Thursday, November 15, 2012

Israel v. The World

 "Free folk and kneelers are more alike than not, Jon Snow. Men are men and women women, no matter which side of the Wall we were born on. Good men and bad, heroes and villains, men of honor, liars, cravens, brutes … we have plenty, as do you.” - Val (A Dance with Dragons)

So last night I was bombarded with a wave of Facebook statuses from my many Jewish friends about how Israel was justified in bombing Gaza because they had been being attacked for years, but that the obviously biased media wouldn't mention that. The ridiculous part was that I hadn't heard anything from the media about it yet, and when I did read the story on the front page of the NY Times there was, in fact, a detailed paragraph about the justification for the attacks. I enjoy discussing international politics anyway and as a central, complex issue I think the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict is worthy of some attention.

Israel's actions have made it one of the least liked countries in the entire world; its approval ratings are just barely above those of North Korea and even Germany (which traditionally makes an extra-sincere effort to support Israel) is beginning to question whether or not supporting Israel is wise. The reason for this is Israel's unilateral use of force to further its policy goals with it's neighbors, and what is perceived as an unwillingness to compromise on issues like Palestinian statehood. Everyone recognizes that Israel is under threat; the question is whether the best way to meet that threat is with more violence or alternative solutions. I believe that using military force to consolidate Israel's security is counterproductive. Not only does it actually make Israel less safe in the long run, it destabilizes the already volatile political situation in the Middle East, erodes international support, and makes the world less safe for everyone. Israel itself needs to avoid using violence as a means of providing security and drive the process of creating a stable, diplomatic, multilateral solution for peace or the entire world will inevitably pay the price.

Update: 11/18/2012

Just by putting my thoughts on the issue out there my arguments have come under assault by my Jewish friends and relatives. Unfortunately (because the whole point of writing this was to get feedback), most of these counterarguments have merely attacked my ethos or used pathetic appeals without countering the substance of my argument. Also many 'tu quoque' points have also been pushed, stating that Palestine and the US also use violence. While this is very true, and I think that these are also destructive, they have very little applicability to my position. My assertion is this: Israel's new offensive is overly aggressive and detrimental to its own security as well as the world's. I said nothing of Hamas' actions, which I think are equally destructive, but I will address why I consider Israel the primary force of action in this process. I will also elucidate why, in my eyes, Israel is shooting itself in the foot.

To put it laconically, Israel's capabilities incomparably outmatch any threat that could possibly be posed to it by Hamas. Furthermore, Israel has membership in the UN, something that Palestine lacks. In addition, as a democracy, one would imagine that Israel has more of a cultural basis for rejecting the use of violence as a legitimate means of accomplishing goals. Surely, Hamas is just as responsible for the continuing violence, and I do not absolve them of responsibility for the crimes they have committed. But when it comes to the process of permanently concluding the violence, Israel has infinitely more influence, and the substantial support of the US. The truth is that Israel has no incentives to end the fighting; they are winning absolutely. Let us look at the deaths from the last invasion of Gaza: 1417 Palestinians dead (295-926 civilians) and 13 Israelis (3 of whom were civilians). So then the argument that these Palestinian terrorists pose a serious threat to the integrity of Israel is, in essence, laughably hyperbolic. Israel does not avoid a peaceful compromise because there is a threat, they do so because 1) Inevitably they would have to give up buffer zones and territory and 2) With the US behind them, lacking an actual threat to their security, they do not see any incentive to make these concessions. There is no moral principle guiding this choice; it is self-serving realpolitik at its most dangerous, and reeks of hubris. Conversely, the Palestinians have nothing to lose; they have already lost most of their land, they are attacked on the whim of Israeli politicians due to aforementioned circumstances, and death and instability is a constant. Faced with the death of their society, given little reason to trust Israeli politicians, they will continue to fight until given a very good reason not to. Violence will be no deterrent to them; what kind of threat is death when the other option is also death? The overwhelming military capability of Israel with the support of the US drives this cycle of violence with brutal efficiency, the only way a peaceful solution can be reached is if Israel rejects future use of violence, US refuses to support them, or US power wanes to the point where both sides are forced into a cease fire by international institutions.

I say again: this continued action by Israel is first and foremost destructive to itself. The last ground offensive proved that military action merely encourages violent opposition among Palestinians in Gaza. If Israel chooses to begin another one, a new Egyptian regime stands poised to intervene. Additionally, Gaza's own militants have been preparing endlessly for this assault since the last one. Above all, the question remains whether Obama (in control of the state department and military and no longer facing reelection) will remain neutral on the issue. Further military action by Israel simply offers no benefits beyond domestic political victories. Acting now, Israel may still secure a favorable permanent peace agreement. Later, with sympathy for Palestinians waxing worldwide, it remains unclear how much a brokered peace would take Israel's policy goals into consideration. I hope that this brings into light that, in the short term, military action seems convenient domestically, but in the long term Israel benefits far more internationally by establishing an advantageous, stable peace. As has been proven in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia, the price for ignoring international relations in favor of unilateral goals can be fatally steep.  

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