Saturday, February 2, 2008

Henry Siegman: Gaza's Future

From the London Review of Books:

Does the situation in Gaza justify the relentless missile and mortar assaults that continue to target Israeli civilians in Sderot? To argue, as Hamas’s leaders do, that these primitive Qassam rockets have resulted in no more than two or three Israeli deaths over the years, while Israeli retaliations cause the daily killing not only of militants but of innocent men, women and children, is not a justification for Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians. That Qassam rockets have not fallen on a kindergarten full of children in Sderot is not the result of skilful humanitarian targeting on the part of Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants. It is simply extraordinary luck.

On the other hand, the immorality of Hamas’s assaults on Israeli civilians is not a licence to bring Gaza’s civilian population to a state of near starvation. The insensitivity that prevents Israelis from seeing that their behaviour towards Palestinian civilians – whether in Gaza or in the West Bank – is not very different from the Palestinians’ targeting of Israeli civilians could not have found more unfortunate expression than in Olmert’s assurance that while Israel ‘will provide the population [in Gaza] with everything needed to prevent a crisis, we will not supply luxuries that would make their life more comfortable.’ What UNRWA’s commissioner-general Karen Abu Zayd sees as a people ‘intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution’ is seen by Olmert as a people deprived of ‘luxuries’.

In the face of such criticism, Israelis angrily respond that instead of condemning Israel’s policy towards Gaza, their critics would be better advised to demand that Gaza’s citizens remove their Hamas-led government. The absurdity of such a suggestion aside, one has to wonder how Israelis would respond if they were told by Palestinians that instead of condemning Hamas’s terrorist assaults on Israeli citizens, they should remove their own government for failing to end the occupation.

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