Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Qassams on Gaza and the Dream of Palestinian Statehood

Image: Map Showing Entry Points into Gaza (Source: Palestine Trade Center)

Once in a while, we read accounts of qassam rockets landing inside the Gaza Strip. Today, a mortar shell apparently hit a power cable that provides electricity for the Hamas-ruled territory. Unlike the April 9, 2008 attacks, which deliberately targeted the Nahal Oz fuel depot used by Israel to transport gas to Gaza, this latest incident appears to have been an accident. But many of the Palestinian mortar attacks and cross-border raids into Israel have struck precisely those points through which the territory receives supplies crucial to its inhabitants' lives. How can Hamas seriously complain about fuel or food shortages when its own actions directly threaten the infrastructure used to provide these necessities to Gazans?

Of course, in a larger sense, every qassam attack on Israel is an own-goal by the Palestinians. The rocket attacks that have plagued southern Israel since the withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 as well as the cross-border raids such as the one that led to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006, imperil the likelihood of a future withdrawal from the West Bank more than anything else. The Gaza evacuation showed that both Israel's leadership as well as the majority of the Israeli population support a withdrawal from much of the territory captured in 1967. But no responsible leadership can authorize such evacuations, when it results in more attacks on Israeli citizens inside the country's recognized borders. 

The Palestinians and their supporters will argue that settlement expansion and the IDF's actions in the territories have had a similar effect in undermining Palestinian trust as the qassams (and the suicide bombings before them) have had on Israelis. This kind of argument might fly in academia, but it is a dead end, especially for anyone who is serious about Palestinian statehood. Israel is in a position to grant Palestinians the land that they need for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. It depends on Israel to realize these ambitions. But the Palestinian dream of statehood requires the Palestinian organizations to demonstrate their trustworthiness to Israel, not vice versa.

The best analogy might be that of a lender and a hopeful borrower. Even if the lender has failed to repay debts to other people or to the would-be debtor himself, s/he is still the one with the capital that the debtor hopes to borrow. In order to procure the loan, it is incumbent upon the debtor to demonstrate to the lender ability to return the principal and interest in the future. Everything else is irrelevant. 

I hope that my analogy, which equates Israel with a lender and the Palestinians with a debtor will not occasion yet another self-righteous diatribe on the alleged immorality of the Zionist enterprise. Those who believe that Israel does not have a right to exist or to be a "lender," are living in a dream world. They may continue idling away their time with stirring, moralistic pronouncements. But they would do well to remember that no state has been created on moral claims alone - not even the State of Israel, which, post-WWII had a stronger claim to a moral right for its existence than any other country in the world. Statehood is achieved by those who combine moral vision with pragmatic politics and, most importantly, attention to the contingencies of history and the vagaries of fortune.


Ariel said...

The tone in this piece is more strident than is typical for you Amos, although it's hard to argue with the logic. Incidentally, the "creditor" is the lender, not the borrower.

Amos said...

Sorry about that. I meant "debtor," of course - have made the correction above.

Anonymous said...

total crap.
israel can have peace any time it wants with the arabs. 'land for peace'. but israel want all the land. this is proven by the fact that before onslo there was 80 000 illegal settlers ,now there is 500 000. this shows israel has never been serious about a two state solution.
giland shalit [a soldier] was never kidnapped -he is a prisoner of war.the 11 thousand palestinians held in israeli jails with no charge are the victims of kidnapp.
how can israel negotiate land which the palestinian already own outright according to international law.
since the very beginning the zionist have been lying and abusing the palestinian.and you talk about the trust the palestinians have to show. its the zionist who has the creditbility problem, with their lying sneaky immoral policies which are very racist.
your logic is self serving.