Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel's Gaza Invasion: The Question Of Limits And Goals

Israel and Hamas have been playing a game of brinksmanship since their cease-fire ended, and the current conflagration is therefore no surprise. Exactly what was Hamas thinking in allowing rocket fire to target Israeli towns bordering Gaza? Did they really believe that Israel would allow such a situation to continue without a military response? Is there any country in the world that would?

On the other hand, Israel aggravated the situation by continuing the economic siege, something Hamas thought the cease fire would end. Severely limiting the numbers of goods to cross into Gaza has placed the citizens there in a desperate situation, with many suffering from malnutrition. While this in no way justifies indiscriminately firing rockets into Israeli towns like Sderot, there's no question that Israel has been engaged in collective punishment, a human rights violation. One of the siege's chief purposes, to cause a rift between the citizens of Gaza and Hamas, will not work. It only causes the population to rally around their government. In addition, as the U.S. saw in Iraq, sanctions hurt average citizens, not the rulers.

While Israel has the right–indeed, the obligation–to protect its citizens, it has been known to adopt a sledgehammer approach coupled with grandiose ambitions. During the 1982 Lebanon war, one of Ariel Sharon's goals was to install a friendly government. During the 2006 Lebanon war, Israel sought to destroy Hezbollah. Neither goal was realized. In both cases, however, the extent of Israeli bombing obscured the original, reasonable aim of defending the borders. As of this writing, with nearly 300 killed, including young police cadets, and the Islamic University bombed, the charge of "disproportionate force" is being heard once again.

Israel now considers all of Hamas a target. If Hamas is destroyed, what is to take its place? Complete chaos? A re-occupation of the area? The installation of Hamas' rival Fatah, which now rules the West Bank (an impossible option, since Fatah would be accused of collusion). What are the limits to Israel's actions and what are its goals? In this regard, I agree with a recent editorial in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

...working toward long-term goals that would completely change the landscape in the region, like toppling Hamas from power in Gaza, is liable to turn out to be a wild fantasy. It would be best to make do with immediate goals and with measured, calculated accomplishments that could restore quiet, particularly the cease-fire Israel enjoyed for five months, which enabled Gaza residents to lead reasonable lives.

...It would behoove both sides to enlist every possible mediator - from Egypt to Qatar to the United States and Europe - to implement those terms. One may assume that the military message Israel sent was fully understood. It would be best not to turn it into a disaster that would preclude a future agreement.

The first step toward implementing terms of agreement is a cessation of hostilities. An extended military operation and mounting casualties could render another cease fire out of reach.


mjmand said...

I couldn't agree with you more; and I've made this point multiple times after previous flare-ups (flares-up?) with many of my freinds who are all staunch supporters of Israel. The problem is that my comments and my strong beliefs almost always fall an deaf ears. There is a chest-thumping mentality ingrained by most militarily powerful societies that makes moderate, measured (as Haaretz has put it) responses politically untenable. This is true of the United States as well. I blame our leaders for not having the backbone to tell their constituents the truth. Bombs = votes. How many times have you heard that force is all "they" understand? Well, from my vantage point, this is false because "they" don't seem to be "getting it," do they? The cycle of violence continues, and this is not good public relations for Israel.

Jeff Tone said...

Mjmand: You bring up another important factor, the political one. With Likud's Netanyahu in the lead in election polls, there could be a desire for his opponents to show that they could be equally tough. As far as your latter point, both Israelis and Palestinians believe that their opponent only understands force. Ultimately there is only a diplomatic, not military, solution to the conflict.

A. S. Haley said...

Jeff, Your sentiments are all in the right place, but after the "shock and awe" of Saturday, who do you think there will be among the Hamas leaders who is willing to stand down, and agree to resume talks? Any one of them who does so would be committing political suicide. This is the problem when rockets start to fly---it's a little like two kids on the playground: one of them pokes and shoves the other until the other is provoked into taking a swing, and then a real fight starts. The two sides will first have to become exhausted from the carnage and destruction before each can declare an honorable truce and go back to the bargaining table.

By the way, the bombing of that "islamic University" was not as indiscriminate as it might sound. I know it's not your style (heh!), but check out this article from the Jerusalem Post.

TexasCowboy said...

The sad truth is war begets war and the US has demonstrated a country can invade another country without justification. I fear this conflict will continue as the US for decades has failed to foster a continued peace because their motivation is more focused on political rewards than sincere peace.

Jeff Tone said...

Texas Cowboy: Actually, I believe that Bill Clinton sincerely wanted to forge a lasting peace. George Bush unfortunately dropped the ball. The conflict is too volatile and complex to think that one can pick it up toward the end of the term and accomplish something.

By the way, thanks for your kind words at Blog Catalog!

Jeff Tone said...

A.S. Haley: Actually, my personal sentiments are not that important. Look at my last sentence again: "An extended military operation and mounting casualties could render another cease fire out of reach." So essentially I agree with you.

Thank you for pointing me toward the Jerusalem Post; if what they report is the case, the development of explosives at the Islamic University at least provides a rationale. Were the students, however, warned about the attack?

single_fighter said...


"Oh, God! I have never seen such a terrible scene," cried Kayed Abu Aukal.

The emergency doctor could not believe himself seeing the remains of what was days back Shahd, a full-fleshed 4-year-old Palestinian girl.
She died when an Israeli shell was fired at the backyard of her home in the Jabalya refugee camp northern Gaza strip, where she was playing.
When her parents attempted to rush to the rescue of their kid, who fell to the ground amid a pool of her blood, rains of Israeli bullets kept them a distance.

For the next five days Shahd's which was left lying in the open left for dogs to tear out.
"The dogs did leave one single part of the poor baby's body intact," said a tearful Abu Aukal.

"We have seen heart-breaking scenes over the past 18 days. We picked up children whose bodies were torn or burnt, but nothing like this."

For five days Shahd's brother, Matar, and cousin, Mohamed, tried in vain to reach her body. They were fired at by the Israeli occupation forces every time.
Seeing the body of the little angel torn to piece by the assaulting dogs, the two made one final attempt, and it was their last.
They were showered by Israeli bullets before they could reach Shahd's body, joining a long list of more than 920 Palestinians killed by Israel since December 27.


Omran Zayda, a young neighbor, said the Israelis knew very well what they were doing.
"They chased her family and prevented them from reaching to her body, knowing that the dogs would eat it," he said.
"They are not just killing our children, they are intentionally doing so in the most heinous and inhuman ways."
Zayda said words, and even cameras, can not describe the horrific scene.
"You can never imagine what the dogs have done to her innocent body," he said, fighting back his tears.

Many Palestinians insist Shahd was not the first or only such case.
In Jabalya, when Abd Rabu's family was trying to bury three of its dead, the Israeli forces started firing at them, witnesses said.
They then released their dogs at the bodies, deserted by mourners who sought shelter from the Israeli gunfire, they added.
"What happened was awful and unthinkable," Saad Abd Rabu, the deceased uncle, told IOL.
"Our sons died before our eyes and we were even prevented from burying them," he cried.
"The Israelis just released their dogs at their bodies, as even they have not done enough."

(Gaza City -


God's chosen IsraeHell planning the slaughter of Lebanese (2006) and Palestinian again & again (2009).

"It is permissible for Israel defense force to attack in the course of warfare a civilian population that is ostensibly innocent of wrongdoing. The law of Torah is to have no mercy upon them and save our civillians and our soldiers, and this is the true morality of the Torah of israel..."
(Rabbi Dov Lior, Chairman of the Council of Rabbis of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in "Settler Rabbi; Killing Civillians Permitted", Forward, New York, 28th May 28 2004, p,,5)

“And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them…” (Deuteronomy 7 : 16)

“One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail”.
(Israeli Rabbi Yacoov Perrin (Daily News, New York, 28th February 1994, p,6)

“Killing Palestinian is comand of God, don't let anyone breathe, although man or woman, old man or children, human or animal, kill them all...!!!”
(Deuteronomy 20:16-17 | Joshua 6:21 | Joshua : 10:28)

Jeff Tone said...

Single Fighter: You quote Rabbi Dov Lior, but you don’t quote the following from the same article in The Forward:

“The statement prompted a storm of protests. Knesset member Ran Cohen of Meretz said Lior “defiles the meaning of being a rabbi and is sacrificing the IDF’s ethical military behavior on the altar of his extremism.” The Jerusalem office of the Anti-Defamation League said it was “shocked and outraged” by Lior’s remarks. The league urged him in a letter to “consider the impact” his words have “as a religious leader.”

Why do you neglect to include the condemnation of Rabbi Lior’s terrible comments? This casts doubts on the credibility of your post, including the inaccurate citation from Deuteronomy 20:16-17, which does not refer to the Palestinians.

In addition, do you hold a single standard of humanitarian conduct for both sides? Would you therefore also state that it is impermissible for Hamas to fire rockets at southern Israeli towns filled with civilians? That side of the equation is missing from your comments.

The only reason that Hamas hasn’t caused more death and damage is because of the quality and quantity of its weapons. That has nothing to do with its intention to destroy Israel and kill Jews, as stated in its charter, which is at least as bloodcurdling as Rabbi Lior’s statement.