On Gaza

Sometimes I feel so helpless — I watch the news from Gaza from my living room, I’ve taken to the streets, I’ve picketed and boycotted, but still I can do so little about it. Here we have a military invasion of a population so unable to resist that over a thousand Palestinians have died since this offensive to destroy Hamas began, although this group has managed to kill only 27 Israelis from 2001 up to today. All this is in defense of a state which describes itself as democratic but was founded explicitly to give a particular religious/ethnic group privileged status, and does so via laws that restrict access to education, land, and more based on religion. Not only have movements of fuel, electricity, food, and people in or out of Gaza by land, sea, or air been essentially cut down to bare survival levels since 2006, no other country has come to the aid of the Palestinians during this war, a first in the history of Israel. What UN aid was available been cut back due to the death of a UN employee, which is justified by the Israeli Defense Force on the grounds that 80% of UNRWA workers are Hamas agents, making the organization a de facto Hamas front. Even the land border to Egypt remains closed in the face of widespread popular support for opening it, perhaps due to the $2.2bn the dictatorship there receives annually from the U.S. I can’t find the link right now, but I read a poll saying that at its outset over 80% of Israelis supported the invasion, but only 35% thought it would achieve its stated goal of stopping Hamas rocket attacks. Clearly the Israeli public knows that trying to teach Hamas a lesson via military might won’t get anywhere. So why is this attack happening now? Is it to show the IDF hasn’t grown soft, despite losing to Hezbollah? Next month’s elections in Israel? Fear that incoming President Obama would not approve, despite having appointed a Chief of Staff who once took time off to volunteer with the IDF?

My fear is that at least as significant as all of these is that, as Khaled Diab points out, Israel’s GDP grew by over 4% in 2008, despite the global economic downturn, in part because it has become the world’s fourth largest arms exporter ($4bn in 2007), with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip serving as a sort of showcase for the homeland security product line. Keynes for one would not be surprised to see that government spending on infrastructure has led to a strong economy. So much for the theory that a state of disorder and total war is no place to do business. Why settle for an equitable settlement with the Palestinians if you can get by just fine, not just despite their resistance, but because of it? Orwell was right; war is peace. And what exactly am I supposed to do about that?