Stifling debate about Gaza

Monday, January 11th, 2010

I’m wondering if Jewish leaders here think the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz is anti-Israel, and maybe hostile to the Jews.

Yesterday the paper editorialized that “Israel needs to rethink its Gaza strategy before it’s too late.”

A year after the Cast Lead operation in Gaza, there’s been a “marked escalation in violence along the Israeli-Gaza border,” the editors wrote.  “Gaza erupts whenever Israelis begin to feel that the Strip and its troubles have been forgotten.”

Then they key paragraphs:

The time has come to rethink Israeli strategy in Gaza. The economic embargo, which has brought severe distress to the inhabitants of Gaza, has not brought down Hamas, nor has it freed kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The siege has only damaged Israel’s image and led to accusations that it has shirked its humanitarian responsibilities in Gaza under international law.

Instead of erring by invoking the default solution of more force, which does not create long-term security or ease the distress of the Palestinians in Gaza, the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip should be opened and indirect assistance rendered to rebuild its ruins. The same logic that dictates the government’s actions in the West Bank – creating an economic incentive to prevent terror – can and must work in the Gaza Strip as well.”

What I’m wondering: wouldn’t any American Jewish group making such an argument be tarred as a violator of the pro-Israel orthodoxy, shunned, called “dangerous” to the Jewish state?

I’m not saying Israel’s Gaza policy is wrong.

From my safe perch in  Washington, I honestly don’t know what the best solution is to the Gaza-West Bank split, the tightening grip of Hamas on the strip and the fact the terrorist group doesn’t show any sign of moving beyond its goal of wiping Israel out.

I am saying there’s something disturbing about the growing determination to stifle debate in an American Jewish community with a multiplicity of pro-Israel views. Israelis engage in vigorous debate about these issues all the time, but apparently our own leaders believe that support for Israel is so shaky here that we can’t raise issues like whether or not the Gaza blockade is in Israel’s long-term security interests.

I also find it peculiar that when Jewish leaders here talk about Gaza, the only question they address is whether or not Israel is justified in taking harsh measures (their answer: of course, and I don’t disagree).

Lost in the  debate: is there any evidence these policies are working?  Does history suggest they are likely to work in the long term, or just the opposite?  Justifiable policies that produce negative results don’t strike me as a great idea, but perish the thought that we actually talk about that.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.