Thursday, January 15, 2009


All right, I have officially had it with people who are blaming either Israel or Hamas for everything. I have had it with anyone who uses the words "good" or "evil" and "right" or "wrong" about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. You are the people who keep this conflict going. If you want peace, what you should be talking about is "effective" and "ineffective" policy. Nothing else. Values are killing peoples' judgment here, and killing people too.

The ongoing war in Gaza is an inevitable and unavoidable result of both sides' refusal to see the other side as a negotiating partner. Their most recent chance was 2006, when Hamas won the elections in Palestine. The Israelis, backed by the Quartet, put preconditions on Hamas that they knew Hamas would and could never accept, but which could probably have been garnered in the course of negotiations. Hamas, for its part, by refusing to acknowledge that a state of Israel could ever exist, has guaranteed its own pariah status. Once Hamas seized Gaza, war was inevitable between two sides who view the other's existence as unacceptable.

Another term I never want to hear again is "proportionality." Israel-haters, this is completely and dangerously missing the point. It's a WAR. The side with more guns is going to kill more people, and the side who uses human shields, on whose territory the war is fought, is going to suffer more casualties. Hamas has killed few Israelis but it's not for lack of effort. Furthermore, Hamas's use of terror, human shields and guerrilla warfare is an inevitable result of their being the weaker side and subject to blockade and occupation. They are an army of men, not demons. Their actions are entirely predictable, and those actions are what pretty much anyone in their position would do. Likewise, the actions of the Israelis are exactly what any ethnonationalistic entity in Israel's shoes would do. There's nothing unique about this situation at all except for how much the rest of the world cares about it. Basically the exact same conflict is going on in Sri Lanka at this very second, but no one outside of Sri Lanka gives a flying damn. Again, inevitable. And there is nothing good or evil about inevitability. Saying one side is good or evil, right or wrong, is like saying that mathematics is good or evil. The cold hard numbers may be disappointing, but they should never be surprising and they should never elicit a moral value judgment in response.

If you want to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, figure out how to give tangible victories to the moderates on both sides. How to do that? For the Israelis, at least, here's a hint: the next time your adversary wins a free and fair election, not on a promise of destroying you, but rather on a promise of governing its people effectively... TALK TO THEM.

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