Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Israel's "War Crimes"

For me the phrase "war crime" is somewhat redundant. War is murder, to start with. There are degrees, of course. By most accounts, Israel appears to be trying to murder mostly Palestinians it has some reason to suspect of trying to do them ill. Of course, by this point, there are probably few if any Palestinians in the Gaza prison who wouldn't do them ill if they could.

The pretext for this war was the murder of three Israeli teenagers. That, very likely, was a Palestinian "war crime". For Palestinians, one problem is that their efficiency at war is not one thousandth of that of Israel. The gruesome strategy Hamas has adopted is to provoke the murder of their own people to the point at which the rest of the world gets angry at Israel. They have been modestly successful in that, but it's far from clear that it will do them any good.

It's not clear that Israel's alternatives to playing defense and selective assassination are any better. One clear alternative would be to occupy Gaza, disarm Hamas, and take over its governance. That would be costly - thousands of Israeli casualties and tens or hundreds of thousands among the Palestinians. It was the strategy we used with Germany and Japan, and it worked, sort of.

The real alternative is a peace deal. But it's not clear that any workable version of such would be acceptable to the powerful fanatics on either side. From Israel's point of view, an armed Palestinian state with open borders is unacceptable. From the Palestinian point of view, the West Bank settlements have to go.

Pessimism is appropriate.