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When Civilians Become Cannon Fodder: War And Peace In The Middle East

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There was a time when attacking civilians was considered a war crime.  It quickly disappeared from thought in WW2 when bombing began to flatten cities; the rationale being that civilians assisted in the war effort through working in manufacturing, or doing other men’s jobs, to free them to go and fight.

So here we are again with the Middle East in turmoil and Gaza being bombed at will.  The logic of it all might be understandable as revenge to satisfy voters but if Bibi Netanyahu focused on the future, he might realize that embittering the children of today will produce the fighters of tomorrow.  Will Israel and Palestine produce another Hundred Years War as in Europe from 1337 to 1453?  One could ask a further question:  Are we more civilized now than in the days when armies met on a plain somewhere to determine the winner of a dispute while civilians who were going to be taxed no matter who won (and whose prior taxes were paying for the show) stayed out of the way?

The fact is Israel had a hand in creating Hamas, an Islamist group, as a foil to Yasser Arafat’s secular PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).  Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, the Israeli military governor in Gaza in the early 1980s, confessed to financing the group, the object being to divide the Palestinians.  Arafat himself referred to Hamas as a creature of Israel.

In short, the Israelis first forged political Islamists into Hamas and are now trying to blockade, besiege and bomb it out of existence.  Israeli soldiers are raiding Gaza and Netanyahu has been calling this bombing and attacks … just the beginning.  Blowback is the term used to describe a situation that goes awry, and Hamas is an Israeli strategic blowback in spades.

Since the PLO now PA (Palestinian Authority) is relatively supine, Hamas has soared in popularity defeating the PA in Gaza elections.  The PA governs the portions of the West Bank that Israel allows it to.  The 87-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is the president, continuing in office with his official elected term long expired.  He has been referred to as Israel’s policeman and Hamas refuses to recognize him.  Well educated, he earned a law degree from the University of Damascus and later a doctorate in Moscow.

President George W. Bush presented a ‘roadmap for peace’ in 2002 formally proposed by the Quartet on  the Middle East which envisioned Israel and an independent Palestinian state existing side by side in peace.  Anathema to the religious right and extremists who desire a Greater Israel — the road map hit a roadblock when the right wing rose to power in Israel.

Israel was quite comfortable with the status quo  — leaving Palestinians in a sort of limbo trapped in Gaza or the West Bank, surrounded by a myriad of checkpoints to keep Israelis safe.  That is until the Palestinians used bulldozers to break through the fences and paragliders to fly over, in a carefully planned and well rehearsed attack.

One can only hope that the lessons learned in the latest bloodletting will lead to peace after the lust for revenge has been satisfied.  It is the only way Israel will truly be safe.