Trying to 'teach Hamas a lesson' is fundamentally wrong
By Tom Segev
Channel 1 television broadcast an interesting mix on Saturday morning:
Its correspondents reported from Sderot and Ashkelon, but the pictures
on the screen were from the Gaza Strip. Thus the broadcast, albeit
unintentionally, sent the right message: A child in Sderot is the same
as a child in Gaza, and anyone who harms either is evil.
But the assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral
condemnation - it demands a few historical reminders. Both the
justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the
same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet
Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war
Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That
is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise
since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and
enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs
are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be
educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick
method, just as the drover does with his donkey.
The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime,"
in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist
movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a
"moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their
As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering
to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national
leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.
All of Israel's wars have been based on yet another assumption that
has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselves.
"Half a million Israelis are under fire," screamed the banner headline
of Sunday's Yedioth Ahronoth - just as if the Gaza Strip had not been
subjected to a lengthy siege that destroyed an entire generation's
chances of living lives worth living.
It is admittedly impossible to live with daily missile fire, even if
virtually no place in the world today enjoys a situation of zero
terror. But Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza
residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a
majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly
attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might
even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical
truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist
presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever
advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.
Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to.
That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas, and
Israel has something to offer the organization. Ending the siege of
Gaza and allowing freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank
could rehabilitate life in the Strip.
At the same time, it is worth dusting off the old plans prepared after
the Six-Day War, under which thousands of families were to be
relocated from Gaza to the West Bank. Those plans were never
implemented because the West Bank was slated to be used for Jewish
settlement. And that was the most damaging working assumption of all.