Who could believe that anything worthwhile might be found in an article that begins like this:
It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.
It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet …
The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.
No, this was not found on a pro-Hamas website, but was written by an Israeli, Uri Avnery. He continues:
The reason given for the starving and freezing of one and a half million human beings, crowded into a territory of 365 square kilometers, is the continued shooting at the town of Sderot and the adjoining villages.
That is a well-chosen reason. It unites the primitive and poor parts of the Israeli public. It blunts the criticism of the UN and the governments throughout the world, who might otherwise have spoken out against a collective punishment that is, undoubtedly, a war crime under international law.
I have to admit that it makes me angry to read about the ‘primitive and poor’ parts of the Israeli public who think, after all, that a sovereign nation should not be forced to absorb thousands of rocket hits, some deaths, many injuries, and lots of trauma without doing whatever is possible to stop it. Especially since the ‘starving and freezing’ is partly faked, and partly the result of Hamas’ actions like confiscating hospital fuel for military purposes. Avnery has a simple solution:
Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.
A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the “targeted” assassinations and the blockade.
Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal?
The obvious answer is that like previous cease-fires, Israel expects that Hamas will stop some of their activities, off-load others to groups that they ‘don’t control’ like Islamic Jihad, and use the respite to continue with less visible ones like making rockets, stockpiling ammunition and explosives, tunneling under the Gaza/Israel border, and — now that the Egyptian border is breached — preparing terrorist attacks inside Israel which they will either deny or find a reason to justify when the time comes.
And there’s another answer, which is that maybe the time for a truce is not when we are finally starting to hurt Hamas with targeted killings and incursions. And also, possibly suggested by the primitive and poor part of my brain, there is the idea that Hamas should be made to pay for what it’s done.
But Avnery thinks he understands the true, hidden motives of Olmert and Barak for refusing this generous offer:
Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.
Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext – much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.
Possibly I could agree that the government needs to do more to stop the attacks on Sderot, but…a pretext! Avnery is displaying his ability, found so often on the extreme left, to think the absolute worst about the motives of his own people and the best about their enemies.
But we are almost getting to the point where he says something true, so we had to plow through this. Here is part of it:
And then something happened that none of them foresaw, in spite of the fact that it was the most foreseeable event on earth.
The breakthrough into Egypt, which Avnery claims was due to the ‘pressure cooker’ of the blockade, was carefully prepared for by Hamas over a period of months. The propaganda buildup, the daily cutting and weakening of the fence, and finally the ‘explosion’, presented by the media and hailed by Avnery as an eruption of oppressed humanity, were all parts of another Paliwood production.
But it was forseeable. Not, as Avnery suggests, because the Gazans were too miserable to be contained, but because Hamas was working on the fence for months.
And it raises the question, “what were Olmert and Barak thinking?”, because the consequences of this event are not good:
- Israel’s long, relatively porous border with Egypt is now exposed to Hamas terrorists from Gaza.
- An operation to finish off Hamas in Gaza, already difficult, is now 10 times harder.
- Mubarak’s regime, long threatened by radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood — of which Hamas is an offshoot — now has something else to worry about.
- The need to protect both the border with Israel and Egypt’s own interior threatens the demilitarization of the Sinai.
- The possibility exists that Hamas will actually occupy part of the Sinai, meaning that Israeli action against it would constitute a violation of Egyptian sovereignty.
Regarding Mubarak’s position, here is what Avnery writes, almost correctly:
Even before [the breakthrough], Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army.
The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people.
It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses [no, Hamas — ed.] relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers.
In the final analysis, this may be more important for what happens to Egypt than for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.