Thursday, June 3, 2010

Truth and Consequences

Supporters of Israel are speaking a clear truth when they argue that "the mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace." Best one can tell, by and large, the flotilla was populated by people who empathize with Palestinians and de-humanize Israelis:  As far as Israelis are concerned, this was no Love Boat.

Critics of Israel (e.g.) speak with less truth -- the general line of argument being that the the Gaza blockade is a failed Israeli policy designed to overthrow Hamas and immorally collectively punish the Gaza population.

The collective punishment argument is revealing. Few would argue that, for example, the global boycott of apartheid South Africa was an immoral policy designed to collectively punish a civilian population. In fact, many of those horrified by collective punishment targeted at Gaza, would eagerly impose it on Tel Aviv. Obviously a blockade is more onerous then a boycott, but the difference is in degree, not principle. Ultimately, those who oppose the blockade on the collective punishment basis take less seriously then do Israelis, Hamas' stated genocidal intent.

The "failed Israeli policy argument" is willfully ignorant. Critics point to the problems it has not solved while ignoring its achievements. If Hamas is in no danger of being overthrown in Gaza, neither does it -- as it did in 2006 -- pose a meaningful challenge to Fatah's over-all leadership. If it is not un-armed, it is at least, not armed like Hezbollah. It also is likely not simple co-incidence that where Fatah once strove to out-Hamas Hamas, they are now, apparently, moving in a more peaceful direction.

Further, and for that reason, it was hardly Israel's policy alone: Hamas/Gaza was locked down -- with broad international support -- as much, if not more, for Fatah's benefit than Israel's.

The most likely outcome now appears to be a revised policy that preserves Israel's key interest -- weapons inspection -- but frees Hamas to, again, compete more vigorously with Fatah.

This may prove a blessing in disguise. Ultimately, Fatah may understand that it cannot win by out-Hamasing Hamas, that its only real path to continued relevance is a negotiated peace, that the longer it takes to reach that peace, the more powerful Hamas will become, and therefore the more difficult it will be. For the first time in memory, we may now have a Palestinian leadership which sees its self-interest tied to a quickly negotiated peace. Similarly, the President may finally be finished giving the parties reasons to not negotiate.

Despite themselves, and beyond their bigoted understanding, the blockade runners may have actually given peace a chance.

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