Hamas' long range missiles could force diplomatic resolution.
So what have we learned from this most recent fighting in the Middle East — beyond the pain, suffering and utter futility of it all? We have learned at least two things about the long-term: using violence as a solution will never work, and no solution without bringing in Iran — and Hamas — will ever matter.
The frightened faces of innocent children in Gaza and southern Israel were familiar scenes, and so were the empty words coming from political leaders on all sides. But there was a difference. For the first time, long-range rockets supplied to Hamas by Iran were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
For a region mired in an unsustainable status quo, this may be a game changer. It may finally focus the mind.
Without an overall settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians, or even a “process” that would lead to it, and without an agreement with Iran about its nuclear ambitions, the Middle East emerging from its Arab Spring will surely spiral downwards. And Iran’s sophisticated long-range Fajr-5 rockets, now in the hands of Hamas, will only accelerate this spiral. A lesson from Gaza 2012 is that the status quo cannot survive.
But the situation is shaping up to be a race against time.
That reality seems to have dawned on the Obama administration this week in spite of its past failures at peacemaking in the Middle East. During his Asian trip, President Barack Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work with the Egyptian government and the warring parties.
The political context of this most recent conflict is also impossible to ignore. The last time the Israeli government decided it could no longer tolerate Hamas rocket-fire out of Gaza into southern Israel was in 2008. Like this time, it was only days after a US presidential election and weeks before a planned Israeli election. That conflict led to a brutal Gaza invasion that resulted in more than 1,200 Palestinian deaths, most of them innocent civilians (compared with 13 Israeli deaths).
In 2008-09, I was in Qatar working as managing director of Al-Jazeera’s English channel and I helped oversee our coverage of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. AlJazeera was the only international network with journalists on both sides of the conflict — in Israel and, exclusively, in Gaza.
From that perspective, living in the Middle East, I found it painful to watch the punishing human toll of the conflict on innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in southern Israel. And it was disheartening to see how culpable and self-serving were the political leaders of Hamas and the Israeli government during that 2008-09 conflict.
This most recent fighting had a similar shape to it, and the same imbalance in casualties: by mid-week, there were 30 Palestinian deaths for every Israeli one.
Watching this conflict from North America was a genuine revelation for me. Most political leaders — and much of the media in Canada, the US and Europe — portrayed the fighting strictly from an Israeli perspective. There was constant focus on “Israel’s right to defend itself” in response to Hamas rocket-fire, but little reference to the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the virtual blockade of Palestinian territories by the Israelis.
If the roles were reversed — and Israelis were the “occupied” not the “occupier” — would their allies in the West reaffirm their “right to defend themselves?” Of course, they would.
Nothing can justify the heinous acts of Hamas as it terrorizes and creates fear throughout southern Israel with random rocket fire. That is beyond question. But to see the full picture, one should keep both eyes open.
Lost in much of the discussion during these past two weeks is the impact of Israeli attacks on innocent Palestinians living in Gaza.
As one victim told The Guardian newspaper: “We Palestinians don’t talk about fear, we talk about death. Our rockets scare them; their rockets kill us. They are scared. We are dying.”
For this region to move toward a better place, the innocent from both sides need to be heard.© Copyright 2012, All rights Reserved. StraightGoods.ca