opened so that food can arrive to Gaza unimpeded by Israeli attempts to starve the Gazans into submission. And in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, it asks for the release of a thousand Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Hamas has made it clear that it would accept the terms of the Saudi Arabian peace agreement, though it would never formally recognize Israel. It would live peacefully in a two-state arrangement, but it would never acknowledge Israel's "right to exist." This position is unnecessarily provocative, and represents deep self- destructiveness on the part of Palestinians who believe that this failure to acknowledge Israel's rights is the only symbolic weapon they have left. To many Israelis, trapped in their own history as survivors of genocide and oppression, Hamas' refusal to give official recognition is a way of saying, "We'll wait till we have adequate military power, and then we'll break any defacto truce and cease fire and use that power to wipe out Israel, so just give us time."
How do we get out of these dynamics that lead to the current situation in which a small number of Israelis and a huge number of Palestinians are killed or maimed?
Click here to read the rest of Rabbi Lerner's analysis and strategy.