Chaos of Gaza Cries Out For a Political Deal

Published on
by
The Toronto Star

Chaos of Gaza Cries Out For a Political Deal

by
Haroon Siddiqui

Will this ever end? That's the first human reaction to the death and destruction in the Gaza Strip and the slaughter at a Jerusalem yeshiva.The sources of violence are political. Unless there's a political solution, the violence won't end. That simple but profound truth has been around for decades. We are witnessing only its latest manifestation.

Gazans rain rockets into Israel. Israel mounts a ground and air assault. A Palestinian, an Israeli Arab at that, guns down eight students at a seminary, as Baruch Goldstein had gunned down 29 worshippers at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.

James Reilly, professor of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the U of T, sums it up this way:

"The operative assumption on the part of Palestinians is that the Israelis have inflicted so much pain on us that they deserve whatever violence we can inflict on them.

"The operative assumption on the part of Israelis is that if we hit the Palestinians hard enough and often enough, they will agree to peace on our terms."

This has not worked and won't.

As of this writing, about 125 Arabs have been killed in the last week vs. 12 Israelis, including the eight murdered in Jerusalem. That's about the same ratio as in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Yet, as in Lebanon, Israel has not achieved its goals.

There's no guarantee that rocket fire from Gaza will stop. And Hamas is not destroyed. Rather, like the Hezbollah, it has emerged stronger, a symbol of resistance.

Having declared Hamas a terrorist entity, Israel and its allies, including Canada, are in the ludicrous position of not dealing with it even to arrange a ceasefire.

This despite the fact that a majority of Israelis, according to a poll, favour a truce with Hamas. And several leading Israeli thinkers, including Shlomo Brom, a retired general, advocate a dialogue.

As in Lebanon, Israeli credibility has suffered as well.

Israel said up to 90 per cent of those killed in the Gaza operation were militants. Palestinians said more than half were civilians. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem backed the Palestinians, saying that by its count, Israel had killed 54 civilians, as of Monday.

That brings forth the argument that there is a difference between terrorists who target civilians and actions in self-defence that kill civilians. There is. But dead innocents are dead innocents. Infinitely more of them are Palestinians.

Thus, the worldwide anger and the condemnation by the UN's Ban Ki-moon of Israel's "disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children."

Even the strongly pro-Israeli Harper government piped up:

"We are very concerned by the impact on civilians of measures taken by Israel, such as increased military operations, restrictions on border crossings and reductions in the delivery of vital goods and services," said Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier.

"Israel must take better measures to protect civilians and to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the population in need in the Gaza Strip."

It hasn't. A report by eight British NGOs makes that abundantly clear.

The Israeli blockade has created the worst humanitarian crisis since 1967, said the coalition that includes Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid. Their report speaks of severe food shortages, crumbling health services and water and sewage systems.

"The whole infrastructure is in a state of collapse, whether water, sanitation or the medical services," said John Ging, director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

About 80 per cent of Gaza's 1.5 million people are dependent on food aid. Of the 110,000 workers employed in the private sector, 75,000 have lost their jobs.

Canadians are complicit, as Ottawa was the first to help impose collective punishment on the Gazans. So are many of our politicians and the media who demonstrate selective outrage and inconsistent logic day in and day out.

The only comforting news has been that Israel has rightly chosen to continue the peace process.

Haroon Siddiqui appears Thursday and Sunday.

Will this ever end? That's the first human reaction to the death and destruction in the Gaza Strip and the slaughter at a Jerusalem yeshiva.

The sources of violence are political. Unless there's a political solution, the violence won't end. That simple but profound truth has been around for decades. We are witnessing only its latest manifestation.

Gazans rain rockets into Israel. Israel mounts a ground and air assault. A Palestinian, an Israeli Arab at that, guns down eight students at a seminary, as Baruch Goldstein had gunned down 29 worshippers at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.

James Reilly, professor of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the U of T, sums it up this way:

"The operative assumption on the part of Palestinians is that the Israelis have inflicted so much pain on us that they deserve whatever violence we can inflict on them.

"The operative assumption on the part of Israelis is that if we hit the Palestinians hard enough and often enough, they will agree to peace on our terms."

This has not worked and won't.

As of this writing, about 125 Arabs have been killed in the last week vs. 12 Israelis, including the eight murdered in Jerusalem. That's about the same ratio as in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Yet, as in Lebanon, Israel has not achieved its goals.

There's no guarantee that rocket fire from Gaza will stop. And Hamas is not destroyed. Rather, like the Hezbollah, it has emerged stronger, a symbol of resistance.

Having declared Hamas a terrorist entity, Israel and its allies, including Canada, are in the ludicrous position of not dealing with it even to arrange a ceasefire.

This despite the fact that a majority of Israelis, according to a poll, favour a truce with Hamas. And several leading Israeli thinkers, including Shlomo Brom, a retired general, advocate a dialogue.

As in Lebanon, Israeli credibility has suffered as well.

Israel said up to 90 per cent of those killed in the Gaza operation were militants. Palestinians said more than half were civilians. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem backed the Palestinians, saying that by its count, Israel had killed 54 civilians, as of Monday.

That brings forth the argument that there is a difference between terrorists who target civilians and actions in self-defence that kill civilians. There is. But dead innocents are dead innocents. Infinitely more of them are Palestinians.

Thus, the worldwide anger and the condemnation by the UN's Ban Ki-moon of Israel's "disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children."

Even the strongly pro-Israeli Harper government piped up:

"We are very concerned by the impact on civilians of measures taken by Israel, such as increased military operations, restrictions on border crossings and reductions in the delivery of vital goods and services," said Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier.

"Israel must take better measures to protect civilians and to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the population in need in the Gaza Strip."

It hasn't. A report by eight British NGOs makes that abundantly clear.

The Israeli blockade has created the worst humanitarian crisis since 1967, said the coalition that includes Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid. Their report speaks of severe food shortages, crumbling health services and water and sewage systems.

"The whole infrastructure is in a state of collapse, whether water, sanitation or the medical services," said John Ging, director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

About 80 per cent of Gaza's 1.5 million people are dependent on food aid. Of the 110,000 workers employed in the private sector, 75,000 have lost their jobs.

Canadians are complicit, as Ottawa was the first to help impose collective punishment on the Gazans. So are many of our politicians and the media who demonstrate selective outrage and inconsistent logic day in and day out.

The only comforting news has been that Israel has rightly chosen to continue the peace process.

Haroon Siddiqui appears Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca.

.

© 2008 The Toronto Star

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