The big news this Thanksgiving holiday is the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire. Will it last beyond the time you’re eating desert and trying to recover from a massive Tryptophane overdose? Don’t be so sure….
The reason for this uncertainty is because Hamas comes out the winner, on all fronts, and Netanyahu just as clearly the loser. What did the Israelis achieve? Nothing. Hamas, on the other hand, secured growing international recognition, as Arab state officials who had once snubbed Hamas trekked to Gaza to show solidarity. More important, Hamas struck at Tel Aviv itself, taking the Israelis by surprise and showing they aren’t the helpless victims the Israelis thought they were, an important factor in mobilizing Arab public opinion.
As far as the battle for international public opinion is concerned, the lopsided nature of the conflict – with all the military assets in Israel’s favor – and those dead Palestinian children being pulled from the ruins undid decades of Israeli propaganda. No campaign of internet hasbara can hide the face that children under ten made up 30 percent of the dead in Gaza — an astonishing and horrifying figure.
If Netanyahu and his coalition partners want to present the operation as a success, this cannot be allowed to stand. The Israeli Prime Minister has called elections, scheduled to take place in January, and "Pillar of Defense" is hardly the stuff of a great victory. According to reports, both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman initially opposed accepting the terms of the ceasefire, and it was only pressure from the United States that forced them to agree in the end. They will be looking for a pretext to resume hostilities, and, unfortunately, the text of the ceasefire agreement gives it to them:
"Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire."
By kicking that noisome can down the road, the ceasefire terms are an open invitation to both sides to continue the fight. It’s only a matter of time – perhaps less time than anyone now imagines.
Gaza is an open-air prison, and the recent hostilities amounted to a prison riot. Until and unless the Israelis allow the Gazans to live some sort of normal life, the conditions that gave rise to the dominance of Hamas will not only continue but accelerate the radicalization process.
This radicalization is hardly limited to Gaza and the West Bank: it is going on inside Israel. Witness the rise of Avigdor Lieberman and his Beiteinu Yisrael party, which advocates the expulsion of the Arabs and the creation of a "Greater Israel." The merger of Likud with the Lieberman gang is an ominous portent of a rising political trend that has the potential to destroy the democratic character of the Jewish state and give a green light to what can only be diagnosed as Israeli fascism.
While the United States took a leading role in brokering this ceasefire, it is the Egyptians who are getting the credit for it – and the Americans who are getting flack from both sides. They’re getting it from the Israelis – with Netanyahu’s tacit complicity – who blame Washington for toppling "Pillar of Defense," and from the Palestinians, who are all too aware that the bombs falling on their heads had "Made in America" stamped all over them.
Blowback from two directions – that’s the "thanks" we get for brokering the ceasefire. Oh, the perks that come with "world leadership"!
Here in the US, the 8-day Gaza war underscored the near-total subservience of the political class to the Israel lobby: echoing the President’s remarks, both houses of Congress voted unanimously to proclaim Israel’s "right of self-defense" – as if "defense" had anything to do with keeping over a million and a half human beings penned up like animals in a barnyard, and periodically going in to murder a few. In the aftermath of the ceasefire, a bipartisan "briefing" on the conflict was called in the House featuring not any US officials but Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador. Talk about "no daylight"!
By the political class I also mean the media, which seemed to be taking its cues directly from IDF headquarters. If the citizens of Tel Aviv were in very little actual danger, what mattered was that the poor dears were afraid. What didn’t seem to matter was the very real death raining down on the heads of the Gazans, their bloody demise deemed unworthy of pictorial display.
The Gazans are now busy celebrating their alleged "victory," but the festivities are bound to be short-lived. The reason is because their irresponsible leaders have been emboldened, and are now unlikely to pursue a path leading anywhere close to peace. And as for democracy – the Gazans are more than ever prostrate beneath the iron heel of Hamas, which is fanatically hostile to the very idea of a free society: they have taken the legitimate grievances and aspirations of a captive people and forged out of that misery an extra set of chains. One can sympathize with the plight of the Gazans while not giving one iota of political support to Hamas or its even scarier competition, Islamic Jihad.
As for the Israelis, the state of permanent warfare in which they have been living for decades has eroded the structural integrity of what used to be a liberal democratic state and is now more than halfway down the road to a very dark destination. A few more years of this, and such characters as Avigdor Lieberman will one day be considered "moderates."
The logic of the Zionist project is stripping the last remnants of liberalism (in the classical sense) from the face of Israel, which is hardening as it ages into a Spartan ethno-state. What it resembles is nothing so much as the American South before the civil rights movement – a condition that would ordinarily invite near universal condemnation, and instead inspires unquestioning fealty in our politicians.
Speaking of which: here is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) trying to explain to Commentary‘s Jonathan Tobin – who’s convinced the Senator is out to "hijack the pro-Israel GOP" – that he really is a friend of Israel after all, but Tobin is having none of it. Sen. Paul even goes the extra mile, patiently explaining why he didn’t show up for one of Netanyahu’s tirades before a prostrate Congress, but not even that does the trick. No amount of kowtowing is going to convince the high mucka-mucks of the Israel Lobby that the Son of Ron is really their friend – and if that doesn’t illustrate the supreme arrogance and sheer nastiness of the Israel Lobby, then I don’t know what does.
Earth to Rand Paul: nothing you say or do is ever going to get these guys are your side. They’re out to get you – so you’d best be thinking not about how to appease them, but how you’re going to fight back.
Israel’s "pillar of defense" is crumbling against the demographic and ideological tides sweeping the entire region, and no amount of US aid can change that reality. Unless the Israelis learn to live with their neighbors – and vice versa, I might add – constant warfare will make life unendurable for both sides. By aiding one side – the Israelis – we are enabling endless misery: it’s time to cut the Jewish state loose from America’s apron-strings.
We are quite used to violent anti-Americanism on the Arab-Palestinian side, but America’s role as mediator – and Netanyahu’s blaming Washington for making him "accede" (as he put it) to a ceasefire – is stoking a new phenomenon that is lately rearing its ugly head: a wave of anti-American sentiment in Israel that will only get louder, not in spite of the "special relationship" but because of it. Our policy of global intervention alienates our friends, and empowers our enemies – that is the lesson of Gaza, and all the Gazas to come.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
No, I don’t get a holiday break. I am writing this at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning, checking to see if the Gaza ceasefire is holding (so far, so good), and thanking my lucky stars I don’t have to re-write this column.
Speaking of being thankful: I am so grateful to our readers, who have stood by us and supported Antiwar.com for the past 15-plus years, that I can hardly find words to express myself. While I do work quite hard – three columns a week is a heavy load to bear for anyone – I really do enjoy myself. I’m very much aware how much of a privilege it is to do this kind of work, and I’m constantly trying to be worthy of the attention and trust of my readers. No, I’m not always right, but unlike those "mainstream" pundits whose track records don’t matter as long as they keep spouting the same old party line, I think I’ve earned your trust and support.
Our winter fundraising is still chugging and sputtering along – and you’ll note that not even a "holiday" like this spares me the necessity of making my pitch. We have raised some matching funds from a group of generous donors – but we won’t get a penny of that money unless and until you match it. So please, take a few moments from your Thanksgiving celebration to remember the cause of peace. Make your tax-deductible donation today – because you know it’s the right thing to do.