Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who Bears More Responsibility for the War in Gaza?

By John B. Judis, TNR

Like almost all conflicts that have occurred in Israel, this latest war in Gaza has provoked a furious debate. Was Israel’s ground and air assault on the Gaza Strip justified by Hamas’s rocket attacks? Or were Hamas’s rocket attacks a justifiable response to Israel’s arrest of hundreds of Hamas supporters and officials? I am not going to defend Hamas’s charter, which describes Israel and the occupied territories as an “Islamic Waqf,” nor its strategy of hurling rockets at Israel, but I am also not going to defend Israel’s response. What matters to me, and what is often ignored, is the overall moral and political context in which this and past conflicts have occurred.

Israel is one of the world’s last colonial powers, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are its unruly subjects. Like many past anti-colonial movements, Hamas and Fatah are deeply flawed and have sometimes poorly represented their peoples, and sometimes unnecessarily provoked the Israelis and used tactics that violate the rules of war. But the Israeli government has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to rule harshly over its subjects, while maintaining a ruinous blockade on Gaza. That’s the historical backdrop to the events now taking place.

The Occupation

Israel’s founding in 1948 began to address the terrible wrongs that Europe’s Jews had suffered. It provided a state and what seemed like a safe haven. But Palestine’s Arabs, who had made up the overwhelming majority of the region, and who believed after the promises of World War I that they would gain their own state, came instead under Jordanian and Egyptian rule after Israel won its independence. And after the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel annexed Jerusalem, occupied the West Bank and Gaza, and turned the Palestinians who lived there into colonial subjects. The Israeli government encouraged and subsidized Jewish settlements in the territories in violation of the fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population into the territories it has seized.

(More here.)

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