Only victims, no glory in Gaza

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Flashback to the 80s: So Van was watching the 8 o'clock news on TV at a bar and the camera hones in on a guy standing on a building roof about to commit suicide.

"Bet you 10 rand he jumps," says the bartender to Van. "Done," says Van.

Seconds later, the jumper comes to a messy end. Van hands over his ten bucks to the bartender who chuckles and confesses: "I knew it all along because I saw it on the 6 o'clock news."

"So did I," says Van, "but I didn't know he was going to do it again after that."

I rarely watch television news. I ran news for three years working 18 hours a day — it was great but been there, done that. But mostly because I've seen it all before.

Take this report:

"Speaking today at Soroka Hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the PRC leaders slain in yesterday’s bombing attack on the Gaza city of Rafah were responsible for the Thursday attacks inside southern Israel. He also said they were 'only the beginning'.


“'We have a policy of extracting a very high price from anyone who causes us harm,' insisted Netanyahu. 'Those who gave the order to murder our citizens while hiding in Gaza are no longer among the living.' He gave no indication who else would be bombed..

"Since yesterday’s Gaza bombings a number of rockets have been fired from the strip, injuring six Israelis when one of them hit a religious school. Most of the rockets landed in empty fields."

That quote encapsulates a lot of the reporting over the conflict in Gaza over the past week — except it is a report from 19 August 2011. There's an identical report from 10 May 2010, and another from 6 January 2009, and another from 2008.

So I tune out.

It's not that I don't care. It's impossible as a parent to not feel the agony of another parent pulling the shattered body of a child from the rubble. But the quote misattributed to Einstein comes to mind: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

So let's step back from the picture and ask ourselves, what needs to happen in order to bring a lasting peace to the Holy Land?

Since January 2012, there have been 1 947 documented rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from the Gaza strip. I smack my head and ask "why"?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a pacifist. I do however believe that one should not get into a fight unless there is a reasonable chance of victory.

From where I sit, achieving peace is not about who's right and who's wrong – it really is about what is possible. Rockets against Israel are by and large exercises in pinprick irritation until the Israelis lose a couple of citizens and use that as an excuse to "mow the lawn" (as they callously describe their strafing of Gaza).

So Hamas, let's say you guys actually want civilian casualties to draw the attention of the rest of the world into taking action; it won't work.

Economic sanctions against Israel and severing of diplomatic ties will not happen. Yes, I know the argument that sanctions brought apartheid to an end, but consider that those sanctions had zero effect until 1986 when the US Congress overrode Ronald Reagan's presidential veto to join the world chorus against the Botha regime.

Any economic sanctions without the backing of the world's largest economy are doomed to failure. And any US politician who even hints at any action against Israel is going to go down quickly.

There's no feasible military response possible for similar reasons. The US will respond forcefully on the side of Israel in any conflict while their NATO colleagues will sit on the sideline. Russia and India and China have no vested interest in waging wars outside their borders. Who's left?

So here's what will happen. The US will dispatch Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Israel within the next few days. Israel will agree to a ceasefire. Hamas will agree to cease rocket attacks. The economic blockade of Gaza will continue.

So Hamas, the only way out of the impasse is for you to stand down and not engage in a military response thereafter. If you do that, you remove the only excuse Israel has for trying to wipe you out militarily.

Thereafter, there will be inexorable pressure on Israel to lift the economic blockade. What can Israel do if the African Union sends in a peacekeeping force to Gaza? What can Israel do if newly-liberated Egypt trades with Gaza under open scrutiny of international observers?

What can Israel do if Sweden flies in with medical equipment? What can Israel do if China rebuilds roads and infrastructure?

There is no glory in children dying in a war that cannot be won.