I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the best pieces I’ve read about the conflict in Israel/Palestine should come from Harry’s Place, one of the consistently best blogs around.
The article, which also appears in the Jerusalem Post, addresses the question of Hamas and its continuing role in the conflict. The author, Ray Hanania, who is identified as “Palestinian American columnist, satirist and founder of Yalla Peace,” takes aim at both the Arab media which “[glorifies] religious extremism and even violent attacks” as well as secular activists, many of whom live in prosperous Western states “where it is easy to chant for the destruction of not only Israel but of Abbas’s secular Palestinian government which does support compromise based on two-states”:
Hamas and the activists have allowed the Gaza Strip to fester in economic squalor because it suits their purpose. They can’t rally support based on their ideals because they have no realistic ideals. They call for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of a secular two-state Palestine, and also for the destruction of Egypt and pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with their extremist agendas.
Rather than help the besieged people of the Gaza Strip achieve freedom and build the first steps of a secular Palestinian state that would lead to the creation of full Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, the protesters have helped to encase the Palestinians there in continued suffering.
More importantly, this bizarre alliance between the religious fanatics and the secular extremists which today is focused on the Gaza Strip is silent on the campaign of terror that Hamas continues to wage against secular Palestinians.
Interestingly, Hanania also touches on what I think is one of the more salient points when discussing the inability to arrive at anything even resembling a working, peaceful solution in Israel/Palestine: Hamas itself. On the one hand, it seems very obvious to say that Hamas is an obstacle to peace. On the other hand, consider this passage:
By “freeing” Gaza, [activists] mean declaring Hamas the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” But that’s not their goal.
The purpose of many of the protesters is to strengthen Hamas. Israel is forced to deal first with the threats rather than the compelling cases for peace. [emphasis added]
Despite hyperbolic claims that it is lying, Israel has consistently stated that its ultimate goal is a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This does not mean, of course, that Israel doesn’t sometimes overreact, or react with too heavy a hand, but it’s rather clear that Israeli policy is not one based on the principle of genocide or apartheid, as many have claimed. For very obvious reasons, the Israelis are also rather fixated on security concerns, of which Hamas represents a not-insignificant example.
What Hanania is stating is that Hamas and, by extension, those who lend Hamas rhetorical or financial support, are, by threatening Israel’s security, making it impossible for Israel to seriously address the question of what a peaceful solution would actually look like. After all, it isn’t easy for a state to formulate a peace plan with a polity that is both territorially bisected and ruled by two different governmental entities, one of which is somewhat moderate while the other continues to claim as one of its central tenets that state’s complete eradication while simultaneously carrying out continuous attacks. (That is, unless one is willing to envision a “three state solution” consisting of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, each ruled by a different government; no one, of course, would ever suggest, much less accept such a deal, which means that the schizophrenia of the nascent Palestinian polity — that is, Hamas’ “Greater Palestine” irredentism and de facto rejection of the authority of West Bank governments — represents a serious, if not insurmountable, impediment to peace)
Far from being the essentially reactive force that it’s commonly portrayed as (the notion that suicide bombings are an understandable and, perhaps, inevitable “response” to Israeli “oppression”) groups like Hamas are therefore driving the conflict. Attacks on Israel are almost entirely of an aggressive nature, aimed chiefly at killing civilians or kidnapping Israeli military personnel to swap for captives. Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory, on the other hand, can usually be characterized in one of two ways: First, they can be reactions to aggression on the part of Hamas, Hizb’allah, or other such groups who engage in suicide or rocket attacks and kidnapping; or they are preemptive strikes aimed at neutralizing people who are or potentially will be involved in violations of Israel’s security. Very infrequently can Israeli military operations be interpreted as being purely aggressive and, again despite spittle-flecked arguments to the contrary, rarely does the Israeli military engage in purely punitive attacks on Palestinian civilians.
The point of viewing Hamas, rather than Israel, as the primary driver of the conflict is to change the emphasis from decision-making in Jerusalem to decision-making in Gaza and, not unimportantly, to decisions that are made in the halls of Arab media and in the minds of those in the West who steadfastly support “the resistance,” and by whose actions hundreds of Palestinians are condemned to death and millions more are left at the mercy of Hamas, who sees each and every one of them as little more than a potential corpse that can be employed as propaganda.