Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be immersed in problems here at home, but the victory of the right-wing camp in next month’s election is assured, with or without a new war. Hamas also has domestic problems, but in the absence of elections and when the rival is the despised Fatah and Palestinian Authority, its continued rule is also guaranteed.
But a new war could serve Hamas and its reputation as a resistance movement whose only interest is the liberation of Palestine, or at least the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. A new war will silence the voices criticizing it. Those critical voices have become louder over the past two to three weeks after the organization brutally dispersed demonstrators, and – as detailed in another courageous report by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – jailed hundreds of people in unauthorized and illegal detention centers.
The organization removed wounded people from hospitals and detained them, raided people’s homes and took people out of them straight to jail, tortured detainees and put several dozen on trial in military court even though they were civilians in every way.
A new war would be the most efficient way to prevent new demonstrations against the horrific economic and mental distress suffered by the Strip’s residents. Might we therefore conclude that the rocket fired on Monday is the result of a cynical plan by the Hamas leadership, a calculated consideration of the expected response in order to divert the criticism of the cruelty it has shown towards masses of its people?
Or we can be a bit less cynical: Was the rocket a response to the Israel Prison Service’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners? Because even if this was the case, there is no pseudo-patriotic excuse to throw Gazan residents, half of whom are under 17 years old, into a new war.
Any war, or even a military operation, initiated by Israel will be so painful and deadly that the Palestinian people between the Jordan and Mediterranean and the diaspora would consider it totally disproportionate to the damage and shock caused by one rocket that fell on a home in the Sharon region. The automatic Palestinian discourse again will be: We have a right to defend ourselves; Hamas did well to develop weapons that threaten the heart of the Zionist entity and we have the right to respond to the incessant shooting of our fishermen and farmers that never makes the headlines.
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There must be a nationalist response to the killing and wounding of unarmed demonstrators, or to the siege, they’ll say. They’ll declare, “International law permits us to fight the occupation” and other worn-out slogans, whose core truths (Israel indeed constantly attacks the Gaza Strip, beginning with the cruel closure it imposes) Israelis don’t hear.
There will be no debate over the fact that the rocket fired Monday hit Israeli civilians and not any sort of military target. The Palestinians and Hamas will say that just as Israel has bombed hundreds of homes with their residents inside because they housed a man suspected of belonging to a Palestinian armed force, every Israeli house is a legitimate military target, because someone lives there who serves or has served in the army.
The number of civilians that Israel can be expected to kill in a new war is so great, and the suffering it would impose on the entire Gazan population is so immense, that any protest against Hamas will seem petty. It’s not just us; the Palestinians also fall into line when the cannons boom and salute their armed heroes and their dispatchers.
So, government of Israel, please. If you don’t want to strengthen Hamas, don’t launch a new war against the two million people trapped in the Gaza Strip. And please, Israelis, if you believe that one shouldn’t strengthen Hamas, don’t goad Netanyahu into launching hostilities just “to show them.” We cannot let the awful nightmare that Gazans have experienced three times in 10 years repeat itself.