Israel In Gaza, Shooting Itself In The Foot

Footage from Gaza, translation by the UK's Guardian newspaper. I wrote about Israel's lack of strategic mission in Gaza, and its ignoring of all th

Footage from Gaza, translation by the UK's Guardian newspaper.

I wrote about Israel's lack of strategic mission in Gaza, and its ignoring of all the wise heads on 4th generation warfare, the other day. Now Scott Lemiex expands upon that by way of Charles Krauthammer as spokesman for the entire "kill everyone, let God sort them out" mindset of the extreme right.

America's Worst Columnist says that "there are only two possible endgames: (A) a Lebanon-like cessation of hostilities to be supervised by international observers, or (B) the disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza." It will not surprise you that he advocates for (B). Alas, it will also not surprise you to know that he doesn't seem to consider the question of what exactly Hamas would be replaced by should these aims be achieved. The assumption that a lengthy, destructive Israeli bombing campaign will produce a government more sympathetic to Israel and less sympathetic to Iran is so transparently idiotic that I think we can assume it's the one that Krauthammer is working with.

The most likely answer to "what would Hamas be replaced with", given Israel's actions, is something even nastier and more extremist. Which is why it wouldn't be a bad idea to make covert overtures towards Hamas in an attempt to push it towards more moderate polices. That's always at least remotely possible (reference Northern Ireland and the conversion of the Irgun terror group into statesmen who could win Nobel Peace Prizes) whereas the end of Palestinian terrorism by meeting it with equal atrocities simply isn't.

It's highly unlikely that Palestinians will be in any mood to forget the shelling of refugees in a UN school - something the Israeli Defense Force originally alleged was in response to militant activity "near to" the building (no-one said how near) and which had been met, confusingly by the IDF's own statements, by either return mortar fire or bombs or artillery shells depending upon which statement the pro-Israel lobby were taking as gospel at any time. Now, however, the UN says that senior IDF officials have admitted a mistake.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing.

In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school," Gunness said. "The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional."

He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself. "There are no up-to-date photos," Gunness said. "In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over."

The UNRWA is now demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law, and if so, that those responsible stand trial.

That's rather reminiscent of US military's "deny then apologise" course on airstrikes on civilians in Afghanistan and reminds me that Israel is also using the Bush administration's favorite set of justifications for the use of indiscriminate incendiary devices over urban populations too. And yes - Hamas is both an elected majority and a group with a terrorist wing and terrorist ideology. But that doesn't excuse "a hundred eyes for an eye". It doesn't excuse shutting out appointed UN envoys. It doesn't excuse this kind of mistake (if its a mistake):

At least 30 people were killed in the Zeitoun district of Gaza after Israeli troops repeatedly shelled a house to which more than 100 Palestinians had been evacuated by the Israeli military, the UN said today.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in a report it was "one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations" against Hamas militants in Gaza by the Israeli military on 27 December.

OCHA said the incident took place on 4 January, a day after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza. According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated about 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun, south-east Gaza. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house. About half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said. The report also complains that the Israeli Defence Force prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded.

The OCHA report does not accuse Israel of a deliberate act but calls for an investigation. Responding to the report, an Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, told AFP news agency: "From initial checking, we don't have knowledge of this incident. We started an inquiry but we still don't know about it."

It seems obvious that this war in a fishbowl, where civilians have nowhere to run to by Israeli design and so Israel can continue to allege that Hamas is using them as "human shields" instead of coming out into the field to fight fair and receive a proper ass-kicking, is entirely counterproductive to Israel's longterm aims if those aims are indeed to see an end to Palestinian extremism and terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Gideon Lichfield wries for the International Herald Tribune (h/t War in Context):

What Israel should do now is work for a cease-fire on terms that allow both sides to save some face. It should then do something it has done far too little of in the past: improve Gazans’ living conditions significantly. The aim should be to construct a long-lived state of calm in which Hamas has more to lose by breaching the cease-fire than by sticking to it.

In the longer term Israel will have to accept that Hamas is no fringe movement that can be rooted out and destroyed, but a central part of Palestinian society. This will be the hard part, not least because of the opposition from Hamas’ secularist Palestinian rivals, Fatah.

But even though Hamas’s stated goal is Israel’s destruction, it has said many times that it would accept a truce extending decades. Some former Israeli security chiefs argue that such an accommodation - a peace treaty in all but name - would eventually oblige Hamas to accept Israel’s existence, or else lose its own base of support. It is a gamble, certainly. But the alternative is more innocent lives lost, more extremism and ultimately more trouble for Israel.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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