Sunday, January 04, 2009

My dispatches do not have datelines like “Jerusalem” or “Gaza City,” nor will they be very in-depth or regular, but I will call it as I see it.

The Zahal ground operation began last night.

It continues, “bisecting” Gaza as forces have spread; reports of more civilian casualties pile on. In Bitter Lemons, a site described as “Palestinian-Israeli crossfire,” Yossi Alpher writes that “neither Israel nor anyone else has a long-term workable strategy for dealing with Hamas in Gaza.” Alpher suggests that “alternative strategies … are worth recalling”:

One is to open up the Gaza passages and cease inflicting ineffective collective punishment on 1.5 million Gazans, making clear that Israel’s quarrel is only with the Hamas military and political leadership in Gaza and beyond. Once this operation is over, and assuming Israel emerges from it in a position of strength, that would be the time to take this step. Another is to seek direct talks with Hamas…”

“The Israeli attack has increased public sympathy and support for Hamas because it is the target of these attacks and because it is trying to fight back,” observed Ghassan Khatib, his Palestinian counterpart.

Toward the facts on the ground: it is hard to separate the winnow from the chaff, so to speak, e.g., the hasbara from the reality. My account of it all is that Israel has been aiming to remove Hamas from power in Gaza for the past two years, in which this is simply the surfacing of a long-standing policy of economic and military strangulation on the people of Gaza for voting the wrong people into power. The rocketing on the Negev is, I’m afraid, a pretext; Israel would not have tolerated it for so long if it were an immediate mortal threat.

The respective casualty figures show clearly the actual balance of forces, nearly one hundred to one. It is remarkable how the rockets launched by Hamas, surely a detestable organization composed of frightening zealots, are simultaneously “unguided” and “aimed at civilians.” On the other hand—during war there are two sides obviously—as we’re told again and again, the Zahal does everything in its power to avoid civilian deaths and even texts militants to get out of the way before a neighborhood block is blown to smithereens. But, many wonder, how much of the picture that so many are given accords to the reality of the situation? Not much, regrettably.

There is much that is obscured. Gaza is closed off from foreign correspondents, so we really do not know what is really happening there. The infantry knows now. May God be with them. The first combat-related Israeli fatality has a name, Dvir Emanuelloff, and an age, 22, and a family. Why do Palestinians not have names, only anonymous statistics? I suppose in all of this, if I must take sides, it will be on the side of the cooler heads, Israeli and Palestinian, strong and weak, and not the fanatics.

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