Gwynne Dyer: Nobody wins the Gaza War

“They began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over,” as Lewis Carrol put it in Alice in Wonderland. He was describing the Caucus Race, but it sounds quite a lot like the Gaza War, doesn’t it? What's different is that at the end of the Caucus Race, the Dodo Bird declared: “Everybody has won, so all must have prizes.”

After nine days of more-or-less cease-fire, they’re at it again. In the first 24 hours, 60 Palestinian rockets had been launched at Israel (no casualties), and 60 Israeli air strikes had hit Gaza (11 dead). That’s pretty small beer in a war that has already killed more than 2,000 people, but they literally don’t know how to stop, and the Dodo Bird is no help at all. The fact is that nobody has won, so nobody can have prizes.

That’s what the negotiations in Cairo were actually about: prizes. Hamas leaders in Gaza were demanding an end to the Israeli blockade of the territory and the opening of air and sea ports in the Gaza Strip. They also wanted over 200 Hamas members in the West Bank who had been arrested just before the start of this war to be released. They might as well have asked for the Moon.

Hamas has fired almost 6,000 of its homemade rockets at Israel since the start of the war, but it has killed only two Israeli civilians (plus one Thai guest-worker). It doesn’t represent even a serious danger to Israel, let alone an existential threat. So why would any sane Palestinian negotiator think that Israel would feel compelled to make major concessions to Hamas in order to make the pain stop?

The Israeli negotiators were equally deluded. They understandably dismissed all of Hamas’s demands, but then they made equally ludicrous demands of their own. They wanted Hamas and all other militant Palestinian organisations in the Gaza Strip to be completely disarmed. That would not only end any possibility that the Palestinians could exert military pressure on Israel; it would also quite soon end Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip.

Why would Hamas agree with that? Over 2,000 people have been killed and more than 8,000 injured by Israel’s strikes on the Gaza Strip, but that’s less than one percent of the population. Moreover, when the Israeli army actually invaded Gaza on the ground (to destroy the famous “terror tunnels”), Hamas fighters managed to kill 64 Israeli soldiers.

That was a particularly futile waste of Israeli lives, since it is hard to believe that 64 of Israel’s troops would ever have been killed by random Hamas fighters coming out of undiscovered tunnels from time to time. Ordinary Israelis, with nightmare visions of terrorists popping up in their gardens, have bought the official line that the sacrifice was worthwhile, but none of the tunnels actually extended more than a couple of kilometres beyond Gaza’s border.

The Palestinians doubtless think that killing more Israeli soldiers than in the previous two wars combined was some sort of success, even if they lost many more fighters themselves, but in the real world it does not give them any military advantage. So no concessions from either side of any kind.

This was quite foreseeable from the first day of the war, because that’s the way the last two wars ended too. They have all been fought mainly to serve the domestic political interests of the two governments, rather than to force real concessions out of the other.

Hamas’s strategic situation is peculiar: it is very weak and cannot hurt Israel, but it is virtually indestructible. Israel can hammer the population of the Gaza Strip as much as it likes, but that will only strengthen their support for Hamas. Whereas Israel is enormously powerful, but cannot defeat Hamas unless it is willing to re-occupy the Gaza Strip, which would lead to a steady and ultimately intolerable drain of casualties among the occupying Israeli troops.

The moves in this relationship are as stately and predictable as a minuet. When Hamas is under political pressure at home and needs a distraction, it launches a few rockets at Israel or provides some other provocation that the Israeli government cannot ignore. Then the Israeli government, under irresistible domestic pressure to “do something”, launches some air-strikes, and the dance of death recommences.

Stopping is more difficult, because there’s no music to give you the signal by coming to an end. In terms of domestic politics, both sides have already accomplished what they came for, but since neither can acknowledge publicly that that’s all the war was really about, they end up raising wholly unrealistic demands at the cease-fire talks. That’s why the negotiations in Cairo ended in failure: nobody has won, so nobody can have prizes.

Now that the shooting has started up again, there may be a few more hundred deaths, but probably not another thousand, because the fighting really is going to end soon. It just won’t end with a political deal, and perhaps not even with a formal cease-fire. More likely it will just sort of peter out, like these things sometimes do. Until next time.

Comments (20) Add New Comment
Gwynne - You're wrong - Israel won and will keep on Winning

The real name of the War Game - Is the complete and total destruction and removal of the Palestinian People in Palestine.

This is Israels Final Solution and Only Solution

This has always been Israels Ultimate Objective since The Generals Invaded the West Bank and Gaza without the approval of the Israeli Government.

Neither Israel or the rest of the World will use the Word Genocide when it comes to Israels objectives in Gaza and the West Bank - However that is what it is.

Palestinians have Three choices as decreed by Israeli Popular Opinion and the Government:

SUBMIT - LEAVE OR DIE - Israels preferred options are - LEAVE OR DIE

Israel is working on a One Hundred Year Plan - That is to make life Intolerable and Impossible for every Palestinian - to the point that Palestinians just give up on any hope of having a State of their own and leave.

Israel always wins and will keep on winning until someone stops them -

In the future - Hundreds of Thousands of Israelis will Invade the West Bank and build homes there - There will be more Rockets Launched from Gaza and Israel will continue to celebrate the Slaughter of Thousands of Palestinian Children and Women.

Palestinian Children are what Israel really Hates and Fears

Children - The Palestinians of the Futre
Rating: -2
Spot on. The only rewards are reconstruction projects.
Rating: +9
Spy Vs Spy - Genocide can be achieved as it is being done by ISIS in Iraq and Syria: by rounding up the perceived enemy and slaughtering them. That has not been done in this situation, nor will it ever be. Don't you think if Genocide was Israels goal this would have happened years ago. Instead Israelis have tried to make this situation work out. They left Gaza, look who violently took over.

Why do you think Egypt is keeping it's border locked. Don't you think if Genocide was the goal that Egypt would open the border to let the innocent people in? They are not doing so because they understand that Hamas is a violent organization willing to sacrifice their own people for pointless political goals.

Your whole comment is delusional. A " 100 year plan" to make life "intolerable" does not equate to genocide. You are part of the problem by being a low information commentator. The facts are all there if you read them. What sucks is that innocent people have to suffer for these ego maniacs on both sides. I suggest you read " My Life" by Bill Clinton. He talks in great detail about how he finally realized, that after 8 years of working with Arafat, that Arafat was more interested in his own icon status than he was in helping his people have a better life. Unfortunately, Arafat's spirit lives on.
Rating: -6

Your Hasbara doesn't cut it.
Rating: +4

Please explain your comment.
Rating: 0
@ HA
I looked up the word Hasbara. I have no interest in PR. I live in the US and I read books. So now that I understand your comment,I see its not actually an educated comment, just a personal dig. You have to read more than Internet based op-ed's to know what is going on in your world. And it also will help you in making educated comments on serious world issues. Above all else, let's visualize peace! You don't have to read a book to be able to do that.
Rating: -5
An interesting perspective on this latest Israel-Palestine conflict (and all of the others that came before it). It seems that while the fighting is quite awful and the toll in human lives intolerable (at least to someone looking at it from the outside) it is actually not awful enough to actually compel either party to *do* anything. Hamas' rockets don't really threaten Israel, so they won't change their policy, and it would take a lot more damage for Hamas to even consider disarming as a viable option.
Rating: +7
Gwynne provides us with a rather facile analysis of the Gaza conflict by speculating on the motives of the belligerents and their inability to find a resolution. We are left with the impression that the "WAR" was 'unwinnable' by either side so it was all very irrational, pointless and futile, nevertheless we can expect more of the same in the future. Seems pretty reasonable on the face of it except what was left unsaid.
The Israeli's cynically consider these episodic, repetitive, wholesale destruction of Palestine akin to the routine of "cutting the grass" in their front ,yard by killing the incremental growth of the population and demolishing their rebuilt homes.
The governments of NATO countries condone the murderous Israeli onslaught either by their silence or by saying that the Israeli's "have a right to defend themselves."[Since when does a land thief ,occupier, or conquering oppressor have a moral or legal right to defend themselves from the persecuted and disposed victims when they retaliate in their own self defence?] The U.S. even provides the money [free arms and munitions]to kill these people yet pretends to play the role of peaceful mediator. The Egyptian dictator won't allow the people to escape the slaughterhouse so he can get his yearly paycheque from the US. The Israeli's show their contempt for the UN by bombing humanitarian refuges and UN does protest and does nothing about it.
From this we might conclude that nobody of importance cares about the plight of the Palestinians, except those people of conscience who went out to protest against their treatment yet their opinion is of no consequence to the "powers that be". Moreover the"powers that be" have been captured by powerful Jewish lobbies in their respective countries and Zionist propaganda has won over the minds and hearts of many people.
But let's not forget Israeli's are lead by ruthless, racist megalomaniac's and they have nuclear weapons. They might just use them to mow the grass further away! Pity and support the Palestinians in their just cause and sanction Isreal for it's inhuman actions!
Rating: +11
Definition - DENIAL

1 An assertion that an allegation is false

2 Refusal to believe a doctrine, theory

3 Disavowal or repudiation

Israel was accepted as a Nation by the UN in 1949 - that was 65 years ago.

Mr/Ms LovePeace - How many more Israelis will move into the Palestine (The West Bank) in the next 35 years???

How much more land Owned by Palestinians will be confiscated at Gun Point to build homes for the next 100,000 - 200,000 Israelis who will move into Militarily Occupied Land in the West Bank in the next 35 years???

How many more residents of Gaza will leave or die in the next 35 years???

There you are - the One Hundred Year Plan

All Bill Clinton wanted from Arafat - was to admit defeat and then for Arafat to convince all Palestinians that they should give up all hope of ever having a State or Equal Rights in Israel.
Rating: +5
Geoffrey Pounder
Bloodied and dismembered Palestinian children—victims of cynicism on all sides. It makes one ashamed to be a member of the human race.
Ordinary Canadians may not be able to influence events from afar. But we need not accept disgraceful behavior from our spineless politicians at home.
The Conservatives and Liberals are lost causes. But one expects more from Canada's social democratic party.
The NDP's failure to call Israel to account for its repeated war crimes over the last decade makes them complicit.
By failing to condemn Israeli war crimes, the NDP is providing Israel political cover.
If the NDP fails to condemn Israel's reprehensible policy (Dahiya doctrine) of targetting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, it is giving the green light to continued war crimes—not just in Gaza, but around the world.
The NDP invokes Israel's right to defend itself, as if Israel were the victim of Palestinian aggression, and not the other way around. What about the Palestinians' right to defend themselves?
The NDP invokes Israel's "right to exist", as if Palestinians have no right to resist dispossession, occupation, oppression, blockade, economic strangulation, and brutality. What about the Palestinians' right to exist?
Mulcair claims to be in favor of a two-state solution. Surely he knows that Netanyahu is doing everything in his power to prevent it.
"As NDP leader, Jack Layton argued that Canada must engage partners for peace in the region and take a balanced and principled approach. This is a vision I share." (Mulcair Aug 10 2014)
"C’est pourquoi je suis un ardent supporter de toutes les instances et de toutes les circonstances d’Israël." "I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances." (Mulcair 2008))
Does that sound "balanced" to you?
Look at the images of bloodied children in Gaza. The NDP's stance is obscene.
Nothing excuses war crimes, on either side. No number of Hamas rockets justifies Israeli war crimes.
So why are you supporting war criminals, Mr Mulcair?
How do you sleep at night?
Rating: +8
@ SPYVSPY -Clinton was not a friend of Israel anymore than he was of Palestine. He is a Southern Baptist. If you recall, Barak lost his re-election for agreeing to Arafat's demands. This back and forth went on the entire Clinton Presidency. The rest of this message is quoted from online sources:

Former president Bill Clinton called the late Palestinian leader's move a "colossal error" that led to the election of the hawkish Ariel Sharon as Israel's prime minister and put the peace process back by years.

In a statement extending his condolences for Arafat's death, Clinton said he regretted that in 2000 Arafat had "missed the opportunity" to create a Palestinian nation, adding that he prayed "for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace."

Clinton made his final move in December 2000 and January 2001 -- in the last weeks of his presidency -- to bring together Arafat and the Israeli prime minister of the time, Ehud Barak.

Under proposals that Clinton persuaded Israel to broadly accept, 94-96 percent of West Bank would be given to the Palestinians along with some land from Israel.

Israeli forces would have withdrawn from Palestinian territories over three years with an international force put in place and sovereignty over Jerusalem would have been divided. Israel would have kept enough land for 80 percent of its settlers and other security rights.

The Israeli cabinet agreed. Clinton wrote in his memoir "My Life" that "It was historic: an Israeli government had said that to get peace, there would be a Palestinian state in roughly 97 percent of the West Bank, counting the swap, and all of Gaza where Israel also had settlements."

"Arafat said no again," Clinton wrote, adding how he closed the negotiations with a great sense of frustration and sadness.

"At times Arafat seemed confused, not wholly in command of the facts. I had felt for some time that he might not be at the top of his game any longer, after all the years of spending the night in different places to dodge assassins bullets," he wrote.

"Perhaps he could not make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman."

Clinton believed that Arafat would not even agree the broad parameters of the deal because he did not want to be seen conceding anything.
Rating: +8
@ P.Peto Your remarks about Israeli's being racist would be funny if it wasn't so absurd. If anybody is racist, it's the zealots calling for the total destruction of Israel. If Hamas had any legitimacy or any plans beyond just killing people, they might have the respect of the Palestinians living in the West Bank or maybe their bordering neighbor Egypt. As things currently stand Hamas has no friends in their own part of the world - just misinformed leftwingers living in places like Canada. Hamas is the worst thing to ever happen to the Palestinians. Free Gaza from the tyranny of Hamas!!!!!
Rating: +3
So what was Clinton's offer a "Once Only or Fuck Off For Ever Deal"????

Sharon was a War Criminal - Netanyahu is a Mass Murderer!!!

The only Israeli Prime Minister that ever made a Respectable Offer to the Palestinians was assassinated by an Israeli Religious Student - with the Blessing of his Rabbi. And Thousands of Israelis celebrated Yitzahk Rabins murder!!

So if subsequent Israeli Leaders wanted Peace with the Palestinians - why has this offer not been repeated time and time again???

Why have tens of thousands more "Israeli Settlers" invaded the West Bank with Tanks, Helicopter Gunships and Thousands of Soldiers to enforce their claim to Palestinian Land???

Israel knows that with the Financial and Military backing of the USA - they are immune from any form of Prosecution for the Illegal Occupation of the West Bank and the Slaughter of Palestinians in the Ghetto called Gaza.

The 100 Year game it to remove all Palestinians from the Land Called Palestine - by any and all means necessary.


Rating: +3
I really don't understand...
... the word GENOCIDE as it keeps getting thrown around with respect to Israel's treatment of the people trying to destroy it. It's well-known that Israel has a very powerful arsenal of weapons, including nukes. If they really wanted to destroy the people of Gaza, they'd have leveled it and there'd be nothing left to discuss. It'd be a wasteland with zero people and zero infrastructure.

If Hamas had the weapons that Israel does, there'd be no Israel to speak of; it'd have been wiped off the map and Hamas, along with the supporters quoted above, would all be celebrating the genocide of the Jewish people.

It's really funny (and by that, I mean not funny at all) how 15 million Jews are the target for complete destruction by more than 1.2 billion muslims... living on a patch of land smaller than Vancouver Island, while Arabs/Muslims collectively have more land than all the rest of Canada... I think the propaganda machine painting the Jews as the big bad evil guys has done and incredibly good job brainwashing all those who love to blame Israel.

Meanwhile, ISIS is decapitating/raping/killing Christians, sex-slave auctions are being held in Iraq... and nobody cares because it's not Israel's fault. It's mind-boggling.
Rating: -8
The simple fact is that Israelis have been stealing Palestinian homes at gun point since 1948. Palestinians have a right to fight against that. To call Palestinians terrorists for doing that is simply hypocritical.
Rating: +8
"Free Gaza from the tyranny of Hamas"

I think a lot of people, even Canadian leftwingers, would welcome that. The problem is that everything Israel does, like the blockade and the bombing, makes Hamas stronger in Gaza.

Like Gwynne Dyer has said several times, both sides need each other to keep things the way they are so they can maintain power.
Rating: +5
Why do most of you hide your identity behind pseudonyms? Don't you have the courage of your convictions? Are you afraid you might be unfairly held to account for your opinions? Don't you have a right to be free to express your opinion, to be protected from prejudice and punishment for your opinion in this country? You are not going to take the chance are you?
This twice that some commentators object to my calling the Zionist state "racist". Yes,it's nasty to call someone a racist because racists behave like nasty people because they refuse to recognise the universal brotherhood of mankind. Well , unfortunatly the Zionist project is by definition exclusionary and in practice "racist" in the broder sense of the term.
Now as for the disengenous claim that the Israeli state conducts it's military operation with the utmost care and concern to the civilian population because of the Jewish people's very high moral standards, that is observedly false.Actually I suspect that they would just love to solve the "Palestinian Problem" by killing evey Palestinian refusing to leave the lands given to the Jews by God, if they could get away with it! They haven't because the people of the world, particularly those in the US, would disown them or worse. Without US and European support they would whither on the vine. So instead, to Palestinians, it's a slow death by a thousand cuts through episodic terror bombings, embargos, slow starvation,etc, which appears to be a more acceptable method of genocide to the" civilized and democratic" West. If you must call me names for my rants, it would be more accurate to call me a moralist then a leftist.
Rating: +1
Jack Chivo
Of course, they will be winners, once the stupid Western countries will start again pouring billions in the "reconstruction" of Gaza!!

Not Saudi Arabia, not Bahrain, not Iran, nor Malaysia!! They know that 99% of the money will be syphoned away by the "freedom fighters'!!

And who will be the winners??

The Hamas leadership, those who hide in Qatar like Mashaal who, by all accounts, has amassed 2.6 billions, with a "b", stolen from the funds meant to help the regular folks. Rents a full floor at a 5 Stars hotel in Doha and eats at the finest restaurants there.

BTW. Has a fleet of expensive limos to his disposal.

There are 4,000 Hamas millionaires in Gaza. Not exactly a concentration camp!!

Just for fun, please open the website of the luxury "Roots" restaurant in Gaza and look at the menu.

There is no such a fine eatery in Vancouver,

And watch the video, showing who enjoys the food there.

The whole Hamas and Fatah leadership!!

No one looks hungry in their fancy Italian and French suits. Not to mention the fine clothing of their wives and children.

Now, you know who is winning when people die in Gaza and Israel!!
Rating: -3
Forget NA Press
I am reading 'Goliath' by Max Blumenthal. He spent years in Israel and Palestine, had access to both sides. You don't have to read very far to realize that the NA press has been spinning the story for decades.

This was not a 'war' just like the other 2 times in recent years that Israel has killed several thousand in the Gaza cage. It is a cage: they have no way out by land, sea or air. It is a resistance, not a war.

Palestinians have the right to defend themselves from occupation, land theft, blockade, unlawful imprisonment, homes and orchards being bulldozed. They are not allowed to sell any of their products and Israeli officials joke about putting people in Gaza on a diet by calculating the calories they will let into the country so they are not starving, but malnourished. Does this remind you of something from the 40s? There are apx 5 million Palestinians in the illegally occupied territories. Their movements and entire lives are harshly monitored and controlled by a powerful military state. How can you blame them for resisting. The choice is a certain slow, squeezing death or a chance for freedom. I admire them for not giving up the dream.
Rating: +3
R. Pellow
Like Mr. Pounder I am disturbed by Mr. Mulcair's one-sided support for Israel in this conflict. Until Harper I had always seen the Canadian government's position as one of pragmatic non-involvement. Only serious outrages would bring forth a comment from the PM or Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canada was not on the side of Israel or Palestine and only supported any kind of peace effort in the middle east. For every Canadian political party to now swing to complete support of Israel, regardless of that state's actions, is to say the least, disappointing. Why do we need the Liberals or the NDP when Messrs Harper and Baird are expressing that opinion so volubly? I began my political life with the CCF and followed that with the NDP. Don't know where to go now.
Rating: +4
Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.