Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

December 27, 2009

Israel’s assault on Gaza– one year later

Filed under: Activism,Gaza,Hamas,International politics — Helena Cobban @ 10:45 pm

Rami Khouri has an excellent short assessment of the Gaza War, here.

He starts thus:

A year after the Israeli attack on Gaza, a scorecard of “winners and losers” suggests that nobody won anything, but Israel has probably suffered political losses that it could not have envisioned when it decided to invade Gaza. I count seven main aims that Israel had in mind when it launched its war a year ago and tightened its siege of Gaza; one of them was achievable without a war, and the six others have not been achieved, or have turned things to Hamas’ and the Palestinians’ favor.

Here are the seven war aims he identifies:

1) Israel’s first aim was to stop the small projectiles fire that was directed at southern Israel from Gaza. Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups had twice stopped firing projectiles at Israel from Gaza in the two years before the war, according to the terms of truce accords that had been negotiated. The idea that a war was needed to stop the attacks is Zionist lying and deception at their worst, given that the attacks had been stopped through nonviolent agreements that saw Israel also cease its much more vicious and destructive attacks against Gaza.

2) Israel’s second unaccomplished aim was to try and destroy much of Hamas’ military and political infrastructure, and weaken it as a movement to be reckoned with. Hamas remains firmly in control of governance in Gaza, and a major national and regional actor…

3) The third Israeli aim was to force a weakened and chastened Hamas to release Shalit on terms advantageous to Israel, but the opposite is happening now…

4) Israel’s fourth aim was to weaken Hamas’ standing in Palestinian society and strengthen the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The war resulted in exactly the opposite effect: Abbas has been grievously weakened by his Fateh movement’s behavior during and after the war, to the point where he has had to admit that he will not run for re-election.

5) The fifth Israeli aim was to re-establish its deterrence power and political supremacy over the Palestinians and other Arabs, as it had tried to do in attacking Lebanon in 2006. Israel assumed that unleashing its massive military power to kill and maim thousands of civilians and destroy normal life would cause frightened and chastened Palestinians and fellow Arabs to comply meekly with Israeli demands. This has not happened

6) Israel’s sixth aim was to reassert its self-confident political posture and sense of supremacy in the international community. The exact opposite has happened in the past year, as reflected in five dynamics: The international movement to boycott and divest from Israeli investments has gained steam; Israel is increasingly ignominiously compared to Apartheid South Africa; the Goldstone Report by the UN Human Rights Council struck a severe blow to Israel’s sense of invincibility and exemption from complying with international law dictates; Israeli officials are more hesitant to travel abroad for fear of being detained and indicted for war crimes; and, hardline pro-Israeli lobby groups in the United States and Europe are increasingly being challenged and subjected to public scrutiny.

7) Israel has tightened its strangulation siege of Gaza, hoping to force the Palestinians to surrender. The opposite has happened. The most important new development during the last year has been the world’s repeated negative assessment of Israel’s behavior, and calls for international political action to rein in Zionist military and colonial excesses. The latest example of this was the report three days ago by 16 British humanitarian and human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Oxfam International, and Christian Aid) asking the European Union to commit itself to ending the blockade of Gaza and to put its relations with Israel on hold to achieve this.

I agree with just about all the judgments Rami expresses here (as elsewhere), though I think he’s quite a bit more optimistic than I would be when he says things like, “hardline pro-Israeli lobby groups in the United States and Europe are increasingly being challenged and subjected to public scrutiny,” or when he refers to “calls for international political action to rein in Zionist military and colonial excesses.” Yes, these developments have been starting to occur; but I see them as still in their infancy.

It is true that new pro-justice movements have been growing up in many western countries, including the U.S. But as of now, have they (we) really made any concrete impact– on anything?

The hard-line pro-Israeli lobby groups– and the hard-line settler-support groups– all continue their (generally tax-exempt) labors thus far undisturbed.  And where, actually have we seen any effective international political action to “rein in” all those Zionist military and colonial excesses that are still continuing on a daily basis?

Folks, we have a lot more work to do in the western countries,  to make our pro-justice efforts as effective as they need to be! Maybe the grotesque excesses the Israeli military and governmental authorities engaged in last winter gave us a new opening to make our work more effective. But still, we have a lot more work to do.



  1. Uri Avnery has a piece on the same subject: Cast Lead 2.

    Although a largely similar assessment, Avnery sees Israeli deterrence power as having been restored after 2006 by Cast Lead. I am not sure I would agree with Avnery, but I am not a military man. Gaza is a much easier terrain than Lebanon. It is like the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, though less extreme, and on a very small scale.

    “hardline pro-Israeli lobby groups in the United States and Europe are increasingly being challenged and subjected to public scrutiny,”

    Actually, I think he’s right. It is the case, though slowly. I’ve had personal experience. However, it is not the way that the pro-Israel lobbies operate. They operate by direct influence on government figures, and insertion of pro-Israel people into power structures. So who cares about public opinion?

    Comment by Alexno — December 28, 2009 @ 5:15 am | Reply

    • Alexno, good points you make. I am not a military “man”, but I have studied enough about deterrence theory to know that it is, actually, an overwhelmingly “psychological” issue. Usually, for a deterrent to be “credible”, the deterree needs to (a) know that you have some awesome military destructive power, and (b) judge that you’re prepared to use it under certain circumstances.

      Regarding Israel’s deterrent capability, no-one anywhere doubts (a). But what was put into big question after Lebanon-2006 was (b)… for a number of reasons. One was the incompetence of the Israeli ground forces, who’d spent the preceding 15 years focusing on police work in the OPTs so were ill-attuned to conducting combat ops. The military and political hierarchies KNEW that, so they tried to keep them out of the fight as long as possible… and then, when they were “forced” (that is, by Hizbullah’s non-caving in the first two weeks of the war) to “escalate” to a ground invasion it was a complete fiasco.

      Bad news for Israeli deterrence!

      So the Gaza-2008 war was waged in good part to prove that the IDF had retrained its ground forces who were now restored to potency and usability (and deterrence power). Everybody knew that. But still, Hamas did not cry uncle!

      Oh, how very frustrating for Israeli military planners…

      At one level, a big part of what Gaza-2008 was about was removing the Israeli political system’s own hesitation about using– and continuously escalating the use of– force. It was extremely solipsistic and self-referential. The IDF’s military planners had thought, after the Lebanon-2006 fiasco, that the Israeli public had become “soft” and so was actually self-deterring. The aim of Gaza-2008 was therefore to restore to the Israeli public and their political system their previous pride in their military and their willingness to use it at the drop of a hat.

      That was the only respect in which the Gaza assault, to some extent, “succeeded”. The assault did strongly reinforce a long-existing tendency toward bellophilia among the Jewish-Israeli public… However, internationally, the response has been, as noted, the opposite. Today, there is noticeably less U.S. and other international acquiescence about Israel’s propensity to make war than there was a year ago.

      (I’ll try to write more about this when I have the time.)

      Comment by Helena Cobban — December 28, 2009 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

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