Israel Defense Forces left Rafah in the middle of the week, and Operation Rainbow came to an end. Some serious soul searching must be done in the moral arena, against the 56 homes destroyed, 53 dead (IDF figures), streets dug up, electricity facilities toppled, water and sewage pipes crushed, and hundreds of refugees left homeless. The military efficacy math will be done by the IDF. But the operation also had an economic aspect worthy of consideration.
The harsh pictures from Rafah that were broadcast into every home in the U.S. and Europe, substantially damaged Israel's image. The entire world saw tank shells fired into a civilian demonstration, walls riddled with shrapnel, families sitting in the ruins of their former homes, small children carrying bundles on their back. There was the old lady who led Justice Minister Yosef Lapid to say "the old woman searching through the rubble reminded me of my grandmother," and everyone know where Lapid's grandmother ended her days.
The European Union's foreign ministers issued a condemnation calling on Israel to immediately stop disproportionate destruction of houses in violation of international law. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the house destructions that would "lead to the uprooting of citizens". Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized the IDF actions in Rafah, calling them "state-sanctioned terror" while his foreign minister said the country is considering recalling its ambassador for "consultations".
It is true in the cynical world in which we live, most is controlled by interested parties. But sometimes, in extreme circumstances, moral considerations encroach on economic life, evidenced by the impact of the global economic boycott of South Africa that toppled the apartheid regime.
At last week World Economic Conference in Jordan, on the shores of the Dead Sea, the level of hatred for Israel reached a peak. Not just among Arabs, but among Europeans and academics. One of them said that the moment Amnesty International determines that Israel carries out war crimes, then every decent corporation in the West has a problem maintaining commercial relations with Israel.
A group of shareholders at Caterpillar (Jews and Catholics), recently organized to pressure the company management not to sell any more bulldozers to Israel, since the destruction of houses runs counter to the company's goals.
At universities in the West, the demand to sever academic and scientific relations with Israel and its institutions is strengthening, and academics carry great weight in public opinion.
It is difficult to quantify the economic damage caused by the Rafah operation, but it appears the price is both heavy and long term. There are companies and people who won't want commercial relations with Israel anymore, there are tourists who will prefer other countries, and there are investors who will simply be too embarrassed to invest here.
But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aren't bothered by any of that. They have Arafat, and he has already been declared guilty.
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