- Written by Gilbert Schramm Gilbert Schramm
- Published: 25 October 2023 25 October 2023
In the wake of the current violence in Gaza, a huge number of ironic comments abound. Many of them are unintentional: they are the product of people who really haven’t thought the facts through. One comment of this kind which really took me aback recently was made by a proponent of Israel. He said that the recent Hamas attack had created a very dangerous situation. He argued that Israelis now felt threatened, insecure, and helpless. This, he continued, created a volatile situation where they might lash out… Well, what a surprise for the Israelis! Almost every Palestinian in the region lives in a state of helplessness and insecurity every day of their lives.
The fact is, the Israelis are so focused on having complete security for themselves, that they have completely ignored the fact that Palestinians also crave security. Palestinians recognize that they are unlikely to get it by remaining captives to Israeli policy. It is vital to remember in all this chaos that Palestinians on the West Bank, who are not ruled by Hamas, haven’t fired rockets, and have generally demonstrated in non-violent ways, still face treatment from Israel similar to the people of Gaza. Their land is still stolen, their homes invaded, and violence from Israeli settlers goes largely unpunished. Meanwhile, any misbehavior by Palestinians is dealt with harshly. This is clear evidence of the kind of apartheid state Israel has become.
Israel employs various tactics to obscure its strategy to take all of Palestine. They claim their strikes against Palestinians are in line with international law because they use precision weapons. The fact is, when you pound entire city blocks into fist sized chunks of concrete, it doesn’t really matter if you are using old fashioned carpet bombing from a B-52 or simply firing “precision” missiles at every target in sight. The result is the same. The word “precision” is just a distraction.
Israel also makes a mockery of humanitarian restraint. A few years ago (during an earlier brutal assault on Gaza) they did something called “roof-knocking.” They would drop a small grenade sized bomb on the roof of a target. The people inside then had a few seconds, maybe a minute, to round up the wife and kids and get out into the street. But Israel did not stop bombing the streets! Now they have given the million residents of northern Gaza a few days to head to “safety” in southern Gaza. But they continue to bomb that area as well. People trying to flee (as per Israeli directives) still have no safe place to go. In any case, how can one flee when Israel keeps the borders sealed? Israel bemoans the fate of Israeli hostages, yet the entire population of Gaza is held hostage by Israel. Over the years, Israel has taken (and later traded) many hostages. They just hide behind calling them “prisoners.”
Another distraction is talk of Iran. The claim is often made that both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are “Iranian proxies.” This leads to the vague belief that both groups take marching orders from Iran. I think that is nonsense. Both groups have their own struggles foremost in mind. They will take help from wherever it comes, but the idea that if I buy a gun from a gun dealer, I will kill who he says I should kill, is ridiculous. Notably, the US State Department has denied any knowledge of direct Iranian involvement in the recent Hamas action.
If anyone were really serious about curbing Iranian influence they would push hard for a just settlement of the Palestinian people. Should that occur, I predict that Iranian influence would simply wither away. Iranians are not Arabs or Sunni Muslims as the people of Palestine are. Iran merely capitalizes on the failure of Arab governments to effectively help the Palestinians and thereby extend and bolster their political position in the region. Take the issue away with a truly just peace and they will fade away.
What Israel is planning today—a massive ground invasion and occupation of Gaza, is a real disaster in the making. Israel has already warned that such an operation might take ten years. Are the people of Israel really ready for that? Is the US?
Meanwhile, post 9/11 comparisons abound. The 1400 Israeli dead would be the equivalent of 15.2 9/11’s. The death toll in Palestine (so far) would be about 295 9/11’s. Of course, the horrific math says nothing about human suffering. The real point of this, however, is that in the wake of 9/11 the US lashed out in search of retribution, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and launched a worldwide “war on terror.” US leaders made exactly the same claims that Israel is making today—that they would forever eliminate the threat of terrorism. The brutal truth is that Afghanistan is still ruled by the Taliban. Iraq fell prey to a power (ISIS) much worse than Saddam Hussein, and terror (even in the US) is on the rise. So much for the efficacy of knee-jerk retribution. For the record, it seems clear that President Biden is (behind the scenes) trying hard to dissuade Israel from embarking on a similar fool’s errand.
As the US occupation of Iraq began to collapse in 2006, General David Petraeus was set the task of writing a new US counter-insurgency strategy. I am not a huge fan of the general, but his plan became the basis for the US “surge” and worked much better than the previous approaches.
The Petraeus plan stressed a few basic principles. First, respect and get to know the people you are occupying. Second, realize that your mission is not to kill “bad guys,” but to protect the people you are occupying. Third, use reason and restraint when taking any action. An action that kills two “bad guys” and also kills innocent civilians might create more radicals than it destroys. Fourth, demonstrate your reliability—honor the promises you make and the treaties you sign. My review of the history of Israel suggests that they have never honored any of these principles.
For example: Israelis not only failed to respect the Palestinian people or get to know them but for decades they simply refused to admit they even existed. Israel was never concerned about security for Palestinians, only about their own safety—which had to be absolute. Their lack of restraint was obvious early on, when they took to staging massive reprisals in response to any resistance. Finally, in terms of reliability, they have been complete failures. Their own Declaration of Independence references the UN partition resolution which included the requirement for the creation of a parallel Palestinian state. Israel has never allowed the creation of that state, nor did they honor later agreements like UN 242. Just last week Israel instructed the people of Gaza to flee to the south for safety. What safety? They bombed them on the road and continue to bomb the south today. Something like 700 Palestinians were killed in the last 24 hours (as of October 23).
In light of these damning facts, the US position of standing by Israel hardly makes sense. It is time to try something new. There is no sane reason the US should continue to pass the ammunition to Israel when their predicament is the result of their own failed policy. I would happily agree to aid for Ukraine. Ukraine is a country trying desperately to defend itself from aggression. Israel, on the other had, is historically the clear aggressor in Palestine. The recent brutal Hamas attack doesn’t really change that fact. As for the oft repeated canard that Israel is the only “democracy” in the Middle East, it isn’t worth the breath needed to utter the words. Israel has become a rightwing, theocratic, autocratic, apartheid state. For years US aid has helped them insulate themselves against the real consequences and price of their folly. It is time to cut them loose. An “ally” that can’t show respect, reason, restraint, and reliability is not a dependable ally at all. At the very least, we could start by enforcing the Arms Export Control Act. This legislation prohibits the use of US weapons for anything but legitimate self defense. It was probably legitimate for Israel to destroy the recent Hamas attackers inside Israel, but the blockade and relentless bombing of Gaza (a densely populated civilian area) is clearly not.
At the moment, the stance of “standing by” Israel amounts to handing the car-keys to an angry drunk. We are not doing them any favor. If we ever want peace, it is time for a new approach that takes Palestinians and their needs seriously. This would be a great time to start.