F or public consumption, the fatuous haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, a.k.a. Secretary of State John Kerry, hauled out the dog-eared playbook for “negotiating a ceasefire” between the Palestinian Hamas leadership and Israel. Neither side takes him seriously, of course. In this historic moment of Islamic uproar across the entire region, Hamas is just following the larger script: act up and act out.
They would like to catch the momentum of rampaging ISIS next door, but Hamas is not a mobile force of mostly young male psychopaths. They’re stuck in Gaza embedded among their women and children doing what they can to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. For the moment that means lobbing rockets from launch sites planted among the homes and institutions of daily life in the densely urbanized Gaza strip.
So far in the current offensive, they’ve launched over 700 missiles at Israel. Some of the rockets, purchased through the world’s arms bazaar from China, are powerful enough to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But they are poorly-targeted and Israel’s “iron dome” anti-missile system can intercept some of them before they land on anything.
Unlike previous offensives, when Hamas rocketeers could set up mobile Qassam missiles in alleyways or rooftops, and beat it a few minutes after firing, the new larger rockets require sturdier installations. Thus they can be systematically discovered and targeted. Hamas is quite willing to sacrifice the women and children who eat and sleep around their rocket installations for the propaganda value of pretending that they were not deliberately put in harm’s way.
Israel has accepted the reality that Hamas deliberately uses its own people as human shields and has opted to destroy the missile-launch sites in any case, because the alternative is to give Hamas free reign in bombarding Israel. One would think that world opinion would understand this equation. But there is little sympathy for Israel’s predicament, and little appreciation for Hamas’s calculated ruthlessness vis-à-vis its own people.
The birth-rate in Gaza is among the highest in the world. If it is a deliberate result of social policy, it is a cruel bargain for the Palestinians, who are apparently regarded as expendable by the Hamas leadership. In a culture that glorifies suicide bombings, routine human sacrifice must be normal, though to a Western sensibility it seems tragic.
It shapes up as a struggle to the death that will not be impeded by reason, the good intentions of others, or sentimentality. What Israel remembers is that nobody was on the side of its people in 1939 and they’ll be damned to make the same mistake of not fighting back again. This certainly sets up a situation of extreme political danger in the region, but no more now than the ISIS juggernaut, or the larger beef between the two basic branches of Islam, or the fate of the fragile Saud monarchy.
This is not a region of the world than can support large populations of human beings of any religious persuasion, and in the new age of extreme resource limits blind circumstance itself, more than personalities or doctrines, will determine who gets to inhabit what rockpile.
What’s changed is the perception that the USA has any role to play any longer even in the diplomatic theatrics. The Middle East is disintegrating faster than any polity in historical memory. It appears that, if anything, the USA has only succeeded in accelerating the process wherever we turn our attentions. Since the 1970s, we haven’t felt the ultimate consequence of trouble in that part of the world, which would be an interruption in the oil supply coming out of there.
Back then, there might have been something we could do about it. Now there is nothing we can do but stand on the sidelines and wait. In the meantime, wouldn’t it be a good idea to attend to our own problems, especially the critical need to prepare for American life in a post-oil world?
Coming in August
My local indie booksellers… Battenkill Books … or Northshire Books…
Published as an E-book for the first time!
The 20th Anniversary edition
With an entertaining new introduction by the author
Bargain Price $3.99
Amazon Kindle …or … Barnes & Noble Nook …or… Kobo