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Gaza: Victories, Defeats and Continuing Conflict

This is a guest post by Eamonn McDonagh of Z Word

We’ve already dealt with the ludicrous notion that Israel has acted disproportionately on numerous occasions. Let us now turn our attention to another argument that has been repeatedly used to criticize Israel in recent days and of which there’s a perfect example in this piece by Rami G. Khouri in El País.

Khouri says that Israeli politicians fail to realize that,

.. the more force and brutality that Israel uses against the Arabs the stronger their reaction will be, in the form of more effective resistance movements with more support from the population.

Think about that idea for a moment. The more damage and loss Israel causes to Hamas, for example, the stronger it becomes. If we follow this logic all the way home it would appear to mean that were Israel able to kill every last member of Hamas and destroy all its weapons, down to the last AK 47, then this would represent a defeat for Israel and victory for Hamas. Interesting notion, no?

Khouri would retort that what he means is that, were Israel able to destroy Hamas, it would indeed be a defeat for the Israelis; all it would be doing would be sowing the seeds for more efficient and ruthless resistance with greater popular support. But this doesn’t make any sense either. On what wells of ruthlessness, efficiency and support would a likely successor organization to Hamas be able to draw upon that Hamas itself has not been able to make use of?

There is talk here and there of a defeat for Hamas leading to favorable conditions for the growth of some sort of Palestinian version of Al Qaeda. I see no reason to think that this would occur, but if it did, what would there be to fear from it, that does not already have to be feared from Hamas?

Inflicting a smashing military defeat on insurgent organizations, provided that it is accompanied by a viable – not necessarily just or democratic – political strategy, tends to mean the end of serious resistance. Just look at Chechnya, Western Sahara and Tíbet. Not much evidence of renewed, more effective resistance in any of those places.

Inflicting a defeat on Hamas of sufficient proportions to make Gaza as docile as Chechnya is well within Israel’s military capabilities. It’s not going to happen though. The Israeli public doesn’t have the stomach for either the casualities on its own side or the mass slaughter of Palestinians that would be necessary to achieve it. Oh, and if you think that mass slaughter is exactly what Israel has been inflicting on Gaza in recent days, then you haven’t been paying much attention to world history over recent decades.

Hamas exudes the will to destroy Israel and all who live in it from every last pore of its collective body. Israel has the means to crush Hamas but only the will to deliver hard jabs and the occasional uppercut. There’s no chance of a knee in the groin followed by a few hard kicks to the head. Regardless of the forthcoming ceasefire, the conflict is thus certain to go on. This is to be both deplored and welcomed.