by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
January 10, 2009
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 3, 2:22PM ET -- Israeli troops in the past hour have finally launched its long-awaited invasion of the 220-square mile Gaza Strip, following seven days of intense bombardment that killed at least 430 Palestinians, destroyed thousands of offices, apartments, businesses and homes and left the ordinary people of Gaza and its tens of thousands of refugees shaking with fear.
The invasion, Gaza's leaders warn, will cost the Israelis heavily in life and limb, and few outside observers will argue differently. Until now, the only question was whether Israel actually had the will after its defeat in Lebanon to mount an invasion against Hamas. Israel says it wants to counter and destroy the Hamas soldiers who have been launching rockets against it for the entire duration of the six-month ceasefire that ended Dec. 19, and constantly since then.
In response, for many months Israel has mounted what the Arab world calls "the siege of Gaza," allowing only the most limited traffic between Gaza, Israel and Egypt. Because it has deprived the sick of medicine, the hungry of food, the commercial life of Palestine without fuel or merchandise, and ordinary people without the right to peaceably and freely travel, it has been a huge tragedy for the Palestinian people, and a public relations nightmare for Israel.
There is a huge disparity in deaths on each side: the Hamas missiles have shaken nerves, but killed very few Israelis. It is impossible to find an American newspaper that publishes the death tolls of the two nation-states side by side, but it's safe to say that Israel has lost 25 people or less, while Palestinians have lost more than 430 just in the last eight days. About 100 of them were innocent women and children; all but a few soldiers among the Israeli victims were also innocents hit by homemade Qassam and Russian-made Katyusha missiles launched on random trajectories from Gaza.
Yet for all the past, present and future human cost, the invasion Israel has launched presents a real and rare opportunity to finally bring peace, real statehood and tranquility to a region that has suffered greatly since the War for Independence in 1948 and the recurring Palestinian intifadas and brief wars that ensued.
The sad and terrible truth of this current war is that Israel's punishment of the entire Gaza through its siege is unjust and immoral because it punishes an entire people for the depredations of a relative few; the fact that Israel as a nascent state seized land owned by Palestinians for centuries is incontestable.
And yet the other part of this truth is that history doesn't provide any evidence that wrongs on such scale can ever be or have been corrected; not even American Indians have been made whole yet, and black Americans whose ancestors experienced slavery are far from recompensed for their pain.
Justifiably, Israel sought nationhood after the Holocaust when 6 million innocents died in the Nazi genocide, and while Jews have since recovered all but emotionally from that horrific epoch, the Palestinians will only recover their losses in a new, prosperous and peaceful State of Palestine over what must be peaceful decades to come.
It is supremely ironic that at this moment, as the forces of Israel invade the Gaza Strip to eradicate Hamas' ability to launch missiles into Israel, that the people of the West Bank - the part of Palestine that is controlled by Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas - have become more or less accommodated to the idea of peaceful co-existence with Israel.
Abbas, whether for his own personal political future or for his people, or both, has been understated in his rants against Israel and unusually frank in his placing of blame for the present war on Hamas and its fanatical leadership. Hamas is unwilling to recognize the existence of Israel, while Fatah has been able to live with that idea, a bit of progress that has taken the better part of 50 bloody years to achieve.
Ergo, the harder truth: If Israel can eradicate or fatally weaken Hamas as a political and terrorist enterprise through this invasion, which is enjoying the uneasy forbearance of the moderate Arab world, i.e., states other than Syria, Iran and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, it will at last be possible to declare Palestine an independent state recognized by Israel and everyone else, and to anticipate a century ahead not of bloodshed, but of growing affinity for peace.
I was asked just before the end of the recent ceasefire by the host of Iran's equivalent of Meet the Press whether I believed that as President, Barack Obama might possibly favor a lifting of the siege of Gaza (a phrase only Israelis have a problem with). I answered that by saying with enthusiasm, "Absolutely!"
If Israel can observe a genuine adherence to the ceasefire, and Hamas stops firing missiles into Israel, and there are no "surprises" after Dec. 19, I told Iranians, the Obama Administration would undoubtedly embrace an end to the siege. What I did not say was that so would Israel; so would Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. But none of those conditions, which are pretty reasonable, were met, and this war ensued. Today, it may be the best path to peace.
If an unjust siege and brutal war can achieve what several American presidents have failed to achieve, a lot of clichés will be contradicted. A lot of doomsayers and proselytizers of intifada and jihad will be sorely disappointed. And more importantly, the latter Cassandras - and especially Al-Qaeda - will be deprived of a principal argument for the various causes that collectively preach enmity of the United States in the name of Palestine.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter. He provides occasional commentary to Iran's PRESS TV on Middle Eastern issues.