Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Superficial, Banal, Trivial

The closure of Gaza has elicited reactions on the left and right in Israel and around the world.
Israeli Knesset members showed up at the Gaza checkpoint to protest either the resumption of supplies
into Gaza, or to demand that the shipping of the supplies be resumed.

One analyst told Israel radio that the Arab Knesset members were quick to show up to protest the closure of
Gaza, but were nowhere to be seen when the Jews of Sderot were attacked. Another analyst said that it is the
Arabs who vote for the Arab Knesset members, not the Jews, and politics was politics.

What was clear, however, was that the closure of the Gaza supply lines from Israel had an immediate effect on the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. Before the closure fifty rockets a day fell on the Western Negev, during the closure only two. As a columnist wrote in the Jerusalem Post, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the cause and effect of the closure.

Humanitarian considerations for the Palestinians in Gaza aside, the closure was the most effective weapon Israel has yet deployed in the seven-year fight to stop the rockets falling on Israel.

The PA government in Gaza lead by Hamas employed all the public relations tricks learned in decades of struggle. Bare-chested pre-teenaged boys marched through the streets of Gaza protesting the closure. Photos and footage of women, covered head to foot in fabric, cooking over a Primus stove in a primitive kitchen were plastered around the globe. Reports of severe shortages of fuel, food, water, were plentiful, even though former British Prime Minister, now the EU envoy to the Middle East, said his agency was assured no shortages existed.

Twenty years ago then Defense Minister Ezer Weizman deported four hundred Hamas men from Israel to Lebanon. Rather than take their suitcases and continue on their way, these men pitched tents and held public relations side-shows every day. When the winter set in TV crews were happy to film these men hunkered down around a fire in front of their tents protesting Israeli inhumanity. Eventually they were allowed back into Israel. This victory was just one of many Hamas has successfully run in the media.

Israel isn't a heartless brutal dictatorship, no matter what her enemies say. Israel is, according to most reports, a vibrant democracy. Bleeding heart liberals abound in Israel. Thus it was only a matter of time until the closure weapon was put back in the holster.

The Hamas criticism of Israel was superficial, banal, and trivial. It did not cut to the heart of the matter, which is that, as Israeli President Shimon Peres said, if Hamas wants to stop the closure they should simply stop firing rockets into Israel.
But according to pundits Hamas won't stop firing rockets into Israel. The goal is to force Israel into a cease-fire. Israel will concede Hamas has brought the Israelis to the negotiating table, and agree to stop firing if Israel stops attacks into Gaza, and forbids another closure.

No mention is made of the fact that Israel expended tremendous energy and expense in withdrawing Isaeli settlements from Gaza a few years ago in order to bring peace to the region. But Hamas ignored this withdrawl and kept on with their attacks. The PR of Hamas manages to eclipse any concessions Israel makes. They are brilliant at manipulating the media. Israel, with all the resources at her disposal runs a poor second.

Some say that PM Ehud Olmert is now seeking the right strategy to avoid the wave of criticism which will befall him after the dreaded Winograd commission makes its findings known at the end of the month. Some believe that by making a fuss at the Gaza border, Olmert can appear to be the tough leader, fighting for the well being of the country. Time will tell if that strategy works.

However, an old article by Nachum Barnea which appeared in the Yideot Achranot newspaper is worth re-reading. It was written during the height of the last war in Lebanon.


Whatever happens now, will only be an explanation of what happened then.