Sunday, January 18, 2009

A pointless war has led to a moral defeat for Israel

The only "objective" Israel has accomplished was the murder of 1300 Palestinians, more the 450 of whom are children, and over 150 women.

In historical terms, it is impossible to separate Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza from the long narrative of conflict and mutual grievance in the region.

In geographic terms, the war over a tiny plot of land cannot be detached from the wider involvement and strategic interests of other countries: Syria, Egypt, the US, Iran.

All of which makes it difficult to judge where - even if a unilateral Israeli ceasefire holds - the war really begins and ends.

That fact alone explains why the operation represents a defeat for Israel, as was always likely to be the outcome. The notion that the country's security problems can be resolved by the unilateral use of extreme force is a persistent delusion among Israeli politicians. In this case, the problem was perceived to be Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel; the solution was judged to be a war against Hamas. That analysis did not allow for the vital, humane recognition that, in densely populated Gaza, an all-out war against Hamas is, by necessity, an attack on the civilian population.

Even on its own terms, the campaign has failed. Israeli authorities will insist that they have limited the ability of Hamas to launch rocket attacks. But the ostensible war aim was destroying that capability completely.

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