Dec 8, 2013
Peace Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Posted on Jan 19, 2009
By Chris Hedges
The Palestinian reaction to Israeli occupation should be familiar to Israelis. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, says that the Israeli government will have no dealings with Hamas terrorists. But Tzipi Livni’s father was Eitan Livni, the chief operations officer of the terrorist Irgun Zvai Leumi, which fought against the British occupation of Palestine. The underground Jewish group set off a massive bomb in the King David hotel in Jerusalem, a blast in which 91 victims were killed, including four Jews. These Jewish terrorists hanged two British sergeants and booby-trapped their corpses. Irgun, together with the terrorist Stern gang, massacred 254 Palestinians in 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin. Tell me the moral difference between Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Stern gang and Hamas. I fail to see one.
Israel hopes to cut a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. But the Israeli government squandered the chance to make a deal with Fatah. Israel once could have negotiated with the Fatah leader, Yasser Arafat, but it steadfastly refused. Arafat’s life ended with him surrounded by Israeli troops and unable to leave his bunker in Ramallah. Hamas, because of Fatah’s corruption and incompetence, won the Palestinian election in 2006. And all the bombing and shelling will not make Hamas, or some even more radical version, go away. Israeli will have to negotiate with Hamas or with no one.
War always opens a Pandora’s box of new problems, new disasters, increased suffering and dilemmas. It becomes its own culture. It radically alters reality through massive acts of industrial slaughter. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. Hamas is a distasteful and morally bankrupt organization. But the utopian project to bend Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan by force to our will has created a hell on earth for Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians and only enflamed these conflicts. The killings carried out by the United States and Israel dwarf the massacres carried out by Saddam Hussein, including his genocidal campaigns against the Kurds and the Shiites. We have become terribly efficient killers and the most potent recruiters for the region’s jihadists.
The echoes of Israel’s ruthless slaughter in Gaza, and our slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, will reverberate in the months and years ahead in expanded acts of terrorism and a new implacable militancy by the Palestinians and the Muslim world. There is a cause and effect. And those who tell the grieving families in Gaza or Iraq or Afghanistan to use moral suasion and nonviolence to counter tank blasts and airstrikes in crowded neighborhoods are as self-deluded as pro-war Israeli and American politicians who think they can blast their way to a solution.
The rise of militarism is a familiar path taken by collapsing states. Militarism arrests social decay. It shoves this decay underground where it cannot be challenged by critics and social movements. Those who launch crusades hold out beautiful fantasies of freedom, liberation and peace. But the impossibility of these utopian dreams always turns these projects for human advancement into squalid justifications for atrocity. Realism, as John N. Gray writes, “requires a discipline of thought that may be too austere for a culture that prizes psychological comfort above anything else, and it is a reasonable question whether western liberal societies are capable of the moral effort that is involved in setting aside hopes of world-transformation.”
It is realism, an unflinching acceptance of our stark and severe limitations and an end to self-delusional utopian visions—those that embrace force and those that do not—that we must accept if we are to survive as a nation and finally as a species. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. We have to stand in the shoes of those we brand as the enemy. We have to see ourselves as others see us. Israel must negotiate with Hamas and end its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank to secure a lasting peace. We must withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and negotiate with those arrayed against us to find stability. Until this happens, we all remain trapped on a merry-go-round of death.
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