The Siege Of Gaza: Blog Reax


Normal blogging will resume on Monday, but the Gaza siege and bombardment brings the new year early. Here's a big round-up from the left, right, and various parts of the center. Goldblog's various posts are worth checking out. Here he is talking about whether Israel can break the will of Hamas:

Maybe momentarily. But Hamas will find ways to regain its "honor." Usually, this means exploding buses. The even deeper question: Can Israel force the overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza? I'm not sure why Israel would want to -- it won't be replaced by the Palestinian Authority, but instead by a situation similar to Somalia -- but I think this is impossible, for the moment. The ideal situation, of course, is that the people of Gaza, realizing that Hamas has delivered them hardship, overthrow their government. But Hamas also alleviates the hardship it creates. The group has thoroughly penetrated the social fabric of Gaza. Its schools, orphanages, hospitals and soup kitchens serve the entire population. Hamas is not al-Qaeda. It delivers services, and because it delivers services, the population of Gaza depends on Hamas. I don't see the removal of Hamas as a near-term possibility.

Thomas P.M. Barnett:

Israel can always cite cause, but you have to wonder if Tel Aviv isn't simply getting its licks in while it can in order to set the table to its liking vis-a-vis the new administration.

Noah Pollak:

It is interesting that cycle-of-violence fetishists, who are absolutely certain that military action is part of the problem, do not recognize the problem of the cycle of cease-fires. There is an opportunity right now to deal a crippling blow to Hamas, and it will require ground combat, more air strikes, and the maintenance of the IDF’s violence of action. There is indeed a cycle between Israel and its enemies, but the problem is not the cycle of violence. The problem is that every time the IDF is poised to strike a decisive blow against the enemy, the David Grossmans of the world emerge to plead for restraint exactly at the moment when restraint is the last thing that should be considered.


Anyone minimally objective and well-intentioned finds Hamas rocket attacks on random Israeli civilians to be highly objectionable and wrong, but even among those who do, one finds a wide range of views regarding the Israeli offensive.  But not among America's political leadership.  There, one finds total, lockstep uniformity almost more unyielding than what one finds among Israeli leaders themselves -- as though Israel's wars are, by definition, America's wars; its enemies are our enemies; its disputes and conflicts and interests are, inherently, ours; and America's only duty when Israel fights is to support it uncritically.

Tim F.:

The idea that Israel should always answer violence with violence is a pernicious mistake because it effectively puts any small group of radicals in charge of Israel’s foreign policy.


The “disproportionate response” crowd doesn’t seem to mind that Israel struck back at Hamas per se. They aren’t saying Israel should only be allowed to negotiate with its enemies or that any use of force whatsoever is wrong. They’re clearly saying Israel should use less force, inflict less damage, or both. [...]

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

Freddie DeBoer:

I know this with a certainty that I feel in my heart and my bones: if you support this assault, and justify its collateral damage, but will not come out and state the actual logical conclusion of what you are saying-- that you justify the killing of innocent Palestinian children-- then you are an intellectual coward, in the most damning and complete sense. If you justify the attack and its collateral damage you justify the consequences. So all of you, have the courage to stand for what you mean. Have the basic integrity to stand behind what you are saying. Look me in my face, so to speak, and tell me about the justice of another dead Palestinian child.

Robert Dreyfuss:

In Israel, the bloody holocaust they've unleashed is an election game, wherein Netanyahu and his slightly more moderate rivals in the Olmert-Livni bloc compete with each other to show who is best at slaughtering Palestinians. In Palestine, a similar election dynamic is underway.

Michael Weiss:

[W]hy is it that the corollary is never asked: namely, how does Hamas radicalize Israeli sentiment? A much remarked-upon fact of the last 72 hours is that Israel's ultra-left-wing party Meretz has endorsed Operation Cast Lead, a development that should concern partisans of both sides. If there is merit to the "root causes" argument, then surely it applies to the decisions undertaken by a Jewish policy as much as it does to those undertaken by a Muslim one. Or does a belligerent Israeli consensus form in a vacuum?

Michael Moynihan:

Hamas's popularity was on the decrease but ticked up again the following month when it breached the border wall with Egypt. And the Hamas leadership clearly believes that more radical provocations and acts of "resistance" resonate will Gazans. One can hope that the more moderate Fatah movement will see a boost in popularity, but anecdotal evidence suggests the airstrikes are having the opposite effect.

Michael Goldfarb:

...most of the world's democracies are irrelevant in this fight. Israel has the support of the United States, and it will, presumably, continue to have such support in the wake of Obama's inauguration. If Hamas is not neutered, at least temporarily, then how can this be spun as a success, and how can Kadima hold on to power?

Aaron Mannes:

A true peace agreement with Hamas is not realistic. A quick scan of clips from Hamas’ al-Aqsa network or of statements by Hamas leaders from the Middle East Media Research Institute - particularly horrible are these scenes from Hamas produced children’s television - should disabuse all but the most useful idiots of any notions of a moderate Hamas.

Fatah is theoretically an alternative to Hamas, but has been eliminated from Gaza and has little credibility or capability.

Military options also do not offer definite solutions.

Spencer Ackerman:

How and why was Hezbollah able to claim victory in Lebanon? Because Israel invaded with the exact same kind of all-out-war and final-battle and once-and-for-all rhetoric, when it could never possibly have erased Hezbollah from the face of the earth. When you do that, you give your enemy the means to win: his unbroken will. That's why the rhetoric out of Israel is counterproductive -- in these types of wars, it's never just rhetoric. It's the definition of the strategic terms.

Now, given that initial blunder, is it better for Israel to simply accept a ceasefire and accept the taunts of Hamas that Israel couldn't defeat the people of Gaza, etc? Absolutely.

Ezra Klein:

You really can't get away from the political logic of the strikes. Hamas is healthiest when it is a symbol of guerrilla resistance against a brutal and murderous Jewish state. Kadima is likeliest to win the February elections if it is demonstrating sufficient toughness to neuter Likud's appeal. And so here we are. The Israeli and Palestinian politicians are both well-served by the strikes in Gaza. The Israeli and Palestinian people less so.

Dion Nissenbaum:

Reporters from every major news organization, from the BBC and CNN to The New York Times and The Washington Post to NPR and McClatchy to AP and Fox News, are being barred by Israel from going into Gaza to cover the deadliest military campaign there since Israel seized the area from Egypt in the 1967 war.

The Foreign Press Association, of which McClatchy is a part, has called the Israeli closure "insufferable" and asked the Israeli Supreme Court to take immediate action to lift the ban.


Under the circumstances, throwing up our hands and saying “it’s too hard!” isn’t an option. We can decide we don’t want to be involved, which would mean unwinding the ties of collaboration and assistance between the US and Israel, or we can try to play a constructive role in bringing an end to the conflict. I’m not personally sure of how you do that. But I’m quite certain that the first step would be pressing Israel hard to stop expanding settlements in the West Bank and start dismantling them. To show to Palestinians interested in a two-state solution (perhaps including some Hamas people or perhaps not) that there’s credibility on the other side. I think Israelis wouldn’t welcome such action by us, but ultimately it would be in their own best interests. On the other hand, those who really do think the best thing for the United States is to just wash our hands of the whole mess have an obligation to really stand behind that belief and urge us to wash our hands of the situation. But just proclaiming a pox on both houses while in practice heavily subsidizing one side isn’t a viable option.

I'll be posting myself on the thorny question of proportionality soon.

(Photo: An Israeli soldier is wrapped in a Tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, as he recites his morning prayers at an advance deployment area December 30, 2008 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to reinforce its troops in advance of an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. By David Silverman/Getty.)