Yesterday, Hamas kindly announced that they would be willing to agree to a ceasefire with Israel should Israel agree to remove its blockade on Gaza. For some in the pro-peace camp, this was almost a cause for celebration. Finally, after all those failed ceasefire attempts from Cairo and Washington, the solution had arrived! Now all Israel has to do is remove that pesky little blockade, something many activists claiming to be pro-peace had been arguing for long before this olive branch from our favourite terrorist organisation, and all our troubles would go away; peace and calm would once more be restored.
Except, of course, that pesky little blockade is kind of saving lives, by stopping arms, which would be used by Hamas for their own oppressive regime in Gaza as well as attacking Israel, from being smuggled into Gaza. It often saddens me how easily people forget the events of less than a decade ago, but when discussing the blockade, it is so very important to mention them. For my many pro-peace friends who seem to have forgotten it, along with various others who appear to have done the same, allow me to revisit that recent history.
In August and September 2005, Israel dismantled all Gaza settlements and withdrew unilaterally from the Strip, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, no less, a man whose unquestionable hawkish record faced renewed criticisms by anti-Israel activists when he passed away earlier this year. Finally, after taking it over in 1967, Israel was out of Gaza.
Finally, the Palestinians had the only sovereignty they have ever had in any of ‘Greater Israel’. There were no fishing limits, no IDF soldiers or even Israeli civilians present in Gaza, and most importantly, there was no blockade. The Palestinians had the opportunity to turn that small strip into a prosperous nation, and a blueprint for a long-term viable Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel. Simply put, it was the best opportunity any side has ever had to show that the two state solution was realistic. And the opportunity was wasted.
Wasted because the allegedly ‘free and fair’ elections were hijacked by a terrorist organisation whose members threw political opponents off of buildings. Wasted because instead of using the fields and technology Israel gave the Palestinians to help them prosper, Hamas turned the Gaza strip into a zone designed for war, both in the literal sense and in the sense of the fight for the sympathies and support of the international media and community. The opportunity was wasted because when Hamas built schools and hospitals, they simply couldn’t resist hiding rockets near or under them.
But above all else, the opportunity was wasted because Hamas abused the lack of any blockade by Israel over what went into the strip. Blockade-free, Gaza received literally hundreds if not thousands of rockets, guns, explosives, and other weaponry. This gave Hamas the ability to attack the areas of Israel surrounding it, and attack Israel they did. This is what happened the last time there was no blockade on Gaza, and with Hamas still in power and even more hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, it’s what will happen again should the blockade be lifted once more.
Any person who genuinely believes in the right of Israeli civilians to live in peace would never even dream of suggesting Israel should accept this offer from Hamas. And this is the ultimately the point I’m trying to make; anyone who really wants to call themselves ‘pro-peace’ must understand that they and Israel should not jump at the opportunity for a ceasefire. If you really want peace, and I mean the real kind that lasts for several years not the kind that causes another operation within 2 years, then you cannot and should not be advocating this ceasefire.
Israel’s stated aims here are to seriously damage Hamas capabilities in the long term, with some such as former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman suggesting that Israel must “make sure that we dismantle Hamas”. There is, somewhere, a balance to be struck between short term quiet of a ceasefire and the long term peace resulting from really wounding Hamas. To fully ensure that Hamas are never able to attack Israel again, Protective Edge would need to last several more weeks if not months, and hundreds if not thousands more casualties on either side would arise. This, to me, would be too much. Equally, however, accepting this deal would undoubtedly jeopardize the security Israelis deserve, and would lead to another, potentially even more bloody operation very soon.
So the balance must be found, and let’s be honest if you asked 100 people where that balance is you’d get 105 different answers. But this offer shouldn’t even register as balanced with anyone who is realistic in their support for peace. Peace deals, be it a ceasefire with Hamas or a long term 2-state solution with Fatah, cannot and should not be rushed, and we as Zionists have an obligation not to push Israel into a deal which would dramatically worsen her security just so we can sleep at night telling ourselves we have ‘done our bit’ for peace. Pushing Israel into deals like this does the exact opposite; it makes peace less likely by making sure of another war in the near future.
Support the idea of a ceasefire, as I do, but do not support one that wounds Israel just for the sake of supporting a ceasefire. Be realistic, be honest with yourself, and most of all, be sincere in your pursuit of peace. That, to me, is what being pro-peace is really about, not supporting rushed deals which compromise security.
Shabbat Shalom to you all. Literally.