A thoughtful and even-handed leader in today’s Times, includes the following sentence: “Though it is clear that the mortar attacks must stop, Israel might reflect on whether helping to relieve the manifest disaster of poverty and malnutrition in Palestine is not a quicker way to peaceful co-existence.”
Of course relieving the disaster of poverty and malnutrition would be a better way to peaceful co-existence, but only as long as organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah had the well-being of the Palestinian population in mind. Today, as in Southern Lebanon in 2006 and across the region in 1948 and 1967, the Palestinian people are the human shields or the pawns in a much bigger geo-political game whose ultimate goals are the obliteration not just of Israel but of moderate Arab regimes.
The fact that they are deliberately placed in harm’s way by Hamas – as they were by Hizbollah in 2006 - and their pain and hunger is exploited as photo-ops for propaganda purposes, means that no amount of aid or assistance from Israel will ever be allowed to lead to conciliation, co-existence and peace. It is a route Israel has tried: anyone familiar with the history of the region over the past 35 years would be aware that Israel has spent millions of dollars on education and infrastructure in the occupied territories with precisely that aim in mind – alleviating poverty and lack of opportunity in the Palestinian population, something that Egypt and Jordan as, respectively, the occupying powers in Gaza and the West Bank, manifestly failed to do between 1948 and 1967.
This is one of the facts which is rejected by those who have digested the Palestinian narrative of expulsion and oppression by the Zionists, and is beginning to become an article of faith, even among those previously sympathetic to Israel. No amount of aid – whether direct economic aid or the kind which sees Gaza and West Bank Palestinians treated routinely in Israeli hospitals – will change the status quo, or lead to peace, as long as there is a bigger picture in which the Palestinians are a means to a more global political end.
Further on in the same edition of The Times, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Reform Movement’s Tikkun magazine, writes a comment piece which – having dismissed as mere harassment the Hamas rocket attacks (sustained over eight years, and accelerated after Israel’s pullback from Gaza in 2005, and having not only have the power to kill and maim, but to daily terrorise a civilian population over a huge area of southern Israel), goes on to assert that Hamas “has respected the previously negotiated ceasefire, except when Israel used it as cover to make assassination raids…”
Rabbi Lerner has a strange concept of the word “respect”. There seems incontrovertible evidence that while “respecting” the ceasefire, Hamas was smuggling in arms, explosives, rockets and components for rockets from Egypt through a series of tunnels excavated for that purpose. The rabbi then goes on to suggest that the “basic condition for creating peace is to help each side feel ‘safe’”. Ten, or possibly as recently as five, years ago, he would have been right; then, Israel merely felt militarily threatened by its neighbours – a threat it could deal with (albeit better at some times than others) by better weapons, better training and good intelligence. Today, there is an existential threat to Israel of a much more fanatical kind from Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Hizbollah, none of which have, on their 2009 to-do list, making life better for the poor benighted Palestinians. The Palestinians – at least those under the governance of Hamas – will never be permitted “safety” because it is not in Hamas’ political interests. And as long as Iran funds and directs Hamas and Hizbollah, Israel can never feel safe, Rabbi Lerner.