Gaza war may just be a taste of what’s to come

August 4, 2014


The existential vise in which the state of Israel lives is tightening as the civilian body count and property destruction in the Gaza Strip mount. The latest war between Israel and Hamas is further testament to the historical fact that Israel’s forefathers had to conquer the land that today’s Israelis dwell in and ferociously defend. What hope is left of finding a lasting settlement with the Arabs?

In his My Promised Land, Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit repeatedly and poignantly poses his country’s most pointed questions: How to live as free and moral people on the ruins of a dispossessed people? How to assuage the wounds inflicted on the expelled Arabs? And how to cherish the nation-fortress so dearly bought?

“Israel is the only nation in the West that occupies another people,” writes Shavit. “On the other hand, Israel is the only country in the West that is existentially threatened. Both occupation and intimidation make the Israeli state unique. Intimidation and occupation are the twin pillars of our condition.”

Shavit loves his country yet does not shy from describing the blood that flowed when his people took possession of it. He’s not alone in that uncomfortable place. The historian Benny Morris’ account, “1948,” is similarly unsparing of the brutalities that accompanied the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians into permanent exile as the new state struggled to be born. Though denied a university post for years because of his apostasy from official Zionist positions on the “liberation struggle,” Morris did not change a word in his book but did change his mind about the nature of the Israeli state, seeing not its leaders but the Palestinians and their leaders as unassuageable enemies with whom peace might never be made.

That change was symptomatic. Though distinguished Israelis like David Grossman raise their voices against the attack on Gaza, and though there have been small protest marches in Israel, opposition to the fighting among Israelis remains subdued, with most opinion supportive, or detached. Tamar Herman, a political scientist, former Peace Now activist and author of the fullest study on the movement, says the pro-peace left has “lost contact with the mainstream.” Even Grossman, whose son was killed in the 2006 Lebanon war, writes that the logic of the present impasse compels Israel to defend itself, though he’s strongly critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to reach out to Hamas and to talk in good faith to the leader of the moderate Palestinian camp, Mahmoud Abbas.

Thus two forces face off, each secure in its rectitude. “There is no war more just than this,” asserts Netanyahu, while Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal tells Charlie Rose that, “I do not want to live with a state of the occupiers.”

Meshal well knows that the battle he refuses to call off is violently asymmetric. Hamas’ main weapon –rockets — now penetrates deeper into Israel than ever before but has so far failed to inflict much damage, while the Israeli Defense Force has the military advantage in every way over Hamas fighters. If the war continues, defeat, whatever that may mean, is certain for Hamas.

Hamas’ most potent weapon is the world’s television screens. Images of bombed-out neighborhoods in Gaza and the deaths of so many Palestinian children – the latest occurring at a UN school Wednesday — are horrors that viewers in peaceful, liberal countries naturally blame on Israel. The swelling aversion to the mounting carnage is now buttressed by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, who calls the destruction “outrageous … demanding accountability and justice.” Meanwhile, Israel’s most powerful ally, the United States, expresses “extreme concern” that displaced Palestinians are not safe in UN-designated shelters. No Western leader can do other than call for a truce, and a truce on its terms – in particular, the lifting of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of its borders — is what Hamas wants.

Yet scenes of carnage seen on television cannot probe the truth and the extent of Hamas’ deliberate siting of weaponry near hospitals, schools and shelters, or the possible refusal of Hamas militants to allow Gazans to leave areas that Israel warns are targets. These charges, frequently made by Israelis and by some observers, could be shown to be true or false if an investigation were allowed, but television hasn’t produced any evidence for or against.

Israel’s collective mindset doesn’t make for competitive television. It is conditioned by fear that the surrounding world is more and more unpredictable and thus more dangerous; that Iran, which had gone cool on Hamas over the past three years, is now calling on all Muslims to help destroy Israel, and that, as ever, its enemies can lose and lose again — and it can lose but once.

But the cycle of violence may not be unbreakable. Guardian executive editor Jonathan Freedland, in a review of My Promised Land, detects some movement toward a “necessary goal” of acknowledging past oppressions and the need to share territory. And Grossman believes that Israeli opinion is maturing under stress, enough to be able to form a powerful right-left, Israeli-Palestinian movement for negotiation and hard-nosed settlement, bypassing the calcified positions of Israel’s political leaders.

Yet the existential question still hangs over every Israeli: “What if the two state solution is impossible?” It is a terrible question, for if it is, all that is realistically left is war stretching into the foreseeable future. Gaza may be a foretaste.

PHOTO (right): Palestinians look at an unexploded Israeli shell that landed on the main road outside the town of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip August 1, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

PHOTO (left): Israelis are seen in a bomb shelter in the Israeli southern city of Ashkelon July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

“or the possible refusal of Hamas militants to allow Gazans to leave areas that Israel warns are targets. These charges, frequently made by Israelis and by some observers, could be shown to be true or false if an investigation were allowed, but television hasn’t produced any evidence for or against…”
It’s out there, just watch Paletinian TV – Aljazeera even had a report about how the civilians are being told not to leave when the Israelis warn them to move. Showed spokesmen from Hammas ordering the people to stay put – to “bare their chests” to the Israelis so they can become martyrs (even as the leaders hid in shelters).

Posted by PERSCHEL | Report as abusive

Having read the Goldstone report on the 08 09 incursion. I know that war crimes are being committed. Sure Hamas is committing them. But to a greater extent the IDF is and the responsible war criminals include the snipers and all officers up the line.

Why not open a humanitarian corridor for the Gazan women and children to move behind IDF lines to southern Israel?

Posted by JahanJon | Report as abusive

Palestinians have been hating Israel and hurting innocents–whether their own people or foreigners for many years.

Hamas, like most Islamic militants, targets innocent civilians, and hides among innocent civilians like the cowards they are. Hamas and Islamic militants have no morality, no ethics, and no care or compassion for those they murder–including their own people.

Islamic militants have hijacked the word ‘martyr’ without understanding its meaning. A ‘martyr’ in Christianity is someone who suffers or dies because of their faith in God. In Islam, a ‘martyr’ is someone who sacrifices their life murdering for political gain. Or has their life sacrificed for them by extremists seeking political gain.

The article above correctly points out that Hamas does not fight the Israelis directly, but fights for a sympathetic world opinion. For propaganda points.

Hamas and Islamic militants define evil in the modern era. If proud-horned Satan were standing among the Islamists giving direct orders–those orders could be no more evil than the actions of Islamists today.

I ask this question: Wherever you live–would your country and people tolerate an enemy country firing rockets on your people and making war against civilians?

Hamas and Islamists do not want peace under any circumstances except for the destruction of Israel or a temporary truce to rearm and fight again.

Posted by MaskOfZero | Report as abusive

The choice of photos to accompany this propagandist’s usual drivel is a clear indication: the Israeli savage bombardment of Gaza that killed close to 2,000 human beings, overwhelmingly civilians, and injured thousands (more than 7,000 people, of whom thousands are gravely injured), and destroyed completely 50,000 homes, shattering the lives of tens of thousands of families, this savage assault by sea, air and land is illustrated here for this “opinion” piece with a photograph of a Palestinian man looking at an unexploded ammunition!

Way to go Mr John Lloyd! Some heart! Some ethics! Some professionalism! Some humanity!

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Welcome to the wonderful world of “Zionism”….I’m not going to bother explaining that further, as you won’t be posting this anyway…

Posted by Dreaminsomnia | Report as abusive

“shattering the lives of tens of thousands of families, this savage assault by sea, air and land is illustrated here for this “opinion” piece with a photograph of a Palestinian man looking at an unexploded ammunition!”


That’s an external fuel tank. Nice try though.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

The apartheid state of Isreal needs to prepare itself for the new reality, perpetual war…….

But eventually the Arabs will win. This is their region of the world, and they have seen many foreigners come in, but all eventually leave. The weapon they have on there side is time…………………….

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

The devolution in the Mideast, Israel in particular, reminds me of ‘Ape and Essence’ by Aldous Huxley. Mankind itself may be another of nature’s failed experiments if there is no resolution to the hatred and nationalism. There can be no winner in a nuclear armed world.

Posted by anotherfakename | Report as abusive

Israel will win most of the battles and will lose the war. INEVITABLE. Occupied people have the right to use ALL means and asymmetrical tactics at their disposal to fight for their freedom. Recent examples: Vietnam, Russian occupation of Afghanistan, USA occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Apartheid South Africa, South Sudan. Time and demographics on side of Palestinians.

Posted by kickabxr | Report as abusive

Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem (backed by overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence) back to the days of Abraham, with a continuous presence for thousands of years, far before the rise of Islam. Hamas is not interested in a 2-state solution or peace of any sort — their charter calls for the outright destruction of Israel and its people.

Posted by GregNeil | Report as abusive

perpetual war – Maybe, for the foreseeable future, but very soon Israel will say enough. At that point Gaza will be taken back from the neanderthal Hamas leadership once and for all. Israel will forcibly repatriate the Pals from the West Bank, Judea, Samaria and all other places that Arabs inhabit within Israel. The only solution. Can’t begin soon enough as far as I’m concerned. And send that filthy eyesore the Dome of the Rock with them as they vacate, in wheelbarrows if need be!

Posted by Norml018 | Report as abusive

I think the most poignant question to ask – and one that offends many in the American Jewish diaspora – is how long a war can Israelis tolerate? I opine “no more than 6 to 8 weeks” at a time. Note that Bibi has called a truce, the guns silent, as the 6 week point approaches? Unfortunately – in time – the rockets in the hands of Hamas will improve. We were all impressed with Russian Missile Technology – able to shoot a target at a height of 72,000 feet, 130 mile distant with a rocket traveling at Mach 3 > 2,000 miles per hour – with deadly accuracy… That technology is now in the hands of less than high school educated “Rebels in Luhansk”. Just a matter of time before that technology leaks into the hands of Iran/Syria and then trickles into the hands of Hamas…

Posted by Bludde | Report as abusive

Boycott israel for their war crimes against the Palestinians … do a search for

“10 brands you’ll have to give up if you’re boycotting israel”
“Boycott israel Products”
“Boycott israel Campaign”
“Stop Funding israel”
“Boycott israeli Goods”

These sites will show you which companies support the war criminal state of israel and what you can do to help end the genocide being commited against the Palestinians …

Posted by spirittoo | Report as abusive

Lot’s of Americans support Israel.
Of course they do.
Either they are religious bible nuts, or they’re feeling the Manifest Destiny of the White Man with no unease over our means of conquering this country.
I wonder how many Native American Indians would support Israel.
Today, the Indians would be called terrorists, and the White House would claim to be facing an existential threat.

Posted by jim.e.k. | Report as abusive

“Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem (backed by overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence) back to the days of Abraham”

According to DNA evidence, the Jews in Israel are related to Indo-Europeans. The Jews that may have once been in the Palestine area are long gone.

Posted by wyldbill | Report as abusive

Stallwart support of Israeli murdering war criminal actions. Libyan escapade followed by enthusiastic calls for a reapeat in Syrian conflict. ISIS roots, millitary support and continued funding. Instigation of a European civil war and backroom engineering of a European conflagration with Russia.

All the above are current American actions. It cannot be simple political gaffs that all seem to end in tears for everyone except US arms manufacturers and civil engineering companies. Oh, don’t let us forget the wolfish Banks who gain whatever the outcome. It’s time we took that time honoured American signal and “followed the money”.

Posted by baglanboy | Report as abusive