One of my friends wrote in his status update on Facebook, within the first few hours after news of the bombing broke, that he was “appalled by Israel.” That’s fair. War is appalling and the pictures of wounded Palestinian civilians that flooded the media yesterday—one of a cute girl with a bloodied face, in particular—were certainly appalling. But that kind of gut reaction feels to simple to me. Since yesterday I have been trying to figure out what I think about the latest violence in Israeli-Palestine since it began.
I follow developments in Israel-Palestine pretty closely. To people who look at news from the region as much as I do—and by this I mean millions of people including not only politicians, pundits and think tankers, but many of other interested Americans, not to mention every Israeli, every Palestinian, and most people in the Arab world—the images of wounded and dead Gazans should not have come as a surprise. The end of the ceasefire, the escalation in rocket attacks, and the increasingly severe tone in Israel all indicated that some kind of operation was going to start soon, which would almost definitely entail, as it always does, wounded Palestinian civilians. What was shocking was the intensity of the bombardment.
I don’t know what Israel is trying to accomplish with this operation. Debka is now reporting (sometimes they are reliable, sometimes they seem to invent things) that Israeli commandoes are already operating on the other side of the Gaza border. The army is calling up reservists. It seems likely that they will launch a full-scale invasion soon, which I can only assume will bring about a reoccupation of Gaza. And then what? Hamas is now declaring that they are ready to launch a third Intifada. Senior leaders in the movement are threatening to assassinate Israeli politicians and Arab leaders who they think have betrayed them. People all over the Arab world—and the rest of the world—are angered (and radicalized) by the latest campaign.
Michael Oren condescends the press’s use of the phrase “cycle of violence” but what else can you call this? No country would sit idly by while rockets are fired at civilian centers from enemy territory. Of this I am sure. But why is this the only way that Israel knows how to respond?
I guess I still haven’t figured out exactly what I think.