I read several articles this morning about the attacks and counterattacks between Gaza and Israel. The impression I’m left with is that both sides are right on enough issues that none of them can win.

On the surface level, Israel’s position is straightforward and justified. Palestinians in Gaza are regularly committing acts of war against Israel. In fact, they are not only acts of war, they are war crimes: The indiscriminate lobbing of high explosives into civilian targets. Israel has every right to fight back. (The only question I’m asking myself in that connection is whether Israel would be better served by mirroring Hamas’s form of warfare. Every time they got an incoming rocket, they could simply send one back. An eye for an eye ….)

On the deeper level, I’m getting a stronger and stronger impression that Israel cannot win. Israel’s existence depends on two factors, that are both deteriorating. I’m not sure how much Israel COULD do to prevent that deterioration, but that’s a moot issue as long as Israel isn’t even trying. At least, that’s what it looks like from here.

  • The first of those factors is that there is no way I can see Gaza as a viable, independent economic entity. There are too many people in too little space, and they don’t have the resources to make a living for themselves. Seen from here, Gaza resembles one huge refugee camp, and the problem is growing with every baby born. I don’t think anyone could produce a functioning, law-abiding society out of such a mess, and particularly not one that is infused with such a tangle of Salafist ideologies. Israel is perfectly right that they SHOULD behave themselves properly and respect the rules, and then the aerial attacks will stop, and they will all live in peace and happiness ever after. But is not going to happen.
  • The second factor is that the same process is playing out on a large scale in the countries around Israel. Governments are losing control. There is no way to predict how much the future policies of those countries will be influenced by rational self-interest, and how they far they will disintegrate into ungovernable chaos. In this environment, Israel would do well to behave in a way that inspires others to follow the voice of reason, and to respect the fragile web of international treaties and relationships that underlie world peace today. Israel is not doing that. It is using justified security concerns as a pretext for annexation of territory that does not belong to it in any sense, except one that is historical and intuitive. And that, I’m afraid, is to stoop to the same moral level where Israel’s enemies are operating, and were Israel cannot win.

It’s such a sad, sad subject. One of the articles I read this morning was about how many American ground troops (70,000) it would take to secure the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. One sign of the current troubles is that Hezbollah has set up training camps next to several of those stockpiles. Securing and destroying them would be an extremely difficult also, even in a safe environment. America has recently done the job at home, and they know.

To us, modernity came slowly. It meant improving conditions for most, outright liberation for many. That’s why we love modernity. For the Islamic world, modernity came suddenly, and for most of them it was associated with outside control (loss of “freedom”) and poverty (contrasted with their oppressors). That’s why many of them hate modernity.

When we argue with people like that, we must remember that none of their leaders can do more than their power base allows them to … and now we even have to look high and low for leaders.

When I wrote about this on Facebook, a friend wrote back that

“Israel left Gaza a number of years ago, and what did Gaza do? Fire rockets into Israel. The West Bank is prospering, because they realize it’s in their best interest to work on getting their own economy going, and not obsess with the destruction of Israel. Gaza could be much more prosperous and it’s citizens could have a much better quality of life if Hamas took their international funding and used it for the betterment of their own citizens instead of buying rockets to destroy Israel.”

How can anyone disagree with this? But the people of Gaza didn’t elect that type of leaders. That’s a fundamental part of the problem here. We can’t force them to behave rationally. Or can we?

Categories: Politics, rationality
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