Woe to the Victors

Despite the revulsion from the operation, one cannot ignore the fact that Israel scored a victory and demonstrated the futility of continuing the Palestinian resistance.

The masterminds of Operation Cast Lead sought to characterize it in two contradictory terms: "the landlord has gone insane" and is retaliating with unbridled savagery; and "controlled rage," or a rational military operation that is aimed at deterring the other side. Alongside these two concepts can be added another: a repeated reflexive, instinctive response by a supplanting immigrant society.

David Day, one of the most prominent scholars who has researched the process by which immigrant societies take control of indigenous populations, writes: "Such ruthless reactions to any sign of resistance from indigenous people has the effect of emphasizing in the minds of both the conquerors and the conquered the scale and completeness of the conquest and the uselessness of further resistance, although in the long term such worthlessness might undermine the moral claim of the supplanting society to the possession of the newly won territory."

Indeed, there are many historical precedents in which the violent behavior of indigenous peoples against their dispossession has been used as a pretext for their expulsion and to justify a disproportionate military response, all under the guise of "a war on terror" whose goal is to break their spirit and usurp their land. An odious scent of imperialistic mildew wafts from the Gazan operation as well as similar operations that have been launched in the past.

European statesmen, who recently paid a visit here, could have swapped memories with Ehud Olmert about acts of cruelty committed by their countries. Let us take note of those that have been perpetrated just in the 20th century: Britain's actions in India and Kenya; France in Algeria; Italy in Ethiopia; Turkey in Armenia; the Czechs in Sudetenland; Spaniards in Spain; and the Germans we will not mention. Everyone is ashamed of their past, save for the Israeli, who is actually proud of his deeds.

Ignoring the fundamental shift in international norms since the colonial era apparently has no bearing on the efficiency of the brutal Israeli operation. It created the desired results in favor of the stronger party, thus Israelis can boast of their victory when they are desensitized to the humanitarian repercussions. As such, they remove themselves from the group of civilized nations of which they claim to be part.

The operation has consolidated Israeli rule, both direct and indirect, throughout Israel/Palestine for a extended period of time. The Palestinians absorbed so harsh a blow to the point that the president of Egypt called on those who support the Palestinian resistance to take an accounting of their gains and their losses. The severing of the West Bank and Gaza is now a fait accompli, and it found expression in the indifference with which the residents of the West Bank reacted to the Gaza tragedy.

The Palestinian Authority's feeble response to the mass killing of their compatriots has dealt a fatal blow to the Palestine national movement. The Hamas government in Gaza has strengthened its position on the blood of hundreds of its citizens. Egypt and Jordan proved that they prefer state self-interest over ethnic solidarity. The international community is showing its willingness to allow the continuation of the status quo under the guise of a "peace process."

The current situation is crystallizing thanks to the near total support of the operation and its objectives from the Jews in Israel, and the chauvinistic atmosphere will propel the opponents of reconciliation to power in the upcoming elections.

Despite the revulsion from the operation, one cannot ignore the fact that Israel scored a victory and demonstrated the futility of continuing the Palestinian resistance. Now the Israelis will have to wrestle with the spoils of this victory, with millions of beaten and mourning Palestinians living under a totalitarian, discriminatory regime and with a world that does not reconcile itself to insane violence. A small minority of ashamed Israelis sadly contemplate that stage of the national movement, the one that at its inception embodied so many lofty ideals. A pyrrhic victory indeed.