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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel’s Gaza massacre, a foretaste of things to come?

The news that the Israeli Defence Forces have killed over 200 (mainly civilians) in Gaza clearly is the opening wave of a significant move against the enclave. Taking advantage of the last few weeks of the Bush administration and the Christmas holiday in Europe, Israel seem to have learnt from Russia’s move during the Olympics against Georgia and its this, when the press isn’t around you can try it on. The forthcoming election in Israel next February will see Ohlmert leave office. It’s over 2 years since the IDF was run from South Lebanon by the Hezbollah. Now there’s a strong possibility of a ground operation against Hamas in Gaza in the next week.
Gaza is a significantly different terrain to South Lebanon, flat coastal plains with over 3M people in an area no bigger than Wexford district.

Gaza is effectively self governing after the last Palestinian election saw the PLO lose control to Hamas while they held on in the West Bank. Last year President Abbas sacked the Hamas led government and while he will condemn the attacks because he knows it will be counter productive and only bolster Hamas within the Palestinians. The original hope for a Palestinian state of Gaza and the West Bank seems now further way than ever, while many Palestinians on the West Bank are native, Gaza is almost like a concentration camp. When the Israeli state was established 60 years ago it was used as a reservation where disposed Palestinians were dumped. Basic living conditions are a luxury. Electricity is often unavailable, food and supplies must enter through Israel and the Palestinians are bitter towards their Arab brothers who seem to have abandoned them to their fate. Just as the 2006 invasion played into Hexbollah’s hands this move against Hamas will only bolster them.
Olmert’s wish for peace with Abbas saw him remove settlers from Hebron earlier this month, don’t for one minute believe Olmert will deal with Hamas. He nor any of his successors would have Hamas about the place, to quote the Northern Ireland experience and this will ultimately create problems for Abbas. The challenge for democrats is if you have a difficulty with the western perception of Hamas as extremists (and Hamas developed because other forms of Palestinian nationalism were shunned down through the years) at what point do you and with who do you reach an agreement that has the credibility and support bas e for any agreement to stick? Egypt, Syria and most Middle Eastern states have abandoned the Palestinians. The final hope is on Barak Obama but given his Chief of Staff is Israeli born and Hilary Clinton was always supportive of the US Israeli lobby, I fear that the problem will go undealt with and it will worsen.
In Ireland we had a term that described the politics of the last atrocity by which the side responsible was shunned and they responded by citing a previous atrocity. The grim reality of the number count clearly shows more Palestinians have died as result of Israeli reprisals than have Israelis died from Hamas rocket attacks. The sad reality however is that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. With Hezbollah and Iran on the sideline keenly watching events and fresh from his Christmas Day address President Ahmadinejad happy to up his international profile this has all the portents of a crisis in a par with 2006. In the meantime civilians will continue to suffer in greater numbers.

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