Friday, 25 July 2014

The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Reflections on Just War and Just Terror

Propaganda about the Israel-Palestine conflict often falls into two versions. One is that Israel only uses such means as is strictly necessary to defend itself against Hamas, a dastardly group of terrorist fanatics that wants to wipe Israel off the map as stated in their charter.

The second is that, on the contrary, Hamas are a dedicated resistance force representing the true will of the Gazan people against an agressive colonialist terror state and that Israel is an alien entity in the Middle East founded on a form of 'state terrorism' far worse than anything offered by the PLO or Hamas.

Neither of these two propaganda tropes lead to an understanding that there is, in fact, a dark and pyschopathological link between Israel's politicians and the Hamas rocketeers who both need the aggression and terror of the other in order to advance their respective power claims.

Terror cuts both ways. Israel is a state in which its government is ready to deploy terror tactics to advance their strategy for dealing with Hamas. Likewise, Hamas is an organisation dedicated to an armed insurgency against Israel using rocket attacks and that is also a tactic of terror.

The brutal reality is in previous confrontations in 2012, 2008-9 and, further back to the period that followed on from the war which created the Gaza Strip and Israel back in 1948, terror has been used by fanatics both sides just as it was from the outset.

The Likud government pursuing the war in Gaza at present, though termed a 'ground incursion', is directly connected to the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary group in many ways similar in its tactics to the PLO and even Hamas. That Israel is a succesful democracy tends to obscure this.

The irony, however, as historian Mark Almond pointed out during the 2008 Israeli-Gaza conflict is that it is precisely democracy that has ratcheted up the tensions and led to a belief on both sides that the terrorism of the other justifies being tough and intransigent so as to shore up domestic support.

As Almond puts it ' both Israel and Gaza are among the few democratic parts of the Middle East. But democracy makes peace more difficult to come by. few Israeli would-be prime ministers want to appear ‘soft’ on terrorism. And Hamas won the election in Gaza by voicing its bitter resentment of Israel'.

The Israel Palestine conflict of 2014 is, as with others before it, in reality a regional conflict. Yet it tends to get portrayed as the theatre of some cosmic global struggle between good and evil. As with other conflicts it is about ethnicity and religion but also about control over resources such as water and offshore gas.

Though Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel condemns the rocket attacks as terrorism ( which they are ) the fact is that they are designed as provocations to get Israel to retaliate in precisely the way it is doing and for Hamas to portray Israel as a terrorist power ( and it is carrying out war crimes ).

The difference, of course, is that the balance of terror in 2014 more than in any previous conflict is stacked in Israel's favour due to the development of the Iron Dome defence system in 2011-2012. And this has been decisive in Israel going for outright victory and to military means to force Hamas into submission.

The usual criteria of 'intentionality' and 'proportionality' when considering whether a hostile action is just war or terror has become blurred entirely. On both sides the emphasis has been on just terror, even if the the decisive advantage lies with Israel which wants to now finish off Hamas permanently.

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