HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

May 28, 2005
How Should Israel Deal with the Qassam Fire?

James Adler


Israel should never have been in Gaza for forty years, or have claimed Gaza for forty years, or have put settlers constituting 1% of the population of Gaza into Gaza who took over 30% of the land, and lived in middle class comfort in the midst of 99% of the people in squalor.

This has generated much hatred. The hatred and anger and desire for retaliation cannot be expected to go away overnight.

That said, Israel did withdraw, and Sharon and Olmert had a plan for further withdrawals from the West Bank as well, and Gaza created a possibility for the Palestinians to show what they can do. They have disgracefully botched their chance, both in their internal infighting and the Qassam attacks on Sderot, which is both Israel "proper," and against the civilian population of Sderot.

The long Israeli claim on Gaza, and the occupation and seizure of 30% of the land for middle class settlements amid squalor makes the anger at Israel understandable, but it is still a war crime and against all international law to make these attacks on innocent people, and a tragedy for both them and Israel -- and especially Israel's civilian community of Sderot -- that they can't look forward and optimistically ahead rather than remain backwardly stuck in the past.

For Israel's own sake it needs to be three things at once that are hard to fit together: To be decisive in stopping it. Not to get bogged down in an exhausting "Vietnam" or "Iraq" or "Lebanon" in Gaza. And while being decisive, not to generate still more hatred and another generation of terrorists.

I don't know precisely how to calibrate it to include all three, and expect Israel's decision-makers don't either, and I don't envy them as they try to go about combining all three elements in doing this.

The Saudi peace plan is the best long-term way to stop it, by the Arab League and Jordan and Egypt putting pressure on the extremists to stop, and maybe even doing some temporary (or indefinite) administrative taking over of these areas. But this still leaves the short-term and difficult three-way balancing act for Israel's leaders for stopping the attacks.

•     •     •     •     •

When I wrote first time I hadn't yet heard about the Qassam-murdered Israeli woman of Sderot. The deliberate murderous attacks on the innocent civilian people of Sderot is not only a war crime, and not only against international law, but also should cause international moral outrage, and it is a scandal that it hasn't. Sharon and Olmert withdrew from Gaza-- tardily it is true, but courageously, and better late than never, and risking civil war in Israel to do so. Last summer's immediate response, abductions and Qassam attacks from Gaza and followed by copycat Katyusha attacks from Lebanon, was, to say the least, a poor reward for the withdrawal, and intended withdrawals from the West Bank-- a political and moral tragedy and scandal. Seldom has it been more true that "no good deed goes unpunished" than what has happened to Israel since its withdrawal from Gaza. And the hundreds of innocent dead and wounded Lebanese civilians from Israeli airstrikes are another horrific consequence. But the push for peace and healing must still plod ahead as the only way to avoid still greater political and moral disasters--disasters to Israelis and to everyone else in the area as well.

•     •     •     •     •

Letter to the Editor of the Jerusalem Post: 

U.S.  Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg is right to refuse participate in British academic forums in which boycotts against Israeli Jews are promoted.  Europeans were responsible either for  the longstanding persecutions and pogroms and   extermination of the Jews, or, at the least, as in Britain itself , for the refusal to let desperate would-be  escapees from Nazi extermination into Britain or the entire vast Empire (such as immense Canada and Australia). Europeans and other Westerners killed, slammed escape doors, and chased the remaining Jews to Palestine.   Europeans, colonial masters of Palestinian-inhabited Palestine, thus dealt   an injustice to both peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians, leaving them no   choice in their destiny-- no choice but to be in conflict with each other, like imperial gladiators thrust into a European colonial coliseum. And still Europeans continue from afar to abuse the Jewish escapees and their children. Instead of further abuse, the Europeans have an  obligation to both Jewish security and Palestinian justice, in other words  to resolve the conflict and the double dose of differing  but deep injustice to both peoples for which it is they who always have borne the predominant responsibility.


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