See update, below.
I often find that I use Twitter as my rough draft for a full-fledged post — the outrage (or delight – occasionally there’s delight) begins, and my thoughts start to come together in that forum, and then I wind up over here, writing it all in a more coherent (and less 140-character dependent) form.
Such was the case over the weekend, as news broke of renewed hostilities on the Gaza-Israel border, and I began to tweet.
The whole thing started when Israel assassinated Zuhir al-Qaisi, the leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees (a militant group more extremist than Hamas) in an airstrike near Gaza City on Friday. Israel claims that al-Qaisi was in the process of planning another attack like the one last August for which it holds the PRC responsible, an attack in which eight Israelis were murdered outside of Eilat (Israel’s southern-most point).
The problems with just that first paragraph are myriad, however, starting with the fact that extra-judicial assassinations are illegal and immoral. Even if one presumes al-Qaisi’s guilt, his assistant was also killed in that initial attack. Moreover, I, for one, have learned not to immediately trust any government that drops information like “so-and-so was about to kill us, that’s why we had to take him out” — governments have very, very good reasons to lie about these things, and, if Israel was in fact lying this time, it had an especially good reason to do so: Those involved in last August’s Eilat attack didn’t actually come from Gaza, where al-Qaisi and the PRC are located. The terrorists came from the Sinai.
The Palestinians responded to this act of egregious violence with rockets aimed at their attackers — or, at least, at the people living on the other side of the border, in southern Israel. To which Israel responded with bombing run after bombing run, which it justified as being targeted against militants, but needless to say, noncombatants have been among the 25 Palestinians killed since Friday, including a 12 year old boy. According to HaAretz, Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority says he expects to see a ceasefire within 48 hours.
It’s possible there may be a ceasefire — as we say in Hebrew: With things like this, it’s impossible to ever know. But ceasefire or no, here’s what we have:
Israel decided to kill someone that it really doesn’t like, without bothering with the niceties of due process or security arrangements with the Palestinian government(s) or anything that would have allowed facts to come to the fore and come into play. And much as I don’t like people who think I should die, call me crazy – I still think justice for all means “justice for all.”
Moreover, Israel didn’t just kill that one person. It engaged in an ongoing, full-fledged bombing campaign, which is the very definition of collective punishment — which is also illegal and immoral.
But possibly even more to the point, since Israel doesn’t seem to much care about the whole “illegal and immoral” thing — these actions are all shockingly ineffective, as well.
As I’ve written here in the past, Israel has been swearing that it was going to wipe out the terrorists and their ability to terrorize for decades — and clearly, it’s not working.
Are the residents of southern Israel now safer because of Israel’s decision to engage in a little bit of extra-judicial assassination? Are the residents of Gaza any less likely to want to rise up against the continued occupation? (And yes, as long as Israel continues to control 95% of what and who goes in and out of the Strip, essentially turning Gaza into a large, open-air prison, it is still the occupying power).
The Palestinians did what any people does when violently attacked — they attacked back. What would Israel have done if Palestinian militants had conducted a targeted assassination inside Israel? What would the world have said?
In my 14 years in Israel, I lived through wave upon wave of suicide bombing, and the randomness of missiles fired by Saddam Hussein. I know the fear my fellow Israelis are feeling today.
What we have to come to understand is that our fear is no more valid than that of the people with whom we are at war. That the fear and the loss and the grieving is the same on both sides — except that on the Palestinian side, there’s a lot more of it, because we have much better weapons and resources.
No one — no one — should have to grab a child and pray they make it to the shelter in time.
But in Gaza, there aren’t even any shelters.
3/13/12 UPDATE: I happened to be up in the middle of the night last night, and I checked HaAretz re: the violence. At the time, they were reporting an imminent ceasefire; this morning, however, you’ll find that information buried at the bottom of this report and not even mentioned in the headline or tease – which, in my experience, suggests that the ceasefire is not quite the done deal that the Egyptians are saying it is.