The remains of a Qassam rocket that landed inOn Sunday, two days after the tragedy on the Gaza beach, a number of Ha'aretz columnists reflected on the event. None of their reflections were particularly surprising, though this does not invalidate them. The prophetic voice of Gideon Levy rang most scathingly against the actions of the Israeli army. According to Levy,
Sderot (Kobi Gideon/Baubau in Ha'aretz)
Sderot (Kobi Gideon/Baubau in Ha'aretz)
The events of this past weekend should not come as a surprise to anyone: The deterioration has been going on for weeks, and the question that should be asked is not what Israel is doing to counter the Qassams, but what it is not doing. An army that fires missiles at busy streets and tank shells at a beach cannot claim there was no intent to harm innocent civilians.Levy has consistently deplored the cheapening of human life over the past five years, as he railed against the Israeli occupation in countless columns. In his critique, he also included another attack on the morality of the policy of "targeted assasinations." That policy, the ongoing occupation of the West Bank, the settlements, and the deaths of the civlians on the Gaza beach are all inextricably linked, for Levy.
The only thing missing from Levy's picture, of course, are the actions of Palestinian militants. Would this have happened if there had been no Qassam firing from the area of the beach? Is it not true that the Qassam-launchers have fired their rockets from civilian-populated areas at Israeli towns?
The consistent elision of the agency of the Palestinian organizations in Levy's eloquent appeals has drawn some legitimate criticism, sometimes in the form of parody. In a recent comment on Ha'aretz talkback (not a forum usually distinguished by high level of debate - though, to be fair, the Hebrew contributions are on average slightly higher than the imbecilic rantings of Ha'aretz's English readership), a reader posting as "Gideon Levy" responded to an article about a gruesome honor killing that the crime was the "result of the Israeli occupation." In Levy's defense, however, the prophet has no obligation to be balanced. He is singularly dedicated to the moral state of his people.
Bradley Burston, the Anglo columnist for Ha'aretz, also assumed the prophetic position, in a column entitled "The blood on our hands." Burston rightly deplores our (allegedly) quick ability to "disengage" from the deaths of these innocents. At the end of the day, he concludes,
We can live with it [the deaths], fundamentally, because we don't know what else to do, and because the only thing left for us to believe, is that it's wrong to negotiate.Burston criticizes the army for holding out the option that these deaths might have been caused by a Palestinian "work-accident" (a possibility to which I also referred in my earlier post); such displacement, according to him, replaces feelings of guilt "with indignation over the world's propensity to pre-judge and condemn us." Perhaps that is true in this case. But, on the other hand, there have been cases where Palestinian militant groups blamed Israel for their own actions. We must only recall the rockets that exploded during a Hamas parade, as well as the many Palestinian victims of shooting by their own gunmen. Thus, it seems justified that the IDF wanted to complete its investigation before accepting responsibility.
Furthermore, Burston's column is ultimately an argument against unilateral action - as his use of the word "disengage" above indicates. I, too, favor negotiated settlements rather than unilateral solutions, but I would be hard-pressed to use this incident to support this position. The Qassam firing took place despite a ceasefire; I see very little evidence that those carrying out the shooting would have felt bound by peace negotiations to stop launching rockets at Sderot.
While I mourn the loss of life along with Levy and Burston, and while I applaud their efforts to make Israelis conscious of Palestinian suffering, I am more persuaded by Ze'ev Schiff's conclusion that
Despite precise armaments, such incidents will continue to occur, so long as the war continuesAnd by the Ha'aretz editorial's observation that
Scaling down the counterattack on those launching the Qassams is akin to inviting [Israeli] families with children to up and leave the communities that are considered to be in danger.As long as Palestinian militants continue their attacks, Israel is bound to act to protect its citizens, and cannot be expected to rely on goodwill, international law, or Abbas's promises to do so.