Saturday, January 17, 2009

Success in Gaza

Gaza is a case where the numbers really tell the whole story: 1,138 people dead in order to defend against a threat which killed less than 10 (4 Israelis died as a result of friendly fire). If that seems "necessary," then human beings have very little value -- or, rather, some have exponentially more value than others.

But to frame the issue this way is misleading. Israel's actions in Gaza have increased the threat to vulnerable populations everywhere -- in particular Jewish communities in Europe -- who are now the likely targets of those aggrieved by the Jewish state's attack on defenseless, trapped civilians. Israel may be able to claim military success against the region's weakest population, but it will also be claiming a victory for anti-Semitism in the years to come.

All modern governments exist to insulate privileged minority interests against the preferences their general populations. Israel is no exception. Israeli policy is not designed to benefit "Jews" or even average Israeli citizens; were this the case, the internationally prescribed solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict could have been implemented decades ago, and the granting of basic human rights to Palestinians -- which is really the heart of the story -- would have obviated radical groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But the benefits derived from maintaining a conflict against a far weaker enemy portrayed as the second-coming of Hitler has a political utility that conforms nicely to the nation-state model: A population that is afraid is much easier to control and looks to its governors for protection.

The United States has helped maintain Israel's illegal occupation by providing the kind of military support which renders international law irrelevant. Israel and the US may be international criminals, but there is no one available to bring them to justice. The arrangement has given American defense manufacturers a bottomless market in supplying a country that is perpetually at war -- paid for by the generosity of the American taxpayer, as all defense projects inevitably are. It has also given the US a foothold in a resource-rich, politically unstable part of the world, though policy hawks have increasingly come to question how useful Israel really is to American "interests" given how much trouble it causes, and how little utility it extends.

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