One thought on the war in Gaza

July 31, 2014

Perhaps I’m missing something in all of the outcry over the Israeli action in Gaza, but what, really, is Israel supposed to do? What’s the right response to having a country on your border that sponsors – openly – rocket attacks on your territory, and has built a network of tunnels under the border and a whole terror infrastructure from which its operatives can enter the territory and attack your citizens? How would we respond if Mexico did this – not just some rogue band of Mexican “drug lords,” but the Mexican people, acting through their elected representatives? Or to make the analogy closer, what if it were the Navajo Nation, from inside the borders of their territory in New Mexico. How would we respond? How would any country (other than Israel, I guess) be expected to respond?

War is ghastly; innocent people get slaughtered for no damn reason at all, it’s horrible to see and to contemplate; and whose heart does not go out to the parents of all the kids who have been killed? But I can’t get my mind around the notion that anyone other than Hamas bears the full responsibility for this horror.

That one of their demands that helped spark this crisis was that Israel open up the border with Gaza – Hamas rejected one of the early Egyptian ceasefire proposals because they insisted that Israel open up the border first – borders on the absurd, in a particularly cruel way. I could imagine any number of demands Hamas could make of the Israelis, demands that it is not inconceivable the Israelis could actually agree to: that Israel pay them money for reparations, or build them an airport, or support their entry into the WTO and the UN, or any number of things that countries do for one another in this world, whether out of altruism (rarely) or blatant self-interest (almost always). But open up the border? How could Israel possibly agree to that, when they know – and everyone knows – that Hamas operatives are trained in the murder of civilians and would be happy to have freer entry into Israel?

David Grossman’s heartfelt op-ed in the NY Times seems to have struck a chord with many people – but not with me. Grossman writes:

“Israelis and Palestinians are imprisoned in what seems increasingly like a hermetically sealed bubble. . . . But the big question, as war rages on, is not about the horrors occurring every day inside the bubble, but rather it is this: How on earth can it be that we have been suffocating together inside this bubble for over a century? This question, for me, is the crux of the latest bloody cycle.”

For me, that is precisely the wrong question to ask. Indeed, I would respectfully suggest that part of the reason we are suffocating inside the bubble for over a century is that people continue to ask the question Grossman thinks is the crux of the matter: How did we get here? Whose fault is it? How many terrible things has Israel done over the years? How many terrible things have the Palestinians done over the years?

The big question, for me, is not “Whose Fault is it?” or “Why Have we Been Fighting for a Century?” but “What do we do now?” We hate each others’ guts, for all sorts of reasons – but what do we do now? The Irish, the Peruvians, the Serbs and Croats and Bosnians, all found a way to ask, and to answer, that question. It’s not inconceivable that the Israelis and Palestinians can do so as well.

Which is where I began – what is Israel supposed to do, with Hamas on its borders acting as it does?

But like I said, maybe I’m missing something.

David G. Post is a Sr. Fellow at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. He taught intellectual property/Internet law at Georgetown and Temple Universities, and is the author of In Search of Jefferson's Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace. Views expressed are his own and should not be attributed to his affiliated institutions.
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