Gwynne Dyer: The latest "Gaza War"

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said something cryptic last Friday (July 11), shortly after the Israelis began their latest round of attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Condemning Hamas’s conditions for accepting a ceasefire as “exaggerated and unnecessary”, he offered his condolences “to the families of the martyrs in Gaza who are fuel to those who trade in war. I oppose these traders, on both sides.”

What could he mean by that? Surely he was not suggesting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the leaders of Hamas, the Islamist organization that has effective control of the Gaza Strip, have a common interest in perpetuating the current bloodbath for at least a little while longer.

Yes, he was suggesting exactly that, and he was quite right.

This is the third “Gaza War” since late 2008—they come around more often than World Cups in football—and each one has followed the same pattern. Some Israelis are kidnapped and/or killed, Israel makes mass arrests of Hamas cadres in the West Bank and launches air and missile strikes on the Gaza Strip, Hamas lets the missiles fly, and away we go again.

A few wrinkles are different this time. The kidnapping and murder of three young Israeli hitchhikers in the West Bank, probably by Palestinians who had links with Hamas (although it denies responsibility), was followed by the torture and murder of a young Palestinian, probably by Israeli vigilantes.

The ceasefire signed after the last round in 2012 was already being violated by both sides for some months before the real shooting started a week ago.

And, most importantly, Hamas had achieved a political reconciliation of sorts with Mahmoud Abbas’s rival organization that rules the West Bank as the Palestinian Authority. But although every turn of the wheel is a little bit different, the pattern remains the same.

So why would Prime Minister Netanyahu be willing to launch Israel’s third war against the Gaza Strip in eight years? Because the nature of his political alliances with other parties on the Israeli right, and especially with the settler lobby, means that he could not make a peace deal that the Palestinians would accept even if he wanted to (which he probably doesn’t).

That’s why he was instrumental in sabotaging the Oslo Accords, the theoretical basis for a peaceful “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during his first term as prime minister in 1996-99. Back in power in the past five years, his primary excuse for not moving on negotiations has been that Mahmoud Abbas could not deliver peace because he controlled only the West Bank, while the intransigent Hamas ruled the Gaza Strip.

Then Abbas stitched together a compromise that brought Hamas back into a unity government three months ago, and Netanyahu claimed that he could not be expected to negotiate with a government that included the “terrorists” of Hamas. So is he now trying to destroy Hamas so that Abbas can rule unhindered over all the Palestinian territories and become a suitable partner for peace? Of course not.

Netanyahu knows, on the evidence of the previous two wars, that Hamas can be battered into temporary quiescence but not destroyed. He also probably realizes that if he did manage to destroy Hamas, its place would be taken by a less corrupt and much more extreme Islamist outfit that might really hurt Israel. He is just doing this, with no expectation of victory, because Israeli public opinion demands it.

Hamas’s motive for wanting a little war are more obvious and urgent: it has lost almost all its sources of funding. Iran stopped funding its budget to the tune of $20 million per month when Hamas sided with the Sunni rebels in the Syrian civil war.

Egypt stopped helping it after last year’s military coup against Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, and closed the tunnels under the border through which the Gaza Strip received most of its imported goods. Those imports were Hamas’s main source of tax revenue. Hamas is broke, and if it stays broke its control over the Strip will weaken.

Whereas a war with Israel will rally the local Palestinians to its support, and if enough of them are killed, Egypt and the Gulf states may feel compelled to give Hamas financial aid. So the only real question is how many dead Palestinians will satisfy both Netanyahu’s need to look tough and Hamas’s need to rebuild popular support at home and get financial help from abroad.

On past performance, the magic number is between a hundred and a thousand dead: around 1,200 Palestinians were killed in the 2008-9 war and 174 in 2012. After that—assuming that only a handful of Israelis have been killed, which is guaranteed by the fact that Israeli air and missile strikes are a hundred times more efficient at killing than Hamas’s pathetic rockets—a ceasefire becomes possible.

We have already crossed the lower threshold of that range of Palestinian deaths in the current mini war, so a ceasefire is theoretically possible now, but both sides will probably press on for at least another few days. Then the ceasefire will be agreed, and both sides will start thinking about the next round, only a few years from now.

But the dead will stay dead.

Comments (23) Add New Comment
A question...
I'm sure Mr. Dyer doesn't read these comments, but someone else who has this answer might: It's implied in this article that Israel doesn't actually want peace.

We know Hamas certainly doesn't, and won't rest till Israel is destroyed... but why exactly would Israel not want peace? This isn't a rhetorical question. It seems to me that Israel has been trying for a peaceful solution for years, and it's the arabs who have scuttled it repeatedly. Arafat was a signature away but chose to attack instead of sign, lest his legacy be that of a coward who finally caved to sanity.

So, if you're going to suggest Israel doesn't actually want peace... why? To what end?
Rating: -29
Gwynne proposes a flippant and rather cynical analysis of the motivations behind the latest Gaza massacre. Perhaps he's right, it might be another case of " War is the continuation of Politics by other means", a notion famously attributed to Carl von Clausewitz.
I don't want to quibble over Gwynne's assessment but I do take issue with the fact that our prime minister and his government openly endorse Israel and it's murderous response against the helpless,oppressed Palestinian population. It beggars the imagination to explain why Canada would support one of the most racist,unjust and violent nations on earth and condemn it's dispossessed Palestinian victims. Perhaps that too is just 'good' Canadian politics, never mind moral scruples. You be the judge!
Rating: +4
Netanyahu doesn't want peace because it would make it less likely he would win the next election. It's as simple as that. He has been the largest impediment to peace by refusing to stop the expansion of the settlements.

The likely result of his political expediency is the one state solution instead of the two state solution.
Rating: +14
More questions...
@P.Peto - Why is Israel considered racist? Arabs in Israel, especially women and gays, have far more rights than they do in the Arab neighbouring states. There are even Arabs in the Israeli government. Meanwhile, the few Jews left in Arab countries have zero rights and fear for their lives. Please explain.

The helpless Arabs trapped in the conflict are more victims of their own oppressive governments, wouldn't you say? Israel in 2005 hands over Gaza and thousands of greenhouses, capable of oversupplying food to the population and Gaza and what do they do? Within 72 hours, loot and destroy all of them.
Rating: -6
This sheds some light on it
Rating: +12
@more questions
Sounds like someone is doing a good job at touching on all the talking point of the official script. Are you paid to do this?
Why is Israel considered racist? Are you kidding? You mean the country that is proclaimed to be running an apartheid regime by many including such radicals as Jimmy Carter? The country that refuses the right of return of refugees because they are Arab and that would not be the right demographic to maintain a JEWISH state? The state that continues to supplant Palestinians from their land and replace them with Jewish settlers? Gee, it must be so confusing for you to sort this all out.
For anyone else who is having trouble sorting out the issues here, a good dose of the writings and social media content of Norman Finkelstein can help many cut throught the B.S.

A jewish intellectual who had many family members die during the holocaust, has a clarity like few others about why Israeli occupation is a great moral evil that must be ended. Look him up. He argues that for the sake of oppressed Palestinians, and also for the long term survival of Israel itself, it is necessary to make a lasting peace. A more important voice on this issue you cannot find.
Rating: +15
I Chandler
"That’s why Netanyahu was instrumental in sabotaging the Oslo Accords, the basis for a peaceful “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during his first term as pm in 1996.

Netanyahu was not the only saboteur:
On Nov4th1995, prime minister Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jew who opposed the Oslo Accords.After the assassination, it was revealed that a well known right-wing extremist, was in fact a Shin Bet agent-informer code-named Champagne. Raviv was acquitted of charges that he failed to prevent the assassination.

Rating: +4
@More questions... May I refer you to a very excellent discussion of institutionalized racism as practised by Zionists in present day Israel:

"The helpless Arabs trapped in the conflict are more victims of their own oppressive governments, wouldn't you say?" While there may be some truth in this belief inasmuch most governments are predatory and corrupt, I don't believe the facts support the general notion that the Palestinians are primary the victims of their own incompetence. This is a standard argument used to justify a cycle of violence and abuse by persecutors against their victims: to blame the victim for their own misfortunes.
Rating: +35
The Jew cries out in pain as he bombs you.

Or, as Norman Finkelstein said:

“Here is the suffering. Now, we blow-up your house.”
“Here is the suffering. Now, we take your land.”
“Here is the suffering. Now, we shoot artillery shells at your villages.”
“It’s suffering which is then wrapped in a club; and the club is then used to break the skulls of the Palestinians.”

Finkelstein clip: (6m06s)

Documentary from which clip was taken: (1h31m)
Rating: -5
Josh Barnes
Mr. Netanyahu claims that Israel is only doing what anyone else would do under the circumstances. He makes it sound so reasonable as he casually dismisses the ongoing atrocities that he and his henchmen are once again inflicting on the Palestinians.

Sorry Bibi, no sale. There are a lot of Americans murdered every year down in Mexico by brutal drug gangs and the United States isn’t dropping bombs all over Mexico City. Trying to drag the rest of the world into agreeing with your sick, twisted world view isn’t going to wash with everyone, no matter how reasonable and defensive you make it sound.
Rating: +7
Israel is by charter an apartheid state. There is no question. It's a Fortress.

The we (USA) openly supported its formation after WWII is for an obvious reason: the Holocaust was evil and we wanted to make up for it.

This, and the fact that the Arabs couldn't stop them when the British left, is why I've always supported Israel's right to exist.

I can't help wonder if in a 1940's, segregated America, that defense planners didn't also see the value in a 'caucasian' beachhead right next door to the petroleum the West (and of course the world) would need to rebuild.


As an American I support the separation of church and state, and I don't support either state (sic) if it's going to claim to wield the authority of a God.

If I lived anywhere in the region I would move to Turkey and be done with it.

Rating: -3
As someone who doesn't know a lot about this, one thing is becoming clear to me. And that is that Israel is held to a different standard, one comparable to how Canada, the US and other first-world countries are supposed to behave. On the other side, you have a culture based on violence and lack of human rights and savage treatment of women and homosexuals and any non-Muslim. And, therefore, when they act out, it's ok because that's the way they are.

This became apparent to me when the guys who murdered those three Jewish kids were treated like heroes back at home and celebrated. But nobody in Israel celebrated that vigilante response killing of the Arab teen. And those responsible are being charged and dealt with. As one would expect.

Is it even reasonable to expect these two sides could ever agree to anything?

I don't know the solution, but I think it's reasonable for Jews to want a homeland. Did you see what happened in Seattle a few days ago? If I were Jewish, I sure would want a country to call home. No doubt they'll all need it one day. They sure could've used it in 1939.
Rating: -10
"Whereas a war with Israel will rally the local Palestinians to its support, and if enough of them are killed Egypt and the Gulf states may feel compelled to give Hamas financial aid."
That's right -- those folks don't value life the way we do and so naturally they would do 'stuff' to force us to kill them. Brilliant.

Notice the time line for all this current 'stuff' is the kidnapping of the three Israelis teenagers and not the previous weeks coldblooded murders of 2 unarmed Palestinian teenagers by IDF/settlers caught on surveillance tape.

Can't suggest that the Israeli killings were retaliation for those murders. The big problem there was no Hamas rockets or kidnappings.
But why would there be?
They just formed a Unity government and convinced the vile Abbas to walk away from the 'peace process' and return to UN and the Hague to seek recognition. The Euros and the US met the decision with 'caution' instead of rejection.
Israel went nuts.
Announced new NEW settlements again...threatened everyone with annexation and vowed to re-capture all the prisoners they had agreed to release....and vowed destroy Hamas...just 6 weeks ago?

But Dyer and his ilk figure this is some master play by Hamas to get cash?

It's really become quite laughable to see otherwise intelligent people writing this nonsense when they know all about the UN report into Israel's torture and imprison of Palestinian child prisoners. Israel has murder nearly 2000 children under the 18 since 2001 and according to the UN regularly engages in torture and limb breaking of child prisoners...oh high-ranking terrorists.

Incidentally as a few noted, the 3 Israelis were kidnapped and killed on the first anniversary of that report.

But's just crazy Hamas and those Arabs doing the 'never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity' and money and the virgins. Yuk Yuk Yuk
Rating: -6
Observation, you mix in a lot of issues, but they're not relevant. Israel is bombing a group of people that cannot effectively fight back. They have the power, and they have the means to end this conflict, but they don't. That's the issue, and they're behaving poorly in this regard. Treat the Palestinians as people with a right to exist, stop stealing their land, and then see what happens. Is that too much to ask?
Rating: -1
I Chandler
"Prime minister Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jew... a well known right-wing extremist, and Shin Bet agent was acquitted of charges..."

Rabin's partner in crime , Arafat was also assassinated. Last year, Swiss scientists confirmed that both Arafat’s belongings and his recently exhumed body were contaminated by radioactive polonium-210.

South American presidents have also been assassinated. Chile’s President Frei, for example, had been poisoned by the highly toxic heavy metal element thallium. The New York Times reports that
exhumation fever has gripped Latin America: "as part of some kind of delightful, arcane Latin American cultural tradition”:

This delightful, Latin American tradition of exhuming assassinated presidents doesn't occur in the US...

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO and Arafat officially recognized Israel. Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before they were killed:

"In spite of the lapse of four years since Arafat’s murder, the Swiss scientists found in a 108-page report a high level of polonium at least eight times higher than would be normally present. The always cautious Swiss said there was “moderate support” for the claim Arafat had indeed been murdered... Many attempts had been made by Israel on Arafat’s life.
Israel denies the murder, though some of its leaders have openly stated their desire to “liquidate” Arafat. Israel is the only Mideast nation that can produce polonium-210 in its reactors. Still, Israel insists it was not responsible, though no tears were shed over Arafat’s death.
Who benefitted from Arafat’s death? Arafat had been bitterly resisting US and Israeli efforts to impose a grossly unfair peace deal that would have broken up the West Bank into little Arab tribal reservations. Once Arafat was out of the way, the US and Israel swiftly installed a new, servile PLO leadership, headed by a yes-man, Mahmoud Abbas, financed by the US and protected by CIA-run police..."
Rating: 0
"The kidnapping and murder of three young Israeli hitchhikers in the West Bank, probably by Palestinians who had links with Hamas "

How do we know that? Because Dyer says so? Plus there is no motive and plenty of evidence to the contrary. Just because Israel says so doesn't mean it's true.

Rating: +2
I notice as we speak, a ceasefire has been proposed, one that Israel accepts and the other side rejects and calls 'a joke'. Yet, Israel will once again be the bad guy. That's what I mean.

Israel is fighting back a weaker opponent who has called for their destruction and continues to pester them and will, by their own words, continue to do so till Israel is no more. What's Israel actually supposed to do? Roll over and die? I'm still not clear. But if someone is attacking me trying to kill me, I'm going to fight back and will keep swinging till my attacker is disabled. And I'll feel justified in saying, no matter how badly he is injured.... Yeah, but he was trying to kill me.
Rating: -1
"But nobody in Israel celebrated that vigilante response killing of the Arab teen"

Really? Nobody?

You mean to tell me the vigilantes that burned that Palestinian teenager alive really were not happy they did it? That must be why they have not turned themselves in yet, all that remorse.

Read an Israeli right wing newspaper that caters to settlers or the Haredim (there are English translations available) and then come back here and claim that "nobody" celebrated.

You really don't observe all that much, do you?
Rating: -2
"That’s why Netanyahu was instrumental in sabotaging the Oslo Accords, the basis for a peace"

LBJ was also a saboteur - LBJ discontinued JFK's effort to normalize relations with Cuba and pull the CIA out of Vietnam ( NSAM 263 ).

On Nov.5, 1963, JFK approved sending U.S. diplomat, William Attwood, to Havana for a secret meeting with Castro. The agenda for the meeting: to talk “about terms and conditions for a change in relations with the US." LBJ stopped the meet:
Rating: -2
S H: Your country supported Israel's birth solely because at the time the Jewish bloc in American elections was far more important than any Arab or Muslim bloc (in the near term future this may change). Period.

There's a reason why Brzinsky, Kissinger and other key deciders of American foreign policy have very little to say about Israel in their writings. That is because support for Israel is driven by American domestic politics, not foreign policy. "Atonement for the Holocaust" doubtless made for good PR, but considering the number of former Nazis recruited by your country's intelligence service after World War II (hey, good anti-communists with experience fighting them goddam reds too!) and who somehow never were tried for their crimes, well, I think moral considerations played as much of a role as it usually does in international affairs. Namely none.

This is something an earlier generation of your countrymen was more aware of, by the way (Listen to Tom Lehrer's song "Werner von Braun" one of these days, it's a hoot!)

And I am afraid I must also disagree with those commentators who refer to Israel as an "Apartheid State", implicitly making a comparison with pre-1991 South African. By any objective yardstick Israel has sunk far lower than the Apartheid regime ever did. So much so that it is impossible for me to condemn any violence directed at Israel or its active supporters: that Hamas is not made up of nice people goes without saying (the same could be said of the Jewish partisans in the Warsaw ghetto, of course), but it is inconceivalbe to me that it could be morally worse than the Israeli government, its electorate, and those elements of the Jewish diaspora and supporters abroad without whose active support present-day Israeli policy could not continue.

The latter grouping (active supporters abroad), indeed, is to my mind demonstrably morally inferior to the men hanged in the wake of the Nuremberg trials after World War II. So blatantly so that I believe that a good case could be made for permanently disenfranchising them in any democracy (bar them for life from public office, voting, contributing to political parties, access to mass media and work with any publicly-funded institution. If they want to bring the issue before the courts, fine: but inform them that if they want to take that path they will have to answer to charges of treason).
Rating: -7


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