War in Palestine – no prospect of a solution?

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

The confrontation between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people

Many people, qualified or not, have already spent an Amazon of ink (metaphorically, of course, no one writes with ink anymore) from the most diverse angles (military, political, diplomatic, geopolitical, sociological, historical, …). Pro and anti-Israel approaches, with or without the inclusion of the United States, and pro and anti-Hamas approaches tended to dominate the messages. A minority portion of the left condemned Hamas and defended the Palestinian cause and was excoriated on the networks.

Is there anything new or different being presented on this topic? Probably not, but I'm going to take the risk of raining on it, without intending to have a different approach or bring new information. It is in the arrangement of the arguments that I hope to make a difference and, above all, in the assessment of possible developments.

Before getting into the matter, I would like to analyze some arguments that I found, more or less explicit among defenders of Hamas' actions. In short, they can be reduced to a few sentences: (i) the ends justify the means; (ii) the enemy of my enemy is my friend; (iii) the violence of the oppressed is justified by the violence of the oppressors; (iv) war is war.

These arguments concern the definition of terrorism in this debate. On the left, no one discusses the existence of state terrorism applied by the Israeli government; the facts speak for themselves. But a part of the left refuses to condemn Hamas and characterize its actions as terrorist. The most explicit defend Hamas's right to massacre Israeli civilians as part of its political-military strategy, accepting, at the limit, that this terrorist action is admissible in the context of this unequal war. Others debate whether the term terrorism is applicable in this case. In my opinion, this is a search for division into four by a hair's breadth, in other words, a play on words to disguise a highly unpopular position in support of acts of violence against innocent people.

I think that, if it weren't for this ideological straitjacket, the facts would also speak for themselves in characterizing Hamas' violence. Only the most crude and cruel denialist can ignore that the cold murder of more than a thousand Israeli civilians, whether at the rave or in the Kibbutz or on the roads and villages, was a typical terrorist act, in any political dictionary you access.

Arguments wanting to minimize the acts as excesses of (some) Palestinians angered by decades of violence and oppression make no sense when looking at the scope of the massacre. Quite clearly, the deaths were planned by the Hamas leadership and carried out by its military personnel. It is not a “visceral reaction”, explainable with sociology and psychology, but a preconceived act with political and above all military objectives.

What is the political objective? Indicate to the Israeli population that they are vulnerable and, in doing so, weaken Benjamin Netanyahu's ultra-right government. From the point of view of the Israeli population, according to opinion polls that no one questions, the tactic worked and the prime minister has almost 80% disapproval. But so what? How does this impact benefit Hamas' strategic objectives? Just to remember, Hamas defends the liquidation of the State of Israel and it is absolutely impossible for Israeli citizens, of all political and ideological positions, to accept this position, no matter how worried and even depressed they are about the state of war never-ending conflict with Palestinian organizations.

And the military objective? It is very clear that the Hamas armed force, which may have a few thousand fighters, does not have the power to defeat the Israeli army, which is not only much better armed but also much more numerous. Hamas provoked the Israeli army with the massacres, and retreated into the labyrinth of alleys and tunnels of the Gaza strip, where more than two million people gather.

The Israeli government has, until now, adopted a position of punitive retaliation through supposedly surgical bombings to destroy Hamas' civil and military infrastructure. It is an action of low military efficiency and high political cost, since the civilian population is the one who pays the price in the bombings. Sheltered in tunnels, the military and Hamas militants are more than 50 meters underground, and can wait reasonably untouched for Israel to reduce the northern part of Gaza to a pile of rubble.

The Israeli government accuses Hamas of using the population as a “human shield” to inhibit bombings and is exempt from responsibility for the civilian casualties caused by its bombs. That is exactly what Hamas is doing, but the objective is not to prevent the bombings because in the many years of action by the Israeli artillery and air force this has never happened. The objective is to politically wear down the Israeli armed forces and this objective is being largely achieved at the international level.

The Israeli government knows that the bombings have a politically negative effect and have a meager effect militarily, but it has no alternative other than to invade the Gaza strip. This decision seems to have been taken since the first days of the crisis, but has been postponed for several reasons. The first was the order to evacuate the population of the northern region, with the aim of isolating Hamas militants and soldiers and allowing even heavier bombing.

There is controversy over the new American bombs acquired by Israel, which would be capable of reaching the deepest tunnels. In any case, even to reach this point of destruction of Hamas' protective infrastructure, the impact on all the buildings in this territory will put the pile of rubble of Stalingrad to shame. And it is estimated that there will still be almost 500 Palestinian civilians, men, women, children, old people, sick people left in the future.”no man's land”. The pre-land invasion bombing will be a bloodbath and Israel's political and diplomatic isolation in the world will deepen.

As the aforementioned example of Stalingrad has already demonstrated, fighting amid the rubble of a devastated city reduces the advantages of the most equipped combatant, preventing the action of armored vehicles, for example. The combatant with more mobility is favored, as should be the case with Hamas militants using the tunnels and, above all, the most fierce.

Despite its reputation as a super armed force, the Israeli army does not have infantry with experience in this street, tunnel and rubble combat and the level of enthusiasm of its young people is certainly less intense than what the Western press calls “ fanaticism” of Hamas militants. It will be another bloodbath, including a contingent of Israeli soldiers in proportions never seen in their previous wars.

Hamas may also be betting on expanding the fighting, attracting Hezbolah attacks from southern Lebanon and western Syria. It would be a huge increase in military pressure on the Israeli armed forces who would have to fight on three fronts.

Much is still under speculation, including the invasion of Gaza, after advice from the American military to the contrary, accompanied by Biden's public opposition, despite all his “total support” for Israel.

"Last but not least”, it is necessary to assess the geopolitical and diplomatic impacts of this crisis. There are those who attribute Hamas' action to a “stimulus” from the Iranian government, whose objective would be to avoid the agreements being negotiated under the auspices of the American government, between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which would isolate the position of the ayatollahs in the Levant. In fact, governments with already consolidated agreements with Israel, such as those of Egypt and Jordan, joined those of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, OAU (Organization of African Unity), Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, among others, to condemn Israel.

Israel's isolation is dragging American diplomacy into the same hole, as was evident in the veto (one against 12 and two abstentions) in the UN Security Council. The Brazilian proposal to create a humanitarian corridor was extremely skillful and represented a spectacular political victory for Brazil in the Council presidency. This victory is all the more important for exposing the Council's obsolete decision-making structure, with veto powers attributed to the victorious countries in the Second World War (United States, Russia, England, France and China).

This anachronistic position is difficult to understand for anyone who does not study the history of the UN. After all, when this decision was made in 1945, neither France nor China could be considered victorious forces in World War II. But the US's fear of communist expansion in both countries led it to value its participation as part of a neutralization policy, which worked in Europe, but not in Asia. President Lula has repeated his criticism of this system, outdated by the evolution of geopolitics, calling for a redistribution of responsibilities with greater emphasis on forces such as India, Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, Egypt, Germany, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. The absurdity of the veto power was more than evident in this episode.

The most important discussion in this crisis must be the search for a solution to the impasse that has been going on for almost 75 years. The UN resolutions defining the existence of two states, representing the Israeli nation and the Palestinian nation, are so old that they need to be revised in light of the transformations that have occurred since then. The alternative of a secular State, unifying the territories currently in dispute, with equal rights for both peoples has been raised by some analysts, but is it possible in this context with three generations of conflicts?

The underlying problem lies at the origin of the creation of the State of Israel. The Zionist movement, which began without much expression at the end of the XNUMXth century, has as its principle the “right” of Jews to their own nation and state, located in the region imprecisely defined as Palestine. Based on this idea, a migration of Jews from all over the world was promoted, who were settling in lands, initially part of the Ottoman Empire and, after the first world war, under the control of a British “protectorate”.

The mobilization of resources from Jews in the diaspora, especially from the United States and England, purchasing land from the natives of Palestine allowed the formation of Jewish settlements, the kibbutz. With the end of the Second World War and the political impact of the Holocaust promoted by Nazism, this movement gained a lot of strength and settlements multiplied with the migration of survivors, especially from Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union. Pressure for the recognition of the right to a Jewish nation grew, including in territory under British control, with the use of terrorism by Jewish organizations such as the Hagana and Likud.

The decision to create the Jewish State, called Israel, was taken without considering that the Jewish population, whether native to the region or migrants from other parts, was much smaller than the Muslim population. Pro-Israel propaganda falsified this reality with an absurd narrative where patches of land purchased by Jews were presented in contrast to supposedly empty spaces. In these so-called empty spaces, more than two million non-Jews lived for centuries, but they were displaced manu militari, in actions with terrorist characteristics, in the years immediately following the founding of Israel.

Pushed to Gaza and Lebanon, this population went to live in refugee camps that are at the origin of the permanent movement to return to their territorial roots. This occupation movement was being stimulated by the new State, with greater or lesser aggressive action, including wars that led to the territorial expansion of Israel, taking the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and (smaller) parts of Egypt and Lebanon . In these territories, Jewish colonies were spreading and expelling more and more Palestinians.

The issue is not just the expansion of colonies and the expulsion of non-Jews. Despite times when Israeli governments sought agreements to guarantee spaces for Palestinians (Camp David, Oslo), the dominant ideology among Israelis was increasingly aligned with the principle of the Jews' inalienable right to these lands. This principle has as its corollary the ethnic cleansing that has been adopted by governments that are increasingly to the right in Israel.

The remaining non-Jews within the territory have always been second-class citizens, without rights and hostile to the most extreme segments of Zionism. With this population distribution framework, there is no longer, in today's world, space for a Palestinian State, whose embryo is the parody of an administration divided between the West Bank and the Gaza strip, with many thousands of potential citizens still crowded into camps. at the borders.

Israel's strategy is total control of the continuous space between the borders of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. To achieve this end it will be necessary to expel three to four million people. To complete this picture, we cannot forget that Israel increasingly tends to become a theocratic State, governed by the norms of religion. How could they live with a non-Jewish population, the vast majority of which are Muslims?

On the other hand, the non-Jewish population, with a political identity defined by the search for a Palestinian State, cannot live with a Jewish State. The creation of a Palestinian state would require the massive withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank and other parts of the territory.

The alternative solution to the creation of a Palestinian State is the creation of a secular State with equal rights for defenders of different confessions, not forgetting that there are still varied Christian minorities. But with some increasingly dominated by different fundamentalisms (Sharia for some and Torah for others), admitting a secular State and coexisting with different beliefs is increasingly a remote possibility.

All of this points to the prolongation of the impasse ad aeternum. Israel does not have the political or even military conditions, despite its power, to carry out the ethnic cleansing that would allow it to have a border separating Jews from others. On the other hand, although Hamas does not have the clear support of the majority of Palestinians, especially because it has not held elections since winning them in the Gaza Strip in 2006, it has enough support, especially among young people.

She has no prospect of a normal life ahead of her and lives under oppression and misery that has a clear target, the Israeli government, and an equally clear combat instrument, Hamas. Israel can destroy Hamas' infrastructure and liquidate its leadership, but as long as the feeling of revolt persists and as long as there are Islamic states willing to finance, all this can be rebuilt.

The initial question of this debate remains: what is the ethical limit of a war with these characteristics? Massacres of civilians, whether by Hamas or the Israeli State, should not be accepted, whether by Jews or Palestinians, but what is clear is the predominance of self-justifications. And some transmit their narratives to a global audience, leading to the identification of good versus evil on both sides.

Support for Hamas for being an anti-Zionist and anti-American force, forgetting its brutality against unarmed civilians and its fundamentalist ideology is, in my opinion, a dangerous adherence to ethics or lack thereof, justifying any violence against the “enemy”, whoever it is. whether military or civilian. On the other hand, support for the Israeli government in its state terrorism, reaching millions of people with conscious cruelty, through bombings, blockades of food, water, energy and medicine, is the other side of the coin, aggravated by the fact that it is very more powerful.

In this complicated imbroglio, the Lula government's attitude of defending (summarizing the proposal) a humanitarian corridor is absolutely correct and can open a channel to be explored and expanded, isolating extremism. Congratulations to our diplomacy.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).


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