Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Amira Hass Again, on Gaza

They Neither See Nor Remember
By Amira Hass
In Haaretz (Israel)
January 23, 2008

The security establishment was quick on Monday to boast of the success of its tactic of escalation against Gaza: Look, the number of Qassams declined. By the time these lines are published, the security establishment may spin another logical axiom: Since we renewed the supply of diesel fuel on a one-time basis, the Palestinians have gone back to firing Qassams. The conclusion: Continue the escalation.

The logic of escalation is the middle name of the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, and many Israelis are adopting it. Barak was prime minister in September 2000, when the Israel Defense Forces responded with escalation to popular demonstrations against the Israeli occupier and to the throwing of stones: lethal fire against civilians, among them many children. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians did not understand the lesson and turned to escalation tactics of their own.

That is how we reached the point where we are now - homemade rockets of all kinds, which become even developed, the more Israel escalates its punishment measures in response to them. Books, articles and one or two films have have already discussed, albeit tardily, the foolishness of the tactic of escalation. But that does not matter to those who support the application of more and more pressure on the 1.5 million residents of the Strip. This shows that they - like their defense minister and the rest of the political leadership - are suffering from four failings: amnesia, shortsightedness, disorientation and learning disabilities.

Amnesia allows exponents of this position to ponder the ostensibly welcome results of the escalation for a period of time ranging from days to months. Israelis forget the deadly Israeli attack that preceded the last Qassam barrage. And because they do not connect today's Qassams to those killed at the beginning of the intifada, that is, to the steps of escalation that the army took seven years ago, they cannot imagine what the result will be of the interruption to the water supply due to the power cuts; the collapse of the sewerage system; the insult inherent in dealing only with food and the cold. Because of amnesia, Israelis do not think about the future: about the Palestinian, all-Muslim, all-Arab attitudes and positions that are being formulated at this very moment, which will end up shattering any temporary calm.

The shortsightedness of those who support escalation allows them to watch television broadcasts from Gaza - of children crying and spokesmen pleading or raging - and feel these are signs that the current escalation is working. They do not see beyond the screen. They do not see the mutual help, the resourcefulness and the humor people are showing, the stubborness and the political and popular pressure on their Egyptian neighbor.

Disorientation causes supporters of escalation to believe that Gaza is really a separate geographic and demographic region, that it does not not belong, that the fate of its inhabitants means nothing to Palestinians in other areas. Disorientation causes Israelis to relate to the Green Line and treat it as sacred only when Palestinians cross it and strike at them. They forget that they - that is, we Israelis - are crossing the Green Line at any given moment: with settlements and gunfire and separate roads, shelling and bombardment and military orders.

And this began long before any Palestinians learned how to manufacture Qassams. It all connects to learning disabilities. The escalation, its proponents are convinced, will lead to popular pressure on the Hamas government. But the Palestinians do not forget that various forms of siege and closure, economic attrition, land expropriation and foot-dragging in negotiations, are testimony to the failure of the Palestinian Authority and its elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, much more than they are to the failure of Hamas.

Those who champion escalation ignore the fact that hermetic closure of all crossings into Gaza reminds the world what it loves to forget: Israel is the occupier. The aggressor. The learning disabled and the short-sighted do not see the moral - and not just security - bankruptcy of the escalation policy. Others will do that in their place.