Gaza is a tragedy in three dimensions. Innocent people die. The stalemate on a West Bank agreement hardens. World attention is diverted from the crimes of the Assad regime in Syria and Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon. Any prospect of reversing these setbacks depends crucially on an appreciation of how we got to this dangerously untenable place.
There is not the slightest shadow of a doubt who is to blame. It is Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization beholden to its paymasters in Tehran. Hamas is dedicated by its charter to the destruction of Israel. In April 1993, it gave the world the suicide bomber. Later that year, Yassir Arafat for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Yitzhak Rabin for Israel signed the Oslo Accords, affording a measure of self-government to the Palestinian Authority, which was responsible for West Bank and Gaza. Hamas denounced the peace agreement. It stepped up its vile campaign of suicide bombing and the United States identified it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a typically bold move, ended military occupation of Gaza and the world applauded. The Palestinians, divided in allegiance between the more secular Fatah and ideological Islamists of Hamas, could not unite to make the best of their opportunity to create a viable state. Both sides murdered perceived enemies. Hamas built a better social network than a corrupt Fatah, but it was Hamas that sabotaged whatever slim chances there were that a united Gaza would flourish as an independent entity. In a symbolic rejection of a path to peace, its thugs wrecked the greenhouse businesses left by the reluctantly departing Israeli settlers.
A year later it staged a bloody coup against Fatah whereupon Fatah purged Hamas from the West Bank. To the surprise of the United States, Hamas won elections to the Palestinian parliament, elections it has been afraid to hold again: The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reported poll findings in March this year of a "significant" decline in the popularity of both Hamas and of the rival Palestinian leadership of Fatah on the West Bank. For Hamas, deliberately provoking two wars in Gaza, first in 2008-9 and again in 2012, is a convenient marriage of hate and tactics to divert attention from its failings. Hence the so-called "blockade" of Gaza, which means continuous Israeli attempts to block the passage of war material into Gaza.
Islamic Jihad began firing home-made primitive Qassam rockets into Israel in 2005. Hamas, as a government, adopted the same tactic. It broke a June 2008 truce brokered by Egypt, firing some 329 rockets into Southern Israel. The Israeli Defense Force did not retaliate. The international community took no notice of Israel's warnings; nor did Hamas. The world woke up only on the 27th of December when Israel finally responded with air strikes. On January 3rd, 2009, Israel sent planes and tanks into Gaza for the three-week action known as Operation Cast Lead, which was aimed at destroying Hamas military installations. Israel risked its own soldiers and airmen by imposing unprecedented restraint upon them even as Hamas left the Palestinians exposed. Hamas’s war crime of launching rockets into southern Israel was ignored. But Israel was immediately accused by the anti-Israeli cohorts East and West of a “disproportionate” response without anyone asking: What is a ‘proportionate’ response to an enemy dedicated to exterminating your own people, one who dismisses every warning, every appeal?’ The self-appointed moralists talk as if a country under attack should choose suicide instead of defense.
The IDF withdrew on January 21st but the moral world had been turned upside down. Israel, defending its own citizens, was pictured as the criminal aggressor while the attacker was portrayed as the victim. This perception was heightened by the infamous report from the South African Justice Richard Goldstone who unwisely accepted a loaded commission from the ludicrous United Nations Human Rights Council. The resolution was to “dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission”.
Corrected on 11/26/12:An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of the capital of Qatar. It is Doha.