More Wars for the Middle East?

Palestinian refugees

Palestinians in Jabalia sit amid rubble in the aftermath of an Israeli strike. We pray that right-wing forces in the Israeli government do not repeat such slaughter. Credit: Creative Commons/rafahkid.

“This means war,” proclaimed one of my friends. She was referring to the outrageous decision of the Netanyahu government to build more settler housing in Area E1, the area that would create the Jewish settler circle around Jerusalem and thereby make it impossible for Jerusalem to be the capital, not only of the Israeli state but also of the proposed Palestinian state that was supposed to emerge from negotiations. She feared that West Bank Palestinians would resort to war in response to Netanyahu’s decision.

What my friend seemed to have forgotten is that the Palestinians have no army, no air force, no navy, and no long-range missiles capable of accurately striking targets inside Israel. Yes, they can once again resort to the kind of assaults that come periodically from Gaza or the intifada-style acts of terror against Israeli civilians. But these responses of the powerless inevitably provide the justification for the mass slaughter of innocents that we witnessed once again when Israel bombed Gaza in November 2012. More children were killed in that latest Israeli assault on Gaza than in the horrible and outrageous murder of children in Newtown, Connecticut, a few weeks later, but there was barely a peep about the death of the innocents in Gaza in either Israeli or U.S. newspapers.

“Still, Israel must be crazy to do this,” argued my friend. “Don’t they understand that the Palestinian Authority might collapse, or that the Palestinian Parliament might eventually be taken over by Hamas as more and more Palestinians despair of any two state solution?”

But that, it appears, is perfect from the standpoint of the extreme rightists who continue to set the agenda for Israeli governments no matter who wins the latest elections. The Right wants Hamas to appear to be the voice of the Palestinian people, because to the extent that it is, the internal pressure for compromise and accommodation of the needs of Palestinians diminishes almost to zero. As it is, a large majority of Israelis fear that Palestinians want a state for the sole reason of preparing for a future war to push the Jews into the Mediterranean sea!

In the most moderate circles I have heard intelligent and otherwise quite decent people tell me that “deep in their hearts, the Palestinians wish there were no Jews in the Middle East.” I know that such feelings toward a group that is exercising unfair power over another are common among oppressed minorities. Yet I also know that the perception of such feelings is often rooted not in reality but in the projections of the oppressors, who attribute to those over whom they hold power (to kill, to limit travel, to withhold taxes, to harass) the same ethical insensitivity that they themselves exhibit. And the more Hamas speaks for the Palestinian people, the more Jews’ fears get confirmed, as they were in early December 2012, when the Hamas political bureau chief, exiled after Israel unsuccessfully tried several times to kill him, reasserted that “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north … there will be no concession on an inch of the land.” Many Jews’ fears grew as the bureau chief then went on to denounce the strategy of negotiations with Israel (the strategy followed by the Palestinian Authority) and to praise armed struggle as the only path that could win.
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