Monday, January 21, 2008

Eyeless In Gaza—Also In Jenin

I must be the hundredth blogger to refer to—actually, defer to—the work of Gideon Levy, Haaretz’s veteran correspondent in the territories. If you have not heard of him, think of someone with the physical courage of George Orwell and tenacity of I.F. Stone. He has written two remarkable articles this past week-end on the subject of my last post, which I hasten to add to the argument. If you missed them, do not miss them here.

The first piece is a report from Jenin, which most Israeli journalists do not dare to enter anymore, in part because this would put them in mortal danger, but mainly because of the moral danger:

“The pictures of death from Gaza reach Jenin on television, but young people are killed here as well, almost every week. The latest victim fell in the neighboring village of Al Yamun. Fawaz Frihat was 17 and a half when he died. The IDF invades the city's refugee camp every night, sowing panic and sleeplessness. There are almost no wanted men left here, but the IDF doesn't give up.

“The Palestinian soldiers never dare to enter the camp itself. The residents' bitterness toward the PA is reaching new heights: 'Has the PA already solved the refugee problem? Removed the Israeli occupation? Protected the residents from the IDF? And now only the problem of the stolen vehicles remains,' Zbeidi adds bitterly. After his second car was confiscated, Zbeidi's youngest son, who is around 15, went to the Palestinian police checkpoint and tried to grab a weapon from a policeman. He wanted to avenge the blow to his father's dignity, and in the end was arrested for a few days. It could have been worse.”

The second is an opinion piece about Gaza:

“Has the daily mass killing in Gaza improved the security situation? No, it has only made it worse. Has it reduced the number of Qassams? No, it has led to their proliferation. So why are we killing? We need ‘to do something’ and there needs to be ‘a price tag.’ These are hollow cliches. A review of recent newspapers presents a clear picture: As long as the U.S. president was still in the country, Israel refrained from liquidations, and the number of Qassams decreased. When George Bush left, we resumed killing and, as a result, Sderot has faced the most difficult days it has ever known. The burning question that arises is: What are we killing for?

“For every ‘senior Jihad commander,’ for every Qassam launcher killed, seven others immediately emerge. The killing is useless, and the defense establishment boasts about it only to satisfy public opinion.”

This is not the first time (what we call) our world has seen this kind of thing. It may be the first time it just looks away. Things were no less bloody and hateful in Northern Ireland during the “troubles,” or Sarajevo during the Balkan War. Is it presumptuous to ask what method of cease fire, inclusive negotiation, international force, and investments worked there?