"Why They Fight"
To return to the unpleasant question of Gaza, Jon Chait had a post the other day explaining that the kind of bloodshed and suffering the Israelis are afflicting is okay because of the asymetric subjective desires of the parties to the conflict:
Israel has a problem with Hamas because Hamas believes Israel has no right to exist. If Hamas lay down all its weapons, Israel would lift its blockade. If Israel lay down all its weapons, Hamas would kill as many Israelis as it could.
One way to reply to this is à la Ezra Klein who observes that at some point you need to judge based on what’s actually happening. And what’s been happening is that whatever Hamas’ ambitions may or may not have been, they were scattering short-range inaccurate rocket fire on Israel that was causing little damage. Israel struck back with actions that have killed hundreds of Palestinians and pushed over a million more closer to the brink of starvation. And in general this is an important aspect of the conflict — irrespective of intentions, over the years you have many more dead Palestinian civilians than Israeli civilians.
But another piece of the puzzle is that though American Jewish liberals tend to take a lot of comfort in the idea of Israel’s good intentions and good faith throughout this whole process, there’s a reason approximately no Arabs anywhere in the world see it that way. All throughout the “peace process” years — through the good ones and through the bad ones — Israel continued expanding both the geographical footprint of its settlements and the population living upon them. For most of this time, Israel has often appeared unwilling to enforce domestic Israeli law on the settler population, to say nothing of abiding by international law or agreements made. And while Israel has stated a desire to leave the Gaza Palestinians alone in their tiny, overcrowded, economically unviable enclave, the “disengagement” from Gaza has never entailed letting Palestinians control their borders or exercise meaningful sovereignty over the area. The proposal has basically been that if Palestinians cease violence against Israel, then the Gaza Strip will be treated like an Indian reservation. Israel’s policy objectives in the West Bank appear to be first seizing the choice bits of it, and then withdrawing behind a wall with the residual West Bank treating like post-“disengagement” Gaza.
I’m not a believer in violence, and so I certainly don’t think that Hamas’ rocket attacks have been an appropriate, morally defensible, or effective means of protesting this one-sided bargain. But it’s important to understand that it’s simply not the case that Hamas is the only party to this conflict that’s working toward unreasonable goals.