Friday, November 23, 2012

Israel and Palestine have Gained No Ground

Has either Israel or Palestine/Hamas gained any ground in this latest conflict? It depends on your perspective. Israel has shown Hamas that it has massive military capacity to do a lot of damage and that it has no compunction about it, no matter who gets slaughtered. The message is, hurt us and we will hurt you back, and we’re better at it than you are.  

But Hamas, once seen as a terrorist organization, has gained legitimacy and support from countries in the Middle East and many people around the world, because Netanyahu’s position, while it can be understood, just is not supportable by reasonable people. And for the first time, the US isn’t playing an obviously pivotal role. Egypt, governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, is.

I don’t know how much Egypt is being influenced behind the scenes by the US but even if it is, that is still evidence of President Obama’s unwillingness to involve the US directly in war. And on the surface this is a Middle East problem being solved by Middle East nations where there’s more real democracy than ever before and they are solidly behind Palestine, represented by Hamas.

Still, none of this amount to anything of any value to humanity or to the people of Palestine and Israel who have the right to a life without violence, because it’s all about military power. Power can broker peace but it can’t sustain it. Hamas is not a peaceful organization; its modus operandum is violence. Netanyahu is a military bully. And both he and Khalid Mashaal have made it very clear that their commitment to the cease-fire is lip service. 

For Israel a dead Palestinian is an unfortunate casualty. For Hamas a dead Israeli is a victory. Neither side has any remorse; and neither is acknowledging that they are as responsible as each other for the casualties in their own countries. Both are saying very clearly that they will do it again. Both leaders have support within their own countries. 

Netanyahu is painting Israel into a corner in a room with nothing like the kind of backing he had before. He can try to fight his way out of it, but wait until Iran gets in on the deal. Is that ultimate scenario what he is relying on? Iran is already in on the deal, supplying arms to Hamas, an organization which, apart from its commitment to violence, has no real control over individual groups of angry men addicted to violence. Scary.

Amassing power is not a solution to lasting peace, any more than intimidation is in a world where egos run rampant. So nobody has gained from this latest conflict and the shifting power dynamics. As Robin McCann of the Human Potential Development Centre in Cape Town said, “if things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse”. I wonder what it will take for the world to recognise that the power to annihilate is never going to change anything for the better?

It seems that we often learn the best lessons when we hit rock bottom as individuals and as societies. What’s the nadir for Israel and Palestine? That everybody’s dead or maimed?