Saturday, January 26, 2008

The criminal starvation of Gaza won't make Israel safer

I usually don't write about IsraelStine. And I know that, for ideological (not humanitarian) reasons, this smaller man-made disaster will provoke far more reaction than my piece on the much greater man-made catastrophe in the DR Congo (5.4 million deaths = 0 comments). But this story is so disgusting even by the normal low standards of the conflict's participants that I can't help but vent.

In response to rocket attacks on Israeli border villages by Palestinian militants, the Israeli authorities have decided that this situation can only be solved by starving people in the Gaza Strip to death.

The Israelis closed all crossings between occupied Gaza and Israel proper. The state created in response to the Nazi Holocaust EVEN PREVENTED HUMANITARIAN SUPPLIES FROM THE UNITED NATIONS from entering what had been described even before this abomination as the world's largest prison.

The illogic of the Israeli government is that starving Gazans will pressure the militants to stop the rocket attacks. In reality, this will only INCREASE support by ordinary Gazans for the militants. This is what has happened in with past collective punishments. And this is what will happen again. I believe that it was Benjamin Franklin who described insanity as trying exactly same thing over and over and expecting different results. As such, the Israeli government is stupid. The primary cause of terrorism is despair and there's little despair more primal than starving to death.

I am not a reflexive critic of the Israeli government, current or past. Israel has the right to exist in peace. Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel faces real threats. I've said that Israel ought to be allowed to join NATO in exchange for allowing the creation of a truly sovereign Palestinian state.

But the right of self-defense has certain implicit qualities: the self-defensive act should be specifically targeted to the threatening entity and its only objective should be to end the threat.

Israel has been trying collective punishments on its Occupied Territories for over two decades. And the same problems of insecurity remain. This is not surprising to anyone with an iota of understanding of human nature. Sure, you have the rare heroic exceptions like in South Africa. But when you treat people as sub-human savages, it is almost inevitable that they will react in a sub-human savage way.

Let me repeat that: when you treat people as sub-human savages, it is almost inevitable that they will react in a sub-human savage way.

In such crises such as the rocket attacks, there is a completely understandable desire on the part of the aggrieved that their government DO SOMETHING. What often happens is that the government ends up being more concerned about DOING SOMETHING, anything, than about doing something that's ACTUALLY GOING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. The appearance of concern ends up trumping common sense and judgment and ultimately results.

This is why the Israel irrationally invaded Lebanon in 2006 and it ended up being the disaster it was always likely to be. This is why the US launched its irrational aggression against Iraq and it ended up being the disaster it was always likely to be.

These governments may have made disastrous decisions that hurt their national interests and security. But hey, at least they DID SOMETHING.

The bottom line is that heavy handed collective punishments in occupied lands do not work. They create resentment and hostility and resistance. Somehow, people forget that the collective punishment (in al-Qaeda's eyes) known as 9/11 failed to cower Americans into subservience to the Islamists. It hasn't worked for America in Iraq. It hasn't worked for Israel in the West Bank.

And Israel's criminal attempts to starve Gazans to death aren't going to serve Israel's interests any better.

No comments: