Thursday, December 27, 2012

The latest episode in the campaign against Gaza

Israel's November 2012 operation against Gaza was only the latest in a continuous punitive campaign to disrupt Hamas' governance of the Strip, as well as to delegitimize Hamas as a credible negotiating partner, in addition to retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.  It remains pertinent to note Israel's operation began with the assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmad al-Ja'bari, who was in discussions with Egyptian officials and a private Israeli citizen, Gershon Baskin, over the terms for a truce with Israel.

Several noteworthy recent pieces provide useful evaluations of the November fighting, which ended with a ceasefire negotiated in large measure through the offices of Egyptian President M. Mursi.  As Adam Shatz observes in a thoughtful essay, Israel certainly did not end up the undisputed victor.  The most incisive and nuanced analysis has been written by Norman Finklestein.

The Palestinians of Gaza live under horrendous conditions, and Sara Roy's Boston Globe article directly addresses the inhumanity inherent in Israel's siege and closure of Gaza, a policy blessed, defended and often promoted by U.S.  government.  Roy's essay does not mitigate the failures of Hamas, including the injustice inherent in the criminal justice system in Gaza, but the social and economic conditions punitively inflicted upon Gazans constitute a form of collective punishment that deserves condemnation.

One of the U.S. officials who has been longtime rationalizer and defender of Israel's policies vis-a-vis the Occupied Territories has been Dennis Ross, a favorite of the pro-Israel lobby.  Ross has accumulated a stunning strikeout record as a peacemaker, but he been quite successful in promoting a soft touch approach to dealing with Israel.  The strikeout king tends to argue that one best influences Israel's behavior by reducing Israeli insecurity and giving the Israelis pretty much whatever they want in terms of diplomatic cover, military supplies and funding.  Ross argues that the November fighting was pretty much a draw, in contrast to many other observers.  As for Egypt, Ross applauds Mursi's role in negotiating the November ceasefire, and he argues that Washington "needs to reinforce Morsi’s understanding that assistance and investment from the outside depend on preserving Egypt’s relationship with Israel and ensuring that calm prevails."  His words reveal how U.S. relations to Egypt, and other Arab states as well, are subordinated to protecting Israel.  

While Ross concedes that Hamas may have an interest "in preserving calm with Israel [but that] does not equate to an interest in making peace."  With more "victories" of the type that Israel achieved in November, whether Hamas may be willing to accept an arrangement that may substitute for "making peace" will be an apt question. 

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