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Think Tactical Equivalancy

Reading through the coverage of Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the Hamas rocket attacks that have taken place before, during and after the invasion I am struck how both sides have the same basic impulse in their so-called solutions.

For the purposes of this post, I will not discuss moral equivalency one way or the other. I’m thinking of tactical equivalency. And in referring to tactics I’m not referring so much to particular methods of attack, but the belief that violence is the solution to one’s problems.

Hamas and their supporters believe that the nation of Israel does not have a right to existance as a separate state. Accordingly, they have supported armed struggle against Israel since 1987, the time of the first intifada. They’ve used suicide bombers and rained thousands of rockets down on Israel over the years. But not only have they not acheived their goal of a world without Israel, but have brought their own terroritory under siege. And yet, their rejection of a ceasefire in the current crisis suggests they still believe they can be successful in a campaign of violence despite ample evidence to the contrary.

For their part, the Israelis believe that they can stop terrorist attacks if they simply apply enough military force. They’ve being doing this since at least the 1980s without much effect. Their invasion of Lebanon in 2006 not only failed to stop terrorist attacks, but actually strengthened Hezbollah. From the coverage I’ve seen, it appears that the Gazans are uniting behind Hamas in a similar fashion to the British uniting under Churchill during the Blitz or like how Americans united under President Bush for a few years after the 9/11 attacks. To this extent, the Israelis are accomplishing the opposite of their original objectives. Just like they got the reverse of what they wanted in Lebanon.

Neither the failure of Hamas or the failure of Israel to erraditicate the other would have suprised Aaron Beck, the author of Prisoners of hate: the cognitive basis of anger, hostility, and violence. While not big on solutions, it does explain in convincing detail why the violent punishment model both Hamas and Israel use is doomed to failure. In the end such an approach depends on the other party accepting the basic justice of the first party’s use of violence. Regardless of who’s right, this will never happen. If the two sides can realize this, perhaps they can give up their mutual dream of standing over the other’s corpse and find a workable solution that will be beneficial for both groups.

Because this subject is touchy for many people, be sure you look over my comments policy before commenting on this post.


Guardian (UK) Israel to step up attacks on Gaza – January 10, 2009

Stabilizing Lebanon: Peacekeeping or Nation-Building
From Parameters, Autumn 2007, pp. 26-41.




One Response

  1. Bravo! Thank you for putting into words the feelings I have had on this tragic situation.

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