In my last book, the long poem MARCH 18, 2003, written for a reading on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, I wrote a little "what if" scenario toward the beginning about our government forcing native Americans, or Indian peoples, onto small areas of land, making agreements about that, and then breaking the agreements by letting "white" settlers build homes etc. on that land and when the Indians object, building fences and manning the perimiters of the new settlements with the military and then taking more land and giving it to white settlers and when the Indians protest with demonstrations that turn rowdy, bringing in more military to crush the protests. And when, out of desperation at the imbalance of military power against rocks and stones, someone comes up with the idea of arming themselves with bombs and setting them off in crowded white areas and innocent people die as a result and our government escalates the military response so that innocent people die on the other side etc. etc.
You saw where this was going, I'm sure, from the start. But in the poem, I end the much more detailed and extended "what if" with the question, "—who/would be the the innocent ones in all that/—and the guilty?" And follow that question up with another: "Is that question anti-Semitic?"
One of the problems of dealing with the current escalation of the violence and hatred in the Middle East is getting around the obvious and less obvious prejudices all sides have toward all other sides (not just Arab-Israeli, but Sunni-Shiite, secular-religious, fundamentalist-moderate, etc.) and not letting solutions be couched in those prejudicial terms.
It's obvious that Israel wants to destroy or at least weaken Hamas. But throughout the history of this conflict, every time Israel manages to destabalize what it sees as the worst faction among the anti-Israel Palestinians, it either strengthens their support, by casting them in a sympathetic light, either as victims or righteous warriors against the common enemy, or even worse, it weakens them (Fatah is a great example) to the point where they become ineffectual giving rise to, or making room for the rise of, even more militant factions, ala Hamas.
It's so obvious that this strategy is a nonstarter. That no matter what short terms goals are achieved, in the end, it only adds fuel to the fire. Hamas should be held accountable for the rocket fire into Israel, but by the international community in the form of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the disputed areas and sanctions where necessary, and Israel should be held accountable for its continuing encroachment on Palestinian lands with settlements and concrete barriers and check points that seperate farmers from their fields and family's from each other etc. And they too should suffer U.N. sanctions if they violate that, after they remove all settlements.
Israel's argument is that Hamas doesn't officially recognize Israel's right to exist. But Hamas negotiated a truce with Israel, obviously those very negotiations prove that Hamas recognizes Israel, just as it does that Israel recognizes Hamas even though the Israeli government would not recognize Hamas' right to run Gaza despite being democratically elected to do so.
Obama seems to, or at least he did during the campiagn and before, have the capacity and the intelligence to understand that enemies can talk, and that it's usually better when they do. But if Israel and Hamas and whatever other entity they think they're going to control but have proved unable to, won't talk, then the U.N. and other international organizations have to step in and make sure Gaza and the West Bank have complete autonomy from Israel, including air and sea and other access routes for goods going in and out, and set up peace keeping forces on the borders of Israel and the Palestinian lands.
I know, I know, easier said than done, especially since the U.N.'s arcane ruling bodies usually include at least one Arab state or ally that will block anything seen as pro-Israel and Israel will not accept anything it views as anti-Israel.
Israel has been able to invade neighboring countries, or the Palestinian lands, pretty much whenever it wants to (e.g. the not so distant disastrous invasion of Lebanon, that once again only strengthened the hand of the Arab faction they were going after, Hezbollah in this case) because its military, largely supplied and paid for by US taxpayers, so outweighs any Arab counterpart. And because the USA has backed its play pretty much without question. Or with very few questions and never any reprimands or sanctions.
But sooner or later an Arab state will acquire nuclear capability, and Israel's position will become less overwhelmingly superior, and compromises will have to be made. In the meantime, life for the Palestinians will continue to be so much more confined, squalid, deprived and cut off from any way out of it, mostly by Israeli policy, somewhat from their own intransigence and lack of vision, that it will remain a breeding ground for future militants with revenge fantasies against their oppressor.
One of the main reasons that the troubles in Ireland subsided was because the perrenially impoverished South, suddenly became the Celtic Tiger, more prosperous and more productive than the North. The answer is almost always some kind of financial and political equity for those desperate enough to wage unending campaigns against what they see as the oppressor.
So as my friend Tom G. suggested from California the other day: "Let them build casinos," which is the only thing that's worked in our own country to restore any kind of financial equity and even some political balance of power in a lot of states to our own version of the Palestinian problem.
He meant it as a joke, to some extent, I assume, and also as an indicator of his own belief that the situation does have many parallels with the USA and its original inhabitants. But there's a kernal of truth in it. If ordinary Palestinians could live even half as well as Israelis, there'd be a lot less anger and resentment to draw on to fuel the ongoing conflict.