Dealing With The World That Is Rather Than The One We Want

July 31, 2014 § 61 Comments

I’ve been purposely keeping quiet as Operation Protective Edge rages on, which for someone who writes about Israel seems like a counterproductive move. The problem is, I have seen very little to convince me that writing anything will actually be productive in a real sense because everyone is living in a bubble. I have rarely been so disheartened by anything as much as I have by reading what friends and acquaintances are expressing as Israel and Hamas go at each other. My Facebook feed is a good illustration of this, being split between very different demographics.

On group is comprised of lots of Jewish friends from growing up in New York in an Orthodox community, attending Jewish day schools, currently living in a place with a large and engaged Jewish community, etc. and nearly all of them subscribe to the view that Israel is entirely blameless for its current predicament, the IDF is the most moral army in the world, and that Palestinians of every stripe are ceaselessly working toward Israel’s destruction. Among this well-intentioned group (and I am not saying that sarcastically or facetiously) there is a smaller subset of people who express extreme and odious views. Some examples from the past couple of days have been friends ruminating that perhaps Meir Kahane was right and shouldn’t have been demonized; a refusal to refer to Palestinians or use any word that has Palestine as a root and to instead only refer to Gazans or pro-Gazan rallies “because Palestinian is a made up word;” a conviction that the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas and so deserve anything that happens to them as a result; and deep concern over the fact that there is an Islamic center in the neighborhood which might present a physical danger because any and all Muslims are presumed to hate Jews.

Another group is comprised of very liberal friends from various educational stops and Turkish friends and colleagues, and nearly all of them subscribe to the view that Israel is the party most at fault for the fighting in Gaza, the IDF does not take any care at all to avoid civilians, Netanyahu is a liar who used the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis as an excuse to execute a war that he had been planning all along, and that Israel intends to subjugate the Palestinians forever. Among this well-intentioned group (and again, I am not saying it sarcastically or facetiously), there is a smaller subset of people whose views are more extreme and odious. Some examples are that Israel is committing genocide; Israeli behavior is no different than that of Nazi Germany; and that Hamas is not in any way a terrorist group and is not even targeting civilians but is instead intentionally only using WWII-era rockets that it knows will fall into empty fields. Amidst all of this, I just throw up my hands in despair. I mean it when I call these friends and acquaintances well-intentioned; the first group is genuinely and legitimately concerned with Israel’s safety and survival and is terrified by the anti-Semitic outbursts and attacks around the world under the cover of the Palestinian cause and sees no other rational response to the nihilistic and eliminationist rhetoric from Hamas but IDF operations in Gaza, while the second group genuinely cannot abide to see hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed and images of dead children on the beach and blames the Israelis for bringing a tank to a knife fight and using it in ways that cause indiscriminate death despite Israeli civilians being relatively safe from Hamas rocket fire. Neither group is going to ever come over the other side or change its views, but that is to be expected. The despair comes from the fact that neither group even empathizes with the other side or remotely understands how someone can possibly arrive at a position different from its own. There is barely any acknowledgement that there are two sides to every story and that, without creating a false moral equivalence, there is indeed some gray involved here. It is cliche to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creating polarization, but never have I seen it worse than this. So I have kept my mouth shut and hoped that the fighting will end and everyone can go back to posting pictures of their kids and videos of baby animals.

Nevertheless, there is a point that I am itching to make, which is that this deep ideological bubble that so many are in leads to unrealistic expectations on all sides, because everybody wants to deal with a world that they want rather than the world as it is. Possibly my all-time favorite quote is the Pat Moynihan line that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts, and there is a worrisome trend going on of people ignoring reality in favor of ideology and attempting to make policy as if the world can be bended to their will, or suggesting that either Israel or Hamas act in a certain way that disregards facts on the ground.

One example of wishing for a reality that doesn’t exist is the hope of many of Israel’s supporters that the world will all of a sudden wake up to the fact that Hamas hides behind hospitals and schools and thus forgive Israel for piling up the Palestinian civilian casualty count. The fact that Hamas noxiously puts civilians in harm’s way knowing that its actions will inevitably lead to their deaths is revolting and should be called out by anyone and everyone. Yet, pictures of dead children and leveled neighborhoods are always going to blow back in Israel’s face no matter how many Hamas bunkers or strongholds are contained under the rubble. The Israeli government keeps repeating the same talking points about civilian shield ad infinitum as if it expects to convince anyone rather than just preach to the choir. I wish this weren’t the case, but it is, and the longer the fighting goes on, the worse off Israel is going to be, whether it be Israel’s rejuvenation of Hamas (a subject for another post, but yes, that is precisely what Israel has done) or the inevitable Goldstone Report redux and the eventual imposition of EU sanctions (which believe me are coming). None of this is to excuse Hamas’s disgusting and criminal behavior in any way, but just to recognize what the world sees in Gaza, which is dead women and children and UN schools being shelled rather than command bunkers under hospitals and UN schools being used as rocket storage depots.

Another is this meme that Hamas’s problem is solely with the occupation, and that if Israel were to end the blockade, then Hamas would leave the Israelis alone. Hamas does not like Jews and is anti-Israel, not anti-occupation. Anyone who can’t see that sorely needs to examine their internal analytical process. Does Hamas want to get rid of the occupation? Yup. Is it true that Hamas did not shoot any rockets at Israel from the 2012 ceasefire until just before Protective Edge? Yup. Also true is that Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel in its entirely, Hamas political leaders repeatedly call for the same thing while inciting against Jews (not just “Zionists”), and Hamas build a huge network of tunnels into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping and killing civilians while it was respecting the ceasefire with regard to rockets, so one has to be willfully blind or colossally stupid to argue that its intentions were benign until Israel provoked it. I don’t doubt that Hamas is capable of an actual ceasefire, and I think that under certain circumstances it could abide by a longterm truce, but nothing that Hamas has said or done points to it quietly going away if Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to sign a final status agreement ending the occupation.

A third example of not accepting the world as it is can be seen in the debate on the role of Turkey and Qatar in any ceasefire. I wrote three weeks ago that I thought any ceasefire would have to include Turkey and/or Qatar, not because I think that either of them have been responsible foreign policy actors – in fact, they have been the opposite – but because of the simple reality that unlike in 2012, Hamas has an acrimonious relationship with the current Egyptian government to say the least, and will not agree to a ceasefire entirely brokered by parties it does not trust and with whom it has no relationship. Jonathan Schanzer and David Weinberg – both super smart and insightful analysts who do not fall under the category of ignoring reality or substituting opinions for facts – argue that Turkey and Qatar need to be kept out because otherwise it will create the moral hazard of rewarding the two countries that have sponsored Hamas terrorism. I am sympathetic to this argument, and they are right; Qatar shouldn’t be rewarded for funneling money to Hamas and providing a home for Hamas’s leadership in Doha, and Turkey shouldn’t be rewarded for harboring the Hamas leader behind the kidnapping strategy or constantly undermining Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in order to burnish Hamas’s position. Nevertheless, the problem comes from a line that Schanzer and Weinberg themselves write, which is, “A cease-fire is obviously desirable, but not if the cost is honoring terror sponsors. There must be others who can mediate.” I’m not sure in fact that there are others who can mediate, as evidenced by the disaster of a few weeks ago when Egypt was involved. If someone can point me to another potential Hamas interlocutor, then great, but so far no one has. Any deal will have to involve the U.S. and Egypt, but Turkey or Qatar as well, and that’s just the reality of things. I wish it weren’t so, but it is, and ignoring the basic structure of the players involved won’t get Israel and Gaza any closer to a ceasefire. John Kerry’s mistake last weekend wasn’t that he involved Turkey and Qatar in the process, but that he did so to the exclusion of Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. It’s the mirror image mistake of the original ceasefire attempt, and thus was just as doomed to fail.

Finally, and perhaps most damagingly, there is the idea taking hold on the right that if given just enough time to keep fighting, Israel can end Hamas rule in Gaza. The fact is that there is no military solution to dealing with Hamas – as opposed to mitigating its military effectiveness – and the only way to neutralize Hamas is through political means. Hamas is in control of Gaza and not going anywhere. Fatah is extraordinarily weak there, and there is no other credible party with enough strength to take over. Israel could go into Gaza and completely reoccupy it and it wouldn’t matter, because the second Israel left Hamas would resume control. Israel made this mistake before in 1982 when it went into Lebanon based on the fantasy of destroying the PLO once and for all. All that happened was the PLO got kicked out of Lebanon and regrouped in Tunis, and Israel ended up permanently damaging its own credibility and public image. The Israeli government seems smart enough to know this and a reoccupation of Gaza is not imminent, but it’s a fantasy to think that Israel can hammer Hamas for a few more weeks and then somehow install Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza. The military component is necessary for an eventual political component, but without that second part, Israel will just be fighting in Gaza again in two or three years. For some people that might be fine, but every time it happens, Israel emerges damaged and one step closer to genuine isolation. The quicker that everyone realizes that a political solution is the only long-term one, the better everyone will be. Let’s deal with the world as it is, not the world as we want it.


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§ 61 Responses to Dealing With The World That Is Rather Than The One We Want

  • Becca Lucas says:

    So many facts and so much pragmatism all in one place were a cause for great rejoicing. Now if only others could be persuaded to see it in this light…

    On Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 5:46 PM, Ottomans and Zionists wrote:

    > ottomansandzionists posted: “I’ve been purposely keeping quiet as > Operation Protective Edge rages on, which for someone who writes about > Israel seems like a counterproductive move. The problem is, I have seen > very little to convince me that writing anything will actually be > productiv”

  • mac2net says:

    You don’t know as much as you think you do.
    Frankly you come across as a sanctimonious know it all.
    I’d trust Bibi over you any day of the week.

    • amirflesher says:

      You haven’t actually said anything in this critique. I’m wondering if you can 1) Summarize his position 2) Show us why he is incorrect, or what specifically he thinks he knows that he doesn’t.

  • Jenny says:

    “Is it true that Hamas did not shoot any rockets at Israel from the 2012 ceasefire until just before Protective Edge? Yup.”

    Not true at all, besides the 2248 in 2012, they fired 41 rockets in 2013 and “Operation Protective Edge began after continual and relentless rocket attacks on Israeli cities since the beginning of 2014.”

    I have to agree with mac2net, such error makes you sound sanctimonious know it all.

    • I didn’t say that rockets weren’t launched; I said that Hamas didn’t launch them. The rockets you cite came from Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups, as the Israeli government and IDF have publicly acknowledged.

      • Jenny says:

        I wasn’t aware of that. If true I apologize. But come on, you should have mentioned that rocket were fired since 2012, it’s not like Israel suddenly decided to attack. These two groups are working together.

      • And yet, you rush to call me sanctimonious. Hamas has been firing away over the past month, but before that they were the ones attempting to crack down on PIJ rocket squads. That doesn’t make Hamas the good guys in any way in the wider scheme of things, but there is no need to exaggerate what they do and don’t do. Like I said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts.

      • mac2net says:

        You are parroting state department nonsense. My answer to that is show me the money, show me where when you have been write about anything?
        This is just a fiction that there really is any big difference between one jihadist group or another. It’s like trying to draw contrasts between mafiosa crime families.
        Israel eliminated most of the WB terror and if it chooses to, it can do the same in gaza.
        Still you are permitted to put on your nikes and runaway like the rest of the Obama Admin if you like…

      • alan says:

        This is a fairly outrageous comment. Hamas is the elected governing body in Gaza (and they have violently thrown out Fatah also, not to mention summarily execute anyone they claim is a “collaborator” or a political enemy). They are the rule in Gaza. As part of that rule, they have to take responsibility for military aggression that arises from their territory, even if one of the Hamas people did not light the fuse.

        Nations and governments do that kind of thing. If a crazy group in the US threw bombs into Mexico, even if it wasn’t the military or national policy, you can bet that the US govt would take responsibility and punish the responsible party. Hamas does not do that. Nowhere close. It doesn’t really matter who is shooting these rockets–it totally matters who is the governing body and is ultimately responsible. Otherwise, there is true anarchy.

        Which leads to the question: If there is no one in charge, who do you even negotiate a cease fire with? If Hamas cannot control other militant elements intent on causing war and terror, what is the use of even trying to negotiate a cease fire?

    • Reuben of NYC says:

      Since you and the IDF are both so great at keeping track of rockets :
      Let me ask you something..a rocket fired by a Palestinian lands in the dirt and causes little damage and even if it hits a house it damages only part of the house, so in terms of “rockets” what would you count bulldozing 10 Palestinian homes be? 1 rocket? 2 rockets? 5 rockets? 20? Cmon give me a number and then lets start crunching the count for zionist rockets hitting Palestinians throughout the West bank, and E. Jerusalem and lets just only count house razings…we wont count land taken by the wall or confiscation of land for “military use” Just house razings for now.

      Also then if this Gaza attack was warranted because of the kidnapping and killing of the 3 settlers then of course the rockets being fired upon Israel were also warranted for the murder of the 2 Palestinian children shot in the back two weeks prior to the kidnapping of those 3 settler men by an off-duty border guard who was supposedly shooting rubber bullets but actually was using live ammo as seen on CNN. Was very slick how the 3 settlers took front stage when those 2 kids were shot in the back by Israel while heading home from school.

      People forgot about that incident since Israel is so great with the PR and making itself out to be such a victim. .

      • mac2net says:

        Frankly you are an idiot. Go ask hamas why the hell they were building tunnels into Israel and shooting rockets. Don’t bother me with stupid dumb ass questions that your small brain has twisted into logic. Tell me why they spent hundreds of millions turning gaza into a fortress instead of developing their economy. And tell me why your government (US, UN, EU) let it happen contrary to then Oslo Accords. Israel has no reason to be defensive or apologise.

      • alan says:

        Whatever your point is is lost to me when you use the term “zionist rockets”. People tend to use the term Zionist in two ways. One is as a political view –i.e. people who believe in a Jewish homeland, people who believe Jews have a right to a homeland, founded by Herzl in 1897 as a political movement but embedded in Jewish religious faith for the duration.

        Others use the term in a derogatory way, essentially replacing the word “Jewish” or “Israeli” as some sort of dirty word. Since you type the word Israel (unlike some in the Palestinian camp who just refer to the Zionists or the Zionist entity), I would guess you are not using the term in a political way.

      • Adin says:

        I get where you are coming from. I’ve followed foreign news about the conflict. There is no coverage of what effect the rockets are having on Israeli population, only on Gaza. And most of your facts are simply incorrect which why are you reach distorted conclusions.
        So here are the facts:

        1. Some of the rockets fired are crude but many are Iranian made heavy rockets, especially the longer range ones. For example: The one that caused the FAA to cancel flights to Ben-Gurion airport DESTROYED 3 houses. Not damaged one as you describe.

        2. Although there have been 3 civilian fatalities in Israel the media never reports on the number and severity of the injured in Israel. Many who’s lives will never be the same.

        3. In Israel there are many reports of the psychological effects on the population and especially children who have lived their entire lives under the threat of rocket fire from Gaza. Can you imagine how children feel who have lived their entire lives with daily to weekly sirens. At any given moment having to run for shelter in under 30 seconds. Day or night.

        4. Whatever you grievances you have about Israeli actions I don’t think you will find anywhere in international law a place where it says you can deliberately target civilians if the other side does things you don’t like. Only an immoral person would try to defend that kind of action.

        5. 3 settlers were not kidnapped and murdered by the Arabs. 3 children (who were not even settlers) were kidnapped and murdered.

        6. The war started when Hamas started a barrage of rockets on Israel. It had nothing to do with the 3 children who were murderd by the Arabs.

      • alan says:

        I remember reading that the current war started after 6 Hamas militants entered a booby trapped tunnel and were exploded. Hamas responded to Israel by shooting multiple rockets (though it seems that all this calendar year, there were intermittent rockets fired which received intermittent responses from Israeli planes and artillery). Certainly the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens made things worse, followed by the arrest of multiple Hamas members and the killing of the Palestinian teen. (should I use the term lynching?)

        In any case, I think the booby trapped tunnel was the real turning point which everybody ignores.

        Now–comparing Israeli suffering to Palestinian Gazan suffering is tough on its face given the finality of death vis-a-vis psychological terror of the Israelis, but both are real. I do not wish to minimize Gazan normal citizen suffering which is sad, but I think I care more than the Hamas militants.

        Additionally, Israeli military considers only densely populated areas as defensible and “open areas” could be farms, areas with sparse population including bedouin areas, and incoming missiles cause damage in their own right. Farms in southern Israel can’t be harvested because there are no shelters on the farms, and workers will not put themselves at risk. Schools cannot be in session regularly during such a conflict. And the fact is, without Iron Dome, many more Israeli casualties would be seen.

  • Barry Newmark says:

    Great piece except for one serious mistake. You make a point that there are two discrete bubbles of shouters, each containing extremists elements who are all just preaching to their respective choir and not engaging the other side in meaningful conversation or debate; basically two equally wrong-headed inward facing propaganda machines. The problem is, your suggestion to fix this is that one of these sides accept defeat.

    “None of this is to excuse Hamas’s disgusting and criminal behavior in any way, but just to recognize what the world sees in Gaza, which is dead women and children and UN schools being shelled rather than command bunkers under hospitals and UN schools being used as rocket storage depots.”

    You’re essentially arguing that Israel should accept the reality that they cannot win the PR war, that the world is going to believe the Hamas side of the story and simply will not accept the legitimacy of their military campaign in Gaza; pictures of dead children trump geopolitical reality.

    Your critique of the Israeli PR operation is valid, it’s obviously not working, the answer however is not to accept defeat but to do a better job giving the world a way a to understand the context of those horrific pictures.

    One side has allowed the extremists to grab the megaphone, stop advocating for the other side to lie down.

    • It’s not an issue of capitulation; it’s just recognizing what works and what doesn’t. Israel fights actual wars really well, but for a variety of reasons – both structural and specific to certain Israeli leaders – it fights PR wars much less well. So cut your losses, realize you won’t convince the vast bulk of people, and try to figure out a way to get to a situation where there won’t be any horrific pictures to broadcast. It is not an ideal situation by any means, but I don’t think there is a better way. It’s choosing the least worst option from a menu of bad ones.

      • Barry Newmark says:

        That is the literal definition of capitulation,

        “So cut your losses, realize you won’t convince the vast bulk of people, and try to figure out a way to get to a situation where there won’t be any horrific pictures to broadcast.”

        Israel is fighting a PR war concurrently with their actual war and is losing. You are 100% correct that it would be bad for Israel to be further internationally isolated, however, most rational observers believe this military action to be a necessity, if that is the case then it is also a necessity for Israel to turn the tide and win the PR war in order to allow it to achieve it’s military goals while forestalling worldwide condemnation. Israel cannot afford to keep giving up more and more ground in this information war.

        When you are losing a war for your survival you don’t quit, you figure out a way to win.

      • amirflesher says:

        I think you need to go a step further. It’s not just bad PR. It’s that the PR doesn’t ring true, because it is not completely true. As you imply, there are elements of the Israeli official narrative that are true–namely the general idea that Hams is bad. However, the devil is in the details. For instance, Hamas has expressed the willingness to accept the 1967 borders if is put to a plebiscite and the Palestinian people agree to these parameters. In other words, while Hamas is at its root, an anti-democratic and anti-Jewish organization, it is also capable of pragmatism. It’s leaders (or at least some of them) understand that their dream of an Islamic state in all of Mandatory Palestine is not going to happen. They are capable, at least to some meaningful extent, of interfacing with the world as it is, and not as they wish it to be.

        At the end of the day, compromise is entirely about recognizing that the world is not ideal. We compromise because we can’t get exactly what we want. People do it all the time. Who on this forum has married the exactly ideal partner, lives in the perfect house, with a perfect yard, and has a perfect job? All that’s needed is for people to take this everyday understanding of how we all operate in the world, and apply it to the conflict.

      • GNZ says:

        I appreciate your effort to bring balance to the debate.

        As an atheist in a peaceful country I’m in the camp of thinking Israel has become or is becoming its oppressor – ie a racist state, that would love to “kill all Arabs” – an apparently popular saying among young Israelis and IDF soldiers, as evidenced by social media postings and photographs of IDF graffiti in Gaza homes. My natural inclination is to look at things fairly simply: the worst of the bad guys is the one that kills and maims the most innocent people. I see the religious beliefs that were used to justify the destruction of a country (Palestine) and the creeping theft of land from Palestinians as superstitious nonsense. On the other hand, as you say, Israel exists and isn’t about to disappear.

        I also see that Hamas most likely planned this disaster as a way to rejuvenate themselves. They must have known from past experience that their missiles would not achieve their stated objective, and that it would lead Israel to undertake a heavy retaliation. My guess is they agreed to the ceasefire when they felt their real cause, that of ramping up anger against Israel and increasing their own support, had been adequately achieved.

        Nothing I’ve heard from Israel gives any suggestion that they understand that they have played into the hands of Hamas. Surely the smarter option for Israel would have been to take the moral high ground? The iron dome was generally an effective protection against Hamas rockets. Casualties were minimal until soldiers actually entered Gaza. Eventually Hamas would have used up its rockets and would have lost support, not gained it as they have done. Military action could have been far more narrowly targeted.

  • zjb says:

    And in the meantime, there’s no political solution on the horizon, or rather no political horizon. I “blame” Hamas for the former and Netanyahu for the latter.

    • mac2net says:

      Simple 67 borders for 67 countries.
      Return gaza to egypt and let it figure out a solution.
      Return parts of the WB to jordan.

      Sorry but there is no case for a separate independent state.
      But that doesn’t mean the arabs shouldn’t be part of another one.

      • amirflesher says:

        This is an example of living in a world as it is not. You cannot impose Gaza onto Egypt, and the West Bank onto Jordan. It’s just not going to happen. Consequently, this “solution” is a fake solution, and as a result, isl default support of the status quo.

      • mac2net says:

        It sort of worked for 19 years so it can work again. The fake solution is a Palestinian state and the only reason it became vogue is because the Germans/Europeans promised to help the PLO after Munich. You can look it up. But giving into to terrorism has done nothing.
        There is no need for yet another dysfunctional failed state. It’s to time grow up and move on. Heck Brooklyn has a better case than the WB for an independent state.

      • amirflesher says:

        Can you explain the mechanics of how Gaza is supposed to be made a part of Egypt, and Jordan part of the West Bank? What is the process–diplomatic or otherwise–by which this would be achieved?

      • mac2net says:

        No process is working right now.
        Regarding Gaza, I don’t understand what the problem is? Once there was a peace between Egypt and Israel, keeping an isolated community between the 2 was just plain stupid and that’s the way it turned out.
        And Jordan basically ran the WB when it was under occupation until Oslo.
        I suppose the end game is easier to see than the process.
        But first of all my proposal needs to become a legitimate enough to be discussed and from there it could gain some momentum.

  • ronanfitz says:

    Very nice post, as always.(although Im closer in opinion to your liberal and Turkish friends)

  • ben galil says:

    >Netanyahu is a liar who used the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis as an excuse to execute a war that he had been planning all along

    Only partially correct. Netanyahu is a cynical manipulator and his “wag the dog” has spun out of control.

    The recent chronology is: a) Netanyahu railed against the proposed unified government of Abbas and Hamas. b) 3 Israeli students were kidnapped and murdered c) Netanyahu hid the fact that the students were killed within the first hour of kidnapping, made bombastic and inciting pronouncements and sent large forces into the West Bank, purportedly to search but actually, to round up Hamas leaders, re-arrest recently released (by him) murderers and generally show his extremist supporters how tough he wants to appear. d) Hamas reacted to the West Bank purge by firing rockets e) Netanyahu sent in the IAF f) Hamas tried (and failed – at first) some commando raids to offset its failures against Iron Dome g) Netanyahu sent ground forces into a narrow strip along the Gaza border h) Hamas, feeling its tunnels were at risk, increased its underground incursions i) increasing civilian casualties stoked West Bank demonstrations resulting in 9 dead
    j) … more death and destruction

    Netanyahu has sparked another round in the conflict and whose only objective is to return to the status quo ante (June 2014).

    NB – Tunnels etc are a rationalization after the fact and a whole other discussion

  • erguntok1931 says:

    Article is heavily inclined too a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and/or Qatar, I am definitely opposing to this idea. Israel cannot rest in peace as long as Hamas is alive. They have to be eliminated and Gaza people should understand that Hamas is their biggest enemy and not Israel.

    Ergun Tok

    Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:46:27 +0000 To:

  • Golnaz Kaveh says:

    I think there is one small piece missing in this argument. People, even in a democratic country, are not necessarily in agreement with their government. Sometime, an angry crowd, just votes against status quo hoping for a different outcome. I see people of Gaza in a desperate stressed situation. Their earning per capita has remained the same as 1994 and are food “insecure” based on 2012 UN report. We are not even discussing the direct day to day stresses caused by occupation. Now use that example at election time in US. We will vote for whomever, as long as it is against what is in power. Hamas is not Palestine as much as I like to think Netanyahu is not Israel. But I have to give Netanyahu one credit over Hamas. He is accomplishing what he does not openly admit, which is wiping Palestine off the map, where as Hamas is stupid enough to preach what he has no power to do, which is destroying Israel.

  • Itamar says:

    I appreciate this piece tremendously, thank you. I agree with the overall analysis and of people’s general insistence to ignore significant portions of reality.

    One point that I think requires a more subtle analysis though is what it means to have “a military solution”. It has to do with what the “solution” is, which may not be full overthrow of Hamas. And also with what we mean by “military” which I think for most reasonable people inevitably ends at some political agreement, the extreme of which is surrender but ranges the gamut of possible cease-fires.

    In particular I’m not sure that is is necessarily naive or blind-to-reality for Israelis to think that it is possible to achieve a disarmament/demilitarization of Hamas. And it very well could be that this could be achieved militarily, of course at some point depending on Hamas being forced to “agree”. It also would seem that there’s no way to achieve that end goal, other than with a fair amount of military force.

  • Nir Oded says:

    As a first time reader, I very much enjoyed the cool-headed analysis. I only question one premise, which is your statement on the isolating consequences of Israeli actions. For years, supporters of political solutions to the conflict have warned that isolation is behind the corner and that the international community will eventually force Israel to change its way. There is however no sign of this isolation coming; the EU is consistently expanding its ties to Israel (like investment in its universities and economy), while the US funds the IDF and provides an automatic diplomatic shield. It seems to me that a crucial pretext to understanding Israel’s violent actions is to recognize that its leaders are well aware that ultimately, they can do more or less what they want and enjoy the full backing of the West. It’s a grim reality, but one that we should also recognize when we talk about the world as it is.

    • I disagree on the European front. Don’t forget the diplomatic crisis of a few months ago when the EU was close to imposing sanctions.

      • Nir Oded says:

        On July 10, French President Hollande announced his “solidarity with Israel” and stated that “Israel can take all appropriate measures to protect its people.” Eight days later, German chancellor Merkel declared that her country “stands on Israel’s side.” On July 22, the EU issued an official statement of support of the Israeli offensive, and called for a unilateral disarmament of Hamas. Even the diplomatic crisis a few months ago was only against companies investing in the West Bank, not Israel itself. So on this point, I believe actions and rhetoric alike seem to indicate support.

  • Excellent article, in fact the best analysis I have see on the current troubles. It is so refreshing to see an analysis that eschews the phony good vs evil dichotomy we typically see in the media and internet commentaries. I don’t always agree with your point of view but I always appreciate your knolege intellectual integrity and objectively.

  • […] Michael Koplow, “Dealing with the World that Is Rather than the One We Want,” on the Ottomans and Zionists blog: “Let’s deal with the world as it is, not the world as we […]

  • Tom says:

    The PR war can be won despite the pictures of dead Palestinian children. They have to be portrayed as sacrifices by Hamas.That is a fact which must be reinforced. Sacrificing children and women and elderly is an effective recruitment for Hamas. They love it. They call it martyrdom without the participants agreements.This is not highlighted by Israeli PR. To further bolster this point they have to document the massacres which Muslims carry out against each other in other theaters of conflicts and also their killings of Christians. The war in Gaza now is a part of a jihadist movement against all non believers as they put it. Hamas is a component of this murderous action by those Muslims who can’t co-exist and want to rid the world of anybody who is not of their ilk. The PR effort must be concentrated on this ,that is that we are all in this together against an enemy who can’t be appeased. Even if they succeeded in destroying Israel the rest of the non muslim world still be in existential peril. The PR should be presenting a proposition that we’re all in the same boat as the Israelis but our turn will come in due course. Basically that the Judeo/Christians believe in life while the Jihadists deal in death. The Syrian war is in its 4th year and 150000 Muslims died including thousands of children.Nobody marches in the capitals of the world about this, the UN hasn’t done enough to demand a ceasefire. Here is an example where a PR campaign could effectively prove that Gaza pales in comparison. The militant Muslim world is on a march of Jihad and the only thing that can stop it is responsible and secular Muslims rising up against it. Right now we don’t have partners to negotiate with. PR should be focusing on this message. That is the world as it is. Deal with it.

    • GNZ says:

      Tom, your proposed PR campaign would fail to influence me. Israel had a choice as to whether to fire missiles at Hamas motorcyclists who happened to be passing by a UN school. As social media posts demonstrate, Israeli soldiers put zero value on the lives of those children.

  • Steve says:

    With all due respect, nothing new here. The perspective that there are only the extremes you mention (which makes you the blessedly and nobly voice of the reason speaking truth to the extremes) is not only self serving, it’s exactly the opposite of your “dealing with the world that is, rather than the one we want” theme. Most Americans know Hamas are terrorists. Most American recoil at the civilian casualties. American Jews know the shades of gray. I say this with no glee, but give the conflict a few more days and the pictures of Palestinian civilians will fade to the same back pages where Syrian civilians, U.S. casualties in Afghanistan and ISIS atrocities are to be found.

    Since you like facts, the fact is that Hamas rejects Israel’s existence and seeks its destruction. The fact is that using civilians as human shields contravenes the laws of war. And specifically targeting civilians, as Hamas does, is similarly unlawful. The fact is Israel has every right to defend itself, and civilian casualties under these circumstances are the responsibility of Hamas. There are facts and not disputed.

    Oh I know you’ll say that none of this matters because of the PR war. Seems to me Israel has already figured out there’s no way to win that. But the alternatives, not fighting back, are unacceptable.

    Hard to blame Israel for wanting to destroy Hamas if it can (and by can I mean allowed to by the U.S. and/or by the Israeli people). But it’s not just Israel that wants Hamas defeated — much of the non Islamist Arab world is rooting for Israel. And in all likelihood, much of the West is as well, as they are seeing first hand what they have allowed to happen in their countries and a glimpse into their very tenuous and self inflicted future.

    The world as it is is a dangerous place. Islamic radicalism, armed to the teeth and supported by the cover of various state actors, is the single greatest danger to the world as we know it. ISIS and company will sever your head as quickly as mine and all of your and my nice Christian friends. These actors, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Al Qaeda, would sacrifice any number of Muslims to kills us and establish Islamic law. If it meant deploying WMDs, is there any question they’d use them? And if we’re not sure, do we really want to find out?

    This isn’t on the one hand, on the other hand. Hamas wants Israel destroyed. Hamas wants the world it wants — without Israel. As I think you suggest, it’s not willing to accept the world as it is and to live side by side with Israel. Yeah, there better be a military solution for Israel. And you know what? Losing the “PR war” is less important than losing the war war. You know the war our trained Iraqi fighters are losing in Iraq. The war moderates and Christians in Lebanon lost to Hezbollah. And the political war that almost lost Egypt to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. And the liberal ideas war, that is enabling 5th column Islamists to expand their foothold in western Europe. And Turkey? You’re the expert, you tell me.

    • Tom says:

      I agree with you that for right now the war on the ground is the priority however the PR war has long term manifestations. We must make sure that the images don’t leave a lasting perception of the Israeli mindset which will be harder to discount later when hostilities subside. Now is the time to show the contempt Hamas has for human life,including their own people’s. It is imperative that this is constantly espoused as a point of difference. The Israelis are not callous , the collateral damage isn’t intentional on their part but it is a willful and planned strategic method of the Hamas terrorists. You can’t say this too often, the subliminal message will kick in. In this scenario it is even quite easy to quote the terrorists mantras. Every terrorist presentation includes a deathwish. The Israeli side must use this against them. It’s not really rocket science(pun intended).

      • GNZ says:

        Look at the social media. Young Israelis are utterly callous, calling for the killing of all Arabs.

    • GNZ says:

      You will never convince me that Israel had no choice but to respond in the particular way that it has.

      • Andrew says:

        @GNZ, this is why I think Israel had no choice:
        Rockets are coming towards them from Gaza – they have no choice but to try and prevent this. The only way to do this is to destroy the rocket launcher. It turns out that many of the rockets are located in populated areas – do we agree so far?
        OK, how can israel handle this? They can hold off destroying the rocket launchers located in populated areas, and only go after the ones in the “open”. What would be the result? Obviously Hamas will move all the rocket launchers into populated areas. So the Israelis have no choice but to destroy those ones too.
        How to handle this as humanely as possible? Warn the residents that an attack is coming. The Israelis did this many times. But Hamas instructed the people to stay put, and the ones that obeyed this came under heavy attack. Some people have argued that there isn’t enough room in Gaza for people to escape – if that’s the case then there isn’t enough room to launch rockets.

  • Aidan says:

    Generally in agreement with this post, but I am genuinely curious what you think the relevance of the 1988 Hamas charter will be in a post-occupation Palestinian society. I agree that Hamas is not solely concerned with the blockade, but it seems like a bit of a leap to me to assume from there that Hamas will revert back to positions they’ve distanced themselves from (not that you’re necessarily predicting that upon a peace deal being struck Hamas will suddenly start slaughtering Jews left and right).

    • I’m not sure that Hamas has genuinely distanced themselves from those positions, but that aside, the charter is not the end-all and be-all. I have seen no evidence that Hamas is prepared yet to accept two states. That doesn’t rule out the possibility that it one day will; Fatah and much of the Arab world have evolved to that position. But I don’t think Hamas is there. Not to mention that maintaining a hardline is good politically for Hamas inasmuch as it differentiates Hamas from political rivals such as Fatah.

  • agentlabroad says:

    Reblogged this on agent L abroad and commented:
    Finally some sense beyond the senseless slogans blooming over social media about the Edge.

  • […] Press, Dan Perry offers analysis on the three potential outcomes of the conflict. Michael Koplow talks about how “this deep ideological bubble that so many are in leads to unrealistic expectations on all […]

  • Y. says:

    It is indeed fine that the author criticizes ideological bubbles (Even if that requires characterizing both sides with the most extreme positions even in the ‘moderate’ case. Surely he could do better than fight strawmen). May I suggest though that he also criticize his own bubble?

    1. That bad pictures trump facts is something known to every person in PR. It was also a known result of Israel’s withdrawal in the first place – some Palestinian organisation or another would try to attack Israel (indeed, there was fighting before Hamas took over officially), Israel would respond and the inevitable result (regardless of facts) would be significantly more carnage that the case had Israel stayed, israel looking bad and more ‘isolation’. Isn’t that one of things that the withdrawal ideas supposedly wanted to fix in the first place? Perhaps one result should be abandoning most withdrawal ideas in the WB?

    2. The author restates the idea of a ‘political solution’, while acknowledging that Hamas does not support any variation thereof. Shouldn’t it signify that it is a political solution that is in fact impossible therefor? Indeed, polls show vast majority of Palestinians oppose its contours[1].

    In that case, the only way to avoid a repeat, would be in fact to reoccupy Gaza. As for what may follow, even if a more radical organisation were to come, Israel would in fact be better off with PR (easier to justify fighting a organisation that also targets Europe, where suddenly the rules are very different).

    This list can easily be continued, but the general theme is that one wishes you actually went to the logical conclusions of your essay…


  • mac2net says:

    It is fictitious to say this war has a Palestinian aspect except as proof that palestinian society has not reached the point where it can prevent disintegration. This happened last decade in the WB and now it’s happening in Gaza.
    And it is also fictitious to put a religious aspect on this conflict except as indicative of a split amount Muslims. Israel does have support for this war which is indicated by the actions of the Egyptians and other Arab states.
    In short, this post and many comments are really just a product of the “B” team, sort of prep-school junior varsity.

    • hscohen says:

      I think mac2net does an excellent job of personifying Israel’s technique of shooting itself in the foot. He has perfect faith that the truth of his facts, the correctness of his judgment, and the moral superiority of his position will eventually prevail. All he has to do is continue being offensive until everyone sees his point.
      And he may indeed be on the side of right and truth. But he should also be aware that his arguments are not having the desired effects on the world, and should think about what might produce more desirable results.

  • […] This article was originally posted in Ottomans and Zionists. […]

  • Michael McMillan says:

    My view is actually similar to yours (although you are much more eloquent writer).
    The basic problem started when the Palestinians backed the British against the Ottomans. Subsequently, they would not welcome the Jews that were being literally chased out of Europe. The Palestinians violated not only a basic human principle but a basic Middle Eastern rule of not turning away someone in need, regardless of how long they stay. Finally, they lost every war they started against the Jewish people. Now they are fully occupied.

    The problem is that Israel has only two options. Exterminate them all or live in a constant state of apartheid like system and/or behind a wall completely isolated. There is no solution, given that a genocide is not possible in todays world.

    Given the complete hate the Israelis (and most Jews worldwide) have developed towards anyone that disagrees with them (which is pretty much everyone except Jews and crazy Christian Evangelicals who want them to help bring about the end of the world), coupled with the fact that war and fear mongering is the way AIPAC & Co can raise money and keep power and the existence of corrupted or completely crazy extremist leaders in its neighborhood, there is no long term rational solution.

    Unfortunately, the Israelis will live in a constant state of war/isolation. Let’s just hope that America can somehow extricate itself from this conundrum.

    p.s. One big mistake the Israel Lobby committed is trying to develop the rhetoric to make this a war of Islam vs. the West.
    Now they have 1.5 billion enemies who are much more important to the industrial world as potential economic partners than a nation of 12 million (regardless of how economically successful Jews in the West have been), especially since there is very few people outside of the US who have a natural liking of Jews.

    Just stating the facts, as a great admirer of your columns and the Jewish people that I know.

  • Adin says:

    I don’t understand. You state that Hamas is not anti occupation but anti Israel to concluding that there is only a political solution. Hamas themselves state they will only agree to short term cease fires with Israel since their objective is its destruction. So what kind of political solution are you thinking of?

  • […] Gaza, a friend pointed me towards a piece by Ottomansandzionists that made me consider several aspects of what’s […]

  • alan says:

    I listened to your “The World” interview and read your piece here. I think you have missed a nuanced discussion and understanding of the conflict, from the perspective of the liberal Zionist, particularly those outside of Israel (but probably there too).

    There is no joy among us in the civilian deaths. I am personally struggling to reconcile the military accomplishments of Israel–which were absolutely necessary to protect its citizens all over the state–and the “collateral damage”–the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

    I think those who are calling this a genocide, or Nazi-like policies are race-baiting and way out of bounds, but the deaths are still very sad, because we have all been there. But I also struggle to try to figure out what other choice Israel had. What is a proportionate response? To shoot rockets randomly back into Gaza? To ignore it?

    I am most sad and frustrated for the following: there is a variety of opinion in the Zionist/Israeli narrative including many who are sympathetic for the Palestinian people (albeit not their extreme leadership starting with Hamas), but in the Palestinian camp, there appears to be no equivalent. Where are the partners? Why is the most liberal of Palestinians out there still referring to us all as Zionist-occupiers? Why do they not call out the irresponsible actions of Hamas, just as liberals everywhere call out their leadership for irresponsible military actions? This is the nuanced discussion which was missing in this piece above and in the radio broadcast. We can be sad over the plight of the population at large, yet still support Israel, whereas your discussion makes it sound like there is no one out there who does that.

    • There certainly are people who support Israel while being sad over the plight of the population at large; I am one of them. My point is not that liberal Zionists do not exist, but that they are increasingly difficult to find or are keeping their opinions to themselves. I was commenting on the general trend, not making a point about absolutes.

  • Here are a few salient points from the Likud charter. Those calling for Hamas’ charter to be repealed, might want to explain these:

    a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”
    b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
    c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
    d. “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

    • mac2net says:

      Israel always has coalition governments and elections are held every 4 years. Let’s here about great the Palestinian democracy?
      Anyway this charter does not prohibit the return of WB lands to Jordan.
      There are plenty of Arabs living in Israel and the Likud believes one way or another that there should be reciprocal arrangement in the WB.
      What’s the big deal with that? Or you think the West Bank should be Jew free? Basically you are a racist??

  • interestedirishman says:

    This is a really good article, nicely written. The one issue i have is this idea that Israel cannot win the PR war. The reality is that the massive death toll of civilian Palestinians is just simply not acceptable, it’s not an issue of people not recognizing the validity of Israels action. No amount of Israeli spin can work, because no amount of spin should work. The civilian death rate is at minimum 400 times greater in Gaza. With almost complete nullification of the threat from Hamas (look at the body count in Israel versus Gaza), much more restraint would have served Israeli and Palestinian interests better. This is not a bias, it’s reflective of what’s happening.

    As for mediators of a cease-fire. I’m going to push for a country like Ireland, that has resolved a very similar conflict, and although Israeli-Irish relations are not fantastic, i think it both parties could agree to it. That said, excluding neighbouring countries is probably a bad ploy.

  • Shalom-Hillel says:

    Another “above it all” perspective that says you are above the fray and are seeing the limited people beneath you engaging in conflict. The fact remains that Israel is confronted by a genocidal enemy. Yes, there are moderate Muslims, but they are too weak and too scared to make a difference. Gazans are exposed to relentless hate propaganda 24/7 from birth; they have to be with the program. Your equivocating and nattering is helping no one.

  • Laurel Rudavsky says: On Jul 31, 2014 10:46 AM, “Ottomans and Zionists” wrote:

    > ottomansandzionists posted: “I’ve been purposely keeping quiet as > Operation Protective Edge rages on, which for someone who writes about > Israel seems like a counterproductive move. The problem is, I have seen > very little to convince me that writing anything will actually be > productiv”

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