The Gaza Situation

A Response to Noam Chomsky’s Remarks

Last Tuesday, Noam Chomsky explained to a packed auditorium at MIT’s Center of International Studies that Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza was nothing if not “familiar.”

Chomsky blasted Israel for purposefully targeting Palestinian civilians, similar to claims laid against Israel during the war with Lebanon in 2006. And while it may be true that Olmert’s and Barak’s plan is to so utterly destroy Gaza’s civilian infrastructure that the Palestinian’s will have no choice but to reject Hamas, Chomsky also argued that it was Israeli provocation, and Israeli provocation alone, that is at the root of the continuing and yet un-resolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, regardless of Israel’s current tactics or the actions of some of its allegedly corrupt politicians, it is naive and dangerously short-sighted to suggest that the whole crisis could be resolved if Israel were to simply “end criminal actions in the occupied territories” and accept the two-state solution.

Simply put, the situation is much more complicated on both sides than Chomsky seems to give credit for. Israel’s government may have an imperialist-aggressive complex and may have even intentionally derailed previous plans for peace, but Hamas’ internal dynamic is equally complicated.

Chomsky claimed that Hamas was willing to accept peace with Israel if Israel agreed to the recent peace proposal incorporating a two-state solution.

However, just last year, a top Hamas commander, Nizar Rayyan, commented on the possibility of a 50-year truce: “The only reason to have a hudna (cease-fire) is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don’t need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel. Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.”

Even if top Hamas politicians are willing to accept a two-state solution permanently, there are still people like Nizar Rayyan with their finger on the trigger. It’s hard to argue that the Hamas government in Gaza has more control over its “fighters” than Israel’s government has over the IDF.

Even if negotiations didn’t collapse over “minor border modifications,” as Chomsky described them, in hashing out a newer treaty incorporating the two-state solution, what guarantee does Israel have that an enraged Hamas “fighter” won’t step on a bus in Tel Aviv and blow himself up, or that a man like Hussam Dwayat won’t run a bulldozer down Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing three, like what happened last year?

And on the other side of the coin, what’s to ensure one of Israel’s shells don’t land “off the mark” again, like the IDF claimed when a UN school was destroyed in Gaza a few weeks ago? These are issues that threaten lives but are not addressed by purely political solution.

So what is the solution for a lasting peace? Perhaps it would be more productive for countries like the United States to divert the billions of dollars in military aid to Israel towards building schools and infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel has indeed made efforts like this towards the Palestinians in the past, however contradictory that may seem today.

Perhaps the best way for Israel to convince the Palestinian people to reject Hamas would be to support them in building a stable economy and modernizing the Gaza strip. A prosperous Gaza is much less likely to support, or even tacitly enable, a group like Hamas when Hamas isn’t providing food, shelter, and social programs (or threatening civil war with Fatah).

The US, Israel, the EU, and others have the ability to fund and provide these kinds of services more effectively than Hamas can, so why have we left our humanitarian obligations up to a terrorist organization?

At the moment it would seem a jarring transition, but in the future, IDF soldiers building schools in Gaza and distributing relief aid would make Israel safer in a way that missiles and rocket artillery never could. The truth is, Hamas only exists because the people of Gaza are living in fear.

The whole conflict really isn’t about religion or about “who was here first.” History and religion are always molded to fit the society, not the other way around. People like Hussam Dwayat and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert aren’t radicalized to violence by a border the UN drew in 1948 or because the Koran or Torah tells them to be violent.

So we need to start thinking about solutions that address the real core of the conflict. Solutions that address the situations which allow terrorist organizations like Hamas or the Israeli warmongers to win parliamentary elections. And that solution lies with the people of Israel and the people of Gaza, not in political gestures.