Israel -- Only after a Katyusha rocket killed her neighbor did she
agree to come. For more than a week, I had been pleading with my mother
and her 80-year-old partner, a veteran of many Israeli wars, to leave
their home in the northern city Nahariya and spend time in our small
two-bedroom apartment far from the line of fire. Within a week the
fighting will subside, I assured her, while asking myself whether this new
cycle of violence will indeed end so soon.
Although the immediate motives for Israel's
campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon were the abduction of three soldiers,
releasing the captives is only part of the government's overall
objectives. In Gaza, Israel used the abduction as an excuse to reenter the
region to stop the firing of Qassam rockets on Israeli cities and towns as
well as to try and topple the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
In the north, Israel aspires to defang Hezbollah, clean south Lebanon of
Hezbollah's military bases, and force the Lebanese government to clamp
down on Hasan Nasrallah's militias.
In order to examine whether these objectives are prudent and whether
Israel's actions can in fact bring about the desired results, one needs to
consider the two regions separately.
It is crucial, for example, to remember that despite its withdrawal from
the Gaza Strip last August, Israel still controls the means of legitimate
movement in the region. And as long as Israel maintains control over the
movement of Palestinian inhabitants, labor, goods, and money, then -- as
any first-year political science student knows -- it continues to be the
sovereign power and Gazans remain under occupation.
While no country should have to stand by and watch its cities and towns
being shelled by rockets, a distinction must be made between a sovereign
people launching rockets at a neighboring country and people living under
occupation engaging in the same activity.
Taking this difference into account does not justify the use of rockets,
but it does help us understand the root causes underlying their employment
and provides some clues on how the Qassam can be stopped.
Insofar as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about real grievances,
primarily the denial of self-determination to an entire people, then the
only tenable solution is political. Israel, however, has decided to ignore
the political route and has chosen the military one instead. Yet, cutting
off 700,000 people from electricity, redeploying troops in the middle of
Gaza, and causing intense suffering to 1.4 million civilians has not
produced the desired results.
Short of transforming the Gaza Strip into a gigantic football field and
killing hundreds of thousands of people, Israel will not be able to stop
the Qassam by military means. Ending the occupation, though, will.
Interestingly, Hamas is ready to stop launching rockets and return the
captive soldier if Israel discontinues its assassination policy, releases
Palestinian prisoners and returns to the negotiating table to carve out a
peace agreement based on Israel's withdrawal to its 1967 borders. This
needs to be seen as an opportunity. Israel should immediately put a stop
to the Gaza campaign, pick up the glove, and start talking with Hamas,
since, as the cliché goes, one negotiates with one's enemies and not with
Regarding the Lebanese front, matters are different, not least because
Lebanon is a sovereign country. Yet, unlike other sovereign states that
have a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence, the Lebanese
government does not control Hezbollah, which has been attacking Israeli
targets against its government's wishes.
While this situation must be resolved, Israel's attempt to bring about
structural change within Lebanon by using extreme force aimed mostly at a
civilian population is boomeranging. If before the war there was
considerable internal Lebanese criticism of Hezbollah, Israel's ruthless
violence, including the erasure of whole neighborhoods in Beirut as well
as the forceful evacuation of half a million Lebanese citizens from their
homes, has managed to sway popular support in favor of the fundamentalist
organization. When all is said and done, the Israeli campaign is actually
Consequently, my support for my mother and all other Israelis who are
being bombed does not translate into support for the policies of the
Israeli government. Employing lethal force to advance political objectives
seldom works, and employing more force after the first military assault
fails only sows additional seeds of hatred. Despite what many people may
think and what most commentators suggest, standing with Israel at this
juncture means pressuring its government to stop the trumpets of war. It's
time to lay down the guns so that words can begin replacing bullets.
teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and is the editor of
From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights.
He can be reached at
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