Friday, June 04, 2010

Seeing Both Sides

This blog and many others have been harshly critical of Israel of late. Expect this to continue.

But to those who argue Israel is unfairly singled out and Hamas is not criticized enough, let me be clear:

Hamas is a deeply unpleasant, extremist organization. Religious fanatics with ugly rhetoric, ugly behaviour and ugly allies. Their tactics have been criminal and counter-productive to the interests of the Palestinian people, which is very clearly shown by how much pressure has come to bear on Israel over the last few years from more peaceful tactics. Sanctions, criticism, divestment campaigns and international condemnation. More sympathy has been generated for the Palestinians from one obstructed blockade run than missiles and suicide bombs ever could. On both tactical and moral grounds the Palestinian struggle benefits from non-violent resistance.

Hamas should release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held prisoner these last four years. They should do so immediately despite the - entirely valid - argument that Israel should also release many of it's Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners some held just as incommunicado and without charge. Those criticizing Israel and advocating for the Palestinians should join the chorus calling for this young man's release on both humanitarian and strategic grounds.
Doing so would return a young man to his family and his nation and remove a major rhetorical arrow in Israel's rhetorical arsenal.

Context is important and the context is that Hamas is very much the creation of Israel itself in a past short-sighted strategy of promoting religious groups that Israel thought would be less of a threat than secular groups like the PLO. The context is that the argument that Hamas is forever beyond the pale, can never be dealt with, never compromised with, never even acknowledged as any kind of legitimate representative of the Palestinian people are an exact repeat of the same arguments made about Fatah - which is now promoted as the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people.

Hamas leaders have made ugly eliminationist statements about Jews and refused to recognize the State of Israel. Israeli leaders have made ugly eliminationist statements about the Palestinians and all Arabs and refused to acknowledge the right of an independent Palestinian state to exist. Both sides have said and done exceedingly ugly things.

One side has all the power, the other has none.

Israel's defenders trot out the 'only real democracy in the Middle East' line repeatedly. The price of claiming that your nation has higher standards than your neighbours is that you are held to higher standards than your neighbours. That's the way it works.

The leaders of both sides are appalling, the citizens underneath them are the ones who suffer.

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