27 June 2024

Israel and Gaza: nine months later

The war between Israel and Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, has lasted for nearly nine months with no signs of ending. In the meantime, innocent Palestinian civilians are caught in the crossfire. Until now I have not commented on the conduct of the war, because I am not sure I have any additional wisdom to offer beyond what others have. However, I will call readers' attention to a four-part series I wrote last year on Israel's precarious democracy. I wrote it a few months before the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

  1. Historical and demographic background
  2. Institutional factors
  3. Immigration and the Law of Return
  4. Options for the future

Of course, some of the particulars are now dated, although I believe that my general observations about the complexities of the larger issue remain valid. After the 7 October attack, I published this brief article: Contributing factors in the Israel-Hamas war.

During the late winter and spring months, North American university campuses were occupied by students protesting Israel's ongoing war in Gaza. Were the Israel Defence Forces deliberately targeting innocent Palestinian civilians? Has it been committing genocide? Undoubtedly Israel could be exercising more care to avoid what is euphemistically called collateral damage in prosecuting this war. Moreover, it needs to come down hard on Jewish settlers in the West Bank who continue to harass Palestinian Arabs. However, I will repeat something I wrote shortly after the events of last autumn:

We should be able to admit that there is justice in the Palestinian cause. Because my paternal relatives were exiled from their homes during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus half a century ago, I easily sympathize with the plight of refugees. But the desire to eradicate Israel from the map can hardly measure up to any standard of justice and, if it were to be attempted, would amount to genocide. Those who lend aid and comfort to Hamas and deride Israel lopsidedly for its actions in Gaza should recall that Hamas, as a typical terrorist organization, cares little for the people it claims to defend. By hiding its own operatives amongst innocent civilians, it dares Israel to come after it at the risk of harming ordinary Gazans, hoping that the world will blame Israel rather than Hamas. Sad to say, too many observers readily fall for this ploy.

I am not a supporter of many Israeli policies, especially allowing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which harm the chances for peace. But even if Israel were to end this misguided policy, as so many of us wish it would, it is doubtful that Hamas and its sister organizations would abandon their goal of eradicating it from the map. We need to keep this in mind as we assess the current crisis and recognize Hamas's actions for what they are—terrorism.

I will close by observing that Palestinian Arabs have been spectacularly ill-served by their own leadership. There could have been a Palestinian state years ago if ordinary Palestinians had not put their confidence in organizations bent on destroying Israel and continually obstructing efforts towards peace in the region. Defending one's country against those bent on destroying it altogether leaves little room for compromise. This is something that those condemning Israel need to consider in weighing the rights and wrongs of this conflict.


Thomas K Johnson said...

Some themes in Jewish theology make it very difficult for them to negotiate with Palestinians.

John McNamars said...

David, this was well said. It is likely Israel could do some more to avoid civilian casualties. However the practice of Hamas of stationing fighters and supplies among civilians leaves Israel little wiggle room. It is likely there will be no real peace in the immediate region until Hamas and other groups give up the goal of Israel's total destruction.

John McNamara


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