Sunday, January 18, 2009

Career profile '09: Senior Fellow for Muddled Eastern Studies

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted a "media conference call" on Gaza which, after an hour of blab about high-level Israel/Obama administration considerations, finally got to a question about the motivations of Hamas.

The answer was revealing in that it was at first incoherent:

Daniel Senor:
Look, there's the sort of stated objectives, or the short-term objectives that Hamas has -- or officials within Hamas have talked about, which include loosening the ease of entry from Gaza into Israel and back and forth, and ease within movement within the territories broadly, and there are a number of these various issues.

Presumably what Senor is trying to say is that Hamas would like an end to the economic blockade which has prevented food, fuel and medical supplies from entering Gaza for months. I would dare say this "irks" them. You see, because it is difficult for human beings to remain alive without such things, it is reasonable that they would factor into the "objectives" of Hamas, whether stated, short-term, "official" or whatever. Yet, this seems difficult for an adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies to accept at face value.

At this point Senor shifts gears and attributes what is an Israeli preoccupation with "deterrence" to Israel's adversaries in the region. Personally, I have only ever heard the Israeli government speak at length on the topic of "deterrence" -- or the idea that Israel must remain so scary to everybody that no one would ever dare to challenge it.

It's worth noting that the track record on this is not so good. Israel routinely kills large numbers of people, assassinates resistance leaders and their families, kidnaps random people and detains them indefinitely -- and yet these groups never tire of needling Israel! It's almost as if people just aren't happy unless they enjoy the same rights of representation and self-determination as everyone else! They don't like being accepted at foreign universities only to the be prohibited from attending because somebody else's government won't let them leave! They prefer eating food to starvation, etc. You know, normal human stuff. But again, not so easy to understand for experts who have close ties to state policy in the US.

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Common sense must be one of the first casualties of subscribing to a "war on terror" narrative when looking at the world. Anybody whose career is premised on a steady diet of government-sanctioned falsehoods is going to look uncomprehendingly at ordinary people, whose motivations are much less complex. Hamas is not a difficult organization to understand, insofar as you are not receiving a paycheck to analyze them on behalf of the United States or Israeli government. Under such conditions, the truth is rarely useful, except in hindsight.

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